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Most of the challenges in the lifecycle of start-ups emerge when they are trying to take off. It is precisely at this stage that Morpheus Venture Partners comes to their aid!
"The hardest thing about getting started is getting started." These words of Guy Kawasaki, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and former Apple evangelist, aptly reflect the challenges that most start-ups face when they are struggling to make a place for themselves in the industry. Fortunately, there are now organisations in the eco-system that are willing to lend a helping hand at this critical stage.
Helping start-ups get through the 'valley of death'
Morpheus Venture Partners (MVP), a business advisory firm, has been set up to address this very need of start-ups. Set up by Sameer Guglani and Nandini Hirianniah, the firm engages with companies during the most crucial phase of their life cycle - the first twelve months, the phase that is also known as the 'valley of death'. "This is the time when most start-ups need the guidance to do things right and fast," affirms Guglani.
The firm offers the required non-monetary investment in terms of mentorship, access to the right networks, product strategy, launch strategy, fund raising strategy, etc. Hirianniah adds, "We walk with the entrepreneurs and help them fine tune their ideas, roll out their venture and prepare them to raise funds."
The team works closely with the start-ups for four to six months, on areas like product development/launch, customer traction, B2B deals, team building, revenue models, etc, keeping in mind the fact that every start-up has unique needs.
The main goal for the start-up founders and MVP is to build something impressive enough to raise the next round of capital. Once the team feels that point is reached, the MVP team introduces the start-up to early stage investors, and in some cases, even acquirers.
It is all about the team
To get access to the MVP start-up advisory programme, a start-up needs to face a three-pronged selection/screening process comprising an application phase, an initial interaction, a two-week trial phase, and then the final selection for the mentoring programme.
The most important factor that the firm looks for is the team--the entrepreneurs that constitute the core team. Guglani reveals, "The ones who have the ability to ideate, execute, respond to feedback and better their business proposition, are selected. A strong and capable team determines the success of a good idea and opportunity."
For the current batch, the firm received around 100 applications from all over India, from which it created an initial shortlist of 15 start-ups. The next step was to bring the 15 down to six or seven, who will be a part of MVP Batch 2-2008. Hirianniah says: "All these 15 are excellent teams and promising ventures that we would like to have worked on. But, considering various factors, we had to choose some and let go of a few."
The selection of these teams was influenced by various factors like: the stage of the venture, the working relationship between the MVP team and the founding team, the value that the MVP team could add to the venture and make a significant impact, etc.
Since the screening process is pretty elaborate and robust, it gives enough time and opportunity to both MVP and the start-ups to figure things out before they make a long-term commitment. That is why the firm has not faced a situation where it had to consider parting ways with any of the teams.
Mentoring tech firms
The MVP team is quite emphatic about the advantages that a tech start-up enjoys over firms in other domains. Guglani says, "The advantage of a tech start-up over start-ups in other domains is that the former can build an innovative platform/service/product easily with a small team of rock star programmers, frugally. Besides, there is not much of an overhead cost. The time-to-execution and the quality of the product is under the developers' control. This itself is an advantage for tech start-ups in getting funded. For achieving this, however, it is important that there are one or more technical people in the founding team."
Guglani validates his statement with a few examples from the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, on how an innovative tech idea was developed by a bunch of smart developers, who made it a huge success.
But there are challenges too! As Guglani affirms: "The biggest challenge for tech start-ups currently lies in proving their innovativeness, frugality of execution, and also in validating the 'real' problem that their solution is supposed to solve."
Another challenge, according to Hirianniah is that tech firms may have to target the US market if, for instance, they are pure online players. This requires understanding the US market, which is a difficult thing to do, and even more so if you are based in India.