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News & Press: Dec 2012

BITS Spark

Friday, December 21, 2012   (0 Comments)
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Entrepreneurship is a buzzword these days and If we look at the startup ecosystem in India, it’s filled with lots of highly inspiring whiz kids and ventures, and many of them are BITSians. Exotel, the cloud telephony startup, started in June 2011, has already secured INR 2.5 crores of funding from Blume Ventures and Mumbai Angels. Disrupting the Indian healthcare system is Forus Health, co-founded by BITS Pilani alums, which provides affordable medical technology and solutions. The company recently raised USD 5 million from Accel Partners and IDG Ventures.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, BITS is a heralded name. One need only mention the innovative giants like Bharat Forge, Redbus or Hotmail all founded by BITSian entrepreneurs. From technology to healthcare to e-commerce, BITSians have impacted every sector and achieved great success. Many in the BITS community are increasingly taking the startup road, many of them in college itself. Startups like Framebench, TunePatrol, Photowalkrs, FoodKhoj are testimony to this. These stories have shown how the young BITSian is rolling up his sleeves and building great products. BITS Spark was launched early this year (2012) to boost the startup culture among BITSians and provide an ecosystem to support the BITSian entrepreneur through all stages of this exciting adventure.

BITS Spark, an initiative of BITS Pilani Alumni along with strong support from the institute, intends to nurture and accelerate startups founded by BITSians. It has created a lofty vision, yet not unreasonable, to make BITS Pilani a top three institute for entrepreneurship in Asia. To realize this ambition it has set up three platforms to engage with entrepreneurs at various stages.

Spark Connect: Spark Connect kindles the entrepreneurial spirit in the BITS community. For current students they can engage through CEL activities, entrepreneurship courses or take up an internship at a startup. For example, the CEL of BITS Goa recently organized a startup conference called Agora which featured discussions and speeches from several startup evangelists.

Another Connect initiative, the New Venture Creation Course (NVC) program, is an innovative course where alumni and faculty are remotely coaching hungry BITSian entrepreneurs, entirely on Skype! This model is unique and works because students are required to actually build their startups and engage with real customers. In 3 years, it has graduated 24 startup teams, 5 teams have raised funding and is now expanding to 3 campuses with the help of BITS Connect 2.0.

Meanwhile, aspiring alumni entrepreneurs can start by attending a startup meet-up in their city. However, the easiest way to get plugged into the BITS Spark community is by joining the bits2startup Google Group, which is akin to a BITSian HackerNews community.

Spark Mentors: Spark Mentors is a mentoring network for BITSian entrepreneurs who have already started their journey and are seeking mentoring for their startup. This program helps BITSian hopefuls connect with the right mentors for all kinds of startup advice ranging from market sizing to legal issues and from fund raising to resolving team conflicts. 3 workshops have been conducted this year: the first one in Bangalore, then a virtual workshop and most recently a workshop in Delhi. There has been an overwhelmingly positive participation with over 50 mentors on board so far. Through this platform, SharpEdge, an education startup has found close mentors to help their business with fundraising and market strategy.

Spark Angels: This is an angel network to invest in high potential startups at the seed stage ranging from 25 lakhs to 2.5 crore INR. To enable participation of BITSian angels from all over the world, the evaluation process follows a truly unique approach where angels evaluate prerecorded startup pitches on YouTube. The first such session was conducted in April and it was remarkably effective in bringing all angels and startups together. This is followed by thorough due diligence of the finalists.

50 angels have signed up from 3 continents in less than 6 weeks! More than 20 startups applied to seek seed funding. Exotel and FrameBench are two BITSian startups that have already benefited from the angel network.

The angel network functions with full transparency and is open to any BITSian who is passionate about supporting BITSian startups. An interested angel can simply start by emailing to spark-angels@bitsaa.org. It is amazing that several BITSians are stepping forward in the spirit of creating several BITSian startup successes.

While the BITS Spark journey has started just a few months ago, it is already off to a great start, thanks to the efforts of numerous BITSian volunteers. Entrepreneurship has truly arrived in India and BITS Spark is well positioned to lead from the frontline. This rich ecosystem is about to catch flywheel momentum and there is little doubt that it has more than a good shot at achieving its towering aspiration and becoming a top 3 institute for entrepreneurship in Asia.

Come! Join as a startup, mentor, angel, faculty or volunteer. Start by visiting http://www.bitsaa.org/spark and joining bits2startup@googlegroups.com


Impact by Manoj Saxena fund

The Manoj Saxena Fund in association with Spark Connect has been pivotal to the success of the program. This pre-seed fund has funded six startups in 2012 – PhotoWalkrs, TunePatrol, Adhaar and Smartec from Pilani campus, EasyMontra from Goa campus and Trippin’ Unlimited from the Hyderabad campus.


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