With VCs like Sequoia and Nexus Ventures pouring money into India’s startup scene, it was only a matter of time before those focused on early-stage funding would follow. Today, GSF India, in partnership with some 30 other investors including Dave McClure’s 500 Startups, announced a new initiative called GSF Accelerator. Set to take off this October, GSF Accelerator will be mentoring and offering seed funding of up to $30,000 each to 12 tech startups across Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore — four in each city.
“There is no reason that Indian entrepreneurs cannot create the next Instagram, or the next Twitter, or the next Inmobi,” says Rajesh Sawhney, the founder of GSF India and former president of Reliance Entertainment. GSF also operates GSF Superangels, an existing network of Indian entrepreneurs who mentor startups and will also be involved in this effort. Superangels itself has funded three companies so far this year: Biosense, Autowale, and Chhotu.
GSF Accelerator looks to be modeled on the kind of intensive incubation structure forged by Seedcamp and many U.S.-based outfits like TechStars — which also focuses its efforts around individual cities — and Y Combinator. These have proven to be fertile grounds for VCs hungry to jump on the next big thing, and for the entrepreneurs to focus their minds and pick up essential early help for getting their ideas off the ground. That concept is now getting a lot more international.
In the case of the GSF Accelerator, the program will take place over seven weeks. It says it will tap the resources of some 200 “leading co-founders and digital masterminds from across the world.”
The group is reportedly going to dole out between $185,000 and $555,000 to each of the 12 startups selected for the process — making it the biggest-yet effort to fund early-stage tech startups in India. Update: I’ve heard directly from Rajesh Sawhney, who tells me that in fact the funding for the Accelerator program is $30,000 per startup for the Accelerator project. A selection of the 12 may get further seed funding from Superangels after the program finishes. Perhaps this is where the $185,000-$555,000 amounts kick in (also mentioned here).
This is a big deal for India. There have been a lot of great companies coming out of India for years already, but within that there’s been a dearth of early funding opportunities for them, with some looking further afield, not just for money but for exits (example: Pinpuff getting bought by Science, as well as Cloud.com acquired by Citrix, Gluster acquired by Red Hat, DimDim acquired by Salesforce, OLX acquired by Naspers, and Netmagic acquired by NTT).
At the same time, the Indian economy is booming and there is a rising middle class of consumers ready to be the primary targets for all that tech and innovation. (The online clothing company Freecultr is one such company already working to target that market.)
In addition to GSF Superangels, the 30 other backers of GSF Accelerator include Kae Capital; Blume Venture; 500 Startups; Seedcamp; Singapore based fund, Ruvento, which manages investment money across India, Singapore and Russia; Matrix Capital and Naveen Tewari co-founder of mobile advertising company Inmobi.
500 Startups is an early-stage seed fund and incubator program located in Mountain View, CA. They invest primarily in consumer & SMB internet startups, and related web infrastructure services. Their initial investment size is typically $25K-$250K. Selected areas of interest include financial services & e-commerce, search/social/mobile platforms, personal & business productivity, education & language, family & healthcare and web infrastructure.