Most people go to Goa to decelerate. Gourav Jaswal wants to accelerate.
In the year 2000 after the then $1.5 billion internet and media giant Ziff-Davis invested in Jasubhai Digital Media, a company he had grown from one to 150 people, Gourav, 44, moved lock, stock and barrel from Mumbai to Goa. His choice was probably questionable at the best of times, but particularly so, as this was the first time he was ever going to the city.
Gourav had no business plan, no investment, no co-founders.
Over the next decade, he sequentially catalyzed what became a mini-cluster of services companies. These companies were bootstrapped and profitable from inception and continue to thrive. They include ScreenRoot which focuses on digital interaction design; Synapse which specializes in business communication and Visual JuJu that’s focused on multimedia.
Then, in 2014, Gourav decided to set up Prototyze, a startup incubator.
Startups are a hit-driven business – of the thousands of startups that get launched every year, only a small fraction of them succeed in any sense. One way to battle this dynamic is to launch and build not one but multiple startups in parallel – a startup incubator.
Apart from the obvious “derisked” portfolio approach, where the incidental risks are spread over many startups rather than just one, there are also benefits around capital efficiencies, go-to-market acceleration and centralized systems and processes that abstract away common startup failure points.
The most famous startup incubator that operates in India is arguably Rocket Internet, the German-based startup factory, that follows a geo-cloning model – pick a hot startup from an advanced market like the US and build “fast followers” clones of these startups in markets that still haven’t cottoned on to these emerging trends. Rocket’s startups in India include the likes of FoodPanda and Jabong.
Now the general perception is that there hasn’t been any successful startup incubator in India. And the failure of Rocket Internet is indicative of a deeper malaise, one that demonstrates that Indian entrepreneurs cannot “be trusted”. And the last place you’d try to beat the odds and launch a startup incubator in India from is, well, laid back Goa.
It is fairly obvious that such incubators are, in a sense, opportunistic – their key ability is to identify which company can be cloned and where these clones need to be quickly launched. The end-goal is typically an exit through an acquisition – usually to one of the original “hot startups” that the clone was modeled on.
But Prototyze’s philosophy is the exact anti-thesis of this.
Prototyze currently has four operating companies: Mobiefit (a mobile fitness company), HandyTrain (a mobile platform for corporate training), Carryage, a transportation technologies ventures operating under the brand TempoGo, Seynse (pronounced ‘Sense’) a financial technology venture which runs a digital lending platform called Loan Singh.