Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Posts Tagged ‘google

Once life starts picking up the biggest problem for me seems to be managing time, and most of all trying to avoid the moments when I end up cross booking the time slot for two people – yep, that isnt an easy situation to get out of.

When I am at home, and during weekends, I manage my Calendar on my Nokia Handset with an hour reminder. When I am in Office, I use Outlook’s calendar to manage schedules. The biggest issue is the first few meetings on Monday mornings – there are times when something comes up and there is no way for me to check my schedule.

So here’s the solution I’ve gone with.

Using Google calendar exclusively to manage my entire data. I found to my pleasant surprise that Google has a small app that can syncronize your outlook calendars with Gcalendar.

Secondly, after trying a host of free, opensource and cant-seem-to-get-it-to-work apps, I found CalSyncS60 which works like a charm with my Nokia Phone to do a two-way sync with my schedule in Google Calendar.

As of now, life seems to be in order. The fine line between, work and personal line is blurred forever, but it should atleast save me from breaking people’s hearts by forgetting scheduled meets and keep me on time. That’s a fair tradeoff.

It’s a darn good time to be an entrepreneur in India – but only if you know whats available to you. I have been coming across a whole lot of resources that are available to an entrepreneur today, that you perhaps are not aware of.

The beauty about growing a startup or an SME is that the right set of tools really can make a whole lot of difference. Here are some tools that are sure to make your day.

Indian SME Toolkit: This is perhaps the holy grail of everything that you ever need. The initiative launched by ICICI, IFC and IBM has a host of templates for everything you need for running a startup or SME. Let me give you an example. There are close to a hundred plus templates on just invoices. Yep, you are going to need that to bill your customer, and when it does happen *fingers crossed* you wouldn’t have to ask around as to what all needs to go into it.

Zoho Apps: This is still the one stop place for most things that you ever need when it comes to tools for CRM, Project management, Collaborative work process, etc etc.

DimDim: I am sure that you notice all those high-flying corporates to be doing videoconferencing, desktop sharing and all those snazzy stuff. DimDim gives it to you at a price you can afford – for free. There were some minor reliability issues when I last tried it, from the revamp of the site and the positioning, I expect that that should be fixed by now.

TeamViewer: If you are collaborating remotely, and want to take over the computer of your counterpart to whiff up a rapid prototype for the UI, or show something, Teamviewer is an option. It pretty much looks like a desktop sharing app, but am hearing good reviews about it. Alternative Option: Citrix GotoMeeting

Weebly: While you are scrambling to put together your team, setup appointments with your auditors, and do those lineup of interviews and run around in unconferences, you probably dont want your website and domain looking dull. Weebly is one quick way to cough up a website which will keep the plate warm, till you have the time to get there.

Basecamp: Project Management, and the first name you ever and only need to utter is Basecamp. ActivCollab is a similar downloadable version which you can host in your own server. FogBugz is another option.

Skype: When it comes to interacting within the team, and at times even with outsiders, Skype wins hands down. Get some of those Skypeout minutes and I am told that the audio quality improves – not sure how much of it is true though.

Google Talk: For times when you dont want to hear the other person’s voice, but just want to touch base on and off, Gtalk is your friend. You dont want to rely on Skype for its messaging – at times the message gets lost in oblivion and comes back.

Financial Planning: I am told that TurboCash – Free Accounting Software (Though all that you need initially are some well done excel workbooks, and Wesabe are good options to look into to setup the financial processes quickly. You might want to run the final list through your local auditor though. Things change so fast in this scene that you dont want to take a chance in being wrong.

Shopify: You need to setup an ecommerce site and the going rate to build one with any freelancing community can be quite high. The even worse part is that you still don’t know whether what you are building will work, and you want to iterate quickly keeping your costs low. Shopify is a step towards that. It seems that most folks there have permanently stuck on to that, since the platform does give you a great commercial feel.

Freshbooks: Do you know the pain of sending invoices to your clients and keeping track of it? Most of all, the time when the lack of professionalism shows is when you are trying to keep that time of your interaction where money is involved as clean as possible. Freshbooks is an awesome tool and service for that. Highly recommended and I’ve gotten a few of my startups on it, and they are loving it. Blinksale is another option.

