80 AI startups, 3 days, and a whole lotta learning: My SaaSBoomi AI Bootcamp adventure

Who knew volunteering could be so much fun, fulfilling, and educational? From June 7th to 9th, I dove headfirst into the SaaSBoomi AI Bootcamp at the Signature Club Resort in Bangalore. This wasn’t your average conference; it was an intense, three-day immersion for 80 early-stage AI SaaS startups. Topics ranged from the nitty-gritty of AI-native go-to-market strategies by Sanket from inVideo to the lofty dreams of building something truly groundbreaking by Shekhar Kirani from Accel.

Flashback: How I Got Pulled In

My SaaSBoomi journey began with a smaller volunteering gig at the Annual 2024. It was a breath of fresh air – a community of founders who were open, vulnerable, and genuinely helpful rather than communities where founders put up a facade of things that were always great and transactional. I was at a crossroads after closing down my previous company (Pillow), and folks like Ashwin Ramasamy, Rajeev Chari, and Prashanth Ganesh went out of their way to offer advice and guidance. These were folks I had never met in the past before the event! That struck a chord with me. This was a community I wanted to be a part of and pay it forward myself.

Fast forward to late March. I’m on a vacation with my partner when Avinash pinged me about an AI Bootcamp that was coming up and checked if I wanted to volunteer. It was inspired by the success of PNGrowth, which helped propel some of today’s biggest SaaS companies like WhatFix. I should have jumped at the chance to help, but instead, I foolishly asked for time to “sleep on it.” Oops.

The Puzzle Pieces Start Coming Together

When I finally joined the first meeting, the program team (Sumanth, Chaitanya, Sanket, Nivedha, and Matthew) had already been working for a couple of weeks. They had a rough outline of topics and an ambitious goal of getting 120 people at the Bootcamp. But so much was still up in the air: final speakers, outreach, logistics, activities… it was a puzzle with lots of missing pieces.

My first couple of meetings were spent getting up to speed. I even asked Avinash, “Is there something I can take on?” I felt like I wasn’t contributing enough. His response? “Your role will come into play as we open applications and the logistics kick in.”

Pods, Facilitators, and Fostering 2 AM Friendships

Apart from making founders rethink their business for the AI world and walk away with rich learnings, one of the Bootcamp’s critical goals was to create “2 AM buddies” – those friends you can call anytime when things get tough. Matthew spearheaded this effort, and the idea of pods and facilitators was born.

We’d split the 80 founders into 10 pods of 8. Each pod would have structured activities and games designed to foster bonding. To ensure inclusivity and smooth interactions, we brought in facilitators – experienced founders from the SaaSBoomi community. We had an all-star lineup: Abhi, Anupama, Ashwin, Deepti, Kishore, Pallav, Pavan, Rahul, Robin, Shruti, Siva, Sridhar Sudheer, Umesh, and Vengat.

We brainstormed activities like “Two Truths and a Lie,” story circles, board games, and group exercises. It was all about creating a fun environment where connections could happen organically.

The Last-Minute Scramble

We faced a hurdle: not enough applications. Mayank stepped up and created a meticulous outreach process and mentoring Devansh along the way. It was a huge success! We ended up with 233 applications, of which 81 companies were accepted.

But with 1.5 weeks to go, PC from the team remarked how only about 45-50  attendees had confirmed and it looked like we might have to close out the applications at 60 founders. It was nerve-wracking.  In true engineering student fashion, confirmations poured in during the last week. Looks like deadlines are the biggest motivator, even as adults running large businesses. 

As the event neared, the logistics got real. Keerthi took charge of the venue and all the swag. 

We hit our cap of 80, but then came the juggling act of cancellations, waitlists, and facilitator changes. It was a whirlwind of follow-ups, right up until the last day when we were accommodating people on the waitlist as some founders had to drop out because of emergency situations. Amrutha was a fantastic sounding board and did a lot of the heavy lifting on this front and in the on-ground logistics during the event.

Robin, from the Parallel Labs team, who was helping speakers with their workshop experience, accommodated even last-minute requests on the day of the event to arrive with nearly 2000 pages of prints!

The program team, with Sumant and Nivedha, did a phenomenal job of putting together an exciting line-up of speakers, covering different facets that would be important for a startup in the AI era to reflect on and strategize – right from Anshul who broke conceptions on building tech rapidly to Rajan covering founder tactics for PMF in AI.

The Magic of the Right Team

The day of the event came and three days flew by before I knew it. Many interesting conversations, numerous new friends made, and a lot of banter later, we bid adieu to each other.

Avinash often mentions that the key to successful events is identifying and empowering the right people. That’s when the magic happens by itself. Resonates as much in building a startup as it does in organizing events.

Besides taking copious notes on the nuggets of wisdom that would have added value to all companies present (seriously, those sessions were packed with insights!), the most rewarding part was seeing the pods bonding late into the night, playing games in the mornings, and sharing inside jokes. Mission “2 AM buddies” accomplished. *high-fives Matthew on the side*

Glad to say that I walked away with a strong set of my 2AM buddies as well 🙂

A Glimpse into India’s Product Future

SaaSBoomi’s vision is for India to become a product nation – one that creates and innovates, not just copies. If this Bootcamp is any indication, that vision is within reach. I’m confident that 10 years from now, we’ll be looking back at some of these companies as incredible success stories.

I’m immensely grateful to Avinash and SaaSBoomi for this opportunity. Bring on the next volunteering adventure!

About the author

Rajath KM

Volunteer, SaaSBoomi
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