Rajesh Sawhney, Founder GSF Accelerator

Rajesh Sawhney, GSF Accelerator “We will invest around $25K to $30K for 5-8% equity”

The startup ecosystem in India has gained tremendous momentum over the past few years. Along with startups, its supporting pillars such as accelerators, early stage seed funds and incubators have also been thriving. Latest to join the bandwagon of accelerators is GSF Accelerator, spearheaded by Rajesh Sawhney, former  President, Reliance Entertainment.

The accelerator will provide 12 startups across Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore personalized and intensive mentoring, initial capital and access to global business network and investors. It has backing of Dave McClure, founder of Valley based 500 Startups, Saul Klein, co -founder of TAG and Seedcamp. From India, Naveen Tewari, Avnish Bajaj, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Phani (redBus)  and several others are part of the accelerator. The accelerator aims to invest $ 2 million across 15 startups by the end of this year. To understand more about the program and its planning, we interviewed Sawhney. Edited Excerpts:

How is GSF different from other accelerators in the digital space?

Rajesh Sawhney, Founder GSF Accelerator

GSF accelerator has three major differentiators; first of all, it is India’s first multi city accelerator with presence in three cities (Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore). Secondly, it aims to include best global expertise, know-how, required global exposure of business networks and investment to startups.

We have designed 25 intensive workshops for startups and all of them would be conducted by various global and Indian experts. Everyday startups will have to go through the workshop and each of them would work closely with three member’s team having experience of co-founder level. To provide access to global fund we have partnered with Silicon Valley based 500 startups along with Seedcamp (UK/Europe) and SoftBank. Lastly, the accelerator offers collaborative approach with the digital ecosystem, where sharing of knowledge with startup is immense.

What’s the maximum-minimum initial capital GSF would be offering to start-ups and equity you will be taking for the same?

Our initial fund size for startups is designed on the lines of Y Combinator and 500 startups. We would be investing around $ 25,000 to $ 30,000 in each of the 12 startups for equity in single digit (5-8 % range).

As GSF is slated to fund 12 product oriented technology start-ups by November 2012 – have you shortlisted some start-ups?  What would be the parameters for selection process?

We have been meeting startups from last 6 weeks and shortlisting 10 startups at each location, further we will scan final 4 out of shortlisted 10. By the end of first week of October, we would be announcing 4 startups joining the GSF accelerator.

Parameters would be primarily strong product oriented ideas including passion and capability of the team. GSF Accelerator would focus on mobile, social, Internet, radio and TV. However, we might also fund ideas that don’t belong to the those categories.

Have you discussed or outlined the role of Dave McClure and 500 startups in the accelerator?

Dave McClure is joining us as an investor and advisor and he would be coming India for few days probably in November. He will spend 2 hours with each startup and mentor them on various aspects of business.


[Also, 500Startups is soon launching its India operations and we are expecting a lot more action in the coming days.]

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