From the startup world – June 25

 

A compilation of important news from the startup world: 

RBI allows start-ups to open currency account abroad
Reserve Bank today allowed startups with an overseas subsidiary to open foreign currency accounts abroad to credit foreign exchange earnings from exports and sales made by them.  “In line with the Government of India’s start-up initiative, it has been decided that an Indian startup, having an overseas subsidiary, may open a foreign currency account with a bank outside India for the purpose of crediting to the account foreign exchange earnings out of exports/sales…,” ” RBI said in a notification.  The balances held in such accounts, to the extent they represent exports from India, should be repatriated to India within the period prescribed for realisation of exports, it said.  RBI further said payments received in foreign exchange by an Indian start-up arising out of sales or exports… will be a permissible credit to the Exchange Earners Foreign Currency (EEFC) account maintained in India by the start-up.

Microsoft, TCS to jointly mentor start-ups
The Technology arms of global software majors Microsoft and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) on Thursday announced a joint initiative to mentor start-ups and engage with them to make innovate solutions for the global market. “Microsoft Accelerator and TCS co-innovation network will create a platform to spur the Indian start-up system through an open framework,” the IT majors said at ‘Think Next Summer 2016’, a Microsoft Accelerator flagship forum here for thought leaders intended to drive transformation through innovation. As access to markets and customers remains a challenge for Indian start-ups, the partnership will provide start-ups access to their networks and relationships across customers, investors, academia and industry, creating a value proposition in the enterprise marketplace.  “The progress India has made in IT and entrepreneurship over the years changed the landscape offering new entrepreneurs unmatched opportunities. As one of the contributors to the start-up ecosystem in this country, we felt it was a story worth telling,” said Microsoft Accelerator global director Ravi Narayan, releasing an e-book on the “History of Indian Start-up Ecosystem” on the occasion.Another e-book – “Timeline of Indian Start-up Ecosystem” – was also released.

Startups for real India
The conversation around startups in India has revolved mostly around valuations and how ventures which have emerged over the past few years have scaled up or failed to do so. Central to these discussions has been the issue of funding and valuations and how top-flight investors across the globe are swooping in on Indian startups and, in effect, pushing up the numbers. However, of late, this discussion has veered towards failure: How many ventures which showed promise are struggling to scale with funds drying up and investors asking for a path to profitability and returns.  This is all very well. But are startups, which can be key engines for India’s growth, really addressing the country’s problems? Are they looking beyond the urban middle-class, the lure of valuations, and getting their hands dirty by venturing into the unglamorous world of the real India? For Forbes India’s maiden Startups Special, we chose to answer these questions as our central theme. Amidst the blur of entrepreneurial ambition, are startups looking at sectors like education, health care, skilling and agriculture and trying to build ventures around them? More important, can such ventures be scalable and profitable?  The results are broadly encouraging. Not only are many entrepreneurs seeking to address real needs, they are working towards making such ventures profitable as well.

How can startups receive $2.4 Million from IBM India?
Coursera, open online education provider, announced that IBM India, the Indian subsidiary of IBM, will source high potential entrepreneurs to invite into its Global Entrepreneur program from Coursera’s Full Stack Web Development Specialization, a series of courses offered by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. At least twenty participants who complete the Full Stack Web Development Specialization and meet IBM criteria will be accepted into the IBM Global Entrepreneur. Selected participants will be provided with $120K USD in credit that may be used to access eligible IBM Cloud services. Additionally, all students enrolled in the Specialization will receive personalized invitations to apply to represent their startups at IBM SmartCamp 2016, a mentoring bootcamp and pitch competition between rising startups from around the globe. Under this collaboration, Coursera will also offer a Capstone Project to learners who complete all of the courses in the Full Stack Web Development Specialization. The Capstone is designed to prepare entrepreneurs to launch a company on a web-based platform and involves implementing a fully functional client-side application (web application and hybrid mobile application) as well as full server-side implementation. Students enrolled in the Capstone will be provided with extended no charge access to the IBM BlueMix trial platform (estimated value of $1200 USD per student) to develop their projects.

