Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

I grew up with a poster in my room saying “The size of your world is as big as your dreams”. It was always there when you woke up to remind you to think beyond the box. It still hangs there in my room at my parents place. It’s the thought that came into my mind when I was browsing through the net, listening to some of the folk’s interpretation of Entrepreneurship.

It seems  to me as if there are a couple of theories floating around these past few weeks.

a) Entrepreneurship is overrated. Entrepreneurship is romanticized, and the often tweeted and retweeted phrase seems to be “My son is without a job, ah! he is an entrepreneur”. Well, That’s probably pushing it far, and yep, perhaps we are breaking the elitism that was once associated with being an “entrepreneur”, but isn’t this what we wanted with all the publicizing that we did and urging one another to chase their dreams? I do see that this could dampen the ones that pride in elitism, but as far as things go, there will always be a gulf between those who can dream, ideate and implement, and those who just wear the badge and do nothing. And really, the more the merrier in this party.

b) There is also this other camp, that seems to think that, Entrepreneurship is too Web 2.0-ised. I can emphatize with this camp.  I dont think entrepreneurship in India is equated with a venture in the web 2.0 world, but most of us derive our first impression from the media that we consume and web 2.0 is essentially Media and new age consumption of those content. You get hit by it in the face over and over again, till you find something interesting. That doesn’t mean that there arent other sort of ventures going on out there. Manufacturing is still one of our strongest sectors and there are plenty of neat things cooking up in that camp. So for those of you freaking out with the thought of drowning in Web 2.0 Gyaan, take heeed, there is a bigger world out there – you just need to step out more.

c) There is a third theory out there that there are a lot of NRIs returning home. And Rajiv Gandhi is rightly quoted that whatever happened a few decades ago was not brain drain, but brain banking. Along with those returning is returning a renewed sense of nationalism, pride, and a whole lot of global interaction practices, that really help us get our quality of work a notch higher to match global capabilities. The complaint is that, along with them comes the baggage to convert the cities of India, into New York and Boston, or London. They do have a point. But sooner or later as these fresh entrepreneurs hit the Registrar of Companies to get their incorporation work done, they will know that things work slightly in a different order in this country.

So, really gentlemen (and ladies), there is not much to fret. You can relax and enjoy the process as our landscape changes before our eyes.

We Really Don’t Dream Big Enough.

What I want to talk about really is not the concerns, but my own concern as to how we aren’t dreaming big Read the rest of this entry »

3G. WiMAX. There is an inevitable showdown waiting on that camp. That’s probably also the reason why the deployments of WiMAX hasnt picked up by much. If you ask me, there is credit to deploying the 3G – or a network that is based on the telecom network. Why? Reliability. Ever picked up a landline and missed the dialtone? Thats what I am talking about.

With the economy slowing down a little, I guess the 3G talk is going to be dampened a bit here in India. But I dont think it should be. The consumerist trend hasnt slowed down and Indians have woken up to enjoying the usage of digital media, devices and services, that 3G as a service could very much consolidate and bank on. This post is partly written with the knowledge I’ve gathered being on both sides of the camp, as part of the Telecom group (and the plans that they are making with IMS – IP Multimedia Subsystem) and where the web, and industry have evolved.

Lets start with a Picture.

Future Living

Ubiquitous Computing, will not be just a term anymore. Centralized, easily accessible, and convergence. I think that’s the three keywords which are almost mantras in the new lifestyle that is emerging.

Trends:

Follow the numbers on the diagram with the explanations below.

1. Your mobile phone is not just a phone. Ask Nokia and they will tell you that. If we start with the way of 3G, its also the means to a broadband pipe, and 3G is just the beginning. HSDPA, LTE, and all the planned roadmap of the GSM Data Network, seems to be only getting faster and faster. Now, why would I advocate relying on my mobile’s data network as the crucial pipe for everything?

Read the rest of this entry »

This is a continuation to a Post that I had written Earlier.

“Yahoo could emerge with an edge, if they leapfrog into other verticals following the same web-based advertisement network.”

For a company which has entrenched itself in the media space, managing advertisements networks i probably the holy grail. I wouldnt recommend that Yahoo give up that leverage. Instead of going head on with Google and losing out on that battle, all they need to do is leverage that asset in a different vertical.

I wrote about perhaps using advertising networks, especially multimedia (audio/video) ads in Radio and television networks. One could argue that the ad server requirements, the infrastructure requirement and cost of operations would significantly vary because of the medium. I’d agree to some extent. But there is also a way to deploy the already existing asset, as-is, into different verticals. Read on.

Read the rest of this entry »

This is a wonderful time to be starting up. You will come across very few people who will give comparisons to all the benefits they get working for big corporates. Its one such time. Hiring will be slightly easier, and retaining them will be even more easier.

