By Tirthankar on May 25, 2008
I attended the Startup City at NIMHANS Convention center, Bangalore on the 24 of May. It was organized by The Smart Techie magazine and sponsered by Sun, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo and a host of other companies. The idea was to promote the start up culture, share experiences, network with VCs and see cool startups in Bangalore who were demoing their products.
The event started with a talk by Ashish Gupta from Helion Venture Capital firm. He talked about how to start a startup, the various phases that a startup goes through, his investments in some companies. Then there was a talk from Sun about the startup essentials program, which I pretty much new and looked more like a marketing pitch. Then there was a panel discussion on Consumers and Business Marketing in High Technology. The panel consisted of members from Nokia, Microsoft, Amazon and IIMB. The talk was more on challenges faced by a startup to market its products. Nokia is a 160 year old company and still it faces many of the challenges a startup faces. I will describe this more later on. Paul Murphy from Microsoft talked about his experiences, and then gave a small marketing pitch on Microsoft startup zone.
There was a talk by Jinesh Varia from Amazon about cloud computing and the Amazon EC2 initiative. this was quite informative and he talked about a startup, animoto who was running on 50 machines and then within 3 days of launching a facebook application, they needed 500 machines. Such sort of scalability could be got only by such cloud initiatives as a startup simply doesn't have the money to but so much hardware so quickly.
Then I attended a talk by R. K. Mishra. This was probably the most inspiring talk. He started of telling us about his school, college (IIT Kanpur) and then he went to Japan for higher studies and how he started his venture out there. Then he came back to India and started working for a MNC who's India operations he was heading and after two years he bought out the company. He also started traveljini.com in 1999 which was the first online travel portal in India which he sold to ICICI Ventures. He retired at 40 and started getting involved with public work. His talk was filled with great examples, and positive attitude towards solving many of the problems facing our country.
In the afternoon there was a CEO's conclave. The panel consisted of Sharad Sharma, head of Yahoo India, Kris Gopalakrishnan, CEO of Infosys and heads of Dell India and Intel India. It was an interesting talk which discussed problems facing the Indian startup scene and about scaling a startup. A very important question was asked. Was the founder CEO of a startup ready to hire a CEO from outside inorder to let the company grow ? A very difficult thing to do.
There were a host of startups who were demoing their technology. The once I liked most are Yodlee, MCheck and LifeBlob. Yodlee allows one to access multiple bank accounts or other financial accounts from a single portal. Hence you can have a complete snapshot of all your assets and liabilities from a single portal. MCheck is a mobile payment system. Very much useful in India for e-commerce to be successful. Many people in India have a cell phone but does not have internet access or credit cards. Using the MCheck technology, one can use his or her mobile phone to pay for goods. Lifeblob is another socialnetworking site, but the beauty is that it forms a timeline of your life. It can import pictures from picasa and flickr. It can aggregate contentes from your blogs and add as events in lifeblob system and form a timeline. Looked cool. There were other cool startups too. You can read about them at http://www.thesmarttechie.com/startupcity/Exhibitors.php
1. First find out what the customer needs, then start building the product.
I guess this is the biggest mistake which everyone does. They build the product and then try to sell it to the customer.
2. You are not the only one developing a product in a area. There will be many startups doing the same thing. So implementation is as important as the idea itself.
3. Many of the problems faced by a startup and a big company is same.
Remember the Nokia example above. In a big company, you came upon this brilliant idea for a new product or feature. You will make a prototype, take it to the senior technical people to get it approved. Then you will go to management saying that this has a market value and try to convince them and once approved, get the funds from the higher management to develop the product and finally sell it to the consumers. If at any point in time, it does not work, you are back to square one. In case of a startup, the techi thinks of the product, makes a prototype, goes to a VC and tries to sell the idea. Many VC's will reject him and may be he will be able to convince a VC finally. Then with the money, he make the product and then sell it. If it does not sell or he hits a failure inbetween, he is back to his original position. Hence, the problems are same, just that in the case of the startup, its your own money, and in case of the big company, its the company's money and hence you have security and safety to fall back on.
4. Build the right team and be ready to give up control at the right point in time.
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