Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Posts Tagged ‘web+2.0

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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Up until a couple of years ago, the concept of “First movers’ advantage” had some credit to it – atleast in the web world since it was quite nascent. Lately more and more folks are realizing, and rightly so, that whatever happened in the PC Platform, is repeating itself in the web world. If you are creating a market, moving first essentially means that you are going to be deploying a whole array of tactics – including pumping in money – to get the word out as to this mysterious problem that people have and how we’ve gone for so long without knowing that we had a need for it and now that we do, here’s the solution.

The Only analogy that fits this strategy is what happened in the US when the colonization began. Obviously, everyone was quite familiar with the “yellow Dust” that the native Indians simply didn’t care for. And when the immigrants did arrive, and realize that there was gold just lying there in the river basins, the rush was to essentially get to where no man has even been to – to enjoy the luxuries and wealth that he might find.

I am slightly against the so called first movers advantage, because it essentially means that you are planning to go find a problem – hopefully a real problem – and stake the entire zone for yourself. Hmm. It usually doesn’t work. Here’s why.

The market is global. And News travels fast. By the time you actually create that awareness wave, it will spread much faster than the company can expand operations. It will then turn into the inevitable home turf vs. foreign markets and we all know how that game goes. You start playing defense from day one.

Customer Loyalty is on a lowest low these days. There is no such thing as inherent branding that happens – especially if its in the web world. Sell someone a Sony Bravia, and since its a more tangible product, the branding aspect still sticks. When it comes to services and applications around the web, nope nobody cares. I’d flip in a jiffy if I find a better tool that does what I want to do and expands my productivity.

The First Mover advantage, (a.k.a The Goldrush strategy) works where niche products and brands are in play. For a startup, those are dangerous and long term goals to achieve and there are more pressing needs.

I am lately realizing how many of the hip companies of the internet which was so hot last year, arent anywhere now. I was fighting over everyone to get a subscription about in Scribe and I do like what they do, except that I also have plenty of alternatives. I am not even sure if I remember my username password there. I am sure you can think of many more names that I could. I want to focus on what it takes to build a company that lasts a lifetime or even more. In a day and age, when it seems that most of the hottest companies also seem to be dying off pretty rapidly, that’s a thought that almost makes me smile… and wonder.

Disclaimer: These are just rumours. Tell me if they are true.

1. I’m hearing reports that a social networking site, one of the investments of Sequoia and ,the SN offering of reliance (Note: Update below) are both finding it hard to scale up and might face the inevitable very soon.

Is it true? if it is, then does this mark the fact that Social networking is a big No-no in India and whatever mass we had that was buying into that story have already sold their souls to orkut and facebook? How many users does Fropper have?

2. How are sites like techtribe doing?

3. Do you realize that the largest possible userbase is possibly the job sites like Naukri.com, and matrimonial sites like BharatMatrimony and Shaadi.com?

4. Given that in India, we have a fixed number of users who are perenially online, and do have the mindset and the bandwidth to “socially network”, wouldnt it be better to perhaps create an OpenID system, perhaps like the one that yahoo has created (openid.yahoo.com) to login into all of these sites, which would possibly also benefit all of these sites? Or is that something OpenSocial has to solve?

Do pitch in your thoughts.

Update:

It does seem that the Rs.100 crore that has gone into Bigadda and the marketing that it is undergoing, is essentially driving a lot of traffic. A quick alexa search with comparison to the other contenders show some pretty interesting trends.

Bits and pennies, (Thanks Sabah Kazi) has an interesting graph that shows the trend (using alexa)

So its quite apparent that there is a quite a bit of traffic being driven towards the site – actually some tens of millions.

I’d like to see a analysis on the conversion rates that are going on, the total traffic, the new user sign ups, and the breakup of active versus passive users.

One thing is clear, with the sheer amount of money pumping in, Bigadda.com might stick around for a while.

Main Entry: Captcha
Function: Verb
Date: Quite recently.

1a. The modern way of torturing a poor netcitizen with the repeated function of eye squinting.

I’m sure all of you know what a captcha image is right? Well, for the uninitiated, its essentially those skewed letters which form letters of strings of numbers, that you have to squint at repeatedly and tilt your head from sideways to leeways, and even might have to invite your dog over and ask him if his black and white vision helps, to figure out what that letter is. It’s supposed to stop “spam bots” from getting to you.

As you can see, I am not very much a fan of that. Well, I say that there definitely better ways to do it.

What you are essentially looking for is a little bit of human intelligence and the ability to come up with a “smart” question, using a “stupid” computer so that the answer could determine whether the person or thing providing the input could be determined for intelligence. That’s pretty much the logic.

So is skewed text, and at times throwing random ink blots into the mix, the way to go about it?

There are already a few options being discussed about, out there at large, but here’s what i am thinking. Have you played the game of “pick the odd one out” ? That game certainly requires a bit of intelligence – atleast that of a five year old – yet doesn’t freckle your brains to come up with an answer. Plus its also a lot of fun. The beauty is that, you could make it as a silly and simple as the jackpot choices (where the choices are obviously different), or can make it a bit trickier with very similar looking options.

