Wharton India Economic Forum, 2019: A melting pot of industry leaders, professionals, academics …

… Prayank Swaroop of Accel Partners, Rajinder Balaraman of Matrix Partners, Sakshi Chopra of Sequoia Capital and Badri Pillapakkam of Omidyar …

Wharton India Economic Forum is the biggest India-focused forum discussing India’s evolution into a prominent global economic power. Its 23rd edition, held in Mumbai on 4th January, 2019, was attended by a crowd of 400 people comprising students, academics, professionals and industry leaders. The event was led and co-chaired by second-year Wharton School students Juhi Bhatnagar, Kartik Das, Swati Ganeti, Khushboo Goel and Sonal Panda. This year’s theme – ‘Innovate. Impact. Invest’ – sought to explore India’s immense economic potential and the lessons it offers to other developing economies. Renowned speakers the event ranged from backgrounds as diverse as finance, consulting, policy, economics, entrepreneurship and media & entertainment.

The panel discussions at WIEF 2019 covered several pertinent topics on the Indian economy, such as India’s energy outlook, future of mobility, investing in India, impact investing, healthcare and innovation in the film industry. The opening keynote was delivered by Deepak Bagla, MD & CEO of Invest India, who talked about the changing Indian economy and the government’s efforts in promoting investment in the country.

Fireside chats were also on the agenda. Niranjan Narayanaswamy (editor, Republic TV) discussed the growth of the National Stock Exchange with Vikram Limaye (MD & CEO, NSE), while Harbir Singh (co-director, Mack Institute for Innovation) engaged Naveen Jindal (Chairman, Jindal Steel and Power) in a conversation on the state of India’s steel industry. The day ended with a speech from Pankaj Munjal (MD, Hero Cycles) who charted the brand’s journey so far and elaborated upon its plans to bring safe, environment friendly, and efficient transportation to Indian roads.

Alongside the main event, the sixth Wharton India Startup Challenge (WISC) was also organised. The opening keynote was delivered by Raj Beri (CEO, Uber Eats APAC), who spoke about the food delivery service’s outlook and future plans in India. The challenge, which has grown immensely since its first edition, received 500 entries this year. Ten finalists were given the opportunity to pitch in front of the WIEF investor panel, which included names such as Padmaja Ruparel of India Angel Network, Prayank Swaroop of Accel Partners, Rajinder Balaraman of Matrix Partners, Sakshi Chopra of Sequoia Capital and Badri Pillapakkam of Omidyar Network.

The winning startups were MyPetrolPump (an on-demand fuel delivery service) which received an award of $10K, ITILITE (business travel agent for corporates) which received an award of $6K, and Credenc (an edtech platform offering student loans) which received an award of $4K. In addition, the winners and finalists received credits and prizes from Amazon Web services, Digital Ocean, ThinQbate (a Mumbai-based startup accelerator) and LetsVenture (a platform for angel investing). Meanwhile, two masterclasses were also conducted at WISC, covering topics such as disruption (by Mr Dhiraj Rajaram – founder & CEO, MuSigma) and debt financing (by Rahul Khanna – MD, Trifecta Capital).

Wharton India Economic Forum seeks to promote constructive dialogue on the current business and economic landscape of India. And like every year, this year’s edition, too, facilitated engaging and illuminating discussions with the experts from different fields.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Wharton India Economic Forum and not by the Scroll editorial team.

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Wharton India Economic Forum, India’s largest student-run biz conference, showcases startups in …

The panel included names like Padmaja Ruparel of India Angel Network, Prayank Swaroop of Accel Partners, Rajinder Balaraman of Matrix Partners, …

The Wharton India Startup Challenge received 500+ applications, of which top 10 finalists were chosen. The three winners earned a cash prize of $20,000 and other rewards from AWS, DigitalOcean, ThinQbate, and LetsVenture.

