Startup accelerators need to focus on nurturing India’s next big startups

Seven years after launching the country’s first startup accelerator and supporting 82 companies, The Morpheus founders Sameer Guglani and Nandini Hirianniah realised it was time to shut after a boom of accelerators left them with little value to add. “We realized that several of the smartest entrepreneurs had found other channels to get knowledge and guidance,” Guglani said. The duo’s insight on a potential accelerator bubble was preemptive. According to software industry body Nasscom, 2016 witnessed a 40 per cent growth in the number of accelerators and incubators. For this year, its conservative estimate is for a 25 per cent growth while other industry experts anticipate no slack. Consequently, the number of startups queuing up to join accelerators and incubators doubled to about 900 last year. Incubators provide support to startups from the time of idea-generation and typically handhold them for 6-36 months.

Accelerators are more sharply focused on the growth stage, providing startups mentoring as well as financing for shorter durations of 3-12 months to help kick-start their businesses. The accelerator ecosystem in India has been growing rapidly—56 accelerators were launched in 2016, adding up to a grand total of about 140. Besides these, there were 30 additions last year under an academic umbrella with support from the government’s Startup India, Standup India initiative. That places India only behind China and the United States in terms of number of accelerators. But, at least to some startup industry experts, the numbers may not mean much and mask an underlying problem of quality.

“We need to focus on quality, the mentorship and the speed of acceleration that these accelerators offer,” said Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice president at Nasscom who worked on the accelerator report. “It is also important that startups are mature enough to take forward the experience.” Apoorv Sharma, an investor and cofounder of seed investment and…

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