Here's To Our First ...
Of the #TSCtribe to Come, and Conquer the World
Eventifier, Gets KAE Capital Onboard.
We follow a slightly different model of building and accelerating Tech Startups.
We follow a three step model - Build Prototype. Build + Validate Product. Build Startup + Accelerate. We might be closely following the Lean Startup Model, if you could call it that.
There are three things that we look at, when we look at teams that apply for The Resident / Pre-accelerator Programme:
1. The Team
2. Solving a Real Problem
3. Ability to Execute
The Most Basic Requirement : A Functional Prototype
The Completeness of the team. Does the team by themselves have one skillset that they are complete on. If there is a designer, Hustler and a hacker who can come together to build a great product, that is brilliant. We would overlook the ability of the team to run a business, because thats an aspect we can quite well complement on.
Solving a Real Problem
(1) ranks quite high for us. So much so that we believe that the right set of folks, even if they are on the wrong idea, can eventually pivot themselves into the right one. However the first problem and idea that you pitch gives a very good peek into the way that the team thinks. So while we dont judge the idea, we do judge the thought process and decide whether its deep enough, a team that digs deep to understand insights, or is chasing trends.
Ability to Execute
At the Pre-accelerator stage, this would mean the ability of the team to code, to be able to build the product. We might not be taking in teams that cant code anymore - even though we did attempt that with 2 teams and have had very unfavourable results.
The Clincher: The Answer to the question - tell us one thing about the problem that you are trying to solve that we cant find by Google, but you have insight into it.
We take in teams each month, applications open till the 21st and we do intakes on the first week of each month. Apply here
This is a question that keeps coming up quite often and while we have addressed it (individually), it made sense to talk about the logic behind it:
First of all, the Startup Centre follows a much radically different path to accelerating startups.
If you are curious you can see the visual bit at http://www.thestartupcentre.com/model
We have a three phased approach of building Prototypes, Product and Startups. The first being via In50hrs, The second via the Pre-accelerator/resident Programme and the last being via the Accelerator.
The uniqueness of the Startup Centre Programme is the fact that we value the process of the startup finding product-market fit, more than the startup finding funding. it doesnt mean we deter funding, its just that we believe if a startup finds product-market fit, funding will happen, but not necessarily the other wayaround.
Now to the question: Why do we charge for the Pre-accelerator Programme. Contrary to popular belief, we aren't the only ones. charges 3000$ a founder for the 3 month accelerator Programme. So there is company in where we stand, but as low cost and affordable as we are (INR 50,000 equalling 1000$ for a 3 founder team for six months - which makes it comparatively $45 a month per founder), here is our reasoning:
1. We are not funded by a corporate. Or by a VC Firm.
We are a group of individual entrepreneurs putting our hard earned money behind this . We dont intend to use the startup centre as a means to use the startups as the products we are selling. Which severely restricts what all we can do. For lack of an obvious alternative, we'd like the residents who use the space to cover for the cost / atleast part of the cost. Fair right?
2. We are a startup. And swallowing the costs of a real estate all by ourselves, is not sustainable. We are a private limited entity and we are two years old. We have a board, and we have budgets and we have an entrepreneur slogging his heart out, just as you. No different.
3. Real estate costs and running a space are not for the faint of heart - there are some real costs attached to it. Details of what we incur are as below (for the sake of transparency)
I am not adding the cost of amortization of furniture, equipment etc that will have to be written off in two to three years and things like the UPS batteries that will have to replaced. UPS batteries alone cost about Rs. 1 Lakh (but thats a once in three / four year expense, so will add to about Rs. 25,000 a Year). In due fairness we did get part of the furniture as part of the space, and the furnitures we did buy are negligible for will not add the costs to it.
Add to it the deposit of 10L, which can be said to have an opportunity cost of Rs.1L a year on interest value.
Number of seats that we have - 30.
Total Cost per year - Rs. 26, 19,000
Cost per Month - Rs. 2,18,250
Cost per seat per month - Rs. 7275.
Now this is assuming that we have a 100% occupancy. Most people when they do real estate planning will plan for a 60% occupancy. So if you do that, it roughly comes to Rs. 12,000 a seat.
A Lot of Startup Entrepreneurs, want it at around Rs 1000 a seat. I dont know what to say, than to smile when they do that.
