IMG_2799 The growth of startups in India has led to an increase in the number of mentorship programs to help startups at every stage of their journey. Accelerators and Incubators both help early stage startups to grow their business/ideas and help improve their chances of getting noticed by Venture Capitalists early on. Accelerators “accelerate” the growth of existing startups; while incubators “incubate” disruptive ideas, so they could be built into a business model and a company. To provide further insight into the ways in which accelerators and incubators nurture the entrepreneurial ecosystem, Startup Saturday Bangalore hosted its February 2016 Edition on the theme “Accelerators and  Incubators – Fueling Entrepreneurship.”

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The event started with Amit Singh, Founder at Wow Labz and Co-Founder at Headstart, announcing the launch of Headstart Hackerzone, Headstart’s first co-working space, powered by IKP.  With around 40 seats, the space is open to startups of all types and stages, although more suited for Hardware-based or Biotech startups. Apart from the working space, the meeting rooms and other basic amenities, Headstart Hackerzone will also provide the resident startups access to biotech  and electronics equipments and labs. Additionally, the startups will also be offered mentorship in the form of workshops. Interested startups can write to the Headstart team at bangalore@headstart.in to learn more about the co-working space.

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Venkat Raju, our keynote speaker for the day came next. Venkat is the MD and CEO of Kyron. He spoke in-depth about what startups and entrepreneurs should focus on, and what are the pitfalls they should watch out for.  Key takeaways from his address were:

Choose to get into entrepreneurship for the right reasons
Startups and entrepreneurs should be looking to solve genuine problems, and profitability should not be the sole goal for them. Focus should be on what value startup provides to its customers and what social impact it can have.

Think it through
Startup founders and entrepreneurs should think deeply before taking the plunge. They should realize that entrepreneurship is a difficult journey, taking as long as 6-10 years to attain financial stability, and requiring a great deal of sacrifice.

Try and Control your Destiny
Most startups end up taking VC money too soon. Startups should defer taking money early on, as it gives too much control to the investors. Focus should be more on making the company profitable.

Cash is King
Startups should avoid burning too much cash early on. They should try to conserve cash as much as possible. They should look for sustainability and monetizing their business model.

Do not reinvent the wheel
Indian Startup ecosystem has matured. There are a lot of people who are willing to help. So, founders should ask for help when needed. There will be many areas in which they will be lacking expertise, for example: Legal and finance. They would also lack knowledge about incorporation, and whether or not it’s the right time to enter the market.

Finding the Right Incubator/Accelerator

Do research before applying to an incubator/accelerator program. Opt for a program with the right set of mentors, and with a culture compatible with your startup.

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The next talk of the day was by Alok Patnia, CEO of Taxmantra on ‘Decoding the Startup Action Plan’. Below are a few positive aspects of the PM’s action plan as shared by Alok:

  • Self Certification: Startups are allowed to self-certify themselves on environmental and labor laws
  • Tax exemption for 3 years for startups.
  • Faster exits for startups
  • Labor law relaxations for startups
  • 80% rebate on filing patent applications
  • Simplification of the starting up process: Founders will be able to set up their startup by just filling a short form through a mobile app and an online portal that will be launched in April.
  •  Fund of 10000 Crores for startups

Alok also pointed out some of the major shortcomings of the action plan. The government definition of a startup, for instance, is highly ambiguous. Also, for obtaining funds from the government, the startups will have to go through a long and arduous process of approvals. There is also a need to relax labor laws (equivalent to those in other ecosystems such as Singapore). Startups should also be given exemptions from compliances and capital gains.  In spite of all this, the PM should be given due credit for recognizing the need for encouraging the growth of India’s startup ecosystem.

More details about the Startup India Action Plan can be found here.

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Following the two informative talks were the startup demos. Below are the three startups that pitched their idea in front of the enthusiastic audience, and gained some valuable feedback:

Aveti: Aveti is a Sanskrit word which means to learn, discover and grow. Aveti is an android app that lets users discover learning sources such as News, Courses, Events, Videos, and Presentations, based on their interest areas.

PlaceOfOrigin: Place of Origin brings to the customer’s doorstep a wide variety of specialty food from different parts of India. The startup is focusing on fine food in emerging markets, which is expected to grow with large number of urban population.

