First rule of first principle thinking, do not use first principle thinking when a mental model is available

Category: India Technology

Ashish Gupta Kamla Bhatt Podcast

Though I am regular listener of Kamla’s podcast show and I have been interviewed by her a few times, it was Rajiv who hat tiped me this podcast interview of Kamla with Ashish Gupta of Helion Ventures and it was an absolute delight to listen to it.

   I strongly recommend this to any entreprenuer, please take your time to listen to this three part podcast. Kamla raises some pertinent question to Ashish about entreprenuers, ecosytem and investment thesis and he answers them in his regular candid and graceful style.  Kamla has done a great job as an interviewer and I think is one of the finest podcast I ever heard.

Attended Proto 08

I could finally make it proto. Despite my general disappointment about the innovation scene in the technology space I think that events such as Proto and Headstart are great platforms to help startups irrespective of whethere they are innovative or not (of course one could endlessly argue on what is the definition of innovation).

I could not make it to both the events blame it on the date clash of these events. On the positive side of the event what I liked was the way it was put together, all well coordinated and extremely professional. There were few good talks both in the business and the technology section, among the ones that I attended talks by Mohanjit, Roopa, Alok  and Rajesh jain were good. Few of the other talks were boring and some more were plain company pitches. What I missed in proto was the exceedingly high energy level that exuberates in any event at chennai (especially in comparsion with the past ones such as blogcamp, wikicamp and others ). Also there is more talk about Innovation than actually there is (I think it is a generic economic problem ), this is a sentiment that was shared by Aashish as well while we hung out together at the event.

Companies that I liked that  presented there are Mobisy/MobiTop (a platform making mobile development easy ) : They have an extremely good value proposition for making development on mobile easy. They are quite well known to the bangalore mobile community already.  Synovel (colloboration suite based on Mozilla/Thunderbird): They are some of the best programmers I have ever seen and I know them since college and they are also globally respected open source officianados. My favourite example among the the companies that presented is,  a marketplace in which I think the value created is equal to the transaction costs eliminated by removing the friction in a real estate purchase.

I expected many VC’s to turn up but it was mostly the crowd of freshly minted management grads who might have been newly inducted as trainees at these VC firms which I think is not a very good thing. (From what I heard from Keshav and others Headstart was able to get actually about 10-12 VC’s to the event and not just VC firm representation in the event. Hmm!! ). Many of the startups that presented seemed to have gained from attending proto as they could source new leads in different aspects which is a good thing.

I think overall it was a  bag of mixed response for me personally at proto.

What and where is innovation in India?

Contrary to most popular belief startups may not neccessarily mean innovation , it certainly could be a business( a good one maybe). Simillarly a product may not be equal to innovation and some cases it could be a good business too.

Of late I have seen more noise than substance about innovation in the Indian context and this thought has been nagging for quite some time and recent attendance to proto just confirmed that. While on the one hand it is true venture capital supply demand is skewed but to my mind there are not enough innovative technology startups so to speak of.

As usual my yardstick is an economic one and not one based on financial ( read balance sheet) metrics or either coolaid factor in a new technology. I think we should really tune down the volume of noise about innovation in technology space.

While till few months ago we had an acute problem of not having enough avenues to bring forth innovation to the forefront but now with many events, mainstream media and blogs bridging that shortage and providing a showcase platform  the problem has really shifted to the other end with no real innovation existing out there to showcase. I think the part of the problem is that maybe entreprenuers are not thinking big. I am willing to extend this notion a bit further and say that there is no incentive to innovate on technology front as the market may not be yet rewarding them.

To speak of innovation in India, I think it is coming from different sectors , as usual in the services( including  IT/KPO services)  industry maybe , financial industry, infrastructure space but not from the technology space as one would expect.

I did not make many resolutions for the year 2008 and already have broken the few that I made but I am going to pledge that I am going to walk out of any discussion/meet where the words ‘Innovation’, ‘Community’ , ‘Value creation’ & Mobility is going to be used where the group discussing this has no idea of what these words are.

Indian Startup/Products events

2008 promises to be a very good start for Indian technology startups and products. Two great events are lined up in January for startups and other companies to show case their products. – An event with a mandate to highlight product innovation in the technology space. Of course the sweet corner for this event is startups with products but then later stage/large companies that produce good products too are included. Folks (puneeth, aditya, keshav and others) behind this event are by now are veterans in organizing events that benefit the entire community and I am sure that this going to be a kick ass event. – Proto is the first event in India to provide a platform for startups to show case their products. Modelled after Demo in US it hopes to be a larger platform to encompass and show case product companies across Asia. Though I was initially involved and contributed in my capacity to the event but I could not attend the event in the past, the first one due to injury/sickness and second due to a project delivery/release. This time around I have made my plans in advance to be there.

As an entreprenuer I would love to make the most use of the both the events but alas they are both on same day , I am planning to attend both the events on different days.