Even in the midst of all that, it does seem that a lot of the Startup Companies are hardpressed for resources here in India. Here’s a solution.

A few of us have been talking about putting together a centre that trains people (as blank slated as freshers) on the common technologies that people use while building products – the usual PHP, Python, AJAX, MySQL, etc etc and getting them upto speed on mashups, APIs, documentation, and moving forward. That is the level of skill that most of the startup community folks are looking for it seems. Or am I wrong here?

If I am right, then there is a simple way around it. Every chapter of OCC in the country is doing quite well. I heard from Santhosh that Pune is a 300 people group now (though I do suspect that the turn out ratio would be still less), but who knew Pune had 300 people who would be open to being part of a community right? And the same case has gone on with Bangalore, Kolkatta, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi, and even now and then with Mumbai.

Here’s the thought. What if in one of the OCCs a dozen of the startup companies, especially the folks who can code and code really well, commit that they will run a two month training program for people in these languages? It is going to take a bit of time and commitment, but there are a lot of resources already on the web, and with a couple of screencasts, and proper documentation, you could essentially also use it as training material for the next batch of people that you hire in your company later on.

What I am proposing is that a batch of technology entrepreneurs, each taking a week to cover different aspects of the course, could put their hands together to collaboratively solve an issue which is haunting a great many of them. Read the rest of this entry »

So I know that there are a gazillion guys out there in the whole wide world, who have given “open” advise to Yahoo as to what they should do. I am neither an expert, nor am vested into the company to have such generosity towards them 🙂

A friend of mine and I, over some conversations were discussing about some of the bigger brands that we see around us and something along the topics of Return on Equity. Not sure if you are aware of, but Microsoft has a 52% return on equity. Yahoo has roughly about 7% and falling drastically and Google has one which stands at around 26% – and growing steadily. Whatever you may say, Microsoft has played this game with a whole new set of balls and one most people simply won’t understand. And if you ask me, they are a much better company in terms of strategy and products compared to Google, anyday.

Yahoo could emerge with an edge, if they leapfrog into other verticals following the same web-based advertisement network.

Yahoo could emerge with an edge, if they leapfrog into other verticals following the same web-based advertisement network.

But that’s not the focus of this post.

The conversation was that, if a company has Advertisement as its core strength and has built a competence in it, then its going to be very hard for the company to drop that and adapt the advertising network of its partner/rival. Well, for the case of survival they might, but since they do have the core competence, the resources and the minds that can think in that direction, what could they possibly do, was the question.

Fact: Yahoo makes most of its money via advertisement, and that too on banner ads.

This becomes an issue when you have so much internet portals and properties, but just simply have to fill them with advertisements in order to make them viable. And in this day and age of APIs, nobody might even come visit the site to get hit by the advertisement. You are forced to rethink in terms of strategically placing the advertisement within the content, but thats a very very hard thing.

My Take: I think this is probably the same route as making fiber out of rocks. There might be some way to do it, but whatever it is, its one rare, long process.

I’d say, flip the coin, and lets look out to the horizon. Go after other streams, television and Radio… to be precise.

Read the rest of this entry »

You must know by now that we get involved in quite a bit of work related to the city. I believe that a city is a representation, collection and expression of the people living in it. If you walk into a city and cannot hear the voices, and expressions of its people, the city … aint quite alive. And I love having cities which are alive.

Mahesh Radhakrishnan, a friend of mine who is behind MOAD and is one really talented architect and I often meet to discuss about something we can do to solve these issues.

One latest such initiative is to setup something like this in Chennai. We are going to need some hands on this, but if and when it comes out, it will be quite something to boast about. What do you think?

This is an installation done in (Helsinski) Europe. We are planning to build the same at a fraction of the cost.

This is an installation done in (Helsinski) Europe. We are planning to build the same at a fraction of the cost.

Youtube Link of the Wall in Action.

It’s quite possible that I am just plain simply crazy, but if you bear with me and try to understand how my brain and thought process works, I think there is most certainly an idea here.

Energy is a Pressing Matter and Hot Topic in all Circles, but I think the basis of our problem isnt focused on.

Energy is a Pressing Matter and Hot Topic in all Circles, but I think the basis of our problem isnt focused on.

So I was sitting through a Sustainability Conference in IIT Madras today and there was one talk on Energy Consumption. The talk essentially mentioned how we ascertain energy demands by our peak hours. The problem being we need that at the most, and at times when its not the peak, we have to “shed” the load, and it usually ends up being dumped into the grid, and thanks to our grids not being designed properly, it usually ends up overloading half of rural India. That’s a different story all together.

The hint was in a passing by comment that the problem with energy is that it has to be consumed as and when its produced. There is simply no way to store it. If you want to store it in batteries and such, its simply not viable for large quantities, since its very expensive.

