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Babson, Indian Angel Investors Offer $250K Prize

Babson College Olin School

Babson College’s MBA program at the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business is best known for entrepreneurship — that’s a given after 25 years as the U.S News & World Report top entrepreneurship program. Now the school is adding another wrinkle to its portfolio of startup support: This fall Babson’s Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship is partnering with the Indian Angel Network (IAN), India’s first and the world’s largest business angel network, to host a Global Startup Competition in December where the top prize is at least $250,000 in equity investment.

The live-streamed competition — the Blank center’s first — will be open not only to current Babson students, but also to alumni, faculty, staff, and parents around the globe. Applications are open from now to October 25.

“This collaboration is exciting because it brings together two very special entrepreneurial ecosystems,” says Debi Kleiman, executive director of Blank Center. “The IAN knows Babson’s reputation for producing great founders and exciting new companies, these entrepreneurs have unique training and a ‘make it happen’ mindset. So IAN gets to see some startups that they might not have otherwise had in their pipeline.

“For Babson, we can give early-stage Babson entrepreneurs access to an experienced source of capital and a well-connected, successful group of mentors who have seen it all. That network and experience is invaluable to entrepreneurs, particularly in the early stages or if they are first time entrepreneurs.”


Sandeep Soni. Courtesy photo

In addition to its top ranking in U.S. News, Babson’s Olin School took second place in The Financial Times ranking of top MBAs for entrepreneurship earlier this year, behind only Stanford Graduate School of Business. The school’s biggest point of pride is its reputation for producing entrepreneurs, ranking first by FT for percentage of alumni who launch a business after graduation.

The Global Startup Competition is the brainchild of Sandeep Soni, a Blank Center advisory board member and IAN member and himself a Babson parent. He says entrepreneurship creates new jobs and opportunities for risk-takers, something worth encouraging.

“Institutions such as Babson solve more than just business problems,” Soni, COO for Unique Business Systems, an international tech company focusing on enterprise software, said in an interview with Babson Blogs. “They solve the social problem of people not having as many career opportunities. This waste of human potential is staring us in the face, but can be resolved by simply thinking of business differently.”

Soni brought IAN to the attention of the Blank Center at one of their board meetings during a discussion about ways to help student entrepreneurs get access to more “smart” capital. “Having strong angel investors in your startup can really set a company on a path for success,” Kleiman says, “not only through access to capital, but also through great mentorship and coaching as well as connections. However, many of them don’t have the kind of networks they need to raise this kind of funding, and that can be a big challenge for them. With IAN, we know that they have a successful track record, investing all over the world and in many kinds of businesses, and this global, open orientation was really attractive to us, so that we can foster a match for Babson startups to get to the next level, regardless of industry or location.”


The Indian Angel Network was launched in April 2006 by a group of entrepreneurs and CEOs who were looking to invest in early-stage businesses that displayed growth potential. Today the IAN has about 500 members around the world and provides mentoring, networking, strategy, and execution input in addition to funding. IAN has helped fund startups across India and in seven other countries, including Druva, Sapience Analytics, Consure, and WebEngage.

To join the Global Startup Competition, individuals or teams can pitch startups that are ready for angel funding to the IAN. Applications are now available on the IAN website; pitches should be presented in 12 to 15 PowerPoint slides that introduce the main issues, suggested solutions, market analysis, and technology overview. The slides should also include financial projections, funding plans, current equity structure, fundraising history, and exit options.

The IAN will decide who wins the $250,000 prize after reviewing the teams, markets, and products after the competition finale, with the possibility of additional funds from IAN investors. The competition finale will be live-streamed at the IAN website on December 15.

When asked what advice he would give to aspiring entrepreneurs, Soni said they should be constant learners because there’s no formula to becoming an entrepreneur. “I constantly learn from entrepreneurs,” he said. “Learning is constant and change is constant. Entrepreneurs who know this will succeed.”