René Seifert

Entrepreneur, Global Citizen, Flat World, Internet, Web 2.0, Innovation, Start-Up

Archive for the 'Business' Category

New Venture: MillionMiles Media launches aMillionLives.com

For more than half a year I have been really busy creating something new. Today, I am proud to announce that I started a new venture MillonMiles Media Ltd. and we just went live with our really cool flagship site aMillionLives.com. And, yes, we have a Facebook Fanpage, too, where I like if you like ;-) In case you want to read our „official press release“, it’s here for download.

aMillionLives.com

Let me explain here on my blog in a bit more of a conversational tone what we are up to. We are global publishing network writing stuff that matters for our life, in particular the various lives of each of us. You might be familiar with Edward de Bono’s concept of the various hats we should put on during decision making. Similarly, on a broader perspective in one’s life somebody might be a teacher by profession, have a family with a lovely wife raising two kids. But there is more to life than the obvious on the surface: This human being might be an avid guitar player, enjoys going for a hike in the mountains and really love his food. That same person will find help, advise and entertainment for his various lives like in a magazine as a teacher, spouse, parent, musician, naturelover and foodie. Check out our overview of all the lives we are writing for.

aMillionLives.com

Here’s the deal with „global“ for our publishing network. I’ve been living and working in various continents for the last years where I dare to say that I have a fairly good understanding how to assemble a business that brings together the best pieces from each part of the world. Our company is incorporated in London (U.K.), a big chunk of our operation runs out of Bangalore (India) with an international team, the design for aMillionLives.com has been done in Poland, our writers hail from India, the Philippines. Our users as we know from our logfiles appreciate our content from all over the world, the U.S. running with 60 % at the forefront.

aMillionLives.com

Where does the name MillionMiles Media (MMM) come from? Two simple explanations: I was looking, no surprise, for something that sounds somehow cool and has „Media“ at the end. If you check out every freaking word on this earth in combination with „Media“ at the end, the domain is taken by some filthy domain-grabber. So extending the query to two prefix-words, landed me with MMM. Second, I liked it because last year with all my travelling I had crossed the mark of a million miles in my frequent flyer programme.

aMillionLives.com

Yep, that’s my news of the day. Happy about every feedback, good or bad, sympathetic or just pathetic. If you like our Fanpage on Facebook or moreover, place a link from your blog or site to aMillionLives.com, I’ll include you in my evening prayers – hands duly folded. Promised.

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

Horasis and its founder Frank-Jürgen Richter are really coming to ever new heights with its format of “Global X Business Meeting”. Take “X” as a placeholder for China, India, Russia and soon Arab, too. The concept is brilliant: Create a platform for political and economic leaders for a specific country, let them fly out of their cocoon for 2 days in a completely different continent and blend them with political and economic leaders from the host country. For the recent Global Russia Business Meeting that host country was Slovenia (in Ljubljana), last for last year’s Global India Business Meeting it was Germany (Munich) and for this year it was Spain in its magnificent capital of Madrid. (All pictures of the event here on this set.)

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

This year’s top participants from India were the Union Minister of Commerce, Anand Sharma, who spoke about his country’s resilience to weather the storm of the global economic crisis, aspiring to a double digit GDP-growth and acknowledging the requirement build stronger ties to Europe. As a reference to his hosts Mr. Sharma mentioned in particular Spain whose trade volume with India ranks only 43.

Anand Sharma, India Minister of Commerce

From the Spanish side, the Crown Prince Felipe gave himself the honour to speak. As someone who has rather reservations to monarchy, I was honestly surprised not to see some smug royal retard, but a highly educated, soft-spoken and down-to-earth guy who is very well able to play his constitutional and social role in such a setting very well.