Campaign Monitor: Most of you guys are on the webspace. Which also mean that you send out a lot of mailers asking people to sign up for stuff. Let me be honest: Most of them look darn ugly that my first impression plummets, never to sign up for that service. Campaign Monitor is one good way to get such snobby customers onboard. Plus, I believe it offers a nice way to track responses.

FaxitNice: For those of you whoever are, or when your customers insist to live in the 90s day and age of faxes.

More to Follow…

Relevant Read: The Absolute Startup Essentials Series.

Credits:
Tools for Bootstrappers – Anjana Vivek
Setting up a Low-cost conference Room – Amit Ranjan

It was a world before the Amazon EC3 was available. Google needed servers and all they could lay their hands on were cheap and commodity hardware. In the true spirit of engineering, what came about was the solution of clustering all of them together to provide the same level of performance and efficiency that expensive servers were providing. It solved them a major issue, and gave them a leap ahead in a time when Amazon hadnt thought about providing web services yet. [Jump to See Image of Google's First Server]

Fast forward to the present.

We have a world where gaming machines are more powerful that desktops and servers are. The marketing strategies of these two behemoths (Microsoft and Sony) are such that they are selling the machines at a loss and making up for the losses in the sale of games.

After the computing gods there be, launched the cell architecture processors in the game machines, they have also released them as computing platforms. IBM has them in the blade format, which costs close to $18,000.

IBM BladeCenter QS20 $18,995 (Dual Processor)

IBM BladeCentre QS21 $9,995.00 (Single)

Terrasoft, the company behind Yellow dog Linux, and Rapidmind have released a version of linux that can run on top of the PS3. That was last year.

I am sure there are some projects going on in this space. I did see a site sometime back which was dedicated to the work that was going on by clustering 70 nodes of Playstation 2 devices. But I havent heard, nor am familiar with any of the startups exploiting this opportunity.

There are two mammoth corporations who are subsiding hardware for a different strategy. You could essentially buy the same hardware at one 18th/9th the price, get free software which could convert it into a computing platform, and expand on that power. There will be some issues if you are using any extension cards like IP Telephony devices or so to run any of the services, but for companies which are purely focused on the web services part, having a cluster of such powerful machines might very well prove to be a long term strategy to keep costs down, and yet not compromise on the performance of your systems.

Plus think about it, when you are having a slowdown, you could very well pull out one of the machines and have a death match with your co-founder :)

Disclaimer: This is just a theory. Not the fact.

The war between the giants, Microsoft and Yahoo continues. But none of the threats, nor the position that Yahoo is in, seems to be putting a brake on the companies they are going around acquiring, nor the services they are releasing. Life is as normal, infact on a fresh new lease – one that is quite agressive for Yahoo!.

So here’s a theory that I have, and time will tell how much of this is true.

The following things seem to be happening:

1. Yahoo is very pissed off at Microsoft.

2. Yahoo has been for the longest time wanting to get into what Facebook is doing. And now it does. – the open platform shabang.

3. Yahoo is working on a whole new ad delivery platform.

4. Yahoo has an amazing advantage of close to 5 million new email signups every month in India alone – which is actually ahead of what Google has, followed by I believe either Indiatimes or Rediff.

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Once a while I actually go on crazy cruise mode and just randomly search for keywords that strike my fancy, hoping to come across a blog or a news article that catches my interest. Its an excercise to get out of the “echo cloud” which happens quite often when you keep listening to the same set of bloggers and writers. I don’t blame them. When all of Paulo Coelho’s book start to sound the same after reading two of his series, I am not surprised that it becomes a case with most bloggers.

So coming back to the point.

While one such exercise, I am across a post from a blog that I used to follow once: Venture Explorer. There was a post on how in this day and age, every startup from day one has to focus on the global market place and do competitive analysis, and potential market analysis of the globe as a whole from day one. That was a pretty interesting read to say the least.