The 23rd edition of the Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF) was held in Mumbai last week. WIEF is the largest student-run, India-centric business conference hosted by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. It brings together entrepreneurs, leaders, professionals, academics, and students from across the world to discuss India’s growing presence in the global economy. The event was attended by more than 400 people.

WIEF 2019 was led and co-chaired by Wharton School students Juhi Bhatnagar, Kartik Das, Swati Ganeti, Khushboo Goel and Sonal Panda.

One of the top attractions at WIEF is the Wharton India Startup Challenge (WISC), which is in its sixth year now. In the past, now-successful startups like BabyChakra, Zostel, Haptik, Zoomcar, Bizongo, and Ketto have presented at the WISC. The Startup Challenge has grown 20X since it began. Past winners of the challenge have gone on to raise over $50 million from more than 20 institutional investors.

startup challenge

WISC zeroed in on 10 startups from a pool of more than 500 applications. These 10 finalists were given the opportunity to pitch in front of an investor panel at WIEF. The panel included names like Padmaja Ruparel of India Angel Network, Prayank Swaroop of Accel Partners, Rajinder Balaraman of Matrix Partners, Sakshi Chopra of Sequoia Capital and Badri Pillapakkam of Omidyar Network.

This year, the 10 finalists included GoComet, Nuo, Lifepage, CashPositive, AgroWave, Reculta, MyPetrolPump, Wink & Nod, Credenc, and ItiLite.

The startup pitches were evaluated on the basis of four parameters: strength of the founding team, product market fit, financials, and WIEF mission alignment on impact.

The winning startups were:

  1. 1st Prize: MyPetrolPump (on-demand fuel delivery service)
  2. 2rd Prize: ITILITE (a business travel agent for corporates)
  3. 3nd Prize: Credenc (edtech platform offering student loans)

Ashish Gupta, Co-founder & CEO, MyPetrolPump, said: “Participating and Winning WISC is another milestone in our long journey. WISC ‘19 has provided us with huge visibility across the startup ecosystem in India and abroad. We are looking to raise pre-series A investment to the tune of $2 million to scale up further.”

(Second from left) Ashish Gupta, Co-founder, MyPetrolPump at WIEF 2019

Mayank Kukreja, Founder, ITILITE, said: “At ITILITE, we have built a smart platform for the modern corporate traveller and WISC was a great opportunity to showcase it to a large audience. Winning the startup challenge is yet another validation that our product is the much needed technology boost to this sector stuck in old school processes. We are strengthening our presence in the top 10 cities to serve the large void in the corporate travel industry.”

Mayank Kukreja, Founder, ITILITE

Avinash Kumar, Co-founder, Credenc, said: “The WISC journey through the different stages helped us improve our pitch and see ourselves more objectively. To be one of the winners for this year is a great feeling, and beyond the cash prize, it gives us further validation and steam to keep pushing the boundaries. Our ambition is to open up a very large lending segment which is currently ignored, enabling students across India to pursue education and careers of their choice by removing the financial barrier.”

Avinash Kumar & Mayank Batheja, Co-founders, Credenc

Wharton India also roped in several partners to aid the winning startups.

The top three earned cash prizes of $10,000, $6,000 and $4,000, respectively. They also got $10,000 in Amazon Web Services and DigitalOcean credits. Additionally, the three winners received prizes from ThinQbate(a Mumbai-based startup accelerator) and LetsVenture (a platform for angel investing).

Juhi Bhatnagar, Co-Chair of WIEF, said: This has been a record-breaking year with unprecedented attendance and more than 500 quality startup applications. The top three had incredible pitches and energy, and we are so excited for what they plan to build. We are certain that the winners are going to benefit greatly from the value addition in terms of the network, validation as well as reach that winning WISC will provide.Some pitchers have already started getting inbound interest from investors.”

Kartik Das, Co-Chair of WIEF, said: “This year WISC witnessed a diverse range of startups and the organising team worked hard to collaborate with the nation’s top VCs to narrow down the list of applications to the top 10 finalists. In addition, we have also launched the WISEMENTORS initiative for startup mentorship, and an inspiring podcasts series capturing insights from leading business professionals.”

