Pune MIT’s EDUGILD is empowering edtech startups to become globally competitiveAparajita Choudhury
Officially launched at EdTech Europe in June 2015, startup accelerator EDUGILD, a part of MIT Pune University and the brainchild of Dr Sunil Karad, Managing Trustee of MIT Group of Institutions, Maharashtra, aims to infuse promising edtech startups with long term value.
EDUGILD offers startups in the edtech space a 16-week mentorship and product realisation programme, conducting two batches a year, starting in February and September. With the participants from its first batch performing well in the market today, and with a second underway, the Pune-based accelerator is looking to the future, getting set for the commencement of selection for its third batch.
The EDUGILD programme starts with a selection committee finalising the startups to be accelerated, followed by 48-hour boot camp called the Edugild Diagnostic Kit. This forms the basis of the gap analysis of each startup.
The bootcamp involves one-to-one interaction with the edtech startups, after which each one gets a dedicated venture partner to take the acceleration forward with the EDUGILD team. The acceleration programme encompasses technology guidance, organisation development support, product life cycle management, business acceleration, PR and media strategy support (Adfactors), investor readiness and relations (FundHound), UI-UX advisory, digital marketing (Kreativ Street) and global research (Tracxn).
“The assessments of the startups are done every six weeks, with two-day strategic intervention and one-to-one sessions, and specific focus area-based engagements,” says Rishi Kapal, CEO, EDUGILD.
Challenges and the road so far
EDUGILD’s objective is to deliver tangible and long term value to the selected startups. The initial challenges the team faced included reaching out to applicants, institutional partners, and ecosystem partners, and putting the necessary processes in place.
At present, EDUGILD has a portfolio of 11 startups, of which two are from the US and one is from Russia.
The selection criteria include the real use of technology by the startup, the problem they are solving, the stage of the minimal viable product, relevance to the target audience, founders’ credibility and patience levels, and global marketability.
Selection is a three-step process, taking 45-60 days. Out of 800 applications in the last two batches, 11 startups were selected, and the third batch is now open.
In its first year, the programme received applications from 300 entrepreneurs focused on the education sector from all over India. Of these, EDUGILD selected four companies for its accelerator programme.
These startups were provided with mentorship and guidance regarding instituting a startup, pitching to venture capitalists (VCs), business management and customer acquisition, marketing and scaling up the business.
“North India leads in number of applications, followed by the West, South and East, in that order. We also get applications from the US, Europe, Africa and South East Asia. Since we speak at a lot of international edtech forums, we are a global accelerator to vie for,” says Rishi.
EDUGILD launched its next accelerator, called DESIGNGILD, in the second week of November. DESIGNGILD is an initiative of the MIT Institute of Design, Pune which provides design mentorship and resources to startups to create design-led business.
Benefits for startups
EDUGILD gives startups in its programme access to its impressive list of partners, which includes the likes of CISCO, Cambridge, CodersTrust, Tata Class Edge and Upgrad.
Three of the four companies in the first batch (Simulanis, Gradopedia and ClassBoat) have gone on to raise funds.
“Simulanis has been the winner of the Village Capital programme; ClassBoat is scaling up in numbers and is well-featured in the media; Instafeez’s Gross Value already exceeds Rs 40 crore; Gradopedia has started generating revenue – all positives!” says Rishi.
The venture partners of EDUGILD include Dr Sunil Karad, Executive Director, Trustee, MIT group of Institutions; A.G. Rao, MD at Manpower Group; Apurva Chamria, AVP and Head, Global Brand and Digital Marketing at HCL; Vivek Mehra, MD, Sage Publications; Sachin Torne, Chief Officer – Product and Services of Tata ClassEdge; Manish Upadhyay, founder of Liqvid (a soft bank-funded edtech company) is EDUGILD’s strategic partner.
EDUGILD has started generating applications for its third batch, and is roping in venture partners in China, Singapore, the UK and Israel to give startups access to these markets. It intends to onboard anywhere between three to seven startups for the next batch. The legal assessment process to consider setting up an emerging edtech fund has also been kicked off.
According to India Brand Equity Foundation, India holds a very crucial place in global education, with more than 1.4 million schools and 227 million students enrolled. When it comes to e-learning, India is considered to be the second largest market after the US. India’s online education market is expected to grow to $40 billion by 2017 from the present $20 billion.
Players like Vedantu, Simplilearn, Toppr, Byju’s and embibe.com have already made a mark in the field of online tutoring, edutainment, and online test preparation. The funding received by these companies, and indeed the space in general, points to the tremendous interest and potential in the market.
Toppr raised Rs 65 crore in May; Vedantu raised $5 million from Accel Partners and Tiger Global Management; and Simplilearn raised $15 million in April this year. In May 2016, Prepathon, a learning app for competitive exams from PaGaLGuY, announced an undisclosed amount of funding. Byju’s raised $50 million from the Chan Zuckerberg initiative and others in September.