Three UC Berkeley students create company to help Indian startups

Aryaman Dalmia/Courtesy

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Three UC Berkeley students founded a company dedicated to connecting startups in India with resources from Silicon Valley, providing mentorship and funding for these new organizations.

Abhinav Kukreja, Anish Prabhu and Aryaman Dalmia launched Moonshot in May 2016. They were brought together by their interest in supporting startups in India, according to Prabhu. Understanding the potential India’s market has, they created this accelerator program to help connect startups in India with interns, mentors and investors.

“A lot of (Indian) companies take U.S. ideas and put an Indian twist on it,” Prahbu said. “(They) try to fit that market and help the people there … and have a social impact.”

One of Moonshot’s main branches is its mentorship program, consisting of about 30 mentors from India and around the world, according to Dalmia. He said Indian startups not only require money but also need people who can give the “right” feedback to improve their companies.

“Think of the tremendous potential (it has) to connect startups with mentors, both Indian and foreign,” Dalmia said. “It gives (Indian startups) a more international perspective, and if it goes (well) in India, then they could go global with other companies around the world.”

Dalmia added that he was inspired by Israel’s connections with U.S. companies. He said Israel does not have many domestic investors, but because of outside investment from the United States, Israeli companies have funding. He said if Israel can do this successfully, India should be able to do it as well.

Another major component of the company is its campus club, which is also called Moonshot. Teams of three to four students are paired together to work with one company to help “professionalize” startups, according to Dalmia. Often, these interns provide graphic design, business or technology support to help reach more audiences and allow the startup founders to work on their product.

“Moonshot will be great for the (Berkeley) community,” said Jeremy Fiance, managing partner of The House Fund, a venture capitalist fund to support student, alumni and faculty startups. “We think this could be a real opportunity to open up resources outside of Silicon Valley — in this case, India — potentially to the Berkeley community as well.”

The final branch of Moonshot is fundraising — it acts as the middleman by connecting startups with investors. Moonshot provides a network to gain investors interested in a similar direction as startups, speeding up the process and removing the chance that a deal will not be solidified when startup founders fly into Silicon Valley, Dalmia said.

During each semester, Moonshot selects a “batch” of startups to work with for four months, according to Prahbu. Some applicants apply through Moonshot’s website, while others network with other companies or the Indian government.

In fall 2016, Moonshot selected six startups to work with, and it plans to work with four to five startups in spring 2017. Dalmia said he hopes to continue growing the company and create a “network pipeline” with other universities to help more startups around the world.

“Moonshot is like shooting for the moon,” Prahbu said. “These daring entrepreneurs are doing something amazing … and it’s all about helping them get there, giving them the resources they (need). Sometimes they need some nudges to help grow and foster it.”

Contact Gibson Chu at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @thegibsonchu.