Google PlusFacebookTwitter

Introducing Tech Guru, Angel Investor, Mentor: Manish Dalal

By on Dec 26, 2013 in Gurus |

I have known Manish Dalal for over a year. In my mind whenever the group of angel investors at Mumbai Angels is evaluating a sufficiently complex technology piece, it turns to Manish for inputs on tech due diligence. And that should come as no surprise given Manish’s background. He is the India Country Head for Verisign, and in the past has played many senior roles at Yahoo and Motorola among others. Today Manish shared his thoughts with StartUp Gang about the tech startup space in India, and the following are his thoughts. In the Words of Manish Dalal My primary exposure to the early stage ecosystem has been as an angel investor for the past year and half. In addition, I am mentoring and advising several startups on a wide variety of platforms. Here’s How the Tech Startups in India Are Different From Those in the US Though there are exceptions to every rule, I have found that tech startups in India are primarily being founded by business-oriented founders, while in the Valley we find many startups coming from hard core tech people — people who might, for instance have a PhD in technology niches. I find this rigorous tech approach missing in Indian startups. As a result, I find it easy to perform tech due diligence on Indian startups as the technology tends to be pretty restricted. Evaluating unique and revolutionary technology would have been much more challenging, but I do not come across too many of those in India. The Low Hanging Fruits in India Are Probably the Cause The domestic market in India still has a lot of opportunities that are akin to low-hanging fruit. This might be the reason that many tech startups here try to seek opportunities in gaps that they find in the marketplace. But I wish that we could have focused on technology and come out with solutions that are created with the global audience in mind. India Can Present a Locational Disadvantages for Serious Tech Businesses Invariably, what we find is that the biggest market for tech startups tends to be in the US. Though the Internet has made discoverability of tech companies pretty easy, there is still no substitute for person-to-person contact with customers, brands, and investors. This also explains why some companies that raise money open shop in the US, while retaining their development work in India. But There Are Winners in India, Of Course! Two names that come to mind are Rolocule and Vliv. Rolocule is a Pune based mobile gaming company (Disclaimer: Manish Dalal as well as Ajeet Khurana are investors) that has developed the Rolomotion technology. This gaming technology is truly path breaking and there is no equivalent anywhere. I am impressed by what they have done. Likewise, Vliv has come up with the way that brands can use social videos to engage with their audiences. Their technology is pretty path breaking too. But as mentioned earlier, Rolocule and Vliv would benefit significantly from a US presence. You can get in touch with Manish Dalal on LinkedIn. We hope to see much more of Manish around StartUp...

Introducing Indranil Deb of Mobius Strip Capital Advisors

By on Aug 25, 2013 in Gurus |

It is my pleasure to introduce Indranil Deb, investment banker, founder of Mobius Strip Capital Advisors. I have always known Indranil to be very helpful to investors and entrepreneurs alike. He is a visionary who has often predicted outcomes that others could not see coming. He gets interested in a startup when it has gone past the “prototype” stage and is either already post-revenue or rolled-out. Here are his thoughts: In the Words of Indranil Deb “My experience with early stage entrepreneurship has been mixed. The ecosystem is not one that is conducive to entrepreneurship. As a society, we do not empathize with failures. This artificial pressure to succeed (right from your family-members, friends and peers) compels early stage entrepreneurs to adopt “any” means to succeed. The Wrong Role Models Another “contagion” in the eco-system is the existence of the wrong kind of role models. Nine out of ten entrepreneurs want to be like some crony businessmen who have achieved financial success (or appeared on the cover of Business India) with little contribution to real innovation, expanding body-of-work or presenting “real” solutions to deep and serious problems faced by consumers — but succeeded largely by “fixing” and “bribing” policy-makers. The Focus on “Get Rich Quick” Has Distracted Many Entrepreneurs A serious problem with early stage entrepreneurship is that most entrepreneurs here today want to get rich quickly! While, I have nothing against the aspiration in itself, what troubles me is the fact that they lose sight of the more serious tasks at hand — building IP, building and retaining the right team, providing superlative solutions for problems with their products and services — leaving the world a little better than how they found it. Despite Angels and VCs, Financing Is Not Easy to Come By The ecosystem, too, is unfavorable. The most common means of financing is still bank financing — which is available to only a few entrepreneurs who can offer collateral security as a mortgage. Linked with the earlier points, in reality, very often, projects with cooked books get the money — and honest entrepreneurs fail to procure funding. The angel investor networks that exist are spoilt for choice. The angel investing practices prevailing in India today are a “localized” version of investing. Investors that back projects often do not have the domain expertise and/or the passion for backing new ideas that are risky — they cherry-pick and structure investments that are reasonably “safe-bets” with little downside risk. Entrepreneurs Need to Focus on Common Sense Basics Our advise would be as follows: Apart from a strong cash-reserve, make sure that you have a large ammunition of passion, conviction and ability to endure – be humble to listen to criticism objectively, talk to entrepreneurs who have either failed or gone through very serious difficulties — there is lot to learn from their mistakes. Examples of Startups That Are Doing Great Work Mobien Technologies, Aspiring Mind Assessments, Rolocule, Grameen Greenway, Eki Communications and Wegilant Technologies. The Startup Space Is Proving Darwinian Evolution Theory Right Heating up in the startup space helps in a Darwinian evolution theory kind of way — only the best and fittest survive. Competition helps separate the men from the boys. And it brings out the best in the creators, innovators and thought-leaders that push the frontiers of human knowledge and technology. In the recent past, there have been far too many startups in the areas of online discount-retailing, travel-and-ticketing and general e-commerce — than what the demand side can support. One Space I Am Presently Excited About Is… I’d love to back a company that would provide a comprehensive solution to young women and men across the world looking for jobs – a business that would offer skill-assessments, counseling, training and placement services. I believe there is a huge gap there. India Needs to Shape Up and Catch Up We have a lot of catching up to do. At the policy-making level, actions are sporadic. Budget speeches have largesses of corpuses of Rs. 1,000 crs here and there being announced for setting up venture capital funds — and so on. We need more focus and attention to operationalize them and streamline the operations of the existing schemes and programs. For building global ventures, it’s useful to have start-ups teams that are global – founders from across the world living in India (where the best minds from across the world converge) and building their ventures ground-up. For that, a friendly, safe and secure environment needs to be in place first.  Foreigners and (especially) women still don’t feel safe to be seen walking home after work. Interesting Trends in the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in India Apart from the IIT campuses, start-ups are emerging from the hinterland and smaller engineering and B school campuses as well. The early successes of a culture of business incubation Mid-career executives dropping out of their jobs and venturing into entrepreneurship Middle-aged and elderly first-time entrepreneurs teaming up with their children to start-up new ventures The role of a Mentoring being more widely acknowledged and accepted Follow Indranil Deb on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn. Read his blog at and visit his corporate...