Appalla Saikiran has rubbed shoulders with the big names of the startup ecosystem as the founder-CEO of a platform that aims to streamline fundraising for new ventures. The TOI #Unstoppable21 jury has picked the Hyderabad boy as one of the Unstoppable 21 Indians under 21 years
At an age when students are busy grappling with college angst and placement worries, Appalla Saikiran is an enterprising 20-year-old Hyderabadi who is already making waves in the startup arena. For this student-entrepreneur is the founder & CEO of Scope App, a unique and by-invite only global networking platform for connecting aspiring entrepreneurs and startups with investors, business mentors and professional collaborators.
Saikiran, a third-year BTech student in data science, floated Scope when he was just 17. Today, he runs a company with 60 employees. Scope already has a network of around 20,000 angel investors and high-net worth individuals (HNIs) globally along with 7,000 venture capital firms across India, US, Europe, Singapore and Dubai. Nearly 200 family offices, including that of Google co-founder Sergei Brin’s Bayshore Global, are also part of the network, he says with pride.
“I wanted to shorten the fundraising process. While the average term-sheet signing takes about six months and 18 meetings, we have been able to cut down the time taken to close a deal to about 3-4 months,” says Saikiran, sounding more like an investment tzar than an engineering student.
Saikiran says his inspiration is Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk and his famous quote, “Instead of baby showers, let’s host business showers for startup company entrepreneurs”.
“Just like everyone pools in with various gifts during baby showers, there is a need for entrepreneurial showers where everyone pools in their resources to celebrate the birth of a new venture and support its founders,” Saikiran says. So, starting with the aim of cutting down the tedious task of networking, he created an organisation that can serve as the single point of contact for all stakeholders in the startup ecosystem.
He pooled together Rs 10 lakh from friends, family and angels to set up Scope, which today has investors like the feted American venture capitalist Tim Draper, who has invested $1.2 million, and Microsoft for Startups, which pitched in with $300,000.
Saikiran studied at the Meridien School in Hyderabad and did his higher secondary at the Birla School in Rajasthan’s Pilani, which is where he had his first taste of entrepreneurial failure, an experience that sowed the seed for Scope. When he was in class 11, he used around Rs 15,000-20,000 from the money he had saved to create an app on Playstore that helped students find the right study groups and partners.
“We had more than 15,000 downloads within the first three hours of launch. The app was operational for five days but after downloads crossed 30,000, the server could not handle the load. I required more server space but didn’t have the resources to keep it up. I tried emailing angel investors and VCs but failed to elicit a response,” he says.
“Time is money in the startup ecosystem but most entrepreneurs grapple with one major issue -- investors often don’t say a straight yes or no. I found that most entrepreneurs had to wait for pitching events to meet investors. That got me thinking about creating a single hub where we could connect startups with investors and get a straight yes or no, so that entrepreneurs could move on to other investors instead of wasting time,” he says.
Saikiran has now won many laurels globally and is already rubbing shoulders with global business tycoons as part of the exclusive league of stewards of the Lynn Forester de Rothschild-founded Council for Inclusive Capitalism, which counts the likes of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani among its members.
“I want to create a kind of Y-Combinator, which is considered the gold standard in the world of startups. India has the best talent that needs unstinting support and the right recognition and resources,” he says.