BENGALURU: As funding slows, early-stage startups are focusing on being lean and monetising their businesses quickly. Some are doing paid pilot projects — in cash flush times, they would have done such projects for free — while others are creating services businesses that can bring in money immediately to pay for their primary ventures, which they expect will take time to turn profitable. Some of this is being aided by the change in attitude of Indian enterprises. Many of companies today are willing to work with new ventures partly because of their realisation that they need to bring in new technologies. Additionally, they find the ventures capable of delivering these technologies. Evok Analytics is a fivemember team that has developed an analytics platform for retailers. The platform is still not available to all. Evok is piloting it with select retailers, and it is charging for the pilots. “Our revenues pay for the salaries and the salaries are almost at market levels,” says founder-director of Evok, Rohan Havaldar, who previously worked at BPO firm WNS, GSK Consumer Healthcare, and Pernod Ricard. UnCanny Vision, a computer vision technology platform, is also running paid pilots, while still creating new applications for its artificial intelligence (AI) product. It is working with a large retailer to identify empty racks, along with one of the largest luxury car makers to identify movements around driverless cars. “Two years ago, we would have done such pilots of our beta products for free. Not anymore,” says co-founder Navaneethan Sundaramoorthy. He said as potential customers see value in what the company does, they are willing to pay. UnCanny’s pilots usually fetch between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 20 lakh depending on the size of the project. That’s 5% to 15% of the total eventual revenue if it was to become a full-scale project. “For startups with around 10 employees or so, a few such pilots are good enough to break even,” says Sundaramoorthy. Ashish Dar, founder of personal stylist technology platform Dressire, says large companies take notice and give executive attention only when you compel them to pay for the service. Dressire’s prototype was out last year. After doing a free pilot with Shoppers’ Stop, Dar changed his strategy. He is closing a deal with another physical retailer for a paid pilot. A pilot lasts about eight weeks. Vidya Vellala, founder of ticketing software FastDesk, says enterprises used to be conservative about trying out new people, but that’s now changing. She funded her company, which she started a year ago, with the savings from her previous jobs at SAP Labs and Cognizant. She would allow customers to try out her platform for two months without charging. Two months ago, Vellala reduced the free trial period to 15 days when she realised customers were discovering the platform without her having to market aggressively. Parinitha Manohar, founder of Spalontime, a salon aggregator, went three months without any salary. “I was operating the platform almost like an NGO,” she says. With little revenue coming in even a year later, she decided to not just charge a commission on the spa deals, but also start a social media marketing service for all the salons.