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Tuesday, May 08, 2007 2007 SE

So the Summer Edition of is coming up in July. Like the first edition of, we will be selecting a bunch of startups to come down and present their prototypes to an audience of VCs and other folks.

First, nominations have opened, so if you are a startup looking for funding, customers or partners, then head over to the nomination page and nominate yourself. You can nominate yourself again, even if you nominated the last time around, as long as you weren't selected last time.

Secondly, we are looking seriously at the feedback we got from the first edition of Proto. As the first event of its kind, there were a number of things that happened well, but I'll be the first to admit that there were a number of things that could have been better.

This is a good time for me to say that the Proto blog for the second edition is up, so take a look.

One of the things we have been rethinking is the entry fee for the event. This time around we are going to charge Rs.10,000 for startups instead of the Rs.5,000 last time. In exchange, we hope to bring in more value for the startups this time. How? I'll post more about that in the days leading up to the event.

And thats the point really. The focus is in making sure that startups get good value for what they paid for. There has been a lot of brouhaha about the meaning of non profit, and whether we are making loads of cash and retiring to the Bahamas etc. Just to clarify, while I wish I was retired in the Bahamas, I am unfortunately still in Chennai. I'll just point to Vijay's reply (see comment #16). I don't really want to spend any more time on this topic because its kind of lame.

Coming back to the startups. Our main focus is in ensuring that the startups are happy. Which means satisfying what they want. Startups basically come to Proto for three things - funding, customers and partners. So we need to bring to them some investors and a high quality audience. If there are 200 people in the audience, we would like it to be 200 people who would like to do business with the startups, rather than 200 spectators.

We fell short on this on two counts last time around. First, the audience was mostly spectators. Second, the audience preferred to stay in the main hall through the event. We had hoped that a majority of the audience would go to the networking hall and meet with the companies, but they mostly decided to stay in the main hall instead.

This was pretty much a surprise to us all, because all the pre-event debate was about what to do if the whole audience hogs the networking hall after a good presentation and no one remains to see the next presenter.

We are thinking about how we can tweak the format this time to encourage the audience and the startups to mix.

One of the options is to have half an hour breaks after every few presentations. This would allow everyone to mix around without having the guilty feeling that you are missing something in the main hall. Obviously if we go this route, then either we have to go to two days of presentations, or cut down on the number of companies presenting. There is no way we can finish on time otherwise.

Another idea that is doing the rounds is having stalls for each company. That would act as a point of contact between the audience and the startups, and generally allow for more interaction. The issue then is of finding enough space to setup twenty or twenty five stalls.

If anyone has more ideas, post them here.

Coming back to the entry fees for startups. Some have said the entry fees are really high (and are getting higher this time..). We've debated this within ourselves a lot.

DEMO, on which we have modeled Proto, charges a startup US$18,500 as an entry fee. That's seven and a half lakhs when converted to Indian Rupees. Read that number again - seven and a half lakhs. For the first Proto, we charged Rs.5,000 and this time it will be Rs.10,000.

The same goes for the audience fee. It costs US$2995 to attend DEMO. It costs US$2495 to attend Techcrunch20. We charged Rs.500 (US$12.50).

Sure the numbers are not directly comparable, and the value provided for your money is different, but it still puts in perspective that Proto is very very affordable compared to equivalent events.

There is of course a lot more to write about, but this post is big enough, so other stuff will have to wait till later. Any comments welcome.

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