One year at the Startup Saturday Hyderabad – By Srikanth Soni

Strange are the ways in which life changing incidents happen. At the first instance they are too small to receive any attention and often go unnoticed. They pass off as just another day in our lives but only later do we realise their importance. The impact is felt when we sit down and introspect, in an effort to understand the chain of events that has lead to where we are today.

The Man, Srikanth Soni, our rising star @ Headstart Hyderabad!

Today, as I prepare myself to conduct the SSHYD for the 12th time, a sense of happiness and gratitude creeps in. It has been an amazing year with the SS team. I will first share how I was introduced to the concept of SS and then elaborate on my experiences over the last one year.

Sometime in early 2011, I was working with a multi-national company in Vadodara. The internet addict that I am, somehow I landed on this Startup Saturday Ahmedabad event announcement on the internet and instantly decided to attend it. The urge to attend was not because of its relationship with start-ups but because of the reverence that I have for IIM-Ahmedabad. If not anything else, I would get a chance to visit the IIM, needless to say I was also preparing for the CAT.

I attended the first event at IIM-A; the theme being “Building successful businesses online: The story of, India’s largest bus ticketing company” and the speaker was none other than the man himself; Phanindra Sama. I hardly knew about him and very little did I know back then that he would go on to become an inspiration for the entire start-up community across India. It felt nice about the entire thing; although I must confess I was a little hesitant in interacting with people over there. Such was the hesitation that I had to think ten times before having the tea and samosa that was served in the networking session post the event. I eventually had the tea and samosa. 😉

I missed the next two events but true to my habit of leaving a feedback, here’s what I emailed back to the organiser upon receiving the next event mailer.

My feedback after attending the first SS at Ahmedabad

My feedback after attending the first SS at Ahmedabad

I attended 2-3 events after this and felt good each time I visited there. I became more and more comfortable. And I somehow missed the event on one of the following Saturday’s and the chain was thus broken. I never visited SSAHM again. It has been more than three years since that memorable day and I get emails from SSAHM even till date and that for me is a proof enough of the amazing work that they are doing. I remember taking instructions from Nagashree for reaching IIM and that I can say was a lesson for me on how to interact with attendees. At no point of time was Nagashree frustrated or angry because I have a habit of asking too much of detail and I knew this can frustrate anyone. In my current role as a volunteer, I get a lot of calls from start-up enthusiasts asking details about SSHYD, directions to the venue, speaker slots etc. This is when I put my lessons from Nagashree to use and so it makes me all that much more confident that I am doing the right thing.

Let’s talk about SSHYD:

From Vadodara I moved to Hyderabad and I got into our family business. I had a lot of spare time at hand. I wanted to do something productive and at the same time wanted to meet new people and talk and learn and grow. As a result of having attended the SSAHM, I was subscribed to the google group of Headstart network and for the last few years I have been receiving ONE e-mail, every single day, religiously, covering all the thoughts, queries, and ideas from across the country. This google group is one thing that a start-up enthusiast cannot afford to miss. One fine day, I saw a post by Arti on this very Headstart network google group. It was invitation for volunteering at SSHYD. I quickly realised this is what I needed. Immediately I fired an email to Arti and in came the reply. (I have shared the screenshots of the emails just to give an idea of how things shaped up!) Arti instantly agreed to take me on-board and here I am, as a volunteer with the Headstart Network.

My email to Arti, applying to volunteer for SSHYD
The reply by Arti, asking me to share few details about myself

My idea of why I wanted to join the Headstart team

I can confidently say that over the last one year I have met more than a 100 start-up founders, numerous start-up enthusiasts, heard their stories, discussed ideas with them, made some amazing new friends, and learnt tonnes of new things which would otherwise be impossible. No internet gyan, no reading books would give me the knowledge that I have received after interacting with these crazy people. The energy around these start-up guys is to be experienced to be believed. They sell dreams and that is what makes them special. They are the kind of people who are day-dreamers, who dream of changing the world through their ideas, thoughts and concepts. And make no mistake, they do not dream while asleep.  During sleep, they think intensely and brain-storm over ideas and then wake up in the middle of night to chalk it down before their mind can wander onto something bigger and better. Their energy is infectious. To put it mildly, I am honoured to be surrounded by them.

A little more about our team at SSHYD:

Over the last one year I have been a part of 10 Startup Saturday events, one TiE smashup event, two Headstart Higher events and a tonne of interaction with the team members over e-mail, whatsapp and phone. We hardly meet on days other than the event day and it is amazing how we pull off the event, entirely on emails. Over the last one year, I have learnt a lot of new things, faced a lot of challenges, but one thing that stands out is the enthusiasm to remain an active contributor to this team has grown exponentially. Over the last few months I have started writing post-event blogs, started sharing images with the entire team regularly, and very recently started this process where we complete the planning and execution of entire event in just three email threads. (First one for planning the theme, second one for discussing the list of speakers and third one for sharing the post event updates). Thanks to Renuka for the initiative, we have also started creating a database of all the speakers which will surely be a valuable source of information in the future.

I must confess that am honoured to be working alongside Rockstar Ramesh Loganathan of the Hyderabad Start-up eco-system. You won’t find a single person in Hyderabad who is into start-ups and doesn’t know Ramesh. (A thought: Probably, if Madison Square Garden were to be completely occupied by the entrepreneurial community of Hyderabad, Ramesh would receive the welcome very similar to what our beloved PM received few months back.) Hamad is another energetic fellow and is always ready for the challenge. I am afraid I cannot write about every single person here but to each one of those made my first year at SSHYD memorable, a biiiiig Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

In the end:

More than anyone, I wish to thank Arti for her constant support and encouragement. It makes my work that much more easy and exciting. I can take pride that I am working with a team who has the vision, the energy and more importantly the will-power and have set out to change the world through entrepreneurship.

The Startup Saturday Hyderabad February 2015 falls on the Valentines Day and I will be celebrating my love for start-ups in the best possible manner. You should also attend one in your respective city.


Srikanth Soni

Volunteer at Headstart Network Foundation

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