India Summer 2012 Blog

Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
July 2, 2012 to Aug. 15, 2012

The Dress Rehearsal

Ian Jacobi

Aug. 8, 2012

One day away from the finale of the AITI India program, and it's amazing to see how far these teams have come!  Tonight, we had our "dress rehearsal" for the pitch contest to be held tomorrow night, which meant that we got to see all the teams pitch their (more or less) final presentations.  Although we had a Pitch Lab last Sunday, these presentations have come a long way since even then, and I'm impressed by their quality and content. Practically all of the teams have some sort of mockup of their app, and a good number actually have a working demo (on a real device no less!), although the time constraints of the pitches prevent them from really showing them off.

The presentations themselves are pretty good as well. The teams have really taken the feedback Bryan and the class has given them and used it to build some decent presentations. I think more than one of our teams stands a shot at the grand prize tomorrow if their pitches go well.

Anyway, at today's dress rehearsal, I spent most of my time running around taking pictures of the groups, so I'll finish up with a few choice ones.

End of Week Three: The Technical Lectures So Far

Ian Jacobi

Aug. 8, 2012

Yesterday, July 19, marked the start of the Fall term here at IITB, so it is as good a time as any to offer a view into some of the technical content of the course over the past three weeks as we prepare to shift to covering practical deployment issues in the few remaining technical lectures we have left.

As most of our students have had previous exposure to programming either C++ or Python, week one began fast and furious with a look into the basic development of user interfaces in Android, as well as a little bit about version control, unit tests, and accessing the web from Java. Although the Java syntax was perhaps a bit of a difficult hurdle for many students who had not actually seen Java before, a review/overview session on Saturday which provided a short crash-course in object-oriented syntax in Java and Python gave many of the students the confidence they needed to start tackling the labs and team projects the following week.  Students greatly enjoyed the opportunity to really get to work with Java and Python and I think it really motivated them to start experimenting on their own.

AITI students at IITB hard at work on a technical exercise.

Week two shifted the focus away from Android and towards the Django web application framework. Each day (Monday through Wednesday) focused on a different major component of Django: Models, Views, and finally Templates, while Thursday was reserved for some discussion about administration and tips about designing user interfaces (such as through the use of paper mockups) so that students would be ready to break ground on their team's programs that Saturday, when we held our first Hackathon to encourage groups to get help with starting and working on their projects.  Although only about half of the groups showed up, I think those that came got started on the right foot and are now moving in the right direction with their projects.

Week three (this week) saw a return to Android, as we covered more advanced topics based on the needs of the different groups. We started on Monday with the topic of Multithreading on Android, as the topic had come up when several students had turned in their Lab 2 (which required network access) and reported that their labs had crashed because Android 4 requires network code to run in a different thread. Tuesday saw a lecture on Android's location services, as several teams are working on ideas that make use of the current location of a user to either filter results or control their app's behavior. Finally, Wednesday's lecture included a discussion of security concerns in both Android apps and web apps to motivate the teams to be thinking about data security issues when they deploy their applications to the public.

The students seem to be enjoying the material (particularly the exercises we've added to the lectures to help give hands-on experience) and I've been consistently impressed by their level of achievement so far.  I am eagerly awaiting our next hackathon next week (July 28) to see how far the teams have come in realizing their ideas in such a short amount of time.  I can only hope I can keep up myself!  For now though, it's time to start grading labs!

End of Week 4: HackAThons and Pitch Labs

Divya Bajekal

July 30, 2012

Another week has flown by, which means we have less than two weeks left until the startup showcase! The instructors are focusing on getting all of the teams ready to show off their best. On the technical side, Ian and I held a HackAThon on Saturday to help teams with their prototypes. Most of the teams took advantage of this time to get together and work on developing their demos. We were able to work with students one-on-one and help each of them with their specific questions. The students liked the HackAThon so much that several of them requested us to hold another HackAThon on Sunday, which we gladly agreed to do. The double-HackAThon-weekend helped many teams move closer to a working prototype.

Bryan and Anjali are working with the teams to perfect their presentations for the showcase. On Friday, we held a Pitch Lab to give each of the teams a chance to practice. Each team was given 8 minutes to pitch their idea, demo their product, and explain their business model before making their “ask” for whatever they will need to make their business successful. The instructors critiqued the teams on each of these aspects as well as on their slide decks. The teams also received feedback from their classmates.   

