Posted in Startup Story, Uncategorized

‘Shark Tank’ appearance inspires teen CEO Zietz to grow company

Teen entrepreneur Rachel Zietz didn’t secure a deal during her recent appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t win over the Sharks or the American public with her solid pitch for Gladiator Lacrosse.


“Because I didn’t get a deal, I didn’t think people would remember me,” Zietz said. “But there’s been such a strong outpouring of support on social media and even people stopping me on the street to congratulate me. It’s been amazing.”

The Boca Raton high school student, who started her sports equipment company at 13, appeared on the popular reality show May 13. She sought $100,000 for a 15 percent stake in her company. But the Sharks passed, saying they would be doing her a disservice by taking a piece of her successful enterprise.

The appearance could help propel Gladiator Lacrosse to new heights. Zietz, now 15, is currently negotiating with Wal-Mart for a deal to carry her lacrosse products, working with her company’s brand ambassador on additional products for her line and fielding pitches by investors looking to get in on the action. The company that posted $200,000 in sales its first year, is expected to surpass the $2.5 million mark this year.

“The Sharks were so kind and kept reiterating that I was doing everything right,” Zietz said. “I walked away feeling validated and very inspired. The experience has just fueled my goals to grow my company.”

When asked if she had a favorite Shark, the savvy entrepreneur had this to say:

“I don’t think I could pick a favorite. They’re all so accomplished and had such nice things to say about me and my company. I love them all.”

The teen CEO and avid lacrosse player said one of the most rewarding outcomes of her Shark Tank experience has been the outreach from youths who say she inspired them to follow their dreams. She, dad and TouchSuite CEO Sam Zietz, and her brother Jordan, another budding teen entrepreneur, will be speaking at an upcoming Young Presidents Organization event.

“I’m excited about that because I love talking to other kids to let them know that they can start a business, if they’re truly passionate about it,” she said. “All entrepreneurs face obstacles. You just have to stick with it and work really hard to overcome them.”

Posted in Startup Story, Uncategorized

Pune-based startup Amura helps marketers maximise returns via digital marketing

Vikram Kotnis, a serial entrepreneur, introduced Ketan Sabnis, Vinayak Katkar, Pratik Rokade and Kiran Narasareddy, who were working for Fortune 500 companies, to entrepreneurship. Together, these College of Engineering, Pune, graduates founded digital marketing firm Amura Marketing Technologies in 2010. “With digital, we saw a huge opportunity and decided to craft solutions and services around digital marketing,” says Kotnis, Founder and Managing Director.

This Pune-based startup,  ..

Posted in Entrepreneur, Startup Story, Uncategorized

Venture Factory rolls out incubation programme for healthcare startups

Bangalore-based Venture Factory has launched an incubation and accelerator programme for healthcare startups. As part of this, the firm will fund up to five startups in the space by the end of this year.

Christened VF-Healthcare, the programme will incubate healthcare startups and make an initial investment in these. Venture Factory will also participate in the follow-on round when these startups demonstrate business viability and the ability to scale up operations.

“When startups that are incubated by us reach the next level through our selection process, we make a formal investment of $200,000-$500,000. As startups move on after that, we will also look to participate in their follow-on rounds. This will be in the range of $500,000-$2 million,” said Vinay Rao, venture partner, Venture Factory.

Venture Factory has also entered into strategic partnerships with online healthcare platform Practo, hospital chain Cloudnine and Plan India (the Indian chapter of non-government organisation Plan International which focuses on children) to build an ecosystem, which would provide its healthcare-focused startups access to doctors, healthcare professionals and patients as well as services across the healthcare spectrum ranging from on-ground touch points to cloud based services and products.

While digital-enabled healthcare startups are its focus, Venture Factory is open to offline players but only those which have some amount of technology play, said Rao.

Startup incubator Venture Factory is run by i2india Pvt. Ltd, which was founded in 2006 by IIT Kanpur and Wharton graduate Deepam Mishra with $10 million initial capital from a host of investors, including Imperial Innovations, a subsidiary of UK’s Imperial College for technology transfer, commercialisation and investment, UK-based entrepreneurs Chris Mathias and Tom Singh, former Ranbaxy CEO DS Brar and US-based Harbour Ventures, besides Tata Sons.

Established in 2012, Venture Factory saw its first batch of startups graduate last year.

While the first programme was open to startups from all sectors, going forward the focus will be on healthcare and infrastructure (mostly logistics) startups. The VF-Healthcare programme is also an initiative under this umbrella. The second batch of incubees are expected to be on-boarded soon and the screening process is currently under way.

“Given our expertise and the kind of startups we have worked with, we believe these two sectors show a huge scope for growth and disruption,” said Rao.

The firm makes investments in startups through i2india, which is also its external investment arm. Currently, i2india has six startups in its startup portfolio.

In June last year, it invested $500,000 (Rs 3.2 crore) into Bangalore-based Shippr Technologies Pvt. Ltd, which runs an online aggregator platform for intra-city logistics service providers .

