Tag Archive for 'entrepreneurship'

Walk down Silicon Alley…

Last week I had the opportunity to spend time with startups and tech companies in New York, aka Silicon Alley. The excitement in the startup and venture circles in the city was impressive. Previously where finance used to dominate all conversations, now its about ad tech, social/mobile and Pinterest clones. VC’s seems to around each corner – from Accel, KP and Canaan, plus USV, DFJ, RRE and many more. More importantly, there is a passion towards entrepreneurship similar to what existed for maybe hedge funds previously, and investment banks before that. 

The venture funding numbers confirm this transformation – in Q3 2011 New York beat Massachusetts for the first time in a decade to land $831 million in venture funding in 86 startups. Compare this to $260 million in Q3 2009 for 55 startups, and clearly something seems to be working to drive this growth. The successes coming out of the state also paint a glowing picture – Foursquare, Fab, Tumblr, ZocDoc, Gilt all are based out of New York.

What would it take to engineer a similar transformation in India? Could Bangalore, Mumbai or Delhi be the next hotspot of innovation? Speaking to a few veterans of the NY entrepreneurship scene revealed the following drivers behind this change:

  1. Macro environment: Wall Street is under fire, and engineers have realized that designing trading algorithm is neither very interesting nor might be well paying in the future. Inspite of its inefficiencies, movements like Occupy Wall Street seems to be chipping away at the image of financial firms. On the other hand Tech is cool, creates jobs and with the availability of easy venture funding makes for a no-brainer switch for many wannabe entrepreneurs. Though India’s growth has slowed, we are still accelerating at a very respectable 6.9% rate – hopefully we can leverage this momentum instead of waiting for things to slow down before we start focusing on entrepreneurship.
  2. Government Support: The passion for entrepreneurship starts at the top – Mayor Bloomberg has himself founded a namesake company, and is an ardent supporter of startups in NY. Initiatives such as a new Tech campus in New York are ensuring continued supply of high quality tech talent. Plus NY’s legislature is considering providing a 25% tax breaks to angel investors, while sadly here in India we are contemplating the exact opposite.
  3. Supportive Ecosystem: In addition to availability of capital (VCs) and techies, NY developed a healthy mentorship environment where experienced entrepreneurs advise new ones – giving back to the community. There are a dozen odd incubators providing early funding and support to startups. The last couple of years have undoubtedly seen rise of many incubators in India, however the level of support provided to entrepreneurs outside the top few is concerning. Incubators need to be powered by entrepreneurs – providing desk, chairs and few lakh rupees is unlikely to produce the next facebook from India.
  4. It takes time!: It took New York more than a decade of hard work to build the rich ecosystem that exits today. A few investors actively funded startups, some of these startups scaled up and provided a shining light for others to follow, as well as mentors to help guide them. As the next wave of startups continues to mature in India – from MakeMyTrip and Flipkart to InMobi and Snapdeal – hopefully we are also headed in the right direction.

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.
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.
3innovate Page on Innovation Engineering
Interact on Innovation Engineering

Dotcom has Enabled ‘Choice Entrepreneurship’ in India (From WSJ)

PhokatCopyIt was September 2000 and I was waiting for my U.S. work permit to join one of the big five consulting firms. Obviously, I was excited and had already started dreaming the American Dream.

Interrupting the day dream was a call from one of my Indian Institute of Technology batch-mates – “We are opening a new company tomorrow. Would you like to join us?” asked Kapil Nakra.

I was shocked and I asked him to give me a few days to respond. A few minutes passed and I received a second call from another batch-mate, Purvesh Sharma, and he demanded, “Are you joining us or not?” I’m still unsure of what went through my mind, but I suddenly found three letters coming out of my mouth Y. E. S.

It’s now been 10 years and I have not recovered from the shock of that visceral decision. I am still riding the entrepreneurial wave I jumped on, a decade ago.

Read complete article at WSJ’s India Chief Mentor.

The Largest gathering of Cleantech companies in India

TiE Hyderabad organized the ‘Largest Gathering of Cleantech Companies in India’. The conference was held in partnership with Nexus, SONG and New Ventures India. The event was a focused “no-frills” networking event of investors and entrepreneurs. The day was divided into 4 sections: Smart Grid, Energy Efficiency, Recycling and Renewable Energy. Companies operating in each area presented their business story in a small presentation to the audience and investors also talked about their investing interests.

Acumen Fund, Applied Materials, Atlas Advisory, Breathe Ventures, GEF, IDG, IFC(W), Lightspeed, Mumbai Angels, Nereus Capital, Siemens Venture Capital, SIDBI and YES Bank were the investors who attended apart, of course, from Nexus and SONG. That’s 15 investors all seriously interested in cleantech in India.

The morning sessions on Smart Grid and Energy Efficiency merged into each other as is the nature of business in this end of the Cleantech spectrum. Satyam, CEO of NeoSilica, who also played a key role in organizing the conference in his role as the TiE SIG head, presented the overall picture. The remote data collection and control idea was found in:
• Connect M, a IDG and Sasken company, develops applications that collect data remotely targeted at a broad set of businesses but also to utilities
• Autoboxx provides remote monitoring with respect to energy usage in air conditioned areas.
• Neureol which provides remote monitoring of infrastructure in telecom towers and power utilities.

The smart metering idea found resonance in:
• PowerMax Global which develops communication products that enable smart metering.
• Analogics which focuses on efficient metering and communication solutions.

The energy efficient theme was found in:
• Kakatiya Energy Systems develops lighting controls for energy efficient lighting.
• Unidyne which manufactures energy efficient air conditioning systems.
• NEST which manufacturers efficient solar lanterns.

