Start Me Up! (Part 1): Indian Startup Scene in Silicon Valley

India's annual wholesale inflation for September firmed up slightly at (-) 4.54 percent from (-) 4.95 percent for the previous month, official data released on Wednesday showed.

“Start Me Up” photo credit: amythyst_lake / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Clearly, the world economy has rebounded since September 2014. And with that the venture capitalists (VCs) have opened up their purse strings with startup funding increasing 62 percent since 2013. A lot of this money is destined for Silicon Valley and some of it for India-associated startups. So what is being funded in the Indian Silicon Valley startup scene?

Economy Lead contacted a number of leading startups in Silicon Valley founded by those of Indian heritage or with significant operations in India to find out what they are up to with their slice of VC money. What follows is part one of a roundup of what’s hot right now among Indian startups.

Careers startup
In Pune, India, an interesting startup is CareersUnbound, which supplies online employee recruitment and training software. “instaTalent is our employee recruitment software, and instaSkills is our employee training software,” says Prasad Joshi, online marketing executive, CareersUnbound.

According to its website, instaTalent software makes cognitive assessments of prospective employees in real time on job boards across the internet, recommending the best candidate fits in a matter of moments. In addition, CareersUnbound says that instaSkills is a flexible, effective skillware platform that enables workforces to learn from anywhere on any device. With a highly customizable reporting system, employers can track individual performance as well as overall ROI of courses, according to the company.

Computer security startup
An expanding area of business for startups in India is computer security. One startup exploiting this exploding sector is Soha Systems from Bangalore and Silicon Valley. Offering a SaaS-based solution that allows companies to securely run enterprise applications in any cloud environment, Soha recently emerged from stealth mode with $9.8 million in Series A funding from investors such as Andreesen-Horowitz, Cervin Ventures, Menlo Ventures and Moment Ventures.

According to Soha CEO Haseeb Budhani, the legacy computer security model based on VPNs and firewalls is not a good one. Under this model, the entire network needs to be secured. “Nobody needs secure network access,” Budhani says. “They need secure access to two or three applications without having to change networks or devices.” That’s where Soha comes in with Security-as-a-Service (SaaS).

“Soha delivers instant application security for the cloud-enabled enterprise by unifying access and security,” Budhani says. “Enterprises can easily construct highly available trusted paths for users to access applications without making any changes to existing network and security policies.” The result is a secure application delivery model that enables a zero CapEx, low OpEx model for critical workloads deployed in public and private clouds, according to Soha.

Web application optimization startup
It may escape the attention of many web users, but more than 50 percent of all internet traffic goes through content delivery networks (CDNs), according to Yottaa, a web application optimization software company. “And by 2018, 57 percent of that traffic is expected to come from mobile devices,” says Vick Viren Vaishnavi, CEO, Yottaa. “Yet despite all that investment and the obvious movement to mobile, industry behemoths have been slow to respond to these dynamics. And enterprises and their customers will be left waiting for pages to load across all devices and applications.”

When it comes to industry behemoths, certainly Akamai Technologies, AT&T, Tata Communications and Verizon must count among the colossuses of the sector. But as with all corporate hulks, nimbleness has withered as one of their core competencies, thus making them miss this market inflection up to now. “That is Yottaa’s opportunity: to capitalize on the gap left by legacy solutions to optimize user experience for increasingly distributed web and mobile applications,” Vaishnavi says, “to improve not only performance and security but also profitability, efficiency and responsiveness.”

Patent and litigation technology startup
Someone once said that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. However, she may have overlooked the modernists’ penchant for taking each other to court. With so many lawsuits filed and other legal handiwork in need of attending, India-founded patent, litigation and technology consulting startup LexInnova sees a large niche in need of filling.

“While we provide an array of services, our key service that’s generated interest recently is providing consulting/analytics to leading technology companies by leveraging intellectual property,” says Abhi Verma, managing director, LexInnova, “to help them focus their R&D efforts and identify gaps, which they can fill by acquiring other companies or licensing their patents.”

While LexInnova has not yet received VC funding, it has had numerous offers to date. “However, we plan to seek funding this year,” Verma says, “as we expand rapidly and move some of our services to a SaaS model.”

Source of startup funding startup
Ironically, for this article, one of the leading Silicon Valley startups of Indian origin has generated more than $1.2 billion in funding for other startups and small businesses over its lifetime. This startup, Biz2Credit, founded by CEO Rohit Arora in 2007, is widely recognized as the No. 1 online credit resource for startup loans, lines of credit, equipment loans, working capital and other funding options, according to a company source.

“Using the latest technology, Biz2Credit matches borrowers to financial institutions based on each company’s unique profile,” Arora says of his insight into a gap in startup funding. “Despite small businesses being among banking institutions most profitable loan clients, many entrepreneurs and small business owners from South Asia and India seemed to have trouble securing bank loans—even though such entrepreneurs boast low default rates.”

A former consultant for Deloitte in the 2000s, Arora and his brother Ramit Arora come originally from Delhi, which gave them an appreciation for the obstacles that entrepreneurial Indian immigrants can face. Channeling that experience, in just eight years, Biz2Credit funding has helped create more than 11,000 jobs. And the funding pace should pick up this year based on projections for $600 million more of new business loans in 2015, according to Biz2Credit.

Smart grid startup
As smart grid technology catches on around the world for making electrical utilities more efficient, their needs for data analytics will only increase. One Indian startup rushing to fill that need is AutoGrid.

“AutoGrid’s software analyzes the exponentially expanding wave of data being generated by smart meters, building management systems, voltage regulators, thermostats and other equipment,” says Raj Pai, global head of products, AutoGrid. “So utilities can obtain precise insight into where power is going and enact automated, responsive controls in conjunction with their customers.”

With the recent release of its third version of the Energy Data Platform and in partnership with Microsoft and Trilliant to develop predictive analytics for utilities, AutoGrid is executing its vision. For example, the city of Palo Alto (California) utilities department has been able to use demand response to shed 1.2 megawatts per demand response event or reduce 3.5 MWh of total energy per event. This capability seems even more important in light of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission estimate that the United States could avoid building 188 gigawatts of power plants through dynamic peak power controls.

Look for part two of this Indian startup roundup later this week.

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a freelance journalist, blogger and content marketer in the high-tech industry with an emphasis on social media and related channels. He also blogs about nutritional supplements. He received his masters in business administration (MBA) and bachelors in journalism from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). The opinions expressed in this article are purely his and do not reflect the views of any of his past or present employers.