Peersome: Peersome is a marketplace for self-driven car and bike rentals. It is an online aggregator for local car and bike rentals.

The event also had these startup stalls at the venue:

Incubex: The startup provides co-working space in Sarjapura, Koramangala and HSR layout.

Career Confidence : Career Confidence is a global leader in providing training in Career Development skills, Entrepreneurship, and Intrapraneurship.

Finmitra: A financial startup with the aim of helping individuals invest in various financial solutions online. It helps individuals create financial plans depending on their needs.

Bode Animation: A startup which helps Corporates and Startups come up with explainer videos for their offering.

Carista:Carista aims to bring car service to your doorstep.

ZeLadder: ZeLadder android app helps individuals build their own Sports Resume. The app helps users choose local leagues related to a particular sport and track their progress.

Qplum:Qplum helps individuals invest their money in stock markets.

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The last session of the day was the panel discussion, moderated by Malini Gowrishankar, Founder of F5-Escapes, and featuring panelists: Naveen Asrani , Director of Microsoft Ventures ; Prof. Sabarinathan , Director of NSRCEL-IIMB ; Santosh Panda ,Cofounder and CEO of Explara; and Ganapathy Venugopal , CEO of Axilor Ventures. Below are some of the insights shared by the panelists:

  • The role of incubators and accelerators is to identify at what stage the startup is today in its journey; and how to take it from one stage to another. Usually the journey of a startup comprises of 3 stages: Idea to pilot, pilot to launch and launch to scale.
  • Incubators help startups grow their ideas, plus also help them protect the idea.
  • Incubators and accelerators help startups identify if the industry is ready or not: if there are enough customers for their ideas, with the help of KPIs and business analytics. Does the startup have right number of customers? A good example in this regard is that of Redbus. They entered the market at the right time and also were able to gain a critical mass of customers. They help organize and curate the marketplace for online bus ticket booking.
  • Incubators and accelerators also act as a mirror for entrepreneurs and founders, and know whether or not they are staying true to their idea, thereby helping them identify their next goal/target.
  • Startups should visit different incubators/accelerators to try and figure out which of them  are best for their company.
  • The enterprise is the entrepreneur’s dream and business. Accelerators and Incubators just facilitate them.
  • Good ideas will find good people. If you bet on people, you will get good ideas.

A note on some of the incubators/accelerators suggested by the panelists:

Microsoft Ventures:

Microsoft Ventures has been rated as one of the best accelerators in India and has many eminent leaders in the industry as its mentors. Startups can apply for their accelerator program by visiting the below link:

https://www.f6s.com/mventuresin/apply

Axilor Ventures:

Axilor helps fund start-ups and early stage companies based in India. In addition to funding, the entrepreneurs also receive help in other areas critical for success such as infrastructure, mentorship, market access, and talent.

There are currently 3 programs offered by Axilor for the entrepreneurs: Accelerator, Entrepreneur-in-residence, Early stage funding. More info can be found here: http://www.axilor.com/

NSRCEL-IIMB:

NSRCEL’s mission is to take ideas to implementation through a structured mentoring program that helps entrepreneurs create successful business entities out of excellent ideas. More details about NSRCEL can be checked here

Deshpande Foundation:

It is an NGO founded in 1996 by Gururaj and Jaishree Deshpande. Foundation runs various programs in both USA and India. Some of it most notable programs include: LEAD (Leaders accelerator development program), Deshpande Fellowship Program, Deshpande Educational Trust and Master of social entrepreneurship.

The  February edition of Startup Saturday Bangalore concluded with Headstart conducting a quick session based on its ‘Co-founder Search’ initiative, for those in search of co-founders for their startups, and those interested to join startups as co-founders.Thanks to our supportive audience and our partners: NASCOMM, Wow Labz, TLabs,  TiE and Yourstory, amongst others, for yet another delightful edition of Startup Saturday Bangalore.

Written by: Ankit Srivastava, Edited by: Swati Ramnath

 The March 2016 Edition of Startup Saturday Bangalore will be on the theme “The Rise of Women Entrepreneurship”. To register and for more updates visit: https://goo.gl/kQuGdA