While India has become one of the world’s great nurseries for startups, sadly it sorely lacks great quality programs, the likes of which the western ecosystem is blessed with. The programs like those of YC, TechStars, AngelPad and similar such initiatives which lend considerable strength to the startup ecosystem. All these are sometimes clubbed together under the category of Accelerators & Incubators (A & Is). For the uninitiated, A & Is are finishing schools of sorts for aspiring entrepreneurs and early-stage ventures. Mostly run as a fixed-term (3-12 months), cohort-based, mentorship-driven programmes, they culminate in graduation or “demo day”and help turn promising ideas into sustainable businesses.
As a trend, A&I isn’t new in India. The first big wave showed up after 2008 with the likes of Morpheus, Kyron, The Hatch, etc. coming in. Amid startup fever and funding frenzy, the A&I count in India, at its peak crossed 60. Naturally, a shakeout followed. Reckless copycat players, driven by irrational optimism and undifferentiated strategy, were to blame. A sharp rise in unicorns, resurgence in investments, founders and investors with a clear vision and rapid growth in the adoption of new technologies amid a healthy growth in startup base again has brought the focus back to these much-needed institutions. But time has come for A&Is to deliver to their potential.
Good A&Is should offer a range of benefits combinations of investment, mentorship, office space, networks for elite talent and investors, exposure trip etc. All early stage companies need lots & lots of help, and money is just one of them. They really need good talent to help steer them correctly. A&Is are not about picking winners, but making winners. If A&Is don’t have people that have a demonstrated track record of making winning companies, they won’t get very far.
Only good ones will stay relevant. So A&Is need to continuously evolve; we, at IA, have continuously pivoted and look very different today from when the entity was founded 3 years ago. It has significantly grown its team, extended network, and the scope of services it offers. This evolution has, in turn, broadened the types of startups who apply and are accepted to the program. Startups keep on pivoting and evolving- there is no reason their Support system can’t do that.