It was the 2nd year of QPrize when we applied for it. As the competition in itself was relatively new, we didn’t know much about the benefits of it or the kind of leverage that the winners of the 1st edition got out of it. However, the fact that it had Qualcomm’s endorsement and significant prize money of USD 100K was exciting. Since we also had the right fit in terms of eligibility in the mobile and wireless space, we applied for the competition.
Being shortlisted as finalists and making it to the top 8 meant a lot to us. We knew that our vision had a large problem in its ambit that we were trying to solve. Despite the fact that our focus at that point was only the Indian market, being shortlisted as finalists was a strong validation of what we were doing.
The final pitch:
This was the first serious pitch we were making to a panel of very experienced judges with diverse backgrounds. Needless to say, we were extremely nervous. Although, in our minds we had made the best pitch, on hindsight, we realised that there were some very important information missing from it. By the time it was our turn to pitch we had already mingled with the rest of the shortlisted companies and knew about their business ideas. Each one of the shortlisted companies was very promising and most of them had much better market validations (some had customers too) than we did. The experiences of others made us even more nervous and perceive our chances much slimmer than we originally thought. Eventually, we made the pitch to our satisfaction, within the stipulated time and answered the questions from the judges, to our satisfaction. And then we literally forgot about it, giving ourselves absolutely no chance.
The moment of winning the prize:
This was the most awaited moment, but as I said earlier, we had given up and expectations/hope of winning was the last thing on our minds. The announcement was reserved till late in the evening, just before the dinner. We enjoyed ourselves networking with several people and just being part of the event. The announcement was made by very senior executives of Qualcomm. Honestly, we just could not believe our ears when we heard our company’s name announced as winner. The announcement, getting on stage after that, receiving the prize cheque, making an impromptu speech, endless congratulatory wishes, everything seemed like a dream, too good to be true. Honestly, it took us a few days even after the event for the entire reality to sink in. Winning QPrize remains one of the best and most memorable moments of our startup journey so far, and it will continue to be so.
The Prize/Grant money:
Prize money of USD 100K means a lot to any startup at any stage. It meant even more to us at a stage when our products weren’t even validated in the market and we didn’t have any revenue. Neither had we received any form of funding prior to that and were completely self-funded. The money was available to us in about a month from winning it and didn’t involve any elaborate formalities either. The best part of the grant money is its availability under very soft terms without putting any pressure on us in terms of returns. Therefore, we were able to maintain our focus on getting our products out of the lab to market and acquire customers.
Qualcomm’s engagement and involvement with us:
Post QPrize, Qualcomm ventures has lent great support to us and been available to us whenever we have needed their help. Both Karthee and Ashutosh have been great mentors and have helped us not just with feedback and suggestions about our business, but also with introductions to potential customers and investors. We have also had the advantage of access to Qualcomm’s business groups and have had the opportunity to license some of our products to Qualcomm, adding to our revenue opportunities.
Best thing that happened to Reverie after winning QPRIZE:
As a startup, we suddenly felt heard and were considered seriously by our potential customers and investors, without doing anything much different from what we did prior to winning QPrize. Over a period, that has translated into revenue through a few customer acquisitions and has given us the much needed impetus any startup needs at that stage.
Why should other mobile entrepreneurs apply for the program?
We derived the following key benefits by winning QPrize that any startup could benefit from:
a) Access to much needed funds at an early stage on terms that do not distract the focus of the startup
b) Serious validation through Qualcomm’s endorsement that open doors for attracting customers (including Qualcomm) and investors
c) On-going mentoring and support from Qualcomm ventures, including tapping into their network through strong recommendations
Entries for Qualcomm’s QPRIZE 2012 are open now, total USD 1M to be won! If you are a mobile or internet startup
- Apply Now!
Datawind inks pact with Reverie Language Technologies for muti language support for Ubislate series tablets
Datawind, a leading provider of wireless web access products and services, has entered a strategic alliance with Reverie Language Technologies Pvt. Ltd. of Bangalore to ensure that the Ubislate series of tablets offer an end user experience in all major local languages of India and the world.
Announcing the alliance Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind said, “We are very happy to have formed this strategic partnership with Reverie for supply of language solutions. We feel strongly that technology should reach every corner of the world and knowledge of English should not be a barrier. This language solution will benefit the users by offering a new world of services and products to a segment of world population that has been ignored for so long.”
Reverie Language Technologies CEO Arvind Pani said, “We are very excited to be part of Datawind family and getting a chance of making digital information available to the masses in their preferred language. We strongly believe that our alliance will go a long way in bridging the digital divide in the under-privileged communities across the world.”
