Category Archives: Entrepreneurs

Jerry & Filo Framework

I belong the generation that grew watching Yahoo! grow big, used Y! messenger endlessly, and carried a dream to create something as simple and as big as Yahoo. During my Undergrad school in 2004, I came across a small video advertisement that portrayed Both Jerry Yang and David Filo in a casual setting.

This ad was the first of its kind I had ever seen. I connected with them almost instantly. Their chemistry was so smooth that it was deeply imprinted on my mind. Whenever I looked at someone to work or start a company with, I always imagined whether we could behave like the way Jerry and Filo did in the ad above. I called it as Jerry & Filo framework for myself. The framework was simple, but very effective. It helped me choose some amazing people I have worked with so far. It works even today, all the time, and I carry huge respect to both of them.

Following years Yahoo had its fallout and Jerry resigned as CEO in 2012. It was emotionally breaking for an insignificant admirer that I am. Last year through a friend, who now reports to Jerry, I discovered that they are based in Palo Alto. I came from India, visited their office, but returned back without meeting Jerry. He was probably sitting in an adjacent room. I was so close to one of my role models yet stayed away. Of course I’m sure about meeting him some day soon but with the right opportunity.

Today, Forbes published an insider story Finding Alibaba: How Jerry Yang Made The Most Lucrative Bet In Silicon Valley History. The story outlines the professional journey of Jerry, the epic role of Mayasoshi Son (Softbank), and the bonding between Jerry and jack Ma. An unexpected piece of information that really touched me

… But guess who’s getting a seat on Alibaba’s board post-IPO: nobody affiliated with Yahoo except Yang.

It is great to see genuine credits to Jerry Yang and hear about him in the valley again. I highly appreciate Jack Ma for this decision. The article has a video, The return of Jerry Yang, embedded at the bottom that shows he is back in action. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and seeing him in action again. It gives me hope, energy, and focus again.

Happy to have relocated to valley this year, don’t know why but it feels like coming home!

Rocket Execution

“It is not the idea, but the execution that matters”

For a long long time, the above principle has been the key to huge success, but for innovative entrepreneurs the above principle is seeing a generational shift.

I am reading a book called ‘The Dhandho Investor‘, written by Mohnish Pabrai – an iconic figure in the investment world, and the Chapter 14 in his book is titled, “Invest in Copycats rather than the innovators“. Simply because copycats are likely to show multiple degrees stronger financial returns to the investors than the innovators.

Despite active participation of people globally in consuming technology innovation at a higher rate than the previous year, stock markets continue to behave absolutely opposite. Such a contrast it is!

Having seen two pioneering software product startup cycles, and having witnessed both web and mobile evolutions very closely over last decade, I have come to believe that it is not the execution that wins the innovators anymore.

It is the “Rocket Execution” that keeps the innovator alive in today’s times.

Rocket Execution

Rocket Execution

I often state the term “Rocket Execution” in my conversations, however, people end up misunderstanding/ misinterpreting the term every single time. In a quick succession since yesterday, I read news about two young companies, which I truly admire.

Yesterday, I read about the next round of funding news of InMobi. InMobi team started early 2007 and pivoted towards current idea after a failed attempt. Let’s look at their statistics

165 countries (presence),
1000+ employees
$400 million revenue
750 million monthly active users
2.6 billion app downloads
126 billion monthly ad impressions (which is roughly 170 million impressions per second).

The company was valued at $1b in 2011 (within 4 years of existence). It is aiming to double the valuation in 2014 (within 3 years). Hopefully the next billion would be added in 2016 (within next 2 years). This is a classic example of ‘Rocket Execution’ because if you do not grow at that rate, technology innovation elsewhere will outpace you.

Today, I read about the $19 million funding news of Housing.com. A company that started around June 2012. Let’s look at their statistics

25 cities covered in India
12 co-founders (Whoa!)
900+ Employees
2000 houses listed per day
50,000 houses mapped in Bangalore
80,000 houses mapped in Mumbai

If you notice the quality of listings on their website, you will understand the value of listing 2000 houses per day. At this rate, the company will list 700K houses annually, which is not at all a bad number. But just 2 years in operation, the company is aiming to list 10,000 houses per day, 5 times the rate at which it lists today i.e. 3.5 million listings annually. This is another fantastic example of rocket execution. Scale before another technology innovation trumps your innovation.

