I attended an event organized by VCCircle for entrepreneurs today in Bangalore and came away with quite a few learnings from the discussions.
The day started with a keynote by Srivatsa Krishna – the secretary of IT for Karnataka and it was an impressive opening. His vision is to move Bangalore from being the IT capital of India to the Innovation capital and he talked about how he wants to go about that. For one, he is very gung-ho about this which itself was refreshing. His strategy is to ensure more startups from Bangalore with software and biotech being obvious areas.
One thing that stuck me was that while it is common for people in the IT in Bangalore to say that the industry grew despite the government, steps are actually being taken by the government to aid it constructively. Some of the steps taken that Mr. Krishna spoke about were: allocating 1 acre of land on long-term lease free to companies that promised jobs for 1000 people; allowing engineering students in the third or fourth year to take a break and be involved in a startup without being penalised for it; and setting up a startup fund to seed ideas. His talk was full of interesting titbits such as:
• there are over 10000 biotech professionals in Bangalore
• the animation and special effects for Hollywood movies Life of Pi and Skyfall were created in Namma Bengaluru
• After Silicon Valley, Bangalore has the second largest IT cluster globally
It was good to see a government official speak with so much energy and one who with a vision – hopefully he will be able to implement it successfully too!
The keynote was followed by an interesting panel discussion featuring Sudhir Sethi, IDG, Prashant Prakash, Accel Partners and Srivatsa Krishna. It was a healthy debate on what the government and VC firms could do to stimulate the startup culture in Karnataka. What stood out starkly is the reduction in seed funding in Bangalore and it appears that it is on the rise in the NCR region. The general consensus was that seed funding had to be more significant for the “Innovation capital” dream to be realized. In India, VC funding is more than seed funding whereas in the US, seed funding is six times more VC funding!
A couple of other areas that need to be addressed are the lack of intellectual mentoring for startups and insufficiency of talent to sustain an innovation culture. It appears that the ecosystem exists but it is not yet fully leveraged for various reasons and still needs to mature lot more. However, things are happening and provided that sustains, am not sure if we will become the innovation capital soon enough, but we can certainly move closer to that dream.