What happens when a diverse set of entrepreneurs and domain experts get together and discuss startups, try to help each other? Of course, ideas get validated, blind sides are exposed, and there is a lot more productivity than one can expect to achieve in a 2 hour span.
I am referring to the OCC Bangalore and BEMUG generic meet held on 21st April. This meeting certainly lived up to its promise, and had some takeaway for each participant.
This was my first such generic meetup here in Bangalore, although I have attended the debate evening earlier this month. Honestly, I expected to see a lot of sales people, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the participants were an interesting mix of expats, techies, CAs, a corporate lawyer, and even a freelance writer ( OK, I confess. That’s me :) ). Some were networking veterans and some were new to the startup world. Also present were a few women entrepreneurs with great ideas.
The agenda was simple and straightforward - introduce yourself and your startup, share your success or pain points, and ask the group for feedback and help. Amarinder, as always, played the perfect moderator and made sure that everyone got a chance to speak. There were quite a few entrepreneurs working on ideas in the e-learning and education space and the most exciting ones had a focus on “combining learning with fun”. This made total sense to me, as the market size for digital classrooms was estimated at Rs 3,000 crore in 2011 and is expected to grow by 25-30 percent in 2012 (Link). This is also a great time to launch learning and entertaining games for kids, as funbooks and e-learning toys have become readily available and affordable, and their prices are expected to drop further in the coming times.Shalini Nahata had one such idea, for a mobile app to help parents pick bedtime stories for their children.
Post the meet, there was a free class on ''How to approach your idea?'', which was conducted by Rohith K.N. This free class (courtesy OCC Bangalore Learning Center) was more of an interactive session, with participants raising questions as well as coming up with their own examples to support or contest the ideas.
During his talk, Rohith emphasized the importance of understanding the customer’s needs and dog fooding the idea before launch. He opined that no amount of theory can replace learning first hand and advised entrepreneurs to spend time with their customers to understand their needs and aspirations better. He stated that the standard questionnaires fail to serve this purpose and the only way to really understand customer needs is to get some face time, preferably at their place of work.