Some of the teams already have a very polished and professional presentation style, while other teams have to spend more time on developing the organization/flow of their presentation and work on connecting to their audience. This week’s lectures will involve hands-on exercises to help students practice these aspects of presenting. We also have another Pitch Lab planned for the end of the week.

Everyone’s getting excited as the startup showcase nears, and I can’t wait to see how the teams’ pitches and prototypes develop over this week!

Day 3: Creating Customer Personas

Bryan Drake

July 4, 2012

On the technical side today, Ian gave us a nice overview of managing the Android application stack and some general navigation methods. I think we’re all excited to get into the lab tomorrow and start actually getting our hands dirty with some code.

On the entrepreneurship side we talked about developing specific customer personas by looking at Porsche and Zomato. Each entrepreneurial team is going to create their own customer persona over the weekend as well as doing some deep research on another startup in the field that they’re working on.

Teams are starting to form up well, but there are still a few stragglers. This should clear itself up pretty quickly though. I’m also able to announce that we’ve managed to secure seven fantastic mentors for our students with a full five of them coming from the Mumbai Angels group. Thank you to everyone involved in setting this up - especially Sriram Emani!

Our first speaker, Martin Harris from GSMA, is coming in tomorrow and we’re all pretty excited about it. I’ll tell you how it goes then. 


Day 2: Peer Pitches

Bryan Drake

July 4, 2012

Today we ran five rounds of peer pitching and then peer scoring afterwards. Everyone was really enthused to pitch their ideas to each other and people really haggled hard to get the scores they wanted. Here’s an explanation of the format we used:

        Each side will have two minutes to talk. There will then be one minute to divide the points and find a new partner.

       Scoring: Between the two of you must split seven points, this means that one person may take all seven,  one person may take four and the other three, or any combination that adds to seven. If you cannot agree both people take zero points, there are no half points! You cannot split seven into 3.5 and 3.5!

       The top 15 entrepreneurs will pitch to the class and we’ll form teams from that.


We had some great pitches come out. You can see video of all of them ( except one that I missed) here:


The peer pitching was a bit difficult, mostly in trying to get people to stay on time. I was harshly introduced to the idea of India Standard Time and had to explain that, even though I like being a bit relaxed, it just doesn’t work outside of India. I think some entrepreneurs learned that the hard way. Overall though, everyone enjoyed having to sell their idea to their peers!


It was great to see what ideas people have and how teams are starting to shape up. The next step is finding our first customers and testing the market a bit with our products. 

Day 1: Off to a Great Start

Bryan Drake

July 3, 2012

We had our first class today and people came prepared with great ideas. I think we’re all very impressed each of the entrepreneurs and everything that they bring to the table. It was great to see all of those seats filled with people eager to start their business. Also, I officially gave everyone the title of start-up CEO and made them responsible for their own destinies – I figure that ought to do it.

We talked about a lot of different ways to start businesses ( good and bad), saw examples of elevator pitches ( good and bad ) and even had two people in the class come up and pitch their ideas ( both good!). I think that people are still getting ready to pitch tomorrow, but I’m excited to hear even more of their specific ideas.

At the end of class we took a few minutes to brainstorm ideas for tomorrow by breaking into topic groups. The topics our CEOs came up with were :

  • Healthcare
  • GPS
  • Comics
  • Fashion Transportation
  • Finance
  • Education
  • Personal Banking ( micro-banking)
  • Restaurant Service Industry

A pretty impressive list!

Later on, Ian took the stage and gave an overview of Android and branching in general. I think both of lecturers did a great job today, and I hope that everyone’s looking forward to starting to find their teams tomorrow.

Day 0: Preparations and Some Sight-Seeing

Bryan Drake

July 1, 2012

It’s the day before our first class and I’m happy to report that everyone on the team is accounted for! We spent the weekend meeting with the team at IIT hammering out all remaining logistics and prepping for classes in the upcoming week.  Everyone was enthusiastic and anticipating a great six weeks ahead.


Everyone says it, but I have to repeat, that the IIT Bombay campus is beautiful. The campus is maintained like a park and it seems that every window has a view out over Powai Lake.


We’re all ready to meet the entrepreneurs that are here on campus. I’m hoping that what we have planned for tomorrow meets their expectations and that they come up with some pretty great ideas for what they’d like to do. Getting ready for this class I came to realize that so much of what the students learn comes not from us, as instructors, but from their successful ( and some not as successful )  moments – experiential learning at its best!


Can’t wait to get it started!