Wish you all great year 2008

Announcing MoDeMO

We are announcing a day long event called MoDeMo in december to showcase cool things/products/services in mobile in India. We hope to see demo and usage of interesting mobile service/products, hobby and/or commercial projects in the event. This is meant for anyone who have anything related to mobiles to showcase or demonstrate. Register here if you have any cool things to show


Note: PPT’s are banned in the event as they kill braincells.Due to various constraints participation is limited to 100 participants showcasing demos.

Big Media vs Individual – Indian Media

Nikhil has spurred up an interesting conversation @ contentsutra about big media and individual content creators.Read the entire post and don’t miss out the comments section as it has pretty important thoughts.I have been following this debate in many places and now it’s spilled over to this side of the globe.

As much as I want just like Nikhil to hail ‘user generated content’ aka UGC (I dislike that term but using it for the lack of a better term) I certainly don’t think Indian media market is prime for it yet.The main reason for this is that the media value chain in India is the same as the older form of other media markets with the scarce part still being distribution and marketing. Put in another way media markets are still a function of distribution and content.  This is not directly observable but evidence for this could be seen through the still rising numbers of TV viewership (while elsewhere it is declining) and increase in average ad time.

Elaborating on this a little further the following two are the two main important reasons.

  • Slightly shifted supply curve

Technology is certainly driving down the cost of production but not much as it is still very expensive to create content ( creation devices such as cameras/recorders and bandwidth costs/horrid publising platforms/syndicators/aggregators). To think about it intuitively try to ascertain the ratio of  uploads/downloads that happen in any user generated sites specific to India.

  • Unmoved demand curve

Another most important aspect is the lack of demand for user generated content. In other media markets there was high demand for user generated media because consumers were saturated and tired of mass media.To think about it how many examples can be recounted that have come out in the last one year which is a user generated vide/audio/post which has caught the imagination of the Indian audience.

The new industry structure (promised through this UGC) that seems so exciting is possible only when the supply curve shifts considerably and the demand curve moves outwards so that we derive a new equilibirium and industry order.

No company can do much about the shifts in the demand curve except wait/prepare for the opportune time.   But the parameter that it has control over could be worked upon. But on the whole treating UGC as a yet another fad opportunity and trying to build a business through plain concept arbitrage in India might be extremely risky.

Some things mentioned in the post which I specifically do not agree with.

“There are innumerable instances of blogs with consistently great content”  – Quality on an average erodes with UGC but this is really not the point blogs will trump newspaper despite of that fact. Blogs on an average give better news experience is how I might put it.

“Life magazine shut offline publication in the US earlier this year” does not indicate anything about the Indian market, the media markets of developed country and developing countries are vastly different.

Property rights (fight for editorial space) as rightly put is certainly going to assume new meaning in this phase and it would be most fun to watch how this pans out.

BCB3 Notes

BCB 3 had a great start yesterday, the mobile section seemed to be the most popular and was extremely crowded almost all through the day.  My favourite discussion of the day was not in the mobile room but rather it was the one led by Savita. It was heated debate on why/what India needs to take a leap from products to services. Passionate plea and arguments from the participants made the room extremely charged up.


did great job of leading the discussion. Other participants in the discussion

The thoughts and conclusion from the discussion captured below.

MoMo Demo Experience

Experience with doing the MoMo Demo on monday could described best as a little lack luster. It is little hard to say that for an event that you try to coordinate but that is how I would best describe it. But I think the best part of doing an open/informal conference is that you have room to experiment new things and make it better every time 🙂 and this was the first time we were introducing demos with regular talks.

The little bit of my disappointment stems from the lack of response from the audience during my demo after all that was my take away from doing a demo. The tough time that I had with the audience was that I was not able to engage most of them in the discussion as they had already moved out for snack time.

Any consumer technology product  can have  possibly two response only-  either users love it  or they hate it.  Any other intermediate response means that you are dead meat already.  Kathy sierra has very articulately this very clearly in her post long ago.

Now having obtained rave reviews from those who are alpha testing ‘wwigo’ an indifference from the audience came as a serious bummer to me.  What was a little comforting though was when I chatting with someone after the demo and he told me that I should not worry about it too much it because I was competing for attention with food ( most of the group had already proceeded to munching their snacks at the snack table  at the back of the room) which even the best of the speakers in the world  can’t compete well 🙂
It was little trying and hard for me to wear both the hat of  a presenter and as well a s a coordinator of the event. Couple of things that I wanted to articulate to the audience as a coordinator of the event would have been mistaken as an answer from the presenter.

