A lot of times, you have a bright idea. May be, a multi million dollar one. But, an idea is nothing if not executed well. For most of the entrepreneurs, space with facilities at low cost is definitely an issue. Being a bootstrapped startup, it is hard to spend the initial chunk of money on infrastructure and co-working facilities have evolved to solve this issue. Bangalore Alpha Lab(BAL) founded by Ahimanikya Satapathy & Asha Satapathy is a coworking space for Startups in Bangalore. It is a vibrant community of entrepreneurs coming together to interact and communicate ideas while they launch their startups at BAL Space. BAL Incubation provides the best possible support for startups from ideation, forming the company till becoming a viable business. Members working from BAL can select from one of the plans provided on the website. Benefits of working from BAL include The Startup Package, which gives free branding packages worth Rs. 20,000, tech, marketing & business mentorship , discounted services from BAL Partners and access to all the tech meetups that happen at the space.
Ahimanikya Satapathy (Ahi) is a passionate visionary leader and entrepreneur with over 18 years of successful global experience in the enterprise solutions marketplace combined with in-depth technology knowledge. Ahi’s love for Health Data Management and ability to keep things simple has great influence in building a powerful care platform like DocEngage. Prior to starting DocEngage, Ahi was with Sun Microsystem where he led a team that built quite a few products including flagship Sun Enterprise Master Patient Index (EMPI), MDM Suite,etc. In Early days, Ahi has worked with a bunch startups in Silicon Valley.
Asha Satapathy has been around for 15 odd years in building products and selling technology. In past she has helped CGI as a Delivery Director and Sun Microsystems as an Enterprise Product Architect before co-founding BAL, DocEngage & Fresco Informatics. She has been instrumental in bringing color and life at BAL.
Ahi and Asha’s passion for community and emotion for entrepreneur tribe has helped them to create peer help group and they are always willing to help the startup community in general. Below are the excerpts from a candid chat with Ahi & Asha :
Please tell us the story behind the startup – how did the idea for BAL came about? When is this started and how is it going so far?
BAL is a playground for startups that are building products from the base up. BAL provides a vibrant low cost ecosystem that fosters creativity and networking. So 2 years back, Ahi started a community called Bootstrap Bangalore to build a peer help group. Even today he hosts most of the meetups at his office where he also runs DocEngage, a Heathcare IT product startup which helps doctors and patients to manage health records.
At Bootstrap@Breakfast meetups, entrepreneurs gather to discuss pain and problems they face in their day today life in terms of operations and emotions. BAL is designed to be colorful, vibrant, entrepreneur friendly and cost effective keeping bootstrapped startups in mind. It was a constant observation at many of these meetups that the bottlenecks to get started is space. Then it was natural for Ahi’s community focus personality to think for a solution and started offering space to few entrepreneurs in the beginning and later he realized that the need is bigger than what was anticipated, so he along with Asha Satapathy, started to formalize the format and manage to setup two center within 4 months time. BAL now runs in two locations in Bangalore and hosts around 25 companies and having total 85+ members.
What is the selection process for a startup to get incubated into BAL?
BAL gives preference to technology product startups in the bootstrapping mode. As we believe bootstrapping company needs longer support. But there is no hard selection process, we meet the entrepreneur and see what they are doing, evaluate whether they will fit into the community and then ask them to come in. So there is no time restriction and no equity model. Stay as long you want and contribute to the cost required to run the place. We run the place more like community than business.
Would like to understand how a Startup co-working from BAL gets all round help rather than just a desk to work on?
We have around 25 to 30 startups. Startups communicate to each other and a space for bounce back. Our startups have got many awards from the startup world. And many of our members incubated in accelerators like Microsoft Accelerator & theMorphese, TLabs, GSF etc. – where they continue to stay with us before and after incubation phase.
Tell us the challenges in opening up office space for other startups to work. In general, do you think Startup community is appreciative of this?
We have great feedback from startups for running this space. When they enter BAL and hear about the offerings, we see a huge excitement and sigh of relief. The relief from all-operational challenges and make them focus on their product.
The challenges to maintain the cost low at the same time make it sustainable. One of the primary challenges is to keep high standards in terms of power backup and broadband connection. The service providers for these are not reliable even in Bangalore and now we have 3 internet connections at one center to ensure we don’t have any down time. We have to have minimum 8 hours backup to sustain long power failure. Sometimes entrepreneurs fail to understand the pain to maintain high quality infrastructure at low cost. We have learned few things and making sure we communicate the expectations in right manner. In general people are very happy being a BAL member.
From your experience of watching entrepreneurs close in action, what would you say is the single biggest factor contributing to killing the early stage startups? And how can startups overcome this?
The entrepreneurs are the biggest enemy to themselves; many times they quit early, more than money the ability to stay put and continue is key and for that we need a peer group that can encourage our existence. If I survive, I will win is one of the biggest mantra that works well in India Another key aspect many entrepreneurs fail to understand, it’s not what they want or what is great, it’s about connecting to a real problem that exist and finding someone who is willing to pay when they solve it.. Startups needs direction from mentors in a continuous basis. Their emotional crisis is the key to handle. The next big challenge is the Marketing & Sales engine apart from technology.
How can one become partner/ mentor at BAL?
1. We are looking forward for sponsorship from large corporates to help the startup support system. We eventually want to make the space available for free if we get enough sponsors.
2. Looking for mentors who can mentor the startups in various stages
3. Service Providers to provide cost effective services to the startups
Please send us how you want to become partner with BAL, ideally the benefits for BAL startups in a single page and mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Next plans for BAL?
We got lot of enquires from Whitefield and North Bangalore. We are planning to open additional centers in next 2 to 3 months. We want to have partnership with all accelerators in India for space sharing.
We hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as we did doing it. Wishing BAL Team the very best!