Students at premier institutes such as IITs and IIMs would have a second option to launch their startup in the coming campus placement season even before passing out of the college. 9Unicorns, India’s first accelerator VC firm, is launching a student-focused VC fund known as campus fund, university fund, or student capital.
9Unicorns’ student fund aims to nurture the entrepreneurial dreams of many bright and talented students right on the college campus itself. While many students come up with exciting ideas and concepts while studying, they are clueless about giving shape to those ideas. To help identify such students, 9Unicorns will be appointing “scouts” across all 23 top institutes and evaluate their ideas before writing their first cheque.
Inspired by the model of US-based Dorm Room, a fund launched by First Round Capital, the sector-agnostic fund plans to write cheque sizes ranging from $50K to $75k each in about 20-odd startups every year.
Talking about this emerging concept in India, Dr. Apoorva Ranjan Sharma, Co-founder, and President at 9Unicorns, said, “Colleges are the hotbed of innovations. The idea is to sensitize the students about the startup ecosystem and enable them to be a part of it right from the beginning. Besides, several institutes these days have started entrepreneurship-focused courses, proving that India is fast emerging as the land of startups. We are targeting concept-stage startups, which we will mentor and nurture further.”
Dr. Sharma further added that taping institutes such as IITs and IIMs come solely because IITs have created the maximum number of Unicorns in the country and have a ready talent pool. However, we will move to second-rung institutes and those in the Tier 2 cities.
“These students now have options to whether to sit for campus placement and dropout and start their ventures,” Dr. Sharma said, adding that this idea emerged from his personal experience of writing the first cheque to Ritesh Agarwal, Founder of Oyo, who was a college dropout then.
Early-stage integrated incubator Venture Catalysts, the parent firm of 9unicorns, have been ahead of this trend and had invested in Vested Finance, a startup conceptualized by founders while they were in college.
“For us, it could be two strokes of luck as we get closer to concept stage startups and be able to invest in the future Unicorns,” Dr. Sharma stated.
While the concept is relatively new in India, counties like the US, China, Switzerland are way ahead with almost more than a dozen such funds that invest in companies founded on campus or have students, dropouts, or yet-to-be graduates as founders. Mark Zuckerberg is one fine example of a student entrepreneur. In India, two of the Unicorn founders — Kunal Shah, founder of Cred, and Bhavin Turakhia, founder of Zeta, dropped out of college to pursue their startup dreams.