Start-ups in India increasingly use Facebook, Twitter to reach out
With Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram, Pinterest and others providing a massive booster shot to startups in India to increase their reach, young entrepreneurs all over the globe will celebrate Social Media Day on 30th June, in recognition of the ongoing digital revolution.Social media platforms have supported startups and companies in general in more ways than one. From creating awareness about new businesses to effectively connecting with potential consumers and business partners, interactive marketing tools to reasonable advertising solutions, social media has given every opportunity by being a flexible space for innovation. The new age entrepreneurs who have employed social media in every way possible and have molded the rules of communication, both internal and external. Some of the brands like RAW Pressery (Cold Pressed Juices, first clean label brand in India), Voonik (India’s largest fashion marketplace), Giftxoxo (World’s largest curated experience provider) and Milk Mantra (India’s first VC funded agri-food company) operating in varied fields have found social media to be relevant for their communication. Milk Mantra has kept away from with agency led content has adopted a tongue-in-cheek approach. Their  ‘Moo’ property has been created and owned in the social media space. From witty ‘moo’ phorisms to creating ‘moolicious’ food with Milky Moo defined their social media strategy.

SAP Labs India launches startup accelerator program
SAP announced the launch of SAP Startup Studio, an accelerator program that will provide mentoring, infrastructure, technology support to seven seed and early stage startup companies. With this, SAP Labs is establishing a dedicated program to drive entrepreneurship in India. The first set of companies in the accelerator program include CloudKare, a cloud-computing based platform for healthcare; Blubirch, which offers end-to-end reverse logistics solutions; Niki.ai, a digital chat-based artificial intelligence provider; Sellerworx, an ecommerce technology solutions and services firm; Stratawiz Technologies, an enterprise productivity and engagement company; Moglix, an e-commerce company specializing in B2B procurement of industrial products and Ecolibrium Energy, a provider of energy management solutions. SAP Startup Studio at SAP Labs campus in Whitefield, Bengaluru, will include a 75 seat incubator aimed at nurturing early/disruptive stage startups within the domains of Internet of Things, Big Data, Cloud, as well as verticals in retail and healthcare. Startups will be incubated for a period of one year, coupled with a strongly knit mentorship program that extends beyond their first year.

Indian Angel Network invests in Artificial Intelligence startup Staqu
Indian Angel Network (IAN) on Thursday said it invested an undisclosed amount in Artificial Intelligence focused research startup, Staqu. The investment round was led by Ajay Gupta, Bikky Khosla and Neeraj Singal on behalf of the IAN. The Gurgaon-based startup will use the funding to build capabilities, democratise technology and expanding its team.  This is the first round of funding that the Staqu team has raised. Speaking on his plans for the funds raised, Staqu, Co-founder and CEO, Atul Rai, said, “Artificial Intelligence is a new concept in India and we plan to utilise this money not just to expand the computational strength of our VGrep Lab (AI research lab at Staqu) and fuel it with clusters of GPUs and other technical resources, but also to acquire more clients thorugh rasising awareness about the technology.” Khosla, who will be joining Staqu’s board, expressed excitement at becoming part of the startup’s journey, “Search is becoming very complex and consumer experience demands precise results of articles being searched. Staqu AI engine is the best that we have seen and can help increase the sales of its e-commerce customers by delivering superior customer experience. It can also create alternate revenue streams for its OEM customers. The team is rock solid with background in research and product development.”

‘We will help founders build their startups and chase their dreams’
The Startup Leadership Programme (SLP) is a highly selective, world-class training programme for outstanding founders, leaders, and innovators. SLP Fellows have founded nearly 1,600 successful startups and raised more than $500 million in funding. The 2016-2017 programme is now open for admissions. SLP has chapters in seven cities in the US, six in India, four in Europe, two in Australia, and five elsewhere in Asia. SLP Co-founder Anupendra Sharma is also Senior Investment Partner at Siemens Venture Capital, and serves on the Board of USARAD and Seventh Sense. He has an MBA from Cornell and Bachelors of Instrumentation Engineering from BITS Pilani.

Cygni Energy is first firm to benefit from Start-Up India
Hyderabad-based Cygni Energy has won the distinction of being the first company to avail of the benefits offered by the government under Start-up India Action Plan.  However, it remains the only company to do so since the plan was kicked off in January, signalling a tepid start to the programme aimed at boosting entrepreneurship. The renewable energy company founded a year ago will now file for patent under the fast-track mode meant for startups for its inverterless solar energy technology. About 30 applications were shortlisted last month from a total of 200 for consideration by the interministerial board for tax and intellectual property rights (IPR) related benefits. Cygni met the required criteria of being an innovative business to get the board’s approval.  “The whole process of the Startup India programme was online and transparent, which was a refreshing change. We have also applied for tax benefits announced under the scheme, so that we can flow that money back into our business,” said Venkat Rajaraman, CEO of Cygni Energy.