If that was not enough, an interesting tweet from Navalkant validates the emergence of Rocket Execution little scientifically. It states

1999 – $5M to launch a product, 30M serious computer users.
2014 – $5K to launch a product, 3B serious phone users.
Leverage per $ is up 100,000x

So don’t get excited if you got a million users within a year, until the next million happened in 6 months and the next million in 3 months and so on. Rocket execution is the only way to leverage the never-existed-before power of the connected world.

Disclaimer – The published data is gathered through public sources and it does not reflect actual number that may be relevant now.

Why should you join early stage startup?

What does an early stage startup mean?

Though the definition would mean different to different people depending upon how many and how closely they have observed startups, In my association with four startups at different stages, I believe three of them qualify to be early stage startups broadly, and how do I define them are:

  • At the idea stage, where the team & fundamental ingredients are getting into place.
  • At the prototyping stage, also called bootstrapping and may be seed-funding stage.
  • Or already bootstrapped but still Pre-Angel or Series A Angel/VC stage.

Here’s the reason “Why should you join a startup at an early stage!”

As I had mentioned earlier that I’ll be presenting this BarCamp at Delhi, I owe an apology to all those wanting-to-be-attendee(s) for canceling the presentation on the spot.

The concept is taken from a book called “Life of Pie“, where the author discusses about the science behind the dilemma of lion while coming on to the stage.

Driving directions launch by Yahoo – An analysis

Although the GIS consumption in India is almost negligible, the pace with which the landscapes are moulding, cities are expanding outwards to the greener belts, heavy traffic conditions, emergence of giant flyovers/ Clover leaves, internet & mobile penetration etc etc has brought the need for better driving directions.

Till date the data collectors in India have survived only with the Govt. projects or the enterprise needs & this is the reason why they still lack decent consumer oriented data. Inspite of all this the GIS industry has seen a paradigm shift with some players moving up the value chain. While MapMyIndia offered a service first time relevant to the Indian boundaries, RouteGuru pioneered the idea of driving directions based on landmarks, however, today almost everyone has landmarks to offer while driving the consumers.

Detailed analysis of Yahoo India Maps & Driving Directions
Yahoo’s entry to the focussed driving directions in India at first seemed to be some sort of competition to me but soon I was delighted to realize how things are going to change in this sub-continent very soon w.r.t. GIS demand, consumption & acceptance.

After examining Y!’s recently launched service, it is apparent that they too suffer the several data related issues as does MapMyIndia. No wonder its only the same data vendor behind both of them, however, MapMyIndia still leads here because of the comprehensice feature set they already have & the support of their in-house data no doubt Y! has its own community to back them.

As per my observations, the driving directions by Y! are just average & only good for the Bird’s eye view through maps. Aspects that needs more attention are:

1. Providing landmarks is not the only solution, its the relevancy of the landmarks that eases the navigation. In my experiment with almost 10 routes in Delhi/ Bangalore I struggled to see any decent landmarks. Even if you carry the print-out of the current landmark based directions, it will even be difficult for the local auto-drivers to comprehend where the user is actually routed to? Relevancy of the landmark is something they need to work a lot around.

2. I was left surprised when it din’t recognize the Forum Mall in Bangalore, further trials for other famous POIs revealed the lack of POI names in the database, thus, the landmark names are relevant to the lines (roads) & Polys (localities, sub localities) but not points. Wondering what prevented them from including the point database?.

Also do not be surprised if you find a name for the road next to your house, which you always believed never existed. Now the question comes is, whether is it really helpful in navigating you from one point to the other?

Validation: A route from Kalkaji Mandir to Sukhdev Vihar in Delhi – Anybody can tell you the major landmark between the route is “Modi-Mills Flyover” but Y! tells “Bhakti Vedant Swami Marg flyover“. I have no idea if even the local street hawkers would know about that? Its not only in this particular route but a common problem.

3. On close examination, the shift in the satellite & graphical map images is also quite transparent, which is bound to happen as the data sources for both the images are different. Again wondering what sense would it make to the company?

4. Turn restriction information is something which they also struggle very badly with. It is so common a problem with almost every player today, I urge the data vendors to work little more onto it, however, I’m sure Yahoo must be pushing CEI to enhance the data with such information but then again the relationship between both of them need to be seen owing to the fact that CEI’s arm MapMyIndia stands in direct competition with Yahoo Maps now.

