Archive for April, 2011

Omnivore Capital: Atish Babu Office Hours

I will be holding office hours this Sat Apr 30 from 7:30pm IST / 10am EDT / 7am PDT for two hours.

Each slot is 15 minutes long, and will occur over video (so please have a webcam if you sign up for a slot).

To sign up for a time slot, please visit http://ohr.me/kybU0j

Especially hoping student and young entrepreneurs sign up for office hours.

1M/1M Announces Partnership With TiE Chennai

On Saturday, April 9, 2011, I arrived in Chennai at 3:00 a.m. after a 24-hour journey from California. At 11:00 a.m., a group of entrepreneurs from TiE Chennai gathered at the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) Research Park campus, and we spent the next four hours discussing strategy and tactics of early-stage entrepreneurship.

TiE Chennai organized a Startup Super Day, during which I delivered the keynote address followed by a live strategy roundtable. At the roundtable, five entrepreneurs pitched their businesses to me, and I interacted with them in our usual format, with active participation from the audience.

Freshdesk
First up, Girish Mathrubootham from Chennai, India, presented Freshdesk, a SaaS solution for multi-channel customer support including knowledge base and social CRM support. Girish and his team are former Zoho employees and bring to their entrepreneurial efforts the perspective and learnings of Zoho, which has been successful in drastically undercutting high-end competitors in a major market, namely CRM, the office suite, and so on.

I liked this venture very much and see the basic framework of using the Indian cost structure to provide SaaS products that are competitive in terms of performance and functionality at drastically lower prices as a massive opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs to go after. Almost a thousand SaaS/cloud startups have been launched over the past decade, and in each niche there are opportunities for concept arbitrage using this basic formula. I am very glad to see Girish and his team going after one such opportunity. Girish already has a number of clients and is well on his way to building the business. The go-to-market strategy has to be fine-tuned to make it more precise, but the basic premise of the business is validated.

Interviewstreet.com
Next, also from Chennai, India, Vivek Ravisankar pitched Interviewstreet.com, a nifty concept for testing programmers’ skill levels in various key languages to bypass the lengthy interviewing that goes into screening candidates in a hiring process. Vivek already has Amazon, Google, and a few other companies using the product and needs to put together a scalable telesales process to be able to sell it to a larger number of customers. The value proposition is well articulated, validated, and very clean.

Quantum Arc
Then, Satish from Chennai, India, discussed Quantum Arc, a solution for predictive analysis and forecasting of fire breakout hazards by monitoring electrical/power infrastructures in major facilities. The concept, if technically as compelling as it sounds, could become a standard in building safety all over the world. The majority of the discussion was about go-to-market strategy, channels and regulatory issues. It’s a very impressive concept, to say the least!

Invention Labs
We also had Ajit Narayanan present AVAZ, designed by Invention Labs, a neat learning and communication product that helps people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation, and speech disorders to communicate. The product has won a national award from the president of India for its empowerment of people with disabilities. However, in my assessment, the bigger opportunity for this business is to go to market as a mobile app.

ET Interactive
Finally, Robin Mathew presented ET Interactive Design, a retail concept to address the disconnect between rural artisans and the merchandise they produce, and customers and what they want to buy. While the basic premise is compelling, and I am very interested in entrepreneurship opportunities in this area, the business model is flawed. I advised Robin to review rural and slum development, as well as lifestyle brand projects in Vision India 2020 and decide which one captures his fancy, then come and work with me on executing on it.

Some of these businesses should definitely apply for the Microsoft BizSpark India Startup Challenge grants. I look forward to working with all of them further in 1M/1M.

Also, on the evening of April 9, I met with a large group of TiE Chennai charter members to brainstorm about Capitalism 2.0 and entrepreneurship development, which also yielded a very animated discussion.

At the end of the day, we sealed a partnership between 1M/1M and TiE Chennai whereby TiE Chennai members can receive a discount of 25% off the annual membership fee for the 1M/1M premium program until June 16, 2011, and a 15% discount thereafter. The 1M/1M premium program offers entrepreneurs access to on-demand educational, business development and incubation resources and strategy discussions with me for $1,000 per year.

