Calling all non-trepreneurs: your moment has arrived

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on September 10, 2013

From The News Desk

Rohit Singal started his career as a doctor with a penchant for technology. In between his shifts as a medical student at Rohtak Medical College, he met techies online through Internet Relay Chat, started his own forum, and taught himself programming. Eventually, he quit being a doctor to launch a startup.

The fruits of Singal's efforts, Sourcebits, is now a 7-year old company with $10 million in funding from Sequoia. It develops mobile apps for consumers and enterprises and helps companies set up systems in the cloud. It has created apps for companies ranging from Coca Cola to Twitpic.

Now, Singal is returning to his roots. Sourcebits just launched Product Studios, a program for individuals with expertise in other fields like medical or legal. Said individuals might have a great idea for a product but no clue how startups work, and that's where Sourcebits comes in.

The proposition has potential: a bridge for non-entrepreneurs into startups. A magic key for the sort of people who don't know what VC stands for and have never heard of Y Combinator.

The company will partner with nine aspiring entrepreneurs a year to help them launch a company, hire staff, produce a product, and find investors, in exchange for 20 percent equity. Sounds just like an incubator right?

Singal says it's not. He explains that Sourcebits will be working very intimately with the startups it chooses, to the point where Singal expects to have final veto over the employees hired into each company. Sourcebits will lead the talent recruitment efforts, build the entire technical team, and will pay the entrepreneurs' employees with checks signed by Sourcebits for the first year of the partnership.

That probably sounds like a pact with the devil for most aspiring tech founders. Give up not just five or ten percent of your company, but a whopping twenty percent? And another, bigger company picks your employees and has veto power? If Bill Gurley thought Paul Graham's deal was down and dirty, he'd probably call this bank robbery.

But Singal doesn't care what aspiring tech founders think since that's not who the program is targeted at. Sourcebits will be a co-founder for inexperienced entrepreneurs, guiding them through everything they need to know, and helping them find engineers to bring the product to life.

"There are a lot of people out there who want to change things, but they aren't finding the right partner," Singal says. This is an issue near and dear to his own heart, since he started innovating while he was still a doctor in India, about as far away from the Silicon Valley ecosystem as one might imagine.

As we covered in the last few days, two separate YC-backed startups recently shut down because their founders tried to tackle industries they didn't have domain experience in. Startups tend to ignore the importance of old-timey expertise. After all, we're all about disrupting traditional, slow sectors that have been doing something for so long they can't see the obvious ways to make it better.

But it makes sense there would be entrepreneurially minded individuals working for entrenched institutions who have ideas about innovating in their industry, but no clue how to bring those ideas to life. For them Sourcebits may make the perfect entrée to startup-dom.

There's one catch though: anyone interested in  such a partnership must first drop $25,000 on a one-day advising session with Sourcebits. It already runs these workshops for companies like Intel and Raleys.  Sourcebits execs spend hours critiquing a company's product vision, brainstorming what could be done better, and planning how to take it to the next level.

$25 K is a jaw-dropping number for a one day workshop, but this is the price entrepreneurs must pay before Sourcebits will consider accepting them into the Product Studios program. In case you're not dissuaded yet, get this: doing the workshop is not a guaranteed acceptance.

Singal shrugs his shoulders over Skype when I marveled at the fee. "This model is for the people who have the money but don't have the background and the technology to start their own company," Singal says. He's confident the price won't scare everyone away.

He may be right. Sourcebits has already accepted four companies into the program for the year so there's only five spots left.

[Image courtesy: Hallie Bateman]

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