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Proto 4- A Winner’s Showcase

We were at Proto 4 over the 18th-19th July weekend at IIT Delhi and met some passionate startups in the IT and Software, Web, Ecommerce and Out of the Box verticals. We profile the startups from the online and ecommerce space here. We didn’t spot as many investors as were highlighted on the Proto website but we did speak to a few after the startup showcase.

We were at Proto 4 over the 18th-19th July weekend at IIT Delhi and met some passionate startups in the IT and Software, Web, Ecommerce and Out of the Box verticals. We profile the startups from the online and ecommerce space here. We didn’t spot as many investors as were highlighted on the Proto website but we did speak to a few after the startup showcase.

The Hiring Tool is a B2B marketplace for consultants and employers to directly connect with each other. An individual cannot upload a resume on the Hiring tool and instead the company is tying up with consultants across the major cities in India (to begin with). These consultants supply resumes for organizations which in turn pay the Hiring Tool for each hire. There is an online candidate management module which allows employers to post details like CTC and the number of years of experience required in this module. For each hire, Hiring Tool pays 75% of the transaction fee to the consultant and keeps the remaining 25% as its cut.

Muziboo is an online community of and for music aficionados. The USP of the portal is its dedicated audience base which is 3000 strong and these users are actively uploading, sharing and discussing original music. Interestingly, the community is active around singles mainly and not many compliations or albums are on the portal. Prateek Dayal, the Founder of Muziboo told us that the biggest differentiator between Muziboo and other music portals is the involvement of the community which even flags copyrighted music on the site and welcomes new members on its own.

Copyrighted music is deleted from the portal when it’s found. The portal has a paid model (rolled out 3 weeks ago) as well which is also the monetization source for Muziboo as of now. Prateek mentioned that although he tried Adsense on Muziboo but it didn’t really work out for them. A Muziboo member even creates a weekly podcast, Muzicast which profiles the best music on Muziboo for the community.

Lipikaar is a software that allows anyone to type in Hindi and 2000 other dialects along with Urdu and Arabic. The company has been supplying the software as a kit along with LED displays to banks, hospitals among other enterprises across the country and has recently debuted its online tool.

Lipikaar is based on the premise that anyone should be able to write in the language he or she thinks in. A typing box which enables typing in a regional language resembles the SMS style of typing where one repeatedly presses the same key to get the desired letter. We were told that the typing box is seeing a ton of usage from bloggers and online writers, both monolingual and bilingual and the Firefox add on is becoming increasingly popular as well.

The desktop version of Lipikaar allows you to create all types of documents in Windows XP, Win 2000, Vista, ME while the plugin enables the same functions online. Lipikaar also empowers instant messaging in local languages.

We really liked the product and it was one of our favorite companies that presented at Proto this year. The Alootechie editor downloaded the plug in and is very happy with the way it works!

Lifeblob creates a personal online diary of an individual in the form of a timeline. A person can slice and dice his or her life on various attributes like places, people and events and post pictures tagged to these attributes on a Lifeblob timeline. These timelines are collaborative, when I post photos of an event, the same entry reflects in other members’ timelines as well. It’s a way of sharing one’s life with everyone else who features in it.

Tiriyo is a Chennai based recruitment management company with a signature product, Recruiter Pilot which streamlines the entire hiring process for enterprises easier. It allows resume searching from within the browser through an in build tool called Candidate Radar. These resumes can then be managed till the hiring process is complete through an online tracking system.

Lootstreet is a portal for the bargain hunters. The USP of Lootstreet is that every price is negotiable. A buyer can check out the offerings on Lootstreet and bid for a lower price. This price is then sent to the seller and so the haggling continues till a deal is inked.

Lootstreet is mainly meant for an individual buyer to haggle with an individual seller. During the demo, the Kaushik, one of the founders mentioned that Lootstreet plays on the psyche of the Indian consumer who is prone to haggling for each and everything. Lootstreet aims to capture this habit in the virtual environment.

Lordsofodds is an interactive prediction gaming portal where on signing up, a player gets one lakh free loots which can then be used to buy and sell predictions. These predictions can range on topics like Politics, Sports and Showbiz. As an event progresses, its prediction also changes prices and players win or lose loots on the basis of their bets, climb ladders and become lords. Lordsofodds is looking at branding as its monetization model and has recently run a Moto GP prediction game in association with Castrol and also ran a SMS game for the Asia Cup. Going foeard, the company has plans to launch Orkut anf Facebook apps, third party widgets and a Lordsofodds mobile version. The portal is banking on the wisdom of the crowds and on our nature to debate and bet on most issues and events that happen around us daily.

Picporta is a patent pending content based image search tool which recognizes faces once a user identifies and tags a face. After an individual is identified by the user, every subsequent image search on picporta then becomes intuitive to filter and show results that match the specific search query. The error margin of Picporta is less than 5% and the team aims to bring it down to less than 1%. The portal also offers all the other normal features and tools of photo sharing sites as well.

Storrz is an online B2C marketplace where retailers have created their separate online presence, also called Walls and are selling to consumers. The company has recently rolled out its Social Shopping Mall feature where users can see browse a store and see the reviews and preferences of other users and what they have been buying. There is an easy to use drag and drop feature when a user selects a product and can then drop into the shopping cart and retailers can upload rich media demos of their products. Storrz makes money on a 10% to 25% commission basis. For now, Storrz has 55 retailers on board. Interestingly, Storrz started with 4 stores that sold groceries online and the number of stores is expected to rise to 100 by August 2008!

Apnabill is a vanilla startup which offers online mobile recharge without having to pay the surcharge on a coupon. Infact, the startups aims to subsidize the price of a coupon and make up the costs through advertising.

Crederity is a startup that provides identity and credentials verification to individuals and companies. The company operates in two major segments, the matrimony and the recruitment space. As online identity fraud and falsification becomes a real danger, Crederity offers manual verification and follow up of identity. It then gives a Crederity Trust card to individuals which can be used as endorsement on resumes, dating and matrimonial sites and other domains. Crederity is in private beta right now and has 20 enterprise customers.

After the event, we spoke to investors from Ventureast, Clearstone, Mumbai Angels and IDG ventures. While IDG wasn’t very happy with the quality of the companies that were presenting this year and thought that more consumer facing companies instead of technologically strong startups presented at Proto 2008.

Clearstone told us that they were happy with the attention to the business model and that the overall quality of startups had improved. Even though there were a few promising startups, there was the question of monetization for some as per Clearstone. There was a lack of presentation capabilities and Clearstone did not see the background and domain experience of the startups which could have made their pitches stronger. He said that knowing a company’s background and who they are is an important factor which contributes towards the decision of investing or not.

Monetization was another concern for investors. For example, Apnabill is banking on monetizing its inventory to sustain its subsidization model but then as one investor pointed out, if Rediff and Indiatimes have trouble selling their inventory, how long will Apnabill take to get there? Investors were also looking for better presentations and hoped that the team behind Proto would spend some more time with the startups’ presentations!

At the networking dinner on the night of the 19th, in our conversation with startups, it was evident that while securing funding was priority for a few startups, most were there just to mingle with the startup ecosystem and were looking for the kind of honest feedback that comes with such an environment.

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