For example  the demo was not meant for analyzing whether the product demo’ed is worthy of any investment. It was more for sharing a cool idea/concept, what it could be used for etc and feedback on what could be done to make it better. Rather than dicussing the coolness or usefulness of  the Inactiv service or how it could be made better the audience went in tirade against on how much money Inactiv is bleeding 😦
Lessons that I learned as presenter

  • Never announce what the demo is about even if people pester you to do so, the surprise/intrigue element goes away. I had at the request from a member mentioned what the demo was going to be about.
  • Never schedule your demo just before/after lunch or snacks time.

Lessons as an organizer

  • Repeat this to yourself – unstructuredness is good but unorganized may not be.
  • ALWAYS Check beforehand the presentation room for accoustics and lighting.

After recieving good and improvement feedback from the members to have a little bit of more direction & focus we will be trying to make the next time’s MoMo a little bit more structured during the discussion.

Internet and Mobile Connect

Arun Natarajan of Venture Intelligence is organizing an event called “Internet and Mobile Connect” in Mumbai on 15th of next month.  As he notes more than half of the investments in technology are happenging in the online service and Mobile VAS space.

The event has impressive lineup of experieced investors and entreprenuers to discuss about the space in detail.

gushing about slideshare

    One of the few things that I had seriously missed writing about in my blog absence was about slideshare.  I liked the service the very instant I looked at it and resolved that I MUST write about it the first chance I get to down to do any  writing on my blog. Back then when it was released I could not use it much but recently I got to play with it quite a bit and I liked it all the more.   By this time there has been a lot that has been said about it and probably what I write in this post may not be something new but still I am going to write about it as I love slideshare so much 🙂

The first thing that struck me when I started using it was what took it so long far something like this to come up.

Powerpoint was an accidental innovation and  it is  a form of new media type though it is never thought of that way. I don’t know who was the original creator of powerpoint but I think powerpoint is  one ingenious piece of innovation by itself though we all love to hate it. It is been long known that value of any media increases when it can be shared, co-experienced etc. And this is the important fact that was not thought about in the context powerpoints and that’s the key value add of slideshare. Some of things that really stand out is the feature of making the product inherently viral in nature (easy sharing in blogs), marketing it as the  “youtube for powerpoint”. Overall it leveraged a mix of market,networks &  communities to create value.

With slideshare being so well recieved the usual suspects like Google, Yahoo & Microsoft (GYM) would have long since fired their products division to build their own version of it. IMO this should not be cause of worry to slideshare as they are much ahead of the GYM in this game. The service has inherent networks effects built into it thus leading to a clear first mover advantage working in favour of them. So the best bet for any of these big players would be to acquire slideshare but from what I can say about the team at Uzanto they can grow this into a great independent business by itself. Given this it would be very exciting to watch out what unfolds in this space.

Slideshare picked a very important need which nobody else thought of addressing and built a great solution at a very low cost, marketed it extremely inexpensively and positioned themselves startegically very well amongst billion dollar/pound gorillas in a niche which could turn into a great beachead. IMHO entrepreneuers like me can learn great lessons from this and I would also say it is another great example of getting real.

Having said it all here some of my thoughts which I think could make slideshare stronger and better.

  • Should add capability create powerpoints on slideshare of itself. (MS should run scared when this day comes and thats exactly why I think MS should be the strongest contender for slideshare)
  • Or even before that allow ability to remix from uploaded powerpoints ( this one would be a huge value multiplier IMO ). For example I can create a new presentation from using the slide 2-6 of one powerpoint combined with slide 1, 3 9 of  another powerpoint. Well this would raise the ugly head of property rights issue which could become quite a bit of challenge but then is’nt that the real fun/interesting part of the media revolution that we are living in today.
  • Though I said powerpoint is an ingenius innovation but one has to admit that it is a crippled form of media , it is an inherent property of powerpoint and that is why I referred earlier that we all love to hate it. So giving some solution to fix that would just raise the bar extremely for the service. Let me elaborate this a little bit, any form of media (be it telephone, SMS, movies, radio, video, print ) can be broadly divided into three categories based on their modes of communication and different forms revel at different modes. These three modes are ‘information transfer’, ‘story telling’ & ‘presence’. Powerpoint was designed to excel at information transfer in a group context but they are real hits when they are used in the story telling mode. Folks like Guy Kawasaki, Cliff Atkinson got famous as presentation zens because of their techniques & tips  on how to use your ppts effectively in the story telling mode. To cut the long story short it is fairly obvious powerpoints are not suited for ‘presence’ but is predominantly used for ‘information sharing’ but if designs can be added into slideshare which can turn into a great storytelling tool in addition to oiling the existing ‘information sharing’ functionality then it would be even more wonderful.

To sort of sum up Slideshare might not reach the extreme(crazy) heights of what youtube did the reason being quite obvious which has to do with nature of medium involved. The power of video (presence & story telling) is much stronger than that  of powerpoint ( information sharing & possibly story telling)  but there is no doubt in my mind  that slideshare would go on to become one very big hit and I  wish them all the best 🙂

Rajesh Jain

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