It is an honour to be offered the opportunity to establish Techstars Bangalore, which will be our first mentorship-driven accelerator in India, focused on supporting emerging markets entrepreneurs.
Techstars Mentorship-driven Accelerators are not new to Indian entrepreneurs. Just ask the founders of ClassPass, Kinetic, and Stasis Labs. In fact, almost 5 percent of applicants to any of the 40+ Techstars programs around the world hail from India. The Techstars community now includes more than 10,000 mentors, and through our mentorship-driven accelerators, we’ve invested in 1375 companies from more than 40 countries. We believe that great mentorship can make exponential leaps possible for early stage startups, and the experiences of thousands of founders that have gone through Techstars accelerators around the world confirm this.
It gives me great pleasure to announce that founders from India and surrounding countries will now be able to access the world’s best accelerator program in their own backyard. This is not only a validation of the importance of the Indian startup ecosystem, but also of tech startups addressing emerging markets problems throughout the world.
In 2009, I left a career in corporate tech in North America to build a mobile video company in India. Why would I choose to build a startup in India? I felt at that time, that the people who were to receive the greatest positive life impact from the internet, were yet to come online. If we could find a way to get these people online in India, we could re-apply a lot of this knowledge to serve the remaining 4 billion people in the world that were still ignored by the internet. Overcoming accessibility issues to stream rich content over poor networks would be our path to bringing these people online for the first time, or so the thinking went.
Before I arrived in India, we had already invested more than a year developing the product, go to market strategy, and had even secured a partnership with a large Indian digital media company. However, upon my arrival in 2010, I realized most of our assumptions of the market were way off.
Those first six months in India would completely re-inform the way we saw the challenge. Largely through relentless focus on understanding the pains felt by our target market, and navigating the complexities of connecting with an audience that is poor, and out of reach of most app stores, we managed to define a strategy that resonated with local investors. Over the course of the next few years, as one of the top apps on Nokia feature phones, we would end up streaming some of India’s top TV shows and films to millions of first time internet users.
Why India is the right place for this:
India is home to 1.2 billion people, of which 600 million are under the age of 25. The number one occupational aspiration of most of these young people (females and males alike) is to become engineers. Government initiatives such as the India Stack, will ensure that every one of India’s citizens will one day be able to transact without a wallet, signature, or cash. Through one part of the stack called Adhaar, Unique Identification Numbers are already linked to the biometric data of 1.2 billion people. As the largest open API in the world, India Stack is available to developers who regularly participate in government initiated hackathons. This national fascination with building hardware and software, combined with a willingness to adopt next generation technologies at extreme scale make India the perfect proving ground for emerging markets startups.
Perhaps this is also why India is one of the most popular hubs in the world for Global Innovation or In-house Centres (GICs) of multinational corporations, one-third of which are based in Bangalore. Thousands of engineers working at these modern day R&D facilities shape and execute the technology roadmaps of global leaders such as Boeing, Shell, Walmart, and Goldman Sachs among many others. In total, 1150 multinationals have GICs that employ almost 800,000 people across the country. As India grows to become one of the largest consumers of MNC products and services in the world, it makes sense that future innovations are ideated and developed here.
What we’re looking for:
Over the course of my startup journey, I recognized the brilliance of many local Indian entrepreneurs that had deep and sometimes orthogonal perspectives about serving segments of the Indian market. Not only did they hold unique insights that would ultimately unlock whole market segments, but their life experiences had left them with an unshakeable tenacity and resilience.
These entrepreneurs are not unique to India, but can be found in any developing country. Necessity is truly the mother of invention, and founders in places such as Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, and the Philippines have lived through times of incessant need.
As Managing Director of Techstars India, it’s my passion and purpose to find and support these brilliant entrepreneurs by helping them to connect with mentors with the ability to bring step change improvements to their startup journeys.
As is standard among all of its programs, Techstars will invest $120,000 USD in 10 chosen teams. We’re looking for companies from around the world that are applying technologies including AI, Blockchain, AR/VR, Robotics, IoT and Big Data Analytics to solve core-India or emerging markets specific problems across the areas of food tech, agriculture, retail, banking, healthcare, manufacturing, urban planning, public sector, transportation, and logistics.
The Techstars Bangalore Accelerator kicks off on February 4th, 2019 and will culminate on Demo Day, May 2nd. Applications close October 14th, 2018 so please be sure to apply before the deadline.