The City Beautiful, Chandigarh, remains in the news for its cleanliness, strict cops, world-class infrastructure and Punjabi songs. Now it is fast becoming a destination city for startups. Some of the new startups have already caught the imagination of investors and customers alike. Chandigarh-based, Jugnoo, has become the Uber of auto-rickshaws, and Bulbul provides on-demand beauty services.
At this ripe juncture, Startup Accelerator Chamber of Commerce (SACC) has launched itself as a startup incubator and accelerator. It aims to provide mentorship and resources to startups without expecting any equity in exchange. SAAC has been formed by enthusiastic entrepreneurs who are passionate about helping startups. The core team is experienced, dynamic, and its band of members is specialized in diverse areas of business. SAAC was officially inaugurated in July, 2014.
SACC Co-founder Sumeer Walia says, “We do not take any equity, rather we open up the channels for the startups to meet potential investors within our pool. Basically, SACC is like a traffic cop for the entrepreneurs – guiding them in the directions, and even match making. It is both an educator and knowledge provider for aspiring entrepreneurs.”
Sumeer is an entrepreneur, former Bollywood photo journalist, and the Founder & CEO of his passion-driven venture – Cruise Rover. Before joining SACC, Sumeer served in the global entrepreneurial organization, TIE (The Indus entrepreneurs), Chandigarh Chapter, as its Executive Director for nearly three years.
One of the major ways in which SACC is associating with the startups is through the Startup Weekend program. SACC has conducted six Startup Weekends in Punjab, in just 11 months – the highlight event being the Startup Weekend for Women, where over 65 prospective women entrepreneurs participated and presented their business ideas.
SACC wants to help startups that are serious about building businesses in any domain. Of course, most of their startups are from the Punjab region because of their proximity to the local entrepreneur bases. Last year, they helped 15 startups, and this year they are planning to add another 50 startups to their portfolio.
SACC identifies startups through its massive online reach, and business events. They then nurture them- address their problems, find them resources and help them grow. They have a large pool of voluntary mentors with expertise in the areas of marketing, sales, legal, enterprise, product development, and fund raising. SACC also has a steady stream of advisors that come from various parts of the globe. SACC guides aspiring entrepreneurs clinically – in all facets of the startup enterprise – polishing the business idea, customer validation, initial traction, and providing affordable space to work. Once the startup is mature, they introduce them to angel and seed investors.
SACC successfully groomed the education startup, Edurev. It got its first round of funding from a Hong Kong-based investment group called Jaarwis. SACC is aiming to develop a wholesome ecosystem for the startups – where they will be able to connect them with locally available funds as well. SACC also aspires to set up an organized and time-smart screening process for startups.
“One of the key challenges faced by startups in Chandigarh is work-space,” says SACC, President, and entrepreneur, Manipal Dhariwal. His team has set up a physical co-working space at Mohali named Startup in a Box. This co-working space provides state-of-the-art affordable desk-space and infrastructure that is required by startups. “We are developing a like-minded culture for the startups,” adds Manipal Dhariwal, with a smile.
SACC has also established an online university for startups so that they can get easy access to all necessary educational resources.