Interview with Matthew Saunders, President Ryerson Futures Inc on Zone Startups India

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Matthew Saunders

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The Zone Startups/India(The Zone/India) is a new, Mumbai-based accelerator for entrepreneurs to fast-track their startups and connect with mentors, customers and investors.  Started by Ryerson Futures Inc, BSEI and in association with Simon Fraser University, this is the first accelerator that provides a bridge between Indian and North American start-ups which is physically present in both countries. Zone Startups/India was inaugurated on 28th February 2014 by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.

The Management team consists of Matthew Saunders, President, Ryerson Futures Inc,  AjayRamasubramaniam, Director–Business Development, and AnkurKhera, Project Manager.

Matthew oversees Ryerson Futures Inc. (RFI), an accelerator for early stage companies connected to the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. RFI, through its seed fund, invests capital into companies with exceptional founding teams, helping them develop and take their products to market through an extensive global network.

We catch up with Matthew Saunders to understand more about the offerings of Zone Startups/India for entrepreneurs. Read on!

Matthew Saunders
Matthew Saunders,President Ryerson Futures Inc

What kind of startups and entrepreneurs is Zone Startups India looking to incubate? Please share your broad selection criteria.

We are looking for mobile and web based companies that can scale massively, and create a viable product in a rapid iteration.

Our focus is on B2B software, mobile and data solutions.   We look for Management/Founders? who have relevant industry and/or technical expertise, with a willingness to build a world-class team who are solely focused on the opportunity

We look for founding teams who have:

1) Demonstrated their passion and their ability to execute

2)Domain expertise

3)Demonstrated the ability to execute at start up speed

4)Complementary skills (business, technical, design)

5)Proprietary or first mover products, backed by intellectual property that have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

6)Companies that solve an expensive problem well

Would like to know on the incubation duration, support entrepreneurs receive during the incubation , any funding support and equity requirements by the Incubator.

We operate a tailored, Founders First program with weekly meetings with all startups to track progress, discuss strategy, make introductions to market, and ensure they are building a model that can rapidly scale.  It is 4 to 12 months long.

Benefits include over $25,000 in-kind support services such as:

  • A customized accelerator program tailored to the milestones we jointly agree upon.
  • Professional services.
  • Dedicated office space.
  • Educational programming.
  • Access to teams of student interns.
  • Access to all programming and advisors both local and international.
  • Potential for investment $50k up to $120k .

The following is a sampling of the perks of being in Zone Startups/India:

1) Work space: Companies receive work space in a communal setting, meeting rooms, and WI-FI service. Additionally we’ve carefully handpicked a collaborative community of entrepreneurs eager to share their experiences and knowledge.

2) Mentorship & Business Development Counseling: During your stay in the Zone/India you will have access to our rich network of advisors and mentors, in India and North America. You will be able to meet them for one-on-one consultations to leverage their experience and vast networks. The program’s unique roster of advisors spans across a variety of relevant sectors, and will continue to grow. You also get access to the Zone/India community by participating in speaker series, networking events and panel discussions.

3) Networking Opportunities: As a member of the Zone/India you will have the opportunity to meet frequently with visiting business people, government representatives, venture capitalists, experts and international delegates. You will occasionally be encouraged to pitch to these visitors. These opportunities to network will likely result in many fruitful relationships.

4) Promotion Opportunities: Companies will have the opportunity to leverage the Zone/India’s media relations and marketing. The media relations team can help craft media pitches around milestones and provide media training.

5) Funding: Companies in the Zone/India will be assisted in identifying a variety of funding options and preparation for investor pitches.

6) Soft Landing to North American Market: The Zone/India is the result of collaboration between the Bombay Stock Exchange, Ryerson University and Ryerson Futures, and Simon Fraser University, with one of the goals being to help Indian companies access the North American market. Experts with experience in the North American market can provide you with advise on a variety of subjects include product customization, legal requirements and managing relationships.

7) Peer-to-Peer Meeting Sessions: During your stay in the Zone/India we will be tracking your progress regularly through a mandatory peer-to-peer mentoring sessions. These sessions allow us to better assist you to achieve your milestones. Regular check-in meetings provide guidance and advice to companies on virtually all matters of business operation. We will monitor your progress to ensure you are receiving the help you need to achieve your milestones.

Participation is free for most startups, but those who have brought in $250K or more, through revenue, grants or investments, are required to join the paid membership program upon entry into the Zone Startups/India, which is calculated on a per-person basis. We do not take any equity from any incubated startups.

Does joining Zone Startups  open doors in Canada and North American market for startups?

Yes.

We are focused on connecting high potential, highly scalable early stage technologies to markets both in India and North America, with partners to help us market and grow the start up ecosystem such as The NASSCOM 10,000 Startups program.  We are also planning other international expansion. Our goal is to be the place to be if you are a startup looking to get connected to international markets.

What are the upcoming things@Zone Startups?

1)      11th April – Amazon Web Services kick-off for Zone/India members

2)      2nd May – BlackBerry Enterprise Day which will focus on BFSI, Healthcare & Retail verticals

3)      31st may and 1st June  – We are hosting the international AngelHackhackathon event

Tell us about the Startups currently incubated in Zone.

We have startups serving many different market needs from retail to payments processing and educational materials.

Blynk: A hospitality software and technology company that specializes in hotel and restaurant apps development to work on Apple devices like iPads, iPhones and iPod Touch.

RetailNav: An Indoor Navigation Technology companyfocussing on providing rich location based analytics and services to retailers, with a vision to create an interactive marketplace that facilitates a wholesome, engaging shopping experience for the consumer.

BOOKStreet: The smartest way to study for your exams.They provide solutions to past exam papers, instantly! They are a slideshare for solved exam papers.

CodeNiti:Building an Online Community for Geeks and offering Hackathons-as-a-Service whereby Programmers, Developers and Geeks come together to solve Real World Enterprise and Social problems across India.

AasaanPay: A pioneering Technology Startup company in the Payment Space, bringing Mobile POS ( M-POS ) end to end solutions .Backed by tech Stars, sufficient funding, Financial ecosystem understanding and an excellent management team. AASAAN means “Easy” and PAY is payments ,thus AasaanPay is determined to simplify payments in India and other emerging markets , and thus having a play in the Overall ” Financial Inclusion ” objectives.

The startups and alumni in DMZ Toronto can be found here. The most successful alumni to date is 500px, who raised $8.8M from Andreessen Horowitz in the fall 2013.

While many accelerators have been starting up in India, there is lot of skepticism around the value they provide. While Zone Startup/India’s plans look fairly promising, their first batch would be a litmus test in terms of acceptance by the best and brightest entrepreneurs looking for acceleration. You can apply for Zone Startups/India here.