Huddle Kerala: Investors see Kerala as a fertile market for startup investments

The two-day ‘Huddle Kerala’, a leading brainstorming event for startups, innovators and technology companies in Asia, wound up at Kovalam here today with investors showing robust faith in Kerala’s technological advancements and promising to invest in its fledgeling enterprises besides offering mentorships.

Twelve investors, 40 startups from outside Kerala and 120 mentors participated in the inaugural edition of the conclave, organized by the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) in association with Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IAMAI Startup Foundation. The event also attracted some High Network Individuals (HNIs) who showed their keenness to tap the potential of Kerala’s startup ecosystem.

Mr Anil Joshi, Founder and Managing Partner, Unicorn India Ventures, one of the prime investors in Kerala Startups, said they have already invested in four companies and would be investing in two more startups ‘very soon’.

 “I can’t say much about it but we will be investing in two more companies soon,” he added.

Pointing out that their association with Kerala startup ecosystem is getting deeper with every passing day, he said, “We started with one company and today we have four companies.”

Mr Manoj Kumar Agarwal, CEO and Co-founder, Sea Fund, said his company would also be investing in the Kerala-based startups. “One of our prime focus areas is Kerala market and we are so excited by the kind of work going on in here, especially in the field of technology. What is important for Kerala is to move outside and get into new markets. That’s where we have decided to help them. When it comes to investment, local investments have to happen. We will help them in this regard too. Money is one part of it. But our main focus is to help them by way of mentoring and coaching,” he said.

Mr Agarwal said his company would be investing in the sectors like healthcare, real estate, operation automation, and robotics.

Ms Dianne Dain, Head, United Nations Technology Innovation Lab (UNTIL) who was the chief guest at the valedictory session, said the organization is planning to collaborate with the Kerala government and KSUM for resolving various issues.

Kerala IT Secretary Shri M Sivasankar said the government had envisaged a larger event next year with the participation of more number of startups, experts and other stakeholders.

Mr Jithendra Singh Minhas, CEO of Internet and Mobile Association of India Startup Foundation, Kerala’s favourable environment for the startup ecosystem and the government support were chiefly responsible for the conduct of an event like Huddle Kerala.

Earlier on Friday, Chief Minister Shri Pinarayi Vijayan, while inaugurating the event, said Huddle Kerala is expected to become a benchmark event for startups across the world.  “The event will provide an opportunity for startups across the state have a close interaction with founders of international startups and technology experts. The aim is to create a fund for startups coming up in the state with a corpus of over Rs 500 crore in the next three years,” he added.

A major event of the conclave was the announcement by global IT networking major Cisco that it would launch an incubator for startups at the Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, Kerala (IITM-K) in association with the NASSCOM Foundation.

Cisco India chief Harish Krishnan said the ‘thingQbator’ to be set up in the state will be the first of its kind in the country and three more are planned in other states. It will focus on startups to nurture and develop ideas in the domain of Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain technology, among other things.

The state government also announced a Kerala Innovation Challenge (KIC) to find solutions to socially relevant problems. As part of it, the state would host global think tank Singularity University’s (SU) India Global Impact Challenge (GIC) and has invited applications for innovations and ideas for startups that can have an impact on a billion people over the next ten years.

Out of the 50 startups that pitched their products, 10 were shortlisted and three emerged winners. Clapresearch, Humble Innovations and SignNEXT won the first, second and third place, respectively.

KSUM authorities said all the ten shortlisted startups are being considered by the investors and the ultimate decision would depend upon the quality of the product they come up with.

In the Huddle Kerala Hackathon held during the conclave, startups —  My Visual Passport, My Farm and Smart C — bagged the first, second and third place, respectively.

Rohin Malhotra’s Nimble Labs won a grant of Rs seven lakh in the national level pitching of startups held by the Internet Mobile Association of India (IMAI) in the IoT platform while  Spiqi, the startup by Jai Vikram, and Switch on, a company of Anirudha Banerjee, bagged the second and third prize, respectively.

More than 1,300 delegates and 600 startups participated in the ‘Huddle Kerala’, one of the largest congregations of its kind in Asia. The event was held close on the heels of Global Digit


Summit #FUTURE, which turned out to be a huge success.

In the beachside huddle, an interactive session held on Thursday, 10 founder talks, 20 tech talks and 150 one-on-one networking meetings with investors and mentors were held.

World’s leading location-based marketing specialist Posterscope and mobile app builder Zoho Corporation were the sponsors of the event.

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