The recycling section had the following highlights:
• E waste recycling by Ekoreco which has been one of the pioneers in this field and Greenscape. Inspite of the lack of mandatory regulation there is a market for several players in this field.
• Plastic waste to oil up-cycling by Samki Teck

The transportation sector was held up India’s pioneer in the area of electric bikes: Eko Vehicles.

The renewable energy section had several flavors. First among them was Biomass Gasification. The two presenters in this were Ankur Scientific, one of the technology pioneers in India and AllGreen Energy, which is using the technology for rural electrification.

The Biofuels section was led by Nandan, India’s leader in jethropa R&D and Indian Bio- Diesel Corporation, Baramati which is building local communities that will manufacture bio-diesel.

The hydro section had SCG India as the lone participant who is trying to develop micro hydro sites in Himachal Pradesh.

The solar section had representation from Nuetech Solar, the 4th largest player in the solar thermal area, Sharada with a broad range of products in solar and SuRe which is innovating in the solar PV area.

A presentation that was not enterprise or investor related was that of Ashok Das, representing World Bank InfoDev which explored the possibility of setting up a Innovation Center to foster and support the cleantech ecosystem.

We also had an interesting presentation from Higgs Advertising – building cleantech markets is a critical challenge.

The closing presentation of the day was made by Razvan Maximiuc of the Cleantech Group, who made the really sobering point that the pace of Cleantech in India did not match up either to the size of the opportunity or the requirements from a climate change standpoint.

Incidentally, that was probably the only time “Copenhagen” was mentioned in the conference. The challenges to cleantech entrepreneurship are closer to home.

Is Micro-Funding a New Trend to Come?

A lot of folks seem to be very curious as to what I am working on, since my stepping back from Proto.in. Well, quite a bit actually and on some rather serious stuff. Serious as cash, infact. One of the major concerns that has been on my mind is the scarcity of capital in this market.

I am absolutely with the camp that believes that if there are quality companies, then capital will find its way. But we also know as part of most of our risk mitigation strategies, making a leap into a market with no safety net or partners makes it a really serious gamble – even for some of the most well-versed entrepreneur to tread in. I strongly believe that unless we enable some capital to flow, we are not going to see much of a difference in the number of quality startups that spring up, and inevitably the number of startups that get funded/get recognized, and the number that make an exit. This cycle, as you know is recursive.

So What have I been obcessing about? I’m focusin on three aspects and I think all three aspects are crucial.

  1. The mechanisms for loans from banks to become accessible for startups/SMEs
  2. An effort to bring together the Angel Investment Community, educate them and help them engage in an effective manner
  3. An effort to fix the “broken VC Model”

The First and Second are fairly straightforward and I promise to come back to you with some better news soon. But this is primarily about the third one.

I think the third one warrants a closer look for a simple reason. People have been claiming as long as for the better part of the decade that the VC model is broken and there seems to be no heed to that warning. Whats worse is that given that India couldnt be farther away from whats happening in the Silicon Valley in terms of similarities, the model is a force-fit one (There are some better models in Israel, Singapore etc). If you’d understand how a VC firm works, its primarily a specialized bank which runs on a management fee and bonus paid with the return on the investment. The overheads of running such a team is so high, that the only viable way for most firms to operate is to increase the fund size, which sets the ball rolling on them getting into a soup not able to invest in early stage no more, and the next thing you know they are either full-fledged in growth stage, or are in growth stage and are disillusioned about being an early stage investment firm. Suddenly working for a VC firm or being one doesnt seem so glamorous, does it? :)

What we need in India is essentially a firm which is capable of dispensing funds as low as 50 Lakhs to a crore (I am consciously keeping figures in INR to make it a point that we arent in dollar land and the rules and requirements are different here) – which can operate at lower costs, and can also manage a sizeable portfolio.
Continue reading ‘Is Micro-Funding a New Trend to Come?’

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?

The Tweetie Helpline | @start24x7

So, We have been kinda noticing this trend. Forums are great, and with the present rate at which the startup community seems to be growing, there is more and more a need to be real-time. We felt it, just by the way we were interacting with people on twitter, but there was certainly a need to do more.As of today, the Indian startup community has a helpline. @start24x7 Continue reading ‘The Tweetie Helpline | @start24x7′

NEW entrepreneurship website- entrepreneurship.org

Kauffman Foundation has started a NEW entrepreneurship website.
and resources center
The website tells
“In the midst of our worst financial crisis in decades, entrepreneurs will once again lead the economic recovery.”

Actually, innovation and entrepreneurship (in business, social, political and military areas) are the reasons what makes USA and UK different from others. India is different too in the recent times.

What do you think?

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!

Free Strategy Roundtables For Entrepreneurs

I am doing some Free Online Strategy Roundtables for entrepreneurs to discuss your business issues with me.

During this 60-minute session, entrepreneurs are invited to pitch me their ideas in a 3-minute presentation. I will review the material in real-time and provide feedback on each pitch, as well as address specific strategy questions from the entrepreneur. Afterward, I will take questions about strategy from other participants. The session is open to 1000 people but only the first five to sign up have the opportunity to pitch and discuss their business.

To register, click here:

* Feb 18, 11:30 am Pacific
* March 11, 9:00 am Pacific
* March 25, 10:00 am Pacific

The entire series is sponsored by DimDim, the Open Source web conferencing company.

Recordings of previous entrepreneurship webinars and roundtables are available here:

* January, 2009 – Entrepreneurship Webinar
* October, 2008 – Web 3.0 Product Strategy Roundtable