VCs gathered at WISC weighed in as well.

Commenting on the evolution of India’s overall startup landscape, India Angel Network’s Padmaja said, 

“When we started out as investors, we only saw services being offered. There were no product startups. That was where we were. That has changed now.”

Rajinder of Matrix Partners concurred. He said, “India has always had outstanding entrepreneurs. Finally, we have a market that is right.” Prayank of Accel Partners added, “The big change is the speed at which startups are beginning to scale now. I hope the perception will change, and there will be a global deep tech company out of India.”

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Startup from Penn students uses ridesharing to help patients get to their medical appointments

The company works with transportation providers and ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to offer transportation to patients who don’t have the …

By Katharine Shao7 hours ago

Austinmurphy // CC BY-SA 3.0

One year after Penn students launched the company Ride Health, Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center has seen patients arriving to appointments more often and more on time, and the ridesharing technology has reduced the time and money staff spend on securing rides for patients.

The company works with transportation providers and ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to offer transportation to patients who don’t have the means to travel to appointments for crucial treatments like chemotherapy.

Ride Health’s web-based interface allows health care coordinators and social workers to arrange on-demand rides for patients. Ride Health can even arrange for an ambulance for patients who need medical supervision on their way to an appointment.

Three Penn students founded the company last year — 2016 College graduate Imran Cronk, 2017 College and Wharton graduate Sumun Khetpal, and College and Wharton senior Vedant Thyagaraj. Thyagaraj and Cronk developed the idea for the business model while in a Wharton course on healthcare entrepreneurship. Ride Health was then a semifinalist in the Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship Start Up Challenge.

Previously, many patients would use Non-Emergency Medical Transportation, a Medicaid benefit that offers free transportation to patients to get to their appointments.

Health Innovation Manager at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Mike Serpa said a drawback of NEMT is that patients must schedule a pick-up several days in advance. This can pose a problem for patients who might be asked to come in for a last-minute appointment to discuss important test results.

With the long waiting times for NEMT added in, patients may spend their entire day going to a single appointment. In fact, an NEMT may not show up at all.

After Ride Health was introduced at the Abramson Cancer Center, Ride Health founders and HUP supervisors said they have seen improvements in patient satisfaction and more efficient care.

“[Health systems] see fewer no-shows to their appointments,” said Ride Health co-founder and CEO Cronk. “That has operational benefits for healthcare providers because you’re actually getting patients in the door, or out of bed, on time.”

“There’s also been a significant reduction in the amount of time staff has to spend assisting patients on a ride,” Serpa said. “You’re saving 10 to 15 minutes per ride per patient.”

Those cost savings from Ride Health allows Penn Medicine to redirect those funds back into helping more patients.

“By cutting your costs 30 to 40 percent, you can then help 30 to 40 percent more people with the same amount of dollars,” Serpa said.

This ridesharing is free for patients, as Penn Medicine pays for it with money that typically goes towards taxi vouchers for patients in need of transportation help.

The rides are round trip, so patients will receive a ride home as well. Many customers have found this feature of the program valuable, especially if their appointment ends late at night.

Serpa said Ride Health helps patients and health systems resolve issues in real time.

“One patient didn’t get out of [the hospital] until eight or nine p.m.,” Serpa said. “But because of the nature of what Ride Health has built, the patient was basically able to text [Ride Health] to say, ‘Hey, dispatch my ride and come pick me up.’”

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Transportation barriers, however, are not the only factor leading to missed appointments.

Patients often struggle to get a day off of work and to get childcare, and the lack of resources that prevent patients from prioritizing their health can also affect appointment attendance rates, said Krisda Chaiyachati, a professor in the Department of Medicine at Penn.

“People don’t have the social or economic capital to pull on, even in moments in which they realize it’s a life or death or emergency situation,” Chaiyachati said.