An operating system level of integration will ensure that the complete user experience will be in the language of choice of the customer. UbiSlate tablets will have text rendering technology capable of displaying all languages including complex scripts and keypads for all supported languages including transliteration technology.
Datawind will provide UbiSlate range of tablets and its services in all major local regional Indian and world languages. The language aware tablets will allow the information to be consumed and created in the preferred language of the user, freeing them from using English alone.
Reverie Language Technologies wins Techsparks 2011 Grand Finale
Tech30 Report, a benchmarking of startups released, 5 TechSparks identified
and App4India winner announced.
It was a “cool” (the techie cool) morning at Bangalore and the usually quiet IIM-B campus on a Friday suddenly saw a burst of vibrant activity at the auditorium, the air pregnant with expectations of an exciting day ahead. At the day’s close, the expectations of the audience were not belied and TechSparks™ came to set a new benchmark for startup events in the country and we are certainly not exaggerating.
Shradha Sharma, founder, YourStory.in, earlier in the day explained how her efforts from January to take TechSparks to different parts of India started and how it culminated in the Grand Finale. “We want the events in India to be on par with those on the Silicon Valley,” said Shradha. The journey was incredible. With the first TechSparks™ Regional Round Table in Delhi in May, the sequence of three roundtables followed in Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad leading to the Grand Finale in Bangalore. Within a span of four months, YourStory.in was able to touch upon 1350 entrepreneurs in total, perhaps a first in the startup history in India. The focus was on product technology companies. This enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs also points out to the exhilarating activity in the product tech domain in India.
So, what happened on August 19, 2011 at IIM-B? In a significant departure from the usual mix of keynotes, panel discussions, and pitches, TechSparks™2011 Grand Finale had something significant on the agenda – Tech30 Report. Usually, the fastest growing companies and large corporates regularly find their names as part of a list by leading magazines, the great company to work for, the top companies to watch for, and all such. But the startup phase is largely ignored, especially the product tech startups. So at YourStory.in, we made efforts to bring limelight to these startups at the pre-growth stage that show promise—the promise of growing to become a global leader in their line of business. At least that has been driving the “product tech movement” in India. We are in the startup space since 2008 and have been watching frenzy of activities since then. As always, we pick the entrepreneur to write about not on their great success but for the spirit of their starting up. The Tech30 Report also in some ways reflects our core belief of bringing to surface the spirit of starting up in the product technology space. We endeavored to spot the emerging stars, 30 of them, through this Report. Twenty of these companies presented their pitches in front of an impressive jury in the afternoon. This in a sort of way has set a new benchmark, an evaluation devoid of revenue generated, years in business or any other factor usually applied as a precondition for such startup lists.
The TechSparks™ of 2011
Narendra Bhandari (Director, Intel Software & Services Group – Developer Relations Division (Asia Pacific)), Shailendra Singh (MD, Sequoia Capital India), Shane Owenby (Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Amazon Web Services), Vikas Jain, co-founder, Micromax Mobile, Mekin Maheshwari (President, Engineering, FlipKart), Rishi Dhand (Product Manager, Google), and Jayaram Pillai (CEO, National Instruments) formed part of the jury that listened to twenty pitches from a diverse array of startups. A 73-year-old entrepreneur, Padmanabhan, of elLoka that taps solar energy to power computers in villages was a significant highlight. CropEx, which aims to connect the consumer to the farm, is another interesting startup to watch for. These two startups have a specific rural focus. Please find more details about the Top 20 presenting companies here.
Finally, the winners of TechSparks™ 2011 were: United Mobile Apps, Idea Device, Capillary Technologies, Mediology, and Reverie. The description of all these startups are covered in a separate article, click here to read more about them.
TechSparks™ App4India Sponsored by Intel
The mobile apps business is set to rewrite the technology space, say experts. This is easily understood by a significant attention given to that space by almost every ecosystem player in the mobile or tablet business. The developers can reap rich benefits from the different offerings of large corporates like Intel. In fact, Intel supported and encouraged us to spot Top 10 App4India Finalists, that Narendra Bhandari, Director, Asia Pacific Software and Services Group Developer Relations Division, Intel, attributed to finding apps in which local consumption was focused upon. We did pick the top 10 and MyCityWay walked away with the App4India award which includes a cash prize of Rs. 50,000 given by Intel in addition to hardware devices of Intel for all the Top 10 finalists. To check out the Top 10 Apps, click here.
