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14 ideas, 4 winners - a glimpse from the pitching event at Startup Weekend Kathmandu

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54 hours startup weekend concluded with a big success - 14 innovative ideas were presented and 4 winners announced. The startup weekend proved that there are ideas and people who can manifest ideas into products. I was impressed with most of the presented ideas and could see some of them being executed and tested in market.

Startup Weekend 2013

Milee and her team presented their work on “Call 197”. They are trying to replace the existing 197 service of Nepal Telecom. Their survey revealed that there are issues with current 197; 9 out of 14 people are not satified with the service. It works only in Nepal Telecom devices, barring users of other telecom operators. They want to build a yellowpage like database - which users can query for different contacts. If you are looking for coffeeshop in Baneshwor area, “Call 197” gives you the top 3 results for coffeeshop, taking your geographic location into consideration. It was not clear how they are going to do that. Perhaps time was too short to explain. They plan to generate revenues from merchants by selling their customers database. Later after my discussion with Milee, I realized that they plan to use IVR for this - which i might have missed during the presentation. A couple of mockups were presented, depicting the look and feel of their system.

“Creative Karma” team presented next. The spectacularly designed presentation slides was pretty much timed and synced with every sentence from Bimal. Bimal’s story started wtih the problem of plagiarism, which is escalated by the lack of proper project repository. If a centralized repository could be maintained, students could see the projects of their interest and download the reports, and universities could use the services to check for plagiarism. They managed to do basic survey in 2 days - which helped them to assert the fact that users are willing to pay Rs. 50 - 500 for their services. One of the judges rightly pointed out the confusion over their service buyers. Their financials showed that they require Rs. 17 lakh of investment in the first year. They plan to sell subscriptions for universities, students and employers. They even have a plan to take the product to India and South Asia in years to come.

Anju Baral and her team came up with the idea of developing a mobile based service in microfinance sector in their “M2M” project - “Mobile to Microfinance”. Their target customers are the families of migrant workers, who have to travel for 2 hours to collect money from Microfinance in rural areas. They presented various stats of migrant workers and linked remittances to GDP, to support the revenue aspect of their project. They plan to provide services to people who have no bank account. Their mobile based app will have alert features and will allow users to check finances, to pay their loans and to do peer-to-peer funds transfer. Their revenue comes from the transactions done by their service consumers; there will be cost associated with each transaction. They demonstrated the real application - simulated the mobile application, showing the fund being transferred from the web. The working of the system was not very clear from demo - atleast in the back where i was standing. Their payback period is 6.78 years for their investment of Rs. 6 lakh. She claimed that there are no such services in Nepal and they will have the first mover advantage in microfinance sector, questionable statement as pointed out by one of the judges.

The fourth presented project was “Centilyzer”, which intends to use the micro-workers to do the sentimental analysis of social media. The presenter claimed that their “Centilyzer” service gives accurate analysis of sentiments, on a real time basis. They plan to use the existing infrastructure of CloudFactory to crowd-source their manual work of sentiments analysis - which i found conflicting with their statement of real time analysis. Judges missed to ask the real time nature as claimed by the presenter. They had done the analysis of hashtag of startup weekend and showed various analytical chart. With the human based analysis, their system can give sentiments (positive, negative, neutral) on specific details like food quality at startup weekend, the internet status, which i found interesting. They didn’t have any data on their revenue and cost. The judge pointed out the expensive nature of their service due to the usage of real people.

“Festival Diary” was another innovative project that could actually be used by lots of people. The presenter started with the interesting question, “Do you know you can be king for a day, in one of the festivals of Nepal”. No one raised their hands. Liglig festival celebrated in Lamgunj is the one. Similarly if you are planning for Feb 14 events, you may want to know what is happening where. The diary covers the festivals and events. They plan to provide features to book events, to buy products needed for the particular festival, to book pujari. These services are the basis of their revenues. Besides advertisement in the website, they intend to sell the customer database for the revenue. They demonstrated the website with a list of festivals and events. There are random events appearing on the right columns of the page, one can drill to the particular festival details, the location being shown in google map. With an initial investment of Rs 5.5 lakh, their calculated payback period is 1.5 years. They didn’t show their iphone app though. Later they plan to extend this application to Indian market as well. Their mobile app will have notifications features enabled so that the todays’ events will be notified rather than the users going to website to see what events are happening.

Nirmal Thapa started with the problem of finding the Madan Puraskar awarded book (a prestigious award in Nepal for writers) in the market. Similarly there are problems for NRNs who want to buy Nepali authored books. They revealed the solution to the problem by bringing nepali writers, readers and publishers under the same umbrella with their project “Nepali Bytes”. Their target customers are NRNs and avid books readers. The users need to be a bit tech savvy, as the users have to go online, buy books and read online. Authors may have free basic or paid premium account. The platform gives opportunity for young aspiring writers. Their website has a neat interface which lists popular nepali books and recommends books based on your past readings. The authors also have separate login, from where they can see various stats on the usage of their books. Their system doesn’t allow downloads and the readers have to go online to read, the presenter said when asked about piracy control. They have plans to avail the books in ebook format. It contradicts with the statement that users can’t download. None of the judges discovered the conflicting statement. Their targetted young writers should not be problem for the established publishers as per their opinions. This project won “1st runner up” award.

