In Conversation With Kartheepan Madasamy, Senior Director, Qualcomm Ventures

Karthee Madasamy has over 16 years of experience in the wireless and multimedia industries and has worked in product development and management roles at various semiconductor startups. With Qualcomm for about 6 years now, Karthee currently manages and actively serves as a board observer for Qualcomm Ventures investments in Apalya, MapMyIndia, Kirusa, Tessolve and Waze. Qualcomm Venture’s QPrize 2012 is a seed investment competition designed to provide entrepreneurs their first level of funding so they can launch their idea into a successful start-up business. We got in touch with Karthee to know about the competitions and the trends.

YS: Now that QPrize is in its third edition – what are the trends that you have seen in the mobile and telecom startups space in India and abroad?

Karthee: Mobile today is more pervasive than any other technology ever. The sales of smartphones now exceed PCs and laptops, and are on track to surpass the 1 billion mark in 2014. Similar trend is being witnessed in the Indian market as well. India is the world’s third largest Internet market with over 120 million users, of which 50 million access it through mobile devices. Globally, entrepreneurs and start-ups are focusing on creating more experiences and platforms around mobile. India has witnessed an increase in consumer facing and product focused start-ups in the country.

YS: This year QPrize is not just limited to mobile and telecom but is accepting applications from pure internet space as well, what is the reason behind expanding the scope of applications?

Karthee: The number of internet users via mobile has already surpassed internet users via PC, creating a growing opportunity to reach mobile connected consumers with unique experiences. The rapid increase in smartphones, tablets and social media networks, stand to greatly influence the way people engage in online activities including shopping, banking and entertainment. Given the new trend where consumer internet sites are increasingly being accessed through mobile devices, we have extended QPrize to include the internet space as well. Our recent investment in BigShoeBazaar.com  further reflects this expanded focus.

Qprize 2012YS: Apart from the seed funding, what are the other benefits one would get by applying for QPrize competition?

Karthee: QPrize provides entrepreneurs their first level of funding so that they can launch their idea into a successful start-up business. This competition is open to entrepreneurs across China, India, Israel, Korea, North America, Western Europe and, new this year, Brazil and Eastern Europe. One finalist from each region will be awarded US$100,000 (€100,000 for Europe finalists) in convertible note financing from Qualcomm as seed funding and will be invited to compete against other regional finalists in the QPrize Grand Prize competition.

The Grand Prize winner will receive an additional US$150,000 of convertible note funding to help transform his or her innovative business plan into reality. Moreover, it provides entrepreneurs access to other venture capitalists and angel broking firms. Interestingly, 100% of our first year’s QPrize winners went onto secure Series A funding and nearly 2/3rds of our second year’s winners secured institutional funding. Qualcomm Ventures will also be paying the travel and accommodations for our 8 regional winners to compete in our Grand Finals event, scheduled to take place in the San Francisco region in Q1-2013.

Recently Qualcomm collaborated with Microsoft on the third edition of QPrize India which was announced on 17th May, 2012. Through this collaboration, Microsoft will provide US$25,000 for the second prize winner of QPrize in India and sign up the shortlisted applicants to its BizSpark program while the finalists would be considered for BizSpark Plus program.

YS: Who are the previous edition winners and how are they progressing now post QPrize?

Karthee: Previous years’ winners of QPrize competition in India include:

•             Reverie Language Technologies – won the competition last year (2011)

•             Capillary Technologies Pvt. Ltd  – won the competition in the year 2009

Capillary Technologies, since winning QPrize in 2009, has increased its footprint in India across 6000 stores and expanded to Middle East, UK, South East Asia and Far East. They have also raised two subsequent rounds of financing from leading venture capital firms to grow the organization.

Reverie Language Technologies’ solution has been adopted by several handsets, tablets and consumer electronics products since winning QPrize in 2011.

More on Capillary Technologies and Reverie Technologies

YS:  Is there any program/process to engage with applicants who couldn’t make the final cut?

Karthee: Qualcomm Ventures has a seed investment programme, under which we invest in start-ups across the world. So for Indian companies who don’t make it to the final round of the QPrize competition, if we see potential in them, we continue to engage with them and consider them for future investments.

Good entrepreneurs continue to get better and improve their business plans and business models. We continue to keep in touch with these entrepreneurs even if they have not made it to the final round of the QPrize competition and track their progress for future such associations.

YS: What is the plan ahead for QPrize?

Karthee: We started QPrize as an experiment in 2009 and since then, it has seen significant success. In our endeavour to encourage budding entrepreneurs, we recently collaborated with Microsoft Corporation and Mumbai Angels for the third edition of QPrize competition. Going forward, we want to further grow with our partners and engage with more industry players to foster and enhance this exciting and vibrant start-up ecosystem. Our focus is to make this programme even more relevant and successful.

Reverie Language Technologies share their QPrize experience