• Jyoti Pande

Abki Baar Disruption’: TiEcon Delhi 2014 aims to attract happening entrepreneurial themes & startups

21 Sep, 2014, 0604 hrs IST, ET Bureau By Jyoti Pande Lavakare For those tracking entrepreneurial activity for years, the most natural places to network and get a pulse of the industry are the TiEcons — possibly the largest professional conferences for entrepreneurs in the world, organized as region-specific and sector-specific events, crowned by one annual general event in the larger cities.

However, over the years, the conferences organised by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), a not-for-profit global network of entrepreneurs and professionals, had become a little boring — the same speakers, the same topics, the same poster boys, and mostly even the same locations. And really, how many times can one listen to yet another talk on funding, mentoring, pitching, revenue models and term sheets? So when the emails for TiEcon Delhi 2014, an annual event scheduled this year for October 17-18 began popping into my inbox beginning last week, I glanced over them cursorily, expecting to see the same old names and similar-themed sessions. But to my pleasant surprise, not only were the speakers different — new, lesser-known names — but the themes were young and fresh. "The sessions are value-driven, not name-driven this time," said Upasana Sharma, director, TiE Delhi-NCR. Called "Abki Baar Disruption", the TiEcon Delhi is tagging some of the most happening entrepreneurial themes and startups. Just one of the latter is an app called Handshake that entrepreneur Subinder Khurana will launch at TiEcon 2014, which promises to revolutionize the concept of networking. App-solutely Brilliant Once delegates register, they will get to download the free app that acts as a virtual handshake and will alert you to the immediate presence of people you're most likely to want to meet. This novel way of networking — using technology to advantage — will allow delegates to discover contacts present in their vicinity, within a radius of 100 metres, making networking more efficient and effective. In addition to facilitating discovery, the app also provides a context to both parties. Says Khurana, who has a team of developers and business analysts working on implementing this: "Networking is the major reason for most people to attend events. The problem we are solving is: discover who is around, and get more context before you meet them." In addition, Handshake will seamlessly transfer business cards, without stripping them of their brand information. The app is almost ready and in the final stage of development and testing. It will be launched at the conference in a win-win formula where Khurana gets to test the beta version among an ideal audience and the entrepreneurs get to network in the most efficient manner possible. "The app does not rely on GPS — though we will use GPS if available [global positioning system is a satellite-based navigation system]. Rather, it uses a proprietary discovery mechanism to find contacts currently present in the same building," says Khurana. It basically mines social networking sites like Linked-In, Facebook, Google Plus, aggregating data and adding location filters using a proprietary technique. Once he is able to gauge the app's success, Khurana will spin off a new company under the same umbrella parent whose revenue model will be based on the app's in-app purchases. "Handshake will always be free to individual users. We will launch a premium (paid) version of it, with enhanced functionality later," Khurana says. Of course, the premium version will have higher functionality, such as enhanced branding support, analytics and reporting, and a corporate version, but then one has to pay for that. The possibilities of such an app are immense. Imagine you're at an airport, mandatorily ahead of time. The unproductive time between check in and take-off can now be productively utilized, if your app alerts you that the bored-looking gent sitting next to you waiting for his flight runs a venture capital fund or has the exact skills your company needs. And you don't need to approach him cold. The app will provide you with all the context publicly available on him before you even turn around and introduce yourself. If that isn't agile and innovative, (and a little spooky), then I don't know what is! Setting the Stage Meantime, the event itself will resort to innovative plans — like that of a young founder getting a chance to be mentored on the move, literally. "Mentoring in Motion" gives young delegates the opportunity to pick up a charter member (i.e. a founding member) and accompany him to the TiEcon in a pre-booked cab, giving them the chance to make pitches and discuss ideas en route. By using unproductive commute time to the conference venue, this is mutually beneficial for both mentors and mentee. Another unusual format, which has been tried with limited success at another TiE event before and will be back in an "improved" version is the "unconference" where 360° peer learning and the wisdom of crowds is tapped by a moderator. "Instead of passive listening, all attendees and organizers are encouraged to become participants by sharing ideas and experiences, with the discussion leader providing moderation and structure for attendees," the programme says. Other formats, which have been tried hesitantly before and will be back with more traction this year are "passion tables" — where entrepreneurs who have followed their passion and created a successful business tell their stories to inspire others over lunch. TiE obviously believes in the mantra that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But like a good innovator, it has tweaked formats like speed networking, where individual entrepreneurs pitch to individual investors in 120 seconds. Along the lines of speed dating, this event has been ramped up further by making spot-funding a reality. They're calling it "Tie the Knot" — which definitely draws attention!

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