5. The selection of the POIs in the search field is quite non-intuitive & the fuzzy logic too doesn’t impress much.

6. They seem to have fixed this problem now.
The directions w.r.t. the roundabouts is again confusing. Lets say I have to take the 4th turn on the roundabout after I merge onto it from the road I’m coming from, the solution always guide you to take the further next turn i.e. 5th roundabout. This problem is so consistent everywhere that either they have considered the leaving road also as one turn or something which I couldn’t figure out. May be if someone can help me out with this!

7. Looking at the current service, another thought that sorrounds me is that this service is still motivated as a strategic move for the internet major rather than solving the problem in its own respect. Lack of any of the new killer feature surely disappointed me. I was quite sure to learn something new from their release. Anyway!

Some of the interesting things to notice are:

1. Faster Map rendering – The speed with which the map rendering is done is fantastic. This year (during May) Yahoo announced the discontinuation of De-Carta map engine RME to deploy an in-built Map rendering engine. This aspect is surely impressive & feeds confidence in Yahoo’ offering.

2. Soothing UI – Except their own dark red colored image on UI, it is innocent & immitates simplicity – a trend caught attention after Google’s homepage publicity.

3. Via Routing – Shoot a query “From A to B to C” takes the Via-routing considerations. Though it is no big deal but still makes it impressive with the initial offering.

All in all an average service, only good for the bird’s eye view for a route. Dependency on the names of POIs is highly debatable.

How Yahoo Maps will motivate competition?
While Y! Maps have done a good job than what is actually reflect in the analysis, what is to be noted is that it is actually the replica of something that is already in existence & nothing new (something strongly not expected from them & disappointed me). Rather than shrinking the opportunities for others, this offering will actually favor the startups operating in the similar space. Innovation in landmark based driving directions and to capture the confidence of the Indian audience are still a distant achievement.

It also signals an obligation for other horizontal portals like AOL, MSN, Indiatimes & recent entrant MiH to either tie-up with the major (which looks less likely) or to build partnership with the smaller players or may be to completely acquire some promising startup in the space, all of them will now have to pull their socks up!

The other interesting thing is that the landmark based driving directions will now become another phenomena not only in India but globally, we’ll soon have some benchmarks & interesting figures coming from Indian GIS industry in the consumer domain for the other countries to follow. Local search & travel search won’t mean anything without the integration with good driving directions.

More GIS startups, acquisitions & partnerships should soon be seen.

My personal Congratulations & good wishes to Yahoo Maps team!

Note: The views presented here are personal to the blogger & do not in anyway reflect that of the organization he works for.

Anatomy of successful products & an unknown soul!

(Trying to knit several unstructured threads of first hand real-time experiences in an unpolished manner. Firstly because I’d like to see & remind myself time & again about them, secondly people like me might relate something with them as well – yes all those better entrepreneurs in the making!)

Note: It is no wisdom, which is not already known, however, presented in different words & examples.

During the college days, while working with Stendek R&D, I mingled up with few finest of the techie minds around, therefore, discussions about great problems yet to be solved among several fields was quite a common phenomenon. It was these discussions that helped me in building a good philosophical attitude towards developing myself as a problem solver (or rather a problem analyzer with a solution oriented approach).

It was only during this time my confrontation with real techie/ engineering temperament happened (given the multi-kind of activities I observed those techie guys getting indulged into day/night). And yes it was natural to develop some beliefs & learn from the ambiance which many times is no more than the misguided learning. Yes misguided learning!

Misguided learning – Almost every programming stud believed (and also forced me believe) that writing “One killer program or application” is what it takes “to establish yourself to eventually start your own company” or in more optimistic/ marketing terms “to actually become famous”. People like Sabeer Bhatia, Alok Mittal etc. have even proved the theory and thus, it’s not easy to turn this perception the other way round.

Heck … if you dare!

Meaning to write on this for long, just that after attending Proto, Barcamp, OCC & some VCs in quick succession, the desire finally grew intense enough to give a meaningful structure to all this wisdom.

Two broad thought processes dealing with WHY & HOW for starting up are now followed further.

