Jaarvis Accelerator is an initiative focused on financial technology, IoT and big data analytics startups, providing support and mentorship at each step of initial journey, catalysing their survival and pushing them towards exponential growth
We had a brief interview with the founders to learn more about the Accelerator
1. Tell us about your founders’ background, their entrepreneurial journey and the inception story of Jaarvis Accelerator.
Jaarvis was launched in 2013 by Gabriel Fong and Jaspal Sarai.
Gabriel Fong has over 20 years of extensive investing experience in Asia, including driving management teams and businesses to scale. Between 2006 and 2013, he built and headed the Asia Private Investments Group of Och-Ziff Capital, one of the largest global hedge fund with approximately US$46 billion AUM. Prior to Och-Ziff, Gabriel was with the Morgan Stanley Private Equity Group for 7 years, heading its investing business in SE Asia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Previously, he was with the Merchant Banking Group of Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette (Hong Kong) and the Investment Banking Division of Goldman Sachs (Singapore). Gabriel was also one of the angel investors and until Dec 2014, Executive Chairman of GoGoVan, a leading logistics startup based in Hong Kong. As Executive Chairman, Gabriel drove GoGoVan’s overall strategy, expansion plans and led them through several financing rounds, including a US$6.5m Series A round. Gabriel currently also serves as an advisor and consultant to Och-Ziff Capital and represents the firm on the boards of several portfolio companies, including Technology and Internet companies. He is also a Director of GoGoVan.
Jaspal Sarai has over 20 years of sales and executive management experience, with deep global market development experience in information technology, financial services technology, utility and smart devices. Prior to co-founding Jaarvis, Jaspal was CEO of Symstream Technology for over 5 years, building a global wireless M2M business headquartered in Australia with operations throughout Asia and Europe. Before that, Jaspal spent 8 Years at SingTel Optus in Australia in various management positions. Prior to that, Jaspal also had 6 years of experience in software and automotive sales.
Jaspal has extensive management and operational experience. During his previous tenure, Jaspal inherited a sub-performing business and led a major restructuring of the business to cash-flow breakeven. He drove several initiatives, including rebuilding the technical development team in India, securing new customers and developing new revenue streams.
Both Gabriel and Jaspal came to the same conclusion after running and advising various ventures, that the risk factors for the ventures are very similar and any venture will require support in finance, technology and customer acquisition. Jaarvis was formed with the idea that while the early stage ventures cannot afford such skills on their payroll there should be a shared umbrella that provides them with the necessary advice and know how to reduce their risk from these aspects. The key is to still allow the ventures to be on their own and use their own intuition and intellect to shape the future of that business.
2. What is Jaarvis Accelerator all about? Tell us in detail about the services offered?
Jaarvis Accelerator is all about supporting and guiding the future unicorns. We all understand that the odds are not pretty for any start-up but improving those odds even by 1% is significant where the failure rate is over 90%. Jaarvis Accelerator is purpose built program that includes the physical environment for entrepreneurs to learn from each other and share their successes and failures. We also provide support and mentorship in each aspect of their journey, whether it is the first things as the structure, shareholding and agreements or technology they should be using to build their platform or strategies they should be using to acquire customers.
The program is focused on start-ups proving their concept and having some business traction so that they can raise the required funds and focus on growing their ventures from their own. Once they get to that stage then we can take the training wheels off and let them run with it on their own.
3. Can you tell us about other accelerators in the business? What is it that sets you apart from your competition?
This space is changing very fast and the Accelerators are also startups themselves continuing to evolve. Some Accelerators/Incubators have a different objective to us and they offer different things in their program. There is no wrong or right way, but more about the perspective we take on the current wave of the technology startups.
The Jaarvis Accelerator model is an intensive, hands-on program providing executable pieces to the puzzle, the what and how of the business. We don’t simply invest money or setup meetings with the mentors who may have a general understanding of the marketplace but almost jointly own the plan with the start-ups where we can involve professionals in each discipline to draw out an action plan. It is generally difficult for young ventures to act on advice, as they still need to work out how they will do it, what resources they need and who actually understands the job they need to do. Jaarvis is able to provide these valuable inputs.
4. What is the Business model of Jaarvis Accelerator? Can you briefly summarize the growth achieved from the day 1 till now?
Jaarvis Accelerator does not charge for the program; the program is exchanged for equity. There is sufficient capacity in the Accelerator space to accommodate 20 startups, and to date we have welcomed 15 startups into the program. The first batch of startups has graduated and received initial follow on funding.
5. How has been your beginner’s journey? What were the challenges you faced in setting up and scaling up your enterprise? Any hurdle that you faced or still facing?
We have learned a lot in the past year. The two largest challenges are finding quality startups for the program in the focus areas chosen – currently financial technology, IoT and big data analytics; and secondly finding investors to bridge the gap between angel investors and VC rounds at the growth stage when the startups exit the program.
6. Can you tell us about your other founders/core team, their background and rich experience?
Brett Stevens, Vice President of Jaarvis Accelerator, is an IT and telecommunications industry veteran with over 35 years corporate experience in Australia and Asia at companies including Hewlett Packard and Ericsson. Brett helped establish one of the first Jaarvis ventures, CallFixie, in Australia before turning his attention to the Indian Jaarvis Accelerator operations.
Brett was recently joined by two new senior team members, Anil Chhikara, who was previously CEO of Marco Polo Ventures and founder and president of 24×7 Learning, and Satish Kataria, founder and managing director of Catapooolt, who will act as a consultant to Jaarvis Accelerator for growth into south India.
Jaarvis Accelerator Team
7. How are you funded?
Jaarvis Accelerator is currently funded through a combination of Jaarvis group funding, and investments from private individuals and investment funds.
8. Any other areas or initiatives that you plan to venture in future?
Jaarvis Accelerator has many ideas for future initiatives, including the establishment of a fund to allow Indian investors to participate in the Accelerator funding, and the possible establishment of industry accelerator programs, including a financial technology accelerator in conjunction with a finance industry enterprise.
9. What will Jaarvis Accelerator look like in 10 years from now? All perspectives – people, business, revenues, team, size or anything you foresee for the venture.
Peering into the crystal ball, in 10 years Jaarvis Accelerator will probably resemble a VC fund, but with a much more hands on approach to investments. The portfolio will consist of between 150 and 200 startups, and will include several very large successful startups, perhaps even a unicorn.
Despite growing in size and scale, Jaarvis Accelerator will maintain its nimble startup culture, and will run using a lean startup model with only a few key staff, and a large pool of experienced external mentors.
10. Any school / campus-connect initiatives that you are pursuing or plan to pursue?
Jaarvis Accelerator maintains close contacts with several schools including FMS at University of Delhi, and Chitkara University in Chandigarh, and continues to expand its school program through e-cells. Recently discussions have been held with IIT and IIM schools to encourage entrepreneurship and search for early stage technology startups from their cohorts.
11. Any experience or advice you would like to share with soon to be start-up founders out there?
Startups are hard work, but are also fun and hugely rewarding. Stay true to your vision, fuel your passion, and ask for advice from everyone you meet. Ask questions, and be ready to take feedback and input from experienced mentors to help you on your journey. Find a good accelerator like Jaarvis to move you forward quickly at an early stage.
Jaarvis is surely a golden aim in its domain. We wish a good luck to the team in their endeavour!