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Should you join the Low Carbon Technology Accelerator?

This week we announced the call for applications for the next cohort of the Low Carbon Technology Accelerator. While the first accelerator was focused on only 3 verticals: pumps, space cooling and waste heat recovery, for the current program we have expanded the scope of the acceleration program to include all low-carbon technologies. See below:

We are looking for innovators and entrepreneurs to apply from across the country, no start-up is too early or too big to apply. What we are looking for are entrepreneurs and innovators who are looking to get things done and join the cohort to build long-term relationships with like-minded peers and mentors who stay with them beyond the program on their entrepreneurial journey. Let me explain.

From 2014 to 2017, UNIDO in partnership with the Ministry of MSME ran the Global Cleantech Innovation Program (GCIP) which brought together a group of cleantech entrepreneurs and mentors from across 45 Indian cities and has resulted in some long-lasting relationships and comraderies that are very much alive today! The same spirit of wanting to build a national cleantech community was brought forward in the currently running Facility for Low Carbon Technology Deployment (FLCTD) Challenge by UNIDO which provides pilot grant assistance to innovators to take their technologies to market. The Challenge assists innovators with a critical chasm in their journey – technology validation with an industry partner or customer. I have had the opportunity to be a mentor and Sangam Ventures has invested in start-ups from these programs. When the FLCTD team wanted to do an acceleration program for start-ups that they found exciting but required mentorship before they were ready for the FLCTD Challenge, commercialization and fundraising, we jumped at the opportunity.

The first accelerator that we ran this year brought together some of the mentors from the GCIP gang and some new mentors including entrepreneurs who graduated from the GCIP and FLCTD program from across the country to work with 15 amazing start-ups and academic innovators working on Low-Carbon Technologies. Based on our experience within the program, I am sharing some of our learnings and recommendations for clean technology start-ups (and their mentors):

Make sure you know your GHG impact

If you are developing a low-carbon technology, it is imperative that you have a thorough understanding of the GHG impact of your innovation - this is the essence of what makes you a cleantech entrepreneur. This is not a qualitative exercise, but an exercise done with clear science and math. You may not be accurate or have all the answers, but you must know it to the best of your abilities. This includes understanding some of the negative externalities that come with your technology. This lack of strong understanding of GHG impact by the innovation community (including us), is one of the biggest issues holding back the growth of the sector! Every start-up/entrepreneur/innovator that graduates out of our acceleration program must understand their GHG impact.

Develop an aptitude for business or commercialization

If you are an entrepreneur, you don’t need to do ______ but you do need to understand and be able to analyze _____ enough to make sound decisions. Fill in the blanks – customer development, product development, market research, financial management or modeling, unit economics, GHG impact analysis… – as an entrepreneur or innovator you need to get your hands dirty and own the output and outcome, seek help or mentorship if you need guidance, delegate or outsource if you can afford it but understand the how? the what? and the why? of doing these exercises. Market research is an exercise for you to understand your addressable customer segments, your competition and your positioning in the market, not a google search and large number that you put on a slide to impress investors. Everyone in the cohort who dug deep and understood the exercise at hand and were vested in the result came out a lot more satisfied and confident about their prospects and what they needed to do.

If you are an entrepreneur, you need to sell; you can delegate everything else!

As an entrepreneur you are the one that holds the vision of your start-up and you are the #1 Salesperson for your product (to customers or corporates that you wish to license the technology if you are an innovator) and start-up (to investors and potential employees). Learn sales, entrepreneurial sales is hard and it is important that you actively work on improving your sales and pitching skills. It is a very structured process and a lot of it involves researching, asking questions and listening! As an entrepreneur, your goal is get to Revenues and in a meaningful time-frame. If a start-up doesn’t learn how to sell in its first two to three years, it will very likely never do so. You can read more about that from entrepreneurship professor, Waverly Deutsch here or if you are in the TLDR category listen to her below.

In conclusion, do things because it makes you a better entrepreneur and a stronger business! Don’t join an accelerator to add more tombstones of awards and affiliations to your website or marketing material. Join an acceleration program if you are looking to dig deeper and get that fundraise plan or GHG impact analysis done that you have been putting off due to the day-to-day priorities of entrepreneurial life. Join our acceleration program or incubator if you are looking to be part of and contribute to a community of like-minded professionals. Quoting Rene Van Berkel of UNIDO from his address on the launch of our first accelerator “UNIDO stands for U & I DO” and that is our mission for the acceleration program. We are here to celebrate and support you, the entrepreneurs, the makers and the Doers’.

We are hosting our first "Ask Me Anything session" on June 15th, 2020 4:00 pm to 4:40 pm, where I will be joined by Sandeep Tandon, the National Program Manager for Low Carbon Technology Deployment @UNIDO.

Please join us by registering here: Registration!

A special shout out to UNIDO and Start-up India for being awesome committed partners. I am excited by the prospect of building a national cleantech acceleration program and the community of startups, mentors and other eco-system partners that will come together in the future! I hope that you will join us. Here is the link again to apply!

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