Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Archive for the ‘Announcement’ Category

So, I finally took to the plunge with setting up my own hosted blog. I guess, it was finally time to do that.

For those of you who are subscribed to feeds from this blog, there are two options.

a) You can visit http://www.vijayanand.name, and subscribe to the feeds there. Also do drop a note about what you think about the new site.

b) If you are one of those folks who never visit blogs but dwell in feed readers, you can update it to the new RSS URL which should help you stay in touch.

Thanks again for your co-operation, patience and continued support.

Vijay

I’ve wanted to move out of wordpress.com for ages now. Never quite got around to it and the time and effort that needed to make the move, flip the DNS settings and ensure that none of the current readers got lost along the way, was a bit too much to undertake.

I’ve slowly been putting effort into parallely setting up a server, in my own host – finally, http://www.vijayanand.name will point to itself, rather than redirect – and if all goes well, starting monday you should be seeing a brand new site.

I will do my best to keep it current. One of the things I am consciously doing is to get out of “blogging” mode and into writing mode. With Twitter being so pervasive, it would be fair to keep the conversations there itself, and to keep the blog to some quality articles – articles worth revisiting someday again. I also want to have a place where all my social and online presence will be aggregated and laid out. Hopefully the new location will do all that.

From being a skeptic on blogging, I’ve come a long way.

Its not a rarity these days to hear talks about turning entrepreneurship into a lifestyle. As a matter of fact, we – everyone of us who are involved in shaping the startup space in India – are quite glad that thats happening, because it just shows that things are changing, very much for the better.

Even as Barcamps, Open Coffee Clubs, Startup Saturdays and several forms of informal support groups are emerging in this country, one of the biggest problem that we seem to be facing is the fact that we are still very urban-centric. All these meets happen in four or five of the major metros in the country – whereas we probably should be a bit more inclusive about it. There are issues such as the lack of experienced entrepreneurs to share from their life’s tale and help out emerging and aspiring entrepreneurs that seem to be stiffling some of the productivity in some of these informal meets.

Well, technology can solve that problem in some aspect, and we are going to give it our best shot.

We are opening up this Chat Application that we’ve had built, and testing in some occassions to see how we can spin this to solve this issue. Every Saturday between 9am and 5pm – and without fail, every week, we are planning to keep the Proto.in Chat [Link here] open and anyone can visit the site, and interact with entrepreneurs from across the country. We understand that Startup Saturdays happen on the same dates, so if possible we will get someone who is attending the sessions to live chat in the sessions so that the wisdom share can be spread to a larger audience if possible.

So, we’ve done and are doing our part to solve this problem. Now the request is that you be a part of this, to be there, spend sometime in the channel, interacting with, and helping out one entrepreneur to another, and in truly making entrepreneurship a lifestyle choice for those who wish for it – even beyond the metros.

Looking forward to seeing you there. And spread the word.

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I am an Entrepreneur. I know that I am an entrepreneur. I cant stop creating. I cant stop meddling with whats the norm to improve, build, and hopefully influence things in the right direction. I can rarely put up with things that are above and beyond the scope of making things change… change for the better.

Its been close to three years since I exited my last venture and dwelled into my current avatar. The past three ventures have been a bit stressful on life, time and health. A break seemed like the right thing to do to garner some strength, reflect, and iteratively grow.

Proto.in, the work that I’ve been doing in the incubation centre, working with various folks from the industry, venture capital firms, etc etc have all been eye openers. In many ways, they are startups themselves.

Lately, I feel and hear that swelling of that energy. That urge to create, build something out of sheer madness, something that will make a difference – to me, if not for everyone else. As my Professor used to say, the sheer and only drive for an engineer to create is Creative laziness. I guess that best summarizes most forms of influential innovation.

I feel its beginning again. All over. Lets see whats gonna change this time.

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Hello Everyone,

We’ve been barely vocal about it, but it seems the nominations are coming in hard and fast from all sides this time. We wont be extending the deadline past the 1st of June, since we want to finalize on the finalists and start the mentorship and refining of the pitch, the business plan and link them up with a local mentor who can guide that company from a long term perspective even after Proto.in is long over. That’s the kind of long term partnership, and association we want to be linked with. I am still involved with some of the companies that came to the first ever edition of Proto.in, and looking back, I’ve enjoyed every bit of interaction and there is a joy in being part of a company’s journey, than a moment.

