On the eve of 13thOctober, 2017, when our team at The Smart CEO was setting the stage for the Startup50 Gala Awards Night, we had many delegates approach us with a recurring question;
What is your long-term vision for Startup50?
We answered this question in the previous two editions of Startup50 as well. With the rise in access to venture capital, talent availability and a positive sentiment towards starting up, there is also an increase in the no. of platforms that recognise Startups. NASSCOM has one as part of its 10,000 Startups initiative; Economic Times, of course, runs the ET Startup Awards, and we also have companies like VCCircle recognize India’s best emerging companies.
But, for us, Startup50 is much more than just an annual event. We aim to create IP around a ‘List of India’s Best Startups’, which would be very prestigious for an award winner, very relevant for a sponsor and, over time, become a badge of honour if you are a Startup50 Alumni company. When we conceived the Startup50 platform, we wanted it to be like a business school cohort where students would go back on a yearly basis to meet their peers and alumni, stay attached to the school and, may be, even become big donors!
Over time, being on the Startup List could potentially help you meet global investors, hire better people, enhance your brand, and we’d like to think this list is endless. Our long-term vision is to build a prestigious property much like Fortune 500, Inc. 5000 and Forbes 100.
Foremost, as a platform for entrepreneurs and CEOs with a non-media like approach, for long now, we’ve patted ourselves for only featuring companies that have an experienced team, a proven product or service and reasonable traction. Taking forth this very learning, even when designing the Startup50 program, we ensured that we would evaluate companies specifically based on their financial traction, team, quality of brand and long-term potential.
In fact, taking it a notch higher, we asked ourselves a simple yet important question when evaluating companies; if we had a Startup50 Fund, would we explore investing in these companies?
Secondly, owing to the entrepreneurial boom in the Indian ecosystem, we felt the need to not only reward the technologists, the unicorns and crème de la crème, but also to bring to light the many different promising ventures that were growing steadily, silently.
Finally, there’s always a question of, what next? Unlike several other Award architects, we didn’t want our entrepreneurs to merely gain recognition but to sustain a bond within the Startup50 ecosystem and become a cohort of sorts. On this front, we’re in the process of rolling out four initiatives; the Startup50 Alumni Connect, the Startup50 Global Investor Connect Forum, the Startup50 YouTube Series, and the Startup50 Ratings, a methodology to rate and rank early-stage ventures.
Relying on an Army Squad
Of course, such depth in carving a niche for Brand Startup50 and making it a success was also owing to the wonderful Jury we were guided by, with each bringing in rich experience and perspective.
Krishnan Ganesh, the Partner at Growth Story, for example, brought in a serious understanding of the new age entrepreneurship ecosystem, having nourished companies such as Big Basket, Portea Medical, Fresh Menu, CredR and Avagmah. Ganapathy Venugopal, the co-founder and CEO of Axilor Ventures on the other hand, pushed us to identify hidden gems in the agri-tech and healthcare space. Amit Patni, the Co-Founder and Chairman of Nirvana Venture Advisors and Shajikumar Devakar, Managing Partner of IIFL Wealth, brought in a data-driven approach of always analysing the management team’s credentials, user or customer data and financials, before arriving at a decision. And, Naganand Doraswamy, the Managing Director & CEO of Ideaspring Capital and Shubhankar Bhattacharya, Venture Partner at Kae Capital knew lot of the entrepreneurs personally, having sat through their pitches. As a result, they were able to give us specific information on the competitive landscape of the companies that were evaluated.
The Decision Hour
While the last two editions saw startups such as Uniphore, Jaypore e-commerce, UrbanLadder, Freshdesk (now Freshworks), OYO, Paperboat Beverages, Hippocampus, ChargeBee, TeaBox and Knowlarity Communications make the cut, this year, our 50 winners spanned seven mainstream categories; enterprise tech, consumer tech, consumer brand, health care, agri-tech, fin-tech and social impact.
In this month’s special edition, we have shared a detailed review of each of the 50 winning companies, complete with facts, numbers and why a particular venture was selected to Startup50 2017.
With 2017 concluding in grandeur and the 150 Startup50 companies already forming a cohort of sorts, we can’t wait to already set the ball rolling to watch who makes the cut next year.
We’re also hoping to roll out a structured peer-to-peer engagement program for Startup50 Alumni companies prior to next year’s awards; Stay tuned to this space for a detailed announcement.
Last but certainly not the least, a big shout out to our partners and sponsors for the event including IDA Ireland, IIFL Wealth, The Hindu Business Line, Venture Intelligence, TVS Sundaram Motors-Mercedes Benz, Tamara Coorg, Indiqube, Grover Zampa, Veda Corp, Startup Grind, TiE Chennai, Mumbai Angels, Indian Angel Network and 92.7 Bigfm and CNBC-TV18. Search for “Startup50 CNBC” on Youtube if you’d like to watch highlights from this year’s edition.