The third edition of Proto.in, a biannual two-day event that brings together in one platform technology startups, venture capitalists, angel investors and other assorted hand holders, will begin in the city on Thursday.
Up to 15 companies, including two from the US run by NRIs and one from South Africa, will present their products and try and talk their way into getting funds.
Mr Vijay Anand, 27, who first mooted the idea of having this unique event for startups believes that “if you are product company in India, Proto.in is the best place to be”.
Mr Vijay dreams of giving Indians a Silicon Valley-like ecosystem where it’s easy to start a company and build and launch a product. His event, loosed modelled on DEMO held in the Valley, will be a morale booster for young entrepreneurs, who can gain some traction for their companies and provide some publicity for their products.
For instance, in the July 2007 edition of Proto.in, Smart Pundits, a Bangalore-based company was successfully able to showcase its smart headlamp controller, a device that automatically dims the headlights of a car on sensing the headlights of an oncoming vehicle.
“The guys at Bangalore were able to produce a product for Rs 3,000, which took thousands of dollars for Mercedes Benz to produce. Today, Benz has tied up with these guys,” said Mr Vijay, recounting the story of one of the many success stories that Proto.in helped script.
“However, we tell companies not to expect to walk in with a product and walk out with the money. This is one of the first disclaimers I make,” he said. “Deals do happen. In fact, they happen all the time. But this is not all about the money, but about the validation an entrepreneur gets from speaking about his product to an informed audience,” Mr Vijay said.
HCL and Wipro are among the companies that have registered to attend the event. “They will possibly be looking to acquire companies presenting at Proto.in. A company like Microsoft makes 200 acquisitions a year. That’s almost a company a day if you discount the weekends,” he said.
Mr Vijay, a graduate in software engineering from the University of Ottawa, started his first company when he was still in school. “I was 16. When I told my dad, he became very happy because that was something he always wanted to do. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain,” he said.
Later after launching Lead Step Technologies in Canada, the company that he struck gold with, Mr Vijay came to India and straightaway confronted the infamous red tape. “I could start a company in Canada in 15 minutes. The Registrar of Companies in India told me at that time that they will take three months to do the same here,” Mr Vijay said. And that’s the story of how Proto.in was born. “Instead of whining about it, I gradually realised I had to do something to help companies here,” he said.
Today an impressive list of entrepreneurs has assembled behind Proto.in. Among them are Mr Gopal Srinivasan of TVS Electronics, Ravi Narayan of Mentor Platforms and Atul Chitnis, who best known for organising foss.in, one of India’s biggest events on the technology calendar.
Proto.in is sponsored by Google, Sun Microsystems and Yahoo India among others. It has connected 57 companies with venture capitalists and industry experts. As many as 40 of those companies have gone on to make an annual turnover of Rs 1 crore.
Proto.in charges Rs 10,000 for companies to register and Rs 3,000 for participants. Registrations for the event, which will take place at Hotel Asiana on the Old Mahabalipuram Road in the city, are however full and have been closed.
(A version of this appeared in Deccan Chronicle on January 17. Sorry for the delay in posting it here. )