While my trip to delhi this weekend, I met up with quite a bit of folks, and some old time friends that I haven’t had a chance to catch up with lately. So while during one of the dinner meets with someone who is running a fairly successful – actually very successful – internet service, he mentioned how for the past four days his service is under DDoS attacks from China, because them not liking some content which is up on the site. The attacks are apparently causing some slight issues and troubles with the hosting provider who is just plain simply confused at the scale and frequency of the attack which doesnt seem to stop.

Now I am wondering as to what is the solution for such a thing. Globally speaking, the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have succumbed to the demands of the Chinese government and have let them have their say in whatever these guys do. The Indian government repeatedly gets hacked by chinese hackers who deface government sites, and we are still working on the security protocols to keep them out. And to effectively fight back against these attacks, you need some pretty heavy weight hardware to defend yourself – something that startups don’t have. I mean, if MS, and Google who do have the muscle in terms of popularity, their stance, and technology don’t stand up, what chance does a startup have?

This is a troubling question though, and one that needs to be answered somehow. Maybe we need to put together our elite squad of hackers to fight back, should the need arise. Maybe. Maybe there are better and less complicated solutions.

There was this fabulous quote by the Executives of one of the major internet portals, must be either Rediff or Indiatimes, who mentioned that ‘E-commerce in India is nothing more than a payment gateway – as of now’. It’s a medium of payment, but the usage of the word “commerce” is a overkill for what really goes on.

All that said, there is most certainly a trend towards making more and more services available over the web – for sale and purchase by organizations and individuals, and we are yet to exploit that growing opportunity.

I have often heard this “imagination” being described when we talk about a next generation service. It goes as something like this – Imagine that you drive out and are in the middle of somewhere and do have sometime and feel like having a bite of pizza. You flip open your phone or tap the screen of your internet tablet, and search for “pizza” and the display shows you all the nearest pizza joints from where you are, along with some of the discounts that are happening, and also possibly the locations rated according to user reviews. You tap your selection and the device shows you the driving location to it, you mount it on the dashboard holder, and drive away till you reach the location.

That does sound quite magical doesn’t it? But it doesn’t work. Not yet and though there are quite a few ventures working on that space, someone is failing to see the ideation in its entirety and the system that has to be developed. I’m hoping this would help.

So lets start with what we have. There are plenty of services available today, which essentially provide lead generation tools. They are more focused on the businesses – since they are the ones who bring in the money, than the consumer who calls in and that partiality is so clearly visible. For example, lets say that I am stuck in the middle of a road with my car low on battery and I want to find a nearby store who can help charge my battery or maybe jumpstart the car engine, i flip up the mobile or internet tablet and go search for sites such as Sulekha or Justdial, or even perhaps Ask Laila, and enter the keywords battery recharge. Most of the time, the results that are given are pretty much the entire directory of every vendor out there who is a battery dealer. Should my query even mistakenly be forwarded to the vendors, I’d have a hell of a time holding on to my cellphone. My only option would be to give up the number and get another one cause thats how many calls I’d be getting from folks who are hoping that they got business. The scenario might not exactly roll out the same way, but I am sure you get the idea.

There are three key issues there.
1. Lack of Geotags which can identify where I am, and where the store is.
2. Lack of Specificity and the ability to get into further detail. It’s not just pizza, but I might be looking for pizza with a rare mix of mushroom and brinjal.
3. Lack of any information regarding availability.

What you need past this is essentially a system that can tie all of this together. Without these basic components, you still are nowhere close to having an entire system in place.

Geotags are crucial. Sridhar of Yulop is working on quite a bit of stuff related to this, and I am totally with his efforts. The ability to geotag cultural event locations, restaurants, temples, mosques, hotels, schools, colleges, hospitals and anyplace that could potentially be a “destination” is a very crucial aspect of this system. Avoiding the system from asking the question of “where are you now” is something that goes a long way. I am still amazed everytime I call the taxi company and they already know what my home and office location are, and they only ask me if the pick up is at home or at office. Now, that’s an experience that makes a difference.

Depth. And Availability. These two things are inherently connected. I want to know if something very specific that I am looking for is available. Not battery sales, but battery service would have brought down my queries significantly and that is crucial.
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“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” — Pablo Picasso

What is it that makes a great startup? It’s a question that I have been pondering over for sometime now actually and I thought I’d start a conversation around the same. So What makes a startup great? Is it It’s rate of growth? The team? The market? or the amount of funds that its able to raise? Hmm.. Possibly none of the above.

