Startup Carnival 2010

Dr. Shridhar Lolla CVMark Consulting lolla@cvmark.com Unedited Draft 9th Jul 2010 Bangalore, INDIA

(This article describes the carnival nature of business idea competitions that is an outcome of rapidly growing entrepreneurial ecosystems in India. It does, however, bring out the prime rules of business that were directly from the mouth of successful entrepreneurs and experts.)

Key words:, business idea, business plan, competition, power of idea, entrepreneurial ecosystem, startups, entrepreneurship, business rules, business fundamentals, capacity building, entrepreneurial behavior, value system, culture, business model.

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I still remember the brief announcement in a pink paper, in early January 2000, when Mckinsey came out with the first open business idea competition in India, the indiaventure2000. It was a great experience participating in, that handheld us one step at a time on idea to business transformation. From Jan 2000 till Jul 2000, it was a carnival sort for us, meeting aspirants and entrepreneurs, bubbling with new e-business ideas, meeting Mckinsey’s appointed mentors and coaches, meeting Angels and VCs, preparing and refining business plans, and facing the sharp arrows from investors.

The power of the event was tremendous in terms of understanding how successful businesses are created from idea stage. The experience ultimately changed me from a technical researcher to an entrepreneur. During that period three of us, would have met over 500 people who went thru our idea. Unfortunately, when the dotcom bubble burst, we were left wet in our knickers and the Tshirts, surviving with vada-pav in Andheri. Of course, our daily breakfast was readings of economic times and financial express, that were spewing out the news of NASDAQ crash and the failed dotcoms. We were almost dead before, India’s leading internet company came forward with a similar ideas like ours, and approached us to do implementation for them. That we continued to pursue our idea and dared to resign our jobs in a leading engineering multinational company, was

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not a bad deal, for it gave us an opportunity to move closer to the disruptive world of internet. That was our move to a new industry all together.

For past 10 years, while my colleagues went into regular jobs, I continued to work on new companies and kept my engagement with startup world. What the experience of indiaventure2000 did and what Mckinsey taught us, still runs into my today’s practice of handholding neu-enterpreneurs. I continue to participate in business plan competitions, but now as a coach. From that first open business plan competition in Y2K, in India, now there are dozens of good business idea competitions that take place every year. More so, Indian young entrepreneurs now participate in several of the competitions conducted abroad. The ecosystem has changed dramatically in India since then. In addition to the large number of investors, who walk with cheques in their pockets, failure has begun to be accepted as a good experience by society and organizations.

The ecosystem which supports entrepreneurial activities has now grown to a level that it feels like a carnival, the moment you enter into it. Although, Mckinsey had started it in the month of January; for reasons I’m still trying to understand, there is a seasonal effect on business idea competition in India. It normally starts with closing of colleges and runs till feb/mar end. And every year I wait for this season to begin and the carnival to open…

ET along with CIIE-IIMA and DST launched the Power of Ideas (POI) this month. This is the largest business idea competition held in India (lat year there were more than 10,000 participants). It is not only related to ideas but also with building the ecosystem of innovation, incubation and entrepreneurship. It gives a platform that participants of the competition, irrespective of their position in the competition, enter into an environment of mentors, advisors, incubators, institutions, industries, sponsors, investors and angels, that is open to their access even after the event. Yesterday, POI had its inaugural briefing session for participant in Bangalore at Nimhans Convention Center. I went there to sense the environ. It was a jam packed hall, probably, over a capacity of 1000. Most of the participants arrived half an hour before schedule. As a part of briefing session Bharat Goenka (Talley) gave the key note address. Yousuf Motiwala (Tring Me) shared his experience of becoming successful startup company, Surendra Jain(Sequoia Capital India) gave investor perspective and Surya (NSRCELIIMB) brought forward the reality of emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem in India. This was followed by CIIE’s presentation on the structure of POI program and QnA from entrepreneurs.

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Here are the golden bullet points that are secret sauce for success as an entrepreneur: 1. Bharat: Two essentials of making successful entrepreneur 1. Ability to Visualize flow of money, not only now but also in future 2. A sustained passion to your idea in a detached way (detached way means that you must be ready to learn from you experience, and be ready to challenge you assumptions behind the idea and if required, exit your idea for a better idea.) 2. Surendra: For your idea to be investable 1. It must solve a real and big problem 2. There must be a buyer for the solution 3. The team must be capable to execute the idea 3. Yousuf: On startup journey: 1. A good entrepreneurial ecosystem (as in Silicon Valley) is needed to solve various structural problems faced by entrepreneurs… but entrepreneurship is about being successful despite the bottlenecks of the ecosystem 4. Surya: gave a lot of off the cuff advice: 1. Do not raise money, make money to chase you 2. Continue to share your ideas to make it a real idea, for most of the cases there is nothing like ‘secrecy’ of idea I felt that they covered the very essence of startup journey, and almost a sort of prime rules for success. The CIIE presentation was short and crisp on the structure of the program. The Q&A session showed the startup flavor of Bangalore, with wide ranging but earnest queries related to the program, business problems, entrepreneurial dilemma, to be or not to be, funding etc. You got young and old, people who quit their jobs, people who are on the edge of quitting jobs, students, experienced professionals, from IT, retail, medicine, social sector, power, fashion, trading, health care and more. There were investors, entrepreneurs, media, mentors and academics. The crowd was just not letting the Q&A to close, and the discussions entered into hi-tea session. What followed was an intense social networking, people talking to each other like on a high in a bar, exchanging cards, enquiring about service, idea, products and setting appointments for a meeting soon. That’s the flavor of business… that’s carnival…for those who care for an idea !

_______________________________________________________________________ Remember, CVMark covers its insights in its caselets, and the first on the top ‘Ability to Visualize flow of money’ as indicated by Bharat, is covered in the caselet on Innovating Business Model. Business Model Canvas is the visualization template that we use to provide entrepreneurs with this ability.
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