Smart Techie Startup City

Yesterday, I attended The Smart Techie Startup
City event. It was
intended as a showcase of startups as well as for
learning/sharing/mentoring.

I had taken some notes during the day. As I was expanding it into
a blog post, I realized I was just adding filler words which was
a waste of bits, so here it is as-is:

  • Ashish Gupta, Helion VC on “Concept to Success : Milestones for
    startups”

    • India is a startup (positive way of looking at things)
      • High energy
      • Lots of growth
      • Small absolute number (relatively)
      • Little infrastructure or process
      • Lack of talent
      • Lots of optimism
      • Need to innovate to survive
      • ⇒ Once in a lifetime opportunity
    • Significant change in dynamics (negative way of looking at it)
      • Whatever can be made efficient will be done so.
        • We can in turn get bangalored and some other country will
          benefit.
      • Creative folks will thrive.
      • ⇒ We have no choice.
    • Hardest evolutionary steps
      • Those that requires behavior change
        • For example, starting to think “Become cash flow positive”
        • Next level CEO, process, tech, business model, etc.
    • Put in place metrics to measure everything – will help identify
      whether one has already hit an inflection point.
    • Rules of thumb
      1. Focus on customer/issue
      2. Focus on continuous improvement
      3. Intellectual honesty
      4. Results matter – only for MEASURING (measure progress on
        a larger scale)
      5. ⇒ Same rules for person, family, company
Smart Techie Startup City 01
Smart Techie Startup City 02
Smart Techie Startup City 03
Smart Techie Startup City 05
  • Application Marketing panel discussion
    • Dr. Y L R Moorthi – IIMB professor of marketing (the moderator)
      • ‘Technology has the shelf life of a banana’
      • Wacky ideas (product) + Marketing (messaging) – the
        2 challenges
    • Paul Murphy, Director of Innovation, Microsoft India
      • Taking ideas to market is key
      • Time vs Cost in marketing
      • Leverage as many platforms as possible
    • Bharath Chinamanthur,Director – Retail Systems, Amazon India
      Development Center

      • Great customer experience, wide merchandise, low cost – simple
        basics that Amazon has adhered to
      • Free shipping in lieu of marketing program
      • Affiliate program
      • ‘Zara’ – a Spanish retailer, No. 64 in the Inter-Brand survey
        → fast moving (short availability) high-fashion available
        in regular malls. Their innovation is the supply-chain and the
        marketing since the fashion is designed by others.
    • Suresh Vedula, Head – Business Mobility, Nokia India
      • Having a good product, be honest about your product’s
        capabilities, build a customer base.
      • All these are required for startups as well. Brand will be
        built over time via word of mouth, etc. If you have a product
        that’s a dud, things like marketing and brand don’t matter.
      • Nokia Basics
        1. Product innovation
        2. Reach, especially in a country like India
        3. Supply chain management
      • When everything fails, common sense succeeds
    • Y L R Moorthi
      • Marketing tactic – from 9 am to 1 pm say ‘cello’ instead of
        ‘hello’ and if you’re the one they call up, you get a gift
        → costs nothing but overnight they built brand
        recognition in Tamil Nadu
      • Its essential to think such wacky ideas, only startups can do
        that.
    • Paul Murphy
      • Partner ecosystem important
      • 1) Crawl 2) Walk 3) Run
      • Success is a terrible teacher. Failure is a better one.
    • Summary by Y R L Moorthi
      • Start with the market, not the product
      • “I’m expensive now because I learned so much” – a guy who has
        had 3 failures who was a hot hire
      • Wacky ideas
        • Anantra, no office, save lot of money
      • How to get Reach is important, various strategies being used
        • “Oh My News” Korean newspaper/blog
        • CambrianHouse.com – crowdsourcing ideas
      • Basically, ideate and monetize.
Smart Techie Startup City 06
  • Startup stalls
    • The ones I was most impressed with was Mobisy – they have already
      done a Adobe AIR for Mobile! You can write applications in
      HTML/JavaScript and deploy as an app on a number of platforms
      like Symbian, etc. provides native facilities like SMS, phone
      book, location.

    • MyDuniya – just SMS for sharing Files, messaging Groups, etc.
    • There were more startups in mobile payment (ngpay, obopay,
      mchek), services such as payroll outsourcing and company
      incorporation help, big companies like Akamai and Amazon that
      provide technology services for startups, etc.
    • The group stalls for Bangalore OCC and KickStart.in were packed.
    • Satish
      found QuillPad very good: “It needs
      guts/passion to say a ‘NO’ when approached by google to acquire!”
Smart Techie Startup City 07
Smart Techie Startup City 08
Smart Techie Startup City 09
Smart Techie Startup City 10
Smart Techie Startup City 11
Smart Techie Startup City 12
  • There was also a ‘Meet the VCs’
    session

    going on in parallel.

  • R K Misra, Change India movement

    • Talking about his story – 3 ventures, all successful, lived in
      USA and Japan but had the desire to retire at 40 and have
      a public life. Working with the government in a private-public
      partnership to improve things in India
    • Rural is poor because only 18% GDP comes from agriculture and has
      to support 600 million people compared to 60% of Indian GDP in
      1950 which supported 200 million people
    • Subsidies are not the route but he was glad the loan waiver was
      done even though economists disagree
    • Why should everyone in rural areas become a farmer? They cannot
      come to urban areas because they can’t afford housing and there
      will be more Dharavis.

