Thursday, 19 July 2012

Startup Saturday Event And Thoughts

It’s always a refreshing experience to attend startup gatherings. I mean, as opposed to the ones held by corporates in which people parrot lines off of standard ppts. Headstart conducts a startup event every 2nd Saturday of the month, across major cities. I attended July’s session last Saturday (14-Jul-12).

Venue was the cozy Lamakaan. If you haven’t heard of it, here’s a brief introduction from a faq on its site, “Lamakaan (the abode of the homeless) is an inclusive cultural space that promotes and presents the best of arts, literature, theatre, debate and dialogue with a commitment to being open and accessible. It’s yours to do what you will with Lamakan.”

Further, as a Channel6.in article explains, “La Makaan has a unique vibe to it; the stage has an organic backdrop of a natural rock formation - typical of Hyderabad -- which lends a piquancy to any performance here.” One of its rather unique propositions is that “the light and sound equipment as well as the stage is provided to artists free of cost. It also has a small Cafe as well as smaller rooms meant as sound stations and changing rooms.”


Though initially there were only a few people, the area filled up quickly with about a 100 people in attendance. Prof. Sri Vidya, ICFAI informed that they provide marketing consultancy through small groups of second year M.B.A students. She said that the students are available to work on weekends for 2 months duration, and don’t expect to be paid.

One example of a client who used their service is Calcutta Cabiin, a restaurant. Next day, I spoke with its owner Vidhi Sinha. She said that the students came out with a lot of fresh ideas. Of course not all are implementable, but she did incorporate a few of them like displaying pictures in the name board, having table mats and playing Bengali music in the background.

I think it will be useful for startups and SMBs to take help on the marketing front from ICFAI students. Those interested can contact the professor at srividyar@ibsindia.com.

The speakers were:
Suresh, Squid Systems
In fact he was the first speaker of the day. They manufacture low power consuming cores for processors used in video equipment. They are are a predominant player in China for surveillance devices chips.

Aditya, anyrequirement.com
(ITsAP award winner)
He worked in sales, headed sales and was also a COO. Sales guys go out to meet a bunch of clients, but the meetings do not translate into sales. He mentioned the problems faced by corporates during their purchase process. There are huge variations in what corporate wants and want vendor gives. There is red tapism. To address the gaps, their site offers assisted buy based on annual subscription. They Have a single page format that saves time and you get very good discounts. Mentioned Sunshine Hospitals as a client.

Bhavani Shankar, Posidex.
9-year old company, hence technically should not have been speaking at the event. Hence I will not write much except that they solve the problem of data quality.

Chaitanya Madduru
(ITsAP award winner)
He along with Dheeraj developed a Android mobile app during the final year at BVRIT. The app is described as Augmentative and Alternative Communication Application for Physically Challenged. He demonstrated the app on a Micromax tablet and the app outputs voice response. As part of testing, inputs were obtained from various organizations that train and take care of autistic patients.

Featured Speaker
Sanjeev Kumar, Angel Investor, TechAtlantis
He worked in ADP. He talked of huge opportunities in tax compliance and contrasted the startup/technology scene in USA with that in India. In USA, you discuss the clients’ business problem, show your solution, back it up with your credentials, and conduct your business. Here in India, it takes a lot of effort in terms of personally meeting the clients, building relationships and a lot of persuasion.

For funding a startup, he looks at the team as the most important factor, apart from the essentials such as market barriers, value proposition and technology etc. When asked about his innovation, he said he does not focus on them, but mentioned a real time tax meter. Interesting factoid from Sanjeev: In Nevada, U.S.A you can start a business without having a physical presence.

Later in the day, I googled on this and it looks like one can start a business in any state of the U.S. without having a physical presence in that state. As the site BizFiling states: "If your company does not plan to have a physical presence in the U.S. (translating that it will operate solely from overseas), then formation of a corporation or LLC in Delaware or Nevada, the two most business-friendly states, may be preferable."

The event ended with a few lightning pitches.
Ram, colorsutra.in
Spoke of co-creating your own clothes using the website.

Srikanth Pannala, campusmate.me
Spoke of putting all learning from social networking into students’ education. If a student in a particular college needs good learning material on a particular subject, and there is a good teacher in another college, then the teacher will provide the learning material.

Kalyan, wearehyd.com
Spoke of putting a face to the cultural and technological denizens of Hyderabad.

Mojostreet has partnered with Headstart and had books as give-aways. They gave the choice of recipients to Ramesh, and he gave them to people who had asked many questions. I was one of them and the book I got was Subroto Bagchi’s “The High Performance Entrepreneur“.

Given my spiritual inclination, I feel there has to be a reason for everything. After reaching home, I opened the book and as I flipped through, I saw: “Providence is very powerful in our journeys and entrepreneurs must make room for her. It is not always what you bring to the table. Sometimes, it is an unexplainable turn of events that changes your course.” Amen to that.

Ok, now for some thoughts. I am not clear about the Hyderabad startup ecosystem. Is it active, energetic, thriving and successful? Active and energetic? Perhaps yes. Thriving and successful? Not sure.

If you read the startups mentioned in the blogs like this one (by Geeta Bose) - Apalya, tracemates; this one (again by Geeta Bose) - Ozonetel, ICUMI, Kern, CitizenSocial); this one (by Ramesh Loganathan) - Movieinsync, milkorwater, travelspice, buyalert, EduTechnik, Ekjaa, sweatso; or this one (by Sudeep D’Souza) - Inforica, Luminart, Acuvate, HuSys one can say that none of them has made it big - I mean a success that's in the news like flipkart.

Let me mention a few internet sites that have touched my life. I’ve booked tickets on Bookmyshow.com, purchased books plus electronics items on flipkart.com, and sent text messages using way2sms.com. Though I have not bought bus tickets online, redbus.in frequently figurs in conversations both with colleagues and friends. Out of the four sites I have just mentioned, only one is based in Hyderabad. Not a good ratio for the city of fortune.

Startup Genome released this year the top 25 startup ecosystems in the world. They are: 1.Silicon Valley (San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Jose, Oakland) 2.New York City (NYC, Brooklyn) 3.London 4.Toronto 5.Tel Aviv 6.Los Angeles 7.Singapore 8.Sao Paulo 9.Bangalore 10.Moscow 11.Paris 12.Santiago 13.Seattle 14.Madrid 15.Chicago 16.Vancouver 17.Berlin 18.Boston 19.Austin 20.Mumbai 21.Sydney 22.Melbourne 23.Warsaw 24.Washington D.C. 25.Montreal

When I saw the list, I was like What??? Sau Polo ahead of Bangalore? Hyderabad not even in the list??? What’s wrong with Hyderabad? Every now and then, I keep throwing this question at others hoping to get some insight and probably nudge myself and others into action that will benefit the Hyderabad ecosystem.

It was good to catch up with numero uno Hyderabad technology evangelist, Ramesh Loganathan. As if answering my doubts on the Hyderabad ecosystem, he spoke of building an accelerator (as part of TIE, I think) for reaching out to startups. Purpose is to speed up the various activities that are required by a startup by providing access to various resources and information, giving guidance, and giving good feedback on products. They are planning to revive the hyderabadstartups website with the directory of all startups, a discussion forum, and a resource center.

As I said, the ecosystem should be thriving and the starups successful. And a lot can and needs to be done.

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