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Off the Beaten Path: Wall Street to Startup Investor – A Fireside Chat with Me!

Who is “Pankaj Jain” besides being the founder of Invest Stream and Founder Craft What came before? 

If you’ve followed my erratic writing over the years, you might have some idea. I’ve been a risk manager at the largest hedge fund in the world, Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM), operator, product manager, entrepreneur, community builder at BarCamp Delhi, co-founder of HeadStart Network Foundation and Startup Weekend India

I’ve been a venture capitalist at TLabs and 500 Startups, advisor to startups, funds and platforms like AngelList India and most recently, a dabbler in startup and venture capital related video content

My friend and former colleague, Ritesh Bansal, suggested interviewing me on the show to bring out more about who I am and what my journey has been. Naturally, I couldn’t refuse an invitation to be on my own show. Get ready for a frank and open discussion between an old friend and I. This is going to be Ritesh’s first time being visible on any social media channel, so please be gentle with him. It’s an #AMA so feel free to ask me anything.

I’m looking forward to seeing you for the AMA-style chat on July 28th, 2020 at 9:30am PDT / 12:30pm EDT and 10:00pm IST. If you’d like to RSVP and have a calendar invite, click the button. Otherwise, head over to YouTube with your questions.

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Startup Weekend India – The First Six Months

The first round of Startup Weekend events in India came to a close in March. Startup Weekend Delhi was held at the American Center from March 4th till March 6th 2011 and Startup Weekend Bangalore was held from March 11th till March 13th 2011 at Microsoft’s Signature building.

September 2nd 2011 marked the beginning of the next round of Startup Weekend events across India. Startup Weekend Hyderabad was held at ISB from the 2nd – 4th of September. This was the first SW held in Hyderabad and we honestly didn’t know what to expect. We had only sold 25 tickets in the first 2 months that ticket sales were open. In the last three days before the Friday night pitches, we sold over 50 additional tickets.

I’ve seen lots and lots of “me too” ideas and quite a few “ho-hum” ideas. There are some decent ideas with very little depth prior to SW. Startup events in India need to be about team formation, experience building and experimentation. Between these three events, Startup Weekend has kicked off 39 teams of entrepreneurs, techies, designers, and business people. Granted, out of these 39 teams, probably not even four will survive more than a year but that’s not the point. The point is that these 175 or so people, will be better entrepreneurs the next time around.

I believe these three events did something that no other event in India has done so far. It showed people that they CAN execute their ideas in a very short span of time. With complete strangers, in most cases, they can put together a business case and build a prototype to showcase to potential investors.

In a few cases, teams from Startup Weekend in India have had discussions with investors directly as a result of Startup Weekend. One of the biggest pain points for many entrepreneurs in India has been funding and Startup Weekend in India has helped ease this pain point in a small but important way.

Startup Weekend has also shown investors that entrepreneurs, techies, designers can do some really interesting things in a short period of time if all the ingredients are there. It’s created potential deal flow for early stage investors starved for invest-able ideas teams. Already, Startup Weekend clones are popping up across India.

The confidence and the energy that people have displayed at Startup Weekend in Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad has been quite contagious. Techies were pushed to deliver minimum viable products and marketers and business people were forced to come up with viable plans in a very short time span. In just a weekend, many people were able to successfully deliver business cases and prototypes. Having done so has shown them that they CAN, in fact, put together teams of the right people and deliver. Being able to find co-founders that can execute has given people the confidence needed to take their ideas from Startup Weekend and pursue them.

Another very important factor was the presence of great mentors that spent considerable amounts of time with the business, techie and design members of each team, helping them develop various aspects of their ideas and the technology being employed. Many of the mentors present have exhibited interest in helping future teams in the same way. Even some panelists have shown interest in being mentors and working with the various teams throughout the next Startup Weekends in India. However, some mentors and panelists have also been disappointed by the lack of depth in the ideas.

I have found that for entrepreneurs in India finding the right co-founders and having mentors to help guide them through the various pitfalls that they continually faced is a continuous problem. Of course, funding issues are an issue everywhere but in India, it’s far more pronounced. To me, the idea of getting the right people with similar mindsets and mentors, serial entrepreneurs with significant experience in a room with raw ideas and oodles of enthusiasm was what people in India have been missing. Bringing all these components together, mixing them up, laying down some rules and bending a whole lot of others has given people who had very little chance of execution or success an opportunity to try their ideas in a safe and risk-free environment. In essence, the Startup Weekend philosophy is helping Indians try out ideas without quitting their day jobs, find people who buy into their ideas, and have people around to immediately guide them in their execution.

