1. Nurturing start-ups

Nurturing start-ups

Kochi-based Startup Village helps students turn entrepreneurs

By: | Published: April 30, 2015 2:01 AM

The success of the Kochi-based Startup Village in attracting student-entrepreneurs has caught the imagination of other states. After the second incubator in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, a Startup Village is likely to come up in the state of Madhya Pradesh also. The Andhra Pradesh government signed an MoU with Startup Village to create 1,000 start-ups over the next five years in the state. Startup Village is India’s first such incubator, jointly funded by the government and the private sector. It has Kris Gopalakrishnan, one of the founders of Infosys, as its chief promoter and has collaborations with many MNCs, including the maker BlackBerry, Research in Motion, and IBM.

The Madhya Pradesh government has shown interest in replicating the model and is in consultation for framing the requisite policy. And, as per Pranav Kumar Suresh, the CEO of the Startup Village, Kochi, the success of the Startup Village found mention in Gujarat’s new industrial policy and the state has evinced an interest in launching a similar effort. The concept is generating a lot of interest, and even at the Centre, there is recognition of its potential—Union telecom & IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, after a visit to the Kochi Village, said that the central government would set up an electronics development fund for start-ups across the country.

“What sets us apart from similar incubators is that we are tapping students and helping them set up their first company. We are working on ideas at the early stages and kind of understand them as we were entrepreneurs during our college days,” Suresh says. MobME (Mobile Media & Entertainment), Startup Village’s private partner was formed by college students in 2006. It was the first company incubated in Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram.

Kerala’s Student Entrepreenurship Policy is key to encouraging college-goers to ideate on possible businesses and take risks and set up their own companies. The state implemented the policy on September 12, 2013, and ever since it has facilitated students to innovate and invent. Under this policy, college kids who run their own company and are part of incubators such as the Startup Village are entitled to 20% attendance relaxation and 4% grace marks.

“Our Visakhapatnam centre started operations in December 2014, with 35 startups selected from nearly 150 applications. The response from the boot camps in engineering colleges has been good and the centre is likely to grow in the next five years,” the Startup CEO says. As per the MoU with the Andhra government, Startup Village will also launch Raspberry Pi, a workshop for school children and start-up boot camps in engineering colleges to  build a foundation for creating 1,000 start-ups in the state.

The promoters of the Startup Village want to create an ecosystem that nurtures product and technology companies in India. The Village provides entrepreneurs with office space, guidance and a chance to interact with the stars of the tech industry. The incubator, launched in April 2012, has come a long way, with nearly 5,000 eager entrepreneurs waiting for space to launch their own businesses. Startup Village, Kochi, receives more than 150 applications every month. For perspective, the state had only 20 tech start-ups between 2006 and 2009. But now, the trend has swung, with a majority of the new ventures being student start-ups. Against the backdrop of Keralal’s infamous red tapism and trade unionism, the change brought about by Startup Village is encouraging.

“Of the 53 start-ups currently operating in the Kochi Village, 30 have secured second rounds of funding and are poised for the next stage,” Suresh says. Corporate 360, a big data technology firm incubated in the Village, recently bagged angel funding of $200,000. Funds have also been raised from few investors based out of Singapore and Japan. While the Village is charting out its flight plan in India, it is also actively expanding abroad—it has started a centre in Silicon Valley, US,  to  act as a landing pad for Indian start-ups looking to enter the US market.

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