Author Archive for Sanjukt K. Saha

Connecting a World Changer / George Page

Every now and then, my team stumbles upon an amazing individual who is destined to change the world. I try and tell these stories to as many people as I can. So forgive me if you have received a personal note but enjoy the story if you haven’t.

George Page is an extraordinary inventor. He is on an obsessive mission to make clean drinking water available wherever it is not. Scientist and Philanthropist – George has invented PocketPure – an engineer’s dream, a simple, elegant and portable water purificator that is already helping disaster affected communities in Haiti and Japan to drink straight up from dirty rivers, streams and lakes.

Read about his story as we break it at www.onebillionminds.com/georgepage and give us a LIKE there if you think the world needs PocketPure! Write to him at gpage(at)portapure.com to encourage his work and find out how you can join minds and forces with him.

George is trying to change the world.
He cannot do this alone. Help Us Help George.

Roar of the Cloud

Among a close group of friends in the Paas, SaaS and IaaS sector in India and a few members from the VC community, we have been talking for sometime about the need to come together to discover and support innovators working on new SaaS products/services. The challenge really is to democratize development and support the MAKE, MARKET and MONETIZE phases, leaving the innovator free to do what he/she does best, unleash his mind.

So, my company One Billion Minds, WOLF Frameworks – India’s leading PaaS company, and Jamcracker decided to come together to start an ambitious Not for Profit program to do exactly this.

We have just launched – The Roar of the Cloud Challenge – to discover the best SaaS innovators in India and bring to them best in class application and venture development support as well as mentoring from the brightest leaders in Cloud Computing innovation.

Please let us know what you think about this Not for Profit initiative. We are looking for more partner companies as well as mentors to the innovators.

Of course, if you have a killer application in your mind, you may like to participate yourself at: http://bit.ly/aAZkGH

IIT Kanpur Golden Jubilee Initiative: The Next50 Global Innovation Challenge

The Next50 Global Innovation Challenge is an IIT Kanpur Golden Jubilee Alumni Initiative to identify 50 early stage innovators in Agriculture, Cleantech, Financial Inclusion, Education and Technology, who can change the way we work and live.

Innovators stand to win awesome cash awards, named prizes and access an exclusive ecosystem of mentoring, business support and funding opportunities.

Participate in the Challenge if you are working on an innovation that could change the world.

Register as a Mentor if you want to share your expertise/wisdom with early stage innovators. Thank you for your support.

DreamCatchers! Call to Action

I am very grateful to you all for the response to my previous article: Funding for Real Innovation in India ! Unavailable. Many of you wrote to me as well as extended action/offers to the DCE AUV team. What was however in my opinion the best outcome, happened right in the beginning: Bharat (Delhi/VIN Industries) and Sameer (Mumbai/Nomura) reached out quietly and fast and helped the team with what they needed – a small cash infusion and a 15 day marketing outreach that brought up a sane view of where the vehicle would make commercial sense – and all of that without any contract, without a termsheet!  I understand now that the DCE team, very depressed, when I wrote then, is again energized and for that let me take back the last word in that headline! Hats off to you Bharat and Sameer. What I gained during my three trips to DCE so far is an enormous amount of goodwill, a deep sense of personal aha and a large number of new friends and fellow travelers!

We need a billion entrepreneurs. One of the things we discuss often in forums of young IITians like me is the idea that we must act on an issue if we are able to act, as the capability for action is a responsibility.

One Billion Minds is not a VC firm and I am not an Angel Investor. But when I spoke to some of you who wrote to me, I realize there is a need for a tier of support specially designed for early stage innovators. This tier is not about funding. It is more about helping them because we can. We brainstormed about young entrepreneurs like Bharat and senior executives like Sameer to come together in a group and help early stage innovators in small, simple ways without looking at returns at the start and in the typical way.

