Mumbai: Eight Point Systems, winner of Eureka! 2008, the annual business plan showcase of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, took home not only the Rs4 lakh prize money but also a mentor and angel money to the tune of Rs50 lakh on Sunday evening. Vaibhav Goel and Puneet Kumar, the team from IIT Bombay, will be funded by Vishal Gondal, CEO and founder, Indiagames.com, in their venture to create a realistic gaming experience for the local market. This is perhaps the first instance of a B-plan winner here getting funded at the time of the showcase. Eureka! was a part of E-Summit 2008, a day-long event focused on entrepreneurship.
Show time: Finalists of Eureka! 2008, IIT-Bombay’s annual business plan competition.
“We invested our own money in building the first-stage prototype. With this, we plan to do pilot tests with gamers,” said Goel. Students of mechanical and aerospace engineering, the duo have built a platform that will simulate physical motion in sync with the game action. For example, a model of the Dhoom-2 bike will tilt left or right or simulate speeding up, based on how the user plays the game on the screen. Eight Point Systems, which will build both the gaming machine—in this case, the Dhoom-2 bike—as well as the interface between the game software and the machine, wants to focus on local gaming content first. It is currently exploring a content partnership with Indiagames.
Gondal, who mentored them for the last two months and was also on the jury, said he decided to fund them before the results were out. Eight Point Systems was chosen from 600 initial entries and eight finalists. Other judges included venture capitalist Sateesh Andra, partner, Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), and Manav Subodh, manager, higher education, Intel Technology India Pvt. Ltd.
Playing games was evidently a favourite theme, for it was explored by third prize winners Vita Peracta too. The final year students from BITS, Pilani, devised a technology to predict behavioural patterns using games and analysing the results, instead of the standard question-answer format. The product is aimed at large corporates and agencies that undertake consumer surveys. Photonwave Technologies, which won second place, was a decidedly high-end technology entry. Students of Indian School of Business and Cornell University presented an optical device that enhances the performance of fibre optic networks, which could lead to faster Internet connectivity for end users. Two other teams—Pragati, a retail training service by students of Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, and MOH Microgrid Power Systems, a clean energy distribution system for remote villages by students of various Indian Institutes of Management—also won prizes for best student entries.
The B-plan finalists were not the only ones pitching new ideas to a panel. Nineteen operational start-ups, past the B-plan stage with working prototypes or products and services deployed in the market, also pitched to a separate panel of venture capitalists. Panel members included Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Ajit Deora, Helion Venture Partners’ Ashish Gupta and Bluerun Ventures’ Sasha Mirchandani. Several start-ups were in the consumer Internet and wireless space. This included SneakCast, a video search engine that maps text-based search to video results, Buzzworks, a voice-based local search platform, and Novix Technologies, a mobile video streaming firm.
Some, such as Motionsonique, combined technology with a social cause—the company had developed a mobile platform to help people with disabilities communicate. For example, converting text to speech to aid the blind. Not all were tech-centric though. Millennium Bricks had innovated to manufacture low-cost, high-strength bricks, while Rural Sales India catered to human resources needs of companies in rural areas.
A panel discussion on scaling up highlighted difficulties faced by firms after starting up, getting the first customers and getting funded. While one member of the audience cited an example of growth slowing post-funding, as the founders took it easy, another spoke about growing pains of adding new customers. Running in parallel were mentoring sessions for 38 other start-ups by mentors such as Nevis Networks’ Ajit Shelat and DFJ’s Mohanjit Jolly.