Building a E-cell Network For the Colleges Across Pune

Pune is a unique city that has the best ecosystem for building startups. The city has the most numbers of students, its an industrial hub giving a best B2B perspective to the startups and making it easy to reach out to the business and showcase their product, and the most biggest advantage is the proximity to Mumbai which is just 3hrs drive from the city.

The city has not gained a lot of traction in the startup environment  despite of having such a great ecosystem.

The reason is being the students in the city are not participating as they need to. That doesn't mean they don't have the passion and motivation to get out there and show the world what they are really capable of but they lack the ability to implement what they actually think  and doubts about the  financial security in starting and scaling a startup.

As a student i went on a  hunt to find the want to be entrepreneurs in our college while most of them showed  the desire to be an entrepreneur and told me a lot of ideas and product they would like to build. What they didn't know was the first step towards what they think could be a reality.

Students don't know how to build a MVP, they don't know the cheap resources that are available today like servers, domains, mentor-ship etc. And most important of all is finding co-founders and building team by brainstorming their plans.

What i believe is to build an ecosystem for start ups its very important that student are made aware of all these facts and resources available today for them to use.

Most of the colleges in Pune do not have a E-cell(Entrepreneurs Cell). It should be mandatory that every college should have a ecell so that we can have weekly meetups, sharing of ideas, hackathlon's to find co-founders and build teams, stage for building initial traction and also getting quick feedback's.

Its very important to build a stronger ecosystem, we as a open source community can make sure to build a platform for these e-cells to evolve and grow. Asking each and every college in the city to setup e-cell show be the first step towards this goal. The next step would be o connect all these e-cell to a platform that helps them get first hand exposure to all the members of the platform and also help them get some seed funding to scale.

Setting up an ecell must be the simplest task but the students or colleges setting up these ecell should also know what should they do after they have cleared the first road block. There should be a protocol that needs to be created for every ecell. I may no be the best person to write down these protocols as that needs a lots of understanding about the whole process and people should sit down and write the whole rules and procedure of ecells in an open-source community like ours(POCC). But i can specify some usually followed procedures like:

Step1 : Setting up a special room for Ecell members with the campus premises with approval from the college,

Step2 : Marketing the cell is of utmost importance.This can be done by posting on notice boards of each departments or by sending a circular for each class.

Step3 : Organizing a initial Meet where in the students are given first hand knowledge about the importance of the cell and why has it been set up.

Step4 : Deciding a day in a week when the cell will be functioning by seeking approval from all the attendees. 

Step5 : Explaining them the important terms used in the ecells like brainstorming, hackathlons, bootstrapping, pitching, MVP etc.

Step6 : Making them aware of all the resources that are available for them and asking them to make a point to understand the use of those resources like Github, twitter-bootstrap, wire-frames, Lego-bricks raspberry-pi, API's etc.

Step7 : Telling them about organizing a small hackathlon so that they can know people and their ability, strength and weaknesses and accordingly helping them build teams.

Step8 :  A theme should be decided and students should be asked to work on that very cause. They should be asked to use certain api's mandatory.

Step9  : Students should be allowed to discuss for an hour and 3 minute pitch on the idea they are working should be done in front of the audience. 

Step10 : They should be also told to make business plans so they can present the MVP of the idea at the end of the hackathlon.

Step11 : Students should be motivated and the best should be selected.

Steps12 : After the Hackathlons students get aware about the strength and weakness of each and every member in the cell so they can lobby.

Step13 : Students should be asked to build their team to build actual products or continue the current if they think they can scale it to new heights.

Step14 : They should be asked to followup for the next sessions of the ecell as most of the members get pull out and feel they are not meant for the job.

Step15 : The follow up sessions should be all about presenting the ways to use the resources in a very optmized way, or show them keynotes of the best in the domain, or Make them aware about what they need to do next once they are ready with their products.

Step16 : Helping them with reaching out to the people with their products and analyzing the feedback given by them and also help them raise initial seed funds.

 These are some of the steps that can be followed with a college ecells but how it should be followed up totally depends upon the students and faculty groups who handle the cell.

As a community we can start a initiative to ask every college to setup ecells and help them with organizing the resources and people to do so.I would like to be a part of this initiative to make Pune the Startup capital of India and would also like people from our community to create a road-map for the same.

 

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Comment by Abhishek Ballabh on June 10, 2014 at 7:41pm

Interesting article.
Running an Ed-Tech startup and being the founding member of my E-cell at my alma-mater let me share my two cents:

  • Economics of E-cell : All above steps you stated take time, effort & money. Getting money from a college for these activities is really tough (even the Top Tier ones). Best, they may give you space for the event and make students available. But you see this is a recurring event/activity and this would certainly cost for various resources and logistics.How do you bootstrap this?
  • Curicullum, Enforcement & Basics issue: Leave API's, RubyonRails, Python, Business canvas etc. Most of the folks in these very engineering colleges in Pune need to first of all made familiar with basic HTML/JS/CSS and web frameworks. Education is the pre-cursor to any entrepreneurial effort. Onus is on colleges and this should be enforced. e.g. At my Alma-mater we have changed the syllabus to include a course full sem elective on "Innovation & Entrepreneurship" for the whole 12 months. This way enforcement as this it is tied up with marks etc will make sure this reaches to most students. This should be IMHO first baby steps and actions of an e-cell i.e. Educating.
  • All things Business: Lot of times you realise and only when you do a FULL TIME STARTUP that sales, marketing, product management, task management & team building i.e. non-tech skills are maybe the most imp things tech entrepreneurs miss. Nobody teaches these. This should be the pillar aroudn which tech knowledge should be build.
  • Evangelizing Faculty: Finally a framework needs to build for even teachers, profs to participate. This is really difficult but without the support of faculty this will be difficult to pull off.Remember that they are the biggest evangelists among students.
  • Effort & Initiative focus areas: The order of any entrepreneurial efforts is a) Business b) Tech c)Prod/Design d)Growth , building curriculum and e-cell framework on these areas will really help.

I welcome inputs from you and appreciate your thoughts and efforts on this. Keep me posted.

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