I recently had the opportunity to meet him in person when he brought In50Hrs to Bangalore for the first time. In50hrs is The Idea-To-Prototype Event. Entrepreneurs, Developers, and Product Designers come together to work on audacious ideas and build working prototypes (MVP) over a Weekend.
Vijay’s been organizing In50Hrs in Chennai for quite a while and he is taking his idea to other cities in India – Delhi, Pune, and Bangalore. I asked him a few quick questions and he has some thoughtful answers, which I’m sure will be useful to budding entrepreneurs and startups in India.
Q. Your name is synonymous with the Startup Scene in India. How did you start and how deep do you want to go in?
It started off by having a Startup in Canada (which was finding its exit), coming to India realizing that the ecosystem was still very nascent and with a long list of things to be done, meeting folks here, and talking to them about it. Realized nobody else was going to do anything, and if you care, you are going to have to spearhead change. Better that, than a cribbing NRI right? :)
Q. Why did you start In50Hrs? Why not spearhead the existing StartupWeekend in India under your leadership? How are you differentiating In50Hrs from other initiatives?
When we came up with the concept of wanting to build a platform for folks to come together and build prototypes of Ideas, SW was the first on the list. Unfortunately at that time (perhaps still) the pricing is rather high – for folks to participate and its a complicated structure with everything being managed from the US. We would have opted for it, if it was like a Barcamp format where you could take and run with it, and adapt a bit, rather being too restrictive by rules and a brand.
The difference between a Barcamp Model vs a TEDx Model I suppose. But at the end of the day, we are in a way solving similar problems, and I’d recommend either platform for folks looking to build a prototype over a weekend.
India has its own set of challenges in the early ecosystem and anything that is not built from the ground up to solve the problem accordingly is a forced-fit. I didn’t want to end up with that dilemma.
Q. What is your immediate expectation from In50Hrs and what are your long-term goals?
The short term expectation is for participants to be able to differentiate between a hack and a prototype. We have been constantly asking the question to ourselves as to how do we get folks to leverage this platform to be a starting point towards a venture – so the long term goal would be to enable more and more of the participating teams to launch products and startups.
Q. Do the role of In50Hrs end within those 50 hours or do you want to follow-up with them and guide them forward? If you follow-up, how many such MVPs have become actual Startups? Do you have a number?
Not at all. So that’s one reason why having an event where we can tweak every aspect of it makes sense because we can also manage how to do the hand-off and the follow-up support. We look at the stages of a tech startup as Idea to Prototype; Prototype to Product; and Product to Startup. As part of The Startup Centre we run a six-month hands-on program called The Resident Program which would be a logical progression for teams that want further support.
We have spotted a bit over 20+ startups emerge out of In50hrs.
Q. Do you judge the ideas or do you want In50Hrs to be a free-flowing event? (I see that there were no ratings or votes on the final day.)
One of the briefs we give the Jury is not to Judge the ideas, but evaluate the teams on two aspects – is the prototype a good enough representation of the idea and the problem that is being solved and secondly, what are the next steps for the teams.
We made a conscious effort not to do winners because that gives them closure, and the code dies in their laptops and never ships – let alone take the next steps. The event has been engineered from the ground up to try to build startups, not a competition platform.
Q. Anything important that I missed, that you want to add?
Since we launched to multiple cities, the support that we have been receiving has been phenomenal. Its an amazing experience seeing the startup ecosystem from a national perspective and its interesting to see how each of these hubs is all evolving with a personality of their own. Whether it be an In50hrs event or Startup Weekend, the fact remains that an entrepreneur no longer has an excuse to be sitting on an “Idea”.