The Leap To Unicorn initiative by IDFC FIRST Bank, in association with Moneycontrol and CNBC-TV18, was designed to guide India’s best early-stage startups to funding success. While the most successful startups will stand a chance to get funded, the larger purpose of the initiative was to create a broad foundation for startup success, built on the collective wisdom of VCs, entrepreneurs and thought leaders who have shaped the third largest startup ecosystem in the world. A big part of this mission was accomplished through the bootcamp sessions, which ran from April 10th to May 10th, and gave select early-stage startup founders a comprehensive overview of startup operations and funding.
The bootcamp sessions were divided into four sections – Orientations & Fundamentals of Starting Up, Building for the Users, User & Team Expansion and Fundraising – which dealt with different stages of startup growth. Prominent startup founders, professionals and VCs headlined individual sessions under each section, sharing experiences and imparting key lessons to founders in attendance. For example, during ‘Orientation & Fundamentals of Starting Up’, Akash Gehani, Co-Founder, Instamojo, and Vinayak Hedge, CTO, Microsoft for Startups, spoke about designing processes that suit a business. Others, like Ashwin Damera, CEO & Co-Founder, Emeritus and Eruditus, and Amit Singh, CEO & Founder, Wow Labz, advised founders to hire judiciously, during sessions on ‘Orientation – Expectation setting and context of the bootcamp’ and ‘Startup Fundamentals’ respectively.
The ’Building for the Users’ section of the bootcamp saw Sahil Kini, Co-Founder & CEO, Setu, and Deepesh Agarwal, Co-Founder & CEO, MoveInSync, participate in AMAs, and share tips on how to reach the right audience. ‘Bank as a Partner for Growth’ session featured top executives from IDFC FIRST Bank talking about the pioneering role fintech has played in meeting the needs of startups. Next up were sessions by Sajith Pai, Director, Blume Ventures, and Arjun Vaidya, Partner, Verlinvest, on steps to find the right market fit for a product. Sessions under the ‘User & Team Expansion’ section featured Mabel Chacko, Co-Founder & COO, OPEN, LS Ravi, Director, Finvisage Treasury Solutions, and Anthony Anish, CDO, T-Hub, teaching startup founders the finer aspects of building the identity and structure of their new enterprises.
The concluding section on ‘Fundraising’ generated anticipation because of its criticality and relevance. While some, like Anand Chari, Deputy General Manager, BSE Limited, and Shivangi Jain, Senior AVP, Startup India, shared tactical information about growth, others like Nikhil Kamath, Co-founder, Zerodha, and Sabeer Bhatia, Founder, Showreel, touched upon their own experiences as successful founders. Mohit Bansal, Founder, Deck Rooster, had useful tips on how to ‘refine your pitch’, while Arpit Agarwal, Director, Blume Ventures, shared founder notes for those ‘venturing for capital’. The penultimate session featured Leap To Unicorn jury members, Bhavik Vasa and Siddharth Pai, laying out the essentials for ‘Winning investor pitches’.
The final word on the bootcamp sessions belonged to V Vaidyanathan, Managing Director & CEO, IDFC FIRST Bank. Recounting his own path breaking entrepreneurial journey, he exhorted startup founders to continually strive for excellence. It was the perfect call to action, as Leap To Unicorn participants now retreat to refine their pitch decks and pitch videos, armed with lessons from the bootcamp. Based on their pitch videos, the top 100 startups will be selected and featured in IDFC FIRST Bank’s ‘Top 100 startups to watch out for’ report. The top 20 will further attend a virtual pitch/demo day, out of which the top 5 will compete for the big funds during a nationally televised Grand Finale.
The Leap To Unicorn initiative isn’t just about metrics of success. It’s about creating an ecosystem, where ideas move freely and revitalize the chains of innovation and disruption that give Indian startups their global edge. The pages slugged ‘Brand Connect’ are equivalent to advertisements and are not written and produced by Forbes India journalists.