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Exclusive: Lightspeed Selects Eight Startups For ‘Extreme Entrepreneurs’ Programme

Exclusive: Lightspeed Selects Eight Startups For ‘Extreme Entrepreneurs’ Programme

The eight-week programme started on September 11 and will be hosted every Tuesday in Bengaluru, India

All companies had to go through multiple rounds and meet six investment professionals before getting selected

Vaibhav Agrawal, partner at Lightspeed India Partners, told Inc42 that the firm was looking for potential founders who are going after 'big, audacious ideas'

Lightspeed India Ventures, which is on a mission to enable entrepreneurs to be their best selves, launched Extreme Entrepreneurs, an entrepreneurial training series aimed at connecting eight select Indian startups with the top guns in global technology and entrepreneurship.

After a gruelling process of more than one month during which the firm received more than 450 applications and met or spoke to over 30 companies, Lightspeed has now shortlisted the final eight startups for the training.

What Is Extreme Entrepreneurs?

“No terms, no contracts, but a 100% pure community initiative,” is how Lightspeed describes Extreme Entrepreneurs.

Vaibhav Agrawal, a partner at Lightspeed India Partners, told Inc42 that the Extreme Entrepreneurs programme aims to create a level playing field for founders who may not otherwise have access to great mentorship and resources.

The eight-week programme started on September 11 and will be hosted every Tuesday in Bengaluru.

Lightspeed India has roped in business leaders such as Jon Steinberg, ex-Buzzfeed president and now Cheddar CEO; Ritesh Agarwal of OYO Rooms; Dheeraj Pandey of Nutanix; and John Thompson, chairman of Microsoft, to mentor the startups. These industry leaders will share with startup founders their spark and the practical tips they have learned from being entrepreneurs.

Also, well-known investors such as Anu Hariharan of Y Combinator and Jeremy Liew and Ravi Mhatre of Lightspeed will share their experiences of shaping highly successful companies with the participants of the programme.

All the companies went through multiple rounds and met six investment professionals before being selected.

Agrawal told Inc42: “This programme hasn’t been offered in India before, and what sets this apart is the one-to-one mentorship from a Lightspeed Partner, almost like a board member on hire. We’re bringing decades of experience taking young founders to billion-dollar-plus companies to the benefit of these eight finalists.”

“The one and only selection criteria we cared about was: highest potential founders who are going after big, audacious ideas. Nothing else mattered. Some startups in the final eight are pre-product, while others have already received early funding from some prominent firms,” he added.

Here Are The Final Eight Startups:

Culturegrade: Bengaluru-based Culturegrade was founded in 2018 by Abhinav Chugh and Alagu M and targets productivity and performance in employees, with learnings and insights collected from feedback, which it translates to better manager-worker relationships and personalised microlearning.

Dose FM: In 2017, Mumbai-based Dose FM was founded by Abhishek Damodara, Akhil Appanna, and Rishabh Harit. It seeks to provide engaging audio, sent straight to your headphones via its free app. Dose curates uniquely desi songs, news stories, and even shows in easily digestible clips.

Kubric: Based in San Francisco, California, since 2017, Kubric was founded by Kausambi Manjita and Barada Sahu and is making new headway in SaaS content marketing, driving sales, and engagement and shaking up the status quo in the staid category of business-to-business marketing. The company is funded by Accel Ventures.

Kutuki: Bharath Bevinahally and Sneha Sundaram founded Kutuki in 2017 in Bengaluru. The startup specialises in pre-kindergarten learning –animated stories, songs, books and interactive elements – making for intuitive app-based learning experiences for the pre-KG crowd.

Squadcast: Sisir Koppaka and Amiya Adwitiya founded Squadcast in October 2017. The startup, headquartered in New York, enables tech companies to do the best work of their lives through Squadcast smarts applied to all aspects of internal workflows and customer service. Based in Bengaluru, Prashant Sachan, Pulkit Agrawal, Arun Lodhi, and Bimal Kartheek Rebba founded Trell in 2016. Trell is a local discovery platform that enables people to create visual collections of their travel and local experiences and share it as a classic slideshow video or copyrighted images on other platforms. The Mohit Srivastava and Lakshay Thareja-founded is working on democratising voice assistance for Indians in an array of vernaculars — including Hinglish. Waani seeks to herald the future of interaction with machines and devices.