So, just as a reminder, the deadline for Nominations are June 1st. Anyday past that, and I doubt we could accommodate you for this edition. You are gonna have to wait for the next. one. For those of you who had nominated, you will hear of some response from us before June 10th. If you haven’t heard from us by the 15th, feel free to call me at my number 9894101373, and we can figure out if by some dreary mistake your nomination form got misplaced or mislodged somewhere.

Also as a note, I do want to remind you folks that companies that did submit in previous editions of Proto.in and did not get selected can reapply. I am not sure how many folks are aware of this, but there are quite a few companies that had presented in the second and third editions of Proto.in that got rejected in the first edition. We worked with them over time, and once their business and intentions were much more clearer, it makes for a much stronger case. The only thing that I’d like to ensure for the company is that they take the stage at the right time, when they have a strong case for them. So just a reminder, that previously nominated companies can most certainly reapply and we will take a look at it. Infact, we strongly encourage that evolution. But that said, do ensure that compared to the last time, you have progressed and you can count a few good things going for you, so that we wont be wasting time and building frustration rather than glee moments of going places.

The registrations for Attendees are already up and the seats are filling up fast. We’ve priced the entry fees quite appropriately this time so that we can invest into students and those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to make it to startup events. So do make a reservation for your seats fast. You can register here.

The upcoming week would be quite interesting as we announce the topics for the Fastrack Sessions, The lineup of companies, investors, bankers and prominent figures who would be coming for the event this time, the sponsors, the supporting organizations etc etc. There is quite a bit of excitement this time, and it clearly shows. There is a brand new spanking site which is coming up, which should also be up next week. Interesting week ahead. Do stay tuned.

Posted from: The Proto.in Blog

So I’ve been through this roller coaster of a ride so far in these past four years working with Startups here in India. There seem to be seasons of issues that seem to “plague” an entrepreneur from starting off. First it was the funding, then it was the lack of mentors. Lately it has shifted to the struggles everyone is going through to hire people. But if you really think about it, none of these issues are unique to India alone. Everyone in Europe, and Asia are going through the same issue.

In the midst of all these dubious claims and silly excuses, I think there are issues that are unique to India and to the emerging market and we seriously need to think about it in terms of how we are going to tackle them. I think an Indian startup’s nightmare is not with funding, mentors or with talent. Its with the Early Adopters. Or the lack of them.

The theme of the sessions that we are planning for the upcoming edition of Proto.in are all surrounded around the topic of Selling. I strongly believe that we’ve lost focus on actually making money and have decided to instead focus on the wallet of the investors that even the dead rat in our closet isn’t smelling anymore. Startups, or any company for that matter, need to sell. Sell their products or services and make money. If they don’t then we do have a problem – web2.0 or not.

But how does a startup go about doing all that? Do we understand as to what ‘cost of sales’ means? Do we know what is the differentiation between sales and marketing? Do we have any idea as to what is the acceptable marketing budget that a startup can afford to allocate? Do we know the best means to engage our early adopters? Ah, the last one is the killer and let me focus on that for the moment.

Whether you are a company who is building something for the web, the telecom sector, robotics, anything related to consumer hardware, you have a slight issue of gaining traction here in India. The mammoth of the corporates are essentially using their financial muscle to entirely skip the part where “the early adopters turn into influencers and create traction” and are heading directly to take up that responsibility on themselves. But can startups afford to do that? Can a startup even dare ask an investor for that sort of money to match up with the marketing power of the reliance and the likes? I hope not. In a sensible world, a startup cant.

The early adopters are always that 1% of the population. So in a country of a billion people, there are 10 million early adopters running around. Where are they? How do we get in touch with them? Is there a common access point where they all gather around? Is it the web? Is it the mobile platform? Is it television? One really doesn’t know.

What differentiates the Silicon valley from the rest of the world is not the money, the experience, the risk-appetite, the greed for quick bucks, the talent or any of whatever else you might say. or it might. But What really sets the Silicon Valley, and the US for that matter, apart is the density in which you find early adopters and how thanks to the revolution of the personal computers, the software industry, the two generations of internet applications, and the plethora of communication channels available, that it is a possibility to reach them.

So does focusing on the US instead of India solve the problem? Actually not. Most of the services and products that are built in India are also built for Indian customers (which also applies to all of the emerging markets). As such we need a emerging market which can adopt this technology/product early on and provide the relevant feedbacks which will go into the building up of that technology.

I cannot stress this enough, but if India needs to get an edge in innovation, it HAS to build this network of early adopters. We have already in someway made that possible in the pharmaceutical industry, also since health is personal and the network of closely linked doctors and hospitals make it relatively simpler. We are gonna have to wreck our brains to bring together a similar arrangement for the technology community. I know that the community of barcamps, MoMos, etc do have a relevant role in this scheme of things, but this is a topic that sure needs some thought.