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Failures teach startup founders invaluable lessons, investor tells Moogfest

“Old unsexy industries like insurance, construction and real estate are being transformed by artificial intelligence to make them sexy again.” He added …

DURHAM – In the startup world, failure is an option, according to Nihal Mehta, founding general partner of New York and San Francisco-based Eniac Ventures, at Moogfest’s “Startups of the Future and Business of Creativity” session at the American Underground at Main in Durham.

“I”ve learned a lot of lessons in 20 years in tech,” he told the American Underground’s Executive Director Doug Speight. Before launching Eniac Ventures, Mehta founded five startups across the mobile ecosystem, “And I learned the most from the failures,” he said. Failure “Gives you a muscle memory of what to avoid, and I used that knowledge when I became an investor.”

Eniac, founded in 2010, has made more than 150 investments and announced Eniac IV, a $100 million seed fund, in April, 2017. The firm focuses on mobile, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality and other “disruptive” technologies.

Mehta’s first startup, Phillytonight.com, started in 1998, when, he said, “You could put dot com at the end of anything and raise money, which we did. We spent $1 million really well on commercials and billboards without any revenue to show for it.” Then, the dot com boom crashed and “We had to do the unthinkable, the unspeakable. We laid off 50 employees and declared bankruptcy in 2001. It was humbling.”

Still, he said, “Facing failure early in my career developed invincibility. You dust yourself off, do it again, and avoid the mistakes you made. My next startup was acquired.”

Mehta said that as an investor, “I look for founders who have tried and failed or tasted a small success.”

What is the most common startup killer?

What, Speight asked, “Is the most common startup killer?”

“Co-founder in-fighting,” Mehta said. “Startups are hard, making something out of nothing. Every day is tough. Often you can’t make that work with somebody. We look for teams that have worked together before and ideally, worked together and failed together but emerged liking each other. They’re more efficient when they have that working history and they have a chip on their shoulder and need to show the world they can do it, or they had some success and want more.”

Another thing Eniac looks for, he said, is a founder who makes the work his or her life mission. “It’s not like a business school exercise. A founder who is alive to the mission thinks about it 24 hours a day. So we love a founder-market fit. Those are the entrepreneurs we look for every day.”

Nihal Mehta, founding general partner of Eniac Ventures at Moogfest. Copyright Capitol Cities. All rights reserved.

Eniac started investing primarily in the mobile space, including Airbnb and Hush, but now invests in a broader core theme. “At the heart of all of our companies is deep technology, machine learning, computer vision,” Mehta said. “Old unsexy industries like insurance, construction and real estate are being transformed by artificial intelligence to make them sexy again.”

He added, “We try to look ten years ahead. We just invested in software for autonomous private aircraft. How do we solve a traffic problem that keeps getting worse? Convert rooftops for these aircraft, which are carbon neutral and don’t cost much to use. You could go from Manhattan to JFK Airport for $20, cheaper than an Uber.”

He sees automation also coming to cars, trucks, deliveries, waiters and waitresses. “It’s a pretty interesting world we’re about to enter,” he said.

Diversity is key to innovation

Addressing the question of what creativity in business looks like in the future, Mehta said, “As Tim Cook, CEO of Apple said, innovation comes from diversity. You want to have as many diverse perspectives in background, race, gender and as many different facets as you can put together. That’s where most creativity and innovation comes from. Especially if you have a massive customer base, such as with Google or Facebook. You need to bring those things to the table because your customer base is diverse.”

Nevertheless, “In our industry, particularly in AI, a lot of the founders are dudes. Nine of ten engineers are men.” Mehta’s wife is leading one effort to change that, he said. “She founded Girls who Code. It has reached 100,000 girls in all 50 states, he said. “It’s not just about computer science, it’s also about poverty alleviation. It’s growing fast and it’s effective. It could lead to gender equality in STEM education in ten years if it continues to work.”

But, we need to change the culture to bring more diversity to the tech field. Eniac, he said, encourages its portfolio companies to interview at least one person with a diverse background for each role. “People tend to hire people who look like themselves. If they’re forced to interview someone not like them, they start to see networks they never knew existed. You just have to shake people up to find them.”

