“Two years ago, we were selling an on-premise model even though we were cloud-ready. Our customer base was also very small,” reflects Harsha Muroor, Co-founder of Teslon Technologies, an IoT-based healthcare technology startup, focused on remote healthcare delivery.
Today, their flagship IoT-based telehealth solution, Carenation, has been deployed as the official telehealth software at Greece’s Ministry of Health. They have a presence in Spain and Latin America. In India, they have piloted with multiple state governments and private players.
Instrumental in enabling Teslon to tap these and many other opportunities has been Cisco LaunchPad – a startup accelerator by Cisco Systems. Cisco LaunchPad was conceptualized to streamline the fragmentation in tech innovations by bringing together startups and partners. It has so far enabled 32 startups achieve scale, tap global market opportunities and more. These startups are from various technology areas like IoT, Analytics, Collaboration, Wireless, Mobility, Security, Networking, Artificial intelligence and Augmented Reality,.
Sarita Raichura, Regional Head – South, Indian Angel Network elucidates a key advantage of the programme. Sarita is part of the team of investors who work closely with the startups. “Ask any startup about their biggest challenges; access to funds and connects will be on that list. The Cisco LaunchPad programme provides the necessary connects which are instrumental in taking them to the market.”
And, it was this Go To Market (GTM) opportunity that helped Teslon scale up rapidly since its participation in the first cohort of the Cisco LaunchPad in 2016. In addition to helping the bootstrapped startup experiment with multiple sales models to identify a sustainable and viable model, which was a key challenge area at that point for them, Cisco made Teslon a partner in their GTM programme and helped them tap the international market. Harsha says, “Also, our offering is now showcased at Cisco’s India Customer Experience Centre in Bangalore, and we have been conducting regular briefings for potential customers.”
MishiPay, a retail payment technology startup, part of the 2nd cohort of Cisco Launchpad’s echoes a similar experience. The engagement during the cohort period helped the startup deploy its product in the Cisco Global Executive Briefing Centre in San Jose, which eventually led to a partnership with Cisco at their booth in the National Retail Federation (NRF). MishiPay is also live at the Cisco Store in San Jose. All of which has been instrumental in enabling the startup to engage with some of the biggest retailers in the US and Europe. Mustafa Khanwala, Co-Founder and CEO, says, “Partnering with Cisco helped build credibility and launch pilot contracts in the international markets. Successful deployments with Leroy Merlin in France and MediaMarkt Saturn in Austria and many other rollouts in UK, Spain, and Germany can be attributed to the partnership with Cisco.”
“Growth is the most important metric for all startups, yet many fail to achieve meaningful growth. And, while startups do understand the importance of this simple lesson, they are often seen spending their energy and efforts in other directions,” says Nick O’ Connor, Director of Alchemist-X, a leading venture backed accelerator. Nick is also an Angel investor who coaches startups as part of Cisco LaunchPad. “The programme understands this vital gap and has been designed to coach founders to create focused goals. It also introduces them to product-led growth strategies and helps them apply the framework to their startup journey.”
MishiPay’s experience reaffirms Nick’s point of view. When MishiPay began its journey in the Cisco Launchpad programme, it had just completed their pre-seed round of £150,000 and had offices in London, UK, and Bangalore, India. In addition to further strengthening its global business, MishiPay was keen on ramping up marketing efforts in India. And, as part of the Cisco LaunchPad cohort, the startup got a chance to better understand challenges associated with selling Software as a Service to Indian and global retailers. Says Mustafa, “The programme helped us eliminate a lot of the options that did not work for us. For instance, we understood the types of business models that would not work for us and the kind of marketing that we should focus on. It also helped us reaffirm several of our processes and approaches.”
So, do they see the startups undergoing a massive transformation at the end of the six-month-long programme? Sarita says, “Undoubtedly,” and adds, “They get more focused. They are able to capitalize their strengths.” Nick, who has worked closely with four cohorts of the programme, says, “I see the startups understanding the concepts and trade offs needed for growth and being able to chart and implement a sustainable growth plan.”
The programme runs out of the Cisco Campus in Bangalore and the startups can opt to work out of the co-working space provided by Cisco for the duration of the programme, startups may also choose to work from their own offices.
During the programme, the startups are mentored by both Cisco leaders and external experts. External mentoring is provided by CTO/CIOs of startups, industry experts, investors, and VCs. Also, the startups get to integrate and work with Cisco technology. Mishipay, for instance, integrated Cisco’s Meraki Access Point and Camera solution to offer a better and more personalized journey for shoppers and map out shopper journeys with more accuracy for retailers.
According to Harsha, “What clearly stands out is that Cisco LaunchPad truly focuses on the startups’ needs versus a standard plan of action, and this flexibility combined with expert guidance helps startups choose opportunities that are right for them.” This engagement with the Cisco Launchpad team doesn’t end after the cohort graduates. “They regularly check on our progress and help in an intervention if needed,” says the co-founder of Teslon.
Open to mid-to-late stage technology and technology-enabled B2B, B2B2C startups, the programme focuses on Cisco's core technology areas: Networking and Infrastructure, Collaboration, Security and IoT. Additionally, enabling technologies like Analytics, Cloud, Machine Learning/Deep Learning/Natural Language Processing, Visualization/UX, Virtual Reality, Smart Things, and Last Mile Connectivity are other focus areas. Six to eight startups are selected for each cohort which runs for six months.
The programme provides access to investor/industry connects, GTM opportunities, co-working space, workshops, speaker sessions and mentorship programme in addition to access to leading Cisco technology platforms in Wireless/Mobility, IoT, Collaboration, Security, Networking, and Cloud.