Fame Vs Credibility

Today almost everyone has ideas, almost everyone wants to be independent, and almost everyone wants to build a company. Ask them WHY, the answer broadly is to lead their life their way & become successful (with a hidden hint of becoming famous). Fame definitely brings the serial-success easier to achieve, so why not?

Also, whenever got a chance I dug down the “definition of success” that these people actually perceive. Surprisingly even most of the thoughtful people couldn’t define it more than some materialistic gains, which I (including many others) cease to agree, therefore, it somehow just happens to be an ambiguous English word that lot of us strive for.

Within myself I’ve however felt the two approaches that motivates a youngster (youngster here means a first time entrepreneur) when it comes to do something of his/ her interest

1. To become famous.
2. To build credibility.

Since both the approaches lead to self-motivation, considering any of them as inappropriate could be wrong. However, what needs to be understood is the boundary and limitations that both these approaches bring to your vision. Where these self explanatory phrases do not need a mean description from my side, what still needs to be understood is this simple mathematics that other’s experiences teach us:

Fame is the subset of credible track record

After meeting several wannabe(s) and understanding their psyche with due diligence, I realize how less in number the people we have in industry with this ground understanding. Need to remember that credible track record is something that helps you in how soon your product sees the northern trend in terms of funding, building team etc. etc. Striving for fame rarely leads to a “good” product and never “great” unless exceptionally favored by your astrological stars.

Killer App Vs Successful product

What we as programming studs again fail to see are the other ‘dimensions needed for this killer application to become successful & self-sustaining product’. Definitely “the business model” is the next keyword that will hit our mind when we talk about things like “sustainable” & “successful”.

India undoubtedly is one such country where almost every individual inherits good business understanding by birth; thus, explaining that ‘No killer application/product worth a penny without a viable business model’ would just be kidding. The question however remains is?

Is it only the killer app & the business model that you need to make a product successful? Or to say to build a successful organization/ company?

… and then there are hell lot of things like the team, market, research, funding, entrepreneurial wisdom etc etc. Yes we need to get aligned to all these trivial aspects all at one time. Since there is no thumb rule to success in this journey, therefore the wisdom collected at every step from different gurus will inevitably be different. This in turn leaves any amateur entrepreneur confused about how to develop their product in the form that will sustain in most of the unwanted and unavoidable conditions? And eventually struggle is what creeps slowly into our sleeves.

How good would it be, if we could conceptualize all these aspects of starting up process in a pictorial form or something that we can relate easily to?

The other day I sat confused, trying to hammer myself, wondering what exactly most successful companies/ products have in common? Why is that that some plain ideas go to enjoy the heaven while good ones survive? Why is this startup process so tedious even when we have best of the resources & lots of entrepreneurial wisdom all around? And several questions like that …

Their came the visualization of one of the finest products we know ever made on this planet – yes it’s The Human body! Trying to map 2-3 examples of good software products with it, I derived how all those most successful products resembled this Human body.

In my opinion any damn thing in life to become successful (be it a product, company/ or once own career etc.), it should resemble very much like a human body, broadly with these four major parts intact. How?

i. The Backbone (middle structure)

ii. The Legs (Foundation for the middle structure to stand)

iii. The Hands (Muscle Power, provides reach to longer distance being at the same place)

iv. Face (Structure with senses, synchronizing entity)

1. The Backbone (Killer-ness)

Let us assume that our killer app is actually killer in nature based on fundamental research of competitive products or the market needs, by this definition, it should qualify to be the backbone of the successful entity (product/company/career) we intend to build. This also indicates a good start and that we have some framework to build the castle around.

What needs to be still defined is the “killer-ness”. A recent discussion with a great visionary & my all-time personal mentor helped in objectively defining the killer-ness, which in simple terms is nothing but the USP of our product, which could be in any of these forms:

1. Technology – Something that is non-replicable at all else it takes significant time to replicate e.g. Google Search Algorithms

2. Speed of Execution – In any race the winner is always the one with maximum speed e.g. Miscrosoft Operating Systems

3. Innovation – Something which demands expert manpower, which either is unavailable or with greatest of the difficulties e.g. Photo search by Riya

If your product has anyone of these elements present, yes you earn the discount for filing the killer-ness to your product.

2. The Legs (Revenue Model)

Then what we fundamentally need are the legs to make this product run and what else than a good business model will help it to run? In essence, the business model forms the legs part of our framework.