Felipe, Prince of Asturias, Spanish Crown Prince

I had the pleasure to moderate panel on a topic which is personally very dear to me: Innovation. In particular “Driving the Future: India’s Technology Pioneers – India’s IT and other technology firms are emerging as global players in their own right. What areas are they pioneering in and how do they compete in world markets?” The participants had a lot to share from their experience:

  • Dinesh Dhamija, former Founder and CEO of ebookers.com, now Founder and Chairman, Copper Beech Group, United Kingdom
  • Sachin Dev Duggal, Chairman, Nivio, India
  • Naeem Ghauri, Co-Founder, NetSol Technologies, Pakistan & United Kingdom
  • Clas Neumann, President, SAP Labs India, Germany
  • Jeff Heenan Jalil, Head – Wipro Technologies, Europe, Wipro, India
  • Glenn Proellochs, Chief Executive Officer, Travelpaper.com, Switzerland
  • Sudhir Sethi, Chairman, IDG Ventures India Advisors India
  • Sudhakar Shenoy, Chairman, IMC, USA

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

This format of a so called “board room dialogue” in an intimate setting allows for a true conversation among the panellists where the “audience” blends seamlessly in. Three main conclusions on innovation that I’d to summarize here:

  • IT-Innovation in India has multiple dimensions. It’s not just about the classic Western understanding of filing a patent for some say cutting edge laser-thing. It’s often process innovation: Just think of the 1 million resumés (!) that Infosys is getting every year to fill 12,000 positions, you need to handle that somehow. Or business innovation with a particular focus on the price point, see for example the world-class rate of 0.5 US-Cent per minute on Indian mobile operators.

  • Bigger organisations like SAP or Wipro can only innovate of their culture embodies constant change whereby their organizational frameworks act like a stable meta-layer for innovation.

  • India is not good at everything, should and often does recognize both its strengths and weaknesses. For instance anything around User Interface can be done with a company in the Silicon Valley much better. The conclusion here: In times where you can assemble easily global sourcing chains, also from the Indian perspective applies: Do what you can do best and outsource the rest :-)

After all the inspiring discussions over the day, we headed off for a cocktail reception to the beautiful Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez where Mr. Peacock was greeting us with his evergreen mating-show.

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

Last but not least, thanks a lot to Frank for once again putting such an awesome Horasis-event together.

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

EO Event: Laying out Urban Planning 2020 for Bangalore

Finishing off the day after coming from an interesting EO learning event in Bangalore about “Balancing Urban Development and the Environment” with two distinguished speakers Rajeev Chandrashekar, independent Member of Parliament, as well as Suresh Hebilkar, famous Kannada-actor and director turned environmentalist.

Mr. Chandrashekar who has taken on the big challenge of fixing Bangalore’s rotten infrastructure conceded that it has started to decline from 2000 and since then only gone from bad to worse. Compounded by the influx of more and more migrants, Bangalore has grown in the last years to a 8 million population and is expected to accelerate its growth to become a mega-city of 16 mn by 2020. Without a complete change of direction in urban planning, or better the holistic introduction of such thing, a collapse on almost any infrastructural dimension seems inevitable.

For that, he has proposed a change of law which would incur three levels of governance: First, the creation of ONE binding urban plan which is missing today (as one can tell just by looking around), second the establishment of a coordinating body for the various agencies (which does not exist today) and a partial self-governance of the regional communities through a democratically elected institution (which has been in the last years replaced by faceless bureaucrats).

What I found remarkable: Fully acknowledging the problems with politics and moreover politicians in India, Mr. Chandrashekar prefers to work with the current institutions as opposed to founding his own party. The latter might appear as a natural choice for an accomplished businessman he has been in his life. But after learning the basics of politics, he explained: “In a democracy where everyone has a voice, yours has to be the loudest to be heard and followed.”

For that, he is trying to bring as many supporters as possible behind his bold plan.

