The fifth NetApp Excellerator Demo Day shows that the strength of a program reflects in the success stories of its startups
“Startups at NetApp Excellerator are diverse in the problems they are solving, their size, and the markets they are addressing. However, there are three common factors that bind them together. The startups are leveraging AI to solve problems.They are all data driven. And, they have talented teams,” said Madhurima Agarwal, leader, NetApp Excellerator and Director - Engineering Programs at the NetApp Excellerator Demo Day of cohort five. Today, the company’s flagship startup accelerator program is widely recognised as one-of-a-kind in India’s B2B startup ecosystem considering that it does not seek equity from startups nor a clause to use NetApp’s platforms as criteria to be selected for the accelerator programme.
A natural fit for startups disrupting the tech ecosystem
Since its inception two and half years ago, the program has mentored 29 B2B tech startups through five cohorts. And, the Demo Day of cohort five graduates put the spotlight on five startups -- Lightwing, Curl Analytics, cloudSEK, Senseforth.ai and Coralogix -- who are creating technology that is changing the world by extracting value of the data.
Interestingly, the fifth cohort marked the launch of an evolved model of the accelerator program wherein the startups built paid PoCs. The PoC model gave the startups a platform to prove the potential of their solutions in the real world. And, all five startups have been engaged in PoCs with NetApp.
“The Excellerator began with a vision to inspire, nurture, and support innovation in the startup ecosystem, today through the program we are also creating revenue generation opportunities for startups even as we continue the journey of innovations,” said Madhurima.
Defining the future
In her inaugural address at the Demo Day, Madhurima also highlighted the key trends that play a big role in defining the trajectory of innovation. “The first is 5G -- the technology that the AI-driven IoT world has been waiting for. IoT powered by 5G has the power to transform the world. Second, Hyperautomation - the coming together of several components of process automation, integrating tools and technologies that amplify the ability to automate work and thereby disrupting the way organisations work, operate and drive efficiency. Third, AI security. With an increasing number of organisations leveraging AI, there is a need to develop AI-driven security to counter AI-driven cyber attacks. And, it is impossible for all of this to be driven by one organisation alone. This is where the value of the ecosystem comes in.”
How and why startups must go global
Madhurima also gave a brief overview of the impact of the NetApp Excellerator before opening up the stage for a fireside chat with Sudhir Sethi, Founder & Chairman of Chiratae Ventures, the leading VC firm whose investments include Flipkart, FirstCry, Lenskart, Policy Bazaar, Curefit, Manthan, Newgen, Nestaway, Agrostar, Yatra, Xpressbees amongst others. “While we look at the passion of the team, the quality of technology they are building and how they are building the company, what really helps in deciding our investments are factors such as if the startup is solving a problem, is the problem endemic, if it has been solved before, does it have the potential to gain dominant market share, and can the product go international,” shared Sudhir answering Madhurima’s question on what drives Chiratae’s investment decision.
Talking about why Chiratae is now looking at setting up offices outside India, Sudhir said, “One of the things we work closely with startups is helping them go global. By setting up offices outside India, we want to help our portfolio companies scale up globally. Usually, when an international startup comes to India, their unit economics suffers a setback. But, when Indian startups go global, it is the other way round. If the unit economics of an Indian startup is x in India, when they go global, it becomes 3x. In short, their profit margins go up. So it’s important for Indian startups to have a global outlook,”
Up next, the panel discussion on innovation in 2020 saw Vineeth Narasimhan, CTO, Co-founder Kristal.AI; Jayalakshmi Manohar, Founder & CPO, Streak.ai; and Karishma Kunder, Co-Founder, BlobCity engaging in an insightful conversation with Ravi Chabbaria, MD, NetApp India. The panelists shared their entrepreneurial journey and how democratising of technology has enabled them to innovate. One of the key messages that the panellists agreed upon was that - you no longer needed to be a data scientist to leverage data and extract value. Ravi concluded, “Data has amplified its value because of AI and ML.”
Showcasing technology impact and market opportunity
The highlight of the event was the pitch presentations made by the five startups that showcased how they are innovating in the space of AI, ML-powered log analytics, conversational AI, intelligent automation and digital risk management. Presented to eminent audience comprising VCs, industry leaders and the NetApp leadership team, the pitch presentations also delved on how these startups are creating significant business impact for their clients. The pitch presentation then gave way for the award ceremony. CloudSEK team led by Rahul Sasi and Saurabh Issar took home the best growth strategy award, while the most innovating product was awarded to Senseforth.ai, a startup led by Shridhar Marri, Krishna Kadiri, and Ritesh Radhakrishnan. Lightwing led by Ravitej Yadalam and Navaneeth KN was awarded the Investors’ Choice Award.
NetApp Excellerator cohort five startups at a glance
CloudSEK: an AI-driven digital risk management solution.
Senseforth.ai: a leading conversational AI platform providing automated humanlike conversations between organizations and people.
Lightwing: Fully optimised dynamic compute to slash monthly public cloud bills by 70% or more.
Coralogix: a log analytics SaaS platform that maps software flows, automatically detects production problems and delivers pinpoint insights for log analytics.
Curl Analytics: A tech startup focused on leveraging emerging technologies to develop products and solutions for enterprises.
A programme that is enabling startups to create tangible commercial success
The strength of NetApp’s flagship accelerator programme reflects in the success stories of its cohorts, which includes three who have had successful exits. Adya (first cohort), was acquired by Qualys, a leading provider of cloud-based security and compliance solutions. ArchSaber, from the second cohort, and VitaCloud from the first cohort, have also had successful exits. Additionally, SigTuple, Anlyz, FirstHive and others have secured next round of funding.
“This is the proof of the value NetApp has added to our alumni, enabling them to create tangible commercial success in terms of funding, customer acquisitions and successful exits,” said Madhurima.
Adding how NetApp Excellerator is providing value to startups, Ravi, said, “With our deep expertise in data management, we are uniquely positioned to help them navigate next-generation technologies to scale up their business. Our role as an accelerator is to catapult them to achieve success in delivering compelling solutions to meet customers’ needs. Most importantly, we offer them our trust and credibility, and that is the basis to build any business relationship with a young company.”