The Indian tech ecosystem is having its moment.
There are now 65 Indian unicorns across many sectors, with almost half of them (30) coming in 2021 alone. In addition, Zomato, Nykaa, and Fresh have IPOed, with many Indian founders well on their way to ring the opening bell in Mumbai or New York.
India is now reaching a place where those who remember the ecosystem back in 2009-2010 could have only dreamed of.
In hindsight, this progress was inevitable as a result of the flywheel which began to turn when Flipkart was founded, back in 2007. Each success, directly and indirectly, inspired more. Employees branched out to start their own company, the stigma around failure reduced, and with IPOs, exits, secondaries, and ESOP buybacks, some of the value created was recycled back into the ecosystem in the form of angel investments, venture capital, and more risk-taking.
However, this flywheel is in need of acceleration if India wants to develop a world-leading tech ecosystem. For every startup in India today, there are hundreds more that are yet to be founded that could be making meaningful progress in solving some of India’s most pressing challenges.
Increasing the number of founders in India requires us to reduce the friction and barriers to starting up. As a country with a virtually non-existent social safety net and a still-very-real stigma around failure, increasing “net new entrepreneurship” requires a first-principles approach that will take a lot more than just capital.
We need to build a supportive community — one that makes it easy for talented individuals to start up, or to move on to their next thing if the startup they are working on fails. We need to make it easy to embark on the founder’s journey.
This involves providing would-be founders with a safe, risk-free space where they can explore starting up, validate their ideas, build their abilities as founders, and meet like-minded co-founders, all within a community where everyone is incentivized to help everyone else become successful.
On Deck has built just such an ecosystem. Our communities are designed to support founders and potential founders. We've launched fellowships like ODF for those considering starting up, coupled with ODF Advances to finance personal runway for those who are still exploring.
We also launched ODX, our accelerator, to help those that have conviction in their ideas with capital, talent, and customers. Most importantly, ODX is backed by a community-raised fund so that everyone shares in the upside of each company, creating strong incentives to complement the spirit of service that already exists in our fellows.
Today, we announce the next step of our global expansion: On Deck is officially expanding to support India, bringing all of this and more to the Indian tech ecosystem.
What does this mean?
There are already hundreds of fellows across all On Deck programs participating from India. We've already seen first-hand how incredible the talent is in the country with early fellows who have joined previous cohorts across our programs.
Expanding to India means that On Deck is committing dedicated resources for the growth and success of the Indian tech ecosystem. With this announcement, we are —
- Committing capital to India: This capital is not from a blind pool of large LPs, but from the global On Deck ecosystem. We’re announcing the launch of a dedicated India-focused fund in partnership with Balaji Srinivasan (former CTO, Coinbase, former GP @ a16z). We’re inviting the entire Indian tech ecosystem to co-invest alongside us and Balaji. If you’re long India tech, there’s no better way to participate in the ecosystem’s upside.
- De-risking the founder journey in India for those who are considering starting up. Access Fund donations from angels and other donors in India will be prioritized to support fellows in India, with ODF Advances up to $25,000 provided to cover living expenses for aspiring Indian founders as they explore their ideas and build conviction to start up. We've also partnered with Loop Health, an On Deck company, to provide 1 year of free health insurance and doctor consultations for On Deck founders and early employees.
- Providing a dedicated layer of support to Indian ODX companies, giving founders the best of Silicon Valley and On Deck's global network, as well as local support in India - including access to talent (via OD50) and investors (via our partner investor network in India, including several of the top VCs and angels in India).
- Building India-focused programming and curriculum for fellows who join our communities from India, with fireside chats, workshops, and a lot more, delivered with an India-specific lens. We’re hosting people like Sajith Pai (Investments at Blume Ventures), Shivku Ganesan (CEO, Exotel), Vaibhav Domkundwar (Better Capital), and many more for off-the-record, intimate discussions with our fellows on topics like navigating setting up a Delaware C Corp, managing your investors, validating your idea, figuring out go-to-market and distribution within or from India, to name a few.
Our Founding Fellows
On Deck has invited a handful of individuals that are from India to join our communities as India founding fellows. They embody the values of On Deck, are extremely talented at their craft and are among the most ambitious and generous individuals in our ecosystem. They are:
- Aakrit Vaish - Founder & CEO Haptik (acquired by Reliance Jio)
- Jasminder Singh Gulati - Co-Founder & CEO Nowfloats (acquired by Reliance Jio)
- Miten Sampat - Building CRED, Former CSO at Times Internet
- Vedica Kant - Co-Founder, Keeping Up with India Syndicate + Newsletter
- Aamna Khan - Co-founder & CEO - Binks
- Hrush Bhatt - Founder & CEO, Fincent. Co-Founder, Cleartrip
- Pramod Rao - Co-Founder & CEO, Threado, Former VP Marketing, Zomato
- Raj Sheth - CEO Flydata (exited), Recruiterbox (exited)
Start a startup. Or invest in India.
It's early days for On Deck and India, and I'm thrilled to be leading our expansion in the region. On Deck is the community that I wished I had access to at various points in my life — as a founder, a product leader, and an angel investor. I wrote more about why I joined On Deck a few weeks ago.
On Deck is for the most ambitious and talented founders, investors, and operators in tech – for those that are looking to start and scale companies, join companies, and succeed at their jobs.
- If you’re a founder, apply to be a fellow, and join our public Q&A on Friday
- If you’re an investor and want to be long India-tech, in On Deck's India community fund