Author Archives: Mukund Mohan

A comparison of early stage private company startup databases

If you are an early stage investor (Venture Capitalist, Angel investor or other Seed fund), there are now a host of databases which claim to have the information required to scout, identify and track startups. There are 2 open data sources – Crunchbase and AngelList and 5 known new age companies – Datafox, CB Insights, Mattermark, Tracxn and Owler.

Crunchbase and AngelList have proprietary data (which they have open sourced) that’s entered by the startup founders and “followers” of the company.

The rest of the systems have either used public API’s or crawling to build their database of startups from sources such as Crunchbase, AngelList and LinkedIn etc.

All of these systems have almost identical pricing ($399) for a single seat per month. Owler claims to have a free tier and CBInsights has priced themselves even more than these solutions.

All except Datafox have given me some form of limited access to their data for evaluation purposes.

All these solutions are looking to replace the expensive Venture Intelligence reports or Reuters data or other private databases from yesteryear’s or become the “Bloomberg” terminal for private companies similar to what’s being used by traders and investors for publicly listed companies.

The mega trend that’s important for the story: The benchmark for a good stock to buy was a “ten bagger”. A company that if you invested $1 would return $10 in relatively short period of time (2-5 years) as initially quoted by Peter Lynch.

What’s happening in the private markets is that due to the onerous regulations, Sarbanes Oxley law and other paperwork associated with being public, tech companies are staying private longer. So they are becoming multi-ten baggers before they go public. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Uber and AirBnB, may do well as a public company, will no longer be a 10 bagger post IPO (or highly unlikely) but are obtaining large valuations from seed rounds to Series D or E.

So, many investors are looking to invest earlier into these companies. Data from companies listed above will be very useful for these investors, to make decisions on investing.

All these systems have a fairly similar UI and have almost identical data. for the 3 sectors I wanted to track – Internet of Things, Consumer Internet companies and B2B Enterprise software companies. I am sure you will have better value for the arcane categories. There is not much of a difference in their data since they all seem to obtain data from the same sources. Except Tracxn, I dont think the others use manually curation to track or manage their database.

There are 3 top things I looked for when evaluating these systems:

1. Comprehensive nature of their data: Most are fairly similar and you may get a 10% variation in companies from one system versus another.

2. Capability to export and do analysis manually: There’s not much of a difference here as well.

3. Their analysis, reporting and intelligence platform:All of them are in version 1 of their analysis modules, so right now there is a tremendous lack of sophistication on their data analysis.

Most peers in other companies and a few Venture firms I know, use more than 1 system and pull that data into their own CRM system.

I wont be able to really recommend one system over the other. They all do the job for a beta / version 1 system pretty well and right now, Datafox has a good visualization engine as does CB Insights. CB Insights has the most robust system, but in all 3 cases had the least # of companies of the other 4. Tracxn claims to have analysts that are curating their data, but I dont see the impact of that on their database.

The #MI3 – #Xiaomi android phone is not for those with a corporate account (Exchange)

I bought the Mi3 after a lot of deliberation 2 weeks ago. I currently have a Windows phone and always keep a spare since I go back and forth from Bangalore and Seattle.

My previous Android phone was the Google Nexus. I have had a iPhone 4S as well.

My overall basic impression: This is not the phone for me. I am ready to sell it to anyone that wants it.

I had a chance to see the phone in action 3 weeks ago when 2 other folks at the accelerator bought it. It is EXTREMELY light. It has a gorgeous display and I had heard so many good things about it that I was tempted to buy it.

It is a very well made device. Fast and sharp, if you in the market for an Android phone and have bought into the Google ecosystem (use Gmail, Google Maps, etc.)

The 3 most important things to me are consistent access to email (I have an Exchange and a POP3 account), long battery life (my other phones dont last an entire day) and reliable phone (good signal, loud enough with a headset). I use very few apps except to post to FB and Twitter and some minimal reading (Feedly).

Unfortunately these are the only things that this phone absolutely does poorly. In fact it is so bad that I am tempted to go back to my Galaxy Nexus (which is very slow).

First: email. As I mentioned, I have Exchange and our corporate policy requires encryption of the phone to access email. That does not work with MIUI. After 5 restarts and 4 hard resets, I still dont have my Exchange email. Which also means my calendar is not available. It is a known bug according to Xiaomi and there is no ETA on the fix.

The work around is I downloaded another email client, which seems to work, but my contacts and calendar on Exchange still dont sync. That absolutely is a deal breaker for me.

Second: Long battery life. It is much better than my Nokia 820, but the phone heats up quite a bit when you use it for over 2 hours (especially when you use maps). It is definitely much hotter than my 820 or the Galaxy Nexus. The battery has not lasted an entire day of normal usage. Disappointing.

Finally: I need a good phone. I tend to be on calls for over 2 hours daily. This is very weird. When I call my voicemail, the screen freezes. The phone still works, but the screen just wont turn on. It is absolutely impossible to do anything after that other than restart the phone. I had 7 voice mails to go through and they are still stuck without the ability to delete them.