I have no idea what happened for the rest of the talk, apart for when he showed graphs and numbers – which always catches my attention, but he also mentioned that they were not accurate, which made me go “bleh” and back to my thinking process.

The Idea:

So Energy. The basis is that all energy is created from one form or the other. So Lets accept that we cant break this rule and make newton roll over in his grave. Knowing limitations are a plus point.

Lets learn a little bit of inspiration from biology. We take food, we break it down into amino acids, the smallest and easily metabolic form of food, and then the system burns it into energy as per the demands of the body. Compare it with however it is that we create energy, saying that one form of energy – coal or whatever is converted into energy which is converted into electricity which is probably the simplest form of energy.

If you look at biology, the food that is intaken, if the broken down food is more than the “demand” of the system, then the system quickly converts them into FAT and stores them all around the body – which is what provides all those funky love handles that people put so much energy to get rid of. But quite strictly speaking, its just the systems way of saying that we are consuming more than we need, and it is storing it away for a rainy day. The first signs of starvation and thats the storage unit that the system starts feeding off of.

Whats the FAT version of electricity? That’s the question.

Now, I am thinking that there is a possibility here that one cannot go directly from coal into  free flowing electrons. And we are probably missing a middle step that might help us with efficiency.

Secondly, there must be a way to join these electrons to become something that is more passive and with a trigger break them down into simpler free flowing electrons again.

And you know what? If that is possible… you and I would never have to wait for ages for our phones or ipods t get charged. We can technically dump these “FAT” into our devices, and let the device trigger these substance into electrons so that we get a full charge. But the deal is that, just like it doesnt take the body more than a few enzymes to break down FAT back into Amino acids and use them, we have to have these in a form that the devices themselves can transform without elaborate machinery – aka. combustion chambers and engines.

I think it should be possible. These are days when I wish I was a physicist and a chemist put together. But if, and I think it can be, it is possible, then technically we should be able to catch “energy” as and when it happens – from the lightnings, to tornadoes, to cyclones, save up all the energy and use it for when we need it. We can harvest all of the Sunlight hitting the earth and probably setup plants that can fight some of the global warming, and probably use energy in a way that is not as harmful to the planet as our current barbaric ways are.

What do Startups Need is the Question asked these days.

"What do Startups need" is the Question asked these days.

Seems like that’s the kind of question a lot of companies which are looking to support, nurture and grow alongside Startups are asking themselves these days.

I’m invited to be part of a fairly small panel that is to discuss on this very topic tomorrow in Bangalore in a short meetup that Sun Microsystems is putting together.

The more I think about it, I think the sheer number of pages where business opportunities, support systems, efficiencies can be made all seem to just go on and on and on.

I think the key element that it comes down to is not “selling”, but “enabling”. Really, if you think about it and put all the power law distribution to  a graph of economy (financial status and revenues) versus size of the company, it’d be quite easy to see the bigger corporates easily contributing to 80% of the economic wealth that is being garnered. That’s almost a no brainer.

I think the insight is this: An average startup entrepreneur is young, imaginative and full of ambitions and dreams. The key is to enable them. Not sell to them, but help them achieve their dreams. Its going to be pretty much the same way that you would want to support artists to come out with more creativity.

Someone wise once said that the role of a supporting organization to a startup should help startups make truck loads of money and make a small slice out of it. We need to tie in our success with that of the startup. Everyone wins in the end.

So now, most organizations are not gonna want this headache. Go after all the small companies, give them that additional support and handholding, just for 20% of the revenue. But isnt 20% quite a lot? I dont think it would ever make sense for a company to focus on just this 20%, but if they were already saturated with the market share in the corporate world, a 20% extra market share will give these companies a lot of footing, wouldnt it?

Now obviously, the number of companies very much increases. The queue of companies to support would almost be as long as the infinitely long tail itself. Thats when shared resources make a lot of sense. Technology helps to scale. Thats what it does beautifully. And if a technology company says that it cannot cater to this group,.. they woe.. something is truly terribly wrong.

Related Posts from Before:

Selling to the Unaffordable – Part I

Selling to the Unaffordable – Part II

My mentor oft used to say that everyone had something to teach us. It was all a matter of either what you should do, or what you should never do. If you look back at everyone in your life, that’d probably quite nicely fit the bill.

If you are at all interested in Startups, or are an entrepreneur, its quite hard to not notice whats happening in the Silicon Valley from time to time. And right about this time, it seems to be the humorous series of incidents – or some might call “planned coups” – that are going on in the valley amongst DEMO and Techcrunch, all in the name of “giving startups a platform”. There are 50 techcrunch companies, and close to 70+ DEMO companies going head on today, and amongst all the angry voice of one group accusing, and the other group defending, and then silly bystanders calling all the startups stupid to be sucky, they have all seemed to have forgotten the one reason for their existence – startups. Seems like in an attempt to settle the feuds amongst them, the startups are essentially the ones taking the beating by the supporters of both sides who are trying to discredit the both equally reputed conferences. Both are equally great conferences, which cost equally high amounts of money to pull through and lets not kid ourselves from the fact that both of them have equally made enough money through all this.

