Sanjay Vijayakumar is himself a startup founder, but he’s also an ecosystem founder. He spent years embedded inside India’s startup culture and realized along the way that, compared to Silicon Valley, the ecosystem in India was rather weak. Despite the lack of infrastructure though, he also saw that India was producing some seriously talented, young entrepreneurs.
His solution was to build the infrastructure these entrepreneurs needed to innovate in India. To that end he helped establish the Startup Village incubator so that it could support the creation of a subsequent tech ecosystem for the country of India. It was setup as a nonprofit focused on promoting entrepreneurship across three main areas: Inspiration – Idea to Prototype, Incubation – Prototype to MVP, and Traction – MVP to traction and angel funding.
Selected companies receive three years of assistance from Startup Village to hone their skills. According to Vijayakumar, Startup Village provides everything a growing tech ecosystem and its entrepreneurs need for success.
“The need to spread and build a culture of entrepreneurship among the youth in the country is critical to reap the demographic dividend of India,” says Vijayakumar. “With over 225 million youth in the 19 to 25 age groups, the country needs to create a million jobs a month for the next 20 years to employ all its youth. This huge number of jobs is not going to come from established companies; it will come from startups and this is where efforts to create ecosystems like Startup Village become significant in nation-building.”
I spoke with Vijayakumar to learn more about Startup Village, where it came from, and how it’s aiming to be the top incubator in all of Asia.
Tech Cocktail: So, where did the idea for Startup Village come from?
Sanjay Vijayakumar: The initial idea was to create an incubator which was both credible and had the capacity to take large risks for public good. India is brimming with aspirational youngsters and top rate institutions. However, there was the absence of an ecosystem that would encourage college graduates to dabble in entrepreneurship.
Technical institutes were producing skilled brains, but most of them were ending up in queues of jobseekers. Instead of foraying into the fascinating world of entrepreneurship, they were making a beeline for the US chasing greenbacks and better career prospects. It was precisely because of this reason that the Indian government decided to address the issue in right earnest.
The Startup Village was formally launched at Kinfra High Tech Park at Kalamassery in Kochi (Kerala) in April 2012. It is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model, Technology Business Incubator (TBI). In fact, it’s the first of its kind in India with a primary focus on student startups from college campuses.
It was after nearly three decades of funding technology and management institutions that the government decided to move into PPP models, and the success of Startup Village is now creating a blueprint for more private sector companies to launch tech incubators in the country. The National Innovation Council, the government think tank for innovation in the country, has also endorsed Startup Village as one of its showcase projects in the country.
To that end Startup Village has created a model incubator that makes young people realize their entrepreneurial potential through their journey from idea to IPO. In the three years since its inception, it has electrified the startup scene in India and ignited the dormant entrepreneurial instincts in young, turning them into job creators rather than job seekers.
Tech Cocktail: How is your mission to become Asia’s number one startup destination coming along?
Vijayakumar: Startup Village has attracted over 5,000 applications and incubated more than 700 companies, 276 of which are student startups. This experience of creating an entrepreneurial culture is unparalleled in India – our ultimate goal is to emerge as the leading player in the domain of entrepreneurship in the country and create a bridge with Silicon Valley.
When Startup Village began operations, its mandate was to incubate 48 startups, organize 20 events, make available 10,000 square feet of infrastructure space, and forge 10 partnerships in five years. Startup Village has supported 533 startups, organized 102 events, offered 15,000 square feet of infrastructure, and forged 25 partnerships in less than three years.
By the end of 2014 Startup Village had also created 2,889 jobs and its companies were valued at a whopping 2.92 billion rupees. It has been creating one new entrepreneur every day!
Tech Cocktail: Why is it important that something like Startup Village exist?
Vijayakumar: The raison d’etre of Startup Village lies in unleashing the dormant entrepreneurial instincts of the young people and their enormous capacity to build enterprises and create wealth. Equally heartening is the burgeoning number of women as founders, employees, and interns at the Village. Presently, women have cofounded around 250 of the 533 startups.
Also, anyone interested in becoming an entrepreneur can visit the weekly open house session organized at our campus at Kalamassery. They can meet the Startup Village team, clarify any doubts they have on our incubation process, discuss their business ideas, brainstorm with like-minded innovators and meet other technology enthusiasts.
The employment, knowledge, and wealth created in society are huge reasons to allow the passionate and determined minds to pursue entrepreneurship. The social and demographic stage that our society is in today also calls for a greater push for promoting entrepreneurship.
Significantly, Startup Village has been successful in creating a new wave of entrepreneurial spirit among the people in Kerala. The change is visible not only among the technology sphere, but also across all the trade.
Image Credit: Wikipedia