Kulturempfehlungen.de ist live

Web 2.0 macht vor keiner Nische halt. Jetzt wird auch die Hochkultur davon überrollt bzw. davon aufgerollt, und zwar mit einer neuen Plattform Kulturempfehlungen.de

kulturempfehlungen.de

Wie der Name schon suggeriert, dreht sich alles um Kultur, und zwar in der ganzen Spannweite von Musik, Literatur und Film. Wie ich auch gut unterrichteten Kreisen erfahren habe, wird demnächst auch Kunst, Design, Architektur und Bühne hinzukommen.

Eine erste Vorauswahl wird von der Redaktion getroffen, dann macht die Community weiter und kann CDs, Bücher und Filme bewerten und empfehlen.

Leadership Forum: How NASSCOM just doesn’t get 2.0

After the gala dinner “Salaam Mumbai” on Friday night, I made my way to the airport and had a relaxed night flight with Swiss Airline to Zürich where incidentally Rattan Tata was two seats away from me. The landscape here couldn’t pose a bigger contrast to the previous three days in hot and humid Mumbai. On the snow covered slopes of St. Moritz (Switzerland) I found some time and focus to reflect on the conference.

Piz Nair (3057 m) in St. Moritz

These three days at the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2009 have – like my previous two attendances – been tremendously inspiring with phenomenal speakers like John Chambers (CEO of Cisco) as the starter and management guru C.K. Prahalad for the grand finale. Moreover, and that’s what I love deeply in Indian culture, if you know on Day 1 some people, on Day 3 you will know many people thanks to the cordial introductions which those some will make for you to the many. The strong impression which the evening events left on me, is the result of a long-term effort putting these choreographies for the shows with all the awards and dancers together. All fine, and I am quite sure I will attend next year again, that’s for the red cross in the calendar February 9th to 11th 2010.

Yet, and that’s where it really loses me, that in spite of the professional organization of the event, India’s IT-industry association NASSCOM simply doesn’t get it what this beast Web 2.0 or Communication 2.0 or Innovation 2.0 or however you want to name it, is about. Ironically, the two top-speakers I mentioned above where teaching and preaching how it works, what it means and how it positively impacts the outreach of an organization. Specifically, C.K. Prahalad mentioned in his talk that he sees a huge opportunity to consult companies in “social architecture”. NASSCOM should be the first customer.

So in my perception, NASSCOM is still stuck in the mindset: “Uuups, there is this something called Facebook, Twitter, Web 2.0 – and we have to do something with it.” The result: Applying the old mindset (which again Prof. Prahalad was pointing out as the biggest obstacle) onto these platforms and forcing the existing command & control structures of its organizations on these platforms. And it just hurts, because it just doesn’t work this way and thereby gets stuck in the old format (sorry for the blurred quality of the pic).

C.K. Prahalad: Impediments for Innovations

Examples:

  • NASSCOM is running “a blog”, hu-ha-hu a blog, how fancy does this sound with a few “bloggers” writing for it here and identifying themselves on the event with a badge “NASSCOM – I’m blogging” plus some through the audacity to have their hair grown over the tip of their ears. Nothing to object, but this has nothing at all to do with blogging. What NASSCOM in fact does, it hires a few people as editors, thereby controlling the message and pushing it “out to the world”. I wonder if the world cares when the oracle has spoken. (When I got the offer by Avinash Raghava from NASSCOM to “get an account also write for us”, I politely declined. I prefer to write what I think on my own blog.)
  • NASSCOM in on Twitter, check out what came out in the last three days of the conference under http://twitter.com/nilf2009: It’s nothing but pushing one-directionally micro-links of these same messages out. Moreover, using the account name NILF2009 carries a fundamental and obvious flaw: It terms that NASSCOM easily understands, it’s simply not “scalable” as for 2010, 2011 etc. there have to be a new accounts over and over again with losing all the old followers and starting from zero. If I was a cynic, I could argue: With the 36 follower at the time of writing no harm done. Note by the way, the absence of NASSCOM’s interest in conversing by only following back 10 people.

