Out of the 13 women who graduated from the second cohort of Zone Startups India’s “empoWer” India’s 1st Tech Accelerator for women entrepreneurs, three women were awarded equity-free seed funding.
As their seven-week long accelerator programme, “empower,” a women-entrepreneur exclusive accelerator outfit concluded with a demo-day on December 13, Zone Startups India handed out equity-free seed funding of Rs 7 lakh to three startups out of the second graduating cohort.
The most crucial value addition provided by this unique programme, besides the huddles with over 40 industry leaders, subject matter experts, and the industry visits – was the peer network created among the fifteen participating members. The respective grantees – Periwinkle Technologies, Tactopus Education, and Revol Inc. – were presented seed funds at the BSE International Convention Centre, by Capital First and Department of Science and Technology. Their startups fielded products powered by IoT, AI, and Deep Learning, spanning industries such as healthcare, smart cities and enterprise solutions.
Meet the power-women who created these pathbreaking technologies:
1. Shruthi Gilla, Founder – revol inc.
Revol Inc. a product-based tech startup based in San Jose is the company behind the world’s first smart wallet with fingerprint access and smartphone connectivity. “We make tech-enabled lifestyle products. Cashew Smart Wallet is a flagship product of Revol Inc,” Shruthi explains to YourStory.
Applying to empoWer was “one of the best decisions (she has) ever made.” “I have become more assertive, decisive and my will-power has increased multi-fold. Being around like-minded entrepreneurs for seven weeks is a gift. I learned how chatbots can help us reduce the customer acquisition rate and improve customer support. I’m looking forward to working closely with my some of the girls to improve my business,” she says.
Shruti also became one of the three entrepreneurs that garnered seed money at the end of the programme and intends to utilise these funds into scaling up further. “We are getting ready to build our second round of production,” she states. By the end of the year, they are on a target to sell 10,000 units globally generating $1,000,000 in revenue.
2. Veena Moktali – Founder, Periwinkle Technologies Pvt. Ltd.
“We at Periwinkle want to create products that make screening for cancer accessible. Cancer is treatable if detected early. Therefore, we want to encourage regular screening for cancers of certain types, like cervical cancer,” she says.
The product “Smart Colposcope” is a mobile-connected, hand-held digital device that can help accurate screening and diagnostic triaging in a single routine visit. It comes with the Net4Medix app which facilitates remote consultation of experts and also enables follow-up care. At empoWer, she says she was able to address issues as simple as “how to structure your senior team,” and as complex as “term-sheets.” “With each other’s help, we all grew a little and become more confident,” she notes. Veena wishes to deploy the newly raised money to clinical trials – with Tata Memorial Centre as their clinical partner- and related compliance activities. “This will help me wi the h timely and successful launch of the product,” she states.
3. Chandni Rajendran – Founder, Tactopus
Chandni, a design innovator from IDC, IIT Bombay, who has won the Young Innovator Award from Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fanavis – also garnered funding for her startup Tactopus. “We are developing an interactive ed-tech device for blind children to learn with tangible objects – like books with audio labels and explanations while feeling and reading tactile shapes with their fingers, thereby addressing barriers to education and opportunities for blind children.” They wish to make schools more inclusive. They have previously received a $4500 from a government grant, and at the end of empoWer, Amazon Launchpad also offered them its consumer platform.
During the programme, Chandni says that she learnt as much from her peers as she did from the mentors. “My rapport with the peer group – thirteen impressive, high-flying entrepreneurs – is such that you walked into one of our peer-to-peer sessions, you’d think we were all co-founders of the company under discussion,” she says.
With the funding, her focus will now shift to developing the books and games they have conceptualised and plan a pilot with a variety of schools and organisations that work with blind children, children in the autism spectrum, and mainstream schools that value inclusion.
The other outliers
Besides the three winners, Microsoft, Amazon Launchpad, ICICI Bank, PayU, CapitalFirst, Bureu deQuebec, and FlexiLoans, also presented various grants and services to the graduating entrepreneurs.
