Wednesday, July 9, 2014

5 steps to get investors for your startup

Get Funded
Having been associated with a many software start ups across India, I have noticed a recurring issue that most start ups face - how to get angel funding. Based on the experience garnered through various pitch events, competitions and preparing countless PPTs, below is the collated list of the experiences garnered.

Having a great concept, great product or even a great idea is not enough if you are not able to sell it - so read on.
  1. Friends and Family
    This has to be the first place you look for funding. This is the safest and the most reliable bet when raising funds. Dig through your relatives and close friends, try to find that rich uncle in your family and see what he can offer. In all my years of experience, I have noticed that it is the most easiest way to raise funds for any start up - not only that, it is the most safest in terms of any legal aspects if your business goes sideways. Best of all, you don't need to give guarantees and do a tonne of paperwork - your word will suffice.
  2. Commercial Investors
    What if you can't find a family member to fund your dream project - in that case you need to reach out to the investor community at large - Mumbai Angels, Sequoia Capital, IAN, etc to name a few in India. The question is, how do you convert a potential investor into an actual one.
    • Persistence
      Persistence no doubt is the single most important factor. You need to identify the point man for any investor group and start following up with him. Investors are humans and like attention - give it to them. Contact them and develop a personal relationship. Getting the first meeting is the most important and persistence is the key to that. Get a meeting and 50% of the battle is won.
    • Great User Interface
      Once you have your first meeting scheduled, what next? Well, its very simple actually. Investors go through 100s of pitch presentations monthly and rarely have time to go over the details. They rarely look at the working model of the product - the first thing(and in quite a few cases the only thing) that attracts them is a great UI (User Interface). It is paramount that you get that right - a few bugs in the actual product is acceptable but a flawed UI will be reject outright. Get it right and 90% of your battle is won.
    • Prototype
      Nothing attracts an investors as much as a profitable prototype. If you have a small prototype - show it to them. It may be small in scale, all you need to show them is that it works and is profitable by itself. If you can convince them of this, your battle is won. The cheque is in hand with one last question - entry barriers.
    • Know the entry barrier to your business
      The biggest fear any investor has are other investors! What if another investor with deeper pockets starts a similar business - how will you beat him? You need to know the entry barriers to your business that can prevent competition from stopping you (atleast in the initial few years). If you can convince your investor on this final piece, you will have the cheque in hand.
  3. Crowd Funding
    If the above two options don't work for you another option to raise funds is to opt for Crowd Funding. Though personally I would advise against it especially if you are raising funds for projects in India because most people are not keen to crowd fund projects in India. Still if you have the time (as crowd funding can take over a few years) and are keen on trying, this is another option to consider to raise funds.
  4. Event Participation
    This is the last option that can help you raise funds if the ones above don't work. It is not actually an investment strategy but is more of a survival strategy (which seems to have worked for a few start ups). All you need to do is participate and win events for start ups. There is Nasscom's 10,000 start ups challenge, Microsoft Bizspark, Microsoft Code for Honour and many others which are starting to form a part of the annual calendar with handsome cash prizes. Nominate yourself in these and see if you can win the cash which can act as a great survival strategy.
Finally, a word of advise, don't make raising funds the sole aim of your life but make your product the most important piece of your life. If your start up is profitable by itself, it can bootstrap itself with no funding required. It is difficult, but will give you the maximum satisfaction. And finally, if you do get funded, remember - 2% of something is far more greater than 100% of nothing.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Glass paininting and a flying dragon

Maggu's Color pallete
It was turning out to be a usual Saturday for Maggu and Maggie(Maggu's fiancée). They had gone out to meet a cousin in the morning then had done grocery shopping and finally some window shopping late into the afternoon.

Snack Time - Maggu's Prep
As the sun began its decent into a pleasant evening a tiny thought crossed Maggie's mind - let's do a glass painting.

Now Maggu is no expert at painting but he knew Maggie was and was keen to see how she painted so he was all for it. And so began the 'Glass Painting'.

Maggie's Color Pallette
As Maggie toiled though the evening on the piece of glass, Maggu watched in awe as a masterpiece was created out of a piece of glass and some colours. Of course this meant that he had to do all the household chores like getting the evening snack ready.

Maggu's Masterpiece
For reasons unknown looking at Maggie paint Maggu got tempted to paint his own masterpiece late into the evening. With limited skill set, a large heart and basic water colours Maggu began his own creation - a dragon.

Maggie's Masterpiece
To cut the story short, in about an hours time and just before it was time for Maggie to depart the two masterpieces were ready. Till date Maggu can't stop admiring his masterpiece and finding ways to sell Maggie's art. **wicked grin**

PS : In Maggu's defence, my imagination should be credited and the fact that now kids can know how clouds are created. Additionally, Maggu had far lesser colors to choose from compared to Maggie, so his lack of perfection and choice of colors should be excused.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

How to get your electricity connection reconnected

Everyone at some point or time in their life would have had to face this predicament. The wireman comes to your door step one fine morning and announces that he is going to disconnect your  electricity connection for non payment of bills.

