NetApp Startup Accelerator Demo Day
12/13/2017

NetApp Startup Accelerator Demo Day

What a fantastic day it was. It was the celebration of the completion of Cohort 1 of the our startup accelerator and the occasion became all the more eventful and meaningful with participation form the cricketing legend, Anil Kumble. I enjoyed a wonderful fireside chat with the legend – he took on all the questions head on!

There was wonderful traction for the demos by the startups as well as the NetApp global leadership panel on why the NetApp Excellerator is so important to us.

Why NetApp is nurturing data-centric startups through Excellerator
11/13/2017

Why NetApp is nurturing data-centric startups through Excellerator

For a company that was once a startup and went through the rigmarole of getting funding from investors, the $5.55 billion NetApp is still a startup at heart. In fact, it wants to nurture a digital data ecosystem where data-centric startups thrive and succeed.

When George Kurian, CEO, NetApp visited India in January this year, to inaugurate the 15-acre NetApp India campus in Bengaluru, he announced the company’s first startup accelerator. Named ‘Netapp Excellerator’ which is an amalgamation of Excellence and Accelerator, the program finally kicked off in June 2017, with the selection of six companies for the first cohort. The program (first cohort) will be completed in December 2017.

There is a huge investment that goes into Netapp Excellerator, a running program with two cohorts a year. One wonders why NetApp has taken this initiative, and what’s really in it for the company.

Kurian sums it up well: “I believe that nurturing technology startups is a great way to create a digital data ecosystem.”

There are myriad developments happening in the world of technology today, and it is not feasible for a company to be on top of everything. But to sustain themselves, companies need to explore innovation in cutting-edge technologies like AI, machine learning, IoT, augmented reality, data lakes, cloud software and services, digital health etc. The only way to do that (and continue to focus on the core technology) is to engage with an ecosystem of partners – in this case, technology startups. And that’s exactly what NetApp is trying to do through NetApp Excellerator.

Deepak Visweswaraiah, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, NetApp India said, “In this era of digital transformation, there is a need to create an ecosystem to innovate with purpose and agility. We were once a startup ourselves, and we would like the startups to take advantage of the journey we’ve been through. Giving back to the ecosystem, fostering innovation by providing world-class mentorships, access to markets; to technology and business processes that are required for them to thrive in this digital transformation era.”

Accelerating for Excellence

NetApp Excellerator is a four-month program, preceded by a two-month selection process. It is designed to help startups create world-class products and innovative solutions that are market-ready. Selected startups will receive technology and business mentorship as well as access to markets and investors — to realize the full potential of their ideas and products in the global market place. Applications are invited from startups working in the areas related to IOT, cloud, big data and analytics, machine learning, virtualization, data security, storage and data management, and other adjacent areas.

Also, NetApp gives a grant of $15,000 to every company that makes it to the final cohort. The startups can use this fund to grow their business.

The NetApp Excellerator program is hosted at the company’s Global Center of Excellence in Bengaluru. Working with one of NetApp’s largest R&D teams and best engineering talent helps the startups draw inspiration and realise their full potential. Startups that make it to a cohort also get a chance to visit NetApp customers, to pitch their products and services. And there are investor days, where NetApp brings in investors to talk to the startups.

Ajeya Motaganahalli, Director Engineering Programs and Leader of NetApp’s Startup Accelerator said, “Through the NetApp Excellerator program, we seek to engage with promising entrepreneurs contributing to a diverse set of tech areas. We will assist these startups with guidance on building business relevance, exposure to our technology, partners and customers, as well as venture capitalists and explore opportunities where we can take them to market. Our goal is to simply foster innovation and push these brilliant ideas forward.”

According to Motaganahalli, NetApp has no commercial interest in the startups participating in NetApp Excellerator and will not seek equity in these companies. However, it has a separate process and a separate business development team that is always on the look out for talent and innovation.

“In the long run this will help us, with go-to-market and to understand innovations and trends. That’s good enough for us,” concludes Motaganahalli.

Selection Process

The intensive selection process takes two months once invitations for applications are announced. NetApp received 250 applications for the first cohort (August – December 2017). The applications were filtered down to 100 startups. Then 19 startups made their pitches. Of these, 10 were selected to attend a boot camp at NetApp in Bengaluru. During the boot camp, 6 startups were selected as finalists for the first cohort. The jury comprised of NetApp executives and engineers as well as external parties such as investors.

