If 2016 was all about startups laying off and facing funding crisis, 2017 is the year which brought a lot of sanity in the market. The sanity, not driven by internal maturity, but largely by external market conditions.
In no particular order, sharing my perspective /takeaways / rants around all that happened with Indian startups in 2017.
- People are losing trust and interest in startup space. Many of the early givers / well wishers do not feel connected to the startup space anymore. They have moved on and do not engage with entrepreneurs. Maybe, this is part of evolution, but not a good sign.
- The early stage funding numbers are down. There can’t be a news better than this. Lot of fluff was being funded for no reason.
- Investors are ‘TOTALLY‘ clueless. And that’s fine.
- Cycle rental is the ‘NextBigWhat’ for Indian VCs. They all are taking their LPs for a ride. As of today, close to $15mn has already been committed in cycle rental startups (unannounced).
- Bharat is another buzzword. But let me tell you a secret. Nobody will invest in startups that are actually ‘SOLVING’ the Bharat problem. Most of the money will go in startups that ‘PRETEND’ to solve the Bharat problem.
- What Elites call Bharat market is often a ‘regular’ market for most dhandha companies (like Patanjali). This coolness of startup ecosystem is nothing but bullshit.
- “Pretend, No Solve” is the key. Solving is a minimum 20 years effort (if you are lucky and are passionate).
- Local language has lost its charm – mainly because not too many startups are trying this out. Videos and audio are the nextBigWhat.
- VCs have quickly jumped from PR-driven startups to PRofit driven startups (check out their tweets). They still don’t get / talk “PR”oducts. They never will.
- The funding mafia has been badly shattered. Again, a very good news.
- For VCs, reading and writing on medium is the new ‘readers digest’ kinda experience.
- 2017 is what I’d call as the year of end of false starts. Please read the next 2 points.
- Govt’s #StartupIndia programme: We all know it has added zero value. Hopefully, government will do less of this and more of startup friendly policies? No, not happening.
- #DigitalIndia: What’s that? Cashback over. Digital over. Digital now = easy access to porn, thanks to 4G.
- We have more co-working spaces than startups. Co-working is the new *Kart. Nothing bad about it, but nothing fancy about it as well. It is a real estate play and will always continue to be one.
- Accelerator game is over, except for those who are running corporate accelerators. Corporates need to show their ‘skin’ in startup space and accelerator is the safest CSR activity.
- Foodtech is over. Real entrepreneurs are now launching actual ‘food’ businesses.
- Healthtech is as hot as 2010. Nobody wants to touch this sector. Funding in healthcare mainly goes to the ones who are ‘PRETENDING’ to solve and NOT to the ones who are solving the actual pain.
- Founders have run out of ideas.
- Many ‘spaces’ are taken (ecommerce/grocery etc etc).
- This will drive entrepreneurs to think harder and deeper. Most will give up and take up a ‘MNC’ job. Good for them (there is nothing bad about this).
- 2018 will be the year of deeper startups. I sincerely hope so.
- Not sure if VCs are ready to invest in startups solving deeper problems. VCs want fluff (heck! Cycle rentals) – so if you are solving a deep problem, brace yourself for long nights and empty vodka bottles.
- Take a deep breath. Go pee.
- AI and ML = AJAX and mobeel-only of 2018. Every startup will be built upon AI and ML buzzword. Even the nearest pan dukaan will add ‘AI’ to your buying experience (to be fair, he knows his customers’ taste better than most of *karts).
- The ec(h)osystem is now 100% echo-chamber – full of babas and gyaawn gurus who never built a profitable business. But they will tell you how to build a business, without acknowledging that theirs was a business built on fake valuation (though exits were well timed).
- Startup babas, after ruling Facebook will now jump to LinkedIn. Brace yourself.
- Growth Hackers are the new dinosaurs (rather, tyrannosaurus) of startup space. Extinct. For good.
- The ecosystem is too serious. And that too for nothing (we haven’t achieved much as a collective). #WhatTheGoat
- You know the ecosystem is extremely boring when media doesn’t report of Deepak Ravindran’s anniversary parties or Rahul Yadav’s bombastic quotes of founder’s Tesla love (PS: I love these guys – they just got conned into media masala).
- We had lesser startup awards than last year. #HolyShit !
Startups aren’t paying to media houses – this is a bad news. This is a true reflection of bad funding environment.
- There are no startup heroes/heroines in this country. Everyone is tainted. No heroes. No religion. No riots.
- Consumer loyalty? Shifting from Paytm to Phonepe to every damn fin app. Nobody owns the customer. They all own a transaction.
- Building a global SAAS business? Don’t raise funding from Indian VCs. Except for few, most still won’t appreciate you.
- Our benchmark of success is too low. The so called Indian rockstar entrepreneurs still do not stand anywhere in the global scene (of courage/effort/quality). We really need to aim higher.
- 2018 will mark ‘Quit India‘ movement. Rocket Internet, Tiger and Softbank have already quit India. A lot of Indian startups too will move their HQ out of India. Get ready to eat breadcrumbs.
- The world expected more sanity in 2017. Thankfully, the market forced it. Companies which were built on TV/print advertising have been shown their ‘aukaat‘.
- Startup failure is still a big taboo. Most of the M&A deals in India were of failed startups, but as a society/ecosystem, we don’t respect failure. We fake failure as a success to look good.
- Indian unicorn (and unicorn–) founders continue to be surrounded with PR teams. They refuse to come out and talk / admit mistakes. This is #shitsad.
- Most Indian startups have hired elephants to do a goat’s job. Layoffs are hurting – but let’s not just blame companies. Greed attracts greed. So does fuck ups.
- (Startup) media continued with its lick, suck and fuck policy. No questions are being raised. Everybody is praised. Fuck companies, when they don’t have anymore $$ to offer.
- Startup events are like the TEDx talks. Everyone has a stage but not a story worth telling.
- 2017 was when balance of power shifted to investors. 2018 mid onwards will see entrepreneurs calling it a shot.
- You still around? Thank you for reading till this. You must be seriously bored in life! :)
- I have said this earlier and I am saying it again: Nobody in ecosystem is open to talk ‘products’ and product management.
- Hackathons became hireathons. But in 2018, hackathons will make a comeback. I tell you.
- There is life beyond startups. Many founders are realizing this. They are interacting with real world and aren’t living in an echo chamber – this is a very good sign.
- There is a lot more sanity and practicality building up in the startup ecosystem. Believe me, it feels much better when founders talk products/markets than dumb valuation tricks.
- As they say: You are not your job. I say: You are not your startup.
Do not take yourself so seriously. Go meet a lot of people / have fun/ learn to laugh at yourself (and your startup). Give it your best shot and keep learning.
- Do not mix Vodka and Rum. Believe me, it is bad combo. On a serious note, more entrepreneurs need to take tough and lofty (make/break) decisions than playing it safe. Market will force this in 2018. Expect a lot of learning, unlearning and dabangg-ing.
- Share this with 10 of your friends or your ‘growth hacker’ colleague will just resign on Jan 3rd. #InspiredByWhatsApp :)
Here is wishing you all a Happy 2018 ! #ShineOn
At NextBigWhat, we are launching very big and bold initiatives – early next week. I continue to bat for founders and product geeks – so if you wanna talk/discuss, ping me (firstname.lastname@example.org).