Fishes swim, birds fly, startups fail !

January 27, 2009 by · 6 Comments
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Last Friday and Saturday I was mostly at  proto I don’t have very structured summary but I’ll jot down few points which I still remember:

1. One of the outstanding session in my opinion was the WATBlog panel on ” Lessions Learnt from the Failures of Startups”. It stands out primarily because of level of openness shown and shared by the panelists – Rohit Agarwal, Suresh Sambandam, K.Ganapathy Subramanian and Santosh Dawara. Look out for video of this post, it should come out soon, since it has been requested more than once over here . In the meantime I’ll jot down some pearls of wisdom from this session :

Q- Failure in startups are because of some problem with the business model and assumptions you start with or because of failure to execute them
A.(Rohit) – Every single time it is combination of both.

Q. In what way your work experience help in startup ?
A.(Suresh) – Primarily in two ways a) It sometimes allows you to concretely identify some problem which you go out to solve(mostly with some domain knowledge). b. Particularly for techies – it allows you to understand other’s concern in a better way(aka man management I believe)

Q. Do you feel guilty, unhappy about failure of techtribe ?
A.(Rohit)- I guilty/unhappy Rohit doesn’t help anybody. I am not. If one is so concerned about stakeholders in previous venture, he should better allocate some part for them in next one.

Q. Do VCs help ?

A. (Ganapathy- note he was a VC for ~10 yes) – No not much. They can give you emotional support, networking help. But don’t expect them to run your business or do the marketing. That is your job. If VCs were smart enough they would be running the company themselves(it was in lighter vein I believe)

-(Rohit) – Alok( from Canaan Partners I guess)   supported me lot more than I had expected. Every time I felt it is not working  he would say let’s try a bit more, change the model a bit…

This quote came somewhere in discussion I don’t remember where (assume it a bonus !) – “Emotional decisions are not taken on percentage probability basis”

All these are great, but to me what stands out from this is following –

With respect to startups in europe and us and the video linked in my previous post , we have been closer to Europe than to US in entrepreneurship, even though quite a bit of your higher technical education is modeled on US. This may have to do with our culture. Here aaram(don’t confuse it with comfort), has been considered an inherent quality associated with job. So few things are changing, people are willing to talk about their failures and share their learning. We may not have reached the stage where kids can and tell their parents that they left their job to do something, which according to probability and statistics has greater chance of failure than success(aka startups), but may be we are going towards a point where you can tell your friends the same and need not explain more. That coupled with things mentioned here on readwriteweb should be a welcome change indeed.

One speaker who really caught my attention was Ashish Gupta from Helion Ventures. His answers in the QA session after the session ‘Building that winning team” were really concise and no nonsense.  Sample this –

Q. Say you made a bad hiring and also promised him/her things which you can’t fulfill, how do you ease him out /get out of the mess ?
A. Don’t be diplomatic , trying the avoid the blame. Take the beating for the mess you created. Go and say I messed up, sorry I can’t keep my promise. It is important thing to do, so that you learn not to do it next time.

Now onwards, I’ll try to attend sessions from Ashish as and when I can. You can sometimes read/hear him on pluggd.in

I saw only one mention of bottom of pyramid but Abhishek Sinha from Eko during the conversation on ” Building a Business that Impacts Lives” was concise and full with real experience when doing things at the bottom of pyramid.

I think I’ll wrap with two more things – books which were mentioned during some of the sessions/QA  and the disclaimer.

Books :

a. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan . This book coined the term the medium is the message
b. Hugry Spirit by Charles Hundy.
c. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely.

Here is the disclaimer: I don’t own one of those cameras/music players with a phone , so did not record it. It is mostly based on my memory. If you find inaccuracies/mistakes please leave a comment.

– In case you are wondering about the title of this post, it was one of the passing comments made by Vijay during proto.

It´s all about luck – and optimising the 650k hours in life

January 18, 2009 by · 2 Comments
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If you use bicycle for day to day travel and have enough money probably you will buy a car.  Not everybody though, for example environment conscious people may stick to bicycle or if you are Morten Lund you may contemplate buying a private jet . Unfortunately not right now at least, because this Danish Ron Conway went bankrupt on Jan 13th, 2009.