Let me cite you a couple of great examples and let’s draw the parallels from there.

Case #1: The telecom world has been known for skimming the market. While technically the cost of landing a call across the globe was quite insignificant, most operators have charged ridiculous prices for one simple reason – there were no other options. With having no options came the fact that they can price calls at the tags that they want to, and the public innocently was willing to pay for it. All went on as normal till the internet boomed and high speed internet became a reality, and Voice over IP (VoIP) was born. As much as there were a lot of initial attempts (even microsoft and yahoo tried internet telephony and discontinued), the fact that most of the world was yet not on broadband didn’t help the cause at all. Then along came skype with its compression codec which worked on narrowband connections, the way they democratized (decentralized) access and limitations, and the rules of the game were forever changed.

As the story goes, the founders didn’t start with skype, but with Kazaa, which did the same thing for internet file sharing. Kazzaa did for file sharing what Napster started with for music sharing within intranets

Case #2: Before the telecom revolution happened in India, the cost of a telephone line was close to Rs. 10,000. There was a man who had the vision, the drive and the determination to make sure that that cost was sub Rs. 500. Sounds very crazy doesnt it? But it happened, and thats how the TeNeT Group was formed, and thats one of the greatest momentum on which it rides till this day.

Case #3: There was once a time when searching for anything on the internet meant a lot of pain. The closest you will get to anything will be loads and loads of adult websites, which had covered just about every meta tag under the sun and were the default results no matter what you were looking for. Search for your mother’s favorite dessert recipe and you know what you’d get. Then came dogpile, and within the undercurrents came a company which just blew your mind away with the accuracy of information it got to you. Just when most of us, had given up hope of digging out anything useful out of the internet, Google helped make sense of the oodles of information that the cyberworld was churning up.

Case #4: There was once a time when people thought that four wheeler drives were meant only for the highly rich. Ratan Tata took to new levels what Henry Ford started off, with his vision and in delivering on his word, the Tata Nano.

I think we have enough to start with. Can you see the commonality that runs between all these cases. If I have to pick a word for it, I’d choose “controversy”. These are all essentially and rightly so, companies, teams and ideas that challenged the norm.

There was once a wise man who advised me that it was okay to be considered controversial. It’s not a crime, actually a compliment and a pride for an entrepreneur to be controversial. If you are an entrepreneur and you are not controversial, it just means you are just another one of the same – nothing more than wasting everyone’s breathe in the ecosystem. In other words, there is a remote chance that you are actually breaking new ground, when you are controversial.

There is also another reason why I think this makes a lot of sense. When you are starting off with a new company, and with a revolutionary mission in mind (assuming that you do want to break some new ground), it is absolutely essential that you polarize people. There will always be people who will love you and those who hate you no matter what. But the only choice you have is to ensure that there are not many people who are indifferent about what you do. You want to make sure that people choose a side, whether loving or hating your idea for whatever reason it is, and from time to time even swing sides. That’s what a “Buzz” really is all about. If you have that going for you, you are going to have no problems in having people spinning around you, in your new world.

So coming back to our original question, What makes a great Startup? I think it starts off with the vision itself. And the vision of course is something that is grown on the fertile soil of the founders’ imaginations. A great startup is one that changes the rules of the game – and what most refer to as disrupting markets. Not all technology disruptions necessarily disrupt markets and lifestyle as well. But there’s the magic that an entrepreneur brings in and one that differentiates him from a pure scientist.

As per the new economy, free is no longer controversial. It’s actually the norm these days. Discounts and free are words that people have heard and demand for no apparent reason. “Free” has cheapened a lot of services. It is also made possible by the various other laws and economic conditions that make it happen, but might not be something that will go on for long. The “Free” marketing strategy (started off by Gillette) is one of the several marketing strategies, not THE only marketing strategy.

Let me ask. If there is something that everybody keeps saying cant be done, there is probably a good chance that it can be proven otherwise. Does it come close to the where you are standing and aiming for right now?


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