With a focus on India-US corridor, Z Nation Lab Accelerator program made it to the recent list of leading accelerator from India supporting the start-ups in the space of analytics. And right so! It enables the start-ups to scale up globally and take their ideas to the next level. Z Nations not only invests seed capital but provides strategic and technological support to these start-ups to help them accelerate in the right direction.
Co-founded by Anup Mehta and Neha Jain, this accelerator program is specially curated for Indian startups aiming to make a global footprint. Anup is a serial entrepreneur with 10+ years of experience in managing successful businesses in real estate, healthcare and finance while with an experience of 8+ years in start-up ecosystem, Neha Jain is a member of 20 plus start-ups groups and regular speaker at various startup events.
Analytics India Magazine interacted with Shashank Randev, Director at Z Nation Labs Accelerator, who comes with 11 years of cross functional experience and brings both entrepreneurial and investing perspectives. In this conversation, he brings out the facts on kind of support/facilities Z Nation Accelerator Program brings, start-ups it supports, challenges in the analytics start-up space and much more.
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Analytics India Magazine: Could you tell us about Z Nation Lab pre-accelerator program and what kind of support/facilities it is providing to the start-ups in big data and IoT space?
Shashank Randev: Z Nation Lab has created an ecosystem to help big data and IoT Startups leverage on our domain expertise, global outreach, corporate sponsorship and VC firm’s participation in the program. We believe that there are many good startups with extremely talented co-founders, however, the challenge is in identifying the problem they shall attempt to solve and the potential scale their solution can practically achieve. By this what we mean is that the start-up can attempt to solve the smallest of the problem in the entire value chain, however, if the solution can be scaled up with speed, then the startup will see success.
The program intends to help start-ups understand where they stand in ecosystem because it is not just the technology which is changing fast, but the platforms on which the technology is built are increasingly getting disrupted. Subject matter experts at Z Nation Lab help Startups in evaluating their technology outreach, validate their product beta and help them pivot if necessary to re-define the solution and the problem statement the Startups is aiming to solve.
Our hardcore domain expertise can add lot of value and weightage in the startup’s journey. Some of people on board at Z Nation Lab who helps Startups in big data and IOT Space are Mr. Nitin Pradhan – Ex-CIO the US department of Transportation, MR. Sunil Ranka – Oracle ACE Award winner and specialist in AI & machine learning, Mr. Ram Chellamuthu – innovative award winner leader in Robotics and cognitive technology, Mr. Salil Pradhan- VC, Draper Nexus ventures, he has 52 patents in the field of IOT and Sensor technology in his name, Jurgen Hase – CEO – IoT Business Reliance Communications etc.
AIM: What kind of start-ups is Z Nation Lab Accelerator program looking for extending its support? Could you enlist a few startups that Z Nation Labs has helped till now?
SR: While we are sector agnostic, we are inviting startups from internet, analytics, smart technologies, edutech, machine learning domains as our mentors and advisors have a lot of experience working in these sectors. Few Startups we are currently supporting includes Toch, Feltso, Drona Aviation, Get Parking, ForBinary, ONN Bikes, Appsfly, Kundli.io.
AIM: Do you also provide monetary support/ funding to these start-ups?
SR: Yes, we strongly believe that advisors and mentors should also have skin in the game, hence we invest Rs. 20 to 25 lacs in all the startups we get associated with, this investment not only helps startup with bridge funding, it also gives us 3-4 months’ time to work with the startup on tech upgradation, business pivots and raising seed capital from our 25 plus associated venture capital funds and Angel Investors network. Additionally the startups get thousands of dollars in credit from our ecosystem partners like Amazon web services, IBM, Microsoft, PayTM, Google, Freshdesk, Mailchimp etc.
AIM: How would this pre-accelerator program make the start-ups better equipped than others in the industry?
SR: The objective of the program is to help start-ups realize their true potential, upgrade their technology if need be, pivot their existing strategy or simply package the same product in a different manner and in some cases simply shut shop and start something which will be accepted by the customers and Investors. We have 40 plus mentors from across the globe with strong technical background in every aspect of startup work scope, we go through each and every aspect from technology to cash flow projections and from legal to go to market strategy to help the startup define its goals. We believe that it is not our differentiation from others that will help startups, but our ability to understand startups and provide them valuable feedback to help them scale globally will differentiate our startups from others.
AIM: What are the biggest challenges that these start-ups face while stepping a foot in this industry?
SR: Most of the startups do not realize the importance of early adoption of technology and the need of health check on their current technology at regular intervals, because it is just not the technology but the platforms are getting disrupted these days. The other challenges which startups face is to identify where they stand in the ecosystem, it is important to be fast and dirty at the beginning and adapt to situations as you go and most importantly don’t take time to die, because if you don’t die fast you cannot rise back again, this is something which the startups in India should learn from the ones in Silicon Valley where they take pride in talking about their failures, learn from their mistakes and move on to start the new venture.
One more challenge the startups in India faces a lot is to present themselves. At Z Nation Lab we conduct a workshop called ‘Learn to Pitch like a Silicon Valley Startup does’, curated by our chief Pitch coach Mr. Roy Terry, who has been teaching pitch coaching for many years now, we highly recommend startups to take this course.
AIM: How do you think ‘Analytics’ as an industry has evolved today? Could you tell us the most important contemporary trends that you see emerging in the present analytics space across the globe?
SR: Post packaged application era, people have been collecting lots of transactional data using business applications, 15 years back organizations were in the dire need of automatic decision support system for operational efficiency. In last decade organizations have matured in terms of delivering Description (What Happened) and Diagnostic Analytics (Why It Happened) Solutions . With the changing world of technology and availability of scalable systems on commodity hardware, organizations are investing heavily in Predictive analytics (What Will Happen) using data science. With Predictive Analytics being still a niche area, forward-looking organizations are investing in Prescriptive Analytics (How We Can Make It Happen).
AIM: Do you have any tips for the analytics/IoT startups in India?
SR: Analytics being a mature area of understanding, IoT as an area still needs explanation and basic understanding. Both Analytics and IoT has several use case across the world. If you are trying to solve a business problem, restrict to the geographical boundary and then venture into the cross-border problem-solving. But importantly leverage West for technological advancements, where leverage local source for solving the local geographical problem. Build solutions keeping the platform in mind, Analytics as a subject always helps us solve a particular type of problem for a business or individual, but if your market is not big enough, the platform would always give you an opportunity to re pivot into a newer business domain or newer geographies.