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Nexus Startup Hub: US Embassy’s initiative to promote the Indian startup ecosystem

Vallabh Rao
27th Feb 2018
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Located in downtown New Delhi on Kasturba Gandhi Marg, Nexus serves as a central hub for entrepreneurs, innovators, faculty, government agencies, industry players and funding organisations interested in gathering, interacting and collaborating to promote Indian startups and the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Nexus is a collaboration between the US Department of State and the IC2 Institute at the University of Texas, Austin. It is located at the American Center and is funded by the US government. The IC² Institute is an interdisciplinary unit of The University of Texas at Austin specialising in the practice of entrepreneurial wealth creation. Nexus has partnered with many organisations in the Indian innovation ecosystem: Department of Science and Technology, FICCI, TiE, Indian Angel Network, AmCham, TechStars and ISB among others.

Erik Azulay is Executive Director at Nexus Startup Hub and Incubator. He answers a few questions about Nexus.

Eric Azulay (Centre, 2nd row) with participants of incubator management training workshop held at Nexus

YourStory: Tell us more about the programmes run by Nexus.

Erik Azulay: We run several initiatives here in India:

The Innovation Hub runs events to support the innovation ecosystem here in India and is open to all. We run trainings, Masterclasses, round tables and practical information sessions, all related to entrepreneurship The main thing that ties all these events together is that they are practical and useful for startups. As a serial entrepreneur, before agreeing to conduct a session, I ask myself "Would I find this programme useful?" 

The Nexus business incubator runs a ten-week ‘pre incubation’ programme three times a year to demonstrate best practices in startup incubation and to help early-stage companies successfully launch and grow their business. It combines one-on-one mentoring, lectures from experts both in India and the US, as well as workshops led by Indian leaders on different subjects important to startups (IP, marketing, pitching, etc.). After completion of the programme, we select four companies for long-term incubation at Nexus for up to eight months. We are now in the middle of our third cohort of startups, and the reaction has been tremendously positive.

South Asia Connect is an initiative that was just launched. It is an expansion of the Nexus programme to the surrounding countries of Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. We we will be training leaders in those countries as well as work with their startups to present best practices in innovation and entrepreneurship and help strengthen their ecosystems. 

YS: Tell us more about the recently launched Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs programme 

EA: The Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs programme has been designed for Indian university students with entrepreneurial ideas. Building off the theme of the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit ‘Women First, Prosperity for All,’ the programme will provide training to selected women with practical tips and mentoring on how to launch sustainable businesses. For the approximately 20 selected women, three kinds of integrated experiences have been arranged: First, an online course with mentoring by successful women entrepreneurs; second, an intense weekend workshop at Nexus in Delhi; and, finally, a two-week trip to The University of Texas at Austin, where the Indian student innovators will work with students from the US and Europe to develop strategies to grow their business ideas in India and internationally. Applications from female students throughout India will be accepted until March 16.

YS: How does the incubation programme work? 

EA: We will initially be selecting up to 15-20 companies for ourpre-incubation phase of 10 weeks. Each selected team can bring two team members into Nexus for the training, day-to-day mentoring and events. We will work together with you to sharpen your value proposition, define your target market, get market feedback on your product/technology and create and achieve milestones to bring your company to the market. A key part of our methodology is “getting out of the building” to collect real market data and the voice of the customer. Hands-on training programmes will take place at Nexus by both the US and Indian experts. After the initial 10 weeks, we will select 3-4 companies to stay at Nexus for a longer, more in-depth incubation period. These companies will have full access to the incubator facilities and network for up to an additional eight months. During this time, we will work with you to take your company to the next level on getting your product to market, growing your customer and revenue base and, if appropriate, working to get you funding for scaling up operations and market growth.

YS: What are some of the initiatives in the pipeline?

EA: There are several new initiatives we are working on, including an expansion of our incubator management training programme, modelled on UT's top ranked Austin Technology Incubator. Based on the early successes of Nexus, we are looking at ways to further expand its reach to other cities and incubators throughout India.

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