Our next online roundtable schedule will be held on April 28. Recordings of previous online roundtables are all available here. You can register for the upcoming roundtables here.

The Startup Centre : SAIF Partners announces Sponsoring one Resident. Deadline Fast Approaching…

I quite remember having discussions around Early Stage startups a few years back – not that much has changed since then – but it all came down to essentially realizing that we unfortunately do not have enough great ideas spawning out of our ecosystem. I believe that statement has to end with a “YET”. There is very little support in terms of entities and groups that can garner that momentum that events build up, into something creative and productive, and to aid that early entrepreneur through the stages of building that first prototype and Product.

The resident Programme in a lot of ways, was framed keeping that in mind. A six month programme where you are in the company of 15 such amazing founders, day-in and day out building out your dream. Nothing gets better than that.

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the applications we have been receiving. We are infact getting quite a few applications from out of Chennai, that we are trying to put together a list of affordable places to stay in Chennai, around the centre, should these teams get selected. There are definitely signs of an amazing resident programme coming together here.

So we’ve got Four more days to go, and another week or so of hard work for us at TSC to go through all the applications, and schedule interviews, meets and calls with those of you who’ve applied. We are slotting teams early in the calendar, and on the order of submission. So, the earlier you apply, the earlier you get a meeting, and the verdict. Make use of it.

Announcing the Sponsorship Programme:

Remember how I was mentioning how we all have cribbed that there arent enough early stage companies in India? Well, while we are taking the lead, we are quite proud and honored to have folks supporting that cause. SAIF Partners (http://www.sbaif.com/) has committed to sponsor one resident team for the entire duration of the programme (that’s the complete six months). I know not everyone who has wanted to start out, also has had the luxury to save up to cover the costs of the Programme – as much as we’ve kept it to the bare minimum we can afford the infrastructure at. But here’s an excellent opportunity if that was the only thing stopping you. (There is an added section on the Application Form, a few details to be added IF and ONLY if you want to be considered for the programme. Please note that the chances are rather low, given the demand, so in an effort to be helpful, only apply if you really need it)

Make use of it, before its too late. Applications are open at http://rapply.thestartupcentre.com

Look forward to hearing from you soon. We are really rooting for the early stage entrepreneur, and we are looking forward to the day when we no longer have to agree to the obvious with the YET at the end for optimism, but it will be a blatant reality.

On behalf of The Startup Centre,
Vijay Anand

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Canaan partners in “Pioneering Spirit”

Canaan is pleased to partner with Lufthansa in bringing the next edition of “Pioneering Spirit” – a unique television series around entrepreneurship. Apart from our involvement in the selection process, we will be extending a stay for winners at our offices, in order to have close range brainstorming on their business. We will also sponsor a fully paid executive entrepreneurship program at a leading international business school for the winner.

Give yourself a chance to meet business pioneers face to face, impress them with your business plan, and get an opportunity to take your business to the next level! The call for entries will open shortly – register here to be intimated of the same.

1M/1M Announces Important Partnership With MAD Incubator, Malaysia

At this week’s One Million by One Million roundtable, we announced a very important  partnership with MAD Incubator, Malaysia for entrepreneurship development in the region. This is our first major partnership with an incubator whereby MAD will adopt the 1M/1M methodology to foster Silicon Valley–style technopreneurship in Malaysia. Andrew Wong, CEO of MAD, has been working with us for almost a year, and we have made a mutual choice to deepen the partnership by making MAD a premiere value-added reseller partner of the 1M/1M program.

At today’s session, therefore, all our entrepreneurs were pitching from Malaysia. First up, Alvin Yuen from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, presented ISA Innovation, a company providing a hosted IT asset and inventory management solution.  At present, ISA has a set of pilot clients and is toying with the idea of going global. Well, you can’t really go ‘global’ without a go-to-market strategy that evaluates different markets, and assesses the competitive positioning in each of them. This strategy needs to be developed for ISA, and they have to pick a specific market to go after, rather than going global.

