HyperTrack — making sense of location

This is a guest post by Ashish Gupta the newest member of our Board of Directors. Ashish is the only person we know who has been angel investor in four Indian startups that went on to become billion dollar companies – MuSigma MakeMyTrip InfoEdge and Flipkart. Ashish co-founded Helion Ventures and serves as their Managing Director. He is a Kauffman Fellow holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s degree from IIT Kanpur where he was awarded the highest academic honor the President’s Gold Medal. HyperTrack is the only company (as of publishing this post) outside of the Helion portfolio where Ashish is on the Board of Directors. The previous two companies that earned this distinction were MuSigma and InfoEdge (Naukri.com). We are privileged to have him on the ride.

I am glad to add my pin to the hypertrack.com destination. Lots of good stuff happening there but first I need to reminisce because it has taken me nearly two decades to get to this pin!  Would HyperTrack have been able to predict this ETA?

Kashyap and I first met in 1999. He was a budding entrepreneur and I was a budding angel investor. Match made in heaven. A group of high quality IIT Bombay grads were starting RightHalf and had been funded by one of my co-founders from Junglee. I vividly remember the hotel room where we met –  crammed together on the floor and on a bed. Totally defined the moment. The meeting itself was mixed because while the quality of the founders was top notch the idea itself did not resonate with me. They needed more market reality awareness. Then and now I struggle with passing judgement on an idea given that execution changes every idea. Especially in the hands of a good team. Nevertheless I remember pouring cold water on the RightHalf team and I am grateful that they still stay in touch.

We had another opportunity to work together when we both moved back to India and Kashyap started Chaupaati. While I wasted a lot of his time understanding that business I was unconvinced about joining that journey. So here we are after he has built and sold Chaupaati and then Chalo; that we are finally together on the board of a company. Despite his notoriety as an author I am still excited about  HyperTrack.

Kashyap is just one part of the HyperTrack appeal. Tapan and other team members make the company a great team to learn with. Their commitment and quality comes across in both their past accomplishments and how they approach HyperTrack. Several of them relocated from their long-time homes to a far less attractive city (aka Delhi) when the company was a mere idea – no hedging or excuses. And these are senior people with real opportunity cost who are no longer naive about startups – making the decision that much more meaningful. Or take their approach to building a developer-first business. They have chosen to say no to several investors who do not share the conviction of this approach. Or their success in creating the right pull among marquee customers that requires a good mix of creating access selling and influencing. All in all its an exciting team solving an important problem.

Given that mobile computing has become a fact of life most applications need location oriented functionality – location is merely mobility-at-one-point-in-time. We have all encountered basic functionality like predicting the time of arrival of a cab. That could be enhanced to instead predict time of performing a task at a generic destination by combining arrival time wait time and drive time. Now imagine doing this when there are other intermediate tasks before this one. While seemingly straightforward now one needs to predict wait time which is enabled by aggregating consumer data deconstructing it to the right model and applying learning to it. In a business scenario one delivery company may want to optimize fuel-cost another may want delivery times and a third may want to minimize overall cost (fuel plus productivity). The list goes on where nearly all applications on the mobile phone can benefit from adding location oriented functionality. Additionally there are many opportunities in the layers below the business logic – how to efficiently gather phone location data how to store it and analyze it how to combine it with a lot of other types of data and make all this available through simple APIs.

HyperTrack will continue providing increasingly richer building blocks that leverage location (value-added-location as a service). This is similar to what Twilio has done for communication functionality. For all software stocks there have been successful businesses providing building blocks e.g. login modules or analytics modules.  Location is exciting because it can drive significant value in revenue related functionality. Further it is a high-usage real-time service spanning many features of an application – hence has  high long term stickiness and value.

I look forward to HyperTrack becoming a globally successful venture leveraging high quality talent in India and their understanding of how to go to market using the Internet.