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How an incubator-investor platform transformed a dorm startup into a successful company: The Journey

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

First time entrepreneurs generally lack the experience to build business models that are not only scalable, but also profitable in the long run. From the early startup boom of the silicon valley till today, this has been the pattern almost everywhere in the world. However, in the past decade, incubators and accelerators/ investors across the world, have slowly but surely tried to fill this gap. While incubators help early-stage entrepreneurs with mentorship, investors help in accelerating the development through capital.

But the catch for the entrepreneurs has been to find the perfect incubator-investor combination. Incubators to help them shape their business model and the investors to back their business through funding. This is especially difficult in the social entrepreneurship universe. While Villgro was founded in 2001, Menterra, its partner investment fund was set-up in 2016. Together, this platform provides a strong value to early-stage entrepreneurs. The platform works like a well oiled conveyer belt and enables a business right from its formative stages to growth.

To know exactly how this model works, I caught up with Paul Basil, Founder & CEO, Villgro and Mukesh Sharma, Co-Founder & MD, Menterra Venture Advisors. The duo explains how one of their flagship portfolio companies, Biosense, achieved success, and is now creating impact at scale.


The Biosense Story

Biosense is a cutting edge IoT product that is focused on tackling India’s twin challenges — malnutrition and diabetes. The product leverages connected devices to increase accessibility of tests. From the hilly regions of Ladakh to desert districts of Rajasthan to the tribal areas of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, Biosense has been catering to some of India’s poorest, in diverse geographies.

It can be hard to believe that Biosense was just a dorm room startup!

“When we incubated Biosense, it was a product idea and the founders were still pursuing their degrees at IIT Bombay. It was a typical dorm startup!” recalls Mukesh.

“The founding team told us they know the problem and they can create solution. They didn’t know how to build a business around it. They asked us if we would help them to build a business. It was a test of our incubation model. Over the last 7 years, Biosense has launched 7 products and has raised more than USD 4Mn.”

  • All Biosense devices use mobile platform with geo tagging and cloud-connectivity enabling data on disease prevalence by village and district.

  • Potential Aadhaar integration would enable care to high risk patients.

  • Government and corporate initiatives are now able to use this data to provide targeted intervention resulting in efficient usage of scarce resources.


Initial Capital and Talent Development

Apart from the infrastructure setup costs, hiring the right talent is the first major hurdle for any startup. While speaking about tackling this, Mukesh Sharma says “We helped them build a team and business around their passion and idea. So, the Villgro-Menterra partnership with Biosense can be summarised in one line: transforming a dorm startup into a solid organisation that delivers impact at scale.”<