GSF India, Which Aims To Be The “TechStars Of The Emerging World,” Partners With MIT

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GSF India, a new accelerator with hubs across several cities in India, is adding another global partnership to its roster. The incubator, which has already done deals with the U.K.’s Seedcamp and the U.S.’s 500 Startups, is linking up with MIT to bring founders and mentors from Boston back to India and to send local entrepreneurs back on an exchange.

India’s top technical universities have long been a source of talent for global tech companies, yet the country’s startup ecosystem is only just beginning to find broader cultural acceptance in the country. In India, it’s still more prestigious in this day and age to have a secure job at a multi-national company than it is to start a company. GSF is looking to change that.

“The best talent from abroad can come to India and create a new global language here. Our doors are open to the brightest talent from the rest of the world and we’re hoping the world will open its doors to the brightest startups from India,” said Rajesh Sawhney, who founded the accelerator after serving as president of Reliance Entertainment, in a talk announcing the partnership in Boston last week.

Through the partnership, GSF is hooking up with MIT’s Global Startup Labs to create a cross-border startup exchange. That labs program has a special focus on entrepreneurship in emerging markets; since it was founded back in 2000, it has sent about 160 MIT students to fourteen emerging markets across Africa, Latin American and Asia. Those students work as teachers and mentors in training local undergraduates in these developing countries to start their own companies through a six to eight week incubation program. Startups that have come out of the program include Rwanda’s first mobile startup, Hehe, and iChecki, which has an app for tracking taxi cabs.

In the deal, Boston-based startups from MIT’s Labs will head over the India, and get hands-on support from GSF’s mentor network and co-working or office space in one of GSF’s four accelerators around the country. The idea is that they’ll get the help they need to expand locally into India.

In turn, GSF’s startups get access to the technical expertise of the MIT-based entrepreneurs and program managers when they do an exchange in Boston. MIT Ph.D. students will also get to mentor GSF startups in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai.

Michael Gordon, who is the faculty director for MIT’s program, says he’s seen the Indian startup scene change dramatically over the last five years.

“In 2008, no one was talking about startups there,” he said. “There were a lot of cultural issues with risk tolerance. But now, students at the top universities have this attitude that they can do anything. They’re being courted by the top multi-national corporations and they might see entrepreneurship as something of another challenge.”