Bottoms Up: Are We Failing Our Innovators?


Bottoms Up: Are We Failing Our Innovators?

When Ashish wrote sometime ago that in India we don’t have enough early adopters, I was a bit skeptical. With over 20 lakh techies and over $70 bn in IT exports, how hard could it be to find a few thousands of early adopters in India, I thought. But last week, I was convinced otherwise. We do have a problem.

So what changed my mind?

Uchek Fail

For the uninitiated, uChek is a mobile health company trying to build cost effective solutions. It had started a crowdfunding campaign to raise a total of $42,000 to further develop its phone based urine analysis solution. It is precisely the kind of company that gets visionary investors like Vinod Khosla excited about India. Uchek managed to raise only $15,721 from the campaign. In other words, the crowd funding campaign failed.

Call me a socialist, but I’m not a fan of the 1% always innovating for the 1%. It simply defies a lot of beliefs that make us humans. For a change, here you have a startup innovating for the 99% and it fails to raise even half of the money it wants. What a crying shame.

We can’t always expect the rich world to subsidise innovation in India. It would have been nice if at least one person, out of the 7850 ultra high net worth individuals in India had come forward and spent a tiny fraction of their wealth on this? But this is too deep in the haystack for them to take notice.

On second thoughts, why go after the rich or bash the VCs. This time, each one of us had the chance to invest. Even with the rupee being where it is, $25 isn’t asking for too much. It’s what a decent dinner for two would cost.

Perhaps the mainstream media should have brought it to everyone’s attention? Who am I kidding. Aren’t they too busy profiling the ultra rich or tracking twists and turns in the Sensex? To be fair, uChek did receive a fair bit of mainstream attention. But in the din of the new RBI governors appointment, political drama, rape reports, falling rupee and many other things, this was lost.

The natural question for you to ask would be: did YOU back the project? The answer is: No, I did not. I did seriously think about it. But I couldn’t put money into it because I’m a journalist and donating would cloud my judgement of a company which I’ll be tracking. I know it sounds a bit far fetched, but that’s how it works. I also, quite quixotically in hindsight, assumed that the campaign would be wildly successful like Scanadu and won’t need my $25. Do I regret it? Yes, I do.

Do You?

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