BLAZE, the recently concluded two-day startup summit in Pune, brought together startup founders, prominent investors, students and business leaders across disciplines. Hosted in Pune by FLAME Centre for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (FCEI), the summit also saw the culmination of the New Venture competition and FLAME Origins Program demo day.
“Prominent investors and entrepreneurs are frequently seen in startup events at Bangalore, Mumbai or Delhi but rarely in Pune. However, at BLAZE we were fortunate to receive the support of people such as Pranav Pai, Tarun Davda, Patanjali Somayaji, Abhijit Gupta, Vikas Kumar, Sachin Oswal, Vaibhav Domkundwar, among others – people who have built and scaled businesses or actively invested in high growth startups and supported our cause to boost the startup ecosystem in Pune,” said Darshan Doshi, Director, FCEI, who led the summit.
In his inaugural address, sharing anecdotes of his failures and setbacks, Vice Chancellor Dr. Dishan Kamdar said, “Before becoming an academician, I was an entrepreneur. During this phase, three out of four of my entrepreneurial efforts met with failure. Today, as an academician, I am often recognised as one of India’s top researchers. But, what people do not know is that before I got my letter of acceptance, I was rejected 12 times. And, each of those rejections gave me the opportunity to stand up with tenacity.”
Dr. Dishan also stressed at the need to hone good communication skills. He said, “Successful entrepreneurs are great communicators as well. Do not undermine the power of good communication skills. At the end of the day, you are selling an idea, a product.”
The two-day startup summit helped throw light on the challenges faced by innovators and startups in their journey to scale and ways to overcome them.
The summit hosted interesting workshops such as startup ideation and product development by Praveen Dorna, Co-Founder, StartupByte. Vikas Kumar, Serial Entrepreneur, Investor and Founder, LoanTap tried to answer a question on the evergreen dilemma that most aspiring entrepreneurs face – “Should I start up and how to succeed not fail?
The event had an interesting lineup of talks by experienced entrepreneurs, investors and ecosystem players. “China went from $3,500 GDP per capita in 2008 to $10,000 GDP per capita in 2018 and created $3 trillion market capital in that period. India is at $2,500 GDP per capita and going to $5,000 GDP per capita in next 10 years along with an increase in internet usage, and therein lies the opportunity,” said Tarun Davda, Partner & MD, Matrix Partners, spoke on the $1 trillion Indian venture opportunity. Rohit Pandharkar, Head of Data Science and AI, Mahindra Group, provided valuable insights on enterprise AI and practices in Data Sciences.
Pranav Pai, Founding Partner and Chief Investment Officer, at 3one4 Capital, in his session, spoke about startup opportunities from the perspective of an investor and also explained how venture capital works. Talking about why it is an exciting time to start up, fund and grow a company in India, Pranav said, “A record number of VC funds are launched every year all over the world. There is more money available for the startup ecosystem than what was available a decade or two ago. India’s market size is an opportunity for the startup ecosystem.”
Talking about the growth and potential of the Indian startup ecosystem, he shared, “There are 160 billion-dollar companies in the US, China has 80, India has 26. Yet, the number is commendable. By 2025, 100,000 startups will employ 3.25 million people with 100 unicorns in the country. Today, India is the youngest country in the planet. This will translate into a big strength as more well-trained and well-equipped individuals continue to join the workforce.”
An interesting element he covered in his talk was that of millennial advantage. Decoding what it is and the implications it has for startups, he said, “It took 28 years for credit cards to reach 50 million people globally. For Pokemon Go, it took 19 days. That means there is no excuse to be slow, or for entrepreneurs to say that people no longer understand their product or they can’t get enough customers. If your product has the right market fit, the market opportunity is very huge.” The other aspect of millennial advantage is that millennials are investing. They are putting their money in the companies that they have recall for. The likes of Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Netflix have all become viral because of the millennial advantage.
Pranav also touched upon aspects such as data privacy, how data helps to scale, how companies are trying to get customers converted into recurrent customers, and disruption in the startup ecosystem by newer players. “You are only as good as you were yesterday. That’s why startups need to continuously work towards accelerating their maturity.”
