Amidst the nationwide lockdown and the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, NetApp Excellerator became one of the first accelerators in the Indian startup ecosystem to take the virtual route. The six startups who made it to the sixth cohort of NetApp Excellerator, NetApp’s global startup programme for B2B DeepTech startups are Aikaan Labs, Cyborgintell, IQLECT, Koinearth, Kubesafe, and Myelin Foundry –. The finalists were announced in April this year after an entirely virtual selection process facilitated by numerous virtual meetings and online sessions. NetApp Excellerator also announced that the entire programme would be virtually executed.
In fact, this ability to adapt and evolve the programme to meet the needs of the startups has been a key hallmark of the accelerator programme. Last year, the fifth cohort marked the launch of an evolved model of the accelerator programme wherein the startups built paid PoCs with NetApp. This provided revenue generation opportunities for startups even as they continued their journey of innovation.
An accelerator with a startup mindset: Pivoting to a virtual model
“We believe that change is the only constant and thriving in a VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) world requires the ability to evolve constantly and adapt to changing environments,” shares Madhurima Agarwal, leader, NetApp Excellerator and Director - Engineering Programs at the NetApp Excellerator
Having mentored and accelerated an Israeli startup completely remotely in its fifth cohort, NetApp scaled up that experience to the entire cohort this time around shares Madhurima. “Today, as we near the Demo Day, I can confidently say that the experience was no less than mentoring the cohorts offline.” Something which the startups part of the sixth cohort also agree too.
Suman Singh, CEO, Cyborgintell, says, “Not only were the mentorship sessions highly effective and useful, we never felt that the sessions were virtual. In fact, they were highly interactive and engaging.”
What is appreciable is the fact that while postponing would have been the easier option, the accelerator decided to adopt a startup mindset and pivot as per the current circumstances, even when there was no set precedent at that time.
“When pivoting to a completely virtual model, there were three things that we did without fail to ensure that the virtual programme met the vision of the accelerator programme as well as the expectations from the startups. First, we drew out the schedules and set the agenda in advance so that the online meetings could be as productive as it would be in an offline setting. Second, we held these meetings regularly. Third, was to over communicate on email.”
The impact: A reflection of the accelerator’s efforts
All of this ensured that the learnings translated into significant impact for the startups.
Suman shares, “Training and deploying machine learning models at scale and integrating our systems on GPUs, executing more than 130 machine learning projects in one go, all of it was an amazing experience. In fact, all this has helped our platform to achieve the coveted status of a Super AI Automation platform.”
Today, the startup is engaged with NetApp on two PoCs. “NetApp is a global leader in cloud computing data storage. And, we are doing cutting edge work in AI and ML for them. While we continue to drive value through our work for NetApp, getting validation and support of NetApp is definitely going to put us in a better position in front of venture capitalists/partners,” shares Suman.
For Koinearth, another startup part of the cohort, the programme has enabled the startup to leverage NetApp’s expertise in cloud security to further strengthen its SaaS offerings - a critical factor for B2B solutions. “The discussions and interactions with business leaders have helped to sharpen our offering and positioning in the supply chain space,” shares Praphul Chandra, Founder. He adds, “In addition, as a startup, VC and Partner engagements help to plug resource constraints - be it cash, customer outreach or technical expertise. It is here that the introductions to investors and customers by NetApp will provide further impetus to startups and we hope to benefit from it.”
As Cyborgintell nears the culmination of the acceleration of the acceleration programme along with five other startups, Madhurima believes that the experiences of startups like Cyborgintell bears testimony to the programme. “These startup testimonials are a reflection of the effort the NetApp Excellerator teams puts in to make the programme a great experience for startups.”
On July 23, the six startups who are part of the sixth cohort will showcase their solutions at the NetApp Excellerator Demo Day that is being held online.
The six startups part of the Demo Day are
AiKaan Labs - an edge computing platform that orchestrates and manages applications and devices.
CyborgIntell - a startup that helps businesses solve complex problems with AutoAI-based predictions that are fast, accurate, explainable, efficient at scale, and actionable
IQECT - an AI data platform, which allows users and developers to build their use cases in a simple and time-accelerated manner on cloud or on-premise.
KoineArth - a startup working at the intersection of Blockchain, ML and mechanism design with two key solutions for supply chain management and B2B marketplaces.
KubeSafe - a platform that backs up and recovers container-based applications, automates application Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) with policies, and leverages storage platform capabilities to both backup only the data that has changed and replicate the data to other locations as needed.
Myelin Foundry - a deep-tech company that is transforming human experiences and industry outcomes by building AI algorithms on video, voice, and sensor data for edge devices.
These six graduating startups are the latest additions to the accelerator’s portfolio of 29 other B2B startups that have graduated from the programme since its inception in 2017. The accelerator’s alumni include startups like Coralogix, Senseforth.ai, SecurelyShare, Curl Analytics, Cardiotrack, ZScore, Eder Labs, among others
The relevance of data innovations in the times of COVID-19 and beyond
Today, at the core of helping the world cope and address the medical, social, and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are new-age technologies such as hybrid cloud computing, Kubernetes, IoT, blockchain, AI, and ML. From supply chain management, remote monitoring of equipment to contact tracing, there has been a fast-paced adoption of these very technologies. In fact, the enduring importance of technology could not have been more clear. “Some of our startup alumni that are in the automation and AI space are seeing great demand for their products despite the current situation,” shares Madhurima.
But, that’s not all. Companies today have to be prepared for an accelerated digital future, where data will play a key role. There will be a monumental increase in data as well as the need to analyse, manage and use data in new and effective ways. And, this is what will give companies a competitive advantage in the new order of the world.
“With NetApp’s focus on continuous innovation and technologies driving the change in the world around us, we are best placed to offer great value to our customers. We realise that no one can do all the innovation alone and so we are partnering with some of the best in the ecosystem to create compelling solutions for our clients and create a positive impact on the entire ecosystem,” says Madhurima signing off.
To be a part of NetApp Demo Day on July 23, register here!
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