Next, also from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Mohd Hezri Amir Abdul Latiff with HezMedia Interactive pitched Math-Quest, an edutainment company focusing on math learning games for kids aged nine to 12. One of the primary pieces missing from this presentation is a thorough competitive analysis of what other math games are in this market, and that will drive Math-Quest’s go-to-market strategy. Also, the business is primarily on CD-ROMs right now, but the good news is that the CD-ROM product is selling and generating revenue. It could be a good business to bootstrap the social/mobile edutainment business with.

Then, Yong Wai Ming, from Bukit Jalil, Selangor, Malaysia, discussed I-Gamer, a gaming platform that connects gamers in cybercafés. I-Gamer wants third-party game developers to develop games on its platform. Today, the company has about 15,000 cybercafés paying subscription fees to be connected through their platform to play certain traditional games. The good news, again, is that this business is generating revenues. The company has ambitions of working with more cutting-edge gaming companies, but I don’t know enough about their platform to see why developers would choose to work with their platform as opposed to others like Facebook.

Another entrepreneur from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Darren Panag with Convep Mobilogy, pitched AppsAsia, a mobile platform for business apps on various mobile devices such as iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and so on. The company sells to the marketing departments of corporations, has 50 customers, and is already profitable. Fantastic! We discussed their growth strategy, and my advice is to build the ad agency and interactive marketing channels as the primary growth driver. The entrepreneur seems obsessed with building his own brand and selling directly to end customers. A mistake, in my opinion.

Last up, Alvin Yuen from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, pitched Techsailor, a services company that provides online community engagement to major brands. Alvin seems perturbed by the fact that his business is largely services and not as much products. I don’t see a problem with this, especially since the services model generates cash early on, and he can practice our tried-and-true model of bootstrapping using services! This is also a business that has substantial revenue, which is wonderful. The entrepreneur is exploring ways to turn it into more of a product company as opposed to a pure services company. This is something we can certainly help him with, using our methodology.

Based on my assessment of the Malaysian entrepreneurs – we have seen a good sample of them over the past year – I think this is a group that would do well to go through the 1M/1M premium program as soon as possible, and internalize the curriculum. There are numerous basics that are missing from their business strategies right now, which are gaps that can be easily and efficiently plugged by adopting the 1M/1M methodology.

In addition, for several of the companies above, we have channel relationships that we can bring them into as soon as they are ready. As you know, we strongly believe in trying to get to customers and channel partners as early as possible and even using that as alternative financing, rather than beating the pavement looking for equity capital without adequate validation – a path that yields a 99% rejection rate.

Over time, if the Malaysian entrepreneurship ecosystem can groom several thousand technology entrepreneurs using the 1M/1M program, we envision an immense economic impact on the regional economy. We can also provide a subset of these entrepreneurs who are looking to penetrate the U.S./global market a strong channel through Silicon Valley.

This is an extremely important experiment that we are running in Malaysia. If successful, it can be replicated all over the world – throughout cities and towns in the United States, throughout the emerging markets, throughout every region that wants to efficiently groom a large number of technology entrepreneurs and unleash their power on the global economy. I am truly excited to welcome the Malaysian entrepreneurs and the  visionaries in their ecosystem who are leading this movement, and every member of the 1M/1M team greets our friends in Malaysia with enormous enthusiasm. We fully grasp the potential of what you are embarking upon, and we look forward to our journey together.

I also have a message for all the various ecosystem players in Malaysia (and elsewhere): 1M/1M is not here to compete with any of you. We’re here to supplement your efforts and provide a base level of entrepreneurship education to a large number of entrepreneurs in your communities in a scalable manner through a virtual program. This, we believe, will create a strong downstream deal flow for all of you – incubators, angel investors, and VCs.

I will be traveling in India over the next several days and doing live roundtables in three cities: Chennai (April 9), Mumbai (April 16), and Pune (April 17). There will be no online roundtable next Thursday, but our usual schedule will resume on April 21 and focus on the northeastern part of the United States. You can register for the upcoming roundtables here.

