This announcement was published as part of a media partnership with Conquest.
Conquest, India’s largest and oldest student-run accelerator, which is affiliated with the prestigious BITS Pilani, an engineering college, has concluded the first phase of the 2021 edition of its annual accelerator program. With a three-stage selection process, Conquest is setting out to choose and prep ten startups out of its 17th cohort for an eventual investor pitch, the organization said in a press statement. In the last 17 years, it claims over 5,000 startups and mentors have participated in its accelerator programs.
The first phase culminated with a week-long mentoring program for the top 40 startups of this year’s cohort. The program features one-on-one sessions with some of the biggest names in the Indian internet industry, including the likes of Anirvan Chowdhury from Blume Ventures, Brijesh Bharadwaj, director of product at Dunzo, Mahesh Vandi Chalil, head of technology at BookMyShow, and Varghese Mathew, associate vice president of product at Byju’s.
Conquest will choose 18 startups out of the current 40 that will undergo another round of mentoring sessions for one month. These sessions will deal with topics like product, fundraising, best market practices in creating UI (user interface) and UX (user experience), marketing, sales, design, and growth.
For this year’s cohort, Conquest selected startups like Ecovia, a packaging-as-a-service company, which helps e-commerce and hyperlocal businesses switch to reusable and returnable packaging. Then, there is Agua, a startup that provides internet-of-things-based smart water management solutions to apartments and residents of smaller cities and villages. While these two companies fall into the clean and sustainable technology space, other startups are spread across sectors such as agritech (Chimertech and KleverKisan), software-as-a-service (Cloud Files and Crio Digital), robotics (Euphotic Labs), healthtech (Team Visio), and electric vehicle (Valerio Electric).
With the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem finally getting the attention from the Indian government in the form of tax exemption, recognizing the sector’s role in creating new jobs, and allocating a part of the budget to invest in startups, India is set to see a large number of first-time entrepreneurs in the coming years.
As these new founders begin their maiden entrepreneurial journey, the need for accelerators, which can handhold these founders to show them the ropes, has become very important. Compared to China, which had around 12,000 accelerators in 2019, India had over 335 accelerators in the same year. A few prominent accelerators from India include Sequoia Capital’s Surge, GSF Accelerator, and TLabs, among others.
Seventeen-year-old Conquest is one of the few startup launchpads in the country that is completely managed by students and doesn’t take any equity in the startups. Backed by Canbank Venture Capital Fund and Icertis, Conquest aims to assist startups in navigating the startup ecosystem and give them an opportunity to learn from seasoned founders, senior executives, and investors.
“The supporting framework required by startups to truly succeed has been playing catch-up to the booming entrepreneurial spirit of the nation. Conquest is determined to solve this problem by connecting these startups with the top industry leaders, mentors, and investors from across the country,” the accelerator said in a statement.
In the last leg of the program, the jury will choose ten startups for a week-long session on fundraising and teach them how to pitch ideas to investors. Conquest’s investment partners, which include Padmaja Ruparel, president of Indian Angel Network, Sanjay Nath, managing director of Blume Ventures, Dev Khare, managing director of Lightspeed Ventures, among a few others, have pledged to invest INR 50 crore (USD 6.7 million) in select ten startups. On the demo day, the winner will receive an equity-less cash prize of INR 800,000 (around USD 11,000).
In its past editions, Conquest has successfully incubated programs like Trell, a lifestyle social media startup that is currently valued at USD 120 million, and SocialCops, a data intelligence startup that was chosen as one of the top ten emerging startups by the industry body NASSCOM.