A highlight of the boot camp was the mentorship and guidance sessions conducted by Nick O’Connor, who runs a company called Venture Toolkit in the Bay area. O’Connor led the startups through exercises based on the product market fit, robustness of their business plans, and nimbleness in reacting to new inputs. The 10 startups then made presentations, and based on those the final 6 startups were selected for the first cohort.

Motaganahalli said: “The top 6 are a good mix of technologies that are in our adjacent spaces. They have technologies that are relevant to Netapp from a futuristic perspective, such as autonomous vehicles or digital health. These are companies that are closer to us in the data space — in fact all 6 are in the data space and some are close to us from a perspective of data lakes, for instance. There is a company called Scalend that does that.”

The startups selected for the first cohort of the program (August – December 2017) are: Adya, Enclouden, VitaCloud, LightMetrics, Scalend, and VaultEdge.

The applications for the second cohort (February – May 2018) will be announced on December 12, 2017.

More details on the NetApp Excellerator program are available here: http://startup.netapp.in/index.aspx. Twitter: #DataDriven

Blog Source: DigitalCreed

In the digital economy, innovation is the only way ahead for startups
09/28/2017

In the digital economy, innovation is the only way ahead for startups

India and China are poised to become the tech stack of the world. Corporates at TechSparks push for ‘products with solutions in mind’ to make India a global powerhouse.

The world is no longer how it used to be a decade ago. And it will transform even more dramatically in the years to come.

Consulting firm PWC lists the five mega-trends that will change the world: urban migration, shift in global economic power, demographic and social change, climate change and resource scarcity, and technological breakthroughs.

Recently, in Frankfurt, Volkswagen AG, the $250 billion global automotive giant, announced a $24 billion investment to set up a complete electric vehicle line by 2030. It is now positioning itself as an operating systems company.

With this major announcement, the likes of Toyota, General Motors, BMW and the rest of the automotive world are following up with large investment announcements to move towards part or complete electric platforms in 20 years.

This power play in geopolitics will shift the focus on economies leveraging their knowledge base. Countries like India and China, with their large pool of technology talent, are poised to become the technology stack of the world. The software will be built in India; China will become the hardware hub of the world.

Startups must leverage technology

At TechSparks2017, an esteemed panel of corporate leaders from Microsoft R&D Labs, GE Aviation, NetApp, MindTree, Oracle India and Ideaspring Capital spoke about how Indian startups can leverage technology to help address all the megatrends that will impact economies.

Ajeya Motaganahalli, Director Engineering Programs and Leader of NetApp’s Startup Accelerator, at NetApp India, said, “At the NetApp accelerator programme, we look at people who can solve problems with technology and can execute a business plan.” He said his company gives the startups in the programme access to a global pool of business customers.

The narratives that startups used a couple of years ago were cloud, big data, programmatic decision-making and internet-of-things. Now, they talk about machine learning, artificial intelligence and deep tech. But looking into these narratives showcases that these businesses are doing nothing short of trying to build a story to win business.

Sanket Atal, Group VP- R&D, Oracle Corporation, advised startups to “focus on building the product and not the narrative”. “The narrative follows a good product,” he said, adding that the word innovation is “so wide” that one has to narrow it down to find solutions to a problem.

“To be fair, we have to give every startup an ear because innovation is such a broad spectrum. They should be shown the way, but they should also be able to focus on how software can make it easy for businesses to operate,” Sanket said.

The problems in understanding innovation

The panellists said the problem begins because of the lack of understanding of real-world problems and then figuring out what is really innovative.

Naganand Doraswamy, founder of Ideaspring Capital, said, “I just look at how the software is going to impact a business and how the business will pay for such services. You will know straight away that some of the ideas in India lack the experience and the domain knowledge.”

These domain skills are learnt by working for years in the ecosystem and learning the building blocks of business and technology.

Starting from healthcare and banking to automotive and media, business models are changing due to Narrow AI. The languages, mostly Python and even Java, going into AI and ML are all built out of India, which is why the country is aligning its goals to the world’s quest for a global network of artificial intelligence. Machines are not sentient yet, but we are already in the realm of “Narrow AI”, where mundane tasks such as customer queries and data generation will not need humans anymore.

Startups tend to use the terms ML and AI interchangeably these days. But what are they really?

NVIDIA, the $4.5 billion GPU company, explains in a blog that most of the work in AI today can be termed “Narrow AI”, where certain tasks are better performed by technology. So before we have a sentient being (like in the movie RoboCop), we are already in the era of “Narrow AI”. Today, a connected vehicle uses millions of data points that are processed quickly and present the driver with immediate action.