Shailendra Singh’s Learning from Experience
Shailendra Singh, Managing Director of Sequoia Capital India, set the tone for the day with his insightful keynote on “Lessons from Portfolio Companies.” Being an investor is like being a double-edged sword. The same companies you bet on, grow beyond your expectations that you can talk about them in grand meetings like TechSparks™but some of them get buried under going nowhere embarrassing your judgement and confidence. Every investor should have a huge list of companies that they betted on only to find such companies not realizing their potential. But Sequoia Capital as a VC perhaps found a secret sauce to evaluate companies that ensured that 30 of its 65 portfolio companies are market leaders. Shailendra Singh first complimented YourStory.in by saying that “TechSparks™ is the best platform for startups in the country.” Then he added, “We are excited to be in business with terrific entrepreneurs.” Yes, terrific they are. The likes of Café Coffee Day (high growth, great unit economics), JustDial (relentless product focus), Via (frugal innovation, rapid iteration), iYogi (conviction is key), Prizm (deep domain knowledge), Zappos (delivering happiness), MuSigma (culture cannot be copied), and GlobalLogic (thinking beyond borders) were picked by Shailendra to tell startup entrepreneurs the key contributors (in parenthesis) to those terrific entrepreneurs’ success.
Narendra Bhandari’s Inclusive Panel Discussion
Narendra Bhandari, Director, Asia Pacific Software and Services Group Developer Relations Division, Intel, was introduced by Shradha as an awesome moderator. He proved to be one of those great moderators in a panel discussion involving Shailendra Singh, Mekin Maheshwari (President-Engineering, FlipKart), Rishi Dhand (Product Manager, Google), Vimal Abraham (IBM), and Jayaram Pillai (CEO, National Instruments) on go-to-market strategies. Narendra steered the discussions around specific themes: how do you identify your market or your customers? When do you go global and how important is ethics and integrity important for an entrepreneur in addition to involving the audience greatly by interrupting the discussion to take questions when every theme was concluding and also eliciting from the audience what they thought the corporates and investors could do to help them.
Vikas Jain’s Customer Focus
Vikas Jain, co-founder, Micromax Mobile, delivered a special address in the afternoon as an inspiration to startup entrepreneurs. Vikas narrated the rapid development of Micromax by specifically addressing some pain points of different groups of customers. A 30-day battery life for mobiles aimed at the rural consumer, QWERTY phones to enable chat and social media interaction for youth, “blingy” fashionable phones for girls and women, and going from a rural to urban market, but keeping the rural strategy up have been part of the Micromax’s incredible journey to the top. “We are pursuing an active tablet strategy,” said Vikas in response to a query. Touch phones and QWERTY phones are set to be popular in the coming days, in Vikas’s opinion. The cheaper prices of smart phones are going to set the mobile apps business on fire and it would be just three months before a complete 3G rollout happens, said Vikas, because operators cannot afford to wait longer as 4G is round the corner as well.
As the evening set in bringing an action-packed day to an end, it left us feeling greatly excited. The packed audience till the end is one validation of our event that kept audience interest through the day. The differentiating aspect of the events was its informal nature. We didn’t keep it very formal. Sometimes, young entrepreneurs feel inhibited by a high “air” thrown at some events and begin to think they are not yet there. But we kept an open ambience throughout the pitches, awards, and grand finale. Shailendra’s keynote in a friendly tone and Narendra Bhandari’s interactive discussion perhaps pulled the audience into active listeners and part takers rather than passively glued to their seats all day long. That we think has set a new benchmark. As a young startup ourselves, we feel incredibly happy to make it happen.
Last but not the least, we thank our Title Sponsor Intel Software, our supporting sponsors Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, National Instruments and Sequoia Capital and CNBC TV18 our TV partner for having the faith in us throughout this journey. They truly enabled us.
Interview with Arvind Pani of Reverie language Technologies
Reverie is a Bangalore based product startup that makes text communication possible in any language on digital platforms.It provide users the ability to read and type in any language of choice and also provide automated contextual text conversion of one language to several other languages.This framework not only allows for rendering multiple languages on such devices for text display, but also for text entry and other value adds such as contextual conversion of languages dynamically.
Using this product, you can read text in all Indic languages, key in text in them, and even convert one language to another.The solution works at two levels.
1. You can enter text in your native language using the virtual or physical keyboard, whichever Reverie is powering.
2. Phonetic text entry – Which is that you could type a word in Tamil and Reverie’s solution would transliterate that into text in any other language.
And this works across almost all Indic languages including Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada
Below are the 2 demos of their Products:
Lyrics Synchronizer can seamlessly synchronize audio and corresponding text. It is applicable in areas like karaoke, sub-titling, etc.
Sometimes, a business idea can stare so blatantly in your face that you can do nothing but miss it. There must be a few hundred entrepreneurs, and even budding ones, who know this is true. That feeling will hit you when you see for the first time what Reverie Language Technologies Pvt. Ltd. has to offer.
