Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Posts Tagged ‘Bangalore

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 »

Everybody, just about everybody seems to be having this problem. The teams that I oversee in IIT, all the way to a lone team in Simla, everybody is having a talent crunch. It is said that the most important aspect of a startup is the team. Have we grossly overlooked something? Or do things just have to be looked at differently? I think there is an alternative, and thats probably how the future will evolve.

So according to one entity’s claim, there are 800 startups in Bangalore. I know that as part of tracking startups, we see an average of about 500 – 600 new startups coming up every year, and these are just in the Technology space, and product focused.

Do we really think that we have the manpower to fuel all these dreams? I am really starting to doubt that. Loads of Opportunities, shortage of talent, and high density of clusters – which is going to be mean more and more people are going to leave startups to probably freelance and make use of this opportunity. I wouldn’t blame them. They are just tapping into the opportunity.

nGenera an entity founded by the guy who wrote the book on Wikinomics, which helps larger organizations optimize their task forces has this to say about Workforces: “…Enterprises have shed pyramid-style organization structures and instead view talent as a “marketplace” where workgroups with the right skills and experience can be quickly assembled, put on a given task and rewarded for the value they provide.” Does that sound Familiar? Will the same make sense for a Startup?

One of the primary reasons why a startup is pushed to go hunt for an Investor much before the focus, solution and customer has been identified, has been primarily because of this reason – the need to hire. if you want to hire, and someone none other than the best, he/she also comes with her own charade of questions as to how the startup is funded, and what are the options that the individual will benefit from. None of which makes sense, nor has a concrete founding unless there is a bank statement which shows some balance with lots of zeros following it – or atleast a term sheet.

So really, the eye of the hurricane is the issue with attracting talent. If that is solved in anyway, then a whole lot of issues along with it, including that of funding will slow down a bit. And time, even borrowed time is godsend for a startup.

Here is a gist of the issues:

  • Attracting talent for a startup is really hard.
  • Even if you manage to find a really talented individual whom you are dreaming and envisioning of as your future CTO, chances are that he wont take a fulltime responsibility.
  • If you go the usual route, hire freshers and want to train them, you realize that a year later they put your name on their resume and become part of the “hard to get” group, demanding hefty packages.
  • I’ll repeat, there is common theory that any investor will back a good team. Perhaps we need a slight change of thinking on that regard. It is not the team size, the numbers, nor the profiles that should matter. If there is an individual at the helm who could ideate, plan, execute and deliver then it should suffice right?

    I’ll get to what I am trying to say.

    I am thinking outsourcing. Did you know that Digg was mostly build over elance? The most touted Kevin rose, was not one of those developers who went nuts, locked himself inside his bedroom and coded away. Perhaps there is wisdom in outsourcing.

    Let’s put Mr. Friedman’s words to test if the world is really flat, shall we? I mean, if we could get talent from anywhere, then all of a sudden the perk of being in Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, or being in Gorakpur does not make a difference. And I think that itself is an incentive to try.

    The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Think about it. Employee productivity is at around 4% right now. I could put some ruppee figures on it and say, if you invest 100 Rs on an employee, you get a product which is enhanced with a value of Rs 4. That’s ridiculously inefficient. And this output is for mammoth corporates. Can a startup really afford such inefficiencies and spend most of its time acting like training agents, than companies that are building dazzling products?

    Lets look at the benefits of getting more involved with communities like elance, Limexchange or Odesk for that matter. In order to make it work, you are going to have to;

    1. Break your product into modules and have vivid clarity on what you want. That will force the startups to get some clarity on what they are building, rather than playing by ear.

    2. You need to be able to do some project planning, which you should have been forced to do anyways.

    3. You only pay for what you build, which means much greater productivity

    4. You do not have to move to any specific location. You could be sitting in your own hometown, or wherever you can save costs on, and still get your work done. If Instablogs could be based out of Shimla and build such fabulous UI, traction and a community around their offering, it certainly is an example. Not that I have anything against Shimla, but its not your everyday IT Hub as commonly perceived to be more efficient to startup.

    5. And the best part of all. If you are having a cash crunch month, you can delay your next task allocation. You control time lines as to when the next task should begin, which means you don’t have to worry about having to shell out monthly salaries with or without productive work happening.

