The Blume Fellowship: Leveling up

“…Bay Area, Beijing and Bangalore – that’s where the action is”, said Uber founder, Travis Kalanick, at a Startup India Summit held at New Delhi in January 2016. As exciting as that sounds for most of us in the ecosystem, it is also a pipe-dream for many when it comes to accessibility – a major chunk of the country is away from the action, with a pronounced dearth of exposure and mentorship.

Young potential entrepreneurs and students hungry to be a part of the startup world need entry into this high-octane environment. There is a large gap between some top-notch talent hidden in remote corners of the country and the kind of exposure it gets. More often than not, these students intern as cogs in the wheels of settled organisations where the internships can often be unvetted and there is seldom desire to invest time in these students.

At the other side of the spectrum – for the startups – building a strong brand is often an expensive and resource-intensive process. Nothing proliferates as rapidly and effectively as positive word-of-mouth – having these startups interact and invest time with these young students who then carry those experiences back to their campuses creates a significant ripple effect.

This gap can be bridged through a platform that seeks, screens and connects quality resources to high growth startups in need of that talent. The Blume Fellowship was conceptualized to help create branding for its portfolio companies amongst this young talent pool while attempting to bridge that gap.

The Partnership

In 2017, one of India’s leading tech-focused early stage VCs, Blume Ventures, explored an opportunity to create a mutually beneficial program for itself and its portfolio companies by partnering with Skillenza, an online platform, working to disrupt conventional hiring. They wanted to see whether offering internships for their large sized portfolio (70+) would elicit any response from students across the country. 3,200 resounding yeses confirmed their suspicion. There was, in fact, an overwhelming demand for a chance to land an esteemed internship within the startup ecosystem… And so the Blume Fellowship was born.

From January 2017 through March, an online challenge was held to attract applicants. Only the top 2% of the 3,000+ applicants were shortlisted to go on to the interview stage. After the 78 chosen candidates whose Java, C and C++ skills were tested, learned that they were through to the next round, they then had to pick their top 5 companies. In the same way, of the 70 portfolio companies, the 22 that had expressed interest in hosting an internship had to shortlist their preferred candidates to interview. The candidates and companies were then matched and interviews conducted accordingly.

First Edition Impact

So, what was the point of this one of a kind partnership, that had never before been attempted in India. Blume Ventures’ managing partner, Sanjay Nath, described the opportunity as a “full stack experience” that was designed to be highly hands-on for students and beneficial to startups. It would give students insight into investing, operations, and mentorship opportunities while allowing the startups to try their hand at a completely new way of hiring interns.

For startups it was a means to explore an effective way of hiring interns. They were able to reduce their effort by 50% and cost incurred by almost 33%, while maintaining the quality of students they picked as interns.

For students it was an avenue to gain industry-specific experience, learn relevant skills and work on projects and problems in the industry currently being solved. Some of our students’ feedback can be found below:

Happy Kumar, a 3rd year student from NIT (Rourkela), maintained how the fellowship was a “great platform to kickstart [your] career” with. — [Blume Fellow at WebEngage]

Nilesh Hirani from NIT (Agartala), said the fellowship “provides the perfect platform for someone to gain industrial exposure at the right place.” — [Blume Fellow at iService]

Shubham Agarwal, a 3rd year engineer from IIT (Dhanbad), said “I learned a lot, and implemented my knowledge in a live, ongoing project.” — [Blume Fellow at Skillenza]

This is “where the action is”!

The Blume Fellowship in 2017 was a first-of-its-kind, pioneering programme in the country and started as an interactive platform for startups and students. We’re now looking at v2.0 for 2018, building on our strengths and lessons from last year, and culminating that into a better crafted experience. With exposure to a wider ecosystem, a more intense screening process, we’re leveling up.