NILF 2009 Twitter

  • NASSCOM has set up a community “Emerge” of its own using CollectiveX to have its members and the delegates respectively interact on that platform beyond the face-to-face meetings. So far absolutely a right move. Yet, it stops exactly there as the old mindset dictates that one must own, control and monopolize the conversation. This platform is not bad at all, but it is not exactly the comfort that Facebook offers. So where is the Facebook-group of the conference where there are not just the better features for interaction, but more importantly where EVERYBODY is already around. When I asked new acquaintances on the conference after receiving their business cards if they were on Facebook, in 80 percent the answer was “yes”.
  • NASSCOM is taping all of the keynotes and most of the panels on video. Why in this world is there no channel on YouTube to put these treasures out? The same applies to the presentations where NASSCOM-president Som Mittal mentioned at the very end that most of them will be available for download. Thank you very much, had I known that before I would have not written my fingers off with taking notes. Just see this slide from John Chamber’s presentation on YouTube’s impact on his organization.

Cisco YouTube-Usage

  • NASSCOM, and that brings me to the last point, is acting in an era of connectedness entirely disconnected in all the separate, distinct and isolated silos of activity. The moderately talented moderator who regularly stumbles in just presenting what the presenter is going to present is of little help either in that context. Where are these closed feedback loops of someone qualified on stage continuously bring the pieces together?

But let’s take a step back and not get stuck in doing the same mistake of bashing single flaws here and simple formats there, but re-draw the big picture of what this all is about: It’s about providing the delegates with a profound and sustainable experience of the event in terms of learning, connecting and participating. Beyond that, the message should get out of the “echo chamber” and travel as far and as fast as possible to anybody who could be a relevant stakeholder. As part of a communication strategy, NASSCOM perfectly includes the press in the process. But here the story ends. Where NASSCOM entirely fails, is getting real word-of-mouth out by engaging into a CONVERSATION. A conversation by definition requires at least the same amount of listening as much as of talking yourself.

Attend a conference of O’Reilly like the upcoming Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco next month (I will be there, too) and you see how it can be done differently by pulling all levers and connecting them. Attendants can twitter questions upfront which the moderator will use for his interview, he will suggest tags for pics and videos which will be uploaded etc. Furthermore, the conference organizers will invite impartial bloggers equal to traditional press which will, of course, write on their own blogs. The official conference-bloggers would read them, link to them, comment, retort, put things straight or, clearly, ignore trolls who are just out there for parasitic attention.

Or, visit the DLD-Conference in Munich where I moderated two panels a fortnight ago: There is a dedicated video-channel with all the panels. Also, from the organizers’ communication team someone will constantly watch what is being twittered in order to make improvements of the event “on the fly”.

Overall, if NASSCOM is serious about its efforts to move up the value chain towards products, it would require some colourful “Gondalization”, named after my friend Vishal Gondal from Indiagames, who won this year’s NASSCOM India Innovation Award for evangelizing his service in a novel way. Vishal was not the only one to wear an orange T-shirt in the dark ocean of seriousness. What is more, he has fully understood how Communication 2.0 works, he is a real blogger who has a tremendous network to leverage upon. This includes that NASSCOM would have to deal with posts like his Why Wipro, Infosys and TCS are “The Axis of Evil” for Indian start-up space which has garnered 120 comments. One of the major properties of Communication 2.0 is the ability to let go and have the network do the work from amplifying to correcting the message.

CIMG4308

It’s not about if Vishal in right in all he writes, or if I went too far with criticism in this post. That would be missing the point which John Chambers got so right as the bracket for this keynote: “If you agree in all I say, I have failed.” But listening to it from a position of equals is the starting point for a true conversation.

Videos of my DLD Panels “E-Commerce” & “Mobile” live

So here we are with the videos which got taped last week during the two sessions I moderated during the DLD in Munich at the new format “Technology Enables Success”.

Panel “E-Commerce”

Panel “Mobile”

Link: Mobile - Panel 3 - TES

Thanks to all the great panelists with their profound knowledge and enthusiasm which they displayed during the conversation and which they display every day to run their businesses successfully.

