World’s first digital student incubator launched in Kerala

Kerala has launched the world’s first online incubator – SV.CO, for start-ups by college students.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, who is also the chief mentor of Kochi Startup Village, and others launched the world’s first digital incubator for student startups.

SV.CO is the digital makeover of Startup Village, designed to help college-goers take their first step in entrepreneurship. The hashtag is a clear indicator of it’s aim – #StartInCollege.

World's first digital student incubator launched in Kerala

SV.CO will function as an online university, that aims to cut through boundaries. Training, mentorship will be in digital form. The top 100 start-up founders, will be selected for a Silicon Valley launch.

SV.CO, constitutes the second phase of Startup Village, India’s first PPP model technology incubator set up in Kochi in 2012. During its first phase 2012-15, Startup Village it supported more than 500 startups and helped create 3,000 jobs.

The statement by the Kochi Startup Village said the country needs more than one million new jobs a month for the next 20 years to employ all its youth and these jobs would mostly come from new start-ups if the right environment is created.

With SV.CO, the Startup Village will reach out to five million students in 3,500 engineering colleges across the country by providing them a completely digital incubation framework, ranging from the application for admission to teaching, mentoring and graduation, a press release said.

Students can form teams and apply at and once selected, they would be guided, right from picking an idea to building a prototype and its launch to early customers in six months.

Based on whether customers like the product, teams can then graduate to incubators, accelerators, raise angel funding and even get acqui-hired as a team or hired to other startups or go for higher studies, the release added.

It will thus provide opportunities to brilliant students in far-flung cities and towns who may not have access to physical infrastructure or the mentoring they need in the early stages of entrepreneurship, it said.

It said the Digital Incubator, which was built over the last 12 months, has already received more than 1,000 applications from students from across Kerala as well as towns like Vadodara in Gujarat and Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh in its beta stage.

“It does not matter if you are from a village or a town. All one needs is to have hunger to succeed, and we are looking for you. Visit and be part of building the future of India,” said Startup Village chairman Sanjay Vijayakumar.

In tune with the Prime Minister’s Startup India initiative and with a go ahead from the Department of Science and Technology, SV.CO provides one month free training to students in entrepreneurship on its online platform, it said.

“The government’s allocation for startups at Rs 300 crore is the highest to date in Kerala and higher than that of the Centre’s Department of Science and Technology,” the Chief Minister said at a function here yesterday.

Vijayan also announced a five-step strategy for students, world-class infrastructure on par with Silicon Valley, communication infrastructure, talent pipeline, funding infrastructure and incubators in PPP model like Startup Village.

“The state will fund 1,000 startups every year with Rs two lakh for converting ideas to prototypes. The best prototypes will be given Rs one crore interest-free loan to convert the prototype into a successful startup,” he said.

“SV.CO is venturing into unchartered territory and creating a new model of how to go beyond physical space to reach out to potential entrepreneurs across the country and offer them mentorship, networks and infrastructure,” Infosys Co-Founder and Chief Mentor of Startup Village, Kris Gopalakrishnan said.

“With this digital incubator, one will be able to go beyond Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi to tier II, tier III cities, to villages, to colleges across the country. Entrepreneurship cannot be restricted to the main cities in India,” he added.

The digital incubator will function on PPP – Public Private Partnership with Central Government, State Government, and a Private Company – MobME as partners.

“Kerala was not known for its entrepreneur skills till few years back, rather was known for its skilled workforce but now things are changing and Kerala is leading the back by taking the start-up culture to the next level by going digital,” Dr HK Mittal, Head of National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board told NDTV.

Twenty teams which completed incubation in the beta phase of SV.CO saw huge success in getting admitted to Zone Accelerator in Mumbai, getting acquired by Tally or landing handsome jobs in leading startups like Ola and Free Charge.

“We are trying to create an ecosystem of providing students with global exposure so that mindsets can change, said Startup Village Chairman Sanjay Vijayakumar.

A threefold selection process is being applied to screen candidates, who once selected will gain from the best industry mentors on board. The aim is to propel start-up growth culture in Kerala, in line with the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Start-Up India‘.

Students like Akshayanand, an engineering student with a food technology start-up are excited. “We really need a lot of training and mentorship and now the access has only become easier because it’s online. It’s a huge cost cutting for us and all we need is good Wi-Fi, irrespective of our location,” he says.

Kirti C Shekharan, a student activist with the college start-up groups says, “There won’t be any problem of overcrowding because the selection will be tough and only those who have the skills, and are promising will be selected.”

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