Pitching your startup!

Founders usually are looking for advice and thoughts for pitching to VCs. Typically VCs look at hundreds of deals every month. Not every VC is looking at the same data or has similar preferences, making it even more complex to know what to cover in a pitch. While I’ve pitched only a few times, it occurred to me that I spend a lot of time listening and discussing pitches, so I should just put a piece about what VCs would like to hear!

You have around 5 minutes to grab the attention of VCs; so do not wait to tell about the most awesome part of your startup – team, market entry, technology etc. Tell it like a story. We need to know what problem you are solving and why you care about it. Tell us about your market. How big it is, how much can you address, how soon and who are the competitors? How will you have sustained differentiation against your competition? Who are your partners in crime, your team. Of all the things they could do in their lives, why this crazy thing? If you have launched, show us what you have done. Nothing like seeing product demo and hear customer testimonials. Have a clear ask, having clarity about what you want from an investor (how much are you raising, at what terms, introductions) tells a lot about your planning skills. One last key takeaway is to know your audience before pitching to them.

Shake it up! Edtech 1.0 ripe for disruption

How do you identify an industry that is ripe for disruption? When there is a gap between the solutions offered by current players in the industry and the changing demands of its customers, new players can disrupt the industry.

Companies from edtech 1.0 assured us that they would solve all the problems with our education system. They did solve for access by bringing offline content online. The best content from top professors and universities that was previously inaccessible to most was bought online by the likes of Coursera and Khan Academy. Online and live tutoring by companies like Tutorvista provided access to quality teachers to students around the world. edtech 1.0 was the best thing to happen in democratizing access to knowledge, since the invention of internet.

However, providing access has not solved all the problems, students struggle to learn, underperform in tests and fail to reach their true potential. As per a public report, 47% of Indian graduates are unemployable and 90% of engineering graduates are unemployable. The key reasons for these are:

–  The current learning process is boring and outdated. The focus is on rote learning and scoring at all levels. There is no engagement in the learning process.

– There is no personalization and one on one tutoring is expensive. It has been reiterated in many articles that we can not have a “one size fit all” solution to educate our diverse students. Students have different aptitudes and most are not even exposed to the various career options they have. The traditional and the edtech 1.0 players have failed to innovate and build products that individualize to every student’s profile.

– There is a disconnect between what is taught and the skills required in the job market. The traditional educational and edtech 1.0 players are teaching curriculum that is not in sync with the new age jobs. The frequency at which the curriculum is updated is slower than the rate at which the job profiles are changing.

If India has to fully capitalize its demographic dividend, then we need to address the issue of unlocking the true potential of everyone in our workforce. While this is a massive problem, tech can offer simple solutions. Edtech 2.0 companies are unlocking true potential of students using data and analytics to personalize education, make the process of learning fun and social, focus on true learning rather than rote and give real time feedback.

Sources for data:

5 Exciting b2b startups in India

Header

Here’s a list of 5 exciting b2b startups that I’m following. I used the evaluation criteria used by Jason Ball in his blog. – People, Product, Potential and Traction.

1. UnicommerceUnicommerce

Cloud based Multi-Channel Order Fulfillment Platform which enables E-commerce merchants

People: Started in 2012 by a group of IIT / IIM graduates, they have proved that passion, talent and ability are more important than experience. Without any previous experience in warehouse/inventory management , they have build world class inventory management software and have over 4000 paid users! Ankit, Manish and Vibhu have relied upon their IIT connects for the first few deals and there after relied on the products strength and customer service.

Product: Their product, Unicommerce, is comprehensive enough for big e-commerce players to rely on and easy enough for smaller online merchants to use.  It provides end to end order fulfillment including procurement, vendors, inventory, warehouses, drop shipments and returns. Being hosted on Internet, it enables small and medium sized online sellers to tap power of technology without any technology knowledge.

Potential: One of the ways that small offline businesses can survive the onslaught of e-commerce is by joining the e-commerce marketplace. The millions of small offline retailers and suppliers willing to join the online marketplace in India are the potential market for inventory management software.

Traction: Within a short span of 2 years, they could help their 4000+ customers do Rs. 1000+ Cr business. Unicommerce comes pre-integrated with all the leading marketplaces like Jabong, Snapdeal and Lazada, carts, couriers/shipping companies, accounting software and have built high barriers with these alliances for new entrants and in 2013, they raised their first round from Nexus.

2. Power2sme

Power2SME

Group buying site for SMEs

People: The founder, R Narayanan is a seasoned entrepreneur with experience in diverse industries, he is also a cost accountant working on profitability from early stages. He has built a team of around 60 and is advised by a very capable board.

Product: The company is a group buying site for SMEs in India. It has also diversified into SaaS applets and employee retention and motivation for SME. The primary business of group buying can include several products (over a million products listed in amazonsupply.com) and serviced through the common infrastructure.

Potential: The Indian economy is poised to return to high growth and the new government will provide an impetus to manufacturing, the market for industrial supplies will only increase. It is a blue ocean out there and the market is in billions, even amazon has started catering to SMEs in the US through amazonsupply.com.

Traction: With $8m of funding from Inventus, Accel and Kalaari, there is enough capital to see the company through the venture phase. The company has its head quarters in Mumbai, which is the hub of commodity business in India. Continue reading