JSW Ventures gets Sebi nod for $15m fund, to invest in tech startups
JSW Ventures, the venture capital arm of the JSW Group, on Thursday said the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has approved its Rs.100 crore fund that will invest in early-stage companies. The fund will invest in technology-enabled start-ups in education, healthcare, financial services, SaaS and enterprise software over a three-year period, JSW Ventures said in a statement. Parth Jindal, son of group chairman Sajjan Jindal, will supervise the fund. The younger Jindal was also recently appointed managing director of JSW Cement. The fund has also appointed Gaurav Sachdeva, a former executive of Brand Capital, as managing partner, the statement said.

Microsoft Helping Indian Tech Start-ups With Its Various Programmes
Microsoft’s BizSpark Plus program offers free Azure Cloud services to qualified startups to power their business. The program also provides free software, developer tools, and technical support to help startups be successful. Microsoft has also partnered with 13 startup accelerators to roll out this program. Microsoft Accelerator too works with mature and late stage startups, focusing on their core needs such as guidance on scaling up and customer acquisition. Close to 100 startups have graduated from eight batches of the Microsoft Accelerator program. In an event in BMicrosoft-mainangalor, Microsoft showcased some marquee SaaS solutions for enterprises and organizations, developed by born-in-the-cloud startups. The solutions range from technologies for offering better customer experiences, building intelligent infrastructure through cloud, local market on chat and talent management platform. All these SaaS solutions have been built on the Microsoft Azure public cloud platform that offers reliability and scalability and ensures that the solutions built future-proof them, allowing these startups to keep pace with the rapidly changing customer preferences, hardware evolutions and to manage hyper business growth. Indian datacenters provide local customers with data residency and replication in multiple regions for backup and recovery, and the option of a private connection to the cloud.

French Govt kicks off Tech Ticket season 2 – A global competition open to Indian start-ups
France has launched French Tech Ticket Season 2, a global competition open to entrepreneurs with start-ups in the creation or growth phase. Led by the French Government, the French Tech is the French start‐up ecosystem that promotes the emergence of successful start‐ups accompanied by business France.  The unique initiative has created a vibrant international start-up and innovation ecosystem in France. France has been driving a bold start-up policy for some years now and is today one of the leading host countries for the world’s most innovative companies Each winning team will be awarded €45,000 in prize money and will be hosted in France by more than 40 high-calibre incubators for one full year starting January 2017. The French Tech, a tech start-up ecosystem, created three years ago by the French government provides optimal conditions for start-ups with a clear goal: scale up their growth and enable them to become global champions. Start-ups will play a key role in driving the next phase of global growth. India is the perfect example where start-ups have changed the country’s business ecosystem thanks to robust initiatives such as Start-up India and Skill India. Indian start-ups and entrepreneur talent are now fully recognized on the international scene.

Mobikon acquires online marketing platform for restaurants MassBlurb
Digital marketing startup Mobikon Asia Pte Ltd has acquired MassBlurb, an automated online marketing platform for restaurants, for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition will enable Mobikon to acquire market leadership position in India with 500 restaurant brands and 1,000 outlets under its portfolio, the company said in a statement. The founders and team of MassBlurb, run by Mumbai-based Mass Blurb Pvt Ltd, will join Mobikon as per the deal. This is the second acquisition by Mobikon, which is backed by Jungle Ventures, in as many years. It acquired Singapore-based Trii.be, which owns a customer feedback management tool, for an undisclosed amount in August last year. The new acquisition will enable Mobikon to offer customer engagement solutions on social networking platforms allowing restaurants to generate social leads, converting likes and followers to business, website automation, cloud telephony integrated with CRM and automation in social media management.  “MassBlurb has been successful on social platforms for F&B (food and beverages), and Mobikon has been very successful in India and Southeast Asia on its in-store engagement platform,” said Samir Khadepaun, founder and CEO, Mobikon.

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