When Entrepreneurs Came A-Pitching

I recently sat through a couple of business plan pitches at PES School of Engineering, Bangalore, thanks to Nandini 🙂 (catch her here – forstartups). Some of the ideas I heard were very innovative and can compare against the best of breed any place in the world(execution still remains to be seen – but comparing idea to idea), while others, lacked the determination to convert a “very” feasible idea into a business. As the process unfolded, some aspects were extremely intriguing while others were very disturbing and I can’t help but write about them…so here goes.

1. Students when asked to look for ideas somehow refuse to look within themselves, their own experiences, their own pain points and even their own strengths in technology/marketing/writing skills. Instead, resorting to secondary sources to fetch ideas. When your baseline (the idea) lacks passion coming from somewhere deep within, it will be hard to sustain on an entrepreneur’s journey. We found that those few who either built on their strengths or perceived/real personal pain points were much stronger with their business pursuing plans

2. Students not looking beyond themselves sufficiently – now this may sound highly contradictory to what I just said above, but hear me out. When I said the above point I meant about the idea for which one needs exposure, which in turn can either happen due to chance or can be created. So, if only students realized that the real world is beyond the four walls of their home and institute and the “coffee” shop they hang out at, they would know where to go look for the experiences that in turn can help them create valuable businesses. Does this point make sense now vs the previous one?

3. No “real” world experience shows up in their operational plans – students need to go out and get as many internships as possible. It is not easy, I know, but just go and get the job or do some freelance work, create opportunities where you are creating something real and tangible and you will know the issues you face when creating/scaling operations. I’m not saying one should talk like a business tycoon, but no matter what you are not ready until you are and that “readiness” comes with field experience of some kind. The next best substitute would be to talk to a lot of working people in your interested domain/industry, but, secondary experience can only teach you so much

4. Students not leveraging technology enough – most ideas that we heard, the students had not thought through on how to leverage all the hi-tech around them to get a quick and dirty prototype up and running in minimal time, while at the same time giving them enough time to do a u-turn on the idea while the investments are still really low

5. They are still thinking about “doable”, “non-utlandish” ideas – all I have to say is guys – it is ok to do a doable, non-outlandish idea, but execution will be key. If you innovate, you have a chance to survive. Also, almost everyone can do a “doable” idea, the top 1% in this country should be creating disruptive innovations (market, business or technology) for the “real” needs that the country is facing

6. This brings me to the “last” and the “saddest” point – all the technology entrepreneurs – awesome ideas in the domain of Augumented Reality, e-waste management, electronic bike etc. – walked in alone, while all the “doable” idea guys walked in, in large groups. If we are to create a large entrepreneurial culture, we need to create innovation through products and services and we can’t afford our engineers and MBA grads to be shy of technology and true innovation related risks. Pull up your belts people, the wave will wash you over anyway, you can either surf it or chose to let it wash over you

I’d love to hear comments and thoughts around this and looking forward to more bplan pitches and lots of bubbling entrepreneurial energy creating interesting solutions and businesses from India.


8 Responses to “When Entrepreneurs Came A-Pitching”

  1. 1 alexboudreau November 19, 2009 at 12:10 am

    You bring some very interesting and relevant points. I founded my first startups when I was still in college, without actual corporate experience. To all young entrepreneurs, I say don’t forget to leverage the knowledge and experience of your surroundings. Tap into the local entrepreneurial community and let them help you.

    I also absolutely agree with your first point: look within to find your passion and your strengths. Even if you’re passionate about starting a business, you also have to look at what the business project is all about – they’re not all equal, and some may not inspire you sufficiently to keep you going in the tough times.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Alexandre Boudreau

    • 2 Sreeja Iyer November 19, 2009 at 12:15 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience. You bring out a very interesting point about tapping into the entrepreneurial ecosystem and that is definitely lacking in young college graduates as they are generally shy and wary of taking the time of busy entrepreneurs or talking to corporate bigwigs. And, the answer to being able to do that lies in your “idea”. If at the core you are passionate about it you will be able to have meaningful and productive conversations with people in your field, for sure.


  2. 4 Ask This CFO November 19, 2009 at 1:10 am

    Excellent Blog, In my experience it is not the idea as much as the execution of the idea that is critical. Taking a concept from start to finish, initially conceptually and next by taking concrete steps is what helps an entrepreneur succeed. Converting thoughts into action is critical for success. Keep up the good work. You may also find my fledging blog having a similar theme. http://askthiscfo.wordpress.com

    Thanks for sharing Kandarp

  3. 6 Anoop December 11, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    One thing we forget here is Entrepreneurship needs a lot of time & patience, most of the start ups are chicken & egg stories,without a shadow of a doubt I agree with your comment that people need to pitch their ideas and be more dynamic meeting hot shots, but pitching ideas and taking guidance from hot shot business tycoons is one thing, executing it is all together is a different ball game. If I speak about a technology start up which has a very good product, establishing a place in the market takes a lot of time, many do not have patience to endure times where investments high & rewards are less. Startups take minimum of 3 to 4 years to have a constant cash flow, that cash flow deteriorates after 4 years if technology is not being developed. Outlandish ideas only survive if they are effective enough in the market. Most start ups collapse within a few years of start mainly because they cannot establish themselves in the market & also maintain their status constantly competing with others.
    Starting off a business is very easy, sustaining it is very tough, so irrespective of “ABCD” – Attitude, belief, courage & doing it, “Chicken & Egg story” puzzles are never easy to solve.. Pls let me know your opinion.

    • 7 Sreeja Iyer December 14, 2009 at 9:59 pm

      Thanks for your comments Anoop. Execution is key and it takes a lot of patience to make things happen, esp if you are innovating in some domain. However, what I was talking about was that without the passion to begin with the execution will be “just another job” and everything else associated with “making it happen” may not even be there to begin with. Your analogy of chicken & egg and “ABCD” – Attitude, belief, courage, doing it, is pretty interesting. I think the key to breaking the chicken & egg loop in different startups is different – sometimes it is one of the ABCD and sometimes it needs all that increases the toughness quotient…thats what I think.. 🙂 comments?

  4. 8 Anoop December 20, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    I agree!. Toughness quotient includes everything, not only placing a product in the market but also enduring times which may mean more work, less profit, intense pressure because of low finances available, again I come back to my earlier point about cash flow which is very essential for any start up, sometimes maintaining that so called “cash flow” is tough & most entrepreneurs who are from upper middle class families can’t depend on the business they start for their source of income every month. only hotshots with lots of money may be able to do it.
    Its important that a B-Plans should always has less investment & more returns.


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