HeadStart.in : what, when, why and how? Interview with the organizers

HeadStart is a 3-day startup event scheduled for 18th to 20th Jan, 2008.headstart.in

Like me, if you are wondering about what’s headstart is all about and why/how is it different from other startup events, read on.

Here is presenting an interview with Key organizers of HeadStart. If you have more questions, please leave them in comments section.

How is HeadStart different from events like Proto/other startup events?

This is a very common question that we get and it essentially shows the good work that Proto, TiE ISB connect and others have done. Truly until recently, the connect between VCs and entrepreneurs was weak and these events have helped. With Headstart, we are going several steps ahead and trying to accelerate the overall pace of innovation in India. This means several things.

First the focus is on innovation itself and not really on the source of innovation. It can come from anywhere: be it a lab, an individual, a large company or of course a start up. All are equal. Only the merit of the innovation matters. Second, all participants of the innovation lifecycle are participating in Headstart. There are three very important yet ignored participants: researchers, customers and large companies.

Think about it. Most of the technology leaders have come out of places like Stanford and MIT. For example, the founders of both Google and Yahoo are still on sabbatical from their PhDs at Stanford. Similarly, any innovation thrives on customers. No matter how much funding one gets, without customers no innovation survives for long. Large companies have a large customer base and therefore any innovation can potentially have a huge scale up in business through partnering. Thirdly, having richer participant set means richer interaction. Its simple maths really.

With two participants there is only one link. With just three it jumps to 4. With four, it jumps to 11 and so on. This is really where the pace up in innovation will happen. In summary, Headstart is the first complete innovation lifecycle event. It emphasizes the demo form of innovation as that is the earliest concrete form that an idea takes and therefore can be called an innovation. In that it is similar to Proto but is solving a larger problem.

What are the sectors you are focusing on?

1.Consumer Services

  • Search and Social networking applications
  • Personal utility and productivity applications
  • Gaming and virtual experiences
  • Utility applications like payment systems
  • Entertainment applications and services

2.Mobility & Communications

  • Enterprise mobility applications
  • Fixed Mobile convergence applications
  • Communications technologies
  • Personal area networking applications

3.Silicon & Consumer devices

  • Ad hoc networking applications
  • Consumer devices for entertainment, imaging, communications
  • Products for multi-core systems
  • Energy aware computing application

4.Enterprise applications and Development Tools

  • Software-as-a-Service technologies and applications
  • Grid technologies and applications for storage, networking, computation
  • Development tools for Pervasive and Autonomic computing applications

More details here : http://headstart.in/innerpage.php?img=segments&content=nominate

HeadStart talks about involving academecians/researchers in the entire startup ecosystem – what are your action points with regards to this?

Thats a very good question. To begin with one of the event organisers is ACM. Look up any good computer science research in the world and chances are that you would be refering to an ACM portal. Thats the stature of ACM – the very best in computing. This partnership has resulted in colocation of Headstart with Compute which will have the best of India’s R&D partcipate. Given that this is very first such attempt, we are keeping things loose thus allowing for spontaneous interactions and exchanges as is natural for any evolving ecosystem. We have tried to keep the agenda in a manner that people can move into both. Of course there are plenty of networking opportunities too. After the event, we are looking at ways in which start ups can access ACM members worldwide for specific problems. The good news is that Compute is getting special recognition by many of global Special Interest Groups (SIGs) within ACM. Thats certainly going to be useful.

In all, while we are inspired by the academic and research underpinnings of silicon valley we are not doing a copy paste. We are trying for an Indian model to evolve which meets our needs the best.

What is the format of this event? Is it for early-stage?growth-stage startups?
There are 4 tracks as mentioned above. You could nominate your product on any of those segments. The only criteria is that the product be made larglely in India or have a large India impact. The selection committee for each of the segment comprises of at least 4 people each. One from an entreprenuerial background, a successful business man, an investor and a market observer. The selected 5 innovations get to present and all the innovations with an Accept score get to spend time with the VCs. This is interesting as even large company innovations can get a feedback from VCs on the market side. Companies like Microsoft do this with select VCs such as Brad Feld quite frequently.

Headstart is agnostic with respect to the innovation stage. We believe that idea itself is not enough. It needs to take some concrete form before it can be called innovation. The earliest form of innovation thus is a working prototype. If you’ve reached that stage you are most welcome to Headstart.

Any updates on number of nominations/sector wise distribution?
So far we have recieved a quality of nominations to a number of about 60 odd. The device category has been lagging others a bit while consumer has been the leading one.

Do share some info about VCs attending the event.
A very good number of VC’s have already confirmed their participation. At this point of time I can comfortably say 12 of them have confirmed. IDG, Sherpalo, Lightspeed, Cannan are a few to name. The list can be found at http://headstart.in/innerpage.php?img=vc&content=vc. Several others are to confirm soon.

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