Growing opportunities | A support system for emerging ideas

There are now multiple options for entrepreneurs who are not looking for an early exit, but are seeking mentorship, funding


Sharad Sharma, co-founder of iSPIRT Foundation, a think-tank which helps software products businesses scale up.Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Sharad Sharma, co-founder of iSPIRT Foundation, a think-tank which helps software products businesses scale up.Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Bangalore: For India’s start-up community, 2013 has been an eventful year.

Three notable acquisitions took place in the start-up space during the year. Ibibo Group, a subsidiary of South African mass media company Naspers Ltd, acquired Pilani Soft Labs Pvt. Ltd, which runs bus ticketing website redBus.in; Oracle Corp. bought mobile applications firm Bitzer Mobile; and Pearson Plc. purchased educational services firm TutorVista Global Pvt. Ltd.

These transactions provided examples of successful exits for entrepreneurs seeking to cash out of ventures they had started and built up.

But what about entrepreneurs who aren’t looking for an early exit but seeking mentorship and funding?

The good news is that 2013 opened up multiple opportunities for such people to gain visibility, showcase ideas or overcome funding hurdles—a true support system for emerging ideas is taking shape.

Here are some initiatives towards that end:

l Nasscom, the lobby group of the information technology industry, launched a programme called the Nasscom 10,000 Startups early this year. It aims to provide various kinds of support, including mentoring, incubation, warehouse support and angel funding for 10,000 Indian start-ups in 10 years.

In the first few weeks after the launch, Nasscom’s accelerator programmes received more than 1,000 applications. Nasscom has tied up with investor networks like Chennai Angels, Harvard Business School Angels, Hyderabad Angels, Indian Angel Network and Mumbai Angels.

l The Goa Project is an idea that took shape when a few key players in the start-up ecosytem, over a few drinks, talked about how there were so many formal conferences and other events being organized across the country for their community, but no social networking event. Goa Project is scheduled to take place in spring every year, with entrepreneurs—not just technopreneurs—attending from all over the country. Artists, authors, musicians and businessmen can use this opportunity to unwind—and network—at a beach resort in Goa.

l For all product entrepreneurs in India, iSPIRT is an exclusive support organization that helps mainly in mentoring start-ups. iSPIRT, which stands for Indian Software Product Industry Round Table, is a think-tank led by entrepreneurs like Sharad Sharma, Pallav Nadhani and Manav Garg, which helps software products businesses scale up. It serves as a platform for conversation between experts and entrepreneurs. iSPIRT, in partnership with Signal Hill Capital Llc, is currently working towards increasing the number of mergers and acquisitions among start-ups by putting in place a system to connect product start-ups with potential acquirers.

l FailCon is a popular forum for failed entrepreneurs to discuss the experiences and lessons they learnt from unsuccessful ventures. Launched in the country early this year, this is in line with the so-called fail-fast concept whose proponents argue that it’s better for entrepreneurs to realize early that their idea isn’t working and move on to something else.

l TechCrunch, a news website about information technology companies owned by AOL Inc. and one of the biggest media names among the start-up community in the US, launched its first event in India in Bangalore last month for entrepreneurs to interact with and pitch their products to investors. It is seen as an affirmation that the start-up ecosystem in India is gaining traction, experts say.

l There are around 40 incubators and accelerators in India, and growing in number. This year saw increased activity in all accelerators, owing to the fact that more and more people realize the need for formal, process-based acceleration programmes. Bangalore-based Kyron Accelerator started in January 2013 and has graduated two batches of start-ups in the technology sector. Retailer Target Corp. and Coca-Cola Co. have both announced plans to launch accelerator programmes in India early next year.

l India has 2,437 start-ups and 2,236 investors, according to AngelList, which connects entrepreneurs and investors. But there are always complaints about lack of funding. Some start-ups help bridge this gap between entrepreneurs and investors. Here are some:

A bunch of Bangalore-based entrepreneurs built a platform called Let’s Venture that connects entrepreneurs and interested investors. Let’s Venture was started by Manish Singhal, Shanti Mohan and Sanjay Jha and connects more than 100 investors to 200 start-ups in the country. The platform lets start-ups create profiles and make requests for funding.

Another introduction into the start-up space is the concept of crowdfunding—when fund raisers help entrepreneurs raise capital from public investors.

Ketto, one such crowd funding platform, was launched early this year by Varun Sheth and Kunal Kapoor (the actor of Rang De Basanti fame).

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