Since 2014

Qn: What all have you been upto since Startup Village?

An attempt to capture all that I have been involved with since my move from Startup Village in 2014.

Startup Village board member

Contrary to the announcement in the media, this in a way never really materialised. I also did not quite follow up / follow through. That's for another post. On paper I thinkI am still a Board Member at Startup Village (ITIH - TBI) though. 

IVLP

Technically, this was before my CEO term with Startup Village officially came to a close. But then I had decided by then to move on from Startup Village. Term ended in June 2014 and IVLP trip happened in May. IVLP stands for International Visitor Leadership Program. Its a professional exchange program by the US Department of State. Was a very interesting trip. Came at an interesting juncture also for me. The nomination was a recognition of the work that was done in the policy space as part of Startup Village. The program I was part of was titled Influential Voices. 

Sijo Kuruvilla George, CEO of Kochi-based Startup Village, invited to take part in IVLPStartup Village CEO Invited to Take Part in the IVLP

2014: In 2014, it was pretty much IVLP that happened. Thought I’d take a break before I move onto anything next and that's what consumed most of 2014. Did end up spending a considerable amount of time on an everyday basis playing poker with Tom, Zach, Gokul, George et al. 

LetsVenture: Did a year with LetsVenture on a part time / consulting engagement for a year (2015). I used to be spending nearly 50% of my time in Bangalore this year as a result. Started with a conversation with Shanti on the sidelines of the GCHI 2014 - we were both speakers on the same panel. Initial engagement was around helping them out a bit on the policy side - the Crowdfunding policy with SEBI specifically. Took on the engagement to design and set up their Startup Relations Unit also subsequently. Lots of interesting insights and concoctions from that period. Among the most interesting of them being Profile Marketshare - a metric that we evolved for LetsVenture. It was also the period of the start of collaboration with Aby - special on that count too. We have had some very interesting conversations and implementations during that period. Was fun.

TedX talks: Have done 3 TEDx talks to date. First TEDx talk happened in 2015. The TEDx was hosted by US Consulate Hyderabad. Josh talks also happened this year. The second TEDx talk happened at MA College and the third one at the TKM College hosted one. Need to check and ascertain years. 2016 / 2017 & 208 perhaps. 

THub: The THub opportunity also happened in 2015. I was shortlisted as one of the three candidates for CEO. Did not end up making the cut. Was a good experience overall. The ISB Dean, BVR Reddy and IT Secretary (Rajeev Ranjan) was part of the panel that did the final interviews. 

Vibrant Gujarat Startup Summit

KITCO: Had a brief engagement with KITCO also in the interim. Believe it was sometime in 2016. Had spent considerable time contributing voluntarily to their efforts. The formal engagement lasted only a few months though as far as I recall. I ended up deciding to cut it short. The good thing that came out of this was the engagement on the initiative with Sarvodaya school, VINS. Was an interesting experimental initiative. This VINS project also where the association and collaboration with Sumeera happened. 

YourStory: Did end up having several conversations with Shradha and did nearly end up signing on with a formal engagement as well. Did end up spending a week in Bangalore at the YourStory office as well towards kicking off the engagement. Decided not to pursue this also eventually. 

KSM: Had been voluntarily contributing and collaborating with Kerala Startup Mission on various initiatives. The fellowship initiative was specifically one of my suggestions as well; as a targeted intervention to support & develop individual & professional talent in the innovation & entrepreneurship space. Given the overall contribution and the specific nature of my involvement with the initial conceptualisation of the fellowship program, was onboarded formally as a Consultant for a brief period in 2016 during the second or third cohort. One of the initial objectives eventually got captured in the community grant scheme. I also decided not to continue the engagement after those initial few months. 

