Our journey with TechSparks
It was during a NSRCEL event in IIMB, sometime in early July 2012, that I first met Shradha! The event was about “How to Network” (quick test: What was the first thing that came to your mind when you saw “Network”? If you thought TCP/IP, you are probably not an entrepreneur (yet)! This is “People Networking” and she was the star speaker of the show! My friends and I had just started Little Eye Labs (in fact two of my co-founders were not even full-time at that point) and I was hesitantly planning on how to try my “newly acquired” networking skills on Shradha herself :) I was not too keen to stand in line and try and shake her hand for a few seconds, exchange cards and get a very cursory introduction, which will be forgotten the next moment! So I waited till everyone finished and when she was about to leave the room, walked up and introduced myself. I had a trump card up my sleeve. Her CTO, Aditya Kulkarni, was also my friend (and eventually became one of our co-founders), and he had already mentioned us to her. So I hoped and prayed she will remember me and the introduction would be easier.
It turned out Aditya had indeed done a good job introducing us and she also had a good memory. She remembered who we were and also what we do (somewhat) and my explanation about what exactly we do. Our pitch then was – We help developers understand how efficient their app is, with respect to power consumption! Battery is the biggest pain when switching to a smart phone. Developers need to care about battery, because their end users do. Something about the pitch clicked with her and she said ‘You guys should participate in the upcoming TechSparks event! This sounds like the kind of idea we want to promote there’ and she moved on, leaving me confused and happy!
TechSparks! I had of course heard about it and in 2011, my co-founder Satyam had attended it and used to speak highly of it. But we were not really sure what it meant to participate in this event, especially given we were so new! Aditya was most supportive! ‘You guys should do this for sure! This is a big event and a great chance to showcase the company and the product in front of start-up industry veterans, including fellow entrepreneurs, investors, people from the established side of the IT industry etc’
The reason we were confused was that, while our idea has been forming in our minds for the past six months or so, the actual work for it had started hardly a month back! I was full-time into Little Eye only a couple of months before that and the first month was mostly spent reading about Android, and working out of Coffee Days (until they shooed me off by turning on loud music)
This is where Shradha stepped in again! In a follow up meeting that was set up to see how serious she was about us participating in TechSparks, she gave us this choice - “I think you guys have something that is worth being in the Top30 of the TechSparks list. But if you want to be in the Top15 and present on stage, you need to move beyond just an “idea” stage and get actual customers to use it and get some traction! If you guys can promise to get that before the final TechSparks event, we will put you in the Top15.”
The event was one month from that date and we had barely anything to show at that point.
What a challenge! And boy was it tempting! We had a quick meeting immediately after that (in our usual park next door – we couldn’t afford a conference room. We had two choices:
Go all out and prepare for this event, with the possibility that we could have a flop show in front of everyone on stage or
Take a more cautious step and maybe attend the next conference which will give us more time to prepare and do a good job!
We debated back and forth and finally choose the mad option – Lets do it! What’s the worst that can happen?
And boy did it turn out to be one of the best decisions we had ever made! We slogged through the next few weeks trying to get our product into an alpha state. A week before the event, we had a version of the product that was demo able. But now we had to get customer validation too. We then started reaching out to our contacts and Shradha also helped us get contacts!
Starting with Arvind Pani of Reverie, to Sriram Iyer of UMA, to my first manager Anantharaman of Adobe to my co-founder Lakshman’s contacts in Samsung, we went around town showing what we had built to all these companies which were building Android apps! And we got great feedback from everyone! Bolstered by all the feedback but still with a lot of butterflies in our stomach and with a great slide deck prepared by our 4th co-founder, we took to the stage!
Well … we did decently I think. We clearly didn’t win the event, but we made some good friends and met some well-wishers. And we were bolstered by the fact that one of the judges rated us the highest (of course another marked us the lowest)
Overall our life changed completely for the better after that event. People started recognizing us in startup events, we started getting investor connects and GSF EIR and current GSF partner, Brij Bhasin, felt we were worth enough to be called for a second round discussion for GSF accelerator round (we had met him earlier after being introduced by the one and only Phanindra Sama of RedBus).
I always say that we had 3 phases in our startup life – The before/after TechSparks, before/after GSF and before/after meeting Sateesh Andra of VenturEast
I hope we can someday and in some way repay TechSparks and the entire crew @ YourStory for their support and belief in us! They made a world of difference to us!