What we charge for, at The Resident / Pre-accelerator Programme:
We give the space at 50,000Rs (upto three member team) for a six month period. If you ARE a three people team, that comes to about Rs. 2800 per month per seat. If you are a one person founder, that comes to Rs. 8000 a month - that is still cheaper than any business centre you can find in a city like Chennai, with the amenities you get access to (not including the mentorship)
Somehow doesn't think that is value-add enough. So we have partners like Amazon Web Services, Google, Softlayer and a dozen other stack partners who provide extra credits for these teams. Amazon provides $4000 (Rs. 2L) worth of credits. Softlayer Provides $1500 (Rs 75,000) and Google Provides $20,000 (Rs. 10L) worth of credits for each and every individual team that goes through the TSC Pre-accelerator Programme.
This is totally discounting, the time and effort that the mentors spend in working with the teams in giving inputs and making introductions, and helping these companies to find product-market fit. All of that is discounted at zero.
For this radically obnoxious low cost, you get an office address in the middle of the city, an amazing set of mentors, Internet, Air condition, UPS, a Library (and access to books and HBR and likes), and get to spend about six days a week in the happening hub of the City. And I didnt mention the world famous bread omelette in the city, just downstairs from the building.
You still think we are charging atrociously? We'd like to know what you are smoking :) Please do share.
You know what? As ! write this, I realize we are seriously underpriced. I just hope none of our board members stumble on this.
1. The Google credits are only extended to teams that are a registered startup. So if you arent incorporated, it is hard to avail that.
2. We also do take a 1% equity in the startups for lieu for the service apart from the fee.
Since our kickoff early last year, we have had an awesome priviledge working with various product companies offering their products and services to the teams that we work with here at The Startup Centre. Here's our latest, with Google.
Google, under its Developer Startup Pack initiative will be offering 20,000$ Worth of Credits for the App Engine and Cloud Services for startups in the Programs of The Startup Centre. The teams do have the option to split however they decide - on how the cloud services (Storage) vs the App Engine will use those credits. The Startup Centre will be offering this to all the companies under the Accelerator Programme and some of the select teams* under the Resident Programme.
For those Interested, the Applications for the Resident Programme for the Month of September close on the 21st of August. The Applications for the Accelerator will open soon, with batches starting in October.
*Subject to the team being a startup legally.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. I believe it takes way more than that to build an ecosystem. But the key to making it happen lies in coming together to work at it.
We extremely proud to be having Helion Ventures supporting The Startup Centre, by sponsoring two resident teams for the upcoming batch. There is interest to do more, but we want to take it slow and see how this goes and expand on it. As you know the resident programme applications are now open, so if you are looking to send in your applications, now would be the time.
We also have partnered with Webengage, a startup based in Delhi which builds tools that significantly help startups to collect feedback and connect with its users via the web page. Its been rather impressive to see this indian born team grow, and we are quite proud to be able to deploy it in the prototypes of the work that the resident teams are churning out to validate it in the market place. We couldn't have asked for a better way to do it. Webengage is offering a six month unlimited package for all the resident teams and accelerator teams.
We salute, as we march on, and as we see the blueprint for the ecosystem showing flashes of itself, all around. Excited.
The Startup Centre, a rather novel concept, in the manner that it is imbibed itself - not just as an accelerator, but also as a hub which nurtures early stage talent, entrepreneur and the birth of new ideas, opened its doors this year in May.
Since then the centre has seen two batch of Resident Programmes, a six month hands-on mentorship programme, which enables high calibre teams with amazing ideas to work out of the Centre, receive on-time advice and build out the first versions of their product that will find its way into the market. "Market validation becomes a crucial aspect of building a technology startup", Says Vijay Anand the founder of the Startup Centre, "If you don't find that customer-product fit early on, it becomes a second priority, when that is the crux of understanding what business you are in."
Two of the current residents at the centre are raving about what the centre has done for them. Shrin Shrikrishna of Startup, School of Skills (an IIT-K Graduate), and Shailesh Jain of Startup, Mirraw claim that the programme helped them refine their ideas and extend their network significantly.
The Centre does not take an equity in these companies, but instead charges a nominal fee from the residents to filter the applicants based on seriousness and as a sign of commitment towards making this happen.
"We roughly get around 30-50 applications each batch and we have taken in two for each batch. We want to be selective about the teams, and that curation ensures that the teams have an amazing peer-learning experience during the programme" says Mr. Anand.
The call for applications for the third batch are out. They close by the end of this month and the batch starts on the 10th of December. It looks like there will be around four teams that will be picked for this batch, now that the centre is also moving out of pilot mode and has been able to crystalize its proceses internally.
What happens next? Teams with ideas come in and build the first market validated version of their products and then what? Interestingly the teams have an answer for that. "Thats where the Accelerator comes in. Once the teams have figured where they are heading in terms of business, value proposition and the market (via the resident programme), the mandate absolutely becomes one of acceleration, and thats where capital, the right advisors and such make apt sense" says Anand who is crafting the entire programme together. The Startup Centre aims to invest into each one of these teams in the programme (upto 10L each - Approx 20K USD), with a probation period of two months - especially to get to know the teams directly applying to the accelerator, without going through the resident programme.
