Proto.in July 2008 Reflections

Proto.in is an event very similar to DEMO held in the US. The basic premise is to help startups gain visibility by being able to showcase their prototypes or products in front of other startups and potential investors.

Proto.in has been held in Chennai since its inception in January 2007, however, this summer, they decided to hold the two day event at IIT’s campus in New Delhi.

It was my first time attending Proto.in and the first thing I have to say is that the event was well organized. The first few speakers on Friday were pretty good. Unfortunately, though, as time went on, it was evident that many of the people giving talks weren’t able to engage the audience. It seemed that many attendees were finding more value mingling in the hallways as compared to what they were getting in the auditorium, myself included.

Day 2 was the day for fifteen startups to showcase what they’re doing in six minutes, like DEMO. Six minutes isn’t a lot of time to talk about your company, demo your product, and pitch the value proposition. However, this time limit is really meant to instill discipline in entrepreneurs’ pitch to customers and investors.

Overall, I wasn’t very impressed with the various ideas/businesses or business models that were being pitched. I’m going to touch upon the four companies that left some sort of impression on me. The other eleven companies left more questions about their viability and business models than anything else. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to get in front of the founders of all these companies and get any sort of clarification.

Soliton was an interesting company. Good presentation, good delivery and interesting to see a company building hardware focused on the manufacturing industry. The idea behind the product isn’t new but Soliton is trying to deliver a simpler and more effective camera to monitor manufacturing defects in a smaller package at a palatable price point.

The HiringTool is a web based B2B platform for recruiting. It allows companies to use multiple recruiters, consultants and agents. Their UI looks very easy to use and provides some interesting methods of working with recruiters ahnd determining what candidates are acceptable or not. The HiringTool hasn’t officially launched but they are taking registrations. Too bad they didn’t build this using Open Source technologies 🙁

Blink Magic showcased a nice little LCD display connected to a physical shopping cart. The idea is to enhance the shopping experience at a grocery store, Walmart, K-Mart, or anywhere shopping carts are found. Cool little product with a nice simple interface. I’m not sure how viable this is in India, though. I see HUGE potential for this type of product at places like Walmart, Sears, K-Mart, Target, etc. Reliance Fresh, Sub ka Bazaar, or other Indian retail outlets, not so much, yet. The problem in the Indian context, once again comes down to basic infrastructure – mainly electricity and connectivity in the retail stores. Go West, young man, Go West!

Eko, for the purposes of full disclosure, is owned by a friend of mine so I’ve been exposed to their business model for a while. I won’t say much other than they have the potential to do for micro-banking what Grameen Bank did for micro-lending.

I am hoping that the next Proto attracts really innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs rather than business models that are, for lack of a better description, mind-numbing.

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