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Winners in the crowd

Venture capital is not the only option if you are seeking funds for the early stages of your start-up. Try a simpler route-seed funding.

Anusha Subramanianand Rajiv Bhuva | Print Edition: October 2010

Neil Sequeira wants $40,000 (about Rs 20 lakh) to expand his business. The 31-yearold entrepreneur began BuzzFactory.net, a social media marketing solutions firm, in Pune last year.

He has a team of six, including a member in New Zealand, who works mostly out of home. BuzzFactory's objective is to promote online visibility for clients and cut through the clutter to reach their target audience. "We need funds for the next two or three years to increase our marketing capabilities," he says.

Since Sequeira is no stranger to start-ups-he has worked with several since 2000, including one headquartered in San Jose, California-the venture capital (VC) community is not unfamiliar to him. But a VC was not quite what the doctor had ordered for BuzzFactory.

"They were interested in the idea, but were keen to invest amounts more than my requirement," explains Sequeira.

"We are here to fix the traditionally opaque start-up funding system."

JOUKO AHVENAINEN,
Chairman,
Grow VC International

Three months ago, Sequeira found an unlikely solution to his funding needs on a social networking site called Growvc.com. It helps start-ups secure initial funding of up to $1 million or Rs 4.6 crore. Conceived as a platform only for technology firms, Grow VC International's networking site is now open to start-ups from just about any sector.

Sequeira got in touch with Grow VC just when it was looking to recruit software developers and content managers for building its global portal. Today, BuzzFactory manages the online content for Grow and is also registered as an expert service provider on its global Website. For his funding requirement, Sequeira will enlist himself as a start-up to seek funding from Grow's Indian network.

Grow is based on the concept of crowdfunding, which enables entrepreneurs to tap into a stash that is created with contributions from virtual strangers. Thus, the Grow Website brings together start-ups, experts, investors and various other entities on a single platform. Along with funds, it offers tools and expert advice to startups. Since its commercial launch in February 2010, Grow has attracted 3,358 registered members, with a funder-tostart-up ratio of 55:45.

"We are adding 400 new members every month," says Jouko Ahvenainen, chairman of the Hong Kong-based Grow VC International. "Right now, we have tapped only the Internet-savvy people, but with more members and word-of-mouth publicity, the growth will be exponential," he adds.

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