What does it take to build an ecosystem that fosters product development in the technology space? This question came up in our Chennai Open Coffee Club meeting in Jan.
Here are some thoughts.
- You need an entrepreneurial spirit. These are people who are willing to risk their careers on building some thing to solve a pressing problem. They should be willing to give up short term gains to pursue their dreams.
- You need a culture that reacts to failure well. This will take time to build.
- It will help to have a few successful entrepreneurs who did well. That is happening very slowly. It will also help to have people who have done well in their careers and are willing to try something new.
- It needs a community. Communities are starting in Chennai – TiE Chennai Startup SIG, Nasscom Emerge, Chennai Open Coffee Club, Chennai Geeks and several other tech groups.
- It requires great educational institutions. I don’t think we have enough.
- Our Universities have to turn into research engines. There are a handful of institutions that do this a bit. Not enough, though.
- We need to have proximity to great people who have built products. That is beginning to happen.
- We need a spirit of collaboration. That is beginning to happen too.
- We need capital infrastructure. This includes angel investors, venture capitalists, financial institutions and other supporting services. What we have now is nowhere near what we need.
- We have the first generation of incubators. They provide space and infrastructure but not what entrepreneurs really need – guidance in building a business from customer validation to business development. There are a few experiments happening and hopefully their success will inspire others.
- A knowledge of the market would help. It is beginning to happen thanks to the Web.
- We need lots and lots of conversations on both successes and failures. This is beginning to happen.
- We need the spirit of bootstrapping. Out of necessity (due to the lack of funding sources), this is probably going to be the default model of building a business.
- We have good experience in building service companies. How can we leverage this to move into products?
- We have to find something unique and stuff that matters. This is much harder to come up with but not impossible.
There are encouraging signs. More and more product companies are showing up at the annual Nasscom product conclave every year. Incubators have a chance to play the role of catalysts. I think there is an opportunity here to find some unique problems and solve them.
What are your thoughts?