New Delhi was chosen for hosting Nexus — a US government-funded platform for enabling and encouraging start-ups in India — as it has “all the right components” needed for such initiatives, says its director. Nexus Director, Erik Azulay, who moved here from Austin to set up and run the centre, said “Delhi is the pilot” and the vision now is to expand the footprint to other parts of India and South Asia. “Delhi has all the right components, you have the entrepreneurs, the funders, the government, the capital and other complementary factors. We saw an ecosystem here which was needed for starting this initiative,” he told PTI. Asked if other cities were considered before selecting Delhi, Azulay said, “We did look at other cities, including Bengaluru, but we chose Delhi. Delhi is the pilot… From here on, we see our future in more Indian cities, and other parts of South Asia.”
Under the ‘Nexus’ platform, 10 cohorts (start-ups) were chosen from 115 applications from all over India. An intense 10-week training programme followed that featured workshops conducted by expert and industry leaders from the two countries. Nearly half of these innovations were further picked up last week for incubation under the programme, which the US government runs in partnership with the University of Texas in Austin through its IC2 Institute, a “think and do” tank. IC2 (Innovation, Creativity & Capital) Institute is an interdisciplinary research unit of the university which works to advance the theory and practice of entrepreneurial wealth creation. Nexus, hosted in the American Center building here, resembles a mini-classroom at the University of Texas, with organised desks, laptops, whiteboards and Longhorn pinnates on walls, evoking the atmosphere.
“This place on the first floor of the Center was initially housing the library, which has been shifted downstairs. The next cohorts would be starting this fall (autumn season). We are also hopeful of the formal launch of Nexus facility sometime in September,” said Azulay, himself an entrepreneur, who has been part of the IC2. Counselor for Cultural Affairs at the US Embassy here, Craig L Dicker says, “Nexus is our way of bringing the various stakeholders of the entrepreneurial ecosystem together to work in a concerted way.” “This is big move… Give us another couple of months, and I am convinced, this model would be adopted in other countries — not just in South Asia, I can see it in Central Europe, Africa and lot of other places,” he said. Start-ups selected under Nexus include Agpulse (Ayurvedic organic agricultural inputs), Escrowffer (platform for buying or selling of property with a safety net), Dhakka Brakes (which invented a new regenerative brake system for rickshaw pullers).
Dicker says real entrepreneurs are not in it for the money but a passionate belief that their idea can make the world a little better. “And, we received some incredible proposals and ideas. It was difficult to choose the best. We hope through this platform these ideas will work and find the right direction they need,” he added. Asked about the genesis of the programme, Craig said, two years ago someone from the IC2 met me and discussed an idea, and “we felt it was the right idea at the right time and at the right place, and so we began to formulate it further”. “Our job is to create a framework platform for entrepreneurs ans experts to work together. So, we give them a framework and a black canvas, so that they can paint a Mona Lisa,” he said, adding, “This platform is also going to feed into the bilateral relationship.”
Manya Jha, founder of Morphedo, a one-stop shop platform for 3D printing, and one of the Nexus cohorts, said, “I already have a headstart, and getting to the right people for funding is now easier.” US Chargé d’Affaires in India MaryKay Carlson, during a graduation ceremony of the inaugural batch of ‘Nexus’, had said the “tremendous drive, enthusiasm and intellect for innovation and entrepreneurship (in India) is particularly exciting”.