Tuesday, May 05, 2009

ET power of Ideas @ Bengaluru

Few months back got an invite from Economic Times to visit their event, “power of ideas” as a guest blogger. I was in Chennai and the event happened in Bangalore, hence couldn’t make it. Few weeks back got the invite again and as I had a Bangalore visit planned and could squeeze some time to attend this, I had an opportunity to check out the event on 17th April at NIMHANS convention centre, Bangalore.
ET power of ideas banner
Honestly admitting, I didn’t have much idea about the event. ET power of ideas is an initiative started by ET and Angel Investing to bring out the entrepreneurs of the future. Anyone who thinks he/she has got a viable business idea and looking for investors could submit the same for consideration by a panel of experts. I understand that about 12000 business ideas were received from all over India (of which 4000+ were from Bengaluru). Of this 12k ideas, 1000 ideas were shortlisted by the panel of experts and these 1000 applicants would have a chance to present their case in person to the experts and investors, wherein they’ll be scrutinized for viability of the idea, passion of entrepreneurs, strength of the team, revenue model and other parameters.

For a moment I thought this is similar to But the difference as I understand is, while is for already established startups, ET power of ideas takes it from the very conceptual stage. The event I attended in Bangalore was part of second stage wherein most of the shortlisted applicants (of the 1000) participated.
Panel members
Before attending the event, I was of the opinion that I will get to see some budding entrepreneurs present their case before the panel. But it wasn’t so. The session only included a talk by Subhash Menon, Founder Chairman, MD & CEO Subex Azure, a panel discussion, another brief talk by Janesh of Robatah Robotics and Q&A Session.

Wasted some of time at the registration counter- as the event was scheduled to start at 4.30PM, I reached the venue by 4.15. The ladies manning the registration desk told me registration is not open yet. I walked around and came back after 10 minutes, only to see a mile long queue in front of registration counter. I stood in the line, my turn came after about 30-40 minutes. I was earlier told I need to present a copy of the mail I got from ET inviting me to the event- but I was let in after noting down my name and mobile number. Didn’t get the logic behind making everyone wait for an hour just to note down name and number-that could have been done online/they already had name and number of most of the participants. No welcome kit/information leaflet either. I was on my own to explore once I went in.

Subhash Menon- Founder Chairman, MD & CEO Subex AzureMr Subhash Menon talked on how difficult it was to convince prospective investors about the telecom fraud detection software product Subex was trying to build. There was a stereotyped notion that products are best developed in Silicon Valley/US and not in India by Indian companies, who are expected to focus on services. Subex had a very strong vision and belief in what they wanted to do and eventually managed to raise money by going public. “Today all Indian telecom companies, except BSNL are our customers” Mr. Menon proudly recalled. “We’ve heard that story a thousand times”- a former Subex employee responded when I told him I heard their boss speak at ET power of ideas. But if his talk can inspire at least one person each time, then I feel it is worth repeating it many more times.

(as I realized later, some of the photos taken in low light condition, from my seat far away from the dais, are distorted- Arun Bhat has explained in detail about camera shake-why this happens and how to avoid it. Be sure to read it)

Some key points I noted down during the panel discussion that followed Mr. Menon’s talk (Panel discussion was moderated by Pankaj Sharma of ET and some of the dignitaries were Mr. Sharad Sharma, CEO at Yahoo! India R&D, Mr. Harsh Ramesh Angeri, Head Strategy & Initiatives- HoneyWell, Mr. Puneet Vatsayan, Co-Founder Mobera Systems and others)
  • Cash Management: knowing when to spend and where is critical: When you’ve to build a product, invest in engineers. When you’ve to grow, invest on sales team. Avoid spending on office and other luxuries at the early stages (Kiruba Shankar has developed a concept called co-working, wherein lots of entrepreneurs share a common office space- for Rs 2500 per month I think one can rent a seat-far cheaper than setting up one’s own office)
  • Besides the business idea, it’s the team whose strength that investors look for. A not so great idea with a strong team might win, but a great idea with not so convincing team is unlikely to get a buy-in. Also its near impossible to claim that one will manage everything on his/her own without needing any other team member. Also if you can’t convince at least one more person to join you in your venture, chances are low that you will be able to convince an investor or customer
  • Claiming that “we don’t have any competition” usually hints that one hasn’t done enough market research. Substitute products/services, probability of customers changing their preferences/spending habit and many other factors need to be considered.
  • Recession is a right time to start a new venture in a sense. During good times everyone tides with the wave-but during recession only the strongest ones who can swim against the wave will survive and those who can survive a recession period can grow exponentially when good times return.
  • Do not feel you should be the smartest in the team-pair up with someone who is smarter. If you’re strong at development, partner with someone good at marketing. Let the skills complement.
  • Just the way you need a right investor, investors also will be looking for an ideal start up. So as long as you can project a win-win situation, getting investors attracted shouldn’t be difficult
  • Don’t be shy to dilute your stake (by offering equities)
I had to leave the venue at 7.15PM while Q&A session was in progress. Overall it was a good experience attending it.

Also read:
ET Power of Ideas Official site* ET power of ideas blog * Sandhya Ravishankar of ET NOW conducts workshop on broadcast journalism * Startup saturday at IIMB Bangalore * review * Entrepreneur Blues (a blog listing several startup stories)


Arun said...

Hey thanks for the recommendation. Had never thought a conference would be a place where they could have been of use.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

You're welcome.

Well, those who take photographs standing closer to the stage and use flash won't face any trouble.

Mine was a special case-I was sitting somewhere deep in the audience and there was no point using the flash

Pavan Pendyala said...

I am also aware of another wonderful initiative from TiE Hyderabad Chapter - they have got 2 veteran entrepreneurs who can guide you through the process of starting up and growing your business. They also accommodate start-ups in napkin stage and non-members.

You can also visit my blog (link below) to get step-by-step instructions on how to set-up your own IT business.

Pavan Pendyala
Business for IT Pros

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks for the information Pavan. I'm aware of TiE, though haven't explored it much.