“Krishi Kendra” is designed to give right price information and agro-related information to the farmers. They started with the price difference between the market price of some vegetables and the price farmer is getting - “Krishi Kendra” intends to close that gap. They have sms based service where farmers can use to get price information in their mobile, similarly farmers can also send their problems, which get directed to the experts. They plan to partner with donors, local agencies and build the content and application. Later they will sell their services and eventually the generated data will be used to come up with some kind of analysis. SMS is their revenue source and they intend to spend Rs. 1.8 lakh in the first year. One of their slides contain a method to send sms to 5002 for tomato price query, which the audience can try in their mobile. Not sure how many tried it then.

“Gantabya Nepal” was presented in prezi. I was glad to see people using different tools for presentation besides powerpoint. “Gantabya Nepal” tries to solve the issues of travellers - either bus or flight. As per their presented data, 20000 people travel on a day in and out of Kathmandu. Their solution aims to help the current disorganized reservation system. The schedule of bus and flights will be available in their system. People can book online. Later the services may expand to other supplimentaries like hotel booking. Their revenue model based on service charge for using their system. If they could target only 5% of total travellers of 20000, then charging Rs. 10 to each person for booking will generate them Rs. 10000 on a day. That sounded probable to me, but the judge was quick to say that most of the most travellers are either middle class or even lower, so there’s going to be issue of payment. They demonstrated the website with test data, with schedule information, bus seat occupancy page.

“Socialize” attempts to connect people with similar interest and passion. Users come to site and after registration, the users information are pulled from various social media. The data is being used by “Socialize”, and match and connect people by their interests. The landing page of their website looked impressive; they must have used d3.js for displaying the interests areas. But it seemed difficult to find and click the right interest area . They are thinking of generating revenue from advertisements, by organizing events, and partnering with businesses. The service will be free for users. One of the judges was quick to ask about their differentiation from facebook - something that was in my mind since the presentation. Their answer was not convincing, atleast to me.

“” was conceived to help students with the exam preparation. Till now there are no online resources for students, it’s all paper based. Their system helps in the online based examination preparation, and gives instant results, in case of mistakes, the users get to see the answers as well. There’s centralized progress review for users. Their market analysis showed that there are almost 14000 engineering students who prepare for the examination. Their revenue is generated from the users who will have to pay Rs. 10 per attempt. They plan to recover their investment of Rs. 5 lakh in about 2-3 years. Their biggest challenge is to prepare the questions. One of the judges commented that selling fear is definitely going to work and seemed really interested in this project. No doubt it stood winner at the end.

“Travel Planned” by Anish and his team aims to solve the problem of travellers in Nepal. There’s a lack of genuine information and authentic experience. Their research showed that there’s need for instant information and experience sharing application. Their mobile based application gives you contextual information - it gets your location and shows relevant information. For eg, if you are in Bhaktapur, then the application will suggest you a list of things to buy, places to see. The judge did mentioned that they will be competing with The Lonely Planet. They also have plans to develop java based applications for those without smart phones.

Saugat Adhikari and his team plan to develop the android market for Nepal named “Apps Jhola”. They gave all kinds of stats on smart phone data, android users data. They have already done e-sewa integration that allows the apps users pay from their esewa account. Their quick market survey revealed that average people are ready to spend Rs. 500 per app, which definitely sounds encouraging. They will share revenue with developers, though specific rates have not been mentioned. They made a quick demo of their website and the mobile apps from where people can buy the applications.

“Ramaelo Siksha” a educational game built on gamification concept, targets kids aged 4-7 years. These games contain the aspects of nepali cultures. 2 million NRNs are their major target customers, whose children will now have opportunity to learn about Nepali culture by playing games. They plan to release the first version for free. Basically their revenues will be generated from sale of applications. They gave examples of other Nepali mobile applications like nLocate, Battigayo - to iterate the fact that their application will also find a good place among other popular ones. Their gamification concept in education convinced the judges, and bagged the award of “1st runner up”, tying with the “Nepali Bytes”.

Race your Town” intends to bring joy to racing games enthusiasts, who will be able to race in their own locality. They plan to use google maps to simulate the locality. Their survey revealed that 90% haven’t raced in exact map. The first two maps will be provided for free; there will be provision for in-app map purchase and in-app vehicle purchase - which generates revenue. They plan to bring Kathmandu and Pokhara maps in a year. One of the judges was interested in advertisement in the games. They demonstrated the video recording of the race, where a vehicle was moving towards Sahidgate, indeed impressive. On answering the question to the possiblity of replication of their idea by existing gaming company, they said they will compete by providing the best quality. Judges were definitely impressed with the concept of Kathmandu map circuit in racing; “Race your Town” was awarded “2nd runner up”.

Some of the presenters where complaining about inadequate time for pitching their projects. Indeed 5 minutes is too short for proper delivery. But if you think from the other side, you have to grab the attention of investors in 5 minutes. If you can’t explain your idea in 5 minutes, then it’s too complex for investors to understand and probably to invest as well.

Overall I would say the startup weekend pitching event was great, I was not there to observe the other days. It would be more interesting to see how many of the pitched projects see the light of day. I have tried to capture the ideas of the pitched projects in midst of some noises and my comments reflect my own observations. If i have misunderstood or misinterpreted some projects ideas, feel free to get in touch with me for correction.