In Hyderabad the startup ecosystem is growing fast. Very soon the city will give other Indian metro cities a run for their money with its growing startup-friendly ecosystem. One of the monthly regular events that happen in the city is ‘Startup Saturday’, which witnesses 15 to 20 new startups every month. And it’s just one of the numerous events.
It is in the backdrop of these activities that we spoke to the new Hyderabad-based startup accelerator, Catalyzer, founded by Sunil Myreddy and Dr. Madhulika S.
YourStory caught up with Dr. Madhu, Co-founder & Director of Catalyzer, where she spoke about her startup accelerator’s vision and more.
YourStory: Until now accelerators in India were copying the TechStars and YC to the most part. In what ways is Catalyzer re-thinking as an accelerator to fit into the ground realities of India?
Dr. Madhulika: YC and Techstar models are extremely suitable for web, mobile applications, software products involving the lean startup and the minimum viable product. The reality of uncertainty, limited resources and varied complex cultural contexts in India build a strong case for innovation in the startup ecosystem absolutely necessary.
We have built our model on systems theory with emphasis on creating interdependency in the startup cohorts accelerated at Catalyzer. While the startup ecosystem in the US is focused on innovation and technology, it is imperative that local issues and needs are focused upon in India. Catalyzer is focused on addressing local issues in India with a global entrepreneurial outlook. We are committed not only to accelerating various entrepreneurs but also to leverage their strengths in order to build a startup commune that nurtures entrepreneurship.
YS: What are the preferred sectors of startups you accept?
Madhu: Catalyzer Startup Accelerator focuses on startups in technology (mobile, internet, telecom, etc.), non-technology (education, environment, healthcare, nutrition, hospitality & design) and enterprises creating Social Capital for profit and nonprofit ecosystems.
Catalyzer accepts startups at all stages, including idea, seed, and prototype from national as well as international applicants.
YS: Where are Catalyzer’s mentors from? How will Catalyzer community benefit from the diversity?
Madhu: Mentors at Catalyzer are mainly based from the US and India with diverse working and consulting experience in many countries across the globe. The mentors bring different strengths, perspectives, ideas that complement each other. Catalyzer mentors and advisors are experienced entrepreneurs, academicians and consultants. They volunteer their valuable time without compensation in order to give back to the entrepreneurial community and help nurture future entrepreneurs. Mentors and advisors work with teams to provide impartial advice in their areas of relevant expertise.
YS: What services will be provided by Catalyzer to the accepted startups?
Madhu: Catalyzer provides mentorship-based acceleration providing global contacts with our partner accelerators and investors. Connections to experts in academia and industry are also facilitated as required. Exposure to research methodology for product and customer development, pre-seed funding, IT infrastructure and other perks and resources from partners are also accessible to startups.
YS: Tell us about your plan when you intend to start the 2014 cohort?
Madhu: Our first cohort is composed exclusively of startups which attended our startup 15 program and then were accepted into the startup 101 program. Our second cohort starts on June 8th 2014 and is open to all applicants in areas ranging from technology to education, environment, nutrition, health, media, and social enterprise etc.
YS: Give us an overview of Catalyzer Startup 101 Accelerator Program?
Madhu: Catalyzer™ Startup 101 is a 101 days mentorship driven entrepreneurship cohort accelerator program for startups. Twice each year, we select up to 12 startup teams (or individuals) and help them navigate the crucial first stage. Startup founders working in Technology building Enterprise Software, Mobile Applications, Software as Services, Web Applications, etc., Non-technology areas such as education, environment, media, finance, healthcare, etc., and social enterprises working for-profit or non-profit are eligible to apply. We look for teams from all sorts of backgrounds. Selected startup teams will have to move to Hyderabad for the program. Startups will receive financial support in the form of pre-seed capital, work space, IT facilities and other resources.
YS: What does 101 days program entail?
Madhu: Startup 101 focuses on in-depth understanding of entrepreneurship, learning through mentorship, customer feedback & lean startup methodology, data analysis, pitching ideas, networking, fundraising, product building, process portfolio, demo day and road shows.
YS: What does each 15 days, 7 days and 3 days program have to offer?
Madhu: Catalyzer™ Startup 3 is a 3-day Outreach workshop focused on introducing entrepreneurship to prospective startups. Participants will engage in an experiential learning workshop with topics of interest in relation to systems theory, entrepreneurship and developing go to market strategy.
Catalyzer™ Startup 7 is a Business Plan Mash startup program open to college students and working professionals at our campus in Hyderabad. The 7 days event is focused on Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Business Plan. This event is also offered at college campuses upon request from institutions or student clubs.
