Startups

Entrepreneurship, Disruption, Innovation: The mammoth tasks of a student-run start-up accelerator

Conquest was launched in 2004

Conquest was launched in 2004

What do Swiggy, Big Basket, Red Bus, Postman, Pixxel and Groww have in common? If your answer is ‘innovation’, you get some points. The correct answer is: all these disruptive start-ups were founded by alumni of BITS Pilani. At the moment, there are 25 on-campus start-ups, working in various sectors like tech, content, finance and IT. With the growing prominence of BITSian startups in India and the world, we try to find out what is it that inculcates the spirit of entrepreneurship at this premier engineering college.

The roots

Launched in 2004, Conquest started out as a B-plan competition in Pilani. It was started with the vision of being a platform where a founder passionate enough to bring about disruptive innovation gets propelled towards success.

“In the years 2011 and 2012, we moved the event to Delhi and finally to Bangalore in 2018. With the old model of Conquest, it was felt that our scope for impact was limited and that we had the potential to do more. What followed was a phase of rigorous ideation and planning and we came up with a complete overhaul and an eventual transition into a start-up accelerator program in 2019,” says Aritra Guru, CEO, Conquest.

What is it?

Run by the college’s CEL (Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership) initiative, the program aims to provide young start-ups with a platform where they can connect with investors, industry leaders and learn the ropes of becoming the next big success story.

While the event receives over 1000+ registrations, the top 15 go through a four-week long online program and the top 10 undergo a week-long accelerator program which includes sessions on fundraising and pitching, conducted by the investment and VC partners.

“The top 10 startups then pitch in front of our jury, investors, industry leaders, and media houses. And, the winner is granted an equity-less cash prize,” explains Guru. While the 2021 edition of Conquest is underway currently, some of the earlier success stories that have emerged from the event are namely – SocialCops, Trell and Buddy4Study.

How do the students benefit?

The team running the event is given full freedom by the institute and all the operations are entirely controlled by students – from gathering sponsors for the prize money to closing deals with various partners and handling the logistics of the whole event.

With co-founders, product leads, CXOs, marketing heads, etc. of various start-ups in the mentoring panel, the participants as well as the organising committee of students get to build their network and stay connected.

“The goal is maintaining a community that consists of our vast network of stakeholders that we develop in every edition. Being the first student-run accelerator in India, we remain connected to the top colleges which are hubs of fresh ideas,” says Guru.

The need for start-up accelerators

Many Indian start-ups crash land before they can even lift-off properly. Without the knowledge and guidance of industry experts, fledgling start-ups are left to fend for themselves. “The supporting framework required by start-ups to truly succeed is playing catch-up to the booming entrepreneurial spirit of the nation,” says Guru.

For the 2020 edition, Conquest tied up with sponsors and partners such as Canbank VC, Accel Partners, Chiratae Ventures and more. Such names can only ensure that the gap between start-up and success is bridged.

At IIT Bombay, too, SINE – a business incubator provides ‘Start to Scale’ support for technology-based startups/innovators and facilitates the conversion of research into entrepreneurial ventures. Similarly, IIT Madras’ incubation centre is recognised as a Technology Business Incubator by Startup India.

With such student-run initiatives on the rise, be on the lookout! Maybe the next Vijay Shekhar Sharma or Deepinder Goyal is sitting next to you in class!

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“In the years 2011 and 2012, we moved the event to Delhi and finally to Bangalore in 2018. With the old model of Conquest, it was felt that our scope for impact was limited and that we had the potential to do more. What followed was a phase of rigorous ideation and planning and we came up with a complete overhaul and an eventual transition into a start-up accelerator program in 2019,” says Aritra Guru, CEO, Conquest.

Source: https://www.timesnownews.com/business-economy/companies/article/entrepreneurship-disruption-innovation-the-mammoth-tasks-of-a-student-run-start-up-accelerator/773055

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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