At the MIT AiTi Demo Day - A Recap
It is always god to see youngsters taking to entrepreneurship. And when you have premier institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has given the world entrepreneurs like Drew Houston (CEO Dropbox), imparts its knowledge in entrepreneurship and train students from around the world to become entrepreneurs.
A few years ago, a few graduates from MIT started a group called the AiTi, which would introduce and train college students and recent graduates in technology entrepreneurship. MIT partners with some universities, which open registrations to its students and some partner institutions. After a rigorous selection process, students are accepted into this 6 week program. Once selected, they're divided into teams, whose objective is to work on a viable startup model, with a demo-able working prototype. These students are trained by MIT graduates from various disciplines.
I was at the demo day of AiTi's second batch from India. 10 teams demoed their projects in Google's Bangalore campus. The teams comprised of students from premier institutions like IIT and BITS as well as newer institutions. The teams were stationed at Bangalore's BMS college, where they underwent their 6 week long training. The 10 teams were put through MIT's propriety 26 steps of disciplined entrepreneurship course, as well crash courses in technology. The demos were adjudged by prominent VCs, like Ravi Gururaj, Raj Chinai, Dinesh Katiyar and ecosystem experts like Mukund Mohan and Lalit Ahuja.
What unfolded in the next three hours, was very encouraging for the Indian startup ecosystem.
A technology bias, but addressing Bharat
The program kicked off with a keynote from Lalitesh Katragadda, Country Product Lead from Google, where he shared some of his experiences as an entrepreneur. He said, "Most businesses that come from India are addressing 30 million Indians, whom I call, California Indians. Their needs are very much similar to those people living in the California. What about the rest? There is a Bharat waiting to be served by the entrepreneurs."
As a former entrepreneur he is cognizant about the crunch of economics. He says, "I understand that as an entrepreneur, solving problems that you like to solve many not always make business sense. However, history will tell you that doing what you love has always led to success. I urge all of you to pursue what excites you, for you will be successful."
This was the focus of AiTi as well. I spoke with Cody Coleman, and MIT alum and one of the mentors on the program. He says, "Our aim was to find people still in college or who've just passed out. The kind of people we filtered out were guys with some technical knowledge and or business knowledge. We focused on helping our trainees with technology talent. At the same time, we had business lessons, which was complimented by meetings with business leaders, who were also a part of our mentor group."
Stephanie Schmit, another MIT alum and the program's presentation mentor said, "Simple things like writing a bio or delivering a presentation was a challenge with this batch. But they learnt quickly and seeing them present to you guys today is such a great feeling for me."
The winning ideas
There were four shortlisted Ideas of which there were two winners from this AiTi Batch from Bangalore. The team behind the ideas will get a head start in the application processes of the accelerator programs that had partnered with MIT's AiTi program. Apart from this, there was a cash prize and goodie bag which from Kyron Accelerator. The winning ideas were -
1) Dailywage.in - A portal which helps its users find daily wages worker. The platform was integrated with mobile app and SMS services. It was also backed with area specific market research validating the need for the service. (Babajobs founder Sean Blagsvedt took keen interest in the project and shared some insights with the young team)
2) BetaGlide - A web console that will help developers analyse their app's usage on the clients end. It will measure quantities like CPU, memory and data usage. It also provides heat maps which gives developers an interesting insight into UI and UX of the app. (This idea was very popular among the judges, and Lalitesh Katragadda, Country Product Lead from Google, gave it a special mention. The team if predominantly from IIT Kharagpur, and are looking to get incubated at the institution."
MIT's AiTi program concluded yesterday at IIT Mumbai. Stay tuned for updates from the event.