Boost to innovation: NetApp accelerates startups in times of COVID-19 pandemic

Published: July 30, 2020 4:00 AM

Six Indian startups in NetApp’s Excellerator programme develop real-world solutions to ensure business continuity during these testing times

Madhurima Agarwal, Leader, NetApp ExcelleratorMadhurima Agarwal, Leader, NetApp Excellerator

By Srinath Srinivasan

Tech companies will not let Covid-19 stop their collaboration activities. On normal days it may require startups to come together physically. But these are not normal days and in the case of NetApp’s Excellerator programme, it has happened virtually. In the 6th edition of the programme, which coincided with the pandemic, six Indian startups have found real world solutions, accelerated by NetApp, to ensure business continuity for enterprises during these testing times. The solutions are varied, from blockchain, kubernetes (data protection), cloud, AI, ML and IoT and the startups developing the solutions are from different parts of the country.

NetApp is providing a four-month-long training programme for the selected startups. “The selection process considers both the startups’ strengths and our ability to help them grow,” says Madhurima Agarwal, Leader, NetApp Excellerator. “We receive a lot of referrals and inbound applications from startups across the globe and we call this stage as sourcing. Then the startups are evaluated based on a set of criteria, based on the strength of business idea, products, team, traction. In the deep dive stage we finalise the cohort,” she explains.

Over 300 startups apply to this programme. The startups in this cohort include KubeSafe, Koinearth, Myelin Foundry, CyborgIntell, Aikaan, IQLECT, all of which have Indian founders. The programme is a mix of workshops, coaching, and mentoring and for some startups—progress on the proof of concepts. “We follow a demand-driven curriculum, for the founders and their extended teams. For instance we conducted sessions around storytelling, driving sales for the startups. We also create opportunities for them to increase visibility through various means—webinars, conference participations, 1:1 connects, etc,” says Agarwal.

The startups have niche problems to solve. “Managing smart automobiles can be a daunting task because of the scale and security. Our solutions can solve these problems,” says Chetan Kumar, co-founder and CEO, AiKaan Labs. “During the programme, we did several technical deep dive sessions with multiple teams within NetApp to identify a use case on how our Deep Learning Engine can be used to enable more efficient storage, transmission and analysis of CCTV video data,” says Aditi Olemann, co-founder & head of marketing, Myelin Foundry.

Some of the startups are using NetApp’s tech capabilities. For instance, Praphul Chandra, founder, KoineArth, says that he is exploring combining NetApp’s storage solutions with KoineArth’s blockchain based ‘marketsN’ platform to enable secure, auditable data sharing across supply chain partners. Suman Singh, founder & CEO, CyborgIntell, whose AI hardware sizing platform iTuring has been deployed with NetApp for CPU utilisation prediction, says he is onto jointly developing go-to market strategies with NetApp, for his customers.

The startups get an equity free grant of $15000 from NetApp. Upon completion they join the alumni engagement of NetApp Excellerator. While NetApp does not acquire or co-develop solutions with any of these companies, it partners to create joint offerings. “We recently published a whitepaper with Curl Analytics, part of Cohort 5. We are working closely with another startup Zscore, a startup from cohort 3, in the Australia market,” says Agarwal.

Some of these startups which operate in niche enterprise value chains get help from the sales and business development teams of NetApp. This helps them overcome challenges in generating leads, implementing pilots, creating sales pitches and so on.

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