Does anybody remember the great dotcom boom that happened in the last decade of the previous century? The great hype around the proliferation of the internet and the world wide web, the irrational euphoria that created new measures of business and financial success like eyeballs and page hits rather than revenues and profits and the not unexpected denouement where the great drama ended with an almighty crash! As my leadership guru then and now Dean of Harvard Business School Nitin Nohria once said, every HBS student of those years wanted to set up a dotcom, not because they saw great value but because you could not be young and intelligent in those days and not be part of the great new gold rush that the internet economy presented!
Speaking at the opening session of the first Emergeout conference for start-up and emerging companies organised by Nasscom in Pune recently, it was heartening to see the hundreds of bright young entrepreneurs and entrepreneur wannabes who listened to successful CEOs who had done a credible job building companies from infancy through the trials and tribulations of early stage legitimacy, and seen them through the scaling process to success. The conference itself could not have been more timely because there are exciting technology pushes happening through the rapid deployment of broadband in the country and the stabilisation of cloud computing, enterprise mobility and other potential extensions of the realm of influence of corporations are providing the demand pulls that should open up ample opportunity for innovative start-ups.
The start-up potential in the technology space is not just in the internet and e-commerce area, though that certainly is one of the fastest growing entrepreneurial opportunities. However if one has to avoid a repeat of the dotcom boom and bust cycle, young starry eyed innovators should look for real discontinuities or asymmetries in traditional value propositions and invest in getting exhaustive customer insights before plunging headlong into new ventures. Fortunately, the angel and venture capital community in the country, many of them burnt in the euphoria a dozen years ago, will also be more circumspect and ask the right questions.
A few investments I have personally been associated with along with colleagues from the Indian Angel Network will serve to elucidate this. Sapience, a company that designs software for polling activity on computers is a much awaited capability enhancement for software and financial services companies that would like