(with Sarah Rosenthal)
Part A of the case describes the founding of the Indian Software Product Industry Roundtable (iSPIRT, pronounced “ispirit”), a nonprofit organization formed in 2012 by a small group of Indian entrepreneurs and technology professionals who believed that India’s tremendous engineering talent could be harnessed to transition the country from its role as the “back office of the world” into a “product nation” in its own right. Led almost entirely by volunteers, the group identified three major obstacles blocking the path of entrepreneurship and innovation in India: 1) obstructive government regulations and policies; 2) entrepreneur readiness (or lack thereof); and 3) the process by which potential acquirers/partners could “discover” Indian startups. Though iSPIRT engaged in numerous initiatives to address these challenges, it is the challenge of “discovery” that provides the focus of Part B of the case.
The learning objective of the case is to provide students with an opportunity to apply social network theory to a real life business challenge. As Rao, students are asked to navigate the challenges and opportunities and determine a pathway forward for launching M&A Connect based on limited financial resources and numerous constraints. What personal and professional networks should he tap into, what resources can he use, what value can he bring to the respective audiences with whom he is speaking? Once students learn the details around how Rao actually launched the program, they are then asked to evaluate the next steps in Part B. How can he overcome the dual challenge/opportunity that iSPIRT’s status as a nonprofit brings? What new challenges does he face as he attempts to identify the “top” entrepreneurs throughout India while at the same time trying to establish credibility with the top tier technology firms in the U.S.? As Rao refines his model, how can he go about scaling it such that iSPIRT can have