Karnataka first state to grant funds to startups


In a first in India, the Karnataka government granted funds to eight startups in the tourism sector which had won a hackathon. They were each handed over 25 percent of Rs 1.90 crore that they had collectively won.

It was five minutes to 5 pm when Karnataka’s IT and Tourism Minister Priyank Kharge walked into an empty hall along with officers of his department.

The eight startup co-founders, who together won Rs 1.90 crore at the tourism hackathon, pose with Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah (sitting third from left) flanked by IT and BT Minister Priyank Kharge on his right, and IT, BT and ST Principal Secretary Gaurav Gupta and Tourism Secretary Naveen Raj Singh on the left.

“Where are the winners?” he enquired, a little shocked that none of the eight entrepreneurs and co-founders of the tourism hackathon, “Idea2ProofofConcept”, winners had made it to the designated room in a corner of the third floor of the Vidhana Soudha, the state’s seat of power. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was due to walk in any second to hand over their cheques, which would make Karnataka the first state in the country to grant funds to startups.

A flurry of officials swung into action and connected with each of the eight on their cell phones, and they were all directed, one by one, to the correct gate, entrance, stairwell, and floor, leading them to the exact corner of the mammoth building.

“We were stopped by the security, and we were pleading with them for almost an hour to let us in,” said Smaran Subbaiah from TripdAIry, sweating profusely.

But when CM SIddaramaiah strode in, and the startup founders were called one by one, the bitter experience of waiting in the glaring sun melted away, with each of them grinning from ear to ear as they accepted the cheques.

All the eight winning startups were presented with 25 percent of the money they had been promised as the first instalment.

Priyank explained to the CM,

"A total of Rs 1.9 crore has been granted to these startups. Karnataka had once again blazed a new trail in the travel and tourism space, by funding eight tech-based startups in the tourism sector to develop ideas and products that enhance the tourism experience. It is a first-of-its-kind initiative in India, where winners of the Pitch to Government — Tourism Challenge held in November last year are receiving their first instalment cheques."

Gaurav Gupta, Principal Secretary, IT, BT and Science and Technology, explained that these eight startups were selected under the Idea to Proof of Concept Grant Scheme (Idea2POC) of the Karnataka Startup Policy 2015-20. These were winners from among 127 online registrations, and each would receive anything between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 50 lakh.

The hackathon contest was conducted by the Karnataka Startup Cell, Karnataka Biotechnology and Information Technology Services (KBITS), Department of IT and BT, and the Department of Tourism.

“Idea2POC offers entrepreneurs a support system to explore, develop, and launch their best ideas. The scheme is designed to identify, mentor, and fund enterprising tourism startups in Karnataka who can create deeper, immersive experiences around the state’s manifold riches,” the minister said.

“The objective is to encourage innovators who may need early-stage funding to stimulate commercialisation of their inventions and to help in validating proof of concept. We use a team approach to mentoring that gives the entrepreneurs more perspectives from different angles,” he added.

“Our focus is to create a strong startup ecosystem with a bottom-up mentality. These are not relationships based on a single conference meeting, but ones that are forged through meaningful experiences we have gone through together,” added Gupta.

Idea2POC is an Ignition Fund given in the form of a grant-in-aid but limited to a one-time grant of up to Rs 50 lakh. Funding will be released in tranches based on the life cycle of the business plan.

The eight startups along with the prize money they received are as follows:

AAO Hostels – Rs 40 lakh: AAO Hostels is promoting the backpack hosteling culture in India through its online and offline initiatives. They help entrepreneurs start up backpack hostels and provide an online platform for backpackers to find quality hostels across India.

Highway Delite – Rs 35 lakh: The Highway Delite app platform provides verified information of highway services, including restaurants, washrooms, hotels, pumps, accident zones, and emergency numbers, with photos and facility details. They have already verified 7,000 km of highways, and will also enable digital payments to highway services.

Highir Technologies – Rs 25 lakh: Highir Technologies is a digital imaging startup specialising in creating high definition 360-degree virtual tours, aerial 360-degree imagery, 4d aerial videography, and virtual reality solutions. Its objective is to identify, digitise, and display the most pristine of locations in Karnataka on a robust web and mobile platform using best-in-class imaging technologies. Karnataka tourism will be the first to showcase its pristine locations on a modern web interface using virtual reality/360-degree imaging and aerial videography solutions.

DigiTourTechnologies – Rs 25 lakh: DigiTour provides "audio-visual" guided tour services for historical monuments in regional and foreign languages on the mobile platform. Hardware devices installed at tourist places help tourists browse content without internet. It also supports VR and AR and offline maps.

Aseuro Technologies – Rs 25 lakh: Pinakin is an audio guide that you can download on your smartphone. Karnataka has such brilliant places such as Palaces, Forts, Temples, Museums, Minarets, Churches, Art Galleries and Parks. This is where “Pinakin” app fits in, delivering quality content of tourist attractions with the ease of using one’s own phone.

TripdAiry – Rs 20 lakh: TripdAIry is an artificial intelligence travel tech company. It is building a next generation virtual assistant that can, on demand, assist you in planning, booking, and managing your trips. The company’s vision is to automate the travel concierge industry and bring in efficiencies for travel service providers like hotels, airlines, and corporate travel desks.

Moving Up Products – Rs 5 lakh: Their product, FlippAR, helps augment a traveller’s experience by providing rich, curated information about a monument just by pointing their mobile device at it. The startup is also getting travellers to 'lock' back their experiences into the monument for other travellers to experience. All of this is done using Augmented Reality.

Trip on Food – Rs 5 lakh: When in Karnataka, eat like a local! What better way to explore a place than through its food? Food trails are curated to experience how locals live, eat, and celebrate. Whether it's authentic Mysore masala dosa with pipping hot filter coffee, they have a 'trip' for every one!