Encouraging Peer Mentoring Among Startups in India

Today I want to talk about how Microsoft Ventures India is fostering a system of peer mentoring through our growing ranks of alumni. This phenomenon – startups-helping-startups – goes a long way towards creating a diverse, dynamic, and healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem.

As we graduate another cohort of startups from our Microsoft Ventures India Accelerator, I marvel at how much we've grown in the past few years. Our growth isn't measured solely by our growing pool of alumni startups, it's also reflected in our own learnings and the impact we make on the startup environment.

Here in India, our Accelerator Program has seen startups in such diverse fields as live music, gaming, data security, healthcare, and more. The environment at Microsoft Ventures has provided an ideal ground for these eclectic startups to interact with each other. Through peer mentoring and sharing of ideas, these startups can explore value-added dimensions outside their areas of expertise that they might not have considered otherwise.

This rich environment builds upon itself as it grows; with new start-ups come new value-adds, new dimensions to be explored, and an increase in the collective energy of the group.

Though in the past we've always maintained a strong relationship with each startup that graduates from the Accelerator Program, recently we've taken this level of engagement even further. Our alumni are physically present at MV events, workshops, and activities.

At Microsoft Ventures India we constantly explore the balance between using our own resources to aid in a startup's growth processes and between curating an ideal environment for startups to grow by themselves. By bringing back program alumni to collaborate and share ideas, it allows us to nurture that ideal environment without intervening in a startup's natural growth.

This peer-mentoring system has helped to create a virtuous cycle – once alumni complete their initial 4 months in the Accelerator, they continue to receive support through our alumni program, and have come back to offer their own services and expertise. Companies such as Explara, NowFloats, and HealthifyMe have come back to conduct masterclasses in their areas of expertise. HealthifyMe kicked off their session with a workshop on building a world class product, while Explara took startups through useful practices of marketing analytics. Returning alumni get visibility and establish themselves as experts within their respective fields.

Through these masterclasses, we've been given the opportunity to test the idea of self-sustenance by building a tight-knit support system out on a small scale. Using the support provided by our alumni, the quality of startups can be raised by the sharing of knowledge and information.

However, as Microsoft Ventures we wish to contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole, not just our own alumni. We want to help build a community that collectively supports each other to achieve its full potential – which is why our Think Next initiative is so important. A semi-annual meeting of startups and thought leaders hosted by Microsoft Ventures, Think Next is designed to facilitate networking and communication so we can all create a healthy, thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.

We just concluded the latest Think Next last week. In the next several days, we will be posting a recap of the discussion and photos to the Think Next India page here. To get notified on when the content goes or learn how you can be part of the future Think Next discussions, follow us @MSFTVenturesIND.