2016 marks ten years of the Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship at IIM Ahmedabad. A decade of incubation operations and evangelizing entrepreneurship with initiatives such as the best seller book Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, The Power of Ideas with The Economic Times (inarguably the largest entrepreneurship platform ever). A decade of deep support to entrepreneurs-starting with iAccelerator for IT-ventures that we expanded quickly to sectors like agriculture, healthcare, energy and water among others; creating vibrant ecosystems across cities with Startup Oasis, ThinkPune!, PitchTown, ProductSprint and MentorEdge among other initiatives. And where we saw risk-capital gaps, we catalysed capital for the under-served sectors through seed investments, CSR funding and also launched the VC fund, Infuse Ventures.
As we kept our heads down and continued our quest for the next relevant problem to address, the entrepreneurial ecosystem itself was boiling over. Over the past 3-4 years, everyone around us is either an entrepreneur or an investor, but strangely, no one spoke of innovation or sustainability.
In early 2016, as the Startup India euphoria continued to rise, we analyzed the 950 deals that happened in 2015. We found that fewer than 5% deals were ‘non-obvious and differentiable IP’. In Food & Agriculture, over 70 funded deals improved food experience through delivery or retail while only 4 improved agricultural-efficiency. Over 30 deals helped discover health-services and mere 7, solved deeper problems in the sector through med-tech and bio-tech innovations. We knew something was wrong – but continued to hope the party would continue.
In ’16 euphoria settled, investors were rattled.
Funding dried. Startups were fried!
Some re-molded, many more folded.
Hyper-local services wept as reality crept.
Conversations changed from $-raised to unit-economics,
Distressed or otherwise, M&A action gave glimpse of fairy comics.
Fortunately, our ventures were largely insulated as they weren’t in impacted sectors such as hyperlocal and ecommerce. Meanwhile team CIIE introspected and took key decisions that serve as our resolutions for 2017:
a) Focus more on IP-driven innovations in under-served sectors such as healthcare, agriculture, sustainability, fintech, security by de-risking innovation in these areas.
b) Unlock capital and expertise for tough sectors with deep problems by blending commercial, strategic and developmental capital apart from providing significant non-financial support. In 2016, we laid the foundation for partnerships with corporates, government, and financial investors to support entrepreneurs in emerging sectors.
c) Our platforms will evangelize entrepreneurship so rather than being an implementer,
we create tech and knowledge driven platforms to democratize entrepreneurship. We will continue to provide know-how and best-practices to universities, incubators, state governments, and corporates to launch and support their startup-focused efforts.
d) Strengthen the IIM-A advantage to leverage synergies with the institute such research-capabilities to re-imagine the future of emerging sectors, provide entrepreneurs with unmatched access to the alumni network, training to build the capacity of entrepreneurs, and also contribute data and know-how to benefit teaching and research at IIMA.
In ’17 let true innovations recover,
Way too many platforms to deliver and discover.
Explore breakthrough solutions in agri, energy, health, and finance
Those have real problems and markets are immense.
Set large goals and think really big
Please, please, please: don’t settle for an undifferentiated gig.
IIMA research and networks will help value to unlock
We will bridge key gaps, and will continue to rock!
Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship, IIM Ahmedabad