I have now spoken with a few friends while in Delhi and Bangalore and we are putting together DreamCatchers – a fraternity of entrepreneurs who would help early stage innovators with mentoring, access to funding and more importantly, a pilot client, working within and beyond the DreamCatchers network.

What is an early stage innovator? A simple qualification – a team that can change the way we work or live and is less than one year old as an entity.

Some of us are meeting early stage innovators in Bangalore between March 1 – 5. If you are one with a dream in your eyes email me: sanjukt.saha@onebillionminds.com

If you are an entrepreneur or senior executive and wish to join us and have fun, write to me and let us start a fire. Remember, make your money elsewhere!

Funding for Real Innovation in India! UNAVAILABLE

If you look carefully at the blue fish in the water below, you can discern INDIA written faintly on the body. Well it is not a fish but India’s first indigenous designed Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). I have a story about it for you.

I first met Ammar in Delhi after he reached me through the India Brand Equity Foundation. I travelled to the Delhi College of Engineering campus and met the larger team of 8 students.  You should have been there with me to see the kick ass energy this team has. They have gone ahead and built a 4th generation AUV that has been the only Indian participant at the prestigious annual competition hosted by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Centre, San Diego.

They have not won yet. They lost to the Israelis and the Americans. One reason – the US team has the support of an entire fab for the circuitry right inside the university. The DCE team was building it themselves on a circuit board using a solder.

The kind of applications for such a thing is amazing. It can travel 2km on its own. Can identify objects. Follow a path intelligently. And all onboard, right from the power to the brain. Applications range from security to fish patterns. In any other country, they would have received funding, or would have been kidnapped by the armed forces months ago. In our case, this team is struggling to raise a fund of just Rs. 20 lakhs to buy equipment.

They footed my bill at the College Canteen! So I got them over to meet a couple of international angel investors who were speechless after the meeting about how they were able to see something like this without an NDA. It would be very difficult for the team to raise professional funding as the IP is university controlled. The Dean of Research, Dr. R.K. Sinha is wonderful and has got the Institute to be more outward looking but for those benefits to reach innovators within will still take years after the IITs first get their act in place!

So what happens in the meanwhile? Ammar and his eight muskeeteers will graduate in a year and get picked up by some software company. VCs will continue funding social community startups. Angels will never get to know.

I wonder how we could change it. We have adopted the AUV DCE team as our mascot. I am speaking to every friend, every one I know to get these guys 20 lakhs over one year. If any of you can help, and it is not only money that they need but equipment in kind and mentors, please get in touch with Ammar and the team at auv@dce.edu/9873999040 or me at sanjukt.saha@onebillionminds.com.

At One Billion Minds, we are trying to see if team like this need not go a begging.

Angel Investor Event: Kolkata/October 21

One Billion Minds continuing its mission to foster the spirit of innovation & entrepreneurship in India, invites innovators to present path breaking ideas to an international team of angel investors on October 21, 2009 at Kolkata

Date: October 21st 2009
Venue:  ITC Room, Bengal Chambers of Commerce, Kolkata
Eligibility: Product or Service with High Innovation and/or Social Angle

How to Apply?
A. Register: Email ambar.singh@onebillionminds.com to register
B. Submit ONE PAGE Innovator Pitch by Thursday 16th October 11 PM
C. Shortlisted Teams will receive an opportunity to present to the Investors

PROFILE OF ANGEL INVESTORS

Steffen Naumann
Angel Investor & Advisor, One Billion Minds

Steffen Naumann has been involved with One Billion Minds as a Mentor since the first ideas of it were born in 2007. Steffen was a Member of the Management Board of Axel Springer, Germany’s largest media company, and COO and CFO of this important and successful European media group since November 2001. He ended this appointment in April 2009. Before, Steffen spent about ten years with Bertelsmann, the biggest German Media Group, his last positions being Member of the Executive Board of Bertelsmann’s book business, and Executive Vice President and CFO of Random House Inc, New York, the book publishing division of Bertelsmann. Steffen also worked with McKinsey and Ford of Europe earlier in his career.

