Kerala govt ties up with Zone Startups for early-stage accelerator programme
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Kerala Startup Mission, the southern state's nodal agency for encouraging startups, has launched an accelerator programme in collaboration with domain expert Zone Startups India.

"Exposure is a key challenge for startups from Kerala," said Saji Gopinath, chief executive officer of Kerala Startup Mission. "We are expecting this accelerator programme to bridge this challenge and ensure that startups attain product-market fit and growth faster."

In a statement, Zone Startups India - a privately-operated accelerator - said that this was the first such initiative by the Kerala government to help startups in the revenue stage attain a right product-market fit through a curated customer validation process.

Early-stage startups beyond the ideation stage and currently assessing product-market fit are eligible to apply, said a Zone Startups India spokesperson. The programme is open to startups from other states as well.

The initiative will be structured as a three-month virtual accelerator programme. It will be a mix of live virtual mentoring sessions and mentors visiting Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi to interact with members of the selected startups.

A week-long residential programme in Bengaluru and Mumbai will also be part of the initiative.

“What startups in such markets have lacked is the exposure to the ecosystems of potential customers, investors and peer entrepreneurs that larger hubs of Mumbai and Bengaluru offer,” Ajay Ramasubramaniam, director at Zone Startups India, stated.

While startups from other states will have to pay a programme fee of Rs 1 lakh, companies from Kerala are eligible for a 90% scholarship from Kerala Startup Mission to attend the programme.

January 18 is the last date for applications. The programme is expected to begin on February 5.

Zone Startups India was set up in 2014 as a joint venture with BSE Institute Ltd - a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bombay Stock Exchange Ltd - and Canada-headqurtered accelerator Ryerson Futures Inc.

It runs one programme each with Bombay Stock Exchange, Barclays, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and Thomson Reuters.

In December, Zone Startups India, non-banking finance company Capital First and and the Department of Science and Technology announced seed funding for three startups founded by women entrepreneurs. These were Periwinkle Technologies Pvt. Ltd, Tactopus Education and Revol Inc.

Last June, Zone Startups launched an early-stage venture capital fund to back software startups with a focus on mobile technology and enterprise tech.

A number of states have been creating nodal agencies to boost startups. The central government had in 2016 launched the Startup India Programme to boost innovation by simplifying compliance and providing funding support.

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