The story of a startup born in the middle of a pandemic and how it got its first cheque from 100X.VC
“I am sharing our term sheet by mail now. Please go through the same, and let me know”.
These are words that any first-generation entrepreneur would go to any lengths to hear, and when it does happen, it's nothing short of magic. MAGIC. That is the one word I would describe how Accio’s journey with 100X.VChas been to date.
But before we talk about that, let us circle back a little. Let us go back to that dorm room at VIT Vellore, where Accio was born. Pranav and I have both been fascinated by the idea of building and creating something that would truly impact the world. Roommates since our second year in engineering, both of us spent endless hours brainstorming and trying to come up with what we can build.
It was during this time that someone pointed us towards the lack of content for the visually impaired community. Straight away, we started building a product, which would let visually impaired individuals convert written text to braille. The year was 2019, we were right out of university, and armed with a grant from the Government of India. Passions were high, the timing was great, and the team was spirited, what could go wrong?
Little did we know what March 2020 had in store for us, nay, the world. By March 2020, we had a patent on our braille actuation technology, a prototype ready for field testing, but we also had a global pandemic putting a roadblock to any of our efforts to push the product development to the next stage. We were in a fix.
Just when it felt like nothing was really working for us, something happened. A silver lining. A ray of hope. Our company received an enquiry for an Outdoor Autonomous Robot. Someone wanted us to build a last-mile delivery robot. Immediately, we took a leap of faith, and started mobilising the team remotely to start building the robot. We did not know whether the technology would work in conditions like Indian roads. We did not know how difficult it was going to be for us to build a hardware product remotely, with the entire team in their hometowns. But what we did know was this, if there was any team capable of pulling something like this off, it was ours, and if there was any right time to start working on a project like this, it was then.
The month was July, the year was the now infamous 2020. This was the birth of what we named Accio Robotics. Yes, the outdoor robot never materialised, but it helped lay the foundation for our current technology and we haven’t looked back since.
Accio Robotics is a startup born in the pandemic, with a product line-up best suited for a post-pandemic world.
How 100X.VC Happened
Now that we’ve talked about how Accio began, let’s get back to the MAGIC. It was around this time we received an email. 100X.VC was accepting applications for Class 03. We knew then that we just had to apply to the cohort, whatever the result (we had already applied once before with the assistive tech idea, but were unsuccessful). Immediately, we made a pitch video, filled up the form, and before we knew it, we were pitching our business to the likes of Sanjay Mehta, Ninad Karpe, Shashank Randev, and Yagnesh Sanghrajka.
The weight that these names carried with them did not help with how nervous we were before pitching to them. Our pitch couldn’t have gone smoother, the warmth that the 100X.VC team showed us was unparalleled. They heard each and everything we had to say, asked to follow on questions and said they’ll get back.
Fast-forward one week and we received this text from Yagnesh: “I am sharing our term sheet on mail now. Please go through the same, and let me know”. And this is where the MAGIC began.
Within a week of pitching, our term sheet was signed, and within a month of that, their investment was in our bank. This pace is virtually unheard of in VC circles and we ourselves were happily surprised by the pace of the decision and the transaction. And that is when you really start to think and admire the vision of this brilliant team. They have one goal, and that is to see early-stage startups flourish and not get tied up in the bureaucratic layers of startup investing to get the first check. They have single-handedly changed the way startup investments are perceived in India. Be it the iSAFE Note investment method, or the quick decision making, they have created a complete founder-friendly environment.
But after the investment, the best was yet to come. The fact that we were being mentored by Sanjay Mehta, one of the most prominent names in the Indian investing circuit; Ninad Karpe, a former head of a publicly-traded company and a huge name in the business circuit; Shashank Randev, a prominent venture capitalist and someone who is extremely well connected in India’s VC circuit; Yagnesh Sanghrajka, who is a finance genius and an industry veteran in the field; and Vatsal Kanakiya, who was always just a call away and made everything from our pitches to our time at 100X.VC a smooth experience. It was only because of Vatsal that we could be ready for the pitch day in such a short amount of time, was a matter of extreme pride and privilege for our company.
Even if being mentored by the best wasn’t enough, 100X.VC introduced us to a series “MasterClass”. These Masterclasses were nothing short of spectacular. We were part of an elite ecosystem in which we were being guided through the ins and outs of running a business from industry veterans and champions of the business landscape in India.
To sum up, the beauty that was the masterclasses, one instance truly stood out for us. One day we had the former CFO of Ola Cabs, Mitesh Shah (who is currently Head of Finance at), explaining us how Ola navigated through the existing cab landscape in India. This was followed by a brilliant session by Nilesh Sangoi, the former CEO of Meru Cabs, on how they navigated the cab-hailing market in a post- , world, and how they came out on top.
Some other stand-out sessions were taken by Vishesh Rajaram, who explained the ins and outs of creating a team and building it along with the company; Rajesh Mishra of Google gave a fantastic talk on product development with some interesting concepts such as “pretotyping”. This was followed by another brilliant talk from Uday Sodhi, who was the head of SonyLiv. Sajith Pai gave excellent insights into how early-stage VCs like Blume invest in startups.
The knowledge shared by industry veterans KRS Jamwal and Ambi Parameswaran was pure gold. Their insights were only seconded by the interest and the time they spent in understanding what each startup in the cohort was involved in and gave adequate 1:1 time. I would also like to iterate the mentoring and the insights provided by Hershel Mehta and Brendan Rogers who spent adequate time understanding our pitch and helping us fine-tune.
What this journey has meant for us
We have found friends, mentors, and associates for life in the 100X.VC team. We couldn’t have asked for a better platform to start our entrepreneurship journey as first-generation entrepreneurs. This was a small story of the MAGIC that 100X.VC brought to our startup.
Two words “Thank you” are not enough for everything the 100X.VC has done for us. But we will try to let those words convey the gratitude that we feel towards the team.
Thank you to Sanjay, Ninad, Shashank, Yagnesh, Vatsal, and the entire 100X.VC team!
Disclaimer: Views represented in this article are that of the author and do not represent the views of YourStory. This article was originally published on LinkedIn.