Another aspect to always keep in mind is that the revenue model is never a rigid framework (and don’t let it ever become one); it is a continually evolving concept, demanding regular innovation.

I remember meeting few guys at a technology conference, who had developed a very useful software product for the enterprise application collaboration (I could definitely call that as a killer application) however, what I discovered later is the lack of monetization model around it. It was so pity to see the disappointment in their eyes for nobody having an interest to talk about their product & their struggle to formalize the monetization around it.

3. The Hands (A great team)

What we need for this semi-skeleton is the addition of a new structure that can help having a firm grip around the product (grip in the sense, having strong self belief, being always optimistic, to keep striving continuously, continually executing the business etc etc.). What else than a team can help you in holding your belief, product development, taking decisions and brainstorming etc? Yes once you have that Black cat commando team in place, believe it or not, you have actually come quite far yet too far behind to see a successful & sustainable product/ company etc.

More the power in your muscles better are your chances to lift heavy weight to a longer distance. Great team in a budding startup takes it a long long way even with the bad times looming around over the head.

Now think for a moment, a killer app, very good business model & a great team, what else do we need? Isn’t like all the basic fundamental things are actually in place to build a successful product/ company? In fact there must be some examples of success that might come to your mind immediately. Lets say some people see success with these elements in place, lets now call the success achieved with these three ingredients is CurrentSuccess.

4. The Face (Synchronization)

Can we imagine a body without a face? It assimilates all the most important senses required for a normal living i.e. eyes, ears, nose, tongue and Big B(rain), hence needs to be taken very very seriously. This tells me that even after having that killer App, business model and good team in place, still there’s something that is very very crucial for the product to succeed. Lets check them out what could it potentially mean?

Even if we have all the other parts of body in place functioning perfectly, will they be of any use without some good synchronization?

Definitely not! However, our body synchronizes broadly in two ways

i. Internal Synchronization

It requires an un-drunk mind to synchronize them all, to talk to one part of the body on behalf of another to keep running the complete framework (Backbone, legs & hands to work in harmony). This is precisely the role played by the top management (directors) in the company. An advisory board however, suffice to the thought process & actions being taken by the management at various stages (pre-funding, pre-revenue), they help all the functions remain in control in accordance to their directions & talk to other businesses/ investors/ potential clients on your behalf to build partnerships, bring funding & enhancing the sales etc.

ii. External Synchronization

Ears, Eyes, Nose, Tongue are all the senses that take inputs from the outside world, therefore, helps in synchronizing the body with the external world. And do we have at all doubt understanding the importance of any of these organs in their own capacity.

Today the User Generated Content (UGC) also referred as web2.0 in consumer oriented Internet industry, customer support, after sales service, corporate blogging etc are nothing but about building these senses for the product. All this helps in synchronizing & adapting the product/ company with the external surroundings/ expectations.

I’ve now started to believe that the success a product/ company would see without having facial structure in place (i.e. CurrentSuccess defined above) would be a small subset of the actual success that this product could potentially see otherwise. Lets call the otherwise potential success as PotentialSuccess.

If we now observe the gap between these two successes, it usually is a substantial difference. This difference is actually the success not achieved by the company/ product, which in my view should go to the failure account; thus, whole new definition of failure comes as:

Failure = PotentialSuccess – CurrentSuccess

And probably this is the reason, when we develop a product it is not less than our child. After all it’s about giving birth to a completely non-existent entity. So your love towards it is quite inevitable!

Having mentioned all that realization in print about having a body in place doesn’t necessary guarantee of a successful product/company! A body is always driven by a “Soul”, which still is an unknown & most debated entity to everyone around (including me). Its just the interpretations that exists.

Finally it comes to something, something which is unknown!

Open Coffee Club – Bangalore Chapter

Looking forward to a platform for the entrepreneurs/ technologists/ VCs/ Angels/ enthusiasts to talk about themselves little more, find potential technical & Business intellect around?

Open Coffee Club – Goes very much in essence with open source ethics that the source code is available but may not be free and so it means for Coffee. However, the gathering is not about coffee more than that the place might serve you good coffee over the discussion.

As a member & as an observer, there are 2-3 good things about OCC, which can make this event a potential one to find a hook in building this ecosystem.

