“When a company starts gaining profits, it slows down in terms of growth, the pace and the rate of growth reduces. And today if this happens, very soon somebody else will take over.”
On August 22 at the Integrated Startup Complex, Kochi, a gathering of over 50 people were engrossed as Dr Saji Gopinath, CEO, Kerala Startup Mission, took them through the workings and progress of the agency and the government for startups of the state. Reaching its third destination, the BIGShift edition at Kochi engaged and connected a gathering of investors, influencers and early-stage startups from the city and the state.
With a massive push from the government and incubators and accelerators, Kerala is a great example of how state governments can enable and nurture startups right from the grassroot level to the growth stage. Inc42 with DigitalOcean hosted the third edition of BIGShift in Kochi to highlight this budding startup ecosystem by bringing entrepreneurs, investors, the government and ecosystem stakeholders together.
From Finding A Cofounder To Building The Core Team
Finding the right co-founder and building core team is the most tricky part of a startup. The first session of the evening was all about getting this right. Sijo Kuruvilla George, founder of Rethink Foundation took the audience through the journey he has been on. “It took me one year to hire one key person.”
From the initial part of the journey when one is still figuring out how to run a company to the mistakes and learnings from them, George explored the topic through his personal experiences. Look for competency in the cofounder and then focus on building trust with them. “There is no formula to this,” he said, adding that he felt that only fast friends can be cofounders of a firm, as “they should be willing to go alongside you with all your eccentricities out there.”
“I can narrow it down to two major trends that are most successful. One that is popular in Kerala is of the founders being friends since school/college. Other that is common in tier 1 cities is where the cofounders have been colleagues for a long period of time,” he concluded.
Enabling Leaders Of Tomorrow
An integral part of the state’s startup infrastructure, KSUM has supported the growth of startups through various initiatives and policies. Dr Gopinath, CEO, Kerala Startup Mission elaborated on how the government has enabled startups, the various initiatives and programmes available and how startups can make the best use of them.
Dr Gopinath explained how KSUM’s various initiatives have promoted entrepreneurship in the state including motivating young minds through the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centres, Startup Box and other schemes, to taking startups overseas through the International Entrepreneurial Exposure Scheme and global events.
“With the economy growing at such a fast pace, you need companies which are growing at a similar pace. We are looking primarily for such companies,” Dr Gopinath added.
He further explained that the key drivers for growth were factors such as knowledge of the market and the pain points that exist within it, availability of resources, the technology used for operations, and the socio-economic impact of the product or service.
Learnings On Scaling For Early Stage Startups
Besides the government and state-backed institutions, corporates and larger tech companies have a huge role to play in bringing startups to the fore. And it’s not just about getting new business from the startup sector for such corporates. DigitalOcean works with startups of all kinds and Mohan Ram, APAC partnerships manager said that through this interaction with startups, the company is able to draw insights into what the market wants.
He explained startups need to focus on retaining users or bringing customers back for repeat business. “How do you make a customer, an advocate for your brand?” he asked and dove into what he called the growth loop to bring customers back.
“Growth loop involves content loops, teams and paid ads in the context, this what helped us in our journey. They are not linear, a lot of these can happen parallelly.”
Fireside Chat: How Investors Evaluate Startups
The last session of the evening was a candid discussion featuring Anil Joshi, founder and managing partner, Unicorn India Ventures and Raveendranath Kamath, cofounder and CFO, Next Education India. The fireside chat delved into one of the most pressing issues in the ecosystem right now — seed funding and how startups can clear this hurdle.
“If we talk about angel investors, most of them invest when they see a glimpse of themselves in you. They want to relive their journey through you.”
The panellists explained how VCs assess the market potential of a startup, and how they approach funding at this stage. And crucially, they spoke about how startups cannot just have a singular strength — they need to be aligned with the investor’s thesis, identify a problem that’s worth solving and solve it through innovation. But they also need to have the right team and market conditions for their product or service. And often startups miss out on seed funding due to one of these factors not being up to the mark.