Personally, Startup Weekend has given me an opportunity to return to India and give back something that I’m very passionate and excited about – entrepreneurship. The opportunity to help entrepreneurs, both young and old, realize that they can and should take a chance on themselves and their ideas is a great feeling. Instead of just telling them that they should, Startup Weekend has given me a chance to show them that they can. If my contribution to the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem can help create even one startup out of each event, I believe I’ve given back more than I could have hoped for.

India is a difficult place to understand, with all of its contradictions, it’s rapid modernization, it’s pathetic infrastructure, it’s volatile stock market, it’s real-estate market that defies all logic, it’s incredible wealth and it’s dire poverty. However, India has been a land of entrepreneurs with it’s small businesses, it’s kinara stores, it’s newly minted multi-national corporations. In the last twenty years, much of the entrepreneurial spirit that’s in India’s blood has been lost. Mostly because better opportunities to make money presented themselves with the IT, ITES, call center and other service businesses. However, I believe a new generation of entrepreneurs is emerging. India is draining entrepreneurial and engineering talent from other parts of the world. It’s not just Indians or people of Indian origin coming to India, it’s the Chinese, the Koreans, the Japanese, the British, the Americans, the French, the Germans, the Italians and everyone else in between who are contributing to a new entrepreneurial culture.

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Startup Weekend NYC Roundup

This past weekend was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had. It was a little over 50 hours of intense execution by 150 people dedicated to turning ideas into businesses by the end of the weekend. Taking something from the idea stage to launching it with a business model, an investor pitch, and a functioning product is no small feat. To have accomplished this in 50 hours, was truly amazing. In case you don’t know, Startup Weekend NYC is the event I’m referring to.

Below is a list of the teams that formulated an idea, built a revenue generating business model around it, launched it, and a few of them even got customers in less than 48 hours.

Game Builder Studio is a flash platform game editing suite that provides flash developers with the necessary tools to build the next generation of flash games. Games that are more immersive and interactive and visually stunning. It boasts the capabilities of being able to make a Mario Bros. style game, a Farmville style game, or a 3D immersive game. The simplicity of its user interface allows for inexperienced game developers to jump right in and start creating but provides more experienced flash game developers with the ability to add enhanced features as needed using the editors plugin API


Dial-in, pick a song and sing along! The real cool thing about it is you can also send your track over to anyone by putting in their phone number. Try it out by calling Call 201-564-0921 to join the fun!

Disclaimer:I was a part of team Shumarks and personally own 1% of it.
Shumarks is the easiest way to bookmark and share articles you’re reading on the web with others and create a permanent store where anyone can always refer to them.

It’s the fastest, easiest, and potentially most fun way to find people you’d want to live with. After quickly creating an online profile describing your living habits and preferences, they’ll send you an invitation to a local meet-up in your area.You’ll only be mingling with those you might want to share a home with. So behave yourself.

VROOMmates had people registered and using their service even before they presented the business on Sunday evening.

This is an absolutely awesome service. Adopt A Hacker gives techies a place to crash when they want to visit NYC. They can stay with some great people for free, get connected immediately into the NYC tech scene and get hacking! Do check it out if you want to visit NYC and hack or if you’re in NYC and would love to adopt a hacker for a few days.

Main Street

In less than 60 seconds, you can have a super-simple and effective website that provides your visitors all the necessary information about your business. Main Street instantly pulls in content found on popular social websites including Twitter, Foursquare and Yelp. You, the small busines owner, has complete control in deciding which content to promote to visitors of your website.
The guys from Main Street hit the pavement hard and got customers onboard withing 36 hours of starting up. Completely awesome!

Another great idea launched this weekend was by a lawyer who wants to commoditize legal documents. For businesses, it’s a platform to access custom tailored legal documents and for lawyers, it’s a platform to discuss and create legal documents.

Do check out some of the company presnetations and also the #nycsw event stream on twitter.
For a full list of demos, take a look at the NYC Startup Weekend site.