Patanjali Somayaji, CTO, Capital Float, shared learnings from his 18-year-long entrepreneurial journey across four different startups. “While it is very fashionable for everyone to want to get VC funding, you have to think if it makes sense to take that kind of money for your company. You have to think about revenues and what size you plan to scale. You have to be careful about what kind of funding you want - debt funding, VC funding or any other kind of funding.” Patanjali also highlighted the advantages of launching with a work-in-progress product than spending a lot of time to build a perfect product and then going to market with it. He spoke on why startups should diversify when they are not able to foresee business profit or market growth.
In the panel discussion on ‘what investors want to see in startups,’ Abhijit Gupta, VP, Athena Health and Founder, Praxify, Vaibhav Domkumdwar, CEO, Better Capital + Labs, and Sachin Oswal, Co-Founder, Infibeam, shared their perspectives on how investors invest in startups, why investors are accountable to their shareholders, among other topics of interest. The trio also shared personal perspectives on how, as investors, they help startups. Vaibhav said, “I am a problem-solving investor. While I am actively connected with all the founders I have invested in, it is pull-driven, which essentially means that they are giving me a problem to solve – which can range from hiring to new business to pivoting a product. When it is pull-driven, it also means that I am not interfering or suggesting things they already know of and don’t need help with.”
Abhijit echoed similar sentiments. “As investors, we are always eager to help. But we need to decide how and why to help. You can’t help your founders at all times and in all areas. A founder is often immersed in running the business and wading through challenges. So, when I offer help as an investor, I need to be specific about how I can help.” Sachin also asked founders to think about why they are raising investments. “If you have a particular vision and using money can buy you time to get there faster or if you have deep problems which you can’t solve without money, only then does it make sense to raise investments. Not every startup has the potential to become a billion-dollar business and that’s why not every startup needs to raise money.” The investors also encouraged entrepreneurs to play on their strengths and not focus on their weaknesses.
Dr. Ashwin Naik, Founder, Disrupt Health, discussed the future of health, trends and opportunities. “For the last 100 years, the formal healthcare industry has focused on making doctors and hospitals more efficient. But in the last 10 years, the focus has been on ensuring that people are healthy outside the hospital. The future of healthcare will be defined by people in the AI, food, technology and allied industries. Doctors are no longer at the center of the healthcare industry. Today, we are trying to answer the question of what other professionals can do to enhance the healthcare industry. We are inviting new players like technologists, physicists, mathematicians. Most of the interesting challenges of today are being led by people outside the industry.” He also spoke about some of the trends that are becoming big in the healthcare sector. “Today, consultation, diagnostics and even treatments are moving away from a physical space to a virtual space. Diagnostic kits are also getting smaller and user-friendly to enable people to use them at home.”
Apart from the curated sessions and workshops, three other key highlights included the FLAME Origins Program demo day, product showcase and the BLAZE New Venture pitching session.
At the summit, eight startups graduated from FCEI’s startup accelerator initiative, the FLAME Origins Program, and pitched to prominent angel investors and venture capitalists. At the product showcase, over 30 FLAME entrepreneurship undergraduate and postgraduate student groups displayed a range of products, ranging from edible cups to shower melts, created during the academic year.
The summit saw 15 new ventures and business ideas, as part of the BLAZE New Venture competition, being presented to an ‘Investor Panel’, comprising eminent names from the industry and the startup world.
The 15 startups, which were shortlisted from participants across India, have been given the opportunity to be part of the FLAME incubator programme. Some of the startup ideas included a device for the visually challenged to help them walk freely, an automated hydroponic indoor gardening system, a healthcare startup that offers genetic diagnostics, among others. Pixopal, Ginger Desserts and Save Grain Bags were declared as the winners of the competition and took home a cash prize of Rs 85,000.
The two-day event enabled young startups and aspiring entrepreneurs understand the complexities and opportunities of the startup ecosystem, and get the bigger picture.
Applications for FLAME Origins Program 2019 are open! Early stage startups with revenues between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore are eligible to apply before May 15th. FLAME Origins Program (FOP) is a five-month early-stage startup accelerator programme by FLAME University that takes no equity or tuition fees. FOP helps startups receive guidance from entrepreneurs and business leaders who have successfully built and scaled global businesses, and provides access to prospective customers, investors and partners to validate their business model and value proposition. Interested startups can click here to apply.