A small interactive widget which can randomize four of five images and perhaps ask the user to “pick the rabbit out of the horses”, with three horses and a rabbit lined up… wouldnt that be simpler, and serve the purpose?

For all the fuzz going on a with companies such as disqus, a team who can actually put together an embeddable widget to do an alternative captcha is worth mention of.

PS: Captcha “really” stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart

Consumers are ready for physical media to be completely obliterated.
– Inspired by Brad Duea, President, Napster

When I was barely a teenager, my computer instructor taught me a golden rule. Whenever you come across something interesting, complex and mythical that blows away your mind, rest assured that the following cycles will follow: In the case with computers, You will keep going from “Oh my god, its a computer!” to “Bah, its just a box which does stuff I tell it to do” to “Holy Molly! I can do all this with this”, and the cycle keeps repeating itself. It’s a constant roller coaster ride being amazed to bored to frustrated to being excited all over again, with each progressive cycle the medium evolving.

It’s been more than a decade and that rule holds true, so much so. Social media is no exception to the rule.

While blogging was something that started off as a means of enabling conversational thoughts among a team of folks six years ago, it has essentially became a way to collect my thoughts, and verbalize them, and communicate with a larger medium for me. I trust sources on blogs (since most of them are personal blogs) much more than I trust the traditional media when they run an article on the same topic, since the difference is the authority on the topic. Time and time again I am realizing the traditional media to run articles with numbers which make no sense and quotes which are diluted that I am starting to lose faith in them.

So What’s really happening here? Well, That’d what I’d like to know.

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I am seeing a flurry of activity among the tech blogs who’ve caught on a interesting topic to latch onto. Failed startups. If you ask me, I am not sure what the big hoopla in this is about.

Birds fly. Fishes Swim. Deals Fall through and Startups Fail. This is the natural order of things. The only thing we can do is alleviate the chances of success for a startup by a small degree. We do not, neither can anyone assure anyone of success and failures totally. Heck, the Silicon valley, which is considered to be this rich ecosystem, has its fair share of failures. What are we going to do about that?

“Success is one in a million. There is a very small chance that you could be that one and the obvious choice left is to fail. Are you ready for that?” is what my mentor used to ask me. For the first six and a half months, as I was pursuing him to be my mentor, every single book he gave me was on this amazing idea, great execution which went nowhere and resulted in a failed business. I used to think what was the point he was trying to make there. It was simple. Success in a startup is an anamoly. The natural route is failure. If there is one breed of people who can dare change that, it would be an entrepreneur. Yet there are factors and choices beyond our control which all contribute against it.

I remember talking to some students a few months back and the question kept going back to the concept of failing. How do you mitigate that risk and all that. I thought it was one of the profound and mature audiences that I had dealt with. I don’t even get some of those question at Proto.in, where startups are on a much progressive stage. I am hoping that they already know the answers to that.

Most of the startups that are slowly gaining traction are on an average on their third iteration. Most companies that come to Proto.in themselves are on their second iteration. It’s quite obvious when you talk to them and see how they have evolved their offering based on market interaction. It is that iteration which actually is the strength of a startup. Remember Agile, evolving, and the path towards a “complete” product? It’s all part and parcel of that.

There is this interesting session that happens when you learn how to skate – whether on ice or on inlines. The first thing you learn is how to fall. How to fall gracefully is the next step. If you are afraid of failure, You wouldn’t even move a step ahead. You need to dare, and that’s what entrepreneurship essentially is all about. There is a high level of risk and high level of reward at the end. Not everyone who get a lottery wins, and not everyone who starts up a company also succeeds. I am not sure what is news about it.

As long as you are afraid of falling, you won’t be able to stand up on your feet either. I can assure you that. I’ll leave you with these following words, which we had posted on a high banner for the first edition of Proto.in. Perhaps it needs to be much more visible, perhaps even everyday:

It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worth cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

PS: This issue of looking at failed initiatives in a bad light, doesnt end in India alone.It seems quite universal – even in the US

“Build the traction and let’s think about the revenue stream later”, they say. Another variant of the same thought is the often heard “Get as many eyeballs as possible and then you can figure out the business model”.

How, I ask?

Most of the folks who do know me personally will tell you that I shudder everytime I hear “Web 2.0”. It might as well be pronounced as the “thing that sinks in money and gives back nothing” as far as I am concerned. I am not totally going against everything in that category. Some are just great businesses which are cursed under that category, but the usual trend seems to be that, if you can whip up some snazzy thing, you can float it up as a venture. Not too sure about that one.

So why am I writing this post, when I’ve said this countless times before? I got an email which goes something like this in the part where it describes the company and what it does:

“The xyz software and the xyz IM and Text Message Service are completely free. PC calls from xyz are also free. Mobile calls from xyz, however, are charged at local fixed line calling rates (or deducted as part of your monthly local minutes package). This will change soon, when we release our Mobile VOIP solution – and all calls will also be free.”

I read a Free, another Free, another one and yet another Free. There was this minute little scope for revenue which was also washed out by the following Free. So, if I were an investor, when would I see my money back?

PS: I’m going to categorize this under “humor” 🙂


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