Mountain Apollo India : The Incubator that Invites Paper Business Plans [Interview]

Zurich based Mountain Partners AG and Apollo International Group have together started unique incubation program in India, focused on entrepreneurs / wannabe-entrepreneurs with new-businesses or business-ideas.mountain-apollo-india

The program is unique as it invites paper plans, super-early stage startups to pitch their ideas to team Mountain Apollo India (MAI).

If the plan is synergistic with MAI team, the program commits funds enough to take the company to a Series A (or larger next pre-series/super-angel rounds) and the incubation team joins the founders as co-founders for the first few months of product launch and there-on phases out to incubate the next business.

The model targets incubating maximum 3-4 focused businesses in a year, where the team works closely with the entrepreneur to take the business to a logical level before it is ready to sustain itself. This is on the lines of a similar set-up run by Mountain Partners in Berlin.

MAI have been operational for over 9 months now and have launched their first business Cloe, a lingerie brand targeting affordable fashion.

Besides the full-time co-founding incubation team, the startups are mentored by some of the stalwarts of the industry like Mr. Ajay Bansal, a veteran retail specialist who is credited with establishing Pizza Hut and KFC in India.

Here is an interview with Pankaj Vermani, CEO of Mountain Apollo India:

1. How much equity will MAI take in these startups?

There’s no clear formula around it. The equity share is calculated on a case-to-case basis, depending on the fund requirement and the valuation of the business (or business-idea), mutually agreed with the founders.

2. Any specific business domain areas? B2C? B2B? Ecommerce? SAAS?

pankaj virmani

Though Internet or Mobile technologies for the core focus / interest for us, but we are looking at a wide variety of businesses, as seen in Cloe’s case, which has a big manufacturing aspect to it. Whatever the domain, the business has to target self-sustenance or become ready for a bigger round within 12-13 months of incubation.

3. What’s the duration of this program? Do you expect entrepreneurs to be physically present/co-located as part of this program?

We work very closely with the start-up as co-founders for the first 6 months. There-on we phase out over a period of time. Of-course after that we keep assisting in whatever capacity the start-up might require help from time to time. We intend to give runway for a year (or a little more) for the start-up. There on it has to sail on its own. We also assist the start-up during the fund raising activities.

Physical proximity is important, primarily for the reason that the real synergies can happen only when the incubation team helps the start-up full time working closely on a day-to-day basis.

As of now, we are present in NCR (Noida). However, we keep meeting companies in b’lore and other cities to explore a long-distance arrangement, though we haven’t zeroed in on a structure there yet.

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