WeTech Scholarship: This was a very interesting experiment / project. One of the early Rethink experiments, and one of the key ones that came after the initial Slack community one. WeTech in association with Qualcomm had set up a scholarship of 5000 USD for 18 girls students from STEM. This was one interesting, insightful and gratifying initiative. One that also involved several people contributing. At the end of it all, in terms of an outcome, 16 of the 18 scholarship recipients were girls from Kerala. At the start of it all, in terms of baseline, people were not even aware such a scholarship existed. And students from only 3 or 4 states in India were eligible to apply (and no, Kerala was one of them). Special mention needs to go to Megha Sharma Bhagat for making this whole thing possible. Her role and intervention played key contributing roles throughout. Also of particular significance were contributions of Yadu, Mehar, Fausya, Praveen, Aiswarya et al. CUSAT & CITTIC were gracious hosts and partners. Atulya I recall had contributed significantly to ensure that students from TOCH got the required access and exposure. The MEC Principal showed exemplary leadership. He even took the decision to cancel a series exam also in quick time - so that his students may be freed up to take advantage of the opportunity. It did pay off as well, a good majority of those 16 scholars from Kerala were from MEC as well (8 I believe - need to check and confirm)

Mathrubhumi Column: Did end up penning a column for Mathrubhumi newspaper. Weekly column. This ran for about 6 months and around ~25 articles. Pravitha was the key collaborator and the reason why this happened. Towards the end of it, Ajeesh of Mathrubhumi had also reached out and extended collaboration. Did some early work and nearly got off starting out another column with digital also included. Came up with the name 1GBPS also for the column. Had to eventually cut short activities on both columns owing to the need to balance commitments. Couple of requests did come from Manorama Online as well for contributing articles - specifically Prem Udayabanu comes to mind. While intent was there, did not really manage to follow though to have the articles written out to take advantage of these opportunities that came my way. Particular mention and credits needs to go to Aby & my Mom for the Mathrubhumi articles - their contributions to ideate, edit, review the articles were significant. All articles were in Malayalam and by the second or third article, I had pretty much figured out typing directly onto the digital document in Malayalam - google ezhuthupakarangal was the tool that enabled me to do that (Google transliteration tool). 

This column also I believe happened in 2016. 2016 was also the time I majorly doubled down on board games. 

Breakfast Club: This was an informal community of founders I knew and used to work with. Naming credits goes to Aby James. And the anchor was Yadu. Was a really good initiative and experiment again. We used to meet up over breakfast on Fridays. The meetings were informal and never had any agenda. Started with 3 - 4 founders I used to very closely work with, as informal advisory sessions to help out with their fundraising. At one point, we had I believe nearly 40 members - with each Friday gathering turning up anywhere from 10 - 25 participants. This was also the period during which my association & collaboration with people like Jithin, Afsal, Rajesh, Cherian, Shihab etc started. Around this time was also when Saji Gpinath came onboard as CEO of KSM. Recall hosting him during one of the Breakfast Club sessions. I believe the breakfast club activities ran in 2017. 2016 / 17 perhaps. Our spots were Mamma Mia restaurant, Coffee Club and later the Rethink space we had picked up briefly. There was a hartal day also in between during which we made use of the Sunrise Hospital canteen also for our meetup. Couple of meetups happened at Gold Club near the airport and a couple of golfing sessions as well thanks to Sandith. 

Advisory with UnityLiving, Appmaker, Agrima & Sastra

CUSAT Board of Studies

DDUK Course

XIME course: Was once invited as a speaker for an event at XIME Cochin. Recall Sandith was also one of the panelists. A series of event triggered by that talk resulted in me being offered an opportunity to host a course on entrepreneurship. Seemed like an interesting project and had time at my disposal so decided to take up on the offer. Prof Alok & Sakeerthi played the key roles as facilitators for making this happen. I believe the students from the batch also had a part to play too. Suffice to say, it was one interesting experiment. Ended up offering the course for the next batch as well. Resulted in opportunity to develop lot of insights and observations. Have had some fascinating moments and memories from both years with both batches. A high point from Batch 1 was the Open Book Open Laptop exam and a high point from Batch 2 was the Google Assistant bot publishing (Dialogflow aided). The telegram bot implementation, which was later made use of extensively to guide our learning program initiatives at Rethink was first tried out during the XIME Course (batch 2). Credits for pointing me in the direction of Telegram bots and helping put together the implementation fully and rightfully goes to Saleeh of Appmaker. Since, and to this date, Telegram bots remain a central element in all project implementations and workflows still - both personal and professional. 

