Startup Saturday is an initiative by Headstart to provide entrepreneurs with a monthly community driven forum. we at 99tests attended the SS event at IIMB Bangalore on 11th December and gave a lightning pitch.
The first talk started off with a brief story of how Ajay Shankar Sharma, CEO, Srishti Software on how he had gone about convincing his family and raising initial capital for his company. The story of raising capital was very interesting, as the founder went about asking his college seniors for 10k to 50k and keep asking till they did give him some amount. So the initial capital of few lakhs was raised. the next challenge was the need to train people in a services business, since it was very hard to find people wanting to work for a start-up. This turned into a boon when the process of giving 200 hours of training in the first two years paid off in later years of the company. The CEO later figured out that working as both a services firm and a product firm was not working and stated concentrating on building product couple of years back. They tried around 8-9 products for different markets and finally had the learning to create two successful products.
The next few insights shared were based on the learning they have had in the past few years, the first was that most firms exist with in a market and these markets are influenced by things not in the control of an entrepreneur like recessions and globalization. An important factor for an entrepreneurs in maximizing their probability of success(since entrepreneurship is not a certainty game) is to understand the demand and supply equation in their markets. Another key point was having enough of a differentiator to your business along with knowing the distribution reach of your firm.
The next talk was by Madhava Raju, COO, IIHT, which was started in 1994 and is now an IPO’able firm. The initial story of raising capital in the early 90’s was very tough, with the initial training center needing 16 lakhs. This was raised by their circle of friends, banks and loans.Madhava shared that they aim to be either number one or number two in the business they are in. They spent heavily on marketing in the initial days and got students signed up to take their courses and offered access to interviews of Indian IT services firms. The pricing was in the range of other career courses like animation and software courses. They have grown with the franchise model in a time where the laws and agreements were not yet evolved to deal with these kinds of businesses. One more aggressive focus of was on competition and building the brand. Payed a heavily to the top lawyers in the country to protect their brand from fly by night operators and copy cats. He also payed 150% of the salaries to attract top talent. So building a network of training centers involved lots of strategy that a service business uses to scale, i.e heavy marketing spend, building the brand, Keeping a sharp eye on the competition, maintaining the quality of the delivery and attracting top talent to the company.
The first lightning pitch was by 99tests, where each entrepreneur is given 2 minutes to pitch his product to the SS audience. Praveen and Avinasha presented the lightning pitch.The response for 99tests was tremendous with lots of questions by the audience on, what is our differentiators from outsourcing or hiring a small team to test. The answer was that community outperforms(in finding bugs) both methods of testing by huge order of magnitude and the most passionate testers are present on the 99tests platform. When asked how many people like the concept of 99tests and would like to use 99tests to test their software product, more than half of the audience raised their hands. This was a great to see that people would be open to adopt new means of testing, when both performance and value is delivered by the community in building a great product.