Easy Choices

Easy Choices

As a founder, you will hear a lot about the difficult choices you have to make; how each crossroad will require soul-searching for the right step forward. Most of those stories are true. But it’s not all bad – as you go about building stuff, some choices are going to be no-brainers!
These questions are different for each of us. It depends on your unique blend of talent, conviction and constitution. Some folks will find it easy to select the first channel of distribution or the first feature or the first investor or whatever else. However easy you may have found the choice, you may be surprised by the consequences.
These seemingly easy choices tend to have a high degree of cognitive biases and may leave you unprepared for the results. It may have been an easy decision to take that first cheque from an unknown investor, but you will have to deal with this person for a very long time. That feature you thought was super important may turn out to be a timesucking lemon.
Some choices you are prepared for and for some you need to do more work. Never underestimate the impact of these easy choices, the value of due diligence and the power of hard work.

Everything matters in the fast lane

Everything matters in the fast lane

When you are building for a global audience, everything seems to move at light speed. Your users are online 24/7 and so is your competition. Nobody cares about ‘business hours’ anymore. All that matters is Happiness. You can leave no stone unturned, no feature half-baked and no tweet unreplied to in the pursuit of their happiness.
To build a great experience for users who drop apps at light speed, you need to move at light speed yourself. Everything you do is crucial and everything you miss is fatal. This is a gross oversimplification of the harsh realities of a contemporary technology startup, but it doesn’t belie the truth. Once successful companies can look like also-rans in the matter of only a few quarters, lest they keep up with the always-on crowd. Apps that defined your mornings can feel sluggish and not-real-timey-enough if they don’t push out updates regularly.
Working at these speeds requires discipline and drive. Insane drive. Almost maniacal obsession to be on top of every single point of contact, every single click, every single request. Drop the ball and your users pass you by.
Vroom vroom.

No – The art of focus

No - The art of focus

As you start out creating something out of nothing, it quickly becomes clear that you need to learn things you hadn’t planned on learning. The most valuable thing that you learn is the art of saying No.
If you are leading the process, you need to identify holes in the idea, process and people that might detract you from your ultimate goal. Counter to popular belief, this doesn’t always become easier with experience. With each new idea come new people, new processes and new hurdles for a new goal. What remains constant is to be able to say no to bad ideas which could quickly balloon to take up your precious time.
Each time you add a new feature, you make another promise to your customer. Before you do that, check if you have done all you can to keep the promises you have already made. Focus on your existing promises and say no to the rest.

Leopard OS X Hackintosh – OSX86 Mac in India

We run a pure Mac development environment with Macbooks and Macbook Pros for my startup in Bangalore. Recently, my maxed out Macbook lost its LCD backlight and had to be sent into the Apple Store (Imagine). Running a new startup without a computer to work with isn’t advisable, besides personal withdrawal issues. I realized that we need an extra system in the office so that if something breaks down, we have a machine to work with. Obviously, as a startup we can’t go around buying Mac Pros for redundancy.
So I chose to go the Hackintosh way. I got a 10.5.2 Hardware Compatibility List off the OSX86Project Wiki and speced out a system that was under $500/Rs.22,000 and started looking for people who could deliver the goods. I found ‘Pintu’ at Karnataka Computers who did the entire thing up for me. So this is what my config looks like:

  • Gigabyte Motherboard GA-945GCM-S2L
  • Intel 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo
  • Transcend 1 x 2GB Ram
  • LiteOn 20x DVD Burner
  • NVidia XFX 7200GS 256MB
  • 500GB Hard Disk Sata (a little extra)
  • Netgear WiFi USB Adapter WG111v3
  • Logitech Wireless Keyboard + Mouse Set
  • Cabinet, SMPS, Wires etc.

It is such a smooth machine, that I ended up buying a 22″ LG Flatron LCD and making it my mainstay. My Time Machine backup had me up and running in a day – yes it took me that long to retrieve my data. Besides the slow data recovery, the only problem I had was that my USB devices need to be connected before I start up or restart my machine, I am hoping that its a fix that’s out there. Update: I upgraded to modbin 9.3.0 kernel and its all taken care of.
A working and powerful Mac desktop in under Rs.30,000/$750 in India. Awesome.
These guys did a bang up job at finalizing the configuration and delivering it in Bangalore within a couple of hours:
Karanataka Computers, 080-2229-0815

Yahoo! India sign in down?

I just tried signing into my Flickr account and it kept giving me ‘wrong id/password’ message, making my heart skip a beat each time. But after five minutes, I was able to sign into My Yahoo! and now another 10 minutes later, into Flickr.com.
Did they just have a hiccup?

Reliance Entertainment – $3 Billion Giant

As per Business Standard George Soros has picked up a 3% stake in Reliance Entertainment for $100 million effectively valuing the company for $3 billion. ContentSutra got a confirmation of the same from Rajesh Sawhney, President of the Rs. 400 crore investment.
Zapak, Big Adda, Big Flicks, Jump Games and the whole BIG thing (Movies & Music) are owned by the company, which may be heading towards an IPO soon. This is definitely big news for the Indian industry and the value this market holds for the next little while.

Dull Day

I have had which I had only heard about. A really ‘meh’ day, or to be more eloquent – a ‘blah’ day! I guess I am just going to chill out in front of the one-way-meant-for-boobs tube and read some of the latest on ContentSutra and UX Magazine.

2007 VC Funding nears 2001 Bubble

Erick Schonfeld over at Techcrunch.com details the Venture Capital funding for 2007 based on a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and National Venture Capital Association. It’s been the craziest year since 2001. Ok, so it may not be a bubble as