Wrapping your brain around technology trends here in the United States, or even just in Silicon Valley, is a chore. Figuring out the trends and who the major players are in an emerging market like India is 10 times as difficult. Bowei Gai, former LinkedIn employee by way of his company CardMuncher being acquired, has done just that under his World Startup Report umbrella.
Brad Feld and Dave McClure have been leading the mentor and seed-funding charge in India, as well as the Valley, as of late, and shared some interesting thoughts with us based on what they were able to pull from the report.
Feld told us that the online and offline business differences in India are what stood out to him:
I wasn’t tuned into the difference between online and offline businesses in India. The friction in offline society has a tremendous impact on any businesses, especially ones outside India, whereas the online world has enormous opportunities that seem unconstrained in the near term due to the extremely low penetration of smartphones when compared to the high penetration of mobile.
Here’s the extremely detailed report, complete with population information, market opportunity and current players in the country:
The idea for the World Startup Report is that one will be done in all major markets that are up-and-comers in the tech space. This is no small task, but if this India report is indicative of the types of information that Gai and his team are mining, then good things are bound to happen. Its mission is to share these documents for free, to empower local startup “activists” to become ambassadors for their region and ecosystem. Once those leaders emerge, then all of the pieces will start coming together for places like India.
Gai told me about the experience of gathering all of the information in the report above, which seemed like quite an adventure:
It’s been a life changing experience, having the ability to walk into startup’s office and ask any questions about their experience.
In the last 3 months, we spoke close to 2,000 young entrepreneurs, well-known successes, angels, VCs and policymakers to get everyone’s perspective on their startup ecosystem.
McClure talked to me about what it means to be more global as far as investing goes and why 500 Startups is starting to spend actual time, and money, in India:
The benefits and opportunities for getting in early (but not *too* early) in India are tremendous. For only small amounts of capital and resources (say, $1-2m/year?) we can get started now in India, and potentially see impact and returns within just a few years. Particularly seeing the rise of mobile / smartphone business in india, and the Indian middle class growth opportunity over the next 3-5 years is amazing.
Yes, mobile is something that you’ll hear about a lot when it comes to emerging markets. In India, mobile devices easily outnumber desktop ones, and all trends are pointing to smartphone adoption setting up booming potential in the country. Today it’s all about feature phones and SMS, but tomorrow, mobile apps will be bigger than desktop software ever was in the country for consumers.
It’s not easy to get involved in the startup scene in India without some learning and networking, as McClure explained to me. There’s a great bit of mentoring that will take place over the next few years to fuse all of the engineering talent that exists in India with consumer marketing expertise that hasn’t hit its stride in the country as of yet. This report is a great primer for anyone thinking about taking the long plane ride over to build some amazing things for consumers who are just getting ready for it.