Catalyzer™ Startup 15 is a 15 days Business Portfolio Kickstart Program at Catalyzer campus in Hyderabad focused on building a business plan and go to market strategy using components of Lean startup, pitching the idea and in-depth understanding of entrepreneurship.
YS: How did Catalyzer structure itself to add value to the growth of startups it accepts?
Madhu: Catalyzer provides mentorship based acceleration in a global context by providing contacts with our partner accelerators and investors. Connections to experts in academia and industry have been built as a part of the methodology based on systems theory. Exposure to research methodology for product and customer development, pre-seed funding, IT infrastructure and other perks and resources from partners are also accessible to startups. Catalyzer has put all the above described elements in place to create an environment conducive for accelerated learning.
YS: How does Catalyzer help entrepreneurs focus on critical areas that they must achieve to be venture-ready at the end of their program? Give us overview of your framework.
Madhu: Just like a Greenhouse is ideal for nurturing and protecting plants, Catalyzer Startup Accelerator and Commune are ideal for nurturing startup ideas. Systems theory which is the basis of our methodology describes the interdependence in a commune ecosystem. It is central to the survival and growth of the system as a whole. Systems theory, born in the biological sciences is now widely applied in fields such as psychology, sociology, engineering, business, leadership and organization development etc. We provide a support system for startups, so innovative ideas can turn into reality. We work hand in hand with startup founders, mentors, industry experts, coaches and investors to make startups succeed.
At Catalyzer, systems theory is central to our philosophy of building and nurturing an entrepreneurship commune, sharing of infrastructure, resources and wealth generation. The entrepreneurship commune at Catalyzer will include profit oriented technology and non-technology startups along with profit and non-profit social enterprises. The social enterprises create social capital that nurtures the profit oriented startups while a very tiny drop of the financial capital generated by the profit oriented startups supports the social enterprises. At Catalyzer, we believe a start up is a process and not an entity. Systems theory helps the entrepreneurs build a robust interdependent process in the system of entrepreneurship!
YS: Where and when will Catalyzer portfolio startups have a chance to present to venture capitalists, angel investors or potential partners? Do you have DEMO day type of setup?
Madhu: The program ends on the 101th day with a demo to investors. We also organize roadshows for our startups in major metros to showcase their work and attract investment. The startup will continue to be part of Catalyzer Startup Commune and will receive support from our mentors and executives after the program.
YS: What is the distinct model of Catalyzer that takes startups and put them on a trajectory to be full-fledged companies?
Madhu: A commune is an intentional community of people coming together to share common interests, infrastructure, resources, and work. Participants in the commune contribute towards supporting each other in creating social and financial capital. In addition to the communal economy, non-hierarchical structures and interdependent ecological systems (Systems Theory) are important core principles of a commune. We offer support to startups from our cohorts even after the 101 days accelerator program as they become a part of our startup commune. We are share holders and we will do everything in our capacity to ensure startups accelerating with us succeed.
YS: Does Catalyzer provide extra perks like legal, banking and taxation advice for the startups?
Madhu: Yes, Catalyzer provides extra perks like legal, banking and taxation advice.
YS: Why should an applicant choose Catalyzer over the existing players in the market?
Madhu: While many accelerators in the market are doing a commendable job, their models support either technology or social enterprise. At Catalyzer, all ideas, solutions and fields of work find a place to work together and build businesses that cater to the needs and preferences of customers. Catalyzer is not just an accelerator but also a startup commune providing opportunities to startups from many fields to help each other grow. Additionally, the startups learn research methodology to be able to develop products and customers which will help them beyond the startup phase.
YS: What is the average batch size that Catalyzer can accommodate?
Madhu: Catalyzer can accommodate 10-12 startups in each cohort.
YS: What is the investment allocated to each qualifying startup?
Madhu: On a case to case basis taking requirement into consideration, technology and non –technology startups will be invested anywhere between 5 to 10 lacs. Social enterprises and non-profits get resources and support in non monetary manner.
YS: What type of investment do you engage in, Equity, Convertible Note or Loan?
YS: What is the set amount of equity that you require from Catalyzer alumni startups?
Madhu: Usually between 7-12% but equity will vary when investment increases on a case to case basis.
YS: What does Catalyzer presence mean for Hyderabad to position the city as an upcoming startups destination?
Madhu: Catalyzer with its connections across the world, its mentors, partnerships, exceptional startups can only add to the friendly, welcoming, vibrant city of Hyderabad. At Catalyzer, the thought process is on facilitating and supporting startup ideas beyond geographical boundaries to foster the connections between entrepreneurship and local communities.
YS: Are you going to have a pan-India presence?
Madhu: No, Catalyzer is going to be based in Hyderabad and soliciting applications from all over India and the world.