Last week on Saturday, I was consumed in one of the best events I have seen in Pune – Proto.in. In its 6th Edition now, Proto provides a platform for showcasing Technology Product StartUps. Vishal Gondal of India Games has covered the Show on his blog Startups Rock at Proto.in, Should Techcrunch50 & Demo look at India? In his “what-rocks” and “what-sucks” style, he put together a great post on the Start-Ups and the event on the whole. So I will attempt to cover some of the other aspects that are worth their mention.
Here is a great video – Courtesy ET Now – Starting Up which captured the moments of truth at the event
Behind the Show
An event of this proportion needs a world-class venue and guess who came to the aid of the Start-Up nation – Dr. Anand-Deshpande: -CEO of Persistent Systems Limited. In more ways than one, I believe that the Persistent Infrastructure and the co-operation received from them has set a new benchmark which Proto will find difficult to match in their coming editions. Thank you very much Anand. May your tribe grow.
As a participant and a volunteer from the Pune Start-Up Community, I met quite a few known and unknown faces. Syed and Sukumar the pillars behind the Event and yet their humility strikes you (a common Indian trait which is so uncommon these days). The energetic Ravi-Shankar – Co-Founder of Proto.in, who seemed to have his cursor on every aspect of the event. VC-Karthic, the all-in-one Event and Media man, hustling, directing and innovating-on-the-fly the proceeds to perfection. Sudhir-Syal from Proto and ETNow was the lifeblood for the interviews and coverage of the event. Shradha-Sharma from Yourstory.in anchored the sessions on Intellectual Capital as well the very useful session on Angel Investing by Mumbai Angels. Navin Kabra of PuneTech was the one who lighted the fire by first posting a “Call-to-Arms” saying “Give us 5 reasons why Proto should be held in Pune” and then excited the volunteer force in Pune. Arun-Prabhudesai of Hover to whose credit goes ticket sales, last-minute-request-management skills and the memorable dinner at Post 91. Unmesh Mayekar of Sadakmap.com another enthusiastic volunteer who managed the Registration among other things. The quiet curator of POCC (Pune Open Coffee Club) – Santosh-Dawara Co-Founder of Dubzer.com, who has been doing great work energizing the start-up community in Pune. And ofcourse the Pune Volunteer Team who surpassed every expectation. A big to Thumbs Up to all of them.
At the Show
Dr. Ganesh-Natarajan – National Committee Chair : IT & ITES at CII connected with the audience egging them to stay focused on product innovation. He also dispelled some of the common myths surrounding government support and funding. He pledged his personal support to any start-up seeking help from the government and industry associations like CII. Ganesh talked to quite a few enthusiasts off the stage and we look forward to his continued guidance in our engagement with the government and CII.
On the Mumbai-Angels Panel, I was personally motivated hearing Sasha-Mirchandani. ‘Be willing to adapt but once you have decided to run for it, stick with it and you shall succeed”. “There is need for more angels in India, currently there are only two – Mumbai Angels & Indian Angels – not enough” he said. “Every time I hear someone wants to start an angel fund, I am the first one to hop on to a plane to go out there and help ”, he concluded. Sasha’s enthusiasm for Start-ups is contagious and his commitment palpable.
During the event I met and talked with several youngsters, many of them nurturing an idea, some standing at the threshold of taking the plunge and a few who have taken it and swimming with or against the tides. Clearly the issues are significantly different in each stage of a start-up’s evolution including sectoral issues that need to be addressed.
I was fortunate to have cornered a motley crew of start-up evangelists to put some of these issues on a feedburner. Freeman Murray – Founder Principal of Upstart.in said, “The needs of Product-Start-Ups are significantly different from others. Product Start-Ups need funds to sustain the development effort much before they get to see their first customer”. Its great to know that Freeman along with others have initiated PuneTech Angels (something I am writing about in a subsequent post). Navin talked about the need to segment by areas of technology and the significant difference between Mentor and Advisory roles. Manak Singh – Executive Director of TiE, felt that entrepreneurs need to stay grounded on their purpose and mentoring could play a significant role in guiding the course.“Funding itself is seen a major of the success. Such shows maybe creating these expectations in start-ups before the necessary groundwork is done by them”, said Naru Narayanan of Nett10 Digital.
It was quite clear that while the challenges for start-ups beyond a certain stage would certainly be around “Go-To-Market” there are still significant support requirements in the “Idea-to-Prototype” Phases. If these issues were to be addressed we needed multiple mechanisms and entities to come together.
After the Show
1. How do we take events like Proto.in to their next level and leverage them better? Get active participation from the Government, established companies and industry associations. Engage actively with these entities to collaborate and create larger value propositions. Most importantly, translate rhetoric to action.
2. How do we showcase Start-ups on a sustainable basis ? I think YourStory.in led by Shraddha is doing a great job providing focused and sustained visibility to Entrepreneurs. She can take her proposition to the next level, tracking successes, failures, valuation, spin-offs etc.
3. How do we support early Stage Start-Ups? India as a country needs thousands of ideas and Capital in itself cannot become a bottleneck for nurturing them– Aikon Lab’s Open Platform PlanetAikon does just that by helping leverage skills and efforts from communities to fund ideas in their early stages in return for equity.
4. How can we work better with Angels and VCs? How do we understand their expectations, processes and areas of focus and articulate a process to provide a window to meet those expectations and realize their funding aspirations?
There is huge energy in the system. Imagine what a combination of POCC, PuneTech, Pune Tech Angels, PlanetAikon, YourStory, Mumbai Angels and Proto along with other ecosystem partners can do!
What we need now is some concerted action because the Show must go on.
What do you say and how can you help?