I have no interest in all these silly disputes. But it goes to say how even the “valley” can get distracted from whom their customer is. The startups.

We will, and trust me, we will soon come to that point as well – and I doubt that it will be too early when there are going to be a gazillion new startup showcases going on. If its a good thing, people are going to swarm and imitate, and there is absolutely no harm in that – just as long as they remember what the whole ordeal is all for.

I think India is doing amazingly well. Compared to most of the companies that are taking the stage, I am real proud of the kind of companies this country is churning out. We probably still dont have the reach or the spotlight, but there are equally amazing ideas, teams, talents and companies out here – probably better in some cases. I’m lately coming across a host of companies, some in the design space – making of intelligent home appliances, and a company that does design services – and is designing the torch for the commonwealth games (and its said to be quite sophisticated), companies in biotechnology, energy etc etc, that I have no doubts that in a few years, we will be more than what we ever dream, or dreamt to be.

This is also a time when the lack of support for an entrepreneur is probably the least pronounced issue. From capital to mentors, if you are knocking on the right doors, the right support is available and with local support peers such as Open Coffee Clubs and Startup Saturdays, I am really happy at the way we are strengthening this community.

As I am watching the companies at DEMO and TC, there is just one yearning in my soul. If we make better companies, and if we are darn better in hard work, and are more than well aided in terms of talent and capacity, whats it going to take us to the global spotlight. I think its going to take the support of the community as a whole to make that happen. This December as the fifth edition of Proto.in comes together in Bangalore, we’ll definitely take a shot at that – but not without your support. How do we make that happen? Now thats something I want you to help us, nah, ourselves with.

May the startups always win. For a long, long time to come.

There was sometime back when was doing a rough math on how many live camera streams there are. There are some that are pointed towards the “habitat” of the Loch Ness Monster, there are enough live traffic camera, and plenty of them pointed towards a birds nest or so. And if you take the example of Justin.tv (which seems to be inspired by The Truman Show), even people are willing to play their part in all this.

Ofcourse all of this is a one way broadcast. Apart from adult sites which are apparently making their niche through two way interaction, there is not much that is happening in this space.

Is there any of that, that can be adapted into the “green” scenario? A couple of light bulbs went on and off and here’s the thought (or Idea):

MMORPG
The forest department today plans thousands of saplings every year on barren lands to convert them into lush green forests, but the biggest problem with it has been the case of watering them. There is not enough manpower to do those menial tasks – at the salary that the govt is providing – and there is also the issue of accountability where all the saplings near the roadside stand straight and well watered, but the ones in the interior die away because laziness kicks in for most of these workers. They are not to be blamed either when the scorching sun is merciless on them and they are poorly prepped for all that.

The idea is to basically plant all the saplings as the forest department does and then have water drums which can be filled periodically with water from trucks (much simpler task). The pipes to the saplings will be set on drip irrigation and there will be a soil moisture sensor in the soil which measures if there is water or not. Set a Camera that overlooks this area, connect it to the Internet and create a frontend to a MMORPG (Massively Multi-user Online Role Playing Game). If that’s too much of an acronym, think Second Life. People can “adopt” grids of these fields and take care of them. All they have to do is, once the soil moisture turns a bit low, hit the buttons that will start the drip irrigation and stop them when the moisture level is optimal.

There are already countless number of such “events” that happen in Second Life, where if one plants a sapling in the virtual world, an organization instead plants one in the real world somewhere. This would just be an extension of that.

Now, technically you can take this to the next level. Think of all the Wild Life Sanctuaries. The biggest problem today is Poachers (I am still worried if I have to show stuffed toys of Tigers as our National Animal to my kids someday), and the forest officers are not nearly paid enough to scout the areas – and they are very ill armed to protect themselves from these animals as well. What if we could setup a range of Wifi cameras, stream the videos and let people monitor them. I’m sure there are enough animal activists around the world that some might even take it up while we sleep. All they would have to do is to hit a button which will alert the officer if a Poacher is spotted. And give the front end the control to click a snap if they want to document something and we might capture poachers and exotic wildlife as souvenirs.

I think finally, and its about time that the conscious of having to go green is kicking in. And we are gonna have to do everything – not just to sustain – but positively influence this planet to make it sustainable and even stay on the existential path. Maybe entrepreneurship, technology and the enthusiasm of the global audience can create a network of Global Watchers, to take care of the assets around us – All this while getting to “play” their roles.