To get out of the Solar System, one of the best ways is to aim straight for Jupiter. Its gravity will accelerate your spacecraft at an increasing rate and all you have to do is to ensure you miss it, escape its gravity at the last minute and shoot out into space. It’s called a slingshot.
Slingshots is also the name of a new kind of startup event hosted by the Startup Tunnel, a new incubator-accelerator in New Delhi. Its mission is to draw prospective founders into its ambit and then to shoot them out again, more energized, confident, mature and capable — and of course, fully fueled up with new funding for their onward journey.
It’s launching on 18th April 2015, and we’ll be hearing from some very sharp young startups on the day. But we’ll also be talking and thinking about India’s startup scene. Startup culture in India is emerging and transforming at an astonishing rate. One way to measure this is to ask people in the startup ecosystem how long they have been working in the sector. I had the chance to ask some six speakers at a panel I was moderating recently just this question. Most said 2012. So two-and-a-half years, basically.
We have some tremendous strengths in India, particularly on the technology, business thinking and investment side of things. The weaknesses are beginning to be evident now as well. Relatively poor and scarce design and product development expertise, a tendency to promote, and back copycat businesses rather than envisioning wholly new approaches, a preference for market-side rather than technology-side, by which I mean IP-heavy startups.
Perhaps the most important trend we’re observing in India is the Uberification of everyday life. In Western Europe and the United States this broad trend is associated with releasing under utilized capacity into the market. Here in India Uberification tends to move labor from the informal sector into the formal sector. How long and how viable will this major trend be? How much opportunity and how much consolidation will we see in the market? This is quite literally a Billion dollar question.
How do we forge new partnerships between different elements of the startup ecosystem? Given how quickly things are changing, perhaps the needs we identified just two years ago are now moot, and we now face new and more complex challenges. How do we build a new generation of companies here in India that are more fully stacked, more layered and complexly competent to go forth and create value throughout the world?
At the end of the evening we’re serving up a new cocktail called — you guessed it — a Slingshot. This is the kind of event we need more of these days: a scene where all one’s intellectual and sensual appetites are whetted, from which one emerges with a new kind of energy and direction.