Fishes swim, birds fly, startups fail !

January 27, 2009 by
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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

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.


6 Comments on Fishes swim, birds fly, startups fail !

  1. Prashant on Tue, 27th Jan 2009 2:34 am
  2. I forgot to mention iaccelerator – . IIMA based incubator, modeled on ycombinator. Have a look at their site if you are interested.

  3. Azhar on Tue, 27th Jan 2009 2:37 am
  4. Could not attend both Proto and WatBlog, i kinda regret it. But thanks for summarizing the important points for people who could not attend.

  5. Prashant on Tue, 27th Jan 2009 2:47 am
  6. @Azhar – Jaya talks about two more sessions from proto in

  7. GarykPatton on Tue, 16th Jun 2009 10:12 pm
  8. Hi. I like the way you write. Will you post some more articles?

  9. Vijay on Thu, 27th Oct 2011 5:14 am
  10. Some comments, never quite pass by, do they? :)

  11. Vijay on Thu, 27th Oct 2011 11:14 am
  12. Some comments, never quite pass by, do they? :)

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