Last Saturday, Mint put out a half page interview with Laura A Parkin, executive director, National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) and Wadhwani Foundation, clarifying some of the issues/controversies around the Tata NEN Hottest Startups 2008 nominations — Tata NEN Campaign Addresses Early Hiccups. Mint is a media partner for the startup ranking contest. As on Saturday (September 20th) the contest had received 350 nominations. Parkin, who is currently also an advisor for Acumen Fund’s water portfolio, sent me detailed responses to questions that I had raised separately on the contest. Edited excerpts from the email interview:
One of the key objectives of the awards, as you state, is to engage the public, which would be beneficial to the startup eco-system in the longer term. Voting, therefore, is public. Why did you consider ‘nomination by public’ also necessary? Since startups would ultimately self-nominate via the verification check, wouldn’t self nomination in the first place have helped avoid all the confusion and miscommunication that has arisen?
Why have the public nominate? Two reasons, both boiling down to increasing inclusiveness. One, we are trying to include people in the identification and appreciation of startups. Voting is one way to engage, but nomination is another. Our intent is to get people thinking about their own regions, their own cities, fellow alumni from institutes. Has someone they know started a great company?
Now this is interesting in a murky kind of way. Tata NEN Hottest Startups 2008 has whipped up a minor storm because it is allegedly “forcibly nominating startups”. Yusuf Motiwala, founder and CEO of Bangalore-based VoIP startup TringME, blogs that the company has turned up on the contest’s list of nominees despite emailing in a specific request to “withdraw” its nomination. Here’s an excerpt from his post on why TringMe did not want to participate in the contest in first place:
“It’s really very simple. NEN-HS is a contest and hence by definition every company that participates – having spent quality time filling up the detailed forms – needs to be given the same shot and fair treatment by the organizers. In other words, the playing field needs to be leveled before the innings begin. However, NEN has conveniently positioned few startups in the beginning