In May last year, it invested $500,000 (Rs 3.35 crore) in parenting and child safety-focused portal

It has also backed i2play interactive, a startup that enhances gamified learning for children; GPS Renewables, a waste management solution startup; Tsepak, a tech startup that makes a geo-tracking and analytics product called Busybox; and CL Infotech, an IT education service provider in the higher education space.

Posted in Startup Story, Uncategorized

Startup Breaking Publishing World

When everything is getting digitized than why should publishing industry should lack behind. A recent survey by Nielsen India revealed that India’s book market, currently the sixth largest in the world at Rs 26,100 crore, is likely to touch Rs. 73,900 crore by 2020. The survey says that more than 70 per cent of the publishers in India have digitized their content to produce eBook versions thereby reaching the target customers through a digital medium.

Sensing the opportunity, Mahendra Sharma plans to cater this huge growing market by founding Matrubharti, a self-publishing platform and an app serving eBooks in Indian languages.

It’s first of its kind app from India that takes content directly from authors and publishing it as an eBook. It uses patent-pending low-cost technology for digital rights protected eBooks.

Breaking the barrier for new authors, Matrubharti has given an international platform to publish content to many new and aspiring writers in regional languages.

Money Rolling In

eBook publisher Matrubharti has recently raised a seed funding of Rs. 20 lakh from Viridian Capital. The seed funding amount will be used for investment in technology and expanding the team.

Incubated at the Espark-Viridian Accelerator Centre at GIFT City (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City), Matrubharti has more than 1,800 authors registered and have published 4,350 eBooks, so far.

Speaking on the seed funding and future of digital content, Sharma said, “Investment by Viridian Capital in our firm is a testimony that we have a business model which is likely to grow at a healthy rate. Matrubharti offers a digital platform to new and aspiring writers, which is our unique selling proposition among digital publishers.”

“We have a premium subscription model through which readers can download any number of eBooks during a particular period, which reduces the cost of purchasing an eBook for readers” Mr. Sharma added.

On Future Growth

Matrubharti publishes over 450 eBooks every month with 7.5 lakhs of eBooks downloaded so far. “Our growth rate is 20 per cent month on month and we expect a similar growth over the next one year, as we believe that penetration of smartphones would increase the sales of eBooks going forward,” said Sharma.

Published in six languages so far, Matrubharti plans to publish eBooks in 21 languages.

These platforms encourage authors to write more and spread word of knowledge among the masses.

Posted in Startup Story, Uncategorized

Clean Tech Startup Has Spark To Change The World

The Entrepreneurial ecosystem has witnessed a sudden surge in rising of clean tech startups to address the growing need to clean waste water.

According to the United Nations, water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century. It is estimated that the demand for water will surpass the supply as early as 2025.

Indian startups are emerging to cater this global market. If we go by figures, the overall environmental technologies market in India including goods and services is almost $15 billion.

To cater this huge market, Thinkphi’s, a clean technology company has a long term goal to address a global market for environmental goods which is targeted to reach $1.9 trillion by 2020.  Startup creates sustainable engineered products that intelligently conserve water, energy and waste.

With the growth of urbanization and water scarcity in India, Thinkphi’s “UltaChaata” can become a much-needed solution for smart cities and businesses in India and Globally.

Founded in 2015 by Samit Choksi and Priya Vakil Choksi, Thinkphi mission is to build products that create a positive impact on the environment by using sustainable and renewable resources.

Within a short span since inception, Thinkphi has steadily built a team of engineers with a background in mechanical, computer science and industrial design who believe that simple ideas, inspired by nature, have the power to change the world.

Money Flowing In

The venture has raised an angel round of funding from serial entrepreneur Nimmagadda Prasad an early backer of successful companies such as; Matrix Laboratories, Maa TV, and Care Hospitals. Most recently he invested in Sachin Tendulkar’s ISL team Kerala Blasters.

The angel round of funding will be deployed primarily towards expanding operations, R&D team and starting of sales and distribution activities. With a mission of building a sustainable business the company plans to stay asset light and ensure focused effort and detail is spent on product design, material selection, and manufacturing process.

Commenting on the investment, the Co-founders said, “Thinkphi is an innovative company creating disruptive solutions to environmental problems. We are grateful to have investors who believed in our vision – we are confident that the investment in R&D and good product design will deliver positive results while building company value. We spend a great deal of time in our talent acquisition processes to build the right team who believe in our mission and can bring new ideas and skill sets”

All About UltaChaata

The company’s first product is almost like a smart tree called “UltaChaata”, an inverted canopy looking structure provides potable water by capturing rainwater during the monsoon and solar energy during the rest of the year.

Each unit has the capability to harvest and filter up to 100,000 liters during the rainy season. With a maximum solar capacity of 1.5KW the product also includes an intelligent lighting system which provides various levels of programmable lighting options and a mobile charge unit, thereby making it a completely self-sustaining installation for the outdoors.