I recently had such an experience. I was pretty alarmed by the prospect as any interaction with any  government entity is fraught with touts which extract a hell lot of money from you. But I went ahead and ultimately it turned out to be fairly simple. So I just decided to jot down the steps for anyone who needs to re connect their  electricity connection.

Step 1: Pay the outstanding bill at the nearest MSEB office. Note that you will not be able to pay the outstanding bill online as MSEB does not have that provision. Also keep the receipt of payment handy.

Step 2: The same office should provide you a re connection form. Go to the relevant department, show them that you have paid the outstanding bill and fill in the reconnection chalan.

Step 3: Take the chalan, go to the accounts section (that will be the same where you paid the bill) and pay the fine of 100 Rs.

Step 4: Then photo copy (Xerox) the 4 documents (i.e. bill, receipt of payment of bill, chalan, receipt of payment of chalan) and take it to the substation office where your home lies in.

Step 5: Submit photo copy to the substation office and you are done. The person will come and reconnect the connection in a few hours.

- In case the wireman disconnects the connection in front of you try coaxing him into not doing it and pay the bill
- Always take the Wireman's phone number so it's easier for follow up
- There is a possibility that you may need to visit more than one office if different departments are in different locations. Be ready to travel a bit. Ideally they would be in a 3 km radius
- In case you don't have the physical copy of your  electricity bill, you can take a print out online

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My first bungee jump

And Maggu is back.

Again, for those who just tuned in, Maggu is me - a Maharashtrian from the rural heartland of Gujarat who happens to have stayed at a few places and likes to write about them. In his short life span, Maggu has explored the depths of India and a few places abroad. With a knack for doing the crazy and a penchant for the off beat Maggu is a guy full of energy and adventure. Now before his next dreamt adventure to Africa, he is reminded of a jump from a crane in Scotland.

It was meant to be Maggu's last weekend in the pristine heartlands of Scotland. He had enjoyed the treats that the Scots had to offer, from the Haggis and Millionaires short bread to playing the bagpiper and parading about. He had enjoyed the pristine countryside straight from a Famous Five novel to the hustle and bustle London had to offer.

As he sat there thinking of the last thing to do his eyes fell upon a leaflet advertising jumping off a crane nearby.

It took Maggu approximately 1 milli second to make up his mind and another few seconds to dress up, collect his maps and off went Maggu for a short train ride to the crane. The Bunjee Jump of the crane was going to be Maggu's icing on the cake of the momentus trip he had had to the country. It had everything, the thrill of adventure, the craze of madness and the adrenaline rush of a jump.

Soon, Maggu was at the foot of a crane sky high in the air dangling above the north sea. He could hear girls screaming as they jumped off the crane and guys howling as they jumped behind them. 'Ha', scoffed Maggu. Scared of a simple jump.

Tagged and strapped to a harness, Maggu was given a jump ID - Number 27. That was to be his sequence number for the jump. Prancing and jumping about he watched from the ground as person after person jumped screaming and howling. Maggu knew it would be a piece of cake for him - no howling for him he knew. He was simply too brave for it - or so he thought.

Then called the instructor, 'Count 25 to 30 you are up next, get moving on the lift'. Maggu gave a smile, finally his time was to come. He strutted over to the lift and got in in style. There he saw a trembling girl on verge of tears and her friend trying to console her. Soon on top of the crane, Maggu witnessed a beautiful view that only the crane could offer. The Scottish mild sun setting over pristine moors as cows grazed away to glory. The orange hues mixing beautifully with the grey clouds that forever threatened the skies in Scotland.

Maggu ambled around the crane as if it were his second home. Forever tied to a guard railing he could do little in terms of movement but he was at peace unlike the crying girls and the scared guys about.

'Number 27, you are next', said the instructor.
'I', said Maggu as he walked over to the end of the crane.
'Don't jump till I don't ask you to jump. And no stunts', said the instructor to Maggu.
'Sure Sure', smiled back Maggu.
The instructor sensing the sense of confidence in Maggu went ahead, 'You can look down over the edge though'.
As soon as Maggu heard that, 'He confidently went to the edge of the crane and had a look at the ocean below'.
Then reality struck Maggu. In a weak voice he whispered almost to himself, 'That's indeed a long drop down there ain't it'.
'That it is. Come on, you are ready to jump now. When I say 3, just jump'. Saying so, the instructor stepped back and Maggu was left standing at the edge of the crane.
'Ok, 1'
'3 - Go go go!!!'
That was the first instance in his life that Maggu felt scared for his life as he ran into thin air and fell the ground slipping from under his feet. He howled like crazy as he began his decent down. His heart was pounding and his and he stopped breathing - the only thing he remembered was the scream, the howl that he let out.

Soon it was over, Maggu lay hanging on a thin rope over the North Sea.It was the most exhilarating experience anyone can ever experience. Hanging there after a Bungee Jump looking at the Scottish moors with not a care or thought in the world.

He hung around for a few minutes after which he was pulled up - but with ofcourse the memory of the first Bungee jump forever intact in his impressionable mind.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The evolution

I always thought of myself as being an intelligent kid - a happy go lucky attitude with not a care in the world. A sense of objectivity that can decide cleanly and clearly decide in any situation without having shades of gray. A mind conditioned to think that more than two years in any single activity was a too long and a view of the world where it could achieve the impossible.