While it’s likely that in the next 5 to 20 years many jobs will be disrupted by AI, “There will always be areas where humans have a lot of relevance, areas that machines will never be able to do. Painting, poetry, screenplays, movies.”

Answering an audience question regarding a lack of venture funding in the Triangle, Mehta said, “A lot of investors realize now there is a lot of talent in academic hubs in this country. I think it’s changing, but it takes time. Moogfest can be phenomenal for this city.”

Also he said, “I’ve met a few investors in this area and people are super excited. You’ll have some big exits and all of a sudden more and more investors will come. If you’re in it at the beginning, a rising tide raises all ships and I think it’s happening.

For more on Moogfest:

Why I Launched StartU

As Philadelphia-based First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund highlighted in its 5 Year Report last year, companies funded at Penn tend to be focused on business model innovation (e.g. vertical integration at Warby Parker or Burrow), while companies at MIT and other campuses tend to focus on deep …

I am the Founder and Editor in Chief of StartU, a publication that identifies and shares stories on the most promising student and recent alumni founded startups. We launched in early March with a team of 36 Campus Leads and Scouts across Penn, Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, and Stanford, including a team of 8 at Penn specifically.

Below, I have shared the story of why I launched StartU. You can find us at https://thestartu.com.

You can’t spend more than a few days at Wharton without hearing the story of Warby Parker.

First, at Welcome Weekend; then in your Marketing 611 class with Barbara Kahn or Jonah Berger; and finally, in just about any elective you take on entrepreneurship, operations, or marketing during your time at Wharton.

And, of course, we all have seen The Social Network, which details the story of Mark Zuckerberg and how he turned a dorm room project into Facebook. These success stories are inspiring, and everyone wants to be the next Zuck (minus Cambridge Analytica) or the next Blumenthal (plus the Zuck market cap).

But launching and scaling a startup is hard. Really, really hard.

Karl Ulrich, Vice Dean of Wharton Entrepreneurship at Wharton, recently shared that we have 396 active startups on the University of Pennsylvania campus.

Yes, 396.

Most Penn startups die before getting funded, most Penn startups that get funded die after getting funded, and the chances of becoming the next Warby Parker are slimmer than beating Justin Tuck in an arm wrestling competition.

I launched StartU to help improve the odds for the most passionate, talented founders by sharing engaging, thoughtful content on their companies with the right audience: investors, strategic partners, and the broader student startup ecosystem within and across universities.

The Challenges Student Entrepreneurs Face

At Wharton, I am laser-focused on understanding the challenges that entrepreneurs on campus face. I took Ethan Mollick’s Entrepreneurship course in Fall 2016 and then Patrick Fitzgerald’s Venture Implementation course in Fall 2017, and I asked student founders, “what are some the greatest challenges you face?”

These founders consistently cited a difficulty getting coverage or air time. While companies that have raised a Series A or B are covered by TechCrunch and Forbes, earlier stage companies that have compelling IP or customer traction often have difficulty connecting with the right media source, which in turn makes it more difficult to get connected to investors, strategic partners, and talent.

I wanted to close that gap.

That’s why, in the Fall, I began writing about Penn-founded startups.

I shared stories on startups founded by current Wharton students – including Chen Feng at NomGoGo and Nick Martell at MarketSnacks – as well as those of Penn alumni like Stephen Kuhl and Kabeer Chopra at Burrow and Jane Fisher and Jenna Kerner at Harper Wilde.

And the response was robust.

With each post, an increasing number of investors, strategic partners, and other relevant actors in the startup ecosystem would reach out to me to learn more about the startup I had written about.

And that got me thinking, what if we could help share the stories of the most promising entrepreneurs across multiple campuses? That is how StartU was born.

An Incredible Team

What I am most excited about at StartU is the team we have built.