You can also listen to the recording of today’s roundtable here and select the business you like best through a poll on the 1M/1M Facebook page. Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here.

 

Presentation on Innovation Engineering at SlideShare

Hi Entrepreneurs and VCs
Since Innovation(s) make(s) or break(s) the entrepreneurs, I think this is relevant here. I have uploaded a presentation on Innovation Engineering at SlideShare.
http://www.slideshare.net/innoengineering/innovation-engineering 
Thanks for reviewing the presentation and letting me know your comments and suggestions.FYI, Innovation Engineering is made in India/Delhi by a 100% self-funded and 0% grant startup, 3innovate.
Regards
Pradyot
http://www.crunchbase.com/person/pradyot-sahu 
3innovate Page on Innovation Engineering
http://3innovate.net/innoengineering.htm
Interact on Innovation Engineering
http://www.facebook.com/innoengineering
http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=3759712

1M/1M Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: Microsoft’s $100k India Startup Challenge Grant

At this week’s One Million by One Million roundtable, we announced our collaboration with Microsoft around a $100k grant that they are offering to four Indian entrepreneurs as follows: A $40k grant each to two entrepreneurs, one in Mobility and one in Cloud Computing; and a $10k grant to two entrepreneurs, also one in each of those two categories.

1M/1M will be working with Microsoft in helping entrepreneurs prepare for these grants. I will be traveling in India in April, and doing live roundtables in three cities: Chennai (April 9), Mumbai (April 16), and Pune (April 17). Girish Joshi, from Microsoft, will be attending the roundtables, and scouting companies for the grants with me. I will be reporting back on the companies we see on this column from the road.

At today’s session, first up, Ramkumar RS from Chennai, India, presented Mango DVM, an innovative solution to turn vendors of illegal, grey market music to legal distributors using a combination of mobile apps and media server technology. Ramkumar has made certain pricing model and delivery model assumptions that are yet to be validated. We brainstormed about the risks of those assumptions. However, only the market can tell to what extent those assumptions will hold true.

Next Jigar Doshi, also from Chennai, India, pitched 3gSimplified, in effect, a comparative shopping solution for mobile plans, which are apparently quite complex in the Indian market. As for business model, Jigar wants to sell services like refilling cards.

3gSimplified is a very early concept that has just launched, and the market feedback will be rolling in over the next few months. Our discussion today was around prioritization of the next few critical steps around customer acquisition and validation.

Then Balaganesh S., from Chennai, India, as well, discussed Report Bee, a data visualization solution for schools around report cards and student performance. Report Bee has two paying customers, and we discussed segmentation issues around where to focus for the early market penetration strategy. Clearly, affluent schools that can afford to buy technology, and also parents who have access to computers would be the best early adopters.

Janardhan Swahar from Salem, India, presented Swayam Foods, a health food company that is focused on the Indian palette across snacks, quick-to-prepare items, etc. The company has distribution through about 50 retailers in Chennai, and is looking for ways to market their product through online channels. We discussed guerilla p.r., product reviews through blogs, as well as SEO, blogs, and social media marketing.

Last up, Rahul Mishra from Bangalore, India, pitched Promedik, a “decision support system” for physicians. I wasn’t convinced about the assumptions of the business – there are too many gaps and flawed assumptions around the source and the cost of the data upon which the product is built. I advised Rahul to study Epocrates as a model. I believe, trying to offer a reference manual may be better than trying to offer a decision support system, which is a much more complex value proposition that requires expert systems to implement.

Before I end, let me also point you to an interview we’re running on my blog with Naval Ravikant, founder of AngelList, which you may find enlightening.

Also, some of you have asked me questions about the 1M/1M Premium Curriculum, which I have addressed on the blog.

Next week, the 1M/1M roundtable will focus on entrepreneurs in East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. You can register for the next roundtable here.

You can also listen to the recording of today’s roundtable here and select the business you like best through a poll on the 1M/1M Facebook page. Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here.