Venture capitalist Asha Jadeja Motwani, the wife of the late Stanford Professor Rajeev Motwani — a noted Indian American computer scientist who mentored Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and helped design algorithms that currently power Google — has launched a fellowship enabling Indian entrepreneurs to network with entrepreneurs and seed investors in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs in the U.S.
The Rajeev Circle Fellowship will select more than a dozen Indian entrepreneurs annually to visit U.S. tech centers. Asha Motwani, who has invested in over 75 start-ups in the U.S., recently began to seed fund India-based start-ups.
The idea for the program, also dubbed the “Startup Corridor,” came when Motwani met “several bright young entrepreneurs in India pursuing excellent ideas and experiments but without the kind of mentoring that is so common in Silicon Valley,” she told India’s Business Standard newspaper.
“Reading and talking about this kind of mentoring in abstract can take one forward only so much. Unless the entrepreneurs understand the culture, the walk, and the talk of Silicon Valley, serious dialogue was unlikely to emerge.”
In the first round of the program, several entrepreneurs from India met with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs including Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and NetScape Communications co-founder Marc Andreessen. They also visited the Stanford Design School and the headquarters of Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Prospective entrepreneurs in the group came from the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, Kochi-based Startup Village and Ahmedabad-based National Institute of Design.
“Asha is helping us set up the Rajeev Circle corridor for startups to move to and fro from India to the heart of Silicon Valley,” said Startup Village chief mentor Kris Gopalakrishnan, a member of a group of former students of Prof. Motwani and his entrepreneur friends who are advising the program.
“It will give exposure to young startups in our country to the best in the Valley, besides access to angel investors and their perspectives on how to build global product startups.”
Motwani told the Business Standard she doesn’t expect monetary returns. “If the visiting fellows help and encourage the batches that will visit after them “that’s reward enough,” she said.
“Asha wants to build and continue the fellowship program for at least 10 entrepreneurs every year for next few years and we will be helping her team every step of the way," said Sanjay Vijayakumar, chairman of the Startup Village Board of Governors, and another advisor to the program.