Powered by a central operating system called the “phi-box”, the controls help the lighting run for 4 to 5 days on a single solar charge and can provide potable quality drinking water through its inbuilt filter.

The operating system also monitors, captures data, and allows users to communicate with a cluster of units over the cloud. The company has also filed multiple global patents on design and utility which smartly converges water harvesting and renewable energy, ideal for smart cities, industries or large campuses.

Future Plans

With the focus on innovation and R&D, Thinkphi hopes to launch future products around energy saving devices and consumer waste management. The company uses a unique interactive process of product development and enhancement which is closely tied to its proprietary sustainability wheel, staying closely to its goal to become Earth’s most sustainable company.

The company has made some early sales of its patented Rainwater and Solar harvesting product to key customers like Godrej Interio and Rustomjee.

Startups like these are the asset for nature as they are addressing the most curial environmental problems. We need more of such startups so that we can make our mother Earth healthier place to live.

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Posted in Startup Story

Where there is beard, there is Beardo

If you thought styling of beards by colouring, plaiting, or trimming them in a particular way was a fad, then think again. Historical and empirical evidence points to the fact that beard styling has been a trend since ancient Egyptian civilisation.

In several parts of the world different beard styles have had different meanings and statements. Even pop-culture trends have created several different beard styles. It was looking at this market that Priyank Shah and Ashutosh Valani started Beardo in Ahmedabad in October 2015.

After completing his Masters in International Business at Brunel University London, Ashutosh returned to Ahmedabad to start his own e-commerce venture ‑ Aajkiitem, a platform for lifestyle products and consumer electronics. Priyank completed his MBA from IBS-Ahmedabad and comes with over four years of experience in procurement and logistics.

Wanting to do something more, the duo who were working on the e-commerce startup together decided to look at the men’s grooming segment. In their research, they found that the beard grooming industry targeted over 25 million users and had a market size of Rs 2,000 crore.

Bringing in newer products

“Thus, Beardo was the result of a need to introduce products that specially cater to taking care of one’s beard as it is not advisable to use regular grooming products for beard hair,” says 26-year-old Priyank.  Ashutosh adds that there is a lot of difference between regular oils and what Beardo provides in terms of chemical compositions.

However, the duo found that educating customers on the need for grooming products for a beard was difficult. But, they found that many young men were extremely conscious of their look and find it important to groom themselves and are more open to trying different and effective products.

In fact, the beard grooming industry is booming globally. In India, the male grooming segment is believed to have generated $33 billion in revenue.  Globally, several brands like Men Rock, Billy Jealousy, and Murdock are picking up in the international market. Indian brands like Ustraa and Soulflower too aren’t far behind.

Bigger players like The Man Company, which specifically deals with the men’s grooming products, has raised an angel round from Karan Bajwa, MD of Microsoft India, Manish Vij, Founder and CEO of SVG Media, and Amanpreet Bajaj, Country Manager of Airbnb India. Also, brand like Letsshave operates in the men’s grooming and shaving space.

Bigger FMCG giants like Marico, Dabur, Emami and Procter and Gamble too are venturing very aggressively into the space. According to a report by Mint, Neelesh Hundekari, a partner at A.T. Kearney India, a consulting firm, said that the men’s grooming and personal care market is eight percent of the $10 billion Indian personal care market. This includes oral care, soaps and shampoos.

Furthermore a TechSci research report in the space suggested that the market is anticipated to touch a CAGR of 17 percent by 2020. The reasons for this as mentioned in the report are a rising urban-middle class population, per capita income growth and an increased willingness of Indian men to adopt a grooming regime. The report also suggested that as there is an increased distribution of smaller cities across the country, there is a growing demand for men’s grooming products especially of the FMCG brands from Tier II and Tier III cities as well.

The products and its offerings

The Beardo range of products include Beardo Oil, Beardo Wash, Beardo Beard & Hair Growth Oil, Beardo Moustache wax, Beardo Ultraglow, and Beardo Brick Soap. Most of the products are made from natural ingredients and are majorly used for good hold of Mustache and beard. “Priyank and I have been friends since college days, so internal understanding also helps when you are looking to launch yourself into such a giant market,” says 29-year-old Ashutosh.

All of Beardo’s products are manufactured via contract manufacturers who use 100 percent natural and organic ingredients. The products are manufactured out of Punjab, Ahmedabad, Delhi, and Kanpur. The duo were able to contact these manufacturers via their previous e-commerce stint. The team claims to have a 2x growth ratio compared to last month, and say they have reached a GMV of Rs 3 crore.

Beardo is constantly innovating and expanding their line of products as per their consumers’ needs. The platform has an online presence. They retail across all online sites like Amazon, Snapdeal, Flipkart and others. They plan to go omni-channel in the near future. The team also plans to add new products to their portfolio.


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