    Most teams that I am aware of, still would want to hire people fulltime. Well, you probably can, if you can justify it and if you can afford them. But in most cases, I am wondering if its a case where the founder just isn’t willing to accept the fact that the role that he chose to play is a lonely path. At the end of the day, he/she is the only visionary and the sole knight protecting and nurturing the idea child (perhaps along with his co-founder), but surrounding yourself with people who are at your call and beckon is just a temporary comfort and solace. I know it can get lonely, and having to see three people, the same three people, in your officespace everyday can be pretty tiring, and boring and even might feel as if you are stuck in a rut. (One of the reasons why Incubation centres make for some comfort factor, being around with other teams)

    But instead of focusing on surrounding yourself with frail souls, why not keep yourself surrounded by those key guys who share your vision (might be just you and your co-founder), and build the prototype, product and your initial traction with a product that is built by a team which is miles away, yet close by you – just a skype call away, and take it from there?

    You are most probably going to tell me that since your product is constantly evolving, you wont be able to get a specifications document beforehand. Odesk, and most of the freelancing sites do offer the capability to hire a person on hourly rates. And with the progress of agile project management methodologies, all you need is a good tool [like what Silverstripe software has], and you are good to go. Ofcourse, there is still the issue with your mentors and investors having to agree to it,but if anyone can make it happen, I know an entrepreneur can. Why not show them it works? Heck, When NASA and the defense contracts across the world are outsourced, why not that mashup you are building?

    I was initially a bit skeptical that outsourcing my development work will also mean that someone has access to my code. But I think the NASA model is going to rescue us there too. That’s why I mentioned that you need a core team. Ideate. Figure out the requirements, the initial one. Break it into pieces and send them all to four corners of the world. When it comes back, be ready to put it together. Oh yeah, you need to know how to work with code inorder to be able to do this, but if you or your co-founder cant, you were dead in the water even before you started.

    I am hoping to give this a whirl for my own startups. Has anyone tried this option? If so, what has your experience been?

    Disclaimer: I am not sure if this is a longterm solution. But most of the hard work and crux is essentially built in the beginning of a startups product lifecycle and thats when all the constraints are there. If the prototype is built, you have a few elite customers, and investors are standing on all sides wooing you, perhaps you can think about getting some folks onboard fulltime, and building a team to build from there.

    Some Discussions from Before:

  • The Startup Lunch Initiative
  • A Conversation I had with Vishal Gondal, where he was talking about this issue. Working with an Army, vs. Optimizing
  • Hiring Strategies for Startups, to attract those core members.
  • Do You really want to work for a startup? Think it through.
  • There is nothing new under the sun. Nothing Whatsoever. Ideas are just evolved from one form to another to adapt and wear a new dress.

    I often used to quote the phrase that “Ideas are worth nothing. Implementation is all that matters”. Its true, but it also frustrates a lot of people who think they have fabulous ideas in their hands. I don’t spell it out as much anymore, but I have figured out much easier ways to get that same point across.

    A couple of months ago, I was introduced to a guy named Sian, the brains behind an event named Alpha Summit that used to happen in Europe. It was almost like Proto.in, except that their focus was slightly different. They focused on Tombstone companies. Companies which would have died, if not for that boost that an event brings together. They succeeded a bit in what they did, but turning around a company is no one day matter, it takes months and years to turn some companies around, and hence the Alpha Summit is no more. But the thought has stayed in my mind, that some companies simply are hatching ideas that are way ahead of its time. If the timing is right, and if it is repositioned, there is a chance for a miracle. Heck, if we have already categorized them as a tombstone, why not give it that shot? That’s been a thought in my head, as we are also looking at ways to evolve where Proto.in stands right now. But this thought goes beyond that.

    When I first heard from Arun Katiyar, the concept of an Event Web, I was quite amused. It’s true, our life is a sequence of events, and an “event-web” as he put it, makes a lot of sense. SERaja was a company for which the visions came from Rajesh Jain and Ramesh Jain. Ramesh has published a paper on the same concept. They were one of the companies that presented at the first edition of Proto.in. Unfortunately, it seems that they didnt manage to build traction as they hoped to, but then just recently I heard a very similar pitch. It came from Dandelife and Lifeblob. Timelines, events, blogs, friends and how everything is interconnected.

    While SEraja had complicated the implementation a bit my mixing multimedia content and such, and also adding the complexity of mobile phones and such, Lifeblog is taking the incremental step of taking blogs, appealing from a point where everyone is comfortable and taking it from there. To be quite honest, I signed up, found a fair bit of friends there and am still trying to figure out how well it works. I haven’t made too many posts there, given that I can barely keep my facebook, blog and twitter updated – let alone a lifeblob. But if you haven’t already succumbed to so many social networks, it does make sense to stick to that.

