Conquest isn’t your typical startup competition.
It’s based in India, not Silicon Valley. It’s run by students, not a large corporation or VC fund. And it’s been around for almost 10 years now.
After starting out as a business plan competition in 2004 by the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) in Pilani, India, Conquest refined itself over time to find the best and brightest of local startups. In 2007 it opened up to international companies. In 2010 it dumped the focus on business plans altogether so that it can focus on startups with the most innovative ideas (even if they don’t have a clue how to make money yet).
“We’re the first in India to have shifted from a plain business plan model to a startup challenge, so it’s similar to a Y Combinator demo day,” said Suvonil Chatterjee, Conquest’s coordinator and a fourth-year student at BITS Pilani who has been involved with the competition for the past four years.
For this year’s competition, which will be held on September 15 in New Delhi, Conquest dug through thousands of applications to find 50 promising companies. All of those companies received extensive mentoring over the past four months, and the 10 strongest were chosen to compete at next month’s finale, which is expected to have an audience of more than 600 people. The finalists will be competing for the Hottest Startup of India Award, sponsored by Groupon India, and the India Rising Star Award, sponsored by Gandhi Capital.
As part of this year’s competition, Conquest offered around $4,500 (300,000 rupees) of equity-free seed money to all of the finalists, and more than $151,000 (10 million rupees) in incubation opportunities. The finalists will also receive sponsored services, including cloud computing, CRM, and customer support worth around $300,000. Most of the finalists have already received seed funding and are currently seeking their Series A rounds, Chatterjee tells me.
Conquest will host two grand panel discussions with some top Indian entrepreneurs and investors, including Amit Ranjan, cofounder of Slideshare; Ankur Warikoo, CEO of Groupon India; Alok Kejriwal, founder and CEO of Games2Win; Dev Khare of Lightspeed Ventures; and Rajesh Sawhney, founder of the GSF Accelerator and GSF Superangels. Google’s India business development team will also sponsor the best social startup at the competition.
If you’d like to attend the Conquest finale next month, you can get a 50 percent discount off of your ticket with the code “CON13+VB” (move fast, because the discount is limited).
Here are the companies competing at Conquest next month:
A social enterprise service that designs and implements mobile-based loyalty programs that empower underserved communities. By connecting how communities spend towards development rewards — in the areas of safe water, education, healthcare, energy, nutrition, and mobility — it can transform their lives. M.Paani won the Hult Prize in 2011, a $1 million award, and also received support from Water.org and the Clinton Global Initiative.
Provides innovative, safe, and low-cost authentication and verification solutions to the business community in its quest to ensure the integrity of its physical goods. SmartDNA, the company’s technology, addresses primary risk factors such as connivance, tampering, and counterfeiting. It was one of the top 20 innovative technologies for the year 2012 profiled in MIT TR35 Magazine.
A talent engagement platform for companies. HuntShire was named in YourStory.in’s TechSparks 2012 TECH30 Companies, which covered the 30 best emerging tech startups from India. It was also selected to present at India Internet Day 2013.
An online mentoring platform that allows for students, high schools, and education institutions to interact with a vast mentor network across reputable universities in the U.S., Singapore, and Canada to seek personalized mentoring on college admissions and their careers via live video chats. Freshmentors has 150 mentors from universities like MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Yale, Harvard, Georgia Tech, UCLA, Cornell, Columbia, UT Austin, USC and many more.
A mobile social networking platform for the emerging billion. Mobile Harvest has received awards from Shri Montek Singh Ahluwalia for FICCI’s India Innovates 2013, and it was also selected to present at India Internet Day.
A smart decision maker for all the electronics buyers in India. BuyingIQ reports 400,000 monthly visitors and 50 percent month-to-month growth, and it claims to have over 98 percent price data accuracy.
A developer of remote authentication and identity theft protection using voice biometrics. It enables businesses to conduct secure remote transactions over the telephone and Internet. InCights has filed a patent for Semantic Enabled IVR and Linked Data in India. It was also named among the top companies at Economic Times Power of Ideas.
MyPref is a mobile app solving two major customer problems: Where to eat what I want to eat, and what to eat where I go to eat. After launching with support for Indian food in the U.S., it now intends to do the same across cuisines in India. MyPref also presented at the DEMO 2012 Fall conference, which was co-run by VentureBeat .
The world’s first cloud based, social enterprise resource planning platform for the travel and tourism industry. ITraveller aims to automate and integrate travel agents, tour operators, and hotels in the tourism industry.
A provider of cloud-based financial markets analysis for investors and traders. TradersCockpit provides software tools for making informed decisions and for providing quality online financial markets education modules.