On the 28th of July, the #AccelFamily banded together at the Kanteerva Stadium in Bangalore for the first ever Badminton Championship in Accel history. Participants from all over India arrived for a day of spirited competition, energised sport, and a lot of courtside cheer. We welcomed over 35 companies, including 40 founders and co-founders and over 200 participants. In total, we played 180 matches, resulting in 12 hours of intense action
The idea for a tournament wasn’t something we’d really planned for — the thought just came to me while revisiting an old passion of mine after a long, twenty-five year hiatus. A few months ago, I’d discovered that the Accel team would occasionally meet up to play a game or two of badminton every weekend. Since I was often left to my own devices during the break, I figured I’d join them one weekend. Then, every week, it slowly became my goal to get a minimum of four members of the team on board for a game. Eventually, we had at least ten players who were excited to attend our weekly matches; we even have a founder who would show up consistently — every weekend, no excuses.
That’s when I noticed something incredibly special.
Not only was this founder getting onto the court and staying active, but he would play with a particular member of the #AccelFamily every weekend. Their synchronisation was mesmerising and it was evident that they enjoyed playing the game together. This was wonderful to observe in and of itself, but what was most interesting was what happened after the game, off the court: they were collaborating. Okay, I know the stereotype that us startup folk never really stop working exists and this isn’t doing much to help improve that perception, but they were sharing tips, tricks, hacks, information, experiences… You name it, they were discussing it. Because these weekly badminton games gave them a chance to disrobe the formalities of the workplace and enter a more casual environment, they had the opportunity to learn and engage in a meaningful way and ultimately build a sense of community. I wanted to bottle up that synergetic power and preserve it somehow.
There, my eureka moment. (There may possibly have been an animated light bulb shining above my head.) “Perhaps we should have an #AccelFamily tournament,” I thought. So I did what anyone with a great idea and a smartphone does: dropped a line on the good ol’ Accel Badminton WhatsApp group to garner some feedback. I received one response from a colleague who told me to go for it. Indeed, that was exactly what I did.
I have participated in tournaments before but I’d never really planned one, so I reached out to my network to get some help. I spoke with my colleague — Prashanth Prakash, who connected me to one of his friends, who agreed to take care of the entire tournament as he had handled many events like this one in the past. From end-to-end organisation, to all the tiny seemingly insignificant details, he handled everything seamlessly.
Though I had originally planned to limit the tournament to founders only, Based on the feedback from few founders, I decided to pivot my plan to instead be more inclusive and encourage the larger #AccelFamily to join. The coordination team had predicted that only about twenty-two teams would register, but I was convinced otherwise (even though no one believed me). In the end, we drew interest from over thirty-five teams from across Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Delhi. Yes, folks were catching planes and planning road-trips just to be a part of this! Needless to say, we were all excited — and hitting the court to practice our swerves.
When the day finally arrived, it was incredible to see everyone file in and get warmed up before their matches. You may have seen me behind the registration desk — slightly frantic — making sure everything ran as smoothly as I first envisioned it.
“There’s a really exciting atmosphere here,” The UrbanClap team stated. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet the other companies from the Accel family and play together.” This aura of togetherness was evident as soon as you walked into the bay; firms were cheering their teammates on and just about everyone had their eyes glued onto one of the three matches that were simultaneously running. The room was filled with applause, words of encouragement, and the chatter of old friends — and new ones too. It was especially fun to watch founders, mostly in their late 40s, challenge (and even beat!) some of their younger employees.
Another part of finally seeing the fruits of our labour come to life was just how many women attended the tournament. Meena from DailyRounds said, “I’m proud to be here as a woman and compete just as fiercely as the men.” Though the attendees were predominantly men as one would expect, the presence of female players was far greater than anyone had forecasted. “If you look around the room, only about 10% of the players are women, but Accel is the only company working towards creating opportunities for everyone — regardless of gender,” noted Kavitha, founder of Zumutor. Whether it’s on the court or in the boardroom, I am proud to be part of a team that is always looking at ways to eradicate the gender bias and get more women on the field (in sport and in business).
Ultimately, though the competition was definitely intense and cutthroat, the sport brought us all together. As Venkat, the founder of Vinculum, mentioned, “It’s been great getting to know the #AccelFamily and see some familiar faces. Everything I have been able to accomplish was made possible because of my relationships with people; events like this one are a space to build those relationships.”
But founders weren’t the only ones making connections: We even had teams who secured their Series A funding just two weeks ago network with firms that are celebrating ten years in business. “We’re a new startup so this event has been really important to us. We’ve been able to not only play together and build some team spirit, but we’ve had a chance to put ourselves out there and network with the rest of #AccelFamily,” said Reema from Vokal.
All in all, the event was an extraordinary success. I was truly blown away by the energy and drive that I witnessed during the first ever Accel Badminton Championship. The event was a catalyst for team bonding, healthy competition, and collaboration. The #AccelFamily can’t wait to host another tournament just like this one — perhaps sooner than you think.
For an inside look into the Accel Badminton Championship 2018, check out this video.
Curious about our champions? Here’s a list of the results. Congratulations to everyone who proved their mettle on the court!