Activating Startups to Disrupt Education in India

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Unitus Ventures and Sylvant Launch “StartEdu” Startup Competition

Rs. 10 lakhs cash, expert mentoring, and up to 3 crore in investments to be distributed to winners of two startup competitions in 2015, starting on March 27th

16 December, 2014 – Bangalore. Today Unitus Ventures and Sylvant announced the StartEdu Competition, a nationwide program looking to identify, mentor, incubate, and ultimately invest in the most promising early-stage education startups that are serving India’s masses – the 20 crore families living on under 20,000 rupees per month. StartEdu includes two nationwide education-sector startup competitions in 2015, with cash prizes and mentoring for the winners of each, and gives the first and second place winners of each competition the opportunity to pitch for an up to one crore seed investment from Unitus Ventures. Participants for the competition will be selected by incubators participating in Unitus’ previously announced Incubator Accelerator Program, which is made possible in part through a global development agreement with USAID. Education-focused accelerator Sylvant is a co-convener of the competition, a preferred provider of expert mentoring and incubation services for participants in the competition, and is a founding member of Unitus’ Incubator Accelerator Program.StartEdu-Competition


“We’re incredibly excited about the growth and profitability we’re seeing in for-profit education startups that are serving the masses in India today,” said Will Poole, managing partner at Unitus Ventures. “However, despite the phenomenal consumer demand, not enough new entrepreneurs are capitalizing on this Rs. 6 lakh crore (USD $100 billion) market opportunity. To trigger momentum, we are partnering with some of India’s best incubators to identify, support and develop new companies in this rapidly growing market.”
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“India is at a unique point in human history with an extraordinary size & proportion of youth,” added Anand Sudarshan, Founder & Director at Sylvant Advisors. “We are seeking the best of entrepreneurial energy & commitment to participate in this opportunity. Given the complexities & challenges of the education sector in India, we believe these entrepreneurs would benefitsignificantly from our experience & mentoring. We are delighted to partner with Unitus Ventures in this effort.”

Unitus Ventures has already invested in 4 education companies: Hippocampus Learning Centres, iSTAR, Curiositi, and Cue Learn. Hippocampus and iSTAR are more advanced, serving over 10,000 students between them this academic year. Curiosity and Cue Learn are earlier-stage, with significant growth expected in 2015. Sylvant has incubated and advised education companies including LodeStar, Guru-G, Littlemore Innovation Labs, and others.

Two Nationwide Education Competitions in 2015

To attract the best emerging education entrepreneurs in India, Unitus and Sylvant have committed funds and mentoring support for two nationwide competitions in 2015. The first will be held in March 2015.

  • Applications will only be accepted from established startup companies working with partners in Unitus’ Incubator Acceleration Program. Partners in addition to Sylvant will be announced in early January 2015.
  • Each incubator partner will nominate two startups; Unitus will select the top 5 to compete.
  • Startups will compete via business plan submissions, online pitches, and live Q&A sessions on 27th of March, 2015.
  • The winner will receive a “technical assistance” matching grant of Rs. 5 lakh, cash, to help them further develop their business.
  • The winner will also be provided with three mentoring sessions with Unitus Ventures partners Srikanth Iyer (formerly CEO of Pearson India, founder HomeLane), or Will Poole (chairman of NComputing, co-founder VidyaNext), or with Sylvant partners Madan Padaki (co-founder MeritTrac, Co-founder& CEO of Head Held High), or Anand Sudarshan (founder Sylvant Advisors, director at NIIT Limited, and former Vice-Chairman & MD of Manipal Global Education Services), all with deep expertise in different aspects of the Indian for-profit education ecosystem.
  • Each competition winner and runner-up will have the opportunity to pitch their business opportunity to Unitus Ventures partners in Bangalore for a potential Rs. 1 crore seed equity investment. Unitus has reserved up to Rs. 3 crore to invest in competition winners in 2015.

The second competition date for later in 2015 is to still be announced.

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About Unitus Ventures

Unitus Ventures is the leading venture seed fund supporting startups innovating for the masses in India. Unitus invests in healthcare, education, mobile commerce & value-added services, marketplaces & e-commerce, retail & distribution, agriculture, and water & energy sectors. Founded in 2012, Unitus Ventures is part of the Unitus Group, a premier financial services group operating in India and other emerging markets since 2000. Unitus Ventures is based in Bangalore and Seattle.

About Sylvant

Sylvant Advisors works with entrepreneurs and early stage companies to accelerate their growth. Beginning with critical investment or fund raising effort, drafting business strategies, providing operational support and being a part of an entire growth lifecycle are the key levers to accelerate the growth of these entrepreneurial ventures. Sylvant is based in Bangalore.

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