Surge was born by challenging many conventions of the venture capital world. We spent dozens of intense sessions revisiting many assumptions of seed financing as we put the program together, and tried to make first-principles choices focused on founders – increasing the size of seed rounds, less dilution for early stage companies, the idea of a global experiential curriculum, and a core focus on a founder community.
Still, when we launched Surge in January, much remained in ‘beta’. We had only a small (though very committed) team which we were (and still are) recruiting actively to augment, even as we put out the first call for applications. We had decided early on an ‘open architecture’ that would allow us to work closely with seed and angel investors and form partnerships across the ecosystem, but we were a bit worried that some might be initially skeptical. There were no founder ambassadors who could recount a first-hand experience of Surge, and parts of the curriculum were evolving in real time. So, we did very little marketing, except a couple of blog posts and some tweets. The aim was for a soft launch. That was a month ago.
Applications for Surge 1 closed on Saturday, and 1,570 startups from across India and Southeast Asia have applied: we’re completely blown away. The enthusiasm and love with which founders have embraced the concept and ethos of Surge has been spectacular. The power of the collective vision, passion, ambition of founders that we’ve seen and felt in the last few weeks stands out as one of the highlights of Sequoia India’s 13-year history in the region.
Surge applications are from a wide range of sectors, including SaaS, Fintech, e-commerce, healthcare, deep tech, blockchain, education and direct-to-consumer brands. These applications have also shown us the depth and breadth of innovation that is alive and thriving in this region, and the quality of founders pursuing bold and ambitious new ideas has humbled us.
While we’re absolutely thrilled at the response, we’re also beginning to feel heartbroken that we will only be able accommodate 1% of the applications (we had budgeted for 10-20 companies in the first cohort).
In order to provide better context to Surge applicants (and remember we did not know what to expect), here are some stats that we have observed:
- Approx 1/3 of startups are pre-launch
- Less than 1/3 have more than 10 employees
- Approx 1/3 have raised some capital before
- Around half of startups have revenues
- Around 1/5th of startups have early “client traction”
These metrics do not do justice to the quality of applications, the founder’s backgrounds, their past accomplishments and their inspiring journeys. We have a very long list of “must meet” companies in the ~1000 or so applications we have reviewed so far, spanning over 250 hours of work by our team this past weekend alone. We are also improvising in real time and requesting some founders/mentors from our network to help us evaluate the very large pool of quality applications. It’s a bittersweet moment for us. We already love so many more of the startups and founders than we will be able to accommodate.
But this blog post is to thank each and every one of you who took time to apply to Surge. To the many seed funds who have reached out to support and partner with us, and also put forward candidate companies. And to the recommenders, who wrote in no fewer than 4,650 recommendation letters. We are super inspired by reading the recommendation letters and hearing more about these founders’ life journeys.
So, even as we read through the applications, we’re already thinking about what we can do to serve a larger group of founders and support the early-stage ecosystem in ways beyond Surge that will be impactful and meaningful. Stayed tuned – this is now a high priority for us.
Meanwhile, we will be reaching out to shortlisted candidates in the next 24 hours for meetings, which will run from Feb 27 to March 2. We’ll finalize the first cohort by March 11 and Surge 1 will kick off in Singapore the week of March 25.
We are on a super tight timeline – if we knew we would get so many applications, we would have budgeted a few extra weeks. We live and learn, and we request you to please forgive us for any hiccups in the Surge evaluation process. We also encourage companies who don’t make this round but continue to make progress in the coming months to apply for a subsequent cohort of Surge.
Thank you, once again, everyone who applied. We are inspired by your enthusiasm, your passion and your ambition. We will do everything in our power to serve you as best as we can.