Monday, July 22, 2024

“AI And ML In The Pitch Do Not Increase Probability Of Getting Funded”

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Do startups working with AI and ML have a higher chance of funding? Rahul Paith, Chief Executive Officer of MATH, answers the question and also highlights how MATH helps startups working on or with AI to solve problem statements.

Rahul Paith, Chief Executive Officer of MATH

Q. What does MATH stand for? What does it do?

A. MATH, a joint collaboration between T-HUB and the Department of Science and Technology, is a centre of excellence for artificial intelligence (AI). The objective of MATH is to support startups working in the AI domain. To do that, we have allocated a 50,000 square metre space. We plan to house 200 startups in this space this year. At this moment, we have close to 80 startups allocated space. MATH stands for Machine Learning Artificial Intelligence Technology Hub.

Q. What is offered to such startups at MATH?

A. The idea is to provide them with facilities similar to those offered by any accelerator or incubator. In addition, providing them with high computing facilities is also a focus.

Q. How are the ‘high compute facilities’ provided?

A. Startups working with AI require a lot of computing power and capabilities. We are building an in-house data centre with GPU capabilities, which we offer to startups at low costs. Many startups often have to rely on expensive computing capabilities offered by multinationals, which acts as a deterrent to their goals.

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Q: Does this mean the startups have to generate data on their own?

A. No, we are also collaborating with various government and private organisations for data access. These organisations assist startups in accessing data and training their algorithms. We have also developed a data lake that allows startups to identify how to access, utilise, and store their data for improvement. Monetisation strategies for data are also facilitated through the data lake.

Q. Are you also involved in the ‘investing in startups’ aspect?

A. Yes, we bring in focused investors and mentors from AI-related fields. Our network extends beyond India, encompassing AI leaders from Europe, the United States, and other parts of the world.

Q. For a startup to qualify to avail of these services, it has to have AI at its core.

A. Any startup working with AI in any capacity can apply. We received close to 2000 applications. Our focus is on startups aiming to develop AI solutions or leveraging existing AI to solve problems. In essence, we are open to startups either innovating with AI or employing AI for problem-solving.

Q. Can you give an example of such startups?

A. Certainly. We have a startup focused on democratizing access to hardware required for AI applications, exploring methods for companies to share GPU resources. Additionally, there are companies developing Indian versions of Chat GPT and crafting solutions for the education technology sector using platforms such as ChatGPT.

Q. Do startups working with AI have a higher probability of raising funds compared to others?

A. The likelihood of funding depends on the problem being addressed. Simply including AI and ML in a pitch deck does not automatically increase a startup’s chances of funding. Startups must tackle meaningful challenges. Some startups have forced the integration of AI and ML into solutions where it wasn’t necessary. In the next five years, AI is expected to touch nearly every aspect of business, making India a hub for AI innovation worldwide.

Q. Interesting; how does the funding for startups work at MATH?

A. Currently, we do not directly fund startups. We have access to an expanding pool of investors and VCs. MATH evaluates each idea and presents the most promising ones to investors, facilitating connections between startups and potential funders.

Q. How does your mentor ecosystem function?

A. The majority of advisers and mentors at MATH hail from industry giants such as META, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, and various IITs in India. The mentor pool also includes successful entrepreneurs.

Q. Are these mentors allowed to invest in startups under the aegis of MATH?

A. Yes, but there is a separate program for that. Corporate firms and advisers are required to register to participate in the funding programme.

Q. Can you share more details about such program(s)?

A. We deploy a lot of different programs. We offer various programmes, one of which involves corporations presenting problem statements for startups to solve. Recently, we organised one such program for Hexagon. We have similar programs run by other corporations as well. The selected startups launch the solutions in global markets. There have been cases where startups are hired by corporations. Most of such models are inspired by the years of work that T-Hub has done so far in India.

Q. Do all startups under MATH get to work on such problem statements?

A. The problem statement shared by the corporations is shared with all the startups. Ones who feel they can solve the problem apply for the program. Based on due diligence, we select startups to work on specific problem statements. Some of these startups gain global exposure through partnerships with corporations, while others are acquired.

Q. Is MATH a no profit no less organisation?

A. Yes, MATH is a no-profit, no less organisation. However, we must ensure sufficient revenue to sustain our operations. This is achieved through various means, including running programmes for corporations and providing startups with space and other facilities.

Q. Does MATH also fund startups independent of corporations, investors, and VCs?

A. As of now, we have not done so, but it is in our plans. MATH was established just last year. If we proceed, we will offer grants or seed funding to startups. This initiative may commence in the coming year.

Mukul Yudhveer Singh
Mukul Yudhveer Singh
Mukul Yudhveer Singh is an Editor at EFY. He’s an experienced business journalist who is both an enthusiast and a cynic of technology. Believes in data, as well as hunch-based journalism. He defines journalism as- reporting facts which help the audience take their own decisions, not ones that influence them!


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