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Business Incubators: The Morpheus (Part 3)

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 27th 2010

By guest authors Praveen Karoshi and Prashant Sachdev

Prashant: Ok, let’s get into what kind of entrepreneurs and businesses excite you. At what stage would you suggest companies apply for your incubation program?

Nandini: Our sweet spot, as mentioned earlier, is from the idea stage up to 12 to 18 months into operations. We have worked with teams to help conceptualize their idea, validate their product, build a prototype, increase their customer base, figure out their revenue model, work towards becoming fundable, and so on.

Prashant: Describe the ideal company that would benefit from your incubator.

Nandini: First-time entrepreneurs, bootstrappers – teams who can achieve a lot with less capital – a business that will scale to over $20 million to $25 million, product companies; these are all good candidates.

Prashant: Interesting to see that first-time entrepreneurs are included. How many companies have been incubated to date?

Nandini: We started in 2008 and have about two batches a year. We have around 27 companies in our portfolio now. In the past twelve months, we have added around 17 companies.

Prashant: What kind of experience do you look for in founders and founding teams?

Nandini: A founding team that has a “never say die” attitude. [We look for teams that] are open to dialogue, advice, and changing their idea or model as required. A team that is passionate to deliver true value to its customers. Closely important is for the core team to have the required domain knowledge of their business.

Prashant: What are the core benefits to entrepreneurs joining your business accelerator program (BAP)?

Nandini: There are many benefits:

  • Working with you as a limited co-founder that is experienced and well connected.
  • Mentoring and hands-on participation across different functions such as product design, technology, operations, marketing, sales, fund raising, team building, finance, and so on.
  • Learning gained from the experience of working with our portfolio of startups and watching them grow, falter, and grow.
  • Access to The Morpheus’s existing (and growing) business relationships and contacts in India, Silicon Valley, and other parts of the world.
  • Access to the ever-growing community The Morpheus’s portfolio entrepreneurs (40 as of now).
  • Benefiting from our passion for, love of, and commitment to early-stage startups.

Prashant: Based on your experience, what has been the most important benefit?

Nandini: If you talk about our core strength, it’s hands-on mentoring to provide value as we involve ourselves as limited co-founders.

Prashant: Can you share some stories to elaborate on the benefits?

Nandini: Robots Alive and Interviewstreet are two companies that changed their models completely when their original strategies didn’t work.

Robots Alive changed its target area from robots to aid education to industrial manufacturing, while Interviewstreet changed its model from being an education platform to helping companies filter and recruit the right candidates.

Aditya of Radbox had a completely different idea when he started interactions with The Morpheus, but he has recently launched Radbox, a utility tool that helps people bookmark videos and watch them later – something conceptualized and built with our support.

These examples suggest that entrepreneurs need to be very open and flexible to trying ideas when things don’t work the way they planned. Mentors and advisors are very helpful in such situations, and partners at The Morpheus acting as limited co-founders are great assets to help you revive your plans as they have done with Robots Alive and Radbox.

Prashant: Is there anything specific that makes your incubator different the others?

Nandini: The partners at The Morpheus do this as their full-time job; it’s not philanthropic. Unlike other incubators, our value does not lie in physical space and infrastructure. What sets us apart is the real-time value we can provide to our portfolio, our informal approach, and the strong Morpheus community.

Suyash Trivedi, founder of Adscoot (now inactive) shared insights on what happens at The Morpheus. There is one common e-mail list set up for everyone that includes current and past founders incubated at The Morpheus. Entrepreneurs e-mail this list to share experiences, to warn other co-founders of similar mistakes, or to raise some doubt or ask questions about technology, customer acquisition, operations, and so on. This helps many of them to avoid similar mistakes and leverage the combined experience of all founders in the community. This seems to be a big advantage of being part of The Morpheus community.

Prashant: Let’s get into how you find these entrepreneurs. From where do you receive applications?

Nandini: In no particular order, we get them through direct online contact, word of mouth, portfolio or mentor references, The Morpheus’s interactions with entrepreneur cells at colleges, media coverage, our social media presence, and partner or Morpheus blogs.

Prashant: Out of those, which are your best sources and why?

Nandini: Based on our experience, applications through the website (35%) and a combination of word of mouth and social media presence (55%) have helped us connect to most entrepreneurs.

Prashant: On average, from all sources, how many pitches do you receive a month? How many pitches would you like to receive?

Nandini: We have received 200 pitches in the past 12 months. We are happy with the number of pitches, as it’s directly proportional to how much our word is spread when we open applications for a batch.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Business Incubators: The Morpheus
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