Machine learning, on the other hand, is termed as an approach to AI. It is nothing but algorithms that make sense of data to determine or predict something, thanks to the processing power of chips today. Before machine learning comes something known as deep learning where engineers try to understand the functions of the brain and how neurons work. So while programming, engineers look at how a machine can function like neurons firing in the brain to perform tasks.

Sriram Rajmani, MD, Microsoft Research Labs India, said: “We see a lot of talent in India which understands this subject and we are able to leverage their strengths to build world-class analytics and cloud-based services.”

He added that today the system to streamline this knowledge, from academia to research to corporate, should be sped up for India to become a global powerhouse in innovation.

Ushering in a digital era

In a matter of a decade, the oil economy will bow out to the digital economy and will realign society with connected mobility and digital information. Already, the digital economy has brought about a realignment of the workforce. With trends such as transportation going electric, those used to oil tune-ups, engine hums and screeching tyres will have to adapt to digital personal assistants, voice-based controls and instant torque.

The digital economy will change the geopolitics of the world.

Regions that have a strong presence in building and integrating software, like India, Israel, China and Eastern Europe, will see more value. China may become the dominant battery manufacturer, while the rest of the world will become the consumer, realigning citizens to the new normal.

Alok Nanda, COO – GE India Technology Centre GM, Engineering – GE Aviation, India, said: “We are already using things like the digital twin – digital mockups to help our clients make the best use of our wind turbines and jet engines. Our platforms can track the rate of failure and suggest prescriptive and predictive maintenance services for clients before a problem happens.”

The AI-based engines, which GE uses, are built by Indian engineers and are part of global R&D teams ushering in a digital era.

Gartner says more than 3 million workers across the world will have a “robo boss” by 2018. It is high time businesses reorient skill development programmes to help mid-level managers stay relevant.

In a recent survey by PWC titled Bot.Me: A revolutionary partnership more than 50 percent of respondents believed AI could help better healthcare, financial management, security and education. Less than 40 percent believed that it could create income and gender equality. In the next five years, jobs such as tutors, travel agents, tax preparers, office and home assistants, health coaches, chauffeurs and general physicians will be replaced.

In this global evolution, India has the talent to become the tech stack of the world and it is big business for IT integrators such as Infosys, Wipro and Mindtree.

Subramanyam Putrevu, Chief Information Officer, Mindtree, said: “We make startups actively participate in our global business as part of our push towards using data and integration services as the centre of the digital economy.”

The panellists said to innovate globally one should build products with solutions in mind rather than the novelty of being innovative. The education system has to catch up to make India a powerhouse. But it can’t be a one-sided effort; even corporates, government and research institutions must combine their strengths to fuel global leadership from India.

(Watch out for a bigger and better TechSparks 2018. Sign up for updates now.)

Are you an early stage energy startup? The Shell E4 programme is scouting for entrepreneurs, startups with innovative business models, technology ideas and products with a potential to impact the future of energy. Last date to apply is November 17. Click here to register now!

SmartFifty, India’s largest startup contest, is scouting for 50 solutions to transform India. So if you’ve got an idea that is sustainable, motivating, affordable, responsible, or transformational, head over to here by IIM Calcutta to discover how you can make the most of this opportunity.

Blog Source: YourStory

What Accelerators Can Do For Startups
09/06/2017

What Accelerators Can Do For Startups

Every large established company that exists today was once a startup. The times may have been different, the circumstances may vary, and the landscape may have changed. However, each and every company started out as an idea. Back when most of these ideas took root in the form of enterprises, there was no established definition of startups like there is today, as defined by the Indian Government’s Startup India program

Definitions aside, we have today several useful resources for entrepreneurs to leverage in order to see their ideas to fruition. A key initiative that has become a positive trend is the concept of startup accelerators that help startups develop world class products and solutions.

How startups should choose their accelerator

There are various different ways in which accelerators can be leveraged by startups. Some benefits such as access to infrastructure, mentorship, access to investors, grants of some kind are table stakes. What would set aside one accelerator from the rest would depend on the specific need and context of the startup.

