This is the second year in running of a new program we have started at BITS, Pilani called New Venture Creation. It’s a startup course for engineering undergrads and grads which is running very successfully and is filling an important unmet need on campus.
When I had started on this path, the objective was to create a seed fund for campus which students could utilize to launch their startup. However, I discovered through my early interactions that the real need is for formal mentoring and not money.
So we created this program in the form of a course where students are selected through an application process, come up with their team and idea, are assigned a mentor. They spend the entire semester then creating their startup by working on the nuts and bolts.
You can find a more detailed overview about the program on the CEL website along with the list of mentors and speakers.
We learned three main things through this program:
1) Huge demand: Students previously felt a void to learn the ropes of creating a startup. They have a center of entrepreneurship but it doesn’t teach nuts and bolts of business. But this program meets their needs very well in a practical manner. The program has 14 startup teams from two years and some of them had to be turned away because we couldn’t run such a large program.
2) Gap in industry connect: A unique aspect of learning is through industry connect. Students need to learn and interact with experienced entrepreneurs and professionals in order to learn the real deal about building a startup. There’s a big gap in this area and being 6 hours away from Delhi doesn’t help a bit. The way we are bridging this gap is through virtual lectures and mentoring, an integral part of this course.
3) Unlimited enthusiasm: I can distinctly recall my time at BITS, Pilani when it felt that everything was within my reach and I would conquer the world. That same enthusiasm and confidence is beaming through these kids and they are filled with ambition and passion to create the next big startup. Their risk appetite is much higher at this age and they are willing to learn and try new things quickly.
Last year, one startup from 5 teams stood out and was awarded a small seed fund, lots of mentoring, access to personal networks and incubation space. They went on to win their first customer within 6 months and just recently have been short listed in the top 20 finalists out of 16,200 applications in Economic Times’ Power of Ideas competition. The team has decided to pursue their startup after graduation instead of taking up a job in some large company.
This year we have 9 teams and they all have very interesting business ideas and we are confident that 2 or 3 teams will emerge with the ability to pursue this as a real startup.
I wonder about the potential of such a program in surfacing the best startup talent. If we conduct a similar program across the hundreds of engineering colleges in India, we can easily bring out hundreds of young entrepreneurs each year. Similar programs/courses in American undergrad colleges help bring out startup talent there and should be replicated more aggressively by Indian colleges too.