Rethink: Slack & org

Boardgames: Started collecting board games in 2015 and doubled down further in 2016. Countless tables and hours have been poured into Ticket To Ride and Catan battles between me, mom, Aby, nephew, niece et al. Several people were involved at various points in time. Notable mentions include Gokul, Roopa, Jibin, Praveen, Anoop Nayak, Arvind Sanjeev, Yadu, Arya, Saleeh, Johns etc. The current stash / collection stands at around ~25 titles. After the initial set of title purchases by me, later additions came in as gift contributions from people within the circle. Arvind, Yadu, Praveen, Arya + Sharon, John have all been generous to gift titles to the collection. 

Books: Trying to recall which were the books I ended up reading. Recent titles definitely come to mind: Never Split the Difference, Flywheel Effect, Joys of Compounding etc. Books like Clinton Cash, Wikileaks etc were also during this period. So was William Zenser's book on Writing Well. I will need to check which were the others. 

Talks: Did facilitate several talks and to the extent that I could. Most notable among them being the TEDx and the Josh talk ones. Another really interesting one was the digital talk at GEC Pallakkad. This was sometime in 2017 / 2018. Much before the world as a whole was forced to move to digital first owing to the pandemic. The enterprising Aswathi was also the reason why this happened as well. Thanks for that Aswathi. Its not everyday that ones gets to collaborate with people who are open to running experiments that push boundaries in the pursuit of new models. There was a period after which, I started cutting down on talk invitations as well - the ones that involved travel particularly. During the early years, ie 2015 & 2016, I did try to facilitate as many talk requests that came in - from outside the state even. Resulted in being speaker and various forums in AP, Telangana, Bangalore et al in this period. Talk invitations took me to Mumabi also on a couple of occasions. Recall this one news article by Nivedita Ganguly that came out as a result of a talk at GITAM University as well. StartAP fest I recall was one of the major events in AP I had attended as speaker. August Fest I believe was one of the last events I had attended in that region and in that phase. After this, I pretty much started cutting down on speaker invitations. 

  • StartAP Fest

  • GITAM University address

  • CIIE Incubation workshop

  • IIT Ahmedabad / Gandhinagar

  • AugustFest

  • Vibrant Gujarat Startup Summit

  • Empower Zone

  • Seeding Kerala: Panel & RoundTable

  • Panel: Invest India event in partnership with KSM

  • Policy roundtable discussion at NASSCOM

Nurture your startup dreams - by Nivedita Ganguly of The Hindu

WEQ: WEQ stands for Women Entrepreneurship Quest. This is a program hosted by AnitaB.org, a non profit with a mission to bring women into technology. Geetha Kannan led the initiative through and during its glory years. WEQ looked to identify few promising women tech founders from the country every year to recognise & reward them. In partnership with DST & IUSSTF, starting 2016 WEQ evolved into a program that identified 10 women founders every year to take them on an all expense paid exposure trip to Silicon Valley. I was brought onboard as a consultant in 2016 and have been involved in every edition since. An amazing program - one that provided me with lot of learning and relationships as well. Every year, had people working alongside to make the program happen as well. From my side it was Aby & Sethu in 2016, Arya in 2017 & Meera in 2018. From AnitaB.org side it was Charu in 2016, Sruthi in 2017 & Sapna in 2018. Gokul’s and Roopa’s support, in 2017 & 2018 editions respectively, was significant and deserves special mention. They were part of ThoughtFactory (Axis Bank & Zone Startups Collaboration) and NASSCOM respectively, our event hosts in 2017 & 2018 respectively. Discovered and forged relationships with & between some amazing women founders from across the country between the three editions since. 

Women Entrepreneurship Quest by Anita Borg Institute

Vibrant Gujarat Startup Summit was one of the events I accepted an invitation as speaker in 2016. This was in Ahmedabad. Me having taken up the WEQ engagement was also a contributing factor in accepting the invitation. This was also where I ran into Prasanna first. We were on the same panel and it was like love at first sight - based on how much some of our views aligned in terms of attempting incubation / mentoring at scale. That I had heard favourably and positively of Prasanna positively from Gokul had also helped. Gokul had worked closely with Prasanna, Rajan et al during his iSpirt days. The association that formed during Vibrant Gujarat Summit with Prasanna resulted in us collaborating on WEQ in all three editions. Eventually resulting in a much more deeper engagement with Upekkha also later. 