High Value Mentorship

In my view, mentorship is crucial. What’s even more crucial is who you are getting it from. Getting that mentorship from the experts in the area or domain or even from an adjacent area of the startup is invaluable. The question to ask is ‘would this mentorship help us reduce the learning curve by 6 months’. Delving a bit more here, high value business mentorship by professionals and leaders is key because it reduces the time cycles that one would have to otherwise spend reinventing the wheel. Making course corrections early in the journey is far less taxing as compared to taking drastic steps to recover from a wrong path at an advanced stage. An idea is only as good as its implementation. Mentorship by experienced professionals can help startups refine solutions to key business problems, and in many cases provide clarity about the business problem itself. Technical mentorship by seasoned architects is invaluable. There is something to be said about the ability of applications and solutions to scale and grow seamlessly and yet provide a simple and smooth user experience. If you look around the applications you use on a daily basis, you will notice that simplicity is a very apparent feature. To bring this to life, it is critical to get some help from experienced technical architects who have the ability to guide you through.

Access to Markets

A common definition of a successful product is reflected in the size of the user base. Therefore, landing customers or let’s say getting that opportunity to speak to potential customers for insights is priceless. Organizations who run accelerators typically have a large network of partners and customers who can be leveraged by the startups. If the Accelerator offers this access to meet customers or even get advice from potential customers, it would be highly valuable

Grants with no strings attached, full IP ownership

This aspect in some ways qualifies the intent of the accelerator. A lot of accelerators offer grants or some sort of monetary support for startups. However, what startups need to understand is whether these grants are equity free i.e. monetary support without exchange for equity/shares in the business. There are accelerators that offer grants in exchange for some equity. If a startup is averse to diluting their stake or sharing intellectual property (IP), do ensure the support you are receiving is free of any encumbrances.

What accelerator programs make sense for startups

An accelerator that assures IP independence is a good starter. Important aspects to look for are world class mentorships, a fast-paced high impact curriculum that’s delivered over a defined time frame, access to customers and investors are key. Any equity free grant is an added bonus. Double click the curriculum for underlying offerings – what would be of value are boot camps with individual focus, clarity and purpose defining moves such as fleshing out of goals to really define what the startups want to achieve at the end of a particular period, exposure into sophisticated learning modules and APIs, collaboration tools, design thinking workshops, business model canvas, market fitment, refining the value proposition, as well as building a sustainable revenue model to be profitable.

What is important for startups is to figure out which accelerator program works best for them, to get them market ready. With the right tools under their belt, startups can learn to generate revenue, and prepare for the challenges of the future.

To apply for the NetApp Excellerator program, visit http://startup.netapp.in/. We will be accepting applications from June 7, 2017 to July 3, 2017.

What Startups Should Do To Land Their First Ten Customers
08/21/2017

What Startups Should Do To Land Their First Ten Customers

What’s more difficult than building a kick-ass product? Its landing your first 10 customers; and what’s even tougher than that? Landing that first customer. Building a product that is worthy of consumption is the BIG goal – any wide eyed startup listening? While there is no clear prescription in terms of how to achieve this, here are some pointers that may be worthwhile. And yes, I assume you have a great founding team, a great product idea and a working product to start with- now the ingredients that will help us in our quest.

Living The Values

First things first. Establish a set of Values, believe in it, live it. Yes, this sounds like a sermon, but it is the one thing that needs to be cast in stone before you think of anything else. It is vital that all of your customers have a consistent experience while dealing with you, your company, your executives and your sales force. Your employees must have a common set of policies that are consistent and fair. As leaders, you and the leadership team must have a mental marker that works as a guideline in decision making and trade-offs. Your dealings with your customers must espouse the most valued of all – a sense of clarity, integrity and honesty. This is the basis of your brand. Everything else in marketing, the catchy slogans or punchy logos, will start to make sense and drive interest only when the foundation is rock solid.

Develop An Outsider’s Perspective

As developers and creators, we can marvel at tech innovation endlessly. At times, our proximity to the product can blind us from understanding whether a compelling customer use case exists. It’s extremely important to have top class external focused product managers who can provide third party validation of customer use cases. The question to keep in mind should be, “Why would someone pay for this?” It will go a long way towards having the right perspective while fine tuning your product for your target market.

Keep It Simple

The power of product simplicity can never be understated. As much as customers love having choices, what they would appreciate more is an easy set of standard configurations. No one wants to spend tons of time installing the product, setting it up, configuring it and optimizing it. A two-click install followed by a couple of easy clicks to configure it and get it to run is all it should take. Of course, you could always provide options to enable a power user to play around. Just think of how easy it was to install and use WhatsApp the first ever time you ever did.

