Millennium Post

‘Startup Corridor’ to connect budding Indian entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley

India's top young entrepreneurs can now hope to visit and connect with like minded counterparts, mentors and seed investors in the Silicon Valley, California, with the creation of a 'Startup Corridor' between India and US.

The 'Startup Corridor' is the brain child of Silicon Valley venture capitalist Asha Jadeja Motwani, wife of late Stanford Professor Rajeev Motwani, a mentor to the likes of Larry Page and Sergey Brin and a key architect of the algorithms that power Google today.

According to Asha, an investor in over 75 start ups in Silicon Valley, who has just begun seed investing in Indian start ups, the idea for a corridor came when she met several bright young entrepreneurs in India pursuing excellent ideas but without the kind of mentoring available in US.

Reading and talking about mentoring in abstract can take one forward only so much. 'Unless the entrepreneurs understand the culture, the walk, and the talk of Silicon Valley, serious dialogue is unlikely to emerge,' she said.

And thus was born the Rajeev Circle Fellowship programme under which a dozen or so true entrepreneurs in India would be identified and flown as a group to Silicon Valley on a two-week visit. All expenses paid. Any expectations of returns? Nope says Asha - 'just pay it forward'.

If the visiting Fellows help and encourage the batches that will visit after them, 'that's reward enough', she says.

The first batch, which included incubatees from IIM-A, IIT, Ahmedabad-based National Institute of Design (NID) and Startup Village here, is back after the visit to the valley.

The Fellows, including Sanjay Vijayakumar, the Chairman of the Startup Village Board of Governors, met celebrated tech wizards and angel investors, including Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square and Marc Andreessen the whizkid creator of the browser!, a press release said here last evening. They also visited and had in depth discussions at the Stanford Design School, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Jaw Bone, AirBnb and TechCrunch Disrupt winner Get Around.

This first batch of the Fellows is what Asha wants to designate as her 'core entrepreneurial helping team' in India and will be instrumental in identifying, selecting and grooming the next set of Fellows.

'Asha wants to build and continue the Fellowship programme for at least 10 entrepreneurs every year for next few years and we will be helping her team every step of the way' said Vijayakumar, on his return from Silicon Valley.

Lauding the initiative, Infosys co-founder and Startup Village chief mentor Kris Gopalakrishnan said: 'Asha is helping us set up the Rajeev Circle corridor for startups to move to and fro from India to the heart of Silicon Valley.

'It will give exposure to young startups in our country to the best in the Valley, besides access to angel investors and their perspectives on how to build global product startups.'

Gopalakrishnan said he would work closely with Startup Village to set up a strong base for the corridor in India. 'I am confident this will help kick-start the birth of a truly global and world class technology startup ecosystem in India.'

During their visit, the entrepreneurs met a host of IT wizards who shared some exciting insights with them.

The list included Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and Space X; Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape who currently manages over Rs 14,000 crore through his Venture Fund Andreessen Horowitz; Ram Shriram and Ron Conway, Valley's top angel investors, and Stanford CS Professors Andrew Ng and Ashish Goel.

The corridor will also provide a momentum to Kerala government's SV Square' (Startup Village to Silicon Valley) initiative, under which five Kerala students/entrepreneurs selected by Startup Village will be sent for a stint at Silicon Valley in May-June.
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