Startup Catalyst

June 25th was the setting for the first event of the Chennai Chapter of Startup Leadership titled ‘Startup Catalyst’. The event was held to spread awareness of the support available to prospective and current entrepreneurs in Chennai and the problems and challenges, thereof.

The theme, “Startup Ecosystem in Chennai - Available Partners and Support” was designed to attract local entrepreneurs wanting to know Startup Leadership (SLP). Nearly 50 of the 100+ who had signed on turned up. 

The started off the panel discussion with a diverse group of guests including  Shanmugavel Sankaran (Shan), Founder and CEO of FixNix Inc., which recently raised $500,000 from a set of investors, including the Ex-CIO of Tesla Motors, Rama Bethmangalkar and Vishesh Rajaram, both Principals at Ventureast - VC Fund Managers, Pradeep Kumar of PayPal Incubation, and Ashwin Shankar of The Works, a Co-working space with multiple locations in Chennai.

There were 4 rounds of questions focused on the ecosystem and funding options followed by a Q&A with the audience.

Here are some of the questions that posed to the panelists:

Round #1 - Funding

Q: “Having raised $500k recently from the US what does you (Shan) think are the top 3 reasons that investors put their money into your company?”

Q: “How does Ventureast evaluate a company operating in a niche like Shan’s (GRC) versus something which is much more common (food app, hyperlocal, edtech or Enterprise CRM)?”

Q: “Banking, payment, investment, insurance, digital currency, etc. Is there one area which is more favored by PayPal than the other?”

A: The answers were more on the lines of good product, great team, & scale/revenue potential.

Round #2 - Chennai Ecosystem

Q: “Recently Shan’s company moved to a bigger place - a co-working space similar to @Works. When do you think a small startup ( 3-4 people, founders and early employees) should ideally look to move beyond their home/garage?”

Q: “Shan, what do you think Chennai has to offer compared to Bengaluru or Hyderabad? Can you compare and contrast?”

Q: “What do you think Chennai has to do to attract more venture capitalists?”

A: Chennai is the SaaS capital of India with the potential to see more Zohos and Freshdesks in the coming years. Things are changing and it’s only a matter of time.

Round #3 - Funding  

Q: “There are some startup founders who do not understand the basics - seed, angel, series A, Series B, C, D... and whom to approach for what. Can we get an idea from Ventureast, on when startups should go to each one of them?”

Q: “There are 2 theories; Take money when you get a chance, whether you use it or not. The other says avoid taking it till you absolutely need it.” Shan & Ashwin - “what are your views?”

A: The panelists tended to tilt towards bootstrapping as long as possible. Their mantra was- Focus on the product and get it out soon, meet as many potential clients as possible, sell before the product is ready.

Round #4  - Ecosystem

Q: “There are several terminologies used - Incubator, Accelerator, Mentor, Advisor, etc. What is PayPal’s view of the importance of each of them, and how does PayPal see its role in all of this?”

Q: “What stage should a startup ideally apply for an incubator? Does it make a difference to Ventureast if startups have undergone such a program, or have a mentor/advisor on board?”

A: To each its own. Don’t go by terminology. Understand what you want. Ultimately, it is not about printing those names on your pitch deck, but actually deriving advantage from having them on board or undergoing the program.

This was followed by a Q&A with the audience who followed up on some of the answers and sought to know the panelists’ views on others. Best practices on startup recruiting and retention, inability to get investors understand the idea, getting machine learning and analytics talent in Chennai, and growth hacking techniques, were among those foremost on the minds of those who had walked in.

Praveen, Founder of and Program Leader of the Chennai Chapter walked the audience through the wonderful SLP program, its highlights and advantages. He made sure to inform potential applicants of the great number of guests who had selflessly volunteered their time for SLP to benefit entrepreneurs like them and him.

Before honoring the panelists, SLP Chennai made sure that some of the graduates of previous year’s program got a chance to receive their graduation certificates from them. SLP Graduates Jayakumar, Arun, Navnit, Suresh, Jaikanth, Arul, Venky and others talked about their SLP experiences.

To those who missed the event, do not fret. There are more events coming up on July 2nd,  July 9th and July 16th.

To visit SLP website, click here:

To apply to this SLP program 2016, click here:

Blogpost credit: Srinath Ranga, SLP Chennai hapter Advisor, Head - Content Strategy, Director, Opteamize Cloud Solutions Pvt. Ltd,