Yellow Messenger: In 2016, Raghu Ravinutala, Rashid Khan and Jaya Kishore Reddy founded Yellow Messenger in Bengaluru. The startup deploys artificial intelligence (AI) to help some of the world’s largest enterprises converse intelligently with customers and engage with them in myriad ways.

What Do These Startups Get?

Every Tuesday at Lightspeed’s Bengaluru office, the selected eight startups will participate in three sessions:

  • Morning session: An invite-only masterclass from leading members of the technology and investing world both in India and abroad. The discussions will feature well-known business personalities who will share their candid learnings with the selected startups.
  • Afternoon session: These sessions will enable startups to work with a Lightspeed professional one on one. Agarwal said the experience will be similar to Lightspeed’s portfolio companies having a board member for eight weeks. The selected startups will have their processes and points of view torture-tested and grilled by an experienced Lightspeed India investor.
  • Evening session: In these sessions, the startups will gain access to a community of high-quality startups and investors, along with a host of services, cloud credits, marketing credits, etc.
A session in progress at the Extreme Entrepreneurs programme
A session in progress at the Extreme Entrepreneurs programme




Agrawal further highlighted that the selection process of Extreme Entrepreneurs have enabled the company interact with some  “unique personalities” – a reminder of what a rare breed founders truly are

“We met a DJ who is pursuing a music streaming startup, and we met a founder that was once abducted by naxals and had to negotiate with them to get out,” he explained.

“Some interesting ideas we met but couldn’t shortlist: A cross India/US team building hardware and air traffic control for aerial taxis after getting fed up with Bengaluru’s traffic. Another team which is using VR for training and skill development of blue-collar workers. At an enterprise, they were able to crunch a three-day learning process to 30 min — I think that’s super powerful,” Agrawal further added.

Given the limitation of one-to-one mentorship, Agrawal said, “We are limited to select only eight startups, but I’m almost certain that many of those who applied but didn’t make it will go onto create large successful companies.”

Lightspeed Ventures: Betting Big On India

Lightspeed Venture Partners has been investing in the country since 2004 via Lightspeed India. It focusses on direct and cross-border businesses, generally investing $1 to $25 Mn in growth or early-stage startups seeking to disrupt or transform large markets in the domestic economy.

Lightspeed Venture Partners has some of notable startups in its portfolio, including hotel room aggregator OYO, edtech unicorn BYJU’S, Indian messaging platform ShareChat, and Udaan, a B2B commerce network of retailers, manufacturers, traders, and wholesalers, which is India’s fastest unicorn.

Here are some facts and figures from Lightspeed India:

  • It has six partners — Bejul Somaia, Dev Khare, Akshay Bhushan, Harsha Kumar, Vaibhav Agarwal, and former Andreessen Horowitz executive Hemant Mohapatra
  • In addition, Sunil Rao is Partner, Business Services, and leads portfolio services for Lightspeed’s companies
  • Lightspeed India closed its second India fund with a corpus of $175 Mn in July this year
  • It is now looking to invest in another batch of 25-30 early-stage startups as well as in few deals in the Series B and C stages
  • Lightspeed’s total capital under management in India stands at $310 Mn, including a $115 Mn India-specific fund, raised in 2015

The Indian startup ecosystem is currently home to more than 5,200 tech startups and has been growing rapidly and witnessing increasing investments.

The Indian Tech Startup Funding Report H1 2018 found that $3 Bn was invested across 372 deals; in 2017, $13.5 Bn was invested across 885 deals.

As the Indian startup ecosystem matures with innovation and continued funding, Lightspeed India’s attempt to ensure that startups get the right mentorship is a boon for entrepreneurs in India.