Right passion, right team, right product-market fit and more words of wisdom — highlights of the panel discussion from TechSparks Pune
When you have 250 sharp minds under a single roof, the task to engage them in a stimulating discussion is a challenge. And to say the least, the powerful panel at TechSparks Pune made sure that they not just engaged the crowd, but made it one of the most interactive sessions. The panel was very aptly titled ‘Insider Info panel’, but before you make any assumptions, let us tell you there was nothing illegal about the information they shared. On the contrary, all the panelists were had an inside view of the various parts of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the insights and knowledge that the panel shared with Punekars was of much use to them.
Raghava KK, Abinash Tripathy of Helpshift, Shailesh Lakhani of Sequoia Capital, Mukund Mudras of Heckyl Technologies and Manoj Joshi of CISCO formed the famous five on stage. D Murali, managing editor, YourStory.in was the moderator of the panel discussion. One of the earliest googlys that Murali threw at the panel was to ask them about their passion – and the participants were quite stumped by it, we may say. “Passion for me is Heckyl,” said Mukund, everything about the venture and how it is done is what drives Mukund. And for Abinash, passion meant the ability to get up every morning – charged up and eager to goto work – because of the love he has for what he is creating, said the Helpshift founder.
Building an organization needs more than just drive and enthusiasm and one of the most important ingredients to do it well is the team. Every member on the panel couldn’t agree enough on this point, and perhaps this was one of the longest topics that the five-member panel on stage discussed. We had all heard about Helpshift and their way of getting the right man/woman in the team. Things are equally tough to get into Heckyl – the selection process stretches over three months, with many rounds of interviews and tests, shared Mukund. While Heckyl places a lot of importance on the candidate’s background, Helpshift is not so bent on the pedigree of the candidate. An audience member posed the same question to Shailesh and asked him if there was any prerequisite at Sequoia Capital while selecting an investee company. “As an investor we are more focused on the idea of the venture and the team,” said Shailesh. Manoj Joshi admitted that Cisco placed a lot of importance on the product and talent of people: “Cisco has made many acquisitions in Pune, and product and talent have been important cornerstones for arriving at the decision,” he said.
Raghava had to leave the panel discussion midway to catch a flight. After bidding him adieu, the next subject that the panel delved upon was the subject of market fit of the product developed by a startup. Mukund said it is difficult to get the right market fit, if customer feedback has not been taken during the product development stage. “Heckyl had a tough time convincing our first customer about the product, we pitched for almost eight months,” he shared. Do research, talk to hundreds of consumers, customers may not always know what they need but talk to them anyways, advised Mukund. Shailesh agreed with Mukund on this point and said: “people who can listen to many, but take their own decision are the ones who can build good companies.”
The next topic that the panel discussed was ‘how good is it to build products for another market, sitting in India?’ Here Abinash made some interesting points. “Doing a consumer facing product for US customers sitting in India, is a bad idea,” he said from his own experience, as a company that serves more US than Indian companies. Similarly building a company to be acquired by the someone in the US is also a bad method to follow while building a company, cautioned Abinash.
After the extensive discussion, the floor was opened to audience questions and one of the questions that was discussed with much gusto by the panelists was that of support to the startups by the Indian government. There was none, agreed all the panelists in unison. However Mukund said the way out was for entrepreneurs to help each other. “We have to start a movement here and make the shift happen. Because neither does the government or anybody else care about startups in India,” said Mukund very matter-of-factly.
Murali wrapped up this invigorating discussion by asking each panel member to give a message to entrepreneurs. And here is a message from our panelists, not just for the participants of TechSparks Pune edition, but for all of you dear readers.
Shailesh Lakhani: “Pick up people whom you like to work with, if you can get a combination of a hacker and a hustler, that is the best.”
Manoj Joshi: “Have a good team, especially on the finance side.”
Mukund Mudras: “Understand what drives you and chase your dreams. The wildest dreams are the biggest companies today.”
Abinash Tripathy: “To be a successful entrepreneur you have to have a lot of courage and perseverance.”
As we all wait to find out the Tech 30 from this year’s TechSparks, we look forward to seeing you at the Grand finale of TechSparks on 5th October at ITC Gardenia in Bangalore. Register now to get early bird discounts for you and your team to the final show. You can also book your tickets here and here.
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