On Demo Day of NetApp Excellerator’s 4th cohort, startups with 6 futuristic solutions take centre stage
Engaged with 1,200+ startups, mentored 24 startups, created 100+ go-to-market opportunities, has $40mn+ follow-on funding, built 8 global alliance partnerships: this is the impact that the NetApp Excellerator has had in two years across four cohorts.
“We’ve completed a two-year journey in being able to build our vision and turn it into a reality. This is a great milestone for us,” said Deepak Visweswaraiah, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, NetApp India. The accelerator has been supporting and nurturing innovative B2B startups since 2017, helping them build innovative, world-class products and solutions, and making them market-ready.
“This cohort is special because it marks the maturation of futuristic technologies for B2B,” added Ajeya Motaganahalli, Senior Director and Leader, NetApp Excellerator.
Alumni from previous cohorts include FirstHive, CardioTrack, BlobCity, SigTuple, Nanobi, Scalend and ZScore amongst others. They’ve also had two exits so far - Adya from the first cohort and ArchSaber from the 2nd cohort were acquired in the last six months. Other startups raised several rounds of funding and have gone on to be successful, with SigTuple emerging as a potential unicorn. They also have an international company in the cohort this year – Zappy.ai, headquartered in the UK. “We aren’t restricted to the market in India. Talent is here to create solutions for global consumption. You have to go after global markets to succeed in the longer run,” said Deepak.
Powering futuristic technologies in the B2B ecosystem
NetApp realised there were enough startups who were successful in catering to the consumer and telecom space. “Keeping those successes in mind and the ability of India to compete globally, we always believed that a healthy B2B ecosystem is important. Our way of developing that was through innovation – we wanted to encourage that innovation through an accelerator,” said Deepak. Their focus was to help the B2B startup ecosystem grow, with no strings attached.
At the Demo Day held on July 23, 2019 at Bangalore International Centre, Bengaluru, the programme showcased solutions from six innovative startups in its fourth cohort. From quantum-resistant cryptographic systems, to robotic process automation, and smart predictive maintenance systems for Industry 4.0, the six startups from the fourth cohort are QNu Labs, SecurelyShare, Zappy.AI, Ecolibrium Energy, Eder AI and UniQreate.
Ensuring that startups find the right direction to grow
The selection process for NetApp Excellerator takes three months and includes several iterations to pick six finalists from around 350 applications. “We only choose startups who we can help. The idea is to help them ensure that they’re in the right direction. We look at alignment from a technology or go-to-market perspective. If they don’t have anything to gain from us, we don’t select them. It has to be mutually beneficial,” said Ajeya.
The startups get access to state-of-the-art working space, a technical and business mentor, $15,000 grant, new market opportunities, and coaches who train them to pitch to investors.
The association continues even after the startups graduate. They get to use NetApp’s facility for an extended period of time, the organisation connects them to potential customers and invites them to all NetApp events and investor meetups. They also focus on peer learning, so that startups who need assistance can get back up with the alumni’s help. “We encourage our own startups to be each other’s customers. We build an ecosystem within the community,” said Ajeya.
On Demo Day 2019, looking back at the two-year journey
At the Demo Day, Ajeya delivered the welcome address and took the audience through the accelerator journey. “Over the last four cohorts, we have come across more than 1,200 startups and I’m extremely happy and humbled to say that the 24 startups we have chosen are all doing extremely well; with two having profitable exits.” Madhurima Agarwal, Sr. Manager, NetApp Excellerator, also shared snippets from the journey they've had over the last two years.
There was a fireside chat between Deepak Visweswaraiah and K. Vaitheeswaran, Founder and CEO, Indiaplaza.com. The two shared their experiences and learnings and also discussed why B2B startups don't get the kind of credit and limelight that they should. "I think it's easier to build a sustainable venture in B2B than in B2C,” said Vaitheeswaran.
The six startups from the fourth cohort had the opportunity to pitch to an eminent panel of experts from the NetApp leadership team and other industry leaders. The award for 'Most Innovative Product' was awarded to SecurelyShare, the 'Investor's Choice Award' was presented to Ecolibrium Energy, and the 'Best Growth Strategy Award' went to UniQreate.
Gearing up for the fifth cohort
NetApp Excellerator is now looking to offer startups the opportunity to have NetApp as a customer, solve their problems and partner with them for joint go-to-market opportunities. “We will be floating POC opportunities for companies to execute, where NetApp becomes a customer and pays them,” said Deepak. “Or they can become our partner and execute a POC for some other customer of NetApp,” he added.