      • Some initiative here. Visit his website for details.
    • Average income in village family is 2000 rupees per month!
    • The initiatives will benefit even the politician because they can
      hoardings of their names. Everybody wins!

      • In all this, he is the catalyst.
    • Change India movement
    • What age should I start? Sunday comes in every age.
    • Nobody voted. We think we are too sophisticated for politics.
    • 25% of the population i.e. the middle class doesn’t vote. That’s
      why the politicians don’t care about them!
    • 1) Individual 2) Social 3) National responsibilities.
      Entrepreneurship is about the first two, what about the third?
    • Not rocket science, it is doable
    • Help politicians in their ambitions and help them do good work
      such as in Orissa, etc.
    • Someone blamed PMs from North India for backwardness, R K Misra
      said we should not make such statements unless we have proof and
      also he wants one India and does not want to debate such
      statements. “So what are you going to do?” is his question. You
      should engage North Indians and help them to improve.
    • You cannot take wheat/potato from Karnataka to Andhra Pradesh!
      Because of APMC act.
    • Food scarcity is the best thing to happen in India because nobody
      wants to get into agriculture and this will help improve things
    • Costco and Walmart are already doing rationing of wheat in USA!
    • rk@changeindia.in
    • Corruption
      • Electoral reforms is important such as corporate donations to
        political parties should be public. But everybody benefits by
        it not being stringent – the middlemen ‘moneybags’, the
        politicians, the corporates, except the common man.
      • This country is like Europe – local aspirations (regional
        parties) and national pride (national parties).
      • It is very complex, we cannot have a 2-party system even
        though it’s nice to talk about such things.
    • Water, food, national pride – are the critical issues going
      forward.
    • Nobody asked about entrepreneurship, this shows that politics is
      more important than entrepreneurship but please first make your
      money in entrepreneurship!
    • Impressive speaker, especially his clarity in thought
    • Further reading
Smart Techie Startup City 14
  • CEO Conclave
    • Panel
      1. Kris Gopalakrishnan, CEO, Infosys
      2. Dr. Vivek Mansingh, Country Manager, Dell India R&D
      3. Praveen Vishakantaiah, President, Intel India
      4. Sharad Sharma, CEO, Yahoo! India
    • They should have also invited actual entrepreneurs who are recent
      successes, not only people from big companies, where is Sridhar
      Vembu from Zoho?
    • “Co-creation”, “innovation”, “disruption”, “inflection point”,
      too many buzzwords
    • “Know your customer” – well, call him, I’ll talk to him/her right
      now! I’m skeptical on this piece of advice, there is no
      well-defined customer, just people who might benefit from your
      product and they can be anybody anywhere
    • 400 Tier-1 and 2 cities in India vs just 180 in China
    • Praveen says funding not as difficult, if you stand out, it will
      happen
    • I wish I could beam the IBM “Stop Talking. Start Doing.” ads with
      my cellphone to the roof:

    • Why take on cliched stories like Google, why not someone like
      Mobissimo?
    • Sharad Sharma is doing a good job of being the moderator
    • Discussion on adoption of IT by SMB across industries
      • I personally think this is a chicken-and-egg problem, without
        killer applications, why would they adopt?
    • Everybody talks about mobile. Where are the killer applications?
      I see JiGrahak, ngpay, obopay, mchek all solving payment
      problems, but is that the only thing? What else? If there’s
      nothing else, why are all the VCs proclaiming 250 million dollars
      each for only mobile ventures?
    • CEO is the chief change officer and should be focused on the
      company’s differentiation
    • Payment methods like prepaid cards for mobile will fuel the SaaS
      strategy to penetrate SMBs that have not adopted IT yet
    • Leaders who can take the company to the next level is important
    • Imagination is what is required. Innovation is cheap, talent
      is scattered.
    • Radical change is tough to handle
    • Leadership takes over when logic stops.
    • Vivek spoke well, lot of common sense, trying to instill the
      can-do attitude in the audience
    • I think the reason that Silicon Valley is Silicon Valley is
      because of the culture of experimentation and the culture that
      “failure is okay”. That’s what needs to be developed in India.
    • The first half of this session was boring, but the latter half
      turned out to be good.
Smart Techie Startup City 16
  • My personal takeaway : Reinforcement of basics
    • Ideas
    • User experience
    • Team – matching frequency and passion
    • Execution
    • Risk-taking
    • Business models
    • Time to market
    • Distribution, partners, tie-ups, leveraging platforms
    • Networking
    • Mentorship
    • Branding
    • Willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed i.e. wear many
      hats
    • Emotional strength to bide over the highs and lows
    • Know your role and shut your hole (‘Monster House’ advice)
    • Ability to recognize good contacts and hire good people
    • Be happy with small successes but get fired up for big ones
    • Learn to read the data
    • Make customer lock-in but always respect your customer

Overall, I think it was a good event, at least it was better than my
expectations. There were some things they could’ve done better as I’ve
already mentioned, especially bringing in people who are out there
doing it today and succeeding instead of big company people. I wished
to see people with their scars, not only people who are old and
seasoned!

At the end of the day, I felt a little jaded. I guess what we need are
more success stories and discussion on their stories. Yes, there are
startups which are doing great such as Sloka Telecom, they are the
kind of
people
who should be highlighted, rather than regurgitating buzzwords and
spiel.

With all these events like Startup City, Startup
Disco,
and even an entire Indian magazine dedicated
to entrepreneurship happening, I wonder if entrepreneurship is
overhyped in
India?