It was only 8:30 in the morning on Saturday the 2nd March 2013 at the IITM Research Park in Taramani but the auditorium was already being filled by entrepreneurs, rookie & experienced, young and old, for the first session of the Super Start-up event organized by TiE Chennai. This event attracted people from Bangalore and Pondicherry as well!
And 9 entrepreneurs (yours truly included) were about to make a pitch of their business via skype to Sramana Mitra, the charismatic founder of the 1Mby1M network aimed at global entrepreneurial development.
And it was like a torrential downpour soon after where each entrepreneur got 5 minutes to talk about the technology and the business side of his offering (how come there wasn’t the 33% reservation for women?) and answered questions from Sramana and the audience for the next 5 minutes or so.
These included very varied products and services like diabetes management, office supplies, marriage gift registry, shopping comparison based on social-media, low-cost high-speed entertainment on the go, wind turbines, MSME network, Field force automation and crowd-sourced content creation and publishing.
Some of us were looking for inputs to further fine-tune or tweak our offering whereas there were others clearly looking for funding. Sramana asked questions largely on the monetization models, the existing revenue levels and the go-to-market strategies but it wasn’t like the Spanish inquisition that I had expected.
After all the presenters were through, Sramana complimented the Chennai ecosystem for working on products and concepts that were quite aligned with the global scenario and in some cases even competing with the best of breed offerings.
5 entrepreneurs were selected for the first round of Premium Membership of 1Mby1M by Sramana and the TiE Chennai team and there would be another iteration after which 3 will be given the scholarship for the same.
This was followed by a speech by Raghu Rajagopal, a serial entrepreneur, investor and mentor where he shared the mistakes and the lessons learnt from 8 different entrepreneurs from different industries based on his interaction with them.
Since most of them were from the IT background, these entrepreneurs didn’t quite understand the importance of financials and more specifically cash flow early in the game and that was a recurring theme. There was also this pattern of hiring people based on hope that they will perform and continuing to give non-performers a long rope. One admitted to taking more initiatives at the same time leading to dilution of focus and it was also common for them to have high expectations of others.
This was followed by an interactive session where Raghu fielded questions on paper-money exits, mentoring, his bandwidth for providing support to upcoming entrepreneurs etc with ease.
The final session of the morning was one on marketing by Dr Jayaram K Iyer, an employee turned academic who is now donning the hat of Chief Strategy officer for the Bharat Matrimony group of companies.
Although he was talking only of the fundamentals of marketing, he made it so interesting by turning it interactive with subtle doses of humour. He also regaled the audience with short anecdotes and video clips.
He emphasized on the need for the entrepreneurs to identify the need first and define the segment and positioning before creating the products whereas it was usually the reverse. He made some interesting observations on the importance of businesses to make it easy for the prospective consumers to know about the offering, access it, purchase it, use it until the point of disposing it. The session was so engrossing that most of us did not even feel the pangs of hunger until 1:30 pm!!
Post lunch was the UnConference session organized by Dorai Thodla where people can walk into any of the discussion groups located at different parts of the conference room and participate freely.
There were topics like pitching, Marketing for startups, Hiring and HR & Lessons from Failures. Because it was new and people expected someone to talk centrally, there was some confusion initially but once they got started, there were animated conversations at various levels.
There was also a media corner where Murali (ex- Business Line) was giving an opportunity for entrepreneurs to share their journeys on camera in the form of 1-2 minute video capsules. I personally found the experience really gratifying.
Overall, it was a day which offered numerous options for those who wanted to take them, both in the formal and informal sessions. The photos were courtesy Agni Sharman.