While setting up a business in manufacturing, Ateet Bajaj realised that he was privileged to be able to borrow money from his family for the same. But this section represented a very small fraction of the society. Today, Bajaj's crowd funding platform Start51 is addressing this very pain point.
"We want to democratise the monetary balance in our country in order to ensure that creativity does not die due to lack of funds," says Bajaj, a management graduate who had previously founded Bajaj Exports, which traded in eight countries including China and the US.
The platform currently focuses on helping students from Tier II colleges to raise funds for their projects. "Most students from engineering colleges make projects in their last year. The idea is to help some of these innovative projects turn into startups," said Bajaj.
However, Start51 does not allow the creator of a campaign to raise more than Rs 5 lakh, which according to Bajaj are enough funds to develop a prototype. The students/campaign creators are screened based on their uniqueness by Bajaj and a team of mentors. The campaign is for 51 days, but the platform plans to reduce this time frame to a month. The users (or donors) are allowed to donate as little as Rs 51, for which they get a reward in return, that in most cases is the product itself or a chance to use its services.
The platform also helps students create videos and handholds them throughout the campaign. According to Bajaj, it's about more than merely providing prospective startups with capital. Start51 has partnered with Open Fuel to help startups to create a business model; and Gujarat Technology Institute to host some of the projects of the students. It claims that it will host at least 10 startups every month.
Interestingly, the platform follows an 'all or nothing' funding policy. For instance, if the campaign targets to raise Rs 2 lakh and raises lesser than that, then all the money is returned to the donors and the campaign is declared unsuccessful. According to Bajaj, the startup may not be able to develop the product/service if it hasn't been able to raise the minimum amount of money it needs, in which case it is best to scrap the campaign altogether.
The platform went live in December 2013, and till date, it has completed six campaigns successfully that raised a total of Rs 12 lakh from 1,200 donors. Start51 charges five per cent of the funds raised as its fee in case of successful campaigns. The founder had spent Rs 30 lakh on setting up the platform, which is compliant to host more than 1,000 projects. Start51 has integrated with Zwitch for its payment gateway.
Here's a look at the seven startups that are currently raising funds through the platform:
Careerkhojj: A career guidance platform that has developed Careertube, which offers videos with expert talk (for more than 256 careers) for helping make career choices. Its target is to raise Rs 2.12 lakh.
AC-DC (Anyone Can Draw Circuit): It has created a do-it-yourself (DIY) kit that helps students design circuits on paper and check if they are error-free. Its target is to raise Rs 1 lakh.
Tekken Force Parkour Academy: The firm is setting up an academy for an art called parkour, which helps in overcoming physical and psychological obstacles. Its target is to raise Rs 2.5 lakh.
Automatic Endoscope Washer: It is an instrument that sterilises an endoscope in ten minutes as opposed to traditional washers that take at least two hours. Its target is to raise Rs 3 lakh.
Leftover: The portal will pick up leftover food from a willing donor and deliver it to the hungry through a network of volunteers (individuals, a group of people, or an NGO). Its target is to raise Rs 80,000.
Design Thinking Enhancer: It is an open source-free tool available for design thinking through self-learning in the form of a DVD. Its target is to raise Rs 1 lakh.
All-Terrain Vehicle: It is designing an all terrain vehicle that will participate in Baja SAE India. Its target is to raise Rs 25,000.