Jens Geitmann
Angel Investor & Founding Partner, TriStone Partners

A trained commercial and investment banker with over 20 years of industry experience in the US and Europe, he is a founding partner of TriStone Partners, London and Prague. In charge of the Prague office specialising in debt and corporate restructuring situations he is also responsible for TriStone’s US Joint Venture partner network. A European Business School, London Graduate and former Charterhouse Corporate Finance Director his network is predominantly based in Europe and the US, with a more limited access to Latin America. TriStone Partner’s reference deal was and still is the In Game Advertising/IGA deal which was named Deal of the Year in France. For information on TriStone Partners please visit our web site at: www.tristonepartners.com

Who is an entrepreneur?

 

Do not stare at this picture for too long! Just out of a really late night discussion with a colleague at One Billion Minds.

What is your word?

Inviting Early Stage Ventures/ University Startups

A close friend and mentor, a member of the Management Board of one of Europe’s largest media companies and my Chairman designate, is on a private visit to India between the 8th and 14th of May. This will be his first visit to the country and we are actively exploring the possibility of investing in early stage ventures in India, especially those at university and on the ‘edge’ during this summer (!) or graduated in the last one year.

We are meeting a few in Kolkata on the 9th and in some probability in Delhi subsequently.

If any teams are interested please drop me a line at:

sanjukt.saha@onebillionminds.com

Starting Up in a Downturn

Downturn? I have only realized it much later after turning entrepreneur in December 2008. Nothing seems to have changed. March is busy as usual for clients when one rationalizes that business would start flowing in from April! Clients on the other hand are as difficult to make part with money beyond the idea honeymoon as before.

Nothing has changed. Would you agree?

One of the things that has changed perhaps is the time that entrepreneurs have on their hands. True in my case at least, it is a genuine pleasure to write again on VentureWoods after a long time. Many friends are now willing to share war stories, helping a new entrepreneur like me to tread warily on the path trodden well and hard before me by the faithful.

I was speaking with a close friend about how to hire, he is poised to raise a double digit million round for his business – yes, who said capital has dried out. You normally meet one set of people who are entrepreneurial and want to take the risk of working with you and then they want equity. Sadly, you quickly get into a position where you have options alone. In any case, if you are not a co founder does it make sense to join a startup still ready to offer equity? I would say not. A startup who still has equity to offer to a non founder has not got its act together yet. And the single digit equity that is then available is not really commensurate with the value the recruit is bringing in or from his point of view, doesn’t really cover his risk.

Anyway, we were talking about the second set of people who are not entrepreneurial and know exactly what they want, a function in an interesting new venture – consulting, marketing, sales – and we came to the conclusion that such perhaps are the best hires for a new startup who doesn’t have any more equity to hand around.

I am not taking his advice though. In my career over the last 10 years I did well with taking on fresh people out of college, asking them how much they wanted, adding a random premium on it and then combine that with a responsibility beyond their years. My experience – forget equity, ownership – young people treat this as their opportunity of a life time and what they lack in experience, just fast and quick, cover with their sheer hard work and enthusiasm.

Amar Bhide wrote an interesting history of McKinsey. I have read it again and again for just one thing, how a founder can vision what his company is going to look like years from the start and how to put into execution things, and balances that complement and support each other to achieve that vision. Recommended.

Ah yes, I started One Billion Minds – a powerful new prize led innovation platform connecting Corporations and Non Profits to students in top universities worldwide able to solve problems in Design, Engineering, Science, Computer Science, Business and Social Innovation.

It was indeed a lazy Saturday, downturn or not!

How do Social Networks make money?

I came across this interesting post on alternate ways social networks are monetizing. Of course there is Facebook and the big frenzy they are trying to jumpstart into what is essentially still a purposeless network (come on now). Are there mainstream monetizers for social networks? What about vertical social networks unlike LinkedIn for example? I wonder.