I have a backlog of what I intend to write about the iAccelerator program and the just concluded Entrepreneur's Meet at IIM-A, both organized by CIIE. So I shall continue to write these posts in chronological order.
Apart from technical mentors like I and Freeman, the iAccelerator program has invited a lot alumni and entrepreneurs to mentor the startup teams by taking up various topics in 2 hour sessions. I'll try and cover a few of these interactions.
Interaction with Faisal Farooqui: Founder of Mouthshut.com
Apart from the usual discussion about how Mouthshut was founded just prior to the dotcom bust and how it survived it, which is documented on the video embed above.
Faisal's 3 hour session with the incubatees included advice on how to be successful as an entreprenuer:-
1. Burn the boats: Being an entrepreneur is not about money, its a by-product. If you have a plan B, thats a sure shot way to fail and actually needing the Plan B.
2. Self esteem and huge ego: Entrepreneurs need to believe in their ideas more than anyone else. Ideas have no value without people willing to back them fully by investing themselves.
3. People Skills, they are in use for anything you do: You need to grow your startup by getting a lot of help from people, whether its partners or employees( paid with equity alone )
4. Hire the best: He recounted that early on he made hiring mistakes at Mouthshut by hiring programmers trained by poorer quality training institutes and not from good engineering colleges and soon learned that as a technology driven company they need to try and hire only the best engineers.
5. Don't die because of end of your cash: Be careful on what you spend your money there might be lower cost alternatives.
6. Apart from technology, learn business.
7. Avoid commuting at all costs, your time is very valuable.
The discussion veered around to how exactly do you 'launch' your web startup to the market without spending money on advertising. Faisal recalled the Buzz mouthshut generated with the friends and family launch of about 600 people who knew about 11 of their employees.
He also recalled the story of how accidentally he pioneered autorickshaw's as the medium to get the word out way back in early 2000s when he started travelling by auto for first time in his life. Now ofcourse we find a whole lot of startups advertising on autorickshaw's with mouthshut itself sticking their ad to almost 12000 autorickshaws every month.
Audience questions included questions like:-
What makes the review conversations on Mouthshut are more objective than say trashy comments on other famous indian sites ?
Discussion on native language(written in roman script) profanity filters on mouthshut.com, legal threats initially while companies didn't agree to the idea of 'defamation' by consumers through mouthshut.
He also expressed his view that startups run by very young people in the audience should not be scared of an old but successful dotcoms in India which aren't doing great in understanding the young people, and worried if he is too old to innovate beyond mouthshut.com. Supporting his hypothesis is his own daughter's favorite site, despite drinking all the mouthshut.com koolaid since birth happens to be youtube.
He also expressed willingness to acquire new kind of websites developed by youngsters who understand their peers better if he has cash available.
The interactive session ended with him gifting a mouthshut.com coffee mug to each participant.
A description of interactive session with Sanjeev Bhikchandani: Founder Infoedge(Naukri)
Disabled the comments: Guys please carry on your conversation offline with each other, you already seem to know each other well. -Tarun