Archive for January, 2009

Free To Innovate

I have been talking to lots of entrepreneurs about various business models to support innovation, especially in industries from which VCs are pulling out (Security, Networking, Chips, Enterprise Software, etc.). This article looks at a business model that offers an alternative framework to support innovation. Read my latest Forbes column, Free to Innovate, and the corresponding interview with Accidental Entrepreneur Paul Kocher.

I believe, ths gap that is opening up in segments from which VCs are pulling out are excellent opportunities for Indian entrepreneurs to build self-funded companies in.

Entrepreneurship Summit, IIT Mumbai

Date: 7th February, ‘09
Website: www.esummit.ecell.in

The Entrepreneurship Summit is a unique initiative by E-Cell, IIT Bombay which serves as a social forum for the Entrepreneurial Community. This year, the Summit aims at Empowering Entrepreneurs. Workshops at E-Summit 09 will emphasize on critical issues faced by entrepreneurs and start-ups at early stages of development and will be taken by the best in the biz!.

With speakers like Mr. Kanwal Rekhi, Mr. Alyque Padamsee, Mr. Terence Hart, Mr. Ashok Wadhwa, Mr. R. Balki, Ms. Anjali Bansal and many more, we expect the event to be abuzz with great discussions.

The event also gives a platform to entrepreneurs to display their startups and their products and services to the most enthusiastic students.

Investor Pitch at the E-Summit 09 is second in a row hosts an even bigger panel of Venture Capitalist Partners.

For registration and further details visit: www.esummit.ecell.in

Local Language Internet

There’s an interesting discussion on local language internet in India by Mahesh following IAMAI report on the same. Some perspectives on the same:

  • Should there be local language internet – Absolutely! The power of internet lies in micro-segmentation, and there is no “need to dump Kannada” as Mahesh puts it.
  • Is there a market on local language internet in India – honestly, I don’t see it. Economic Times and Google launching local language sites is not an evidence of a market being there – it is a strategy to cover bases. Regardless of whether one takes the IAMAI numbers or Mahesh’s numbers of number of blogs, the numbers are very small to create any decent sized business.
  • UGC and Mobile – both very preliminary on local language. Imho, the experience on mobile would suggest that roman script might get adopted for short format content for local language use. The key reason behind lower usage of sms in lower-ARPU subs is not language, its pricing (as per telcos who have experimented with it).
  • Growth curve – again, I fail to see the discontinuity here – there is no sudden jump expected in internet penetration which brings in a large base of non-english users in reach, there is no authoring tools which seem to have the potential to train millions of users in short period of times, the progress on fonts has been slow and steady over past few years.

Would love to get others’ views on the above and where they see the opportunity in the local language internet. Videos, in my mind, is clearly one area where local language internet rules, largely because the experience is seamless and it fits nicely into our consumption patterns. Is there a business opportunity here?

State of Innovation – Perspectives

Bernard has a great article on state of innovation in India. Some thoughts on the same.

The article speaks about the risk-reward equation being balanced – I beg to differ. Big still means safe. Its not a matter of reality but perception. Like capital, talent flights to safety in downturns – especially as the support systems (capital, mentors) around them shrink. India has a large percentage of “forced entrepreneurship” but when I talk to my friends who have recently lost jobs, few see that as a great opportunity to do the startup they’ve always wanted to do.

The second challenge I see for Indian startups, including Zoho for which all of us have great respect, is the challenge to grow over adolescence. It reminds me of sports where you see a bunch of potential world-beaters in junior olympics/tournaments, even cricket. Somehow, by the time they get to adulthood, most of them fade into mediocrity. The question today is whether the adolescents of indian startups will grow into globally competitive adults. I certainly believe that building institutional capability and resources is part of that play.

I agree on the “cheap” software advantage. However, I believe that the consumer proposition here will not be shaped by the software, but by the services wrapped around it. To an extent, that is part of our excitement with iYogi (which both Bernard and I are involved with). The second key opportunity is see is to “micro-verticalize” software – the cost advantage by itself might not be defining – to the extent you can use it to create highly differentiated customer relevance, the rewards can be multifold. I believe that platform based services will be a key reflection of this model.

Amongst things not covered in the article, one of the distinct transitions we have observed on young internet businesses is that they are finally beginning to get the “viral equation” right. Building consumer internet companies has so far been about being able to pump significant marketing dollars early in the life of the company – thats changiing and 2008 provided enough evidence of the same. I think this changes the financial risk-reward on internet businesses, and despite the low subscriber numbers, can define the financing model for startups in that area.

Comments welcome,

Intel’s challenge on Global Issues

The Intel’s website
http://www.intelchallenge.com/
is asking for solutions on
-Education
-Economic Development
-Healthcare and
-Environment

The last date of submission is extended to February 17th, 2009.

Business Plan showcase @ IIM Ahmedabad

IIM Ahmedabad is holding a B plan showcase event as part of the annual VC/PE conference Leverage 2009. Please read the detailed official announcement regarding the event. The rules pdf is with me, if anyone wants it let me know your email address and I will send it across to you.

“Leverage 2009 – the 1st edition of The Venture Capital and Private Equity Conference at IIM-A invites entries for the Business Plan showcase which is being organized in association with Epiphany Ventures. Epiphany Ventures is a Sector Agnostic Fund, with a size of $25 Million. The Fund is focused on early stage investments, but also looks at investing in later stages if the opportunity is suitable. Mr. Gaurav Saraf is the Director of the Fund and Mr. Rishi Khosla is the advisor for the Fund. The B-Plan Showcase will be an opportunity for budding entrepreneurs committed to making their dreams a reality or those who have already taken the plunge and want to make it big in the world of business.

Entries will go through a rigorous three step evaluation process after which the top 10 teams will be invited to present their plans to industry experts, academicians, and multiple VC investors. The event is different from other business plan competitions as there is no cash prize or winner of the showcase. Instead, budding entrepreneurs will get a chance to attract actual funding from venture capitalists in order to expand and grow their business ideas. Teams would not only get expert advice on how to fine-tune their plans and nip any shortcomings, but also a golden chance to get seed funding from potential investors.

For more information regarding the conference or the B-Plan Showcase, please visit the Leverage 2009 web page under the Programs section on the CIIE website. (www.ciieindia.org)
Deadline: First round registrations close on 10th January, 2009.”