1. What was the experience like?
Balvinder: It was totally awesome. Just nine months ago, we were not even into “pitching to investor” mode. We had been doing typical presentations to potential clients. The whole journey itself had been very educational and had profound positive change in our outlook.
2. What did you hope to gain from Echelon?
Balvinder: We went in with the aim to introduce our solution to as many people as possible – investors, resellers, technology partners, bankers, etc – and we got an overwhelming response.
We managed to generate leads from various levels of people and from various countries. The two days at Echelon had given us more traction than the previous three conferences we attended. The quality and variety of people who approached us was phenomenal.
3. You went on stage to present to potential investors. Tell us about your experience?
Balvinder: Truthfully, I was very nervous. It was not only because I was facing potential investors, but also more than 1,200 people (that’s 2,400 eyes)! All our anxiety somewhat disappeared thanks to the professionalism of the organisers. For anyone who wants to experience what we just experienced, JUST DO IT! We have very limited platforms of this sort in this region. If the opportunity comes, just grab it!
4. How did you feel when the investors started to question you and when you weren’t selected for any of the awards?
Balvinder: I believe in being ethical and that includes to never tell lies. Lying is simply wrong! Also common sense tells us that you take up more energy when you lie because when you do, you need to keep track of what you’ve said.
When the investors asked me a specific question, I could have lied and probably won an award but I believe it is important for startups to never lie or take advantage of their assumed lack of knowledge in a certain field.
Because I didn’t try to cover up anything, I had a small “debate” with one of the judges. That probably cost me the award. But on the plus side, investors respected my honesty and understood my shortcomings as a human being. The bottom line is that we came to expand our network and we achieved just that.
5. What were the three lessons you learned from Echelon and how will you use these lessons to bring your business forward?
Balvinder: Some of the lessons I learned:
1. Ignore titles and salutation. Pompousness is the enemy of the start-up community. If you want to succeed as a start-up, ignore people’s titles and salutations, accept people as they are, and treat everyone with respect and kindness.
2. The essence of our solution is making “meaning”. We do know that we are in the business to make money, but we are also equally excited that our solution can have a profound impact in people especially in the developing nations. Our solution is not something nice to have but an essential tool to enable people to be part of financial inclusion. Financial inclusion not only benefits the poor financially but also health wise. The more we spoke with people from other parts of the world who attended Echelon, the more convinced we are with regards to our social responsibility.
3. Finding the surest and fastest method to reach the goal. During the ongoing discussions with people who approached us, we have been lucky to get advice and insight from other participants. Such advice enabled us to review and change our approach in raising funds and we’ve also made changes to our investor decks.
LIFE LONG LEARNING
Co-founder and CEO of Easyuni Sdn Bhd, Edwin Tay had the opportunity to rub shoulders with investors and delegates at Echelon 2014 in Singapore. Many came by his booth to learn more about higher-education search portal, Easyuni. Edwin speaks about his experience of exhibiting in one of the biggest start-up conferences in the Asia Pacific region.