"Pivots are a very common word used these days within startup circles, but when the company has been invested into, it is a lot of stress and rollercoaster for all the stakeholders for a company to make that leap,, and the resident programme in a way is to ensure that the teams get the liberty to do that, with ample support from our base of mentors and the support we provide without the tangles." says the team.
And it seems to be working. Vivek Ravishankar, the founder of Interviewstreet, the first startup out of India to get into the acclaimed Y Combinator Programme says: "The First 6 months of a startup is probably the hardest phase and most startups fail because of bad execution and lose morale. What is needed is great advisors (Vijay and his team) to provide focus and a place where the founders can hack together (2x productivity) - both of which TSC provides. TSC concept + Vijay is a godsend�."
There are several teams that have already been through the process, and the founders of the Centre, some of them prominent members of the Startup ecosystem in India - including The Startup Guy - have played this role informally before. Teams that are currently in the Resident Programme like Shrin Shrikrishna, an IIT Kharagpur/Stanford graduate who was part of Dave McClure's famous facebook class and is building a venture to enhance the skillsets of students, Anup Nair and Shailesh Jain of Mirraw who has returned from the US having worked with Microsoft and VMware and building an ecommerce platform, PV Sundarram and his cofounder Ram who are building on a transporation venture, Souvik Roy a rockstar in the Google Summer of Code circuit and star programmer building a Social Search platform, are all the first highlights of the talent and calibre that the centre has been able to attract.
"Obviously with that much talent in a room, you can imagine the conversations that go on, and how quickly the ideas iterate. They find life.", says Vijay Anand, The Startup Guy.
For more information visit http://www.thestartupcentre.com
Accelerator Application: http://www.thestartupcentre.com/accelerator
Resident Application: http://www.thestartupcentre.com/resident
For More Information:
It seems that while Microsoft might have kicked off the revolutin with using images instead of text, its the touch and gesture based devices that are exploiting that prophesy to the full extent. Touch based devices arent expensive and with their prevalent availability as third screens, they will occupy a very crucial space in the hands of decision makers on the floor - be it stock traders, doctors, CXOs etc. There are countless applications that one can think about on that space (beyond angry birds)
What we are even more excited about is the kinect. With the availability of the device and drivers for PCs, and with the way Windows 8 is spanning out, it wont be mice or keyboards, but gestures that will take full advantage. But the applications of it can change entire industries. Take for example the publishing industry: its run on a deadline and newpaper industries run a very tight ship in controlling the layout of their publications. What if we could have layout applications that can throw the entire layout on a large screen and using gestures allow to rearrange articles around, and optimize for best impression and design? Or an app which will allow you to sit at home and scroll through a shopping catalogue.
Rather simple applications, but the implications would be very profound. Why the wait then?
Mobile Monday is a networking event of mobile professionals. The objective of the Chennai chapter is to enable professionals doing mobile application development to network and learn about new technologies.
Typically held on a Saturday in Chennai, this is Mobile Monday on a Saturday.
RSVP at : HERE
With A R Rahman winning the Oscars, one thing became clear. Talent is everywhere. But it takes someone who isnt in the epicentre of things, a long while before they get visibility. Its always hard for talent to get recognized, but Social Media and the power of the Internet to make distribution costs next to nothing can lead to significant changes to that.
India does not have a music Industry - well, it might have one which is nascent and struggling, but thats barely a thriving industry. Yet there is demand (Bands like Euphoria at its peak made significant amounts of money), and undeniable talent.
Emerging markets are stuck between the old and the new, and this vertical is no different. CDs and Labels are out. But platforms like iTunes are not in yet. And Moserbaer has an Antilog to prove that people are willing to pay.
There is definite possibility for some play in this space, by someone who understands the forces that matter.
PS: Chennai being a hub for a massive entertainment Industry, we meet Artists who are singers, musicians. Inside Info: A super talented musician struggles to make as much as 10K INR a month in a sustainable manner.
The OpenCoffee Club was started to encourage entrepreneurs, developers and investors to organise real-world informal meetups to chat, network and grow. Started in London and now around the world, OpenCoffee Club is a regular, open and informal meeting place for people involved in startups to meet.
The September Meet will be a free flowing Networking Meet. We will set a theme, for our conversations to revolve around.
If any of the startups have a product that they want to demo and get feedback, contact one of us (@dorait) or (@vijayanands) and we can look into that.
Spread the word. Its a good place to meet like-minded folks.
Join the Open Coffee Club meet at The Startup Centre