The early adopter customer database & connections for startup entrepreneurs

As a startup entrepreneur one of the first things we need is customer validation. It is the one thing that takes the most amount of time in India. Most young entrepreneurs dont have enough connections with  potential customers (both on the B2B or B2C side) and neither do they have the resources to acquire customers initially.

As part of the Microsoft accelerator, we realized this problem for most of our startups. So we are building connections to 100+ early adopters among large companies (we currently have 63), over 70+ SMB companies and about 15,000 early consumer adopters (our goal is to have over 100,000) in India. This is not just a database. We are actually building connections into these early adopters using our network so every person in this private connection network will answer calls and respond to emails from our startups.

Our goal is to setup meetings with top executives & customers within 3 days for entrepreneurs.

In the large enterprise side, these are companies like Microsoft, Times of India, Nokia, etc. which have over 5000+ employees and have problems that startups can address. If an entrepreneur wants an introduction to the head of marketing to discuss a new campaign solution, or an introduction to the head of HR to possibly demo a new recruitment offering we can make that connection.

The companies in the early adopter list have made commitment to try any new technology to give it due process quickly and provide feedback very fast. The benefit to them is the ability to see and try new technologies before anyone of their peers do. The current list of companies are from primarily technology, telecom, retail, financial services (banks and insurance companies), education (colleges) and healthcare (hospitals and pharma companies).

Our next step is to have a demo day exclusively for the top executives of these companies so they can see all these in 1 day rather than setup one-one meetings with each. That will probably happen in the next quarter.

In the SMB early adopter side these are CEO’s of companies that are between 1 CR ($250K) to 10 CR ($2 MM) in revenues. Currently we are focused primarily on the manufacturing and education spaces, besides smaller and mid-sized technology companies. Since most SMB decision makers in India tend to be the managing directors themselves, we are also thinking about using the connections to educate them about the advantages of being an early adopter.

Finally for consumer Internet startups, (who sadly have the toughest time in India) our goal is to have 100,000 early adopters in the mobile (Android phone owners, Windows phone 8 owners and iPad/iPhone) and most with 3G connections. These users are across demographic segments of age (many are college students, and most are in technology companies & financial services) and gender (currently 8% are women). Most are in the large metros (Delhi tops the list, followed by Bangalore, then Mumbai and Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad). We are maintaining a list of their email address, phone number and facebook, twitter accounts. This is a dual opt-in, invite only list. The obvious benefits to them are the bragging rights to be part of any new product and get it to try it before anyone else does.

As the number of startups in India grow, these are the things I believe that will really make a huge difference in helping companies move as quick as our Silicon Valley counterparts and encourage more people to join & start new companies.

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16 thoughts on “The early adopter customer database & connections for startup entrepreneurs”

  1. I think this is a great step to cut down on information arbitrage and get to speaking distance with the right guys – be it consumers or enterprises.

    I would guess the first step would be all India for now – right?

  2. Mukund, that’s one heck of an initiative. Makes a lot of sense.

    1. 1,00,000 users is quite a bit. Are you doing 60% invite 40% opt in? That’s still 60k invites! How is this list generated? I am in awe 🙂

    2. Maybe have a certain percentage of testers (both companies and users) from foreign shores as well? Quite a few startups targeting either the North American enterprise segment or global user base.

    1. List is created by each user being referred by at least 2 users. Its gotten word of mouth so far, which is goodness. Right now our focus is to get beta with our accelerator companies. I think the North American market is a few quarters away.

      1. “each user being referred by at least 2 users” this is a nice filter mechanism.

        How is the referral happening? Via email? or via FB, Twitter? How can this be implemented at scale? Any thoughts?

  3. Mukund, i can try getting connections inside Nokia Siemens Networks if any startup needs it. On B2C side, i can get 10 of my lively friends to opt in. let me know.

  4. Mukund this is awesome, I agree that customer discovery, validation and distribution are someof the biggest pains of a young startup, creating this kind of a network and ecosystem will help all in the long run. I will be tuned in to see how it goes.

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