If you need a good phone and dont work for a large company with Microsoft Exchange, etc. this would work, but there are cheaper phone that do the job as well.

Why the #flipkart battle with #Amazon is less about money and more about customer delight

Over the last week the amount of press on Flipkart’s $1 Billion raise and Amazon’s $2 Billion investments in India have been significant.

I have been a big personal fan of Flipkart, but I notice that they dont have the sense of customer joy and delight that Amazon does. Even though that’s a stated goal and they religiously preach it, they rarely follow it.

I have had personal experiences as well shopping with both companies, and Flipkart is the “reliable grocer” and Amazon is the “delightful marketplace”.

That means the game is not about the amount of money raised or invested by either company, but more the extent they go to make customers happy.

I had an extremely poor experience with Flipkart last week, and it was clearly their mistake. An apparent policy of not allowing a customer id to order 2 phones, was to blame, but nowhere was that policy apparent until after they nearly shipped the product home.

And when asked why they messed the order up, they claimed policy was to blame as opposed to their internal issues. Largely, the experience makes me not want to shop again at Flipkart. Not that it matters to them, since there’s enough demand. But in the 10+ years of shopping at Amazon, I have never had a poor experience, even when it was my fault.

When Amazon messed up my order, last week, I got a full refund and a thank you gift as well for the inconvenience.

With Flipkart all I got was lousy emails explaining their policies.

How to be lucky, a skill to learn #entrepreneurs

Those who think they’re unlucky should change their outlook and discover how to generate good fortune, says Richard Wiseman

My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

There is still a lot of #opportunity in #India for accelerators & early investors #startups

Yesterday, 12 shortlisted companies from a very large list of applicants, presented to our Jury panel of entrepreneurs & investors for Batch 5 at the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator. This time we exceeded the total # of applicants by a significant number given how mature the program is and how well we have gained acceptance in the Indian startup ecosystem.

Of the 12 companies, 4 were very early stage, (think 2 founders and a dog, back of a napkin), 4-5 of them were at product / prototype and the remainder were at revenue.

Except 3, all the others were still bootstrapped. Meaning they had no funding or support from any accelerator, investor or corporate fund. The funded companies, had just (fairly recently, less than 3 months ago) raised money.

If we were to expand the pool to the final “top 50″, we saw fewer than 15% of companies were supported in some way by an institution meant to support them.

I keep hearing from the press, other entrepreneurs and investors that India is “saturated” with accelerators, investors and angels and we are in an “accelerator bubble”.

That cannot be farther away from the truth.

While not every company that pitched yesterday necessarily will yield a large outcome for institutional investors and 2 or 3 are not even angel investment ready, the remaining 50%-60% are. And, the ecosystem is not yet supporting them.

Some of these companies will go on to become fairly large. Will any of them become “Unicorns” – I cant say for sure. There will be a few (2-3) winners though.

The next time someone says we have too many accelerators or angel investors, you should point them to the fact that there are over 1200 product companies looking for funding in India, which have over $10K in revenue. Over 50 of them are doing more than $500K in revenue and still happily bootstrapped either because no one knows them or the founders dont want to accept money the investors gave them with the terms they offered.

We are still in the land of opportunity.

The surprising stats on funding in India #500Strong shows up high

CB Insights has a blog post on funding in India. Here are the 3 most surprising facts that I gathered from the post.

1. Education and training was the #1 funded industry by category. Business intelligence was in the middle of the pack. I am very surprised. I would have put them in reverse. In fact if you consider travel, apparel, etc. as eCommerce, then it would be the #1.

2. Bangalore companies have 39% of the share of funding, while Delhi has 23%. If you combine Gurgaon and Delhi, then they would be at 29%.I would have put NCR much lower. In fact Mumbai is #3 at 16%, which is even more surprising. I would have put Bangalore at 45%, NCR at 20% and Mumbai at 7%.

Bangalore city technology funding

3. 500 startups is the #1 investor by # of deals. Nexus is #5. In my mind that should have been reverse. In about 1 year, Pankaj and Dave have gone from being on the outside, to #1. #500Strong is beating everyone else by a wide margin.

The China effect: Numbers dwarf everything else

This weekend over 9.5 Million Chinese students take the National University entrance exam known as the Gaokao. In comparison, 1.5 Million students take the SAT and 1.2 Million take the ACT. 1.2 Million students will take the IIT JEE entrance exam.

Yes, China is that big.

I usually get a lot of questions on startup ecosystems, especially China and India. I used to get more questions about Silicon Valley and India before, but now it is China’s startups that have gotten the attention of Indians.

When  mention that they are way ahead by every measure, I get from Indians a shrug, and the inevitable “Yes, but they are driven by the state and protected by the Government”.

No, is my answer.

China is really that big. Everything they do, they are bigger.

For the 4-5 mobile messaging apps like Hike and others in India, there are 150+ messaging apps, and over 50 of them have more than 2 million users.

If I were a startup entrepreneur in India, I’d be looking more at China for innovation on the mobile and Internet side than the valley.