When Entrepreneur First (EF), a leading global talent investor, started operations in India in 2019, the mission was to enable and scale-up tech entrepreneurship in India. With the pandemic upending businesses across the globe, there has been a need to recalibrate expectations and strategies.
So far, EF has supported more than 200 Indians on their entrepreneurial journey and invested in 34 cutting-edge tech start-ups in the country – of which 21 start-ups emerged during the pandemic. “In fact, we also saw an unprecedented investor interest in our most recent cohort, with over 200 investor meetings being set up with entrepreneurs,” said Esha Tiwary, General Manager at EF India.
EF India’s last two cohorts – paid six-month programmes for entrepreneurs aspiring to build technology start-ups –started in August 2020 and February 2021, respectively. It witnessed a slew of innovative start-ups powered by AI, Machine Learning (ML), Robotics, Virtual Reality (VR) and other cutting-edge technologies. Driven by the enthusiastic response, despite the pandemic challenges, the company is all set to launch its latest cohort in Bengaluru on 2nd August 2021.
Opportunity for innovation
“Whether it is the use of automation and data analytics in supply chain reinvention or artificial intelligence (AI) to improve telehealth and remote work solutions, there’s no denying that the acceleration in the use of technology has been unprecedented over the last year. In India, at Entrepreneur First, we are witnessing this shift,” added Tiwary.
According to a recent McKinsey article, disruption creates space for entrepreneurs, and that’s what is happening in countries such as United States, Germany, Japan, and India too. In many ways, the pandemic is inspiring more entrepreneurs to build tech start-ups that offer scalable solutions across industries.
“We could look at this as the silver lining in the current situation for young and aspiring entrepreneurs. There’s immense opportunity for innovation in terms of new products and services,” Tiwary said. Innovation is about being prepared for ‘the next normal’; it’s an ever-evolving process, especially in the current scenario of global uncertainty.
“The digital content space will continue to grow, with innovative solutions – right from tools for creation to dissemination – coming up across the board. Similarly, given the growing consumer demand for smart solutions that facilitate remote working – a trend that is likely to continue for much longer – I expect to see more innovation in this space,” said Tiwary.
In the age of remote working and social isolation, the talent investor is also bullish on start-ups enabling community building as well as those helping businesses to accelerate their digital transformation journeys. Not to forget, innovators in the financial solutions space, an evergreen segment in India.
Taking the plunge
Necessity is said to be the mother of invention, and today, there’s an urgent need for tech entrepreneurship that can help the world move forward. “Tech innovation and entrepreneurship has the power to drive the country’s economic recovery from Covid-19,” affirmed Tiwary.
As pandemic-induced changes in consumer behaviours bring new business opportunities to the fore, businesses that leverage technology to take calculated risks will emerge stronger in keeping with the changing business trends.
EF is placing its bets on India’s entrepreneurial progress, driven by a “100 per cent increase” in the number of applications to their bi-annual cohorts over the last two years. Currently, the company is inviting applications for its sixth cohort, scheduled to start in August 2021. “While it may be more difficult to take the entrepreneurial plunge right now due to financial and other uncertainties,” reasoned Tiwary, “it’s also important to remember that the reward is much greater – the first-mover advantage in untapped markets”.
EF’s endeavour is to bring together key stakeholders and investors in the early-stage ecosystem to support talented and ambitious entrepreneurs on their journey. The company collaborates with premier tech institutes to help build a new paradigm of entrepreneurship and innovation in India.
“While the year has been challenging in more ways than one, our entrepreneurs have shown incredible resilience, adapting to changes in consumer behaviour and the uncertain market conditions. Given the excitement that we have witnessed among these aspiring and young entrepreneurs, we have extended our application date for the next cohort to 15th July 2021,” informed Tiwary.
You can apply to the EF Bengaluru cohort here.