Meenakshi Vashist, who seeded TekUncorked, and Mansi Khanna, who founded The Friday Code, received USD 25K worth of Microsoft Azure credits as go-to market support.
The former is a DaaS (Device as a Service) and FaaS (Framework as a Service) offering which IoT-enables devices and appliances around us, and is mainly targeted to B2B customers for them to rapidly build and deploy platforms like Smart Homes, Smart Rentals, Smart Maintenance, Smart Shopping, Smart Streets and Smart Manufacturing to enhance productivity and optimize resources.
The Friday Code, on the other hand, builds products and platforms to help brands and agencies increase their ROI through efficient tracking and optimisation of their advertising spends. The Friday code’s proprietary tool, Clock, enables marketeers to serve, track, and manage their campaigns through a single dashboard.
The other entrepreneur to receive access to Amazon Launchpad’s consumer platform is social entrepreneur Neha Bagoria, who has created green solutions EcoTrapIn, EcoTrapInPlus and EcoTraplnXtra under the umbrella of Tapu Sustainable Solutions. EcoTrapIn technology is a retrofit design making conventional urinals ergonomic, touchfree, odourless, hygienic and waterless, thus preferred by men.
Another entrepreneur from the cohort who is also trying to alleviate problems around urinals is Komal Goyali, who founded WOWLET, a mobile application which tells users in real time about the cleanliness of a public toilet, besides providing world-class toilet maintenance services to fill the demand-supply gap in the market.
Priya Randolph ’s Bitgram was offered a one-week bespoke market access trip to Montreal, by Bureau du Quebec. It is a customer trust SuperIdentity™ protocol that uses Blockchain and Machine Learning intelligence to create your Id based on your unique digital DNA, for financial, insurance, healthcare and other related applications.
The cohort consisted of six other highly accomplished individuals. Aardra Kannan Ambili, an Artificial Intelligence expert, founded Riot Solutions, Inc . the world’s first non-contact wellness and sleep tracker for babies that uses radar technology with 98 percent accuracy. Actor and producer Vishakha Singh created ICONICbot , India’s first multilingual AI-driven chatbot connecting Influencers and their fans on relevant messaging platforms, which has crossed 76,000 fans and processed 2.6 million messages within six months.
Also in the chatbots space is Niyati Agarwal, who leads platform features at Morph.ai. An enterprise ChatBot suite, it helps businesses engage in personalised marketing and sales, with clients like Manchester City Football Club, YesBank, Yamaha, Estee Lauder etc. Geetanjali Agarwal’s startup has also floated an innovative bot platform that solves major business problems using AI-powered technology.
Vidya Vellala joined the cohort for her startup Faasthelp , which provides 24/7 help support from their business application with very minimal cost and very minimal manual effort.
Dr Tanushree Devi Laishram , a clinical cardiologist by profession, has founded CYGEN , a cloud-based platform that helps various channels diagnose patients earlier with higher accuracy. Lastly,
Sivareena Sarika is the founder of PregBuddy, a one-to-one smart communication platform between doctors and patients with chronic conditions so that hospitals can provide faster care and prevent revenue leakage.
The way forward
In fact, gauging the response that their programme has received over the past two years, Ajay Ramasubramaniam, Director, Zone Startups India, has decided not to limit the programme to a 15-member cohort, and bring in more women entrepreneurs into its purview by turning empoWer into a year-long initiative.
“The accelerator will be one of the pillars of the programme, but we will also do a bootcamp, and a structured community engagement program for women entrepreneurs, which will help them in scaling their business through pre-planned half-yearly workshops and community support,” he said to YourStory.
Besides this, Social Alpha, a Tata Trusts initiative is also considering Periwinkle, Tapu Sustainable Solutions and Tactolpus for their incubation and Rs 50 Lakh seed investments. Zone Startups will be making this announcement shortly.