“(NetApp) showed us that not everything has to be an epiphany. We learnt that if you follow certain well-established processes you can come up with the right decisions for your company.”
With these words, Krishna A G, Co-Founder and VP of Sales at LightMetrics, one of the startups from the first cohort of the NetApp Excellerator sums up the essence of the first accelerator programme launched by the global data storage and management giant.
The programme helped participating startups realise the full potential of their ideas and innovations, fine-tune them and make them market-ready not just for India but the world.
Launched in June this year, the NetApp Excellerator programme received over 260 applications from startups with solutions across IoT, cloud, big data and analytics, machine learning, virtualisation, data security, as well as data management and storage. After a careful screening process, six selected startups made it to the four-month long programme: Adya, Scalend, VitaCloud, Enclouden, Vaultedge and LightMetrics.
The six companies have received technology and business mentorship in the form of access to NetApp’s platforms, technologies and tools, a co-working space at the company’s Bangalore premises, networking opportunities with potential investors, access to NetApp’s partners and customers, and support across human resources (HR), marketing, legal and tech functions.
The programme covered key aspects of scaling a business, such as better understanding market segments, refining key value propositions and formulating the right go-to-market strategies, and getting familiar with legal and HR matters.
According to Madhurima Agarwal, who runs the NetApp Excellerator, “The NetApp Excellerator aims to propel the startups to the next orbit by supporting them in creating world-class products and reducing the time to market. To this end, we assigned technical mentors who have helped startups redefine their cloud strategy, build reference architecture etc. in a technologically demanding space. We brought in coaches from the (Silicon) Valley to give a global perspective and share a world view.”
Adds Krishna, “At this point, I can say that utilising the inputs our mentors have given us, has allowed us to continue on the same path with a lot more conviction.” He believes that getting mentors and coaches from Silicon Valley has been hugely beneficial since it gave them an opportunity to get a better perspective on the global market.
According to the participants, the other key benefit of the Excellerator was the connections they were able to make, which in turn opened up a world of opportunities to help them scale up. Murali Tirupati, Co-Founder & CEO, Vaultedge, says, “The NetApp team has been very open and generous about connecting us to their customers, thus creating sales opportunities for us.”
Deepak Balakrishna, Co-founder and CEO at Adya, says, “NetApp is one of the premier names when it comes to data storage and data management and given that their entire focus was to support startups like us in the data management space, it made sense for us to apply. NetApp has excellent channels and sales and marketing programmes that we wanted to use because their customers are essentially our prospects. There were a few prospects interested in us connecting to their NetApp file services. Without NetApp, I wouldn’t even know how to be able to do that. Our mentors here have given us access to the APIs and helped us understand how we could connect to our customer’s NetApp servers. We would not have been able to do this at all without NetApp’s help.”
According to Srikanth Parthasarathy, Co-founder of Scalend, “The NetApp Excellerator has a very strong B2B focus – and that’s the space we are in. We wanted to work with NetApp to build a product and work on a joint go-to-market strategy, which will help us in the long run.”
For him, a valuable takeaway has been the support of NetApp’s large and experienced sales machine, as well the connections they were able to establish with external mentors.
For VitaCloud Co-founder Vinod Shankar, access to NetApp’s technology and platforms has been a key advantage. "We find great synergies between NetApp’s data fabric vision and VitaCloud’s data-driven approach to better health outcomes," he says.
In some cases, the fresh perspective that mentors brought in helped the startups reassess whether the co-founders within a startup were on the same page. According to Abinash Saikia, Co-founder of Enclouden, “We always thought it was to our advantage that we three co-founders had different perspectives and brought different points of view to the table. However, during one of the sessions with our mentors, they actually told us that all three of us were talking about different things, and were not coherent about what we would like to collectively say as a company. We realised that it was important for all three of us to…have a common statement to explain what the company is going to be and what our goals are going to be.”
He adds that the sessions with the technical mentors helped them benchmark their product against the best in the market. “It is important that you are equally good, if not better, and the sessions helped us bring that perspective, and scale ourselves. Also, as a startup it is important to identify the stage that you are in. You will need funding to accelerate your growth but you need to be able to identify when it is the right time to seek investment. Our sessions with investors have helped us identify that,” says Abinash.
On 12 December 2017, these startups will showcase their exciting solutions at the NetApp Excellerator Demo Day. Watch this space for more on that.