Empower Zone: It was also during this time I had accepted the invite to be a speaker at the Empower Zone accelerator program as well. Prachi was the program anchor and that's where my first association with Prachi also happened. Stayed in touch since and did end up collaborating on the WEQ piece as well in one of the editions. On a related note, just received an update mail from her yesterday as well - informing that she is back in India from UK after her Chevening scholarship supported the academic phase of life and that she is looking at getting back to the professional world. This Empower Zone talk was also sometime in 2016 and having taken up the WEQ engagement did have a role in this too in me accepting the invitation. 

Recalling those two speaker events brought to mind few other speaker events as well. Once at IIMA / CIIE as part of an incubation capacity building program they were hosting, once at IIT Ahmedabad as well on similar lines. These two were prior to the phase were I started turning down event invitations. Had been to RiiDL also once on their invitation - had been hearing some good things about them and was mostly curious about checking out and learning about them. I had also visited GenNext once during one of their graduation events. This was owing to the fact that Agrima was part of the cohort and I was looking to ascertain some information to aid their decision making. George was program anchor and initial association with Amey Mashelkar also happened during this trip. 

SV.CO StartInCollege & subsequent Silicon Valley trip: This campaign I believe appended sometime in 2016 and the trip I believe sometime in 2017. Did play a very active and leading role during the campaign phase. The groundswell of interest for entreprniership, as a result of several years of work that had gone in on evangelisation right from Day 1 of Startup Village, was absolutely visible. At some level, we as a whole missed to make good of the interest and opportunity to shift the orbit of our activities, inititaives and outcomes to another level. Reflections on this sometime later perhaps. I had moved on from the Startup Village and the Startup Village initiative was also non existent by then. I had also accompanied the delegation during their Silicon Valley tour. Having said that, my role in organising that trip was minimal to non existent. Wish to also bring to attention that my association in this initiative throughout, both during the campaign phase and during the Silicon Valley trip, was voluntary. The only financial involvement came in the form of SV.CO covering the travel and accommodation during the Silicon Valley trip. The expenses incurred for travel during the campaign phase reimbursed on actuals as well. 

SSEP: SSEP was an initiative by the Department of IT, Government of Rajasthan. As part of the program, 100 students from Rajasthan would be taken on a 2 week exposure and capacity building program in Silicon Valley, fully funded by the Government. SV.CO was awarded the project and I had come on board as a formal engagement. Led the project as a Project Advisor & Consultant. Designed and implement the project end to end. Shameem was a key contributor & collaborator from SV.CO side. Special credits is to be accorded to him as well.  The project team I put together comprised of Yadu, Meera & Aby. During the Silicon Valley trip phase, had gotten Zach also got involved formally in a key role. Was one massively impactful and exciting project. Had an amazing experience working with Akhil Arooa, the then IT Secretary of Government of Rajasthan. Lots of challenges, lots of observations, had an amazing time overall. Sanjay’s ability to open up doors and advocate / land such projects was a key contributing factor in the project even taking shape in the first place. Started engaging initially to help him out when he reached out, ended up being one standout initiative. Much along the lines of how the Startup Village story also happened. Was an interesting project, started out initially to also help him out when he reached out, then later jointly concocting something amazing and impactful. 

Salil Gupta: My first association with Salil Gupta happened via Jose Pattara. Salil was also an ealy angel in one of the startups I used to work with. Sometime in 2017, Salil had reached out to take help & guidance in managing his angel / startup investment portfolio. The conversation resulted in an advisory engagement. Salil was an active investor on IAN and his portfolio had nearly 30 startups. Salil also is the co lead in the IAN angel round of Clootrack. Shameel of Clootrack is a good friend and batchmate from engineering college days. 

Note: To resume writing later

UST

Startup Bridge

Angel Project

WING

Seeding Kerala

Upekkha

STIP

Samrambhaka