We were back in the ‘classroom’ for the second workshop on ‘Incubator Capacity Building’ between the 5th and 7th of February at CIIE, IIM Ahmedabad. A collaboration with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and CIIE, the workshop was aimed at helping participating organisations understand the intricacies of running an incubator as well as supporting startups in various ways. The workshop saw active participation from a mixed batch.
The participating organisations from the first workshop of the series, and new additions to the cohort deliberated on numerous issues about incubation operation processes and startup support. While the first cohort came to reflect on their progress, and share their knowledge & problems; new participants came to explore their strengths and ideate during the course of the workshop.
This interactive workshop opened on February 5 with Ashwin Joshi (VP – Ecosystem, CIIE) and Chintan Bakshi (COO, Startup Oasis, CIIE) taking turns to introduce CIIE and the Initiative (of which the workshop is a part) for the benefit of the new participants. They spoke about the support provided to the participants through this Initiative and the progress at present. This followed with a group introduction from all the participants and a subsequent speaker session with Sijo Kuruvilla George, Founder and ex-CEO, Startup Village.
When sharing his thoughts and views, Sijo touched upon multiple facets that can add up to create an encouraging culture and environment for incubators. Stressing the role of incubators as facilitators, Sijo talked about creating a safe and open space with Internet and accommodation facilities that are accessible to all (be it a student or an early entrepreneur). He gave numerous examples of supporting entrepreneurs; be it just listening to them (and not judging them), to organising events to encourage community gatherings and creating an environment to initiate interactions.
While Sijo had talked about the numerous aspects of creating a lively environment for startups that encourage exposure; the following session, taken by Ashwin Joshi, focused on the various frameworks that can help incubators understand and guide startups. This session fundamentally looked at the benefits and applicability of ‘Design Thinking’ and ‘Lean Startup’ methodologies. The participants walked through the various stages of these methodologies, namely, Empathise, Define, Ideate, Customer Development and Customer Validation. The specific insights and examples from the real world helped participants grasp the sub-factors of each of these stages in a better manner.
For an incubator, its culture and ability to understand startups are essential to growth, but perhaps what is more important, is the ‘Startup’ itself. Hence, scouting and identifying the right startup to support is crucial to the existence of the business incubator.
A joint session on ‘Scouting and Evaluating Startup’ was conducted by Vipul Patel, Senior Manager, Social Impact, CIIE and Amber Maheshwari, Manager – Investments, Infuse Ventures. They gave a glimpse into the various programs that may be used for scouting startups and provided a detailed insight into evaluation of startups. Focussing on various parameters to evaluate startups, Vipul and Amber spoke about the process at CIIE.
This led to a discussion on the aforementioned parameters and accounting for the ‘gut’ feeling of an incubator before taking the plunge in a specific startup. In conclusion, the startup team and their idea were deemed the most crucial components of startup evaluation.
The discussion on various methods to scout for startups led to the topic of conducting ‘Bootcamps’. Chintan Bakshi elaborated on the process and advantages of organising and conducting multiple Bootcamps using his past experience. It helped participants understand the different perspectives of conducting a ‘Bootcamp’ (in different regions with different partners). Moreover, ‘Bootcamps’ should have a concluding point for startups to look forward to whether in the form of incubation, investment or corporate connects.
While ‘Bootcamps’ serve a good purpose of creating a pipeline of startups, it is an ‘Accelerator’ programme that helps early-stage startups go the extra mile and attract investor attention. Mohsin Bin Latheef, Manager – Infuse Ventures, talked about various aspects on the ‘Accelerator’. He gave a detailed insight into the advantages of conducting ‘Accelerator’ programmes and the correct offering the programme should have, in order to attract entrepreneurs. The rest of the session focused on the detailed processes to organise an ‘Accelerator’ along with the scouting plan, call for applications, outreach as well as evaluations of the startups.
The next day commenced with participants concentrating on the ‘Financial and Legal aspects’ related to running an incubator. Dr. Manoj Fogla, Subject Matter Expert for non-profit organisations, helped participants gain clarity on various matters relating to basic financial fundamentals for non-profit organisations. He outlined the difference in receipts and incomes, liability, accountability and responsibility from the legal and taxation standpoints. The simple examples facilitated through caselets helped participants get a deeper understanding into practical problems. The discussions resonated with the participants and continued well into lunch following the session.
Post lunch, Ganesh Nayak, Investor relations, LetsVenture interacted with the participants about the various ways of managing mentors and investors. The participants opened up to share their thoughts on various ways of engaging mentors and rewarding them for their efforts. The session explored the expectations from both ends of the table, i.e., the mentors/ investors and the startups. The session was followed by another interesting session led by Kannan Narayanaswamy, Founder, Startup to Scaleup, on ‘10 points to Epiphany’. During the session, Kannan put forward the ten things that incubator’s can do while starting operations. Chintan Bakshi cited his journey and the problems faced to set up Startup Oasis, helping participants draw out immediate activity plans.
That evening, Sanea Vakaliya, Senior Manager – Finance and Legal Compliance, CIIE, helped participants understand how CIIE maintained its ‘Books of Accounts’ and dealt with reporting to various stakeholders such as donors, investors as well as statutory authorities (both during CIIE’s initial days and as and when the organisation evolved).
Dr. Fogla finished the session by explaining simpler cases related to FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) and helped participants develop clarity on funding and its accountability.
On the third day, participants conducted one to one meetings with CIIE team members on various issues ranging from Finance, Branding and Scouting to activity plans for the coming month.
List of Participants
- Baljeet Singh (Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Enterprises)
- Dr. Karminderjit Singh Ghuman (Venture Lab – Thapar)
- Nitul Jyoti Das (Down Town Charity Trust)
- Chintan Bakshi (Startup Oasis)
- Arvind S (Coimbatore Innovation and Business Incubator)
- Stalin Jacob (Nativelead Foundation)
- Vaibhav Belgaonkar and Soumitra Bhat (Indian School of Design and Innovation)
- Dr. Lakshmi Jagannathan (Dayananda Sagar Entrepreneurship Research & Incubation)
- Sonika Gupta (Swaraj University)
- Anoop Kumar Mathur (RIICO, Jaipur)
- Deepankar Raina (Shikshantar)
- Sumit Dhanuka (Ncubate Capital Partners)
Written by Susmita Ghosh
Photo Courtesy – Anu Singhal