Thursday, August 16, 2012

Team Grayscale

We've been doing a few profiles of Venture Lab teams over the past few weeks. Our terrific research assistant, Hamsa has been putting these today and I think she's been doing a great job with it. It's inspirational to me to get to hear some of the in-depth stories of the entrepreneurs and startups that were touched at least in some small way by the course.

Here's the story about Team Grayscale. I'm quite proud of them.

The startup culture hit India about 2-3 years ago, Parth Saxena tells
us. Until then, even top MBA students would generally get hired by
international companies, rather than start a venture on their own.
Recently, an incredible change has occurred in the mindset of Indian
youth, and many seek to form their own companies. However,
opportunities such as incubators are still scarce and budding
entrepreneurs are not aware of what measures to take. “What is
required is a great network of mentors and venture-capitalists which
can guide young startups to move on the right path,” says Parth. This
is precisely the gap that Venture Lab seeks to bridge internationally.

The Grayscale team consists of two brothers, Parth and Dhruv Saxena,
and their close friend Nikhil Kapur. Parth and Nikhil, both
23-year-old fresh graduates, have been friends since their early
college days and yearned to start a company together. Their shared
passion for music and Parth’s experience as a guitarist in local bands
sparked the idea of TommyJams in early 2012. The duo noted that
despite the rapid growth of the Indian live music industry, venues
still sought event managers or personal connections to hire live
performance artists, which both resulted in limited choice of artists
and higher prices for the venues. Furthermore, it limits opportunities
for new, budding artists who lack personal connections. Team
Grayscale’s idea of TommyJams would provide an online platform to
bring together artists, venues, fans, and advertisers. Venues can
simply publish upcoming events and interested artists can submit a
portfolio to be considered for the gig. Moreover, for perhaps the
first time, the website will provide fans an opportunity to follow
their favorite artists and venues. With this dream in mind, the team
joined Venture Lab.

Having worked on involved programming projects at multiple internships
and competitions, the team had no lack of technical expertise. Parth
had extensive experience with databases and server-side interactions
and began working on the backend; Nikhil’s experience concerned
user-driven software, and he took over the front-end and the user
interface. Dhruv, who still attends college, was an ideal
point-of-contact for campus networking, and helped Parth with the
backend in his spare time. However, the team lacked entrepreneurial
knowledge and an appropriate plan of action for understanding the
customer segment. Working through Venture Lab’s course videos and
assignments, the team performed extensive market analysis and many
customer interviews. The feedback they gathered brought many useful,
fundamental changes to their proposed product, says Parth , describing
their key lesson as ‘Do not assume, go out and look!’ Moreover, the
team joined hands with four experienced mentors from Venture Lab’s
extensive network and received advice through regular Skype calls.

Over the past few months, the team has been working long hours to put
together a fully-functional prototype, and they are getting ready to
launch a beta version. In preparation, Parth and Nikhil are quitting
their full-time jobs at Texas Instruments and Microsoft respectively.
“We need every spare moment after the launch to market the product and
make it truly viral,” says Parth. “Venture Lab was one of the best
things that could have happened for our venture. Not only did we learn
so much, but it has given us so much confidence that we are chucking
our jobs to become full-time entrepreneurs!”

We, at Venture Lab, wish these new entrepreneurs the best of luck!!