How this entrepreneur-maker has fuelled cutting-edge tech startups
Tech startups in India have witnessed stellar growth in the recent years, with India becoming the third-largest tech startup ecosystem in the world. The importance of such startups has only amplified during the coronavirus crisis, as more private and public entities take to technological innovations and solutions to survive and thrive amid the pandemic.
A testament to the segment’s growing significance is the funding such companies have received in the past four years. As per this report, more than $60 billion has been invested in over 50,000 Indian tech startups. In fact, in 2019 alone, tech startups saw inflows of about $34 billion, and between January and May 2020, this number stood at $17 billion.
The data reflects the growth potential in tech startups, which can be boosted further with the right support, co-founders, sustainable business models, resources, funds, mentorship and a robust community.
Bengaluru-based Entrepreneur First (EF) does all these things and has consistently helped to build and grow startups that offer cutting edge technological solutions and services in solving problems of the world. Startups that are part of their cohorts have gone on to build sophisticated solutions, some of them patented, and become one of the unique players in their area to do so.
Here’s a look at a few cutting-edge tech startups formed at EF:
Led by its CEO Nikhil Sharma and CTO Manasa Nadipally, LitmusEye helps logistics companies measure volumes of packages in real-time and at 3/5th the capex cost of existing solutions.
The company uses proprietary computer vision technology, coupled with its trade secret camera calibration, to reconstruct objects from 2D to 3D. Its Active Infra-Red Stereo technology uses special camera sensors, which provide the colour and depth image of the package, which is then fused by using Deep Learning.
The company attributes its startup success to the EF cohort. “EF has been integral to building LitmusEye. It started off with our designated Entrepreneur-in-Residence, which helped us validate the best problems to work on, providing startup capital to get the product off the ground... It’s a great place to find like-minded people with whom you can potentially co-found a company,” says Nikhil Sharma.
Bengaluru-based Retail Pulse is an AI-powered computer vision startup that functions on the smartphones of Consumer-Packaged Goods companies’ (CPG) sales representatives. They can visit a store, click a picture and then Retail Pulse’s proprietary analytics engine delivers deep insights from every store from these images. Their insights include product visibility, availability and in-store execution, among others.
Its founders Zaraif Hossain, the CEO, and Anshul Gupta, the CTO, were part of EF’s BA3 cohort, and both have a common passion for solving problems in unorganised retail.
The startup claims its solution results in revenue growth for its clients. The solution is provided through two products. ShelfSight is AI-powered computer vision that detects products at SKU level with 90 percent-plus accuracy. MmetriX is its proprietary analytics engine that delivers critical insights from every store.
Retail Pulse believes EF has been at the core of everything it has been able to do so far.
“From being the platform where we met and started off as co-founders, to guiding us to go after a globally impactful mission and even choosing us as one of the few companies they led the seed round for, EF has been at the heart of Retail Pulse's growth journey since the beginning ,” Zaraif said.
Qzense, founded by Rubal Chib and Srishti Batra, is building an IoT solution for the accurate grading and management of fresh food. The solution employs a unique blend of spectral and olfactory sensors to capture the internal quality of food and its proprietary machine learning models give it an accurate assessment of ripeness, spoilage, and shelf life. The startup aims to address the inefficiencies in the fresh food supply chain that often lead to huge losses to the tune of $14 billion annually post-harvest.
EF helped Rubal find a co-founder, develop the product, pitch it to investors and get mentorship. “The EF cohort is an exciting place and a lot of brainstorming happens in the initial months and many disruptive ideas come out of it. The team then analyses not just your ideas but also your potential as a team to execute it. It is a first of its kind program and is recommended for the diversity of people in the cohort and an opportunity to find your co-founder from the pool,” Rubal said.
Healium Digital Healthcare Pte Ltd
Founded by Biju Jacob and Neeraj Kumar, Singapore-based Healium Digital Healthcare has built an explainable AI (xAI ) Machine vision and Computational fluid Dynamics-based nephrology suit which detects chronic kidney disease 10 years before the traditional system.
The solution has developed and clinically validated machine vision-based digital markers for all major renal conditions. Within three months of going live, it has screened out 1,428 patients.
The founders also met during the EF cohort and credit the program behind the startup’s existence. “The Critical part is to get a co-founder with complementary skills. EF’s format of categorising potential candidates as domain, tech and catalyst leads and assisting and validating team productivity dynamics adaptability and curation of ideas are the best in the world,” they said.
The founders further said it was because of EF that brought about such radically different Deep Tech approaches to solve long-standing global issues.
BrainEntech creates and trains its AI on actual human brain activity that helps in predicting human perception when the subject is undergoing a certain experience.
The company’s initial target group was the Edtech market and its AI is helping increase engagement and comprehensibility as its AI has a fair understanding of how the learner’s brain will react to a given educational video. It has implemented some AI-based auto-modification to the sounds and visuals which will make the video more engaging for the learners.
Soumya Bhattacharjee, its CEO, says the human mind and behaviour is one of the most complex things to predict, yet it's a possibility that can unlock much value - creating personalised learning strategies, knowing when and how your mind functions optimally, detecting stress and negating its effects, enhancing the ability to focus and many more.
Soumya met the startup’s co-founder, Dr. Satyakama Paul, during the EF cohort. Both were passionate about education which helped them create a system which understands human intelligence and helps enhance it.
“Being a first-time founder, I was looking for a structure and some sort of procedure or guidance. This includes the difficult task of finding a co-founder and ideation. EF has developed a science out of the art of entrepreneurship. All these needs were fulfilled by EF. During our stint at EF, we were pushed to go out and get real world traction and that was an enlightening exercise. We learnt a fundamental statement that good tech doesn't mean a good business,” Soumya says.
Entrepreneur First runs cohorts every 6 months and sets the stage for aspiring entrepreneurs to find co-founders, identify massive problems to solve and grow the business. It rolled out its first Indian cohort in January 2019 and since then they have invested in 20 companies in India. The program is highly selective - the recent cohort received as many as 1,500 applications for 50 spots. EF now invites applications for its February 2021 cohort from ambitious individuals looking to start their entrepreneurial journey.