AWS ML Elevate 2022 charts the roadmap for AI/ML startups to build and scale
The second edition of AWS ML Elevate in association with Accel, Intel and YourStory brought industry and tech experts, deep-dive discussions and upskilling programs for a selected cohort of AI/ML founders, to help them expand on their innovations
Wednesday April 05, 2023,
6 min Read
For businesses looking to stay competitive in a fast-paced, data-driven world, AI/ML is revolutionising solutions and services through automation, improved decision-making capabilities, increased efficiency, predictive analysis, personalisation and cost optimisation.
In 2020, AWS launched the first-of-its kind program called ML Elevate, recognising the rise in investor and enterprise interest in AI/ML technologies. The vision of the program was to nurture, mentor and accelerate startups that were building AI/ML technologies to transform every imaginable industry segment. ML Elevate empowers AI ML startup founders to build, grow and scale their businesses.
The intent was to work backwards from the needs of an AI founder and solve challenges such as creating a strong technical foundation, iteratively evolve the product and achieving market fit, acquiring the first set of customers, hiring and raising capital by creating a hub of learning and growth for AI/ML powered startups from India, looking to make a difference across sectors. In its first edition, ML Elevate offered a mentorship accelerator for a cohort of 30 early-stage ML startups. You can learn more about it here.
Phase 1: Launch of ML Elevate 2.0
The second edition of ML Elevate 2022, held in association with Accel, Intel and YourStory concluded in January 2023. The six-week intensive program was launched in September 2022 with the call for applications that saw 263 startups from across India applying to be selected in the cohort.
These startups had developed solutions through technologies like computer vision, natural language processing (NLP), conversational AI, automation, robotic process automation (RPA), edge to cloud among others, to address challenges across various industries like health and wellness, banking and financial services, manufacturing, automation and mobility, food and agriculture, education among others.
Phase 2: Selecting India’s best AI/ML startups
The applicant startups were screened through a meticulous process that focused on various scoring parameters such as market opportunity, product robustness, underlying tech stack, founders’ pedigree, business viability, and key milestones/traction. From the pool of applications received, 27 startups were selected in October 2022 for the ML Elevate 2022 cohort based on criteria such as being AI first or core ML from the start, with under $3 million raised and having been incorporated less than three years ago.
Phase 3: Learning from the best through virtual and in-person meetups
ML Sprint: Mentorship by industry veterans, VCs and successful founders
The program was launched with an inaugural meetup in October 2022, after which, from November to December 2022, the selected cohort members were trained via virtual and in-person sessions that included mentor masterclasses, industry interactions, ask-me-anything discussions delivered by AWS and industry experts, on technology and product building, go-to-market strategy, optimising ML workflows, hiring and talent development, creating fund raise pitches among other such important success metrics for startups. “The mentor sessions have been incredible. There were a lot of learnings on various subjects from sales and marketing to technology, with real-world examples and learning,” said Satvik Jagannath, CEO, VitraAI, a startup that translates videos, images, podcasts and text for all translation purposes, on the role of nuanced mentorship across different subjects.
On how ML Elevate 2022 helped get clarity on their value proposition, said Mohan Sivam, Founder and CTO, FloMobility, that is building a vision-based autonomous driving technology to provide autonomy-as-a-service for a range of vehicles including electric scooters to agri-weeders and even lawn mowers, “The industry insights from the mentorship programme and networking with deep tech peers at the demo week helped us a lot. Preparing for the pitching sessions, on the other hand, helped us get clarity on our go-to-market, while also providing us with clarity on our value proposition.”
Here’s a glimpse of sessions held by mentors from the industry for the cohort of AWS ML Elevate 2022.
ML Tribe and ML Connect: Community of AI/ML founders and connects with industry experts
ML Elevate program started with an inaugural meetup for founders to interact with each other and also do a baselining of what they expected from the program. To make sure that everyone was connected throughout the program, an exclusive WhatsApp group for selected startups was set up, which enabled interaction and established a sense of community for AI/ML founders in the program.
ML Elevate 2022 also gave exclusive access for the selected cohort to networking events like a sundowner at YourStory’s flagship event TechSparks – India’s most influential startup-tech event held in Bengaluru in November 2022 and a mid-program meet-up in Bangalore. This enabled ML Elevate cohort members to meet as a community, network and build industry connections. The founders were also featured in a montage video at TechSparks, which offered visibility in the tech and startup industry through the YourStory ecosystem. To see the video, click here .
ML Edge: AWS credits, perks and office hours
The selected cohort of ML Elevate 2022 were also granted exclusive perks and offers from AWS which included up to $100k* of credits, tech resources, 1-1 office hours and technical and business deep-dive sessions, roundtables with cohort founders, enablement on leveraging AWS tech stack to build and innovate faster. Ecosystem partner Accel’s perks included 1-1 mentorship by partners and principals, guidance and feedback during the program with the selected cohort and access to Accel’s learning series and partner discount offers. Intel granted mentorship sessions with Intel Capital and Intel technologists and access to Intels’ developer tools and solutions, among other such benefits.
To know about how ML Elevate 2022 had a deep impact on these AI ML startups through the program, click here.
Phase 4: The final frontier and program wrap
ML D-Day: Pitch to VCs, angels and industry veterans
The AWS Demo Week, a two-day event held in December 2022 started with hands-on workshops that included themes like culture of innovation, hiring strategies for early stage startups and storytelling and branding for deep tech startups. This was followed by engaging panel discussions around the adoption of AI with enterprises and the role of startups, investing in AI in the next decade and other such industry-relevant conversations, led by experts. While the first day of the Demo Week offered founders the opportunity to demo to VCs, the second day was about showcasing their startups to enterprises. The aim was to extend a platform for the founders to pitch in-person to top-tier VCs and super angels, other successful founders, operators and domain experts in the AI/ML realm so as to find potential investors, advisors and customers. The program ended with a ML Elevate networking dinner party. Watch the below video to see how the program culminates.