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How Kochi Is Leading The Way In Kerala’s Exemplary State-Backed Startup Ecosystem

How Kochi Is Leading The Way In Kerala’s Exemplary State-Backed Startup Ecosystem

Inc42 and DigitalOcean’s BIGShift will arrive in its third destination, Kochi, on August 22 at the Integrated Startup Complex

The event will have stalwarts such as Anil Joshi, founder and managing partner, Unicorn India Ventures, Sijo Kuruvilla George, founder, Rethink Foundation among others

Five startups from Kochi will get to pitch their startups to a jury of investors as a part of the BIGShift Pitch

Kerala is one of the favourite vacation spots in India, this is especially owing to the ‘God’s Own Country’ campaign run by Tourism India. The state, however, is not known for just that but has also earned a reputation for having a progressive and thriving startup culture. According to Kerala Startup Ecosystem report by Inc42 DataLabs, by the end of the third quarter of 2018, Kerala was home to over 1,500 startups and the total funding observed till then, stood at $38 Mn.

This progress of the state is majorly because of the various measures that the government has taken to promote the entrepreneurship culture in the state. Apart from adding over 3 lakh sq ft floor space for startups and providing 63 startups with international attention in 1,000 days, it also set up a nodal agency to help and promote startups, Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM).

Set up in 2006, KSUM has a firm focus on promoting tech startups as well as entrepreneurship at all levels in Kerala, beginning right from schools and colleges. Owing to its efforts, cities like Trivandrum and Kochi are climbing the ladder to become the leading startup hubs in India. 37% of startups in Kerala are based out of Kochi and 23% are located in Trivandrum, revealed the Kerala Startup Ecosystem Report, 2018.

In January 2019, KSUM launched an Integrated Startup Complex (ISC) in Kochi, it is the largest of its kind in the world and is spread over 1.80 lakh sq ft facilitating the tech sector. The complex includes many enablers of the startup ecosystem such as Maker Village; Bionest, BRINC, India’s first international accelerator for hardware startups and more.

It is thanks to these efforts and initiatives that many startups from Kochi have made their names among the top companies in India. Amongst them are names such as Sastra Robotics that leverages human-machine interface to provide solutions to various industries. Sastra helped Bosch make a shift from manual testing of touchscreen devices to the Sastra’s SCARA robot, operating at about 900 clicks per minute. While payments startup Chillr was acquired by Truecaller in 2018.

To provide better connectivity and enable this vibrant and growing ecosystem of the city, Inc42 and DigitalOcean’s BIGShift chose the financial and commercial capital of Kerala, Kochi, as the third stop in its six-city tour. The innovative startups of the city are making a mark in India as well as the world for the solutions and approach they follow. BIGShift, which will shine the spotlight on early-stage startups that are still striving to carve a niche in the dynamic ecosystem, is visiting the city on August 22, at ISC.

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Enabling Kochi Startup Ecosystem

Kochi has a vast investor community, housing about 18 investors including organisations such as the Konglo Ventures and TiE Kerala and many individual investors as well. While Konglo Ventures has backed many startups in Kochi, TiE Kerala launched the Kerala Angels Network (KAN) in the city in 2016 with the aim of providing funding as well as mentoring to startups. And among individual investors, there are many prominent names as well such as Ravindran Kamath, cofounder and CFO, Next Education. Kamath has invested in Mobme, the company that was an integral part of the launch of Startup Village, along with startups such as Pling and Sastra Robotics.

Apart from these players, startups also receive funding in the form of R&D grants, seed loans or through equity investment from KSUM. It has tied up with SEBI-accredited venture capital funds for smooth implementation of the funding for startups at various stages. Furthermore, with events such as Seeding Kerala, the government gives individual investors and organisations an opportunity to be a part of the trending investment scenario and in turn, helps early-age startups.

Apart from the investors, the enabler community of Kochi also homes plenty of coworking spaces, incubators and accelerators such as Maker Village which hosts some of the prominent incubators and accelerators in the city. The 30K sq ft of fully furnished space with plenty of amenities, the Maker Village incubated over 65 startups in 2018 alone. The leading names in accelerators are of BRINC, Bionest, and BRIC, an incubator dedicated to developing solutions for cancer diagnosis and care and more.

