Ankiti Bose, the third stone in Sofina’s shoes

When she started her own company as a 23-year-old, she had already had a career with McKinsey and investment giant Sequoia. But now Ankiti Bose is outside with its own conceived Zilingo. The investment holding company Sofina in Brussels is also suffering.

It was also possible this rotten week for the prestigious investment holding company Sofina. Ankiti Bose, until recently a galleon figure for women entrepreneurs in Asia, was fired on Friday from its idea – and Sofina investment – Zilingo.

The essence

  • Founder Ankiti Bose (29) has been fired from his e-commerce company Zilingo.
  • It hits hard for the Brussels investment holding company Sofina, which is also struggling with problems with other start-ups such as Byju’s and The Hut Group.
  • Bose had to leave after accounting impurities at Zilingo.

Bose, 29, has had a lightning career for the past ten years. She started with the prestigious consultant McKinsey, where she quickly emerged as a specialist in the Indian start-up world. It made her a coveted prey for the Indian branch of US tech investor Sequoia, where she then went to work. There, Bose stood out in Sequoia India boss Shailendra Singh’s analyst class as ‘blade-sharp, hard-working and always on’. The bond that was attached in that class served her well with Zilingo.

Zalando variant

With all his consulting experience at McKinsey and Sequoia, Bose thought it was time to jump into the deep end as a 22-year-old. The story goes that during a visit to the bustling Bangkok Chatuchak market, with its more than 15,000 market vendors, she came up with the idea of ​​Zilingo. It is a variant of the German clothing and shoe seller Zalando.

In Dhruv Kapoor, with her background as a software developer for Yahoo !, among others, she found an ideal partner. As start-up capital, Kapoor could immediately count on the support from Sequoia India’s deep pockets and its director Singh, who was given a seat on the board.

allies

It was a flying start, all the more so because an investment from Sequoia is considered an urgent buying advice for many other investors. The Silicon Valley Foundation was among the early investors in successful companies such as Apple, Cisco, Instagram, Whatsapp and Zoom. It was probably also through Sequoia that Bose’s start-up came on the radar of the Boël family and its investment team Sofina. Sequoia and Sofina have been investment allies for decades and have taken many successful journeys together.

Sofina was there like the chickens when Bose completed a $ 54 million capital round for Zilingo after three years. That operation put Zilingo on the map as a company and Bose as a scarce woman in the Asian start-up world. In the same 2018, Forbes placed her on the list of 30 promising Asians under 30 years of age.

970 million

Assessment

Investors, including Brussels-based Sofina, estimated Zilingo at nearly $ 1 billion in 2019.

A year later, Bose – again with the eager support of Sequoia and Sofina – raised $ 226 million, valuing its four-year-old company at $ 970 million. The iconic unicorn status ($ 1 billion valuation for an unlisted company) had to wait a little longer. But it was more than enough for Fortune to award Bose a spot on the global ’40 under 40 ‘list. The Bloomberg news service followed suit and included Bose in its annual top 50 of people who had colored in the last 12 months. Bose liked to use that platform to promote female entrepreneurship. She became a role model for business women in Asia.

Just not a unicorn

The coveted unicorn status should have been a fact by 2020. But because of the corona, Zilingo’s sales fell by a third to $ 40 million last year. This necessitated a new round of capital at the beginning of this year. Goldman Sachs was hired to raise $ 150-200 million against a post-corona valuation of $ 1.2 billion. But it was there, it went wrong.

During the due diligence investigation, which is standard for such a capital round, the auditor discovered irregularities. He had questions about how Zilingo calculates sales. At the end of March, Bose – to her great dismay – was put on hold. She spoke of a “witch hunt” after she accused one of the Zilingo bosses of intimidation. She also finds the board co-responsible for any misconduct because it was aware of everything. The fact is that after the capital round of $ 226 million in 2019, it took Zilingo to get a CFO for the first time.



It has taken me a long time to develop a voice, but now that I have it, I do not have to keep quiet anymore.

Ankiti Bose

Citing former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

To make matters worse, a number of directors resigned, including Bose’s discoverer and Sequoia India boss Singh. Immediately after his departure, Sequoia stated that from now on it will pay more attention to the financial condition of its start – ups. The creditors had had enough. They immediately demanded all their credits back at the beginning of this week, which is not easy because the new capital round is still not over and the money at Zilingo is not spraying against the shelves after two corona years.

Zilingo is not getting rid of Bose either. In a statement on LinkedIn on Friday, she quoted Madeleine Albright, the late US Secretary of State, as saying: “It took me a long time to develop a voice, but now that I have one, I will not keep quiet.”

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