Student start-up culture brewing at IIITD! Elated to be involved in some.

It is close to 5 years (in July 2014) since I moved to IIIT Delhi; many of you would have seen me refer to IIITD as a startup, which is gaining momentum as we move forward. The thing I want to highlight through this blog is the new dimension to this gaining momentum – student start-up culture at IIITD. You have seen me blog about “The Art of The Start” by Guy Kawasaki, talk about issues / challenges / fun related to start-ups. I will also co-organize Innovate Delhi Entrepreneurship Academy in collaboration with Stanford Business School in June 2014. My growing interest in technology-based start-ups is quite evident from all of these. There are many attempts in IIITD, but, I am going to highlight the three very exciting student start-ups / attempts that I am part of. If you have any suggestions / feedback, etc., please feel free to send it my way. For now, I am interested in seeing as many sincere attempts as possible, and I am keen on playing the Faculty Advisor role in such cool attempts. Below are the 3 ideas (arranged in no particular order):

Backpack is a gamified learning management system. It is amazing to see how Apoorv Narang and his team have taken the idea about building a system that will improve or enhance learning and student engagements. This idea is a fall out from the course Designing Human Centered Systems (4 credits, taught in Fall 2012) that Apoorv took with me. Apoorv is doing Backpack for 16 credits of BTP 🙂 but, the work that he has put in is far beyond this! During one of my conversations with Apoorv, he said that “I am not thinking of Backpack as a BTP, and that is why I think, it has grown or come-up the way it is.” I am always amazed with students and their unique perspectives and there is so much to learn from them. Currently, Backpack also has Apoorv Singh, and Jayasi Mehar spending  time on it with Gitanshu Sardana developing the Android app for it. There is a Windows Phone app in the works too. During the process of making it big, Prof. Vinayak Naik also got excited about it and he is also spending his valuable time in helping Backpack go beyond IIITD. In Fall 2013, there were 21 courses fully managed on Backpack, and there are 33 courses fully being managed during this Spring 2014 semester. We have about 832 unique users (students, faculty, and some alums), out of which more than half of the users login to the service every day. Apoorv says, “My day is made when I see students in campus having 10+ tabs open in a browser, one IIITD mail, one Facebook and one Backpack.” The Backpack phone Android App has 215 active users with 270 total installs from Play Store. Number of users logging into the system is very much dependent on the activities in the course; on average, we have seen 600 unique users logging into the system every week. Some media / blog coverage: 1776.com

Find A Way: An NGO with the focus on helping other NGOs through technology. This is the first registered Student-Led NGO of IIITD. Students  involved in this NGO are light-hearted, want to see the world around them change a bit in terms of improving the life of challenged (both in terms of physical and monetary) citizens. The main focus is on how technology can help NGOs in the country, in whatever means that they would like to be helped. Some ideas being explored are: creating an infrastructure / framework by which all of them (NGOs) can have a website (and helping them build it too); technology / infrastructure to crowd source funds for activities of NGOs; etc. There are many cool ideas that we are pursuing. To start spreading the word about FAW, we created Find  A Way Card which helps the card bearers to get  discounts in some restaurants in Delhi / NCR; the main intent for this project was to spread the word about our existence. FAW has raised REAL money which was given to help education of 4 students at Child and Women Care Society (CWCS) for a year. The spark in the eyes of FAWers evidently shows that these activities are giving them great pleasure and satisfaction. The traction that FAW has gotten among various stakeholders is amazing; external people interested in helping, students interested in being part of it, etc. Our hope is to make FAW a national name in terms of helping NGOs through technology. There are other interesting projects that FAWers are involved in, stay tuned for more details! Lead students from IIITD (arranged in alphabetical order of last name): Anisha Agrawal, Megha Arora, Kashish Chawla, Anchita Goel, Shashank Gautam, Ananya Harsh, Gurshabad Singh Grover, Rohan Katyal, Apoorv Narang (Yes, it is the same Apoorv Narang from Backpack!), Varnika Singh, Aakriti Tayal. Students from other institutes are also involved in this venture, Gunjan Dewan (JMC), Akash Mishra (Jaypee), Archit Srivastava (NIT). Some media / news coverage: IIITD Homepage NewsUniversity Express.

Wizters Most of us are on Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc., the idea that Apoorv Saini had, was to have a social network that is anonymous where users can share anything with people involved in their daily life, nearby areas and their friends. Apoorv has been working on Wizters for the past 2 years. We recently sold the idea to a company and received REAL money. Apoorv is one of the dedicated students of IIITD community, and probably lives Wizters, in the real sense. Wizters is also a BTP by Apoorv.  In total, we have 1856 unique users on Wizters and 330 Universities have their networks here. Wizters was accessed about 12,000 times in the last one year. Other student who has helped Wizters in the past is Utkarsha Bhardwaj. Some media / news coverage: NextBigWhat, StartupFreak, TheTechPanda.

Aren’t these something worth being proud of as a Faculty Advisor? All students who are involved in the above ventures are extremely dedicated, and sincere towards what they are doing. I am extremely thankful and fortunate to have such students work with me and students interested in conquering their Start-up thoughts reaching out to me for inputs / advise.
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Professor @ IIIT Hyderabad http://precog.iiit.ac.in