Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Posts Tagged ‘yulop

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

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Ever since the journey with Proto.in started, about two years ago, I can safely say that I’ve sifted through atleast 300+ company profiles. I’ll hit you with the bad news first: Most of them are hopeless. They are half-baked solutions. They probably are great hobby projects and shouldn’t even allowed to be classified as a “startup” or a Product. Most of them lack business sense – to the point that if you did get a chance to see some of them, you might totally lose hope on the startup scene in India altogether.

Of course, the good news, is that the evolution is happening extremely rapidly. I am seeing lesser and lesser of the type of companies that I described above, and more holistic companies starting to appear. So what’s the issue? Not all is happy and merry yet.

Lately, I am seeing quite a bit of companies that seem to be addressing some very valid problems, and coming up with solutions that do make sense and would work. The only issue is that since most of them have a problem hiring, and a much bigger issue validating the concept and running the pilot that they end up building one piece of the puzzle and it takes them far too long to roll out the “solution”. The funny thing is that, mentally I can clearly see that there are different pieces of the same puzzle being put together by different groups. I simply can’t understand why they can’t collaborate and work together to target the problem.

So, yes, there are issues with this. First of all, since all of them are startups, and all being run by founders, there would be some issues with personality clashes as to how things are done. But lets face it. There are atleast seven players for every single component that is being made for the same problem out there. I think there are plenty of options of teams to choose from.

Before I do get blamed for pulling this out of thin air, here’s an example of something that works somewhere else. There is a Firm that I am aware of that operates out of an emerging nation. The way they work is that they fund certain entities to create knowledge and IP. Their IP could be as simple as a new recipe for a cake (quite seriously!). The firm identifies entrepreneurs in a location, and helps this entrepreneur create a franchisee location, and is given the know-how as to how to create these recipes and sell them. He is given just about six months of time when he is hand-held and guided on the art of running a businesses.

Six months later, the firm goes and finds an entrepreneur, exactly in the opposite side of the country and does the same thing. Follows up in another three months with another entrepreneur in another location, etc etc and repeats all above steps till they have five or six stable entrepreneurs who are running local units in different parts across the country. Then their only focus is to pump all their energy, and resources into these five units and watch with whom the entrepreneurial leadership kicks in. Once that is identified, they create a new entity, merge all these five units under it, place this “leader” as the manager, and take a stake out of this new entity.

The positive note for the firm in all this is that, they take equity out of a firm which has a high chance of success since its run by not one but five entrepreneurs who are well versed in the same business, understand local diversity, and have crossed the issue of scalability, and probably are leaders and hence will ensure that their local unit grows and thrives.

If you take that model and see how to apply a version of it in the context of India, and the technology space, I’d say that for most problems, the solution is broken and built by various companies – mostly small teams, two or three people. It would be interesting for a firm, or an incubator to pick a aching problem, and bring together startups who are building pieces of the puzzle. Come up with a formula (perhaps on revenue, team size, and product readiness) as metrics and figure out the percentage each company will hold, on a new entity that will be created and promoted as the solution to this problem.

Simple case in point: Ordering Food over the net. It is going to require a hotel network front, a logistics front, and perhaps a LBS, technology front. Hungry Bangalore + OrderMonger + Yulop is a solution to go with. You at least need these three bare minimum teams to come together if the Seamless web is the kind of end-result that they are aiming for. I am sure there are other alternatives and maybe other elements as well, that other companies can bring in.

Firms, since they do enjoy the same bird’s eye view that Proto.in enjoys can definitely put together this high level working arrangement, and someone will have to “architect” and manage these teams, atleast initially till their co-existence structure gets ironed out and they find their roles. But its certainly do-able.a

I strongly believe that this kind of lego-work will probably increase a few more holistic startups in the indian scene. If it does come together and work, it will probably one of the most high energy teams, since all the founders will be the guys who will be driving this, and there is no comparison to that – ever.

Related Posts:

A New Kind of Incubation Model. Part I

A New Kind of Incubation Model. Part II

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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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.


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