How Indian startups are making their mark in Silicon Valley
Heading to Silicon Valley in May, when everyone – entrepreneurs, mentors and investors congregate is reason enough to make an annual pilgrimage of it. Even after making this trip for 8-9 years now, I could feel an undeniable excitement in the air this time.
This year, I had the pleasure of supporting 13 startup mentees from Microsoft Ventures portfolio in showcasing their companies in the Valley to an elite audience of 4000 at TiEcon and Innotrek.
I participated in several meetings that I had set up for the startups to discuss partnerships, funding and M&As. Some meetings were preliminary, others were later stage discussions which were reaching closures. During these meetings, I noticed a marked shift in everyone’s attitudes from my previous experiences. After further reflections, I realized that there are three main elements that jumped out:
The regular interactions at these events between the Indian startups and the Silicon Valley startups have made a great deal of progress. A lot of the young Indian entrepreneurs have become aware of the fact that the quality of products they build, the challenges they face and the networks they create aren’t too different from the ones in the Valley.
The ecosystem in the Valley, however, is better equipped to deal with certain challenges, which is evident in the ‘can-solve’ attitude of the startups. There are fewer hurdles they face in getting investors and accessing markets as compared to in India.
For the Indian entrepreneurs, it is a great way to learn how their counterparts in the Valley react to certain situations.
I could see psychological barriers lowering for both parties; the Valley startups and the Indian startups.
Marketplace: Sales and Talent
Until few years ago the Valley startups, even the ones with Indian founders, looked at the Indian market as merely a source of backend support for their tech development teams. The idea of India being a potential marketplace for their products wasn’t prevalent, either. This year, however, it was great to see India being looked at as a viable market, not only to sell products to, but also support it worldwide.
In past, Indian startups have always been cautious about leveraging US connections and harboring doubts about getting things moving through their US networks. But the present day scenario is all about crafting partnerships and transactional discussions. Indian startups are getting a lot of attention in the Valley, and many now building local representation there as the logical next step.
Pay-it-forward – Bringing the essence of the Valley to India
Silicon Valley has been able to generate the unique culture of giving - giving advice, giving time and building connections for other startups with expecting nothing in return. This is a huge cornerstone for the success in the Valley, because it shapes and crystalizes ideas quicker. The ability to ideate and tweak business plans makes building a startup easier and relatively frictionless when you know you can walk up and talk to anyone.
Microsoft Ventures, along with its partners has been inculcating this culture in India. We are already seeing our alumni embracing this practice and helping out not just our portfolio startups, but even startups from Valley who want to get to India.
With time, this pay-it-forward sort of culture, where mentors, investors and even startups are approachable, we can build some fantastic companies in India.
Start doing this yourself, without waiting for it to happen to you. Go and make a difference to another startup in the world and it will eventually come back to you. Pay-it-forward, one deed at a time.
As part of the Silicon Valley initiative of Microsoft Ventures, we are starting something called ‘The Reactor’ in San Francisco – Where we will invite the best of the startups from India to participate in the program. Details are currently being worked out and will be revealed soon.