Uninspiring startups

The other day I suddenly wanted to check out what the “startup scene” is like in India, and so went on to VC Circle, looking at companies that have raised (Series A or B) funding in the last few months. I looked at the last 20 such companies, and quickly got bored. Most of them were in businesses that seemed absolutely uninspiring and banal.

A week ago I was mentioning this to a friend, who chided me for wasting time on VCCircle doing such “research” when Tracxn has it all in one place. And so yesterday, when I was once again in the frame of mind where I wanted to see what’s going on in the startup world. I logged on to Tracxn.

So I couldn’t log on immediately. The site asked me for my “work email” before I could see anything, and when I supplied an email ID that can pass off as a work ID, I got a mail saying it will take some time before I can actually log on. That time turned out to be five minutes, after which I got a message asking me to log on, and I started browsing the section on Indian e-commerce companies.

The experience wasn’t very different from what I had on VCCircle the other day, though evidently this was much quicker and more organised, meaning I could browse more companies with fewer clicks. So I probably got past a hundred startups, not all of them funded (VCCircle reports funding events, so it is biased that way). The tracxn database contains name of company, sector, what their business is, who the founders are (including background), any funding and so forth.

I’m unaware if any biases have crept in to the Tracxn database in terms of listing, but after some cursory viewing, there was a dominant pattern that emerged. And I must admit this is not a pattern that I might have fully appreciated.

So what I found based on the Tracxn database is that most of the startup founders are very young, aged less than 25 (guessing based on their school graduation year). Not too many of them have much in terms of academic pedigree (a few recent IIT graduates here and there, but more the exception than the norm), and not much in terms of work experience (obvious, if you’re starting up before you are 25).

Again the Tracxn data might be biased, but I didn’t find too many technology companies. Most seemed to be of the on-the-ground-getting-things-done kind of businesses. And then there were copycats.

It is not hard to believe, but every time a particular sector gets established or becomes “hot”, it attracts all and sundry. And justifiably so, for the company that might ultimately make money from the sector need not be the pioneer. In fact, there might be a last mover advantage, since the later entrants can learn from the mistakes of the early entrants and set themselves up to succeed better. In that sense the copycats are justified.

But the thing to note is that a large number of such “copycat” companies are getting funded. Some of them might have raised from angels, or small investors, rather than from established Venture Capitalists, but they have obtained financial backing for sure.

Anyways, after my session of looking at startups and analysing them yesterday, the one big insight was that the market is currently rewarding risk taking ability at the cost of all other kinds of abilities. Hot money is chasing startups, so anyone willing to work with a remotely viable idea is able to raise money. How these companies will fan out going forward is anybody’s guess!


2 thoughts on “Uninspiring startups”

  1. Couple of things. Any graduate from a premier institute like IIT/IIM/BITS etc., will obviously want to take up a job initially as the lure of the companies at campus interviews is tempting. It has a plus also, your networking grows and perspective changes and widens. So most of the non premier institute graduates have little options except going business wise either solo or with a group. Ideally ‘copycats’ will have advantage, but most of them do not identify the shortcoming of another company and change it as an advantage in their business. Homework is missing somewhere.

    Further, most of the business are manpower centric of gigantic proportion like coding, ecommerce or the likes. Online presence will be excellent platform for services which many people are NOT thinking about to make it happen. IPTV channels, Health care data management, Real Estate, Agri based, etc.,

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