Proto.in, HeadStart 2009: You Can Attend Both!

proto-jan09Now why do perfectly nice people have to get cocky and spoil it all? The organizers of Proto.in, which hosts its next edition on January 23 and 24 in Bangalore, have come up with a feature called PitchCamp! — “Learn the inside scoop on how VCs (venture capitalists), corporate partners and journalists think.” writes Proto.in curator Vijay Anand. I’m catching up with this December 3 post on the Proto.in blog a bit late and would have missed it altogether if a young entrepreneur had not pointed it out. I’m impressed that the organizers actually have the scoop on how journalists think and will be passing on that wisdom to young entrepreneurs. I wonder if there are going to be any journalists involved in those PitchCamp workshops. I hope not (for the sake of journalism and entrepreneurship).

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Tata NEN: Tech Overdose

Tata-NEN Hottest Startups Awards released its top 30 nominees (chosen via a rather controversial public nomination and voting procedure) — see the shortlist in print media partner Mint’s report. I’m disappointed to note that 16 out of the 30 shortlisted — from which five will be declared winners after another round of public voting — are related in one way or the other to technology. It would be interesting to know how the overall 588 nominees break out in terms of sectors. Would technology still dominate? If so, one would have to conclude that public opinion as far as entrepreneurship is concerned is still hopelessly biased towards technology. I hope the opposite is true.

My favourites from the Top 30:

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Respect Entrepreneurship

Is it fair or even right to rank startups? The ongoing Tata NEN Hottest Startup Awards 2008 contest certainly seems to think so. Worse, the five winners will be picked via a public voting system that will be combined with an expert panel review. I don’t even know how that can work in a practical sense. NEN expects 800-1000 nominations, which also come from the public, out of which 30 will be shortlisted via public voting. Another round of public voting will decide the five winners. So what we have essentially, is the reality television format and all its associated perversions being applied to entrepreneurship. Sad.

Make no mistake. I’m all for startup contests. But the primary objective has to be to ensure that the winners as well as non-winning participants get real value from the exercise.

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“People Like Our Riskmaster Approach” Sateesh Andra, DFJ India

Andra also mentors entrepreneurs as a TiE Charter Member

Andra also mentors entrepreneurs as a TiE Charter Member

Sateesh Andra, venture partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) India, founded Euclid Software and led product development and engineering in companies such as Wipro, Tsqware and LSI Logic, before turning venture capitalist when DFJ set up operations in India last September. DFJ has invested in 11 companies here so far out of a $100 million India allocation from a global $650 million fund. The firm’s portfolio includes companies such as mGinger, Cleartrip, mChek, Reva and Seventymm. DFJ has come across as a somewhat cautious investor in India with a preference for co-investment deals — quite unlike its global image, as typified by co-founder Timothy Draper who self titles himself the ‘Riskmaster’. But this month the firm broke the pattern with its first solo India investment in online education company Catura Systems. I chatted with Andra, who is based in Hyderabad, on the ‘phone last Saturday on what DFJ’s India moves could be here on. Edited excerpts from the interview:

How do you assess DFJ India’s performance in terms of your deal run so far?

Like many other good venture funds, we’ve done well. We’ve been investing in India for a long time. The Draper name is not new to India (William Draper’s Draper International has invested in companies such as Rediff and Geometric Software). Eventually exits and the value you create for portfolio companies will determine success. And we all know that in India there have not been many venture exits yet. So today if you were to apply a metric and measure success,

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Eureka! 2008 Hikes Prize Money to Rs 25 Lakh

This one remains my favourite business plan contest. Young, fun and always evolving. Eureka! 2008, IIT Bombay’s annual biz plan jamboree opens for applications on Monday, September 1. The event, as expected, gets even bigger this year. The total prize money is Rs 25 lakh against Rs 14 lakh in 2007. The Entrepreneurship Cell (E-Cell) expects 2,500 entries this year (last year saw 1,500 entries).

Here’s the lowdown on what to expect at Eureka! 2008:

  • The first prize winner takes home Rs 5 lakh. The second and third runners up get Rs 3 lakh and Rs 2 lakh respectively.
  • There will be a separate prize category for ‘cleantech’. Two winners will be awarded a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 70,000 respectively. Plus, they will be given round-trip airfares to Carnegie Mellon University at Pittsburgh, where they will be eligible to compete in the Sustainable Technology Track of the McGinnis Venture Competition.
  • Intel is a resource partner at this year’s contest and will send the first three finalists to the UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition.
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“We’re Very Comfortable Writing a $100,000 Cheque” Naren Gupta, Nexus

Singhal co-founded Medusind Solutions and eVentures India

Singhal co-founded Medusind Solutions and eVentures India

When Sandeep Singhal, director, Nexus India Capital, sent across a list of deals from the firm’s first fund, I was taken aback. The $100 million fund, which completed fund-raising in July 2007 — see press release — has done 13 deals and is now fully committed. Yes, that is very fast work. Nexus actually started investing a little before it formally completed fundraising — its first deal was Mobile2Win in January 2007. Still, 13 deals in 18 months is an uncommonly rapid deal run (I thought Helion Venture Partners was the only one in a tearing hurry to close deals). Nexus’ investors seem to think that the firm is doing just fine and have just backed a second fund that is more than double the corpus of the first — $220 million (press release). I met with the firm’s affable founder team or rather more than half of the three-member founder team — Naren Gupta and Singhal — last evening to chat about the new fund and entrepreneurship in India. Suvir Sujan, the third founder, could not make it. Edited excerpts from the interview:

What is the final portfolio looking like for Fund I?

Singhal: Fund I is now fully committed. We’ve done 13 investments from it and will probably do two more to complete investments from the fund. On an average, we would end up investing/committing $6-8 million per company.

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