Ashwini Chhabra moves to Uber from NY’s Taxi and Limousine Commission

Hadi Aboukhater Uber BlogpostA surprising move leaves many industry insiders shocked, after , a Taxi and Limousine Commission office switched to the mobile based taxi startup, Uber. Ashwini Chhabra was the deputy commissioner for policy and planning at the Taxi and Limousine Commission. A couple of weeks ago, Ashwini announced that his new position at Uber will be head of policy development and community engagement. This move seems to illustrate a more cooperative relationship between the TLC and Uber.

The TLC is infamous for squashing innovation and newcomers to the industry. Uber moved to NYC is 2012 and the TLC immediately jumped on their backs with threats of fines and licenses suspensions if they so dare to take away fairs from yellow cabs. Because of these threats, Uber announced that they would move their services to a more open and innovation friendly city such as Toronto or Boston. The more Uber ran its services in New York; however, the more rave reviews started piling in. 18 months after their immersion into NYC in 2012, city officials approved their innovative technology. After this, more and more people began using the user-friendly Uber app as their main taxi service. The app is easy to use, and with its live GPS system that almost instantly attaches the user to a nearby car, people see little reason to go out and search for a taxi.

Even though the concept of Uber seems much better than your typical “hail a taxi scenario,” there are still some concerns with their service revolving around smartphones. Not everyone has smartphones, so some people might find it unfair that they cannot have the same accessibility to a taxi service because of their monetary situation. This has not stopped the TLC from praising Uber’s service and encouraging other similar apps to come out of the woodwork to compete with Uber. Uber is great for people and drivers (who are looking for an easy way to make extra cash) to locate each other when taxi hailing is not very prevalent.

Chhabra’s move is seen to be very timely in the eyes of the public. It will be interesting to see how this former TLC official will impact the developing 3-year company. Chhabra explained that regulators move a lot slower than entrepreneurs, so it is his hope to close that gap as Uber’s head of policy development.


AgTech to Invest in Booming Agricultural Biotech Companies

Hadi Aboukhater Agricultural BiotechA brand new $50 million dollar venture fund is being established in Davis, California to invest in the early stages of agricultural biotech companies. This fund is being called the AgTech Innovation Fund and it is structured as a limited partnership (LP). AgTech Innovation is looking to invest $250,000 to $500,000 in the initial startup fund for a group of companies in agricultural biotech, and more is to be promised to these companies depending on their degree of success. One of the managing partners of this new fund is John Selep who is a retired technology executive and tenured member of the Sacramento Angels (an angel investing group coming out of Sacramento, California). The other managing partner is Julie Morris who was the original chief financial officer of Marrone Bio Innovations Inc In Davis, CA.

Selep said that this was a good time to invest in these agricultural technology companies. The surrounding area around Davis, CA are a enormous amounts of growing agricultural technology companies and the biggest investors in the bay area are not concerned with how the technology works or the causes; however, they have noticed some interesting happenings regarding the industry.

AgraQuest, founded by Pam Marrone, was a biotech company bought by Bayer CropScience for $425 million in 2012. Her next company closed the Sacramento regions first successful initial public offering in decades with a net of $56.4 million. Another agricultural biotech company in Davis named BioConsortia raised $15 million in their round of funding. Davis is only part of the puzzle in this vast growing industry that is agricultural biotech. Selep is also looking in the Central Valley and Northern California, but Davis is the starting point. AgTech will use resources at the University of California Davis to expand their research and findings. Even though, there is a lot of talking about this fund, AgTech is yet to be actually created. The Sacramento region is booming with companies that are developing seed technologies, as well as farming and sustainability innovations in technology. This fund is not only looking at these technologies as opportunities, but more so towards vast sustainability in the global food production as well as major improvements in the quality of our soil, water, and energy.



Microsoft India aiding startups all over the world

Hadi Aboukhater Microsoft IndiaMicrosoft believes that startups in India have a much greater advantage than startups in any other country.  Microsoft has been engaged in developing, licensing, and supporting multiple software products and services; and they believe that India has a huge advantage because they have the world’s best developers. The core of a start-up is technology, and India is way ahead of the curb with its vast number of intelligent developers. Developers are a crucial part of the startup process, bringing the ingenious idea to product form.

Microsoft India has been present for the last 25 years and has taken various initiatives to develop the startup.  Microsoft India has also started a Microsoft Ventures project, which is a global initiative company that helps early entrepreneurs develop, license, and bring their products to market. The startups in India are a function of the people, just like any startup. It is about the idea, but mostly the execution of that idea. In this day and age of rising technology, people who have passion and desire to learn the intricacies of technologies will prosper in the startup environment.

Microsoft is noticing this momentum in tech startups, and this is why they are investing so much money in their startup development programs. There is still room for improvement in the Indian startup field. Joseph Landes, general manager of Microsoft India, told IANS in an interview that the area where they could spend more time and money was in user interface and design. People can have the best ideas on the planet, and they can find developers to code it; however, the difficult part is making it user friendly.

Two and a half weeks ago, Microsoft began their JumpStart program to help startups. JumpStart helps startups on the ground floor. For example, some of the simple questions that these early entrepreneurs have are what kind of papers need to be filed to the government to start a company. JumpStart is there with a free live person to contact to answer these ground floor questions.

BizSpark is another resource that early entrepreneurs can use. BizSpark gives startup CEOs the resources and tools they need to be successful. Microsoft also has an Accelerator in Bangalore where they take 15 companies a year and closely mentor and coach them throughout the ground floor of a company.