    One of the oldest ideas that makes me remember of the phrase that Ideas are immortal is how Location-based services are coming up. LBS had the imaginations of people lighted up and quite a bit of rave imaginations I must say, were running behind what it could possibly do. Five years ago when I was bootstrapping a venture, we explored around that, lobbied with the canadian govt to give us location data and were shooed away. Fun times. But today companies such as bangalore-based Yulop are digging that old grave up and bringing that dream to life – atleast the hope of such dreams back to life.

    Most often timing, and the wrong timing is what kills an idea. VoIP still hasn’t taken off, because people really don’t know what to do with it beyond making phone calls, and the infrastructure cost that goes into it is so darn expensive that it doesn’t justify the phone calls as a function or feature. VoIP will die its death in this timeline, but will come back again. Perhaps when 3G becomes prevalent and demand pushes need and applications and services are born, a revival might come in place.

    Quite a lot of folks ask me whats a good idea worth exploring. It is quite interesting to note that the “ideas to toss” section of this blog is one of the most popular ones, apart from the controversial ones that come up from time to time. People are looking for ideas, and thats a statement. Sometimes, in order to look into the future, you just have to look at the past and see what has died before its time, and perhaps give those tombstones a new leash on life.

    If you want a hint and a springboard, go right ahead to the deadpool section of Techcrunch and see, what you can dig up, and where you can play the part of a necromancer (Oh the Diablo playing days!)

    More Links to Click:
    Startup North
    Startups that came back from the Dead
    Michael Arrington Seeds Dead Startups.
    Y Combinator List, with Lots of Dead Startups

    Phew, this has been another crazy weekend following the last. It was great to finally sleep in and wake up around noon today (sunday) and unwind with all the stress and lack of sleep that was quickly catching up.

    I was in bangalore this weekend for an official meet and it was fun to meet up with Sridhar who runs Yulop and the kind of things he has has been involved in. Considering that each of my meetings were in opposite ends of the town, I think i also got quite a good taste of how bad bangalore traffic can be – and i was told that it being a saturday it was better *sigh*

    I am finding Doppr to be quite useful these days. After fixing up travel plans, I used to have to write to a whole slew of people to inform them of trips. Should everyone get on dopplr, that bit should get quite easy. I have no idea how they are quite to make money (as a company), but its a mighty useful service for sure.

    Met some pretty fascinating people today. I’ll cover that in a seperate post.

    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!

    Saturday was Startup Lunch in Bangalore and kudos to the guys [Sridhar, Pradeep and Ashish Sinha] who are spearheading the effort there, it went really really really well. There is an account by the organizing team which goes through most of the details. I am quite impressed, and kinda glad to know that there is a positive response for this sort of initiatives. Delhi was the first to go, followed by Pune, followed by Bangalore. Chennai will have its lunch most probably at the last saturday of this month, since Barcamp Bangalore is coming up on the 19th and to avoid any clash of dates.

    Like clockwork, the Chennai OpenCoffee club meet happened in Chennai today. I am quite happy with the way this group is heading and everytime we meet, we see quite a bit of new faces which is always quite encouraging. Today’s main discussion was about “How to hire and manage your team”. There was also an after thought discussion on the “personal life” of entrepreneurs, partly picked up by the post I had made on this blog earlier. I must admit that it was a little weird to write about personal emotions on a blog, but it certainly seems like it hit a common chord. That’s definitely something to keep in mind.

    I believe I would be in bangalore on Saturday, if the chaos out there should subside, and we are also planning a trip to delhi to finalize on the venue for the upcoming edition of Proto.in, either on Sunday or the weekend following that. I guess the weekend after that is going to have Startup Lunch here in Chennai. Seems like i am already booked for this month, in terms of weekends. *sigh*

    When we first laid down the groundwork for Proto, one of the things that I sincerely wished to see was more initiatives like Proto spring up, so that – for one, we’d strive to deliver more value to the entrepreneurs who need all the support they can, and hopefully we can move on to focus on the next gap that the ecosystem requires attention on.

    I am quite happy to see that the same ardent and capable team behind Barcamp Bangalore, working towards putting together Headstart.in.

    My kudos to the team, and a happy moment for seeing the startup ecosystem come together with such grace here in India. Most certainly a dream come true.