If you have been reading this column, you’d have seen the first piece I wrote here, on how we are failing our innovators. It was about uChek, a medical devices company that was trying to raise $42,000 through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The campaign didn’t work out. It was a perfectly fundable project with a brilliant team behind it. And yet. Quite pessimistically, I concluded that there aren’t enough early adopters in India.
But yesterday, my hopes were kindled again.
A tiny Bangalore based company, called Connnovate Technologies raised more than $50,000 on Indiegogo for a low powered Bluetooth device called Gecko. The device, about the size of a silver dollar, can be used to add gesture control to your smartphone, tag and track things using a smartphone application. Last month, when we wrote about them, they had raised about $2300 from the campaign. We don’t mean to take credit for its success. A crucial factor played out in their favor. Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak backed the project on the crowdfunding platform and Tweeted about it. Now that, changed the game for Gecko.
Despite certain similarities, we must not attempt to judge the two companies based on the success of the campaign because it wouldn’t be a like to like comparison. Gecko had all the makings of great product to be successful on Indiegogo. It was targeted at the consumer, not too expensive, sexy to look at and had some great use cases. uChek had great testimonials, a greatly effective product and it wasn’t any less sexy. However, it wasn’t a mass market product. Both were amazing products!
A look at the list of people who backed Gecko will tell you that there were many foreign funders for the project. The takeaway from this episode is that Indian products don’t have to depend on early adopters or backers from India alone. This is not just a great case for crowdfunding, Indiegogo or Kickstarter. The larger picture is that capital is getting commoditized, much like technology. A look at AngelList Syndicates will tell you that. (Watch this video for more on commodification of capital)
While it will take some time before equity crowd funding or any of that becomes a reality in India, access to capital has greatly improved. Of course it could get better. Roughly less than 400 early stage investments were made in Indian startups last year by Angel investors. But it is a start.
Last week, I met an early stage entrepreneur with a product, some traction and a great deal of conviction. To raise fresh capital, he has already had conversations with a dozen or so investors in Singapore! Getting to talk to investors was the last of his worries. Despite a shaky economy and other factors that make investors pessimistic, there is money chasing entrepreneurs. Surprisingly, he raised seed money from a savvy small town business man whose company doesn’t even have a website. It takes us back to the point I made earlier, that you don’t need to depend on Indian investors or known Angels alone to raise capital.
Finally, here’s a question for the so called tech heroes–yes the glorified generation of entrepreneurs who made billions of dollars from the IT services revolution: Where the heck are you? Busy chasing real estate?
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