We've always wanted to run a program focused on discovering hidden builders in India. After weeks of planning and fundraising, we finally announced the Build India Fellowship last week. With queries coming in from all sides and applications opening soon, it's high time that we put a few more details out there.
TL;DR: We want to give equity-free grants of upto $10,000 to individuals and teams who want to focus on building great things for 6 months.
Finding Hidden Builders
It's often said that India doesn't have high-quality engineers, and we're only good to be code monkeys for MNCs. We disagree. Over the years, we've observed tens of thousands of students and hundreds of universities through so many hackathons on our platform, and we've seen some world-class talent. The problem is that, like most other things in India, they're just harder to find. Of course, the top builders are harder to find when they are surrounded by millions of engineers at any given point, most of whom are actively learning how to fake it, playing the system, and optimizing for being discovered by the traditional channels. We don't blame them, maybe that's just how things are when opportunities are rare and competitors abound. It may work for them, but that's not optimal for India as a whole. The more builders we discover, support, fund, and give a free hand to build, the better off we'll all be.
New Discovery Mechanisms
Regardless of how rare talent is somewhere, the world always creates discovery mechanisms around them. IITs, Twitter, Hackathons, YCombinator, etc. — all are just discovery mechanisms, but we think they've gone wrong somewhere. They're too interdependent on the same few credentials, in a way eerily close to systemic failure, and not as focussed on the discovery of true builders as we'd like. We look at this fellowship as a way to get these builders out of the system, hone their skills, set them up for the real world, and focus on continued building throughout their lives in ways that reward not only society around them, but themselves as well. The projects don't necessarily have to turn into startups, it's good if they do, but if we're not hellbent on it. Budding CEOs are most welcome, but its the CTOs that we're more excited to discover.
Exiting the Race
India isn't as developed as anybody would like, and the "good opportunities" are rare for the young folks. Constraints beget character, but constraints also beget competition. Time and again, we see that family, social, and peer pressures force people to do what seems good rather than what they truly enjoy. The same happens to builders too, and the longer they're in the race, the harder it'll become for them to escape. The system will change you, and we don't want our builders to change, and we definitely don't want them to stop building. We hope $10,000 gives you enough of a nudge, proof, and validation to stay out of the system and focus on builder bigger and better things for the world. Dropping out and stopping out is institutionally and socially much harder in India, so we're not asking you to do that. All you need to do is take a step back for 6 months and focus on building software that betters the life of thousands of people around you.
Will you Build India?
We'll give you capital ($10,000), mentorship, network, and help you with anything you need to build great things. What we ask in return is your singular focus on building public good software for six months. Consider this a very high paying internship or one major side-project. Once done, we'll have micro-funds and companies who'll see if they want to invest in you and take your project forward. We'll also have select companies hiring directly out of the program — companies where we know your technical talents will not go under-appreciated.
Even though this isn't a problem for most Zoom-Universities right now, if you have to attend classes every day, or your college isn't one where you can sail through with minimal effort, then maybe you're not a right fit. In our application process, we'll filter for previous build quantity and quality, long term outlook, and your motivations for this. Otherwise, our eligibility criterion is simple, you or all members of your team should be no more than 22 years old.
- Online application form releasing on 27 November, 2020, will be live till 31 December, 2020.
- Interviews starting 10 January, 2021.
- Final announcement 2 February, 2021.*
[* Update: Announcement date was previously 28 January, 2021. Pushed it further by four days due to a very large applicant pool and scheduling difficulties. Sorry!]