The venture capitalist look
A lot of answers, to questions they never knew whom to ask, were what start-up entrepreneurs got at Proto.in. The questions included how much equity should a start-up promoter part with? Where should he raise the money from, an angel investor or a venture capitalist? And for that matter, how does one spot the difference between the two? “Just look for the guy with the khakhi pants, a sports coat and very thin glasses, that is what a venture capitalist looks like,” said Paresh Patel chief executive of Sandstone Capital, an India focused hedge fund. Patel, a portfolio manager was earlier head of Sparta Group, the private investment office of Gururaj Deshpande, founder Sycamore Networks.
Me, my assistant and my lawyer
Apart from money managers, lawyers were also doing the rounds at the two-day event. “If it’s just you and your dog in the garage you don’t need a lawyer but if you have 5 employees, 3 customers and are looking to raise venture capital, meet a lawyer”, said Shantanu Surpure, managing advocate of Sand Hill India Advisors, a law firm that in the past 18 months has registered at least one new start-up in Delaware, a small state on the eastern seaboard of the US that is the location of choice for corporates and start-ups looking to incorporate a company in the US. For Indian start-ups that either have customers or investors overseas, an office in the US, is mandatory.
Do Not Expect Miracles aka DEMO
On a quiet Sunday morning in the green campus of IIT-Madras, twenty three lucky start-ups picked from a pool of 120 nominations got their 6-minutes of fame “That is as much time as it takes for an elevator to ride from the ground to the 20th floor. Start-ups must learn to make the elevator pitch, a crisp and direct one, to an investor,” said Atul Chitnis, the open source software activist, who was scouting for technology ideas at the event. It wasn’t just the tight time slot that was making entrepreneurs sweat, V C Karthik, founder of BuzzWorks, a mobile services start-up from Hyderbad got on stage to find his demo file corrupted. Investors whose stock in trade is a healthy dose of scepticism, were quick to parlay that snag into start-up jargon. “Do not expect miracles, is what DEMO expands into,” said Sanjay Anandaram, managing director Jumpstartup Capital Advisors, an early stage venture capital firm and a regular visitor at DEMO, the 17-year-old product demonstration event in the US that Proto.in is modeling itself after.
The start-up bug
Despite popular perception, it is not just the twenty-something geeks who are turning entrepreneurs. On stage was Raghavendra Prasad, of WifinTechnologies, a Chennai-based start-up that streams stock market information to mobile devices who was quick to point out that “being on the wrong side of forty” had not deterred him from entering the start-up fray. But it was left to the Young Turks to entertain the Sunday morning audience, Ajay Rajasekhar togged up as a surgeon with scalpel in hand waiting for a patient’s medical report to be streamed onto his mobile. It was to be sent by an application called Mocodile that his three year old start-up Rarefind Engineering has built up. Theatre skits and college dorm humour, sales pitches and technology jargon for the start-up looking to catch an investors eye, its all grist to the mill.