Innovations And Creativity At Par In BIGShift Kochi
The session with Joshi and Kamath set the stage for the BIGShift Pitch as the startups geared up to impress the jury.
For the Kochi edition of the BIGShift Pitch, the jury comprised of George, the founding CEO of Startup Village and Prasad Balakrishnan Nair, CEO, Maker Village. Both have years of experience in leadership roles and are well versed with startups in the state.
The five startups that got the opportunity to pitch in BIGShift Kochi came from varied backgrounds, looking to solve problems in sustainability, local governance, payments and more.
Here’s a look:
With a focus on integrating sustainable technology in aquaculture, the startup was founded in January 2019 by Joseph Sojan, Akshay Muralidharan, Anoob P Bonney and J Harikrishnan. Dissolved Oxygenplus offers a sprinkler aerator, with a single-phase motor that consumes less energy than other aerators and eliminates water contamination from oil leaks and spoilage and more.
Taking citizen-government interaction beyond social media, MP-MLA by GoYotta helps bring local issues to light and lets citizens highlight problems that need immediate attention by local politicians and legislators. Founded in January 2019 by TG Manikandan and K Deepa, the app lets citizens raise issues in their locality such as potholes, uncleaned garbage and more. Others in that locality can vote on these issues and once there is enough support for a cause, it is forwarded to the local authority such as the MLA or MP to be resolved with updates on progress or lack thereof.
Founded in June 2016 by Prashanth B and Shankar B, this startup is working towards increasing the penetration of digital transactions in rural India. Taking into consideration the low bandwidth or patchy internet connectivity in rural areas, Yuva Payhas designed a platform that doesn’t need internet to make local payments. In case, the device has connectivity, it will work like any other payments app, but when there’s no connectivity, it encrypts and compresses the payments data, and then turns it into small packets that can be shared over a frequency. This is similar to how we share messages in a feature phone. While this is an app for smartphones, feature phone users can visit its agents for assistance. It has an agent in every rural area who does one-time digitisation for the customer, post that the customer can use this frequently.
Working to solve the problem of dirty public toilets since February 2018, Humble Shit was founded by Ujjwal Kumar and Samir Dayal Singh. It has developed a hygiene and usability rating system for public toilets, where users can rate their experience. Supervisors at public toilets then evaluate the work of the janitorial staff based on this feedback.
Founded by Parvathy H Kurup, Jijo Paul and Tito Joseph in August 2019. Engineered Vermiculture (EVR) Innovations works towards shrimp shell waste processing. Shrimp processing and exports generate 50 tonnes of waste per day in just one city. Disposing of this waste consumes a lot of chemicals and leads to a number of environmental issues. To solve this problem, EVR uses black soldier flies, whose larvae consume organic waste faster, in larger quantities and with more efficiency.
With all startups putting their best pitch forward, it was going to be a tough one for the jury. Ultimately, Yuva Pay emerged as the BIGShift Pitch winner in Kochi and all of the five participating startups bagged a direct entry into DigitalOcean’s Hatch Program which offers infrastructure credits, priority support, training and access to the startup community.
“Kerala has always proven that it is committed to the progress of the entrepreneurial culture, our event in Kochi saw that commitment and drive in all the attendees. The number of applications we received and the innovative tech-driven ideas that came forward during the event, are all testaments to our belief that there is a lot of untapped potential in Tier 2 cities,” said Pooja Sareen, cofounder, Inc42.
After the success of Kochi, the focus is now on the state of Madhya Pradesh with BIGShift stopping by in Indore on September 6. If you haven’t joined the BIGShift revolution already, apply now to join the best of the MP startup ecosystem, before all the slots are booked.Apply Now
Our Ecosystem Partners for BIGShift Kochi are Kerala Startup Mission, Vruksh Ecosystem, Startup India, TinkerHub Foundation and Maker Village