Monday, July 27, 2009

Proto.in Pune edition : the startup ecosystem


Proto.in, sixth edition happened in Pune this time and was an event full of glamor and geeks. While the on stage Verdanchi motorcycle's custom motorcycles set the stage rocking, and the demo of 3DSense by TouchMagix added magic to the show, the geeky cavitation bubble reactor by HyCa or the innovative English Seekho concept by Enterux solutions kept the audience engaged and awed.

The event started with a discussion on Intellectual Property Rights and it was revealing how entrepreneurs themselves and how IPR experts had different opinions- while the IPR expert Prabhu focussed on mapping the domain in terms of existing IPs and how one can innovate and protect,  the entrepreneurs on stage and in audience were more concerned with the costs involved in litigation and protecting ones IPRs. To me, the take home was map the territory, innovate in the space available, get IPRs and then leave it to good faith that others would respect your IPRs. If someone broaches your IPR, at least on the start-up phase do not go after them aggressively , but focus on executing the idea more.

This was followed by Ganesh Natrajan's keynote address focused on how government can help startups. He encouraged people to think of govt as a 10 billion dollar company that has schemes and funds for startups especially those focussed on sectors like health, education etc. He also revealed how industry bodies like NASSCOM are not there for the big players only, but it is up to the startups as to how to best make use of them.

The segment that followed was the meat of the show- the startup showcase featuring 14 startups - 2 in automobile, 4 in education, 2 in software , 3 in mobile and internet and 3 outliers that defied classification.

Some new concepts that appealed to me included the mobile-based English Seekho srvice, that perhaps was inspired by IDEA mobiles 'what an idea sirji' series of advertisements and involved using freely availbale on net IVR and voice recognition systems. The other concept which I believe may have some future if applied correctly was the Queen Bee concept of Vigyaapan Technologies, the idea being to identify the influencer (by taking the most connected/chatty person as a proxy) in a network and them trying to influence the influencer for viral marketing and tipping point effects. However, the reliance on CDR information regarding who talks to whom and how many times, seemed to me very naive and prone to errors. There is much scope for improving the algorithms here, but the idea itself is pretty good.

Image representing Mumbai Angels as depicted i...Image via CrunchBase
Post-lunch the focus shifted to funding the startups and the Mumbai Angels gracefully stepped in.  In a riveting panel discussion, the differences between different stages of funding- seed, angel, venture etc was clarified. It  was enlightening to know what angels look for while evaluating a business proposal and deciding to invest- passion, skillset, financial viability, but most importantly felxibility and adaptability- opennness to modfiying one's business strategy in response to changing environmental landscape.


Subsequent to this was a very boring and mundane talk by a Microsoft person, followed by a Facebook Developers Garage- which again did not live up to the hype , but was far better than the Microsoft session. I know that sponsors come with strings attached, and it is good that their sessions are scheduled at the end- one could see many person leaving politely while these end sessions were going on.

Overall it was a good experience, but indeed maybe it was me, with my usual reticent nature, but somehow I at least was not able to network a lot during that event. In the next proto I hope to not only befit from the formal events, but also from informal networking and schmoozing.

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2 comments:

  1. I think Proto, being a one day event this time compared to the two day events earlier on caused the lots of things to be cramped - including the elaborate networking sessions.

    Most of the lunch and tea time was spent waiting in line to get the food and thus did not provide much of networking opportunities.

    The cramped up lunch area also was a big problem.

    I have attended Proto in IIT Chennai and the huge campus and space provides plenty of opportunity to move around and mix around with people.

    The auditorium was excellent, but some other alternative arrangements could have been made for lunch. The terrace maybe? Next time?

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  2. Hi Saurabh,
    I agree. Packing too much in a single day may have been the reason I couldn't network much; but let me forewarn you...I am not much of a netwroker or social bee in the first case, so perhaps I too am to blame to an extent!

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