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The Indian Start-Up economy is on a high. When the going gets tough the start-ups get going. As an entrepreneur myself, I believe it takes a lot of grit to swim against the tides, sometimes brace against raging storms and stay the course. In their journey, every start-ups need community support and validation – more the better. The rhetoric around an enabling ecosystem has been done to death, so let me just get away from that and talk about some of the Doers who are leading by example.


Sun Microsystems has been one company which has been supporting Start-Ups. This Year the Most Popular Entrepreneur Challenge is being brought to you by Sun Start-Up Essentials and Your and being supported by a host of partners which include Mumbai Angel Network, Times Private Treaties, Aikon Labs, Morpheus Venture Partners, Yuva Magazine, Leverage – IIMA, EDC IIT Delhi, Clearpath Technology, LS Solutions and Startup Garage. Apart from the significant goodies that are offered by Sun Start-Up Essentials Program, what we see here is mentoring support, Media support and Technology support.

Your Story’s value add is significant in it being designed as 100% Community Validation of Start-Up Value Propositions along with the sustained visibility of the start-ups that register for the Challenge.

In the words of Shradha Sharma– Founder of Yourstory. In,

“This is a unique contest in the fact that for the first time the winning metric is solely judged on the business acumen and networking abilities of the entrepreneurs. We are doing away with the more traditional competition parameters of judging business model viability, revenue growth rates, profitability and so on. The essence behind launching this contest is to celebrate and foster the spirit of entrepreneurship without passing any so-called expert views on the various business models adopted. The contest is completely online and one hundred percent community driven.”

When the consumer is king there is no better validation of a product or service and it is they who fund the business in the long-run.

Aikon Labs as mentor partners sees its role as providing the platform for early-stage start ups to bring together their ideas and fund them with the skills and efforts of community members (in return of equity) to build a prototype which then qualifies for funding from traditional sources. Being online, it does not matter which part of the world the support comes from. Above all it can sustained over the entire life-cycle of the idea realization and leverage capacity (effort hours) that are available. Tapping the wisdom of the community from the word “go” is a great way to validate the value proposition.

There is a huge opportunity here for established companies to come to the table and support start-ups based on the merit of their products and solutions and its alignment to their Strategy. Leveraging thw wisdom and skills of Start-ups to power their own value propositions makes eminent sense.

If Start-Ups win, the established Companies win and so does the Country. We look forward to more such examples. To use the famous IBM line – “Stop Talking, Start Doing”.

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DSC03356Last week on Saturday, I was consumed in one of the best events I have seen in Pune – 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, 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: Managing Director-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, 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 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 another enthusiastic volunteer who managed the Registration among other things. The quiet curator of POCC (Pune Open Coffee Club) – Santosh-Dawara Co-Founder of, 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.

The Sideshow

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 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

In the backdrop of the discussions, I am putting forth a few questions that I feel are important for us to seek answers to for the road ahead:

1. How do we take events like 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 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?

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May 2023
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