Understand Every User’s Experience

Put yourself in your potential customer’s shoes. How quickly and easily can you provide the customer with an evaluation copy of the product to play with? How easy or cumbersome is the paperwork to get their hands on the product? Think of these aspects from the perspective of your potential customers – even those who are less than tech savvy. Focus on simplifying the process. Now, think about the product. What’s the user interface like: are the usage steps logical, fun to use and intuitive? Would you rather provide cool context sensate tool tip help or voluminous documentation? If you’re able to answer these questions accurately, your thinking is on the right path.

What Is Your Differentiator?

There are two scenarios in which your product will be wildly successful: either your product solves an existing customer problem (like in the case of Uber) or it becomes an aspirational buy for consumers creating new possibilities (remember the first iPhone?). Whichever path you may choose to take, it is crucial to ensure that your product has a clear differentiator from its competition. A “me too” product doesn’t last very long, unless it distinguishes itself from the pack.

While the list above is by no means exhaustive, it covers the fundamentals required to keep you on course to get your foot in the door. Once you land your first ten customers, and if they are happy with what they have, you’ll find that getting the next ten customers and the ten after, that much easier.

*This post originally appeared in the July 2017 edition of CIO Review India.

Blog Source: NetApp Blog

India Startup Showcase at the New NetApp India Campus
02/13/2017

India Startup Showcase at the New NetApp India Campus

In the week of January 16th, NetApp inaugurated its Global Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Bengaluru. During that week, an India start-up showcase event in partnership with NASSCOM’s 10000 start-ups was held to showcase India’s start-up ecosystem and current landscape to NetApp’s global executives. This involved a set of presentations by the invited startups about their exciting journey showcasing their solutions. The event was preceded by a luncheon hosted by NetApp executives for the invited startups and leaders from NASSCOM.

NetApp believes in the promise that India’s startup ecosystem holds for emerging technologies and its ability to solve key business problems. One January 18th, the day of the Campus inauguration, NetApp announced its startup accelerator program called “Escape Velocity”. This will be housed at NetApp’s new facility in Bengaluru and will help nurture technology startups. Still in the concept stage, the accelerator plans to take two cohorts (batches) in a year with around six companies in each cohort. For more details, visit http://startup.netapp.in/index.aspx.

Blog Source: NetApp Blog

Top 3 things to consider when giving Advisor Equity
11/22/2016

Top 3 things to consider when giving Advisor Equity

As a startup, you always think whether you are managing your equity in the right manner. There are numerous sources out there who warn you about the perils of giving away too much equity too soon. And then there are those who talk about giving equity to the right investor, creating option pools and getting your valuation right and all the fun stuff! What doesn’t get the attention it deserves is “Advisor Equity”.

As the name implies, advisor equity is the portion of equity that you keep aside and give out to your advisors. Advisors add to the credibility and give a stamp of expert approval to your startup idea. Below are the Top 3 things you should nail right to maximise your return on investment from your advisor equity

1. Choosing the right advisor – This is probably the most important and the most difficult to determine. When choosing your advisor, don’t be blindsided by the star quality of the advisor, the question to ask is how relevant are they to the kind of business needs you have. Additionally, what matters is how much time he/she is willing to spend in supporting you to grow your business. It doesn’t help your business if all you have is a nice picture to put on your investor deck. It’s the actual bandwidth and muscle they provide you with, on your journey from a startup to an established business, that matters really.

2. Determining the quantum of equity – Now this is a question which gives many a founders sleepless nights. Am I offering too little, am I offering too much? While the industry average ranges anywhere between 0.5-5%, it really is a frank discussion that you need to have with your chosen advisor, while keeping in mind the stage of your startup and the commitment from the advisor. Giving too little might not make it interesting enough for them to invest adequate time in you, while giving away too much is something that enough has been written about.

3. How to give equity – Should the equity be given upfront or should there be a vesting pattern? Is the anti-dilution clause warranted? IMHO, giving equity in the form of restricted stocks or options works best, with the flexibility to terminate the arrangement in an amicable manner, should things not work out as anticipated. A claw back clause can save your startup from the perils of being stuck with the wrong advisor. On the other hand, it is very difficult to do an objective appraisal. Hence, best to go for a time based or activity based vesting arrangement, which ensures continued engagement from both parties.

Sometimes, it’s easy to be tempted to save this chunk of equity by relying on ‘mentors’, who give free advice, but basically anything free is worth just that – nothing. So, it’s a wise business decision to onboard the right advisors and give them their due compensation. While equity is valuable to you as a founder, to an advisor it’s just a piece of paper, till they’ve helped you navigate the path to success.

Blog Source: Linkedin