The city has over 10 coworking spaces and some of these are acting as incubators or accelerators as well. In 2017, inQ Innovation Global, a coworking space that also acts as an accelerator for startups, opened 6,500 sq.ft facility in Kochi. Another world-class business centre in Kochi is Center A, providing fully equipped coworking spaces to suit all business needs.

Kochi’s Mark In Indian Startup Ecosystem

Thanks to the combined efforts of the ecosystem enablers, Kochi ranks 14 in India and 326 globally, based on the strength of its startup ecosystem. Startups in Kochi have made their mark in the country because of both their innovation and their concern for the environment and sustainable development.

After the floods of 2018, many startups from Kerala came together and helped save lives as well as contribute towards the rebuilding effort. Among those names were Kochi-based startups such as Riafy technologies, an app for cookbook recipes, which developed a platform that converted addresses into GPS coordinates to help aid rescue missions in the state.

There are many other startups from the state that are famous for various reasons. Kochi’s Navgathi Marine Design & Construction, a company that manufactured solar-powered ferries, partnered with two French companies, AltEn Systems and EVE Systems. This led to the birth of NavAlt Solar & Electric Boats that works towards making water navigation eco-friendly and cost-effective. In 2017, it launched India’s first solar ferry called Aditya.

Another startup is Reelmonk, that allows its users to stream the latest Malayalam movies on an app at affordable prices. With discreet trackers embedded in the player that serves as a watermark to identify the user, it helped in identifying and later arrest persons who pirated Malayalam movie Njan Steve Lopez.

Other startups earning fame include Agrims Infotech, which was selected in Google launchpad accelerator, Profoundis Labs, known for its flagship product Vibe which was acquired by US-based tech firm FullContact, and Sastra that designs robots for avionics testing and signed an MoU with the global defence giant Lockheed Martin.

BIGShift is the platform for startups such as these from Tier 2 cities in India. After a successful run in Nagpur on August 3, BIGShift is now coming to Kochi to provide a boost to the blooming startups of the city.

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BIGShift: Kochi Agenda

BIGShift has seen successful run in both Chandigarh and Nagpur, the first two host cities of the 2019 series. Organised by Inc42 and DigitalOcean, the event was met with aplomb by the attendees and startups alike in both the previous cities. BIGShift Kochi is expected to witness an even further rise with the applications already flowing in.

The event will be held on August 22 at ISC in Kochi. The speakers for the event include leading names such as Anil Joshi, founder and managing partner, Unicorn India Ventures, Sijo Kuruvilla George, founder, Rethink Foundation, Mohan Ram, APAC partnerships manager, DigitalOcean.

The highlight of the evening will be the BIGShift Pitch which will give five startups from Kochi an opportunity to showcase their innovative ideas and business models to a jury consisting of industry stalwarts. These five startups of BIGShift Pitch will get benefits such as a direct entry into DigitalOcean’s Hatch Program which offers infrastructure credits, priority support, training and access to the startup community.

BIGShift Pitch is an initiative that strives to provide early-stage startups with a platform to showcase their business proposition, models and products in front of the stalwarts from the startup community from each location. Any early-stage startup based in any of the BIGShift host cities can apply to showcase their business proposition at the event.

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BIGShift Kochi: To Bolster The Ecosystem

The BIGShift event series has seen participation from over 400 startup ecosystem stakeholders over the years and has enabled 40 Indian startups including TickTalkTo and Zadd Bikes from Chandigarh, along with Minocular and Healthalicious from Nagpur, among others to showcase their products and present their ideas to investors, other entrepreneurs, influencers and more.

The aim is to cover more startups and more cities while bringing more people from the ecosystem together to provide startups in Tier 2 cities the platform they deserve.

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Our Ecosystem Partners for BIGShift Kochi are Kerala Startup Mission, Vruksh Ecosystem, Startup India, TinkerHub Foundation and Maker Village