Techstars picks Bengaluru for first city-based accelerator in India

(From left) Techstars co-founder David Brown, ANSR’s Lalit Ahuja and Techstars co-founder David Cohen. Techstars plans to invest $120,000 from its $5 million India corpus into Techstars Bangalore Accelerator, which is set to run from end-January to end-April. Photo: Mint

Startup incubator network Techstars has selected Bengaluru for its first city-based accelerator programme in India.

It also plans to launch its ecosystem development programmes, aimed at building startup communities, in Indian cities that don’t already have one, company executives said in an interview.

Techstars plans to invest $120,000 from its $5 million India corpus into Techstars Bangalore Accelerator, which is set to run from end-January to end-April. Out of over 1,000 applications that it received, the company will finalize around 10 startups by end-December. Applications for the Bengaluru startup accelerator came in from 21 countries apart from India.

“The reason why startups from other countries are looking at Bengaluru is two-fold—they were trying to see if their products fit into the next 6 billion people, and they look at India and Bengaluru as a gateway to enter emerging markets. The second is the source of talent,” said Bala Girisaballa, who runs the Techstars accelerator programme in India. He was previously managing director at Microsoft Accelerator India.

Techstars was founded in Boulder, Colorado, in 2006 by David Cohen, David Brown, Brad Feld and Jared Polis. Over the past decade, the US-based startup incubator has accepted well over 1,000 early-stage ventures globally into its programmes. It runs 50 startup accelerators across the world, of which around 15 are city-based accelerators—the original Techstars Boulder model that it is known for.

The incubator network entered India last year through a joint venture with ANSR, a consulting firm which helps large Fortune 500 companies set up their technology centres in India. Techstars’ initial $5 million corpus is for three years and can be augmented if required.

Startup accelerators and incubators typically help entrepreneurs and early-stage ventures turn promising ideas into sustainable businesses. Apart from office space, accelerators typically provide mentoring and seed funding to early-stage startups for about 3-6 months.

“What separates the great accelerators from the okay accelerators is whether they are really addressing the personal issues of what it’s like to ride the journey. There are plenty of people who can help with advertising and technology. But it’s a hard and lonely journey for the founding team and I think what we do really well is help people navigate that,” said Chris Heivly.

Heivly is a serial entrepreneur and early-stage investor, and is currently entrepreneur in residence at Techstars, where his role involves helping startup ecosystems reach their goals.

Globally, companies such as The Walt Disney Co., Barclays Plc, Comcast Corp. and Target Corp. have tied up with Techstars to launch corporate accelerator programmes. It is looking to do the same in India, particularly as there is proof now that the model of collaboration between corporates and startups works and the barriers to entry have dissipated, said Lalit Ahuja, founder of ANSR.

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