Wednesday, April 4, 2012

For those Young Entrepreneur!

 Ramakanth Dorai (22) a techie and a fresher based out of Coimbatore declined an offer from an IT company to follow his dreams. Ashok Varma (23) and Karthik Vatlapatla (23) from Hyderabad joined The Startup Centre to get more focus on their existing start-up. Anup Nair (25) and Shailesh Jain (25) from Mumbai resigned their jobs in the U.S. to start an e-commerce portal.

“Share your success and help others succeed,” said Dave Thomas, founder of the Wendy's chain of restaurants in the U.S. This is the mantra that defines The Startup Centre.

Full of ideas

It was founded by Vijay Anand, a start-up enthusiast. Vijay says: “There are many people who have brilliant ideas for technology businesses but need guidance and support to foster it and tackle the competitive world. We provide the mentoring and connection that they need to become successful.”

The Centre currently has a six-month resident programme. Vijay says: “Within that time frame, they should build their web product and get a few customers.” Working at The Startup Centre costs Rs. 7,500 a month for a single founder, Rs. 10,000 for a team of two, and Rs. 12,000 for a three-member team. Founders get working space, interaction with peers from various technology fields, and access to mentors and investors. The Centre also organises workshops with experts from the industry.

Vijay who spends a few hours at the centre every day says: “As part of our training skills sessions, we also guide them on how to present themselves and make a pitch to angel investors, who drop by at our centre often. We have conducted workshops on general marketing, digital marketing, coding, and rapid prototyping ideas, and plan to hold one on social media marketing soon.”

What kind of companies do they accept at the centre? “We work with start-ups in online technology and web space. Their idea should be novel. Ideally, a team of two or three is preferred to single-founder start-ups, but we also accept single founders. It is important that at least one of the founders has a strong technology background.”

As much as 30 per cent of the individuals at The Startup Centre have come from outside Chennai. For instance, Ramakanth Dorai moved from Coimbatore two months ago to join The Centre. He says: “I was in a cocoon, clueless about starting-up. But after working here, I have a road map and I'm confident about my idea.”

Learning experience

Working amongst a cross section of individuals with their respective expertise was a great learning experience for Mumbai-based duo Anup and Shailesh. They say: “There was a time when we got stuck while coding. During an informal conversation, an experienced coder helped us out with a solution. Successful entrepreneurs who dropped by gave us a basic framework for our marketing approach.”

Considering there is a lot of demand, Vijay has some expansion plans. “We plan to have more start-ups. We will be shortly starting an accelerator programme where a start-up that has already launched its product will operate from the centre, and will be partially funded. We will help them set up their board of directors, increase customer base and give them cash-flow insights.”

Applications for the fourth batch of the resident programme are currently invited. Application is followed by a selection process and an interview by the centre's stakeholders. Vijay says: “We had about 120 applicants, and we accepted seven for the third batch.”

Successfully starting-up a technology business requires hard work, knowledge and contacts. While hard work is in your hands, for the other two, The Startup Centre could the place to go to.

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