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

Category: Startups

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 http://www.atOneplace.com,  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.

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.

Headstart.in – 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.in – 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

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 🙂

Resuming

     My absence from the blogging world has been extremely long and I missed a lot of news and action due to that. Though I have had previous breaks but none of them have lasted this long.  The reason was that I had been working on my startup (Motvik) which kept me very occupied leaving pretty much no time for anything else.  The product that I am working would enter in it’s private alpha stage today which now gives some room to do few other things.

Some of the regular readers would know about my extreme obsession with camera phones and how I have raved about them previously so it is just easy to guess that my new product also is around a camera phone.  To explain in one single sentence what the product does

      “It  is piece of software which converts a cameraphone into a webcam for use with PC/Laptop” 

 and hence the product has been named ‘wwigo’ (prounounced ‘vigo’ ) which stands for ‘webcam wherever i go’, it currently works only on select Nokia phones while we are working on to build support for other phones and platforms.

We have been quite inspired by getting real and hence have taken a lot of lessons from that in doing our work , this blog post itself is a testimony to doing development in a real way. 🙂

With a milestone achieved I hope to get back on track on blogging on a regular basis. Btw you would also find me blogging at the Motvik blog. One of the things that i realized is that running a startup and blogging simulataneously is extremely difficult and I bow to all those who are able to do it very successfully.

Webyantra – Techcrunch for India

I keep complaining about the need for a gigaom for India, it is great to see a techcrunch coming up. Amit Ranjan an entrepreneur, who heads the Indian office of Uzanto has started a separate blog called Webyantra which is poised to act as the techcrunch for India.

 

   I like the name webyantra very much.  It has the Indian flavour in it and the word 'Yantra' literally refers to an instrument or a means. I think the  name trys to convey that this site is means to new in the Indian web(2.0). Check out more from wikipedia about the meaning of yantra

 "The yantra is like a microcosmic picture of the macrocosm. It is a focusing point and an outer and inner doorway. The yantras are often focused on a specific deity and so, by tuning into the different yantras you can tap into certain deities or creative force centers in the universe"

  There are exists so many yantras bhagyodaya yantra, vetaal yantra, sri yantra etc etc and now we have web yantra to connect to the Indian web 🙂 
  In a post amit goes on to mention some of the reasons which made him start webyantra.

“At a gross level, I am a trifle disappointed by the US (Silicon Valley) fixation that most Indian tech bloggers have. Everybody’s blogroll is a laundry list of the same set of SiliconValley bloggers and all blogs rave about Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Skype, Flickr, Scoble, Techcrunch, Delicious, Youtube et al. True, we all are global citizens in the web2.0 era, but should we not also focus on Indian web content and initiate dialogue or discussions to improve it ? I am yet to find a single forum that attempts specifically this

I could’nt agree more.

   Great Work Amit !!You could start profiling the web 2.0 companies in this list.

 Amit was also one among the first to bring barcamp to India and organize Barcamp Delhi.

Easy way to get job in Google

Many computer science students ( B.Tech, Masters or Ph.D) dream of going to work for Google. Few friends I know whhave already interviewed for google and are going to join google in short time in both bangalore and hyderabad. But I am amazed at how much amount of time google spends in interviewing them. They have more than 10 interviews , and take 100+ days to reject or select someone. That sounds very ridiculous to me.  Easier way I think these days would be is to create a startup(web 2.0 probably) and get bought by google :D. The most recent example to cite to illustrate the point is that of Ori Allon from Australia university. This 26 year old spent 6 months developing a software which is now been bought by google and Ori Allon is a Google employee. 🙂

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