Stories of Recession in India

Had a fully, yet excited day in Mumbai yesterday. Early morning at 8.30 am (and that's really very early for India) I met up with my friend Sasha Mirchandani from Blue Run Ventures and Amit Grover from Onida. Sasha is the founder of MumbaiAngels which I joined a few months ago, Amit is with highest efficiency and dedication taking care of operational matters with approximately 70 angel investors by now. Sometimes this seems to me like the challenge herding cats ;-)

Me & Sasha Mirchandani

We had an inspiring peer-2-peer exchange with respect to best practises on the entire value chain of creating deal-flow to closing a deal. In the context of funding I understood that some angel investors have become a bit hesitant since their stock-portfolios in India got destroyed whilst uncertainty has started to cover the entire economy. At the same time, as Google-founder Sergey Brin put it recently, "Scarcity creates Clarity. In my interpretation also in the sense that certain business ideas will thrive in a rather downturn economy as they help companies consolidate their act through cost savings when management attention is not just obsessively concerned with hyper-growth.

In the afternoon, like a year and two ago, I joined an invitation by INSEAD for its "globalization course" for a Danish Business School. The participants were all senior executives in Denmark who are undergoing an MBA-training. Three groups of companies presented to us their "India Business Concept" and we were supposed to give constructive feedback and share our experience on "founding and running a business in India".

INSEAD MBA-session

Between the breaks, us panelists exchanged our current state of affairs when it's no point denying that we are in a recession:

  1. One young entrepreneur told the story from above from the MumbaiAngels from her perspective (unrelated to MumbaiAngels, yet to investors in general): In spite of a signed MoU, the investors backed out in the last minute.
  2. The head of a globally active petrol retail company lost a higher double digit figure of his revenues when the oil price hit US$ 140 per barrel a few months ago. Reason: His company is privately run and therefore fully exposed to the price fluctuations it has to pass on to the customers while the majority of petrol-retail in India is state-run and heavily subsidized. In the meanwhile the price has dropped and the company's revenue recovered. 
  3. The India-responsible for a luxury clothing brand reported that two months ago, customer inflow into his stores has become incredibly lame. Understood that this sector gets hit first, as it is certainly not somebody's primary concern in uncertainty to spend EUR 1.800 on a new suit.

All in all quite eye-opening stories I wanted to share here, especially as they come from so many different angles: investment, consumption, government-spending where everything is related/looped to everything and we practically have the entire macroeconomic equation in front of us. Although one where the maths have recently become a bit shaky. 

Viren Khanna and the Internet changing Bangalore Nightlife

Internet penetration in India is still relatively low, only around 30 mn of the Indian 1.1 bn population are online, growing at a fast pace of 27 % p.a. Yet, as everything in India, one has to put things into a context before making a conclusion, one has to put a frame around what one ist going to say. The context that I'd like to narrow down is the increasingly affluent group of people who like going out for a good night's party in Bangalore. Indians usually in their 20s, and a bit elderly expats in their rather 30s (like me ;-). Although the "good night's party" in Bangalore is strangulated by a curfew at 11.30 pm including a no-dancing policy whose zeal of enforcement reminds me rather of the Islamic police in Iran that in the allegedly "biggest democracy in the world", one thing has changed for the better in the last 1.5 years or so. 

Previously, due to the reason mentioned above, the entire nightlife was entirely fragmented across the various locations in Bangalore. No doubt, that there is nothing more boring that going to a bar or a club and having the impression to be almost the only guest. So today 23-year old Entrepreneur Viren Khanna seized the opportunity of aggregating the dispersed crowd. He made a deal with existing clubs and started to send out text messages to people of his address book on the mobile phone which he systematically grew with every event; a typical example of "building momentum". Since then, the so called "Viren-Parties" have become a synonym for "something is happening" at least two times a week in Bangalore.