But his courage in the face of adversity is nothing short of baffling :

As reported on UK techcrunch this is what he said to a Danish finance newspaper : “It’s like superman getting his suit stolen – I’m shaken and don’t really wanna talk about it. I will come back again with full power, i just need to wash my suit.”

If you read related article on his personal blog titled The End or The Beginning and watch the following video from Le Web conference, you will believe every word of it and more.

Each line of the blog post is worth reading more than once, but I’ll pick up this one “Have a great day – and don’t worry about me – it’s 99% about materialistic problems (rich people thinking about what pink hearths in diamonds they want to buy for their stinking ugly dog). There are real problems out there – Go solve them.”

His blog website has the title It´s all about luck but some guys seem to have uncanny knack of creating the luck, and certainly he looks like one such. Best of luck Morten, I’ll and many others will  wait for next big thing from you.

Title of this post was taken from  his blog on wordpress

To scale or not to scale

January 11, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: technology 

While talking about horizontal partitioning of databases, DHH of ROR fame suggests that scaling stuff can wait, definitely wait until the point your business  needs require it. His article definitely makes sense for small setups say startups. Not to say that in startups you should write demo programs but given that there are only 24 hours in a day you should focus on serving say 1000 users in more fulfilling way than losing your sleep over worrying about how will my application handle load of 13.142 million users.  If you get those many users you will know how to scale. For startups scalability is a good problem to solve but a far better problem to have, I mean any startup would love to run into this problem !

In another related article Jeremy Zawodny writes you should not depend upon Mr. Moore if you have scalability problems.

Since these articles refer to  Moore’s law I can’t help but write that Moore’s law must be one of the most generalized law in Computer Science. From his original prediction about transistor density , this law is now cited anywhere you come across exponential growth.

DNS changes

January 4, 2009 by · 1 Comment
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In the process of changing domain registrar, site may not be available for some time next couple of days.

Books and Movies in 2008

January 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Short overview of movies I watched and (non-technical) books I read in 2008

Movies

New/Recent

  1. Mithya – Watch it for Ranvir Shorey
  2. Lives of Others – Recommended watch
  3. Persepolis – ok
  4. Aamir – Brilliant movie by a debutant director, hope he doesn’t go into trap of ‘I came talented but bollywood ruined me’.
  5. A Wednesday – Such movies are not made very often, not in bollywood at least.
  6. Dasvidaniya – It is no masterpiece but definitely a good movie, wish they made more this.
  7. Khuda ke liye – Recommended, good take on a complicated topic
  8. Quantum of Solace
  9. Dark Knight – Recommended

Caught up

  1. Memento
  2. Pulp Fiction
  3. The Shop on Main Street – Watch it to find out why this 1965 Czechoslovakian movie is so highly regarded. Wonderful watch.
  4. 8 1/2 – Difficult to watch
  5. Pyasa – Could complete it only in second attempt, but you realise why this movie is consistently rated in all time best 100 movies across the globe.
  6. No man’s land – Must watch

Would have loved to watch

  1. Tahaan
  2. Mumbai Meri Jaan
  3. Taare Zameen Par

(Non Technical ) Books – (Sad that could not read more)

  1. Old man and the sea – Hemmingway got Nobel prize but I felt they would have given him for a different story in the same book !! Image of the old man Santiago will remain fresh in your mind long after you finish the book.
  2. How to lie with statistics – Few things don’t age with time, this book must be one of those.
  3. The Zen way – What do I say about this masterpiece by Alan Watts– let me put the reviews I got from rbag Amazon Rating 4.5/5 | Worth a couple dozen other books on Zen Buddhism | Alan Watts at his best. | The Way of Zen is an excellent introduction to Zen Buddhism... There is one thing I would like to add though – this book is about eastern philosophy and contains questions like God is abstract or absolute, which may or may not bind you.
  4. It is not about the bike – Good read, recommended.

I can hear the crackers outside, so it must be 09 now and I should stop writing. Happy New Year 2009.

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