Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Numbers. Monetization. Values and Compensation Mechanisms. Its essentially the building blocks of most systems and what keeps the wheels of most systems churning. That’s what should be driving everyone crazy. Isnt it? I don’t know about you, but it sure does drive me crazy.

Metrics. They are the easiest way to measure performance and to know that you are moving. Most of the times, as you are working with early and extremely early stage ventures, the only way to ensure that the focus of the team is on what is essential, is to set down a basic set of metrics that we can track and use to align ourselves as we go. It might seem like an extremely simple thing, but what you measure has to lot to say about what you value most. And when you make that decision in prioritizing, focus comes as a bi-product – a beautiful bi-product.

There is a danger to this. If you don’t think wide enough, then the easiest metric will be imposed on you, and in most cases its the rate at which your bank balance is depleting or increasing. Unfortunately, money is in most cases several levels down the chain in terms of processes, and measuring it directly might not give you much insight nor control to manage where you are heading.

So what am I getting at? As a startup, you need to measure, and measure everything.

I dont believe that currency is the only value system that exists. At the end of the day, even currencies are nothing more than a few numbers which give some standing among an audience. Find an alternate means to provide that and you would have created a different value system altogether.

How often do you check to ensure that you are on track? Atleast once every month. And when you do that, do keep someone who can guide you for better around. It will help, when you do notice you are not on track and need to scream out the words “Help!”

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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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Its 10:13pm. I just came back from IITM, after listening to a talk by Nandita Das on “Cinema and Social Change”. I have to admit that until today, I knew that the name had something to do with the Cine world, but I had no other associations of it. This is the first one, and it probably will last that way – thanks to Today.

There is something good about being in a University campus, and working there. You sometimes feel younger beyond your years, and sometimes you just feel out of place. In either case, it provides you an alternate reality – not that I wish for it, but the difference in perspective in opinion and viewpoint is one that I thoroughly enjoy.

I overall liked the talk. It was simple, casual, touched upon personal lives – had a wee bit of self promotion – was optimistic, and the tone was real. But perhaps the message was exaggerated.

See, Gandhi said the words “Be the change that you want to see”. Quite powerful words, and one that finds itself many meanings, depending on what lens you are wearing. Nandita felt free to use those words to stir up a moment, and even an applause from an audience. I dont blame her, but I think its a very common mistake. Let me tell you why. Read the rest of this entry »

Time flies by and a new year is born. Here’s wishing all the startups, and those I’ve come to know, cherish and converse with, the year ahead to be fruitful, prosperous and most of all a year without regrets – even in the economic situation, for what it is. Happy New Year.

For quite sometime, I have been part of conversations that usually involved of this mythical creature called the “Co-Founder”. If you would take the liberty to head to one of the startup discussion groups, sooner or later someone would bring up the conversation as to how hard it is to find a co-founder for his team. Most would usually agree and nod with him/her.

Situations like this are usually taken to be the norm here. But something has to change in all this.

This is the incident which made me sit up and take notice. I get an SMS one fine day with this message. “Am Looking for a Co-Founder for bootstrapping startup. Will be one of the executives. Have Idea. Please let me know”.

At first glance, that message might sound like a message with a call for help, and in most days I would have responded with a “Will keep in mind and let you know”, and would certainly have referred to, if I had bumped into someone. Except today, I had the statement that a recent conversation with The Pagal Guy, stuck in my head. His theory is that, Most people are looking for Co-founders in hopes of finding a smart sucker for cheap. He didnt say it in so many words, but that was the idea. And I think he is right.

He is right for a couple of reasons. Even look at the same SMS and If I were to spot a few issues, this would be it.

1. A Bootstrapping startup would have no cash. Hence “Executive” or not, he will have to be paid less. and Travel in Trains, not first class Air.

2. “I have an Idea”. Which means the person to come has no role to play in ideation either, just to execute what was already cooking in the braincells of someone else.

I think those are serious concerns. What one needs in situations like this when you are running a company, and do have an idea is not to go running looking for a “Co-Founder”, but instead rightly look for either a Program or Product Manager. He will appreciate the fact that he is labelled right, and if he starts to take ownership, and the product/idea starts to gain traction, there is all the possibilities in the world to spin it off as a seperate company and figure out how to split the ownership. Everyone wins. But please do spare the world of more want of Co-Founders 🙂

Note: I am not discounting the fact that Companies with two founders are “apparently” more successful, and a startup is too much for one person. But I also know that an entrepreneur always keeps breaking rules and this rule wont be an exception either. You also have to understand the Sactity of Co-Founding. Co-founding an idea is almost like being in love and birthing a child together. You have to be in absolute one-ness of mind and come up with the idea together to be want to stick together to grow, raise and have the patience for the idea take wings. An adopted father/mother (anyone who joins post the stage of adoption), just might leave sooner than you’d like for them to stay.

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1. The Ability to Connect
If the first four words arent able to convince me that this is a product or service that would interest me, the pitch has lost its audience right away.

2. Short and Conclusive.
Anything more than three lines to explain what it does, and then pause to see if there is more interest and continue with the details.

3. Energetic.
If you arent excited about what you are building, dont expect me to care.

4. Adaptive.
You have to know who you are pitching to. The pitch to a VC, to a Partner, or to an Employee, differs. Use the right tone, confidence level to win them over.

5. Lose the jargons.
When you are trying to convince someone, using phrases that they wouldnt understand, surely would kill the fun, wouldnt it?

Bonus:
6. Dont sell.
Desperation stinks. rather win them over. Loyalty starts with that first impression.

Have you ever wondered how to impress an inscrutable Venture Capitalist, convince a doubting journalist or perfect the guaranteed door opener for a partner?

Then this workshop is for you. Learn the inside scoop on how VC’s, corporate partners and journalists think. Hear tips on how you can compellingly explain your business to each audience—whether it’s raising money, trying to close partnerships, or getting attention from the media. Watch as fellow entrepreneurs develop concise, and unique value propositions that generate fever and excitement in their markets. And personally participate with industry experts to find the best ways to position and pitch YOUR company.

This Proto.in, we are having a workshop for startup companies to hone their skills in the art of Pitching. And it will be something to look forward to. This is how it works (Follows the same model as Pitchcamp in Oreilly Conference):

This is a highly interactive hands-on workshop where you will have the opportunity to refine your own company’s message, learn more about how to pitch the people you need to impress, and have fun at the same time – the expert panel will help coach you to success and be judges at the end of the workshop, awarding prizes to some lucky participants.

8-12 Companies will be selected to officially participate. The selected companies will be assigned a pitch coach from a list of highly experienced marketing team. After a general overview of the do’s and don’ts of pitching, the individual companies will go into a break out session with their assigned pitch coach to refine their pitch. Other attendees of the workshop will be invited to participate in the breakout sessions as well. The final hour of the workshop will be the companies presenting their revised pitch to the entire panel of experts who will critique and evaluate the new pitches.

The companies with the top two scores will receive prizes that might include Marketing and PR Services, VC Pitch Consulting or Premium memberships to various networks.

While the team here at Proto.in is busy putting together an elite team of marketing and experienced entrepreneurs to drive this workshop, spanning all the way from the world of advertisement, film industry, technology and pure business, do let us know if there is someone who’d make the perfect fit for this activity.

We look forward to more of your feedback. Do leave your thoughts in the proto.in blog