Viren Khanna

In a not surprising quest to grow his business, he went on to organize fashion shows. What is more, the platforms of communication got enhanced as well, getting into the Web 2.0, an environment that the mentioned target group is very familiar with. For one, a group called "Viren's Nightlife Group – Blitzkrieg" on Facebook with 789 members at the time of my writing. For second, in order to provide a higher level of proprietary branding, a social network of its own, "The Ives Club". 

Positioned as a club for interns, trainees and expats in Bangalore, I was astonished in the first place about the technological sophistication of it and wondered what huge effort it would have taken it to engineer this monster. When I digged deeper into the souce code, it dawned on me that the platform entirely uses Ning, which allows you to "create a social network for anything". Co-Founded by Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape in the 90s, Ning is an amazing example of the Über-Plattform, as Marc elaborately explains in his blog-post on "The three kinds of platforms you meet on the internet". When I asked Viren how long it took to build The Ives Club based on Ning , he replied "It did not take me much long to stitch this thing together, but it did take me an extremely long time and a lot of fidgeting with CRM softwares, phpBB and 3 versions of it to find out about Ning and use it."

ives club

As the fundamentals of Web 2.0 go, these services become better the more people use them. So besides just having a distibution channel to annouce further events, the members among each other begin to interact before and after the events. So the shy ones for instance get the opportunity to address a girl onlline which they have failed to do while seeing her "in da club". Subject to some positive response he will be able catch up during the next party and prove that is is not that shy, though … 

Microfinance explained by Anal Jain (Microventures India)

Catching up from our first encounter at NASSCOM's "IT Product Conclave" in August, I felt very proud and privileged to receive an invitation from Anal K. Jain today to Bangalore's pristine Golf Course at the Karnataka Golf Association. Anal has an amazing career behind him with setting up IBM India as employee #1 and after that likewise starting-up the Indian operations for Sun Microsystems. He is strongly involved in mentoring young IT-companies together with NASSCOM, India'a industry association for companies in the space of software development and business process outsourcing (BPO).

Anal K Jain in the Golf Club Bangalore

His major focus, however, is his current involvement into Microventures, a for-profit fund in the space of microfinance. The sector has recently gained strong public awareness after Mohammed Yunus' got awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his Grameen Bank, a micro-finance institution from Bangladesh. Indeed, the beautiful thing about micro-finance is three-fold: One, it is ideally suited to raise people out of (absolute) poverty in a sustainable way. Second, giving these people a sense of dignity as the improvement of their lives is the immediate result of the empowerment towards entrepreneurship. And third, yet another confirmation that profit is good – both for the new entrepreneurs, the bank as the mediator in between and ultimately the investor on the financial supply side. Microfinance proves to be a perfect example for the "Bottom of the Pyramid"-principle, where  "the poor" are not just considered from a philanthropic perspective, but as equal participants in a vivid economy: As entrepreneurs and customers.   

Anal's role for Microventures is an advisor for directing the incoming funds from the European headquarter of Microventures into prospective channels in India. The exiting thing is to understand how the company tackles this challenge in probably the most unsystematic, fragmented, long-tail market that lacks any supportive eco-system so far. Clearly, the opportunity in the aggregate is huge with 70 % of India's 1.1  bn population living in the rural areas being potential customer for micro-finance. My key insights:

