Bridging the gaps – How Meraki transformed ideas to execution

The businesses today that are taking the economy by storm were once just somebody’s ideas. The difference between those ideas and accomplishments is a plan to see them through. FIIB’s Meraki is a Business Plan Competition for students who are bold enough to knock the doors for new opportunities. It is organized and conducted by FIIB’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship  which is dedicated to the support of entrepreneurship.

Every year Meraki receives hundreds of entries from top colleges of India and South Asia. After careful evaluation of the plans, 10 teams are qualified to present to a distinguished jury panel of top serial entrepreneurs and VC’s of India Inc from firms like Waterbridge Ventures, JP Morgan, Lightspeed Ventures, Venture Garage, and Nexus venture partners amongst others. The teams present as serious entrepreneurs seeking seed funds for their start-ups from early stage investors. Judges evaluate the plans based on the likeliness to invest in them.

Mr. Manish Kheterpal – Partner, WaterBridge Ventures who has been the member of Meraki’s judge panel since the conception spoke about the Indian entrepreneurship scenario saying, “Entrepreneurs are the driving forces of India’s booming economy. They are literally changing the way we live. Look at Uber, Look at Oyo. Fortunately, the young people are keeping up and striving hard to innovate. I agree Innovation is hard, but execution is harder. So it’s better to have a progressive plan rather than a perfect plan. What I look for in startups is hunger to succeed and grit to face the challenges head on.”

Giving advice to collegiate entrepreneurs on pitching, Mr. Vishal Dixit, Ex-Partner, Mayfield Ventures said, “Once you identify yourself as an entrepreneur, Whenever you are talking to customers, or pitching for funds or hiring people on board, remember you should always be selling and when you are selling, the people are buying your stories not your products. You should be a master storyteller to convey an interesting yet honest story about your company that your audience should relate to. Every interaction will teach you something, put those lessons to use and sharpen those storytelling skills maintaining the same passion and energy while narrating.”

Meraki is crafted with an aim to give a real-world experience to student entrepreneurs who want to make it big in the world by fine tuning their business plans and elevator pitches to generate funding to successfully commercialize their product.  Let’s hear it in the words of Mr. Yashash Agarwal, 2 times winner of Meraki (2015 & 2016) how Meraki has helped his start-up emerge:

Q: You participated in Meraki twice and won both the times, can you tell us about your experience?

Yashash: ​Participating in Meraki has been a great experience and winning feels great always. *smiling* In both the years, the judges’ panel comprised serial entrepreneurs and investors whose feedback was of immense value to us. That’s actually worth a lot lot more.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your organization and business model?

Y: Gamezop is an online games’ publisher. We specialize in HTML5 games – these are games that can be played on the browser without downloading any app. HTML5 games work on Android, iOS, Web, TVs, feature phones, in-flight systems etc. We procure games from developers globally, as well as make games in-house. We optimize these games for developing markets and partner with companies to distribute our games. We work with several messengers, utility apps, telecom operators, browsers, handset manufacturers across the globe. We have a portfolio of 200+ games now and we are one of the largest aggregators of HTML5 games globally. Our partners use our games to drive engagement and monetization for their platforms.​

Q: How did you first hear about Meraki?

Y: I believe it was through a start-up focused Facebook group. I can’t precisely remember the name of the group but I remember seeing it and was intrigued to participate. Gamezop was in its early stages, I wanted to grab opportunities that let me meet and network with industry experts and VCs​. Meraki was the perfect chance.

Q: You spoke about networking with people, What kind of impact did that have on your business?

Y: Meraki helped us validate our hypotheses early on. Beyond the mentorship that we received at the event, as I said earlier Meraki has been a great networking platform – one where we met several fantastic start-ups and start-up founders.​ I am still in touch with a few of them and once in a while we discuss future growth strategies apart from the light-hearted conversations.

Q: Did the suggestions given by the judges at Meraki help you, if so, in what ways?

Y: We were at different phases of our start-up journey in both the years that we attended Meraki. In both the years, we received valuable industry insights from the judges which helped shape our product and our revenue model.​ A lot of great advice has helped me have clearer goals and measurable outcomes.

Q: If you could pick one unique experience at Meraki, what would it be?

Y: ​Meraki’s sheer focus on the quality of the judges panel is a big value-add for any start-up. The focus on the diversity of the start-ups that attend the event is a big plus too.​ So, putting it together the one thing that’s best about Meraki is the quality of network you can make and the people you meet.

Q: Budding entrepreneurs at FIIB want to learn from you, What are your suggestions to them ?

Y: ​If there’s one thing I have learnt in the last few years, it’s the importance of cheap and quick execution. Nothing helps quite as much as putting your product out in the market and iterating on it based on user feedback.​

During the last 7 years, Meraki has seen an exponential 600% growth in terms of the number of participants, this year being colossal with 2500+ B-Plans. As walt Disney rightly said, “The world is full of great ideas, but success only comes through action”,  FIIB always strives to be the supporting ecosystem to Smart, Spirited, Dynamic, purposeful, and Focussed leader-managers and Entrepreneurs who are willing to break the boundaries and act on their plans.