TiE Chennai conducts a Pitch Battle to help startups reach to bankers and investors

14th May 2011
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Chennai’s TiE chapter is one of the most active among the 54 chapters worldwide. This year, it launched a Special Interest Group on Startups spearheaded by Dorai Thodla, CEO, iMorph and ably supported and nurtured by Pravin Shekar, Founder, Krea. Vishy Viswanathan, Executive Director, stands staunchly behind any startup initiative. After a series of workshops and to top it all, a Startup Super Day with Sramana Mitra, the SIG on Startups is delivering real value to startup entrepreneurs.In yet another initiative, four TiE charter members -- Chandu Nair, Pravin Shekar, Mohan, and Naru Narayanan -- mentored 12 startups to pitch before investors and bankers. Out of the 12, eight made it to the Pitch Battle organized on May 13, an eventful day in Tamil Nadu with state assembly election results favoring a change of guard in the state. Pravin Shekar said the objective of the initiative is to showcase startups to investors so that the startups get much needed funding to go to the next level.

The jury that had all its eyes and ears on the eight starutps consisted of Sriram, past president of TiE and now founder of Beehive, a VC fund; Naru Narayanan, a serial entrepreneur and adviser to many startups in addition to being a founding member of the Startup Centre; Narayanan from HDFC Investment Fund; and Ishwarya from Veda Corp, an investment banker.

Eight startups or ideas had cooked a different flavor. While some were just in an idea stage -- SyncMoi (a real-time smart phone backup application) and MangoDVM microtheatres and touring talkies (a concept to establish small theatres in villages operating out of a PC that hosts a HD video, which is projected on to a 6” × 8” screen) -- some ideas were really well established and seeing traction. SyncMoi is the brainchild of Narayanan Hariharan, already founder of Effective Works, a presentations service provider. R.S. Ramkumar already runs a MangoDVM business for music downloads.

Chennaimoms.com founded by Bhavani Raman is seeing a traffic of 0.5 million visitors in Chennai alone. Aimed at moms as an information-sharing site (you could call it a mini social networking site for moms), the founders have made concrete attempt to see to that the business model works. Encouraged by success in Chennai, the website is now extended to Bangalore and Hyderabad also. The future aim is to take the moms network globally. Sri Lankan moms are showing great interest and so soon you could expect srilankansmoms.com from chennaimoms.com. Bhavani’s husband Vivekanandan also is part of the team.

Two students, Arun Suresh and Aditya Krishnan, are in the process of making Cup of Tea, a weekly newspaper for students of arts & science and engineering colleges in Chennai. They intend to launch a print version first and then take the publication online and as a mobile app. The idea was borne out of the fact that G-soc, a $5000 funding available to students from Google for a bright developer application, going unnoticed by majority of techies. Only 10 students applied from Chennai and seven of them got the grant to try out their application.

The husband-wife duo of Narayanan and Kalyani are aiming for Rs. 600 crores in five years from the Rs. 2300 crore Indian insurance market. Their easyinsurance.com allows any individual or corporate to choose the best of plans for life and nonlife cover. The life cover market is worth Rs. 1800 crore and the nonlife market Rs. 500 crore in India at present. Being one among the first online purchase site for insurance, they are aiming to be trailblazers in the online insurance space.

Chandan P. Rajan’s techtestnow.com helps recruiters screen and select entry-level employees by throwing out results of their programming and SQL skills in a matter of seconds. The team also has Sri Lankan cofounders.

Hrishikesh Dattar is a man on a legal mission. His Vakilsearch.com provides affordable legal advice to companies and individuals through a network of 40 affiliated lawyers in India. You typically log on to the site and seek services of a lawyer for your problem and then a competent lawyer is assigned to you from the database of lawyers that the company has. The company has witnessed growth thanks to its tieup with CII.

Sriram Gopal, a multifaceted entrepreneur, is betting big on creative professionals. A salsa dancer and trainer himself, he seeks to create a platform for creative professionals to showcase their work so that any prospective service seeker or employer can either employ or seek services of the creative professional. The creative professionals get a space (in fact a website) to host their portfolio that is visible to the prospective employer or service seeker. The portfolio and skin of the site can be changed frequently and also updated with latest work. The employer can choose among several professionals in a specific domain, say wildlife photographer, by a specific search. The work of the creative professional is so granularized in the website that the three best pictures or videos are readily visible to the service seeker on search.

It was an interesting evening of dinner and networking. The startup space is bustling with energy and now the startup entrepreneur has not one but so many avenues to realize his or her idea with the TiE network providing a great platform through its SIG on startups. If you are in Chennai, be sure to become a TiE member to avail of their many offerings for startups.

--Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, chief evangelist

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