They said no to raising huge investments early on.
They even opted out of opportunities that required them to relocate to other countries that had robust technical and production ecosystems.
This is not something you get to hear very often about startups trying to create social impact, especially when funding and incubation support is not that easy to come by. But that’s exactly what Bengaluru-based young MedTech startup Morphle did.
Having designed a one-of-a-kind comprehensive, affordable digital pathology platform, the co-founders of Morphle took some strategic yet tough decisions. They were always aware of the fact that they would need hands-on support, but only from people who had walked the path, and had the right connects to help them break through to users beyond early adopters. “Scaling up sales of a MedTech product beyond the chasm can get very complex,” says Rohit Hiwale, CEO and Co-Founder, Morphle.
Making impactful innovation sustainable
Morphle’s experience is not singular. In fact, today, an increasing number of startups are looking for support to build sustainable business models to solve India's pressing social problems. “Incubators need to become the go-to place for social impact startups to find that kind of support,” believes Srinivas Ramanujam, COO, Villgro.
Villgro is one such destination for social startups in India. Having started its journey in 2001 with incubation at a time when social entrepreneurship was still nascent, over the years its scope expanded to providing seed funding, mentoring, technical assistance, go-to market partnerships, and much more. “While we saw brilliant entrepreneurs with highly impactful innovations, we realised they were finding business development challenging,” explains Srinivas.
Today, as India’s oldest and largest social incubator, Villgro provides social ventures, working primarily in the areas of areas of agriculture, health, education and energy, seed funding, access to go-to market partners, accelerates their clinical trials and provides them with mentorship and technical assistance. In addition, it also helps with follow-on funding through investment partners like Menterra and its many flagship programmes, which includes its annual investment discovery platform iPitch.
From investment to hands-on support: A platform like none other for social ventures
Villgro launched iPitch in 2017 to catalyse the ecosystem and get social entrepreneurs the kind of support they need, which goes beyond funding. This was exactly what a startup like Morphle was looking for.
“Having done our research, we knew that Villgro would be able to offer exactly what we are looking for. That’s why we knew we had to make it to iPitch,” says Rohit. And, they did, as one of the winning startups of iPitch 2018.
The CEO says that without doubt the iPitch investment and Villgro incubation support has come in handy. But what really made the difference was how Villgro provided hands-on support to accelerate their go-to-market efforts by building a strong sales funnel. “In addition, we have also been able to forge partnerships and tap market opportunities. They not only understand the sector and our needs, but also believe in our vision as much as we do.”
The other reason that makes the iPitch platform unique is that it not only brings together India’s marquee social impact investors and big investments, but also promises of an investment decision and a term sheet for selected startups within three months.
“The three-month long selection programme has been carefully and strategically put together to optimise the diligence and investment decision-making process for investors and startups, thereby making the whole process robust and efficient,” says Srinivas.
The time is now
In two editions alone, iPitch has discovered more than 2,000 social impact ventures and attracted multiple key early stage impact investors. This includes names like Venture Center, SIIC (IIT Kanpur), IIM Calcutta Innovation Park, Startup Oasis, among others. This year, participating investment partners include Menterra, Beyond Capital Fund, Upaya Social Ventures, SINE (IIT Bombay), TIMed and more.
The initiative, which has become synonymous with discovering exciting, innovative startups, is only growing from strength to strength. This comes as no surprise because Villgro has, in fact, incubated 275+ ventures and impacted over 19 million lives in about two decades of its existence.
This year, in its third edition, iPitch will see Rs 8 crore investments available for startups. Seed stage startups can expect to win investment of at least Rs 25 lakh, and for a Pre-Series A startup investments can go up to Rs 5 crore, led by Menterra Social Impact Fund.
In addition, 12 social ventures will get the opportunity to be part of Upaya Social Ventures’ fully funded Accelerator Programme. Startups also stand to win investment and incubation support from India’s marquee social impact investors and incubators like Menterra Social Impact Fund, Beyond Capital Fund, Upaya Social Ventures, SINE (IIT-Bombay) and TIMed, among a host of others.
Since every shortlisted startup will get a chance to present at the grand finale being held as part of Villgro’s Unconvention, one of India’s largest gathering of social enterprises, investors, policymakers, CSR heads and other stakeholders, it opens up immense possibilities to forge connects and build long-term relationships within the ecosystem.
Apply for iPitch 2019
You can apply if you are a seed to Pre Series A for-profit social enterprise working in any of the following sectors:
- Agritech – Startups improving productivity in farming, providing market access to farmers, getting them better credit and insurance, and conserving water in agriculture
- Medtech – Disability; medical devices, and digital health platforms for diabetes, cancer, infectious diseases, and maternal & child healthcare
- Cleantech – focus on productive use of energy
- Livelihoods – focus on job creation
- Edtech, Skilling & Employability
Applications for iPitch 2019 close on August 31.