1. The so called coordinators are quite young – (Ramjee & Vaibhav) In the sense, they are learning the starting up process, quite passionate about it, probably not very much diplomatic in talks and thats what I find as the No. 1 differentiator. Sometimes the freshness & innocense is best roped in by some amateurishness as well to such open ad-hoc meetups.

2. High frequency + lesser time of the event – Its been voted out to be conducted once every fortnight on Sundays for just few hours, which definitely seems to be in the reach of many guys, given the Sunday and less traffic on Bangalore roads. However, to make most out of it still remains the challenge.

3. Use of collective learning from other such eventsBarcamps, MoMos, Blogalorean, Proto etc. have now given quite a good amount of learning in terms of what is the missing thread and what more is the need of the people, thus, a high probability of making it little more meaningful & structured than it is required to be ad-hoc.

A common aspect – Such events usually see the same faces dominating the sessions/ conversations/ self-discussions wherever you go. This always makes me concerned about those talented people with real insights into industry, who usually shy away either being introverts or to avoid any fiesty conversation. And I experience it everytime during any networking session (typically while exchanging the cards) when people share their experiences & work they have been doing in the past.

However, personally OCC meet for me was little nostalgic, it did give me a chance to see the last gathering in Bangalore. It was also nice to see the support few guys extended to help me out in establishing such chapters in Delhi as well. No idea how much time will I have for organising such activities but yes will definitely strive for materialising something like this.

2-Cents worth words to make OCC little better. I see these aspects missing in any event and would love to see such things happening definitely in future.

1. Idea Ceremony -Every single person comes up with an idea today, at the end of the day they want somebody to hear them, why not build and ecosystem to give few patient ears to these crude ideas.

Invite them to demonstrate their comprehension out of that diary where they have been holding that killer idea just to themselves (of course if they are comfortable). Give them about 10 min. to explain (lesser time promises to avoid fuzzy talks) and help them collect the written/ Oral/ voted feedback they have been looking forward to. Probably 3 ideas per meet can ensure a good quality.

2. Structured pre-planned talk by a well known person from the industry/ Academia to help people find some words of widom as well to take back home. I don’t know why do we miss Academic people in such gatherings. We have wonderful Professors around like Prof. Sadagopan (IIIT Director), Prof. J. Ramachandran (IIM Bangalore), IISc. Faculty etc. They will definitely be able to fill the gap between the good product companies to great ones as they come up with real research insights on several aspects.

3. Competitions/ Contests – Ask the startup guys joining the meet to sponsor small-small events like quizzes etc. just to promote the high energy levels and creativity in the group. In turn they too can promote their startup with a minimal cost of marketing.

4. Promote Hiring – Also why not have some time reserved (ad-hoc basis) for employers to promote hiring right there, or may be ask someone looking out for a Job to present himself about the kind of job he/ she is looking forward to.

I’m sure this can resolve good amount of Talent acquisition needs of the startup guys. And if someone finds a person through these meets, they should be honest enough in giving back something to the OCC in some way or the other (however, not necessary ofcourse).

5. Monthly Newsletter(online/ hard copy) – Publishing featured talks, featured startups presence, VC presence, general Networking Photographs etc. Just like some college monthly Magazine that comes every month. Someone can definitely take up such responsibilities, this also ensures overall participation.

6. Providing visibility to all the people who attends the session later on. Very small thing but can do wonders to motivate people to bring in innovative ideas next time to the meet.

Join OCC Bangalore Mailing List .

P.S. Very much in essence with this Blog’s motive, these are very much personal views. However, I love & prefer dicussions over the blog not debates.

“Collective’s” Concert this BCB4

If your product is graduating this weekend or your thought to build that product is graduating, Barcamp Bangalore gives you all the better experience of graduation ceremony thrice a year (or may be 4 times a year further!).

This year’s second ceremony is confirmed to be at the end of this month i.e. 28-29th July at IIMB (same venue as it was for BCB3).

Barcamp Bangalore 4

However, there seems to be some fundamental difference, the patch is the concept of ‘Collectives’. You now have the flexibility to network even before the event based on your collective interest.

A better version indeed

You may find interested in voting for some of the interesting logo(s) waiting for the attention. VOTE

However, complete details would be interested in seeing you at the BCB4 Main Page.