Bengaluru-based Reverie is the brainchild of two brothers, Arvind and Vivekanand Pani and S.K. Mohanty who, we are told, is possibly the father of Indian language fonts. More on that later. To explain Reverie’s work without putting into perspective the problem they are solving is perhaps not doing justice to potentially one of the most innovative startups to come out of our version of the Silicon Valley.
Vivekanand, who is the technology evangelist and CTO for Reverie, gives out the first bit of information connected to his startup. Did we know, he asks, that it takes 42 clicks on a multilanguage-enabled Nokia phone to type the word Hindustan in Hindi, and about 18 in English? We did not.
What Reverie does, explains Arvind, Head, Strategy & Business Development, is provide a multiple language framework for digital platforms that can include mobile phones, PCs, tablets etc. This framework will not only allow for rendering multiple languages on such devices for text display, but also for text entry and other value adds such as contextual conversion of languages dynamically. “We are fixing the major problems multilingual users face in this country of not being able to read and write in their language effectively and easily across digital devices,” he says.
For now, the founders are fully focusing only on the mobile phone. In a demonstration shown by the three one afternoon in Bengaluru on a branded ‘multilingual phone,’ it became quite apparent what is the basic problem mobile users face when trying to communicate via any Indic language.
For one, as Vivekanand points out, the usability aspect of such phones is deceptively low. The fonts are extremely hazy and nowhere as clear as printed text would be in the same language. Secondly, typing a simple word in any language other than English would give you sore fingers.
Mohanty, who is type design head at Reverie, explains that the biggest issue between languages in Latin, and languages that follow the Indic and similar non-Latin scripts is that the latter are not linear like the former. These are complex scripts that are very difficult to display and work with.
Reverie’s offering, according to Vivekanand, fixes this problem for good. Using the company’s proprietary product, an user could read text in all Indic languages, key in text in them, and even convert one language to another. “What we have done is standardized an entire range of complex scripts and designed types for digital devices of all ranges, screen sizes, and resolutions,” he adds.
He shows another branded regular phone, this time with the Reverie solution and the experience was instantly much better. Not surprisingly, the clarity of text on the phone was extremely good. As good as the rendering of English characters. Apart from the display, Reverie’s text-input product delivered an equally compelling user experience.
Reverie’s solution works on two levels. First is, of course, the straight method of entering text in the user’s native language using the virtual or physical keyboard, whichever Reverie is powering. Second, and this is much more interesting, is the phonetic text entry: this is a novel method not much heard of in this space. What that means is that you could type a word in Punjabi and Reverie’s solution would transliterate that into text in any other language.
So, if you typed the word Vadhaaiyan in Punjabi, Reverie’s product would transliterate that into its Hindi equivalent. And this works across almost all 22 Indic languages including Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.
This development will open up a whole new market for handset maker, telecom VAS and mobile apps in the country, it seems. Would a driver buy a phone that lets him type in Kannada and lets his Gujarati boss receive that message in Gujarati? And vice versa. What of operators delivering text based VAS and enabling user-generated content in 22 Indian languages? The opportunity is hard not to spot. In fact, it is too big to be able to put a number on it. After all, India has 1.2 billion people, and only about .1 billion have the understanding of English. And to address this market, Reverie’s products deliver a user experience of high efficiency even in sub-Rs.2,250 devices.
Predictably, the founders are moving fast to grab this opportunity that they saw first and are best equipped to take on. Already, Arvind says, a few device makers, and VAS providers are in various stages of discussions. However, he requests that the names be kept under wraps for the time being.
As a team, it would be perhaps impossible to get one as good as the one behind Reverie for the kind of work they are doing. Vivekanand has about 14 years of experience in Indian language computing, having led the language tools and technologies initiative at Graphics- and Intelligence-based Script Technology, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).
His brother Arvind, though an engineer by trade, has spent 10-odd years in managerial roles at companies like Intel, John Deere and SAIL.
The lynchpin of the team, though, is Mohanty who has over 25 years of experience in developing Indic and South Asian scripts. He founded and headed the font design, script and glyph standardization activities at C-DAC for 10 years.
Indic fonts developed by him can today be seen across the print media, TV channels, official communications and general hoardings almost everywhere in the country. Yes, he could well be called the father of Indian language fonts. Self-funded for now, Reverie is not content with just the Indian market, Arvind says. “We have our eyes set on the global market with support for 50 languages addressing all major Perso-Arabic, Cyrillic, CJK [Chinese/Japanese/Korean], Latin and South-Asian languages as well.” They already have presence in the U.S. and Greater China regions.
“As a product, we expect Reverie’s offering to reach every country that does not have Latin as its base script and where there is a more complex native script. Our opportunity is global,” says Vivekanand. That is true, whichever language you may want to say it in.