  1. As it is entirely impossible to reach out to each and every of the few hundred million potential customer directly, one has to rely on existing structures of microfinance-institutions which – again – are structurally fragmented and widespread all over the country. Microventures acts as a "fund in fund", i.e. like a meta-layer on top of these existing institutions by taking an equity share in exchange for a cash-injection.
  2. This cash will be supplemented by bank-loans and then dispersed down to the village level by local employees of the same institution. There the employee will invest into a group of women. Why women? It has proved – reality bites – that men against all promises tend to spend any incoming money at the bar around the corner while women prove to use it for the purpose of their small enterprise. Why groups? Addressing a little community seems to provide a joint sense of ownership, better performance and a lower default rate.
  3. On average, one loan will amount to Rs. 5,000/- (app. EUR 80.-) which is repayable within one year in 50 instalments where the credit-employee will show up for weekly collection. In the absence of formalized agreements, not to mention their legal enforcement, the personal rapport between the bank's local representative and the recipients is essential. Ultimately, you don't want to either fool or disappoint someone whom you consider a friend by defaulting on your debt.
  4. Interest rate is usually a reflection of two factors: risk and cost of capital deployment. By nature the risk of such a loan without any collateral is high. Astonishingly, the default rate is relatively low due to the measures explained above. On the other hand, as one can easily fathom, the cost of deployment along these various cascades of intermediaries as well a logistic issues of transporting money back and forth is painstakingly high. Therefore, the annual interest comes at a price around 20 percent.
  5. Mircoventures' role, besides the allocation the funds in the investments phase, consists in the governance of the investee companies. The model to earn its money back could be either a trade sale of the stake to some strategic investor or possibly an IPO which would create a liquid event for the limited investors. The fund itself makes its money in the typical two-fold model of a fee as the share of funds under management plus some carry in case of disproportionate returns. 

Anal being a seasoned businessman was very candid that "if you are looking for pure economic profit, then there are easier industries to go into than microfinance in India". That's why the limited partners of Mircoventures are predominantly wealthy individuals who want to invest and do some good at the same time. Who are seeking for both a return on capital gains and a return on social benefit. In the microfinance industry the term coined for that aspiration is called "double bottom line".

I really like that expression. Maybe we should all look for whatever we do, a bit more for that "double bottom line". 

I joined MumbaiAngels: Private Equity investments in India

 What I wanted to briefly write about already in the last few weeks is my engagement in an amazing group of entrepreneurs and top-executives in Bombay (Mumbai): The MumbaiAngels. What we would call a “Verein” in Germany, has the shape of an association of currently 40 individuals who have an interest in investing their money in prospective start-ups and early-stage companies in India.

The association has been set up one year ago, spearheaded by my friend Sasha Mirchandani who is a seasoned entrepreneur and currently the Head of India for BlueRun Ventures. How MumbaiAngels works is easily explained: We meet every 6 weeks in Bombay and three to five pre-selected companies would pitch in front of us: 15 minutes sharp followed by a friendly but critical Q&A-session by the potential investors. Each angel is entirely free to express independently interest in a particular company through a feedback form. At the end all the forms get aggregated internally whereby the level of interest in a particular company could (and maybe should) also help as an indicator of attractiveness from the “wisdom-of-crowds” perspective.

In the next step, say if 9 people have interest in a particular company, they would go along for a joint due diligence, deal structure into which each individual would invest the amount of money he or she wants to commit. Overall, from my experience of building up an incubator, I am quite impress about the level of maturity for the processes which are critical to come to terms from filtering interesting investment targets to having the investment in place.

The sectors we are looking at have not been defined too narrow, and right so. Ultimately, it should be something that scales well, because it either organizes and unstructured industry in India with its huge market potential behind, addresses a clear need or something which contains a technology-driven nucleus whose economics are prone to disproportionately fast distribution and foreseeable revenues. (My personal investment-appetite goes very much to the latter, certainly because I have some sort of expertise in the tech, media, internet and mobile-space.)

The advantage for entrepreneurs seeking for investments to address Mumbai Angels is manifold: The investors involved bring extensive experience in building and growing business to the table, where the Q&A session during the pitch alone can ask the right questions to tweak and turn something in the plan or model. Moreover, MumbaiAngels are far beyond just throwing “dumb money” at you, then sitting on our hands and waiting what returns we’ll receive. What we are looking for is an active role via ongoing mentoring, door-opening to customers or partners and access to capital for the subsequent rounds of funding.

I am glad to be part of that fine group. If you are an entrepreneur seeking start-up capital for a venture in the Indian market, feel free to address me. I will see what I can do for you and what I can do for us – the MumbaiAngels.

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