Startup Failures

Startups and Failures are almost synonymous. They are like 2 sides of the same coin. Some statistics exist, which show that a really high percentage of startups don’t make it beyond first year. If were to go by percentage of startups, which receive funding, that would be a lowly number as well. I recall hearing Vinod Khosla during Nasscom event in Bangalore in 2011. He said that though he gets conference speaker invitations from many and has to say no to a majority of them, he himself reached out to Failcon organizer to be speaker. Sat 13, 2013 Headstart Mumbai’s Startup Satruday (Google Doc link from organizer) was on failures. Romeel Shah was the host of event, who had quit times internet and started up himself. HeadStart started 4 years ago in Bengaluru (Bangalore). It is present in 12 cities now. Various initiatives under the umbrella of HeadStart included Hire, hackathon, Startup Saturdays and a vibrant Google group. Santosh from NASSCOM was present and available to talk to startups regarding 10000Startups initiative (website). Under that initiative, a startup could receive Rs.25Lac to Rs.2 Cr in funding from leading angel investment networks of India. They announced that startups could email for funding related queries.  Aarti from Headstart was available to help out finding cofounder and provide other troubleshooting to entrepreneurs.

2 Failure Stories

1: Aurality

JahnviParikhAuralityJahnvi Parikh was working with Yahoo Singapore, when she started Aurality as a personal project, like most of Yahoo-ians. Aurality aggregates web content, and coverts into audio for the people on move. She started it on April 2011 along with a technical co-founder, Bhavin. It took 10 months to build. In Jan 2012, they raised money from Blume. The same month, it launched after feedback, disruption. It was targeted for US market. They used niche blogs targeting avid listeners for marketing. They got decent initial download. Retention, listening time was a challenge. They undertook 8-10 mini pivots within a couple of months to improve. Text to speech quality was not good, so got voice over for top article. Then started focusing on India, tried using Times of India, and VAS. So, they pulled the plug on it. But, they wanted to use remaining money for new ideas. So, a new idea Giftery was born, an MVP of which is launching this week starting 15 Apr, 2013. Learnings from previous are: that took long to launch. Maybe do it in 4 months and get market feedback. Giftery got built in 3 months. Things which worked good last time around: Conserve money and could afford more iterations and have investor’s support.

2: Izzi Deals

Rahul Chidgopar talked about Izzi Deals next: DND (donot disturb), Snapdeal and 1.5 yrs’ journey. In Dec 2010, he quit Bajaj Auto. He wanted to startup in 3G VAS, location based area, but it turned out expensive. So started with mobile coupon. Redeem coupon by paying Rs3 for a premium SMS and get Rs5 recharge. Get feedback, early and often. Choose co-founders wisely. He teamed up with telecom engg batchmate, working at Airtel. 1 important factor to look for is: Co founders should have same runway. Ensure your family’s support. Avoid govt: He was able to close deal MTNL office Bandra within 4 months. In Apr 2012 applied for Morpheus, but got rejected. In Mumbai, he got merchants onboard by his own team. He worked with aggregators in other cities. He violated an important principle here: Keep value chain short – learning from Sameer Guglani, The Morpheus. Don’t outsource key functions. Because to change a module, you are at the mercy of another company. So bring tech co-founder. Waited till oct for mtnl, but when it did not work out. Pivoted to web based model in Sep. Wasnot able to distinguish with SnapDeal. Later tried to do Freecharge in offline. Merchant side learning: crack McDonald rather local vada pav. Blind walk-in. 1st floor merchants are not getting natural walkins, so more receptive. Rs 20 per lead. Net margin 15, as 5 ka recharge. Telco will push deals to customers. Overall, an entertaining presentation with right mix of PPT and talk!

4 Lightning Pitches


PaaduksJay Rege is a serial entrepreneur, who comes up with novel ideas every now and then. His 3 month old venture is selling chappals! He has teamed up with his wife Lochana, Abhijit to recycle tyre for making chappals and sell online starting at Rs. 499/-. The idea is to benefit the workers, who get much less in labour intensive work, like making T-shirt, foot wear etc. E.g. a T-shirt, which you’d buy for Rs.300, the worker sewing it gets only Rs. 10-15.

2: MyVenture.Co.In

This is a portal for crowd-funding for an idea. – only crowd funding platform in India.

3: MyAccounts.Co.In

By delivering CA services online, Aankit Kumar Jain hopes to give good services to startups and SME.  Answer 7 questions. Pan, tan etc. you have it? Yes, no. Due dates. Interest, penalty. 12 folders. Excel puts into Tally.

4: GetDavai.Com

Rohan Dey has a drug discovery platform. He is competing with MIMS, CIMS, which are being used by chemists.

3 Expert talks

1: Anand Lunia

He spoke about his experiences of an elearning company and many portfolio companies to drive home reasons for failure and how to avoid them. It  had 4 cofounders. Fault: Too many cofounders. Another fault: Consumer product, but none for 4 co-founders knew product, rather it was outsourced. PR agency is set. Product was outsourced and what came out was not as per expectation. After this disaster, 1 person started coding. Raised money, yet failed multiple times. Threadless clone was selling t-shirts, but at less efficiency than offline stores. 100 employees, 6m gone in 1.5 yrs. It is important to iterate on a daily basis, crunch time to come out with a great product. Pro-customer. Saying in Gujarat: any business will take 1000 days. Branded computer shop: pay for food, not service. Faasos, another success story took a long time to get success. It uses software for efficiency like Barcode scan on food going out, SMS. In gist, Anand Lunia implied that a successful startup will go through multiple failures before turning the new leaf.

2: Kunal Shah

The talk from Freecharge founder came as a bonus, as it was not a part of schedule. Animals have fight or flight spirit, which is among all Indian! He defined EMI = entrepreneur Marne ka injection!

3: Ajeet Khurana

He regaled the audience with his experience as an entrepreneur and now as angel investor. It was interesting that 3 ideas during 1994-98,  Pet rock, cabbage patch doll, dog ice cream, the first 2 did well. He avoids relative co-founders like siblings, father-son etc. He also avoids first time successful entrepreneurs on a second term.

About prasoonk

Prasoon Kumar grew up in the Bokaro Steel City of south Bihar, now Jharkhand. He studied Computer Science and Engineering in IIT Kanpur. For job he moved to the land of opportunity, United States. He was there in the bay area through the internet revolution of mid to late nineties. He spent time admiring the beautiful coastline of California among other things. He moved east coast to the New York after the turn of the millennium working in a brokerage startup. Afterwards, he is back to India for good. He has been working in the enterprises and internet startup, enjoying the city life. He has a beautiful wife, a young 5 years old daughter and 11 years old son.

Posted on April 15, 2013, in mobile, Startup Saturday, Web and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Nice to know that I “regaled” the audience 🙂

    Just keep in mind that my main message was that entrepreneurs have to accept responsibility of all aspects of their startups (even if they have specific senior management hired for that purpose). And they must accept blame for failure, instead of blaming the environment / government / customer / investor / circumstance…

  1. Pingback: TastyKhana receives strategic investment from DeliveryHero | Random musings of Prasoon Kumar on Life, World, Technology

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