Cleantech-focused Early Stage Venture Fund INFUSE Venture Accelerator Mentors 12 Startups in Boot Camp

6th Nov 2012
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INFUSE Venture Accelerator is a sustainable energy and cleantech-focused early stage venture fund set up and managed by the Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) at IIM Ahmedabad. INFUSE has been the product of a unique public-private-academia partnership between Government of India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) & Technology Development Board (TDB), BP Ventures and the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad.

INFUSE Ventures supports cleantech entrepreneurs and start-ups by providing them with access to seed capital, mentoring and an enabling ecosystem of relevant stakeholders and players in the cleantech space. As the only accelerator of its kind in India, IVA is aimed to facilitate these objectives and act as a bridge for early stage cleantech ventures, helping them identify and bridge gaps, define roadmaps, build strong teams and speed-up their market entry. The program is aimed primarily at ventures with a cleantech-based product/service, some level of product development (ideally a prototype or demo of some sort) and some level of market traction.

In the 1st week of October, a final shortlist of 12 start-ups was chosen and invitations were extended to them to attend a 4-day Boot Camp at IIM Ahmedabad from 29th October to 1st November, which just concluded.

The objectives of the boot camp were three-pronged: networking, mentoring and investment. The 12 selected cleantech start-ups were mentored by a group of illustrious and eminent leaders and personalities. These mentors came from a wide variety of backgrounds and capacities, with most of them having worked in the cleantech space.

The boot camp started with an introductory session in the evening on 29th October, where the start-ups introduced themselves to and interacted with the INFUSE team and the rest of the participants. Talking about the mentors scheduled to attend the boot camp, Vivek Subramanian of Fourth Partner Energy said, “We really need to see the market opportunity of our products/services through the eyes of these industry leaders.”

The next three days (30th October to 1st November) saw mentors interacting with these start-ups over a packed schedule of one-on-one meetings. Each start-up spent at least 30 minutes with the mentors and 1 hour with the INFUSE Ventures Team Mentors. All through the three days, the start-ups were also evaluated on their ability to build a successful scalable cleantech venture.

Addressing the start-ups, Mr. Sunand Sharma, Country President at Alstom said, “Considering the current economic and political scenarios, if India has to ever achieve the targets foreseen by the Planning Commission, we need young and innovative cleantech entrepreneurs like you.” Talking about the issue of energy access in India, Mr. Kannan Narayanaswamy, founder of Start-up to Scale Up and Visiting Professor at IIM Ahmedabad, shared his experiences working in the North East states; “The situation is so bad there that as there is no electricity available after the early sunset; so there is absolutely no economic activity in the region from this time onward. However, when I arrived in Mumbai today morning, it was a sea of difference. It literally depicted the East-West economic disparity. Only innovations from these entrepreneurs can bring about a change in this divide.”

Commending the quality of the start-ups at the boot camp Mr. V. Subramanian, former Secretary at MNRE remarked that they demonstrated commitment, enthusiasm and zeal. However, another comment he made – and to which most of the other mentors agreed upon – was that there is a need to help such technology-based start-ups with capacity building for specific business skills and making their products ready for the market.

The feedback from the start-ups was fantastic, with all of them unanimously agreeing that the interactions with the mentors gave them an opportunity to gain key market insights, identify key issues with their businesses, and reimagine their business models, if necessary. In the words of Dhawal Parate, MD of Green Brink Eco-Solutions (GBES), “It was the cross-functional expertise of the various mentors that was the best part about the boot camp. Through their perspectives as thought leaders, they helped us gain valuable insights on our business model. Another key highlight of the boot camp was the ‘business model canvas’ approach; it was an explicit methodology for young entrepreneurs to understand their businesses better. Over the course of these four days, we can say that we now have an ‘accelerated’ understanding of our business.”

INFUSE Ventures is currently in the process of finalizing the final cohort of start-ups to which equity investment shall be provided based on their needs.

Click on IVA for more details.

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