We have brought on the most talented, passionate group of 36 Campus Leads and Scouts that I could possibly imagine. Our team boasts an undergrad who writes for the Washington Post, an MBA who co-founded an internal startup accelerator at McKinsey, and several graduate students with extensive experience in venture capital – just to name a few.

The diversity of experiences that our team boasts allows us to effectively identify the most promising student and alumni companies at each of our campuses. Additionally, since our Campus Leads and Scouts are all current students, we have the best eyes and ears to identify the best student and recent alumni founded companies at each of our schools.

Plus, we have a lot of fun. Case in point: going on Jon Steinberg’s Cheddar TV in a blue wig.

We Are Content Creators and Connectors

At StartU, we are content creators and connectors. While we launched with written content, we are quickly expanding to podcast and video.

This month, John Hammond, a current first year MBA at Wharton and a StartU x Penn Co-Lead, is launching a pilot podcast series. For the series, we identified promising early stage founders at each of our schools, and Johnny asked them tough questions: the types of questions that really get you thinking about what founders can do to tackle specific problems, from unreasonable wedding dresses prices to youth unemployment in West Africa.

Johnny Hammond, First Year Wharton MBA and StartU x Penn Campus Lead

Events are also a crucial part of our strategy, as we have seen significant siloes in the entrepreneurial ecosystems at each of our universities. At Penn specifically, entrepreneurial Wharton MBAs, Wharton undergrads, Penn engineers, and Penn Med students don’t have sufficient opportunities to interact.

This leads to difficulty building teams with cross-functional skills, which in turn generates a less diverse mix of high-quality companies founded at Penn. As Philadelphia-based First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund highlighted in its 5 Year Report last year, companies funded at Penn tend to be focused on business model innovation (e.g. vertical integration at Warby Parker or Burrow), while companies at MIT and other campuses tend to focus on deep technology products in AI, blockchain, and more.

Excerpt from Dorm Room Fund’s 5 Year Report

StartU’s events are designed to build more connectivity across disciplines, and ultimately generate a healthier mix of companies that disrupt both technology and industry at each of its schools.

In March, StartU held its first event for Penn student entrepreneurs and Philadelphia area venture capital investors. In collaboration with Techstars we brought in investors and founders from across the entire university ecosystem – which is essential to ensure that Penn births quality companies across sectors.

Michael Aronson, GP at Red & Blue Ventures (left) and Maya Baratz, Managing Director at Techstars (middle) at StartU x Penn Launch Event

StartU looks forward to similar events at Harvard, MIT, and Stanford, where it will bring in investors like Keith Rabois (PayPal Mafia, GP at Khosla Ventures, & former COO of Square) and Eric Paley (GP at Founder Collective) as well as tech media gurus like Josh Constine (Editor at TechCrunch).

Our Audience: Investors, Founders, and Startup Enthusiasts

The quantity of companies on each campus creates a difficult task for campus-focused investors. In short, where to look for the next Warby Parker or Jet.com?

StartU simplifies that process by identifying the most promising companies founded by students and recent alumni. Our 8 Penn Campus Leads and Scouts are constantly meeting with companies, and they have developed an acute sense for which ones are the most likely to be successful.

Snapshot on Stanford-founded Jetpack in StartU

We have collected feedback from several mentors and investors, including Alexia Tsotsis (former Editor in Chief of TechCrunch). Through this feedback, we began collecting several data points on each of the companies we cover. Given the vast number of early stage startups and the rate at which these metrics (e.g. $ raised, traction) change, we are well-positioned to collect this data since we are students and classmates with many of these founders.

The Future

In addition to expanding the number of data points we collect, StartU plans to continue expanding in the coming months. We are constantly receiving inbound from startup enthusiasts at other schools – like Columbia, UT – Austin, and UVA – and we plan to build teams at each of these schools.

We ultimately want to be the universal source of truth for investors, founders, and startup enthusiasts on campus and recent alumni startups, and I’m excited to be on that journey with such a talented team.

Not every campus startup will be Warby Parker or Facebook – but we want to enable talented entrepreneurs who are trying to get there.


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