Draper University, started by the legendary Silicon Valley investor Tim Draper, is like the Hogwarts school for young and gifted entrepreneurs between the ages 18 and 26. Draper should know a thing about picking out diamonds from worthless stones, having been an early investor in companies such as Hotmail and Skype. All classes are conducted in a boarding school located in an old hotel in San Mateo, on Route 101, close to social networking giant Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters. Started in March this year, the university has three batches, in winter, spring and summer.
The curriculum is a mash-up of an eclectic range of sessions that include idea generation, futurology, media, martial arts, lie detection, CEO lessons, design thinking, music, game design, SWAT training, cooking and survival skills. The program provides training to build critical skills and the mental framework to make an entrepreneur’s venture a success. Draper University’s faculty include industry experts, successful entrepreneurs and VCs with an emphasis to provide hands on learning. Previous year’s speakers include Elon Musk, Andy Tang, Ron Johnson, Bill Campbell, Bob Metcalfe and Tina Seelig.
Bangalre-based Raman Shrivastava, founder, of clean-tech company Aforia has been selected to attend Draper University’s seven-week entrepreneurship program starting 20th January 2014. “Going to Draper University will help me take my venture to the next level by becoming a world class entrepreneur. This program will empower me with the right tools, skills and network to build a disruptive clean-tech venture from scratch,” says Shrivastava. But there’s one small problem. Being a founder of a pre-revenue start-up, Shrivastava is short of funds. He has got $ 3,000 scholarship but is still short by $ 9000. To help him raise the money, he has launched a campaign on crowd-funding site Indiegogo.
Shrivastava’s first brush with entrepreneurship came as a engineering student at Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) when he and his team won an award from the Acara Institute (part of the University of Minnesota) for a clean drinking water solution. They couldn’t take their idea forward because they did not have the funds to commercialize it and the young team dismantled and joined the job market. Keeping with his interest in entrepreneurship, he worked at HeadStart first, then helped set-up the Delhi office for Lookup Media and was last at The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS). At IIHS he got a good understanding about sustainability. While he enjoyed his stint at IIHS and felt that they were doing great work in research and influencing policy, he was more keen to get his hands dirty by doing practical work to reduce carbon emissions.
In June this year he moved out, started to scope out ideas in the clean energy space and settled on coming out with solutions in the mobility space. To date the company has worked on two products that is currently in the prototyping stage. “First up we are in the process of developing an electric car that will be a hatchback like the new Reva E2O. This is in the early stages. Next we want to give identity to cars and make them more efficient. We have a built a diagnostics kit that gets data about your car using the open API from the OBD (on-board diagnostics) port. The intelligence that we have built into the kit helps makes your car more smart and the interface is your mobile. It will tell you when is the best time to service your car , provides feedback on how you are driving, and other such options,” explains Shrivastava. The diagnostics kit is a low energy blue-tooth device, which has a unique id that connects to the OBD port and gets data and build analytics based on that. Shrivastava hopes that the data that the diagnostic kit provides will help drivers reduce emissions by 10-20 per cent.
The electric car is still 8-10 months away from the first prototype and will cost between Rs 4-5 lakh, Aforia is looking at increasing the range of the batteries, compared to the other cars in the market. They need to invest Rs 20 lakh to build prototype, and will need a Rs 1 crore infusion if they are to test and build a prototype that could procure a certificate for road worthiness. “We have tried to pitch to Indian VCs, but they are reluctant. At the end of the program, all students get to pitch to VCs from Silicon Valley and about 60 to 70 per cent of the students snap up some kind of funding,” adds Shrivastava.
A point to note is that Draper’s DFJ has invested in Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors and had earlier invested in Indian electric company Reva Electric Car Company (now Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles) earlier.
If you’d like to help Shrivastava you can make a contribution here.