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India gets its own student start-up VC, gradCapital

Sangeetha Chengappa | | Updated on: May 26, 2021
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Graduates from BITS, IIM-A launch $1-mn fund to invest in start-ups founded by college students

Bengaluru-based gradCapital has launched a pan-India, student-focused VC fund designed to help college graduates grow their ideas into businesses.

gradCapital will invest $25,000 in each of the 20 start-ups they select over the next year. gradCapital is also being supported by CIIE.CO - The Innovation Continuum, based out of IIM Ahmedabad.

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gradCapital will host an eight-week, intensive programme for companies founded and run by college students. The program will provide a layout conducive to the context of students to make sure they are all set to raise their subsequent funding rounds. Apart from building a strong and sustainable structure for their company, these young entrepreneurs will leave with countless tools, crucial knowledge, a network of peers, mentors and investors, and funding of $25,000.

With the aim to bring out next-gen unicorns started by founders out of colleges, the eight-week programme will feature weekly keynotes, 1:1 mentorship, office hours with experts and, in the end, an investor-focused demo day. gradCapital plans to invest in 100 start-ups in the next three years.

Built and run by Abhishek Sethi and Prateek Behera, both graduates from IIM-A and BITS Pilani, respectively, gradCapital has now opened up the application process for its first cohort of start-ups.

“We genuinely believe in academic spaces. Think historically, major societal transformations have emerged from university campuses. The LGBTQ+ movement, the microprocessor that runs our phones, or immunotherapy for cancer — all have their roots in just one college campus. Students have been at the origin of these radical ideas. And our vision is to cultivate these academic spaces. Entrepreneurship is a way to bring such strong ideas to life and create value for society. We are betting on such ideas. With this mission, we help students build the companies of the future,” said Abhishek Sethi, co-founder at gradCapital.

While conceptualising the idea of gradCapital, Abhishek and Prateek successfully ran a pilot to test their hypothesis and ended up with a thriving cohort of eight companies, including KiranaKart, Humit, Codedamn, Valerio Electric, and Neuralastic, many of which have raised funding successfully.

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“There is tremendous value waiting to be unlocked by students from Science, Commerce, Arts, and Engineering colleges. VCs do not take these bets because it doesn’t fit their risk profile. Students even feel disconnected from them — think about a quantum computer or a social music app. These companies often are missed by larger VCs due to a gap in the understanding of emerging technologies, millennial consumers or new kinds of economies. Ours is a sector-agnostic, student-friendly VC fund,” Prateek Behera, co-founder at gradCapital told BusinessLine .

In order to identify start-ups, gradCapital has hired 15 associates across 10 campuses in the country to help identify student ideas, products, or PoCs and plan to hire more over the next few months. They have also partnered with student communities across campuses to scout for the best talent out there.

Published on May 26, 2021

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