August 1, 2012
Interviewed by: David Snow
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Bangalore Accelerator

India needs a startup “accelerator” and Bangalore is just the place to base one, says Lalit Ahuja, Founding Partner of Kyron. In an interview with Privcap, Ahuja – a veteran of India’s corporate venturing and entrepreneurial scene _ describes the mission of Kyron to nurture hand-picked “cohort” startups into world-class businesses. He discusses Bangalore’s ecosystem for innovation and how he will look for “black swan,” “ultra-disruptive” ideas from entrepreneurs who, for example, might just think that “Google sucks.”

India needs a startup “accelerator” and Bangalore is just the place to base one, says Lalit Ahuja, Founding Partner of Kyron. In an interview with Privcap, Ahuja – a veteran of India’s corporate venturing and entrepreneurial scene _ describes the mission of Kyron to nurture hand-picked “cohort” startups into world-class businesses. He discusses Bangalore’s ecosystem for innovation and how he will look for “black swan,” “ultra-disruptive” ideas from entrepreneurs who, for example, might just think that “Google sucks.”

Privcap: Why is not a good time to launch a new startup accelerator in India? 

Lalit Ahuja, Kyron: India, and Bangalore in particular, is at a point of inflection. The industry is mature. There’s a fairly large presence of multinational companies in India. There’s a lot of great work going on.

From the perspective of incubators and accelerators, it’s an under-served market. So it’s all about timing. And in the last six months, we’ve seen some amount of activity in this space.

So what we are trying to do is, of course, learn from some of the gold standards out there, whether that’s Innovation Works in China or Y Combinator in Silicon Valley, or textiles in Colorado, and customize it to the dynamics in Bangalore. And they could do a whole new level altogether.

Privcap: What unique attributes of Bagalore’s ecosystem will Kyron be taking advantage of?

Ahuja: I think we’re going to take advantage of the technology, the contextual skills that are better than any other place in the world. So you spend less in technology development or subject matter expertise kind of radius, but you need a lot more in terms of making entrepreneurs a lot more outgoing, more extrovert-ish, developing them as global leaders. So that’s going to be one of the key aspects that we’re going to be working on.

There are other facets of how to do business, whether it’s running a team, or finance, or legal. So some amount of focus goes over there. And then, of course, introducing design as a key competency, which has been ignored or neglected in many of the incubators and accelerators.

Privcap: Do Indian entrepreneurs accept that they could use the help your firm offers?

Ahuja: Oh, absolutely. And what we’re trying to do is basically being a catalyst and enabler, be more of an ecosystem play, encourage the more disruptive ideas. We’re getting a lot better response from entrepreneurs who want to change the world, entrepreneurs who think Google sucks and there’s room for another Facebook. So the timing is right from the perspective of bringing in, what we call as those, black swans, ultra-disruptive, on the edge, next-gen kind of ideas, but, at the same time, tightrope walking the here-and-now kind of opportunities with what is more next-gen and out there and future and progressive.

Privcap: What will be the early goals of your accelerator? 

Ahuja: So we’re looking at the first cohort with just five hand-picked, cherry-picked companies. In January of 2013, we’re looking at two cohorts. Every year, the second batch is going to be 10, so starting very modestly with 15 companies.

Some of this is also because we just want to take time to ascribe some of the next-gen concepts that we are embedding in our architecture and then, of course, scale it up. Over a five-year period, we’re looking at about 125 companies. That’s the current business plan. And we believe we have the deal flows to support this kind of a plan.

Privcap: How will you help your startups?

Ahuja: In several ways, of course, partnering with other global incubators for exchange of best practices, ideas, pieces that would be part of a bigger jigsaw puzzle, working with global academic institutions, global mentors, global corporate partners, companies like Target and Cisco and Dell and Facebook and Intel. So bringing in a global perspective, because we believe that most of the innovation is going to be very boundaryless. There would be localized reliance, but the teams are going to be more unified and global and common.

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