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Wharton India startup competition – a startup haven

Team YS
14th Oct 2015
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YourStory is a Media Partner with Wharton India Startup Competition 

The Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF) is marking its 20th year by hosting the third edition of its prestigious Startup Competition to promote entrepreneurship in India. Given the immense calibre and potential of both applicants and panellists from India and to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Wharton India Economic Forum, the conference team decided to hold this edition of the Wharton India Startup Competition on January 5, 2016, in Mumbai, the “connect capital” of India. The entrepreneurship-focused event in Mumbai will be followed by the annual Wharton India Economic Forum in Philadelphia – its home for the past two years – on March 25-26, 2016.

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This competition was launched and continues to be organized by MBA students at The Wharton School. This year, the startup competition is directed by second-year MBA students Deepa Iyer, Aditya Nair, and Vikram Arumilli. “Given exponential growth in the Indian startup ecosystem in recent years, the level of interest that we’re seeing from startups is unprecedented and it made sense to host the event to India ” said Deepa Iyer.

Says Naiyya Saggi, CEO & Co-founder of BabyChakra, one of the five finalists in the 2015 competition, “As an early-stage company, BabyChakra found the competition to be a fantastic platform to get exposure to a highly influential international audience of students, entrepreneurs and investors with deep links to India. One of the jury members at the contest has since become one of our most supportive investors, part of our board and a de-facto part of our team.” The team has also had informal 'entrepreneur support networks' created with the other ventures who were pitching at the contest as well as the extended body of students at Wharton. Naiyya adds that the (free) media coverage through CNBC’s Young Turks and PR momentum they built up as a result of being one of the winners was incredibly helpful in reaching a larger audience in the US and in India.

According to Shweta Singh, co-founder of venture capital firm Sol Primero, “The competition holds special significance for us because we began our investment journey by backing the winner of the 2014 competition, Zostel-ZoRooms, which is now a well recognized brand in the budget accommodation space.” Shweta was part of the team that launched the competition in 2014. She adds: “We launched it because we felt that Indian entrepreneurs had limited platforms available to showcase their work internationally. We’re really proud of the efforts of the organizing committees that held the subsequent editions and kept the competition alive. With the Prime Minister urging the nation to ‘Start up India, Stand up India’ we are looking forward to a bigger event in 2016.”

Apart from Zostel, finalist participants in previous years who have secured funding and gone on to do extremely well in their sectors, including companies like Zoomcar, Babychakra, Flintobox and Bizongo. The competition has gained immense credibility because so many the startup finalists have been able to raise funding within six months of participating in the competition. Year 1 attracted 60 applications and the finalists included Zostel, Qlicket, Samaan, Zoom Car and Targeting Mantra. In Year 2, the number of applicants surged to 250 and the finalists were Bizongo, Babychakra, Leova, Jiffstore and Flinto. This year, the organizers expect ~500 applications and approximately 10 finalists.

What’s new this year? Some of the Wharton India Startup Competition’s partners include several IITs and IIMs, LetsVenture, YourStory Marketplace, Sankalp Forum, Nasscomm’s 10,000 Startups, IIT Bombay’s Eureka, and Wharton’s entrepreneurship program.

Philosophy

The competition creates a platform for startups focused on the Indian market to receive strong feedback, access capital, and build foundational relationships with venture capital firms, angel investors, and Wharton students.

Process

Individuals with a business idea or business model featuring products or services targeting the Indian market are eligible to apply. This covers startups in the pre-seed, start-up/seed or early-growth stage. Entries will be pre-screened by a panel of experts including top entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and investors. This panel will select semi-finalists who will then have 15 minutes to present their ideas to the judges (via teleconference) based on which the finalists will be selected.

The Top 10 Finalists will pitch to top Indian entrepreneurs and venture capitalists on January 5, 2016, in Mumbai. The pitch will consist of a 5-minute presentation and a 3-minute Q&A session. One member from each team of finalists will receive a free return ticket to attend the pitch day in Mumbai on January 5, and the winning team will win a subsidised return ticket to attend the WIEF Conference in Philadelphia in March, where they will present their startup to the entire conference. An added bonus is the fact that Wharton Business School students arrange meetings for finalists with key influencers in VC circles.

Outcome

The Wharton School invests in their students with a dedicated entrepreneurship cell that arranges courses and mentorship programmes to ensure a strong support system is in place. An opportunity like the Wharton India Startup Competition connects the resources available at business schools in the United States to emerging market entrepreneurs and allows risk-takers to opt for less traditional choices like entrepreneurship..

Top reasons to participate

  • Participants get first-hand exposure to the startup ecosystem
  • The networking opportunities available enable them to take their business or idea to the next level
  • Access to Wharton faculty, students, meetings with mentors
  • Constructive feedback from the judges
  • Cash and investor-centric prizes
  • It’s also a chance to hobnob with the who’s who in the startup space. This year’s judges in Mumbai include Sasha Mirchandani (Mumbai Angels), Kirthiga Reddy (Facebook), Ravi Gururaj (NASSCOM), Sandeep Murthy (Lightbox Ventures) and Rajan Mehra (Nirvana Ventures).

Applications are being accepted till 19 October 2015. You can apply here. 

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