IIM Ahmedabad incubator hits first close of Bharat Inclusion Seed Fund

The incubation centre at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, has launched a $25 million (Rs 169 crore) initiative to back social-impact startups looking to harness the next half billion Indians coming onto the internet.

The Bharat Inclusion Initiative project started by the Centre for Innovation, Incubation, and Entrepreneurship will mentor startups over the next three to four years across areas such as financial inclusion, livelihood, education and health, the CIIE said in a press statement.

The project has received an initial pledge of $12.5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Omidyar Network and Tata Trusts.

This amount includes a $5 million commitment for providing support to startups through acceleration programmes, research, workshops and partnerships.

The remaining amount has been earmarked for the Bharat Inclusion Seed Fund, which will invest in seed and pre-Series A startups. The seed fund has marked its initial closing at $7.5 million and aims to make a final close at $15 million by July, the CIIE said.

Omidyar Network, set up by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, said its support to the initiative will help tech entrepreneurs across the pre-incubation, seed and scale-up stages. Omidyar Network provides grants and makes equity investments across sectors.

“India has seen rapid technological transformation in the past few years, resulting in hundreds of millions of first-time users of the internet and other digital platforms," said CV Madhukar, global digital identity initiative lead at Omidyar. “Our support to the seed fund will enable it to back entrepreneurs who are empowering the ‘next half billion’ Indians coming online with cost-effective and privacy-protecting business models."

The CIIE said that all research, knowledge and publications generated under the programme will be openly disseminated. The programme is now inviting startups to apply for support.

The CIIE was founded to support entrepreneurs and turn business ideas into viable businesses models. It partners industry experts, mentors, corporates, IIM-A community and investors to help incubate early-stage startups.

In August 2016, the CIIE invested undisclosed amounts in dental care startup Mobident and Internet of Things healthcare venture Zeolr.

In January 2016, Ahmedabad-based Wimwi Foods Pvt. Ltd, which supplies food ingredients and snacks, secured an undisclosed amount in a seed round of funding led by the CIIE.

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