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Friday, January 22, 2021
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Food Tech Perspectives and Resources

Sanjay Sirinivas Murty

How do you decide if your current ecosystem is ready or matured enough to help startups with their ventures? An answer to this question is readily available if you happen to live in a metro city where options are plenty as far as incubation, mentorship, events and funding is concerned, however, the opportunities tend to diminish for startups seeking such options in Tier ii or iii cities.

The road less travelled After successfully launching and scaling corporates, it was time for experienced entrepreneurs to look at building a thriving startup ecosystem in Mysuru, of course another great reason was the green field opportunity, i.e., non-availability of a go to ecosystem for early-stage startups. The decision to set up an ecosystem was conceived after interviewing a number of local businesses, early stage startups and understanding their current challenges and hardships. Silicon Road Ideation Labs was conceptualized, and this was the first step towards building a first startup ecosystem in Mysuru. The slogan “It takes a village to raise a child” an African proverb seemed very apt for an undertaking that Silicon Road was embarking on, however in this particular case, converting the proverb to “It takes an entire city to set up an ecosystem” seemed more appropriate due to nature of initiative.

Understanding the nuts and bolts

There is a general belief that the startup ecosystems fail due to lack of available capital for the startups, this is partially true, however, the greater challenges are around lack of available resources (mentors, industry connects, and incubation) to grow an ecosystem The simplest way was to look at an already fragmented local ecosystem. Silicon Road started mapping out the local ecosystem to ease in new and early stage startups to join the startup ecosystem thus lowering the entry barrier to help them grow.

Three different stages of startups were considered while mapping out the ecosystem, Idea Stage, Launch Stage, and Growth Stage startups with key objectives to clearly map out the available media sources, events, workspaces, accelerators, incubators, angel investors, and available infrastructure. A theme “MysuruThe Next Destination for Retail and FoodTechStartup Innovation” was decided, however, for Mysuru to become a startup magnet, programming, mentorship, germination ideas, and funding for aspiring startups were the need of the hour. Partners, evangelists, local institutions, local employers were identified who started to pitch in and subscribe to Silicon Road ideology.

The launch

The first part of the program was to market the Silicon Road Initiative within the city of Mysuru and nearby areas including launch events at all the premier colleges, research institutions, socializing the concept across the technology organizations within Mysore and with the media. The launch event saw staff from each of the partner institutions presenting their research ideas and sharing existing intellectual property that were positioned to solve industry needs. To further build the culture of innovation and the ecosystem, Silicon Road organized several tech talks, meetups, hackathons and bootcamps to help early stage entrepreneurs take their ideas to a minimal viable product. One of the important aspects of setting up an ecosystem was identification of physical space to ensure that there was enough infrastructure available to have a great incubation center that actively worked on helping the startups.

The catalyst

The biggest push to the ecosystem support came into play when Silicon Road launched the TiE Chapter in Mysuru, something that was complimentary to Silicon Road initiative but with a greater global reach. TiE and Silicon Road collectively and carefully planned out new age entrepreneur talks, seasoned founder talks, startupPitchfest to introduce the industry professionals, lifestyle businesses, students, and aspiring Entrepreneurs to the local network of seasoned and accomplished businesses, entrepreneurs and mentors. Silicon Road launched a 4-month startup acceleration program providing world-class funded support and infrastructure for startups, particularly in food & retail tech to fast-track the growth with a tailored program, mentoring and network.

Funding Support: INR 25L seed fund support to eligible startups and access to perks and international & local investors. • Access to international & local networks Food & Retail Tech corporates. • Accelerating startups through curated programs • Mentoring by industry’s best mentors & resident experts • Free office space and infrastructure in Mysuru

The story so far

Silicon Road accelerated 8 startups during the first cohort and funded 2 of the 8 accelerated startups. The funding requirement for the startups was accomplished through Silicon Road fund.

In a continuous effort to further strengthen the ecosystem, Silicon Road has been continuously building mentor networks, partnering with key Retail & FoodTech corporates, academia and research institutions. Silicon Road is launching its second cohort during early May 2020. Silicon Road recently also launched a unique conference called Innovation in Food Technology (SRIFT2020)”, with 40+ speakers, 5+ investors, 15+ startup booths and 3 product launches. The conference with a theme of “Innovation” had discussions focused on FoodTech investments, global perspectives in Food Technology, Packaging Disruptions, Corporate Innovations and Future of Food.

Conclusion

A dynamic startup ecosystem is always considered a gateway to job creation, attracting international talent and FDIs. Silicon Road with its global connections is collaborating across ecosystems in building a robust Food and Retail Tech ecosystem in Mysore.

(The author is Co-founder, Silicon Road, Mysuru. Views expressed are his personal. )