Meeting the Startups at Conquest, 2017

Last weekend, I was invited to talk and critique some of the Startups at the Conquest International Startup Challenge, 2017. It was short sessions of about 20-30 minutes each with the Startups. Most of them are looking for investments. The generic suggestion I mustered up was not to limit to investors in India but to look outside too. The other key missing piece was that they need to hustle a lot.

Here are the Startups I talked to;

Trell

Started as a handle on Instagram, Trell went on to become a sensation amongst young travelers, who love to look at pictures of local places to travel to. They leverage the finger-snappy millennials that love photographing places they visit and sharing with their friends and fans.

The Trell App is a buffet of picture-stories of interest to users who want to explore new places with their friends.

The team is doing a good job of hustling with the right audience, they have a really good traction. I was able to give them few technical feedback and suggestions, especially with the UI/UX of the app. They were interested in a more in-depth technical discussion on how to scale their image hosting/delivery mechanism to give their users the best picture quality at the most optimized setup. It is a solved problem and they should not worry too much about it.

Organic Planet

Organic Planet is an offline retail chain that sells organic produce. They’re local and their current target is the city of Bangalore, delivering daily organic produce to their users directly. They do have few physical stores in the city.

The major concern the founders of Organic Planet has is that people are not ordering online and their app usage has dropped. People are calling them up on phone to order.

Well, this is one of those App fatigue effects. My suggestion to them is to stop trying to be a technology or a technology-enabled company and just look at options to sell more, reach more customers. They can also leverage already proven mediums, which are popular in India, such as selling directly via WhatsApp, Facebook. They should also look at options of selling via Amazon Now, which is available in most major Indian cities.

My Office Cab

MyOfficeCab offers an environment-friendly employee transportation medium to companies. They sell directly to enterprises and help them with their transportation while maintaining a greener environment.

They’re revenue positive but struggling to grow to the next stage. They’re looking for investors but they are being vetted against the likes of Uber and Ola, thus turning away most investors.

My suggestions were to look at their messaging and focus more on the environment-friendly part, and less on the “transport”.

The one thing I forgot to suggest the founder was to, perhaps, change the name from “MyOfficeCab” to something else different. The name is too suggestive of ‘cabs for offices’ and will be hard to try to mean anything else.

constrOConnect

constrOConnect is trying to be the Salesforce for the Construction Industry. They want to be the marketplace to meet the supply-demand for Construction needs.

The unfortunate part was that they’re trying to build an online tool/website first before actually connecting to anyone from the demand side. This is the typical error most new entrepreneurs fall into; so did I (a few times). I was afraid for them that they will be wasting time building something which nobody will use.

Construction is an industry where procurements move slow, through various stages and most of them have their own suppliers/vendors. Moreover, the supply side is too crowded with lots of options, and humongous amount of players.

They need to find demands. My straight and simple suggestion was – forget your website, app, and just get 10 companies that will buy from “you” in the next month or so. If you can build up a trust with those 10 companies, it will be a walk in the park to get some really good vendors for you to connect them.

In the words of Paul Graham, “Do things that don’t scale.” Once they have enough buyers and demands, they can start the automation. For now, a spreadsheet should be good enough.

CherriPicking

If they can really crack the problem they are tackling, it will be super awesome. CherriPicking is trying to solve one of the key criteria for hiring the right candidate for a job – the cultural fit.

They have a good team setup of diverse background. They are trying to leverage psychological understanding of a candidate to find the most suitable candidate for a particular job but more from a cultural fit perspective. They source data from Social Media, work history, and direct interaction with the candidates to help companies find the right ones.

I believe this is a tough nut to crack. Honestly, I’m not sure if that is that big a problem for most companies. It does happen that people leave due to cultural mismatch but I doubt the numbers are big enough. Most people leave because of bad/mismatch managers.

Incredible Devices

Incredible Devices was one of the Startups that I was really impressed with. Their device can reduce the cost of WHO-approved Catheters cleaning by almost 99%. They can reduce the cost per cleaning from about $13 to less than a cent.

They have been testing their devices in some of the major Indian hospitals for the last 2+ years. Their patented CRS is a medical-grade catheter cleaning machine. It is a fully automatic computer guided system with inbuilt self-testing and calibration. This reduces the overall treatment cost up to 55%.

Developed to be used at Hospitals, CRS can save millions of lives by making healthcare affordable and accessible for all. There is no automatic catheter cleaning machine available worldwide. In the USA, 3rd party companies reprocess catheters at their facility but there is no machine available for hospitals to clean catheters in-house.

They’re in need of money to manufacture more devices but finding it hard to find the right investors. My nudge to them was to look for Investors investing in either Hardware or Healthcare Industry. Also not to limit to just investors in India.

Photo Credit: NeONBRAND