A decade after first launching in a small town in Colorado, US, global start-up incubator network Techstars is set to make its debut in India and launch new start-up programmes over the coming weeks and months to tap the country’s growing start-up ecosystem.
As part of its India launch, Techstars has forged a joint venture with ANSR Consulting—a Bengaluru-based start-up which counts Accel Partners and Infosys as investors and helps large Fortune 500 companies like Limited Brands and Target set up their technology centres in India.
In a joint interview, Techstars co-founders David Cohen and David Brown said that the incubator network would explore a number of options to tap the local start-up ecosystem, including programmes such as its famed city-based accelerator programme and corporate accelerators. Globally, companies such as Walt Disney, Barclays, Comcast and Target have tied up with Techstars to launch corporate accelerator programmes.
“I think the concept in India is much broader than just having a single accelerator with a particular corporate partner. It’s about really bringing a complete presence. Globally, we have integrated start-up programmes, start-up accelerators, along with investing, which is one part of our story— it’s likely that we’ll have similar types of programmes here in India,” said Brown.
“We are looking at a number of different opportunities from India and we’ll likely execute on some or all of them. And that includes the city model, which is the original Techstars Boulder model, which includes the corporate programme, it involves more top-of-the-funnel activities like Startup Week and Startup Weekend and it involves corporates who want to plug into the start-up ecosystem to the benefit of both parties,” he added.
Start-up accelerators and incubators typically help entrepreneurs and early-stage ventures turn promising, disruptive ideas into sustainable businesses. Apart from office space, accelerators typically provide mentoring and seed funding to early-stage start-ups for about 3-6 months.
Techstars was founded in Boulder, Colorado in 2006 by Cohen, Brown, Brad Feld and Jared Polis. It operates in countries such as Australia, Canada, Israel and France, and across the US. Over the past decade, Techstars has accepted over 1,000 early-stage ventures globally into its programs. Techstars said its portfolio companies have collectively raised over $3.8 billion.
Through its programme in India, Techstars also wants to bring its other global portfolio start-ups and corporate partners to India and vice-versa.
“It’s not just about connecting Indian start-ups to the rest of the world. It’s also about connecting the rest of the world to India and the corporations based here,” said Cohen.
Techstars is also in the process of hiring a team in India to oversee its local operations and has already started meeting local entrepreneurs and start-ups. During the course of a three-day visit this week, Cohen and Brown are meeting and listening to pitches from dozens of local entrepreneurs.
“We’re pretty broad as investors. Our thesis is work with great entrepreneurs that believe they can change the world,” said Cohen.
“ANSR is very excited to partner with Techstars to launch Techstars India. We believe that this is an event of national importance and a huge validation of India’s position as a leading global hub for entrepreneurial activity,” said Lalit Ahuja, CEO and founder of ANSR.
Globally, apart from proven accelerator programmes such as YCombinator, Techstars is one of the few successful programmes that has managed to navigate a number of funding downturns and subsequent bubbles over the past decade, while others have fallen by the wayside.
Over the past five years, India has also witnessed the rise of several accelerator programmes such as ANSR’s Kyron programme, Microsoft’s India accelerator programme and other corporate incubator programmes at companies such as Target. However, the Indian start-up ecosystem has also witnessed a major shakeout in the past three years, with a number of accelerators such as The Morpheus and Mumbai-based The Hatch shutting down, while others have been forced to pivot and change their business models.