Funny thing, that was the smart me last year - and in terms of my incremental expected development given the passage of time, I can clearly say that it has been next to zero. So is it that my development has stopped, done and dusted and age has set in at 28 itself. I did ponder on it once, but then came my blogs to the rescue.

Over the years I have seen a definite and directed growth of my subjective piece. It was accelerated in the last one year, but there has been a definitive and directed growth in that department to a point that my objectivity is the foundation of my decision and the subjectivity the variable on the foundation.

I had always had a very good sense of emotions and subjectivity, but my mind choose to ignore it as it had not been best to deal with them. However, now it has begun producing beautiful confluences based on the objectivity and subjectivity of any situation at hand. It is now able to produce a subjective result based on objective parameters and even vice versa.

To put it more precisely, now the smile that an auto rickshaw driver gives can be calculated to the exact extent of the tip given. Or the gruff voice of the ST Conductor can be directly calculated to the soft funny side he has underneath. And all that can be done just by looking at him. Strange thing is that earlier my brain rarely made the effort to find the coorelation but now its secondary nature. Its more like, the quantification of emotion has become very integral and fundamental to my nature.

Maybe this is what is called growing up - the confluence of two opposites into thyself. They are brought by situations, circumstances, people and at times just dumb luck, but whatever it is, you know the difference between the kid and the man.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

C'est la vie

How much can things change in a short span of time? A lot. And if you are me, then definitely more than a lot.

I am a guy who likes a quiet relaxed active life. A guy from a small city in India where nothing really changes. Here things are made to last. Here people live by the earth they till and continue their way of life for generations. There has always been a Dr Shah across the road and a Patel milkman who has come to deliver milk for ages. That's not all, even the cow and her calf pass by the same road at the same time everyday. These businesses and traits are passed down from father to son and the cycle repeats itself for decades to come. People find joy in small things in life and are content. Reminds me of the Shire from the movie LoTR. Things are truly meant to last - the India that the city dwellers may never know.

I came to live a nomadic life which took me to far off places and distant lands far beyond the confines of my shire. You learn and meet a lot of people and see a lot of places when you travel. Whether it was the high cold mountains of the Himalayas or the arid deserts of Rajasthan. The massive structures of Dubai or even the iconic structures of Washington. It has indeed been a wild ride bordering on fantasy. The best part, you make friends across the world and know how the warmth of the shire feels like. A combination few can ever experience.

Now as my being takes root in a larger city I am pulled back to my shire for reasons unknown. The shire has warmth that large cities can never attain. It's the intangibles that matter more than the tangibles after you have been through and seen what I have.

The world has always conspired to give me what I wanted. Lets see if it can conspire to play that trick once more.

C'est la vie

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My android cell phone pressurizes me

A few months ago, I was at peace with my cell phone.

I did not bother about it much and it did it's duty beautifully. A single recharge every few days and it would sing  beautifully for days. Dump it anywhere and it wouldn't mind. Forget it somewhere and people would gladly return it. And the best part, take it into the shower without a care in the world.

But things changed dramatically a few months ago when I moved from simbian to android. It was as  tectonic a shift as moving from Pune to Chandigarh.

The simbian was my courtier and I his king but the android is a queen and I of course remain the king. This change in relationship between me and my cell phone has been irritating at the worst and baffling at the best.

The android is not just a queen but a demanding one. It needs constant care and attention. Leave it unguarded and you are sure she will be stolen. Drop it and she will make sure you resent it for life. That's not all, she keeps you on your toes, keeps warning you that she is getting drained and you need to keep charging her. And finally she takes up a lot of pocket space too. Sigh. Truly a haughty queen.

Of course she offers rewards that my simbian never did or could but her pressurising nature sure makes her a bother.

So as I sit here waiting for my flight to depart the paradox does not escape me. It's the choices Harry that you make that define who you are.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Arvind Kejriwal & Manohar Parrikar : IITs most important contribution to India

The first IIT was set up in 1950 with the aim of bringing India's brightest minds together and helping in the development of the nation. This is what the official version has to say on the creation of IITs:

"In 1946, a committee was established to explore setting up technical institutes of higher education for post-war industrial development of India and based on recommendation of the Sarkar Committee, the first Indian Institute of Technology was born in May 1950 in Kharagpur, West Bengal at the site of Hijli Detention camp"

What happened for the next 50 years is a known story. IITian after IITian went to the silicon valley and contributed to the US economy.

This all changed in 2000 when Manohar Parrikar became the first CM of Goa. The first IITian to hold the post of CM. It did not make much news because Goa is a small quiet state and Parrikar is a quiet guy, but he began what Kejriwal now brought us to our TV screens.

Now as Kejriwal takes center stage in Delhi there is a lot of talk on him and the role of IITs. After 50 years, the reason why the IITs were set up in the first place is possibly being fulfilled albeit in a unexpected way.

I do not think its founders had envisaged that IIT alumnus would play a role in politics in India. Just goes to show that a good idea my reap dividends in the most unexpected ways even after half a century of existence.