Entrepreneurship Event at IIIT-B on 26th Jan 2008

On India's Republic day this year(2008) , an event spanning 16 cities was held to bring together successful entrepreneurs and new startups. This was organized by Pan IIT, TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) and NeNonline (National Entrepreneurship Network).

This is a small write up of the Bangalore Event. I will try and capture all the important details here.

There was lot of excitement at IIIT-B campus on a crisp Saturday morning. There were lots of people who had turned up to attend the event. we could see a few typical techie's with their laptops, a small sprinkling of MBA students from IIM's and lots of founders in their full pinstriped suits.

We started the day by flag hoisting and singing our national anthem. Next at about 10.00 AM we trouped into the conference hall. Four distinguished speakers were to take the morning session.

Talk #1
The first speaker of the Day was Samir Kumar, who leads Inventus Capital Partners (VC Firm). Samir Spoke about "What do VC's Look for in a Startup". The first talk charged up the entire audience. The key take aways from Samir's talk are as follows.

* Address a real customer need.
* VC's look for 20x to 30x returns, because they make such high risk investments.
* VC's look at quality of the Team
* Founders should have good past track record in academics and on their jobs.
* Founders should have unquestionable integrity.
* Exit options should be considered.

the most important point in getting VC money is "Clarity of Thought".
i.e you as an entrepreneur, have to think through your target market and idea.
So unless your business can scale and grow, VC's might not be interested in your biz plan. Also there is lot of potential in India.

Talk #2
Next we moved on to an electrifying speech by Amar Lakhtakia. He is a serial entrepreneur(with 5 startups of over $100 million under his belt) . He currently working on sherpaz. (which helps companies in contract workforce). He talked about the following

* As a person with ideas you have to cluster bomb people who can help you get ur idea running.
* As an entrepreneur you have a great calling card to talk to senior people
* Differentiation is important.
* Timing is very important.
* Create Barriers to entry for Competitors.
* Create Business Value.
* Simplicity sells.
* To use BSD licensed code.

He also mentioned that we can look for our competitors through RedHerring and 10-k filings (A comprehensive summary report of a company's performance that must be submitted annually to the Securities and Exchange Commission). It was an inspiring speech.

Talk #3
next we moved on to a speech by Trilochan Sastry, Professsor IIM Bangalore.

Professor Sastry brought a great sense of balance to the event. He talked about how he had filed a petition to India's Supreme court for Right to Information. He said that, this is one powerful tool for enlightened citizens of India to achieve positive results in Large Public funded projects.

He also told us that if you become a "Social Entrepreneur" then funding money will chase you rather than
you chasing VC money !. There is a tremendous vacuum for good people in this space.

He also said that it took 55 years for one Indian to file a request to the supreme court and get the right to know the financial details of the people who stand in elections.

Indian farmers don't loose their income by high interest rates, but they loose it when they sell their produce to the local merchant. This is a very important point.

Talk #4
This was an interesting talk by Mukul Singhal, Canaan Partners. His approach was from an analyst's perspective.

he talked about how consumption is growing in India. He also talked about
* the future telecom boom.
* A big market attracts lots of players. example: Retail in India.
* Which sector will get future spending.

His style was from the view of the market size and the predicted growth. So not much talk about technolgy innovation from Mukul. His Slides were very good, in terms of market research. Next we broke for Lunch.

Post Lunch Talks

Talk #5
This was by K. Ganesh CEO, Tutor Vista.

Mr Ganesh has built a business that involves tutoring kids over the internet live by Teachers in India. Key points are as follows.
* They brought down the cost from $60 per hour for a local teacher to $100 per month.
* They got $18 million funding.
* They train and certify thier tutors.
* The median age of Indian tutor is 50.

Talk #6
This was by Nagendra Ramaswami, Co-founder, CoreObjects. This was a very good talk. Their core competency is Product engineering.
He talked about
* Doing Market research, Product design and execution.
* Not having too many architect's in you company. It will lead to a situation where people end up spending time in defending their views and not worrying about the actual product.

Next we moved to few presentations by new startups each of 5 minutes.

1) Kuliza.com - founders have worked in Trilogy. They build Software products made to order. Currently building products for Pharma industry.

2) Invention labs - Very good philosophy. Low cost, but high end engineering design firm. Have built an ATM that originally costs Rs 8 Lakhs in only Rs 50k.

3) PicSquare - a web site to get your photos printed.

4) OutSourced CFO - a company with 20 crore revenue cannot afford a fulltime CEO for Rs 30 Lakhs a year. So gen an outsourced one.

5) Micro finance.

6) Buzzworks - 2 IIT'ans trying voice search + user generated content + ad revenue.

7) Authpod - trying to replace passwords in websites.

8) shunia - design work by4 IIMk grads.

9) Data analysis - 3 IIM grads take large amounts of data collected by big corporations like HLL and run the data through statistical models using Matlab and other tools to generate actionable data for CEO's.

Thanks for reading.

- Praveen.


7 Games People Play with IT employees

By this time you must have read Games Indians Play. now lets take a look at IT games...

Name Dropping: Most people drop names of famous or important people in everyday conversations to let you know that they are well connected and powerful. This technique is use by IT Managers in meeting where they drop names of Directors of VP's. This is done so subtly unless you are 'in the know' you will not catch it. One give away is when a manager starts to use the same director's name more than twice and saying that "I will talk to about this". this might be true or it could also be a first time manager trying to tell you who is in charge.

Using Corporate Speak
: Every specialization has its own jargon words.So people talking about WBS(work Breakdown Structure) might not have read 'The Mythical Man-Month'. software folks are artists, they create ideas out of thin air. Most great artists don't do their best work only for money, that is why programmers work on open source projects. Open source gives freedom to create interesting stuff. So just because a manager uses WBS, deadlines,etc... it does not make him an artist.

Employee of the Month
: This is oldest trick in the book. But subtly tuned in IT to award folks with kudos letters from customers to drive the organization spirit. This is used in one on one's. A gentle hint that you are also expected to get these sort of things.

Strong Managers Network
: The managers network might not look very close. This is just a facade. Every organization has a network of peers at each level. So the next time you are wondering whats up with this guy, just remember how you had messed with his peer.

Hiding Deadlines: This is a neat little trick. Suppose the deadline is 10 days away. You will be informed that it is only 5 days away. So this give a buffer time. In case you check in broke the code. Also early delivery makes your project manager a knight in shining amour.

Getting you to over commit: This is a classic. Stating that you need to finish this work by end of the month with out clarifying how much work it will take. Result you will end up slogging on weekends to meet the month end deadline.

Telling your team that you are an expert: you might not have written the code for google pagerank. But it will surly sound like you are the sole technical guru. when you feel like this just
check if you have been Knighted or your name has popped up next to Linus Travolis, Tim Burners Lee, etc.