Why serial entrepreneur Vikram Ahuja believes startups must leverage ‘contact capital’ to scale and growSindhu Kashyaap
In a conversation with YourStory, Vikram Ahuja, Startup Chair of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), Bangalore Chapter, Founder Byond Travel and Founding Partner, Kyron Global Accelerator, reveals why entrepreneurs need to learn from each other, what makes the new India initiative EO CARES unique, and their focus on the #TheNextNew.
What do entrepreneurs really need? Networking and mentorship are on top of the list along with funding, but very often access isn’t easy. It is to help younger entrepreneurs learn from seasoned entrepreneurs’ journey and facilitate collaboration for business growth that Vikram Ahuja, Founder Byond Travel and Founding Partner, Kyron Global Accelerator (now Techstars India), is the startup chair for the Bangalore chapter for and by the community: Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) CARES.
Vikram, who co-founded and led key functions for one of the Middle East's early startup success stories (Triprena and Cobone), has worked across multiple domains (retail, financial services, media) as a strategy and technology consultant across five continents. He also founded travel startup Byond Travel and the AR/VR company ParallelXR.
During his journey and in all his interactions with startups, mentors, investors, and corporate houses, Vikram realised how important it was for entrepreneurs to be well connected and have a support group. Enter EO. Founded in 1987 in the US, then known as the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization (YEO), the association began with the premise of enabling entrepreneurs to learn from each other, and grow. Since then, the organisation has grown across the world and continues to focus on enriching the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
In a tete-a-tete with YourStory, Vikram reveals EO’s vision for the future, the idea behind its new Indian initiative EO CARES, and what participating startups can gain from the programme.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
YourStory: Tell us about the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, or EO?
Vikram Ahuja: EO is a global community of entrepreneurs with over 13,000 members across 182 chapters and 57 countries. It’s a peer-to-peer network, exclusively for entrepreneurs with a mission to engage them to learn and grow.
YS: What is its core purpose?
Vikram Ahuja: At the core, EO’s purpose is to transform the lives of those who transform the world. The focus is on helping entrepreneurs across all aspects of their lives. EO makes this happen through dynamic peer-to-peer learning, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and connections to experts worldwide. One of the largest benefits of Entrepreneurs' Organization is to provide our members with a trusted and collaborative network for peer-to-peer learning and experience sharing from other entrepreneurs like themselves. We are excited to extend this support network to the broader startup community and help innovative entrepreneurs learn, grow, and share.
YS: How does it stand apart from TiE and other existing organisations and networks?
Vikram Ahuja: One of the things that makes EO unique is that it’s a network exclusively for and by entrepreneurs. All our members are owners, founders, or majority stakeholders of businesses earning over $1 million in annual revenues. Another differentiator is the EO experience itself, which is rooted in experience-sharing among peers. This creates a close-knit group with a growth mindset. We transform and inspire each other, and members can tap into a valuable array of resources through global events, leadership development programmes, and executive education opportunities.
YS: What is EO CARES and what is the thought behind this?
Vikram Ahuja: EO CARES (Customers Achievements Recognition Education Social) is the world's only equity-free growth platform for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. EO members have built successful businesses across various industries and domains, including technology, retail, real estate, manufacturing, automotive, healthcare, legal, media, and more. The idea with EO CARES was to create a platform where entrepreneurs could help other entrepreneurs through business and revenue opportunities, direct mentoring, and by sharing experiences of what worked for them in their entrepreneurial journey.
CARES is a simple business management framework that can help startups tremendously by guiding them on how to build and scale successful businesses. Through the programme, our members will help startups with implementing parts of this framework in their businesses.
YS: Who do you intend to include in EO CARES?
Vikram Ahuja: This year, the programme is themed around #TheNextNew. We welcome innovative entrepreneurs everywhere who may be disrupting the status quo with their products or processes. If your interest lies in business growth, personal development, and learning from some of the best entrepreneurs out there, EO CARES is the place for you! We are also giving away $1 million in partner-led benefits so there's a lot to gain for any participating startup.
YS: What benefits can startups expect from the CARES programme?
Vikram Ahuja: Startups joining the CARES programme can look at benefits exceeding $1 million.
1. Business and revenue opportunities: Opportunities to work with and collaborate with EO member companies and to solve real business problems
2. Contact capital: EO is a global, tightly knit network and our members are extremely well recognised in their respective businesses. Where relevant, we would be happy to help entrepreneurs through our extended networks and contacts to help them succeed.
3. Mentoring: One of the most exciting aspects of this programme is the opportunity to learn directly from members about the different aspects of running and growing a startup. From best practices to marketing, financial engineering, PR, analytics, and even hiring the right teams -- our members have previously shared their experiences with startups on what has worked from them.
4. Benefits from ecosystem partners: We've partnered with LetsVenture to help with fund-raising, F6S to help give startups global visibility, and 100 Open Startups to access some of the largest corporates in the world. In addition, we partner with leading angel investors, corporate accelerators, and VCs. We are providing startups more than $1 million in benefits if they get selected for the programme.
YS: What are your future plans for EO CARES?
Vikram Ahuja: EO CARES will become a global programme, and we want entrepreneurs to have the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from some of the leading global entrepreneurs in their industries.