Lets see, if in two months I can wrap my head around this, I might even talk about what I think needs to be done at Proto.in, and even set a couple of things in motion to make that happen.

Related Articles:
Wikipedia: Early Adopter
Technology Adoption Curve

Update: This post was made on April 7th, much before the recently concluded Barcamp Bangalore 6. Keep that in mind.

Barcamps, they are happening everywhere now. There are debates and raging discussions on as to whether we “interpreted” the format right, but whether or not, its still going on. Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Kerala, Hyderabad and maybe even more have joined that league of extraordinary unconference hosts. Here’s a random and crazy idea to mull over, debate and discuss. I can already sense half my readers getting ready with pitchforks and flame throwers, but as long as it leads to something beneficial, I am all for it. Here goes:

I know that everybody is thinking this but let me say it out loud: I think someone in India got the barcamp format totally wrong. Barcamps, as we do it in India are not conversational. They are very, and very speaker-centric. We kinda figured this out when the team in Chennai started out on this audacious project to write a book on Unconferences. The project, I believe is abandoned – or perhaps just a little dorcile, but we did learn quite a bit of stuff while we were at it, since the project brought together quite a bit of people from across the globe, including a fair bit of heavy weights. So I guess, I could say that I did hear from the source as to where we got the definitions wrong.

Contrary to Popular belief, Unconferences aren’t anything new. They are quite old actually – as old as 1970 actually. Unconferences just went by a different name – “Open Space Conferences”. It essentially meant that all the participants came together to run the conference. Hmm.. sounds quite close to the definition we use for barcamps and its sister camps I would say, wouldn’t you?

It was almost during the time when we realized that barcamps were too speaker centric, and getting diluted in content that the Chennai Team, under the Banner of TKF, decided to run with more focused verticals to drive deep into a topic. Hence, Blogcamp, Wikicamp, Podworks and the likes were born. The credit goes to Kiruba for putting the brains behind the inceptions, and the enormous energy of the team that makes it all happen.

Now that the pleasantries are over, lets get back to the topic.

Siddharth, a fellow blogger/unconference lover/startup entrepreneur and I had a discussion over our trip to Mumbai to attend the barcamp there. Its during that trip that he was discussing how he had attended a workshop on Agile Methodologies in Hyderabad which totally blew his brains out as to how “barcamps are conversational”. I must say that I agree with him. We are not doing something right.

A couple of things we could do to improve things:

1. Get rid of the Projector and the PPT. Stick with whiteboards, and even better, limit the audience of each session to 20 – 30 people max. Smaller groups are more conversational. Larger groups tend to sit back and act “audience”.

2. Small is beautiful. We need to let go of the obcession to get people signed up in the hundreds. The pain to organize an event in such a scale, is simply not worth it. In most cases I see the organizers burnt out before the morning sessions of the first day get over.

3. Focus. Focus. Focus. Pick a theme, topic and go deep into it. Don’t run topics which are as wide as “Politics. Technology. Startups”. One wouldnt know what to do with it. You arent really dealing with an uber smart audience. Most folks are spectators and the rest are there hoping to learn a thing or two.

4. Have some solid deliverables. Ten people in a room, all knowing how to count to three, cannot magically learn how to count to ten just cause they were debating, arguing and in the same room. You need to ensure that there is a mix of people who are willing to share, and people willing to learn, and even better if the sharing types are more. Lately I am getting nothing out of barcamps, apart from meeting people. And I am quite positive that I am not that all-knowing… Yet! 🙂 There is definitely more to learn, with the pace at which platforms and technologies are evolving, and it would be great if that was looked into.

5. Keep everyone within the same room if possible. The law of two feet only works here, otherwise you might need cars and golf carts to carry you around 🙂

6. Keep it simple. Dont complicate it by having it in 17 rooms and three more “outdoorsy” spots included to that. Goes back to point 2.

I am not sure if anyone is listening, but if you are It’d be great to have all, or atleast some of these taken care of in future plannings.

As for the title, a few of us are mulling over a very radical different idea of a barcamp. It is going to incorporate most of the above mentioned points, and most of all will require the least amount of logistical nightmares. In a day when softwares could automate, and processes could be simplified, months of prep work for “barcamps” simply cant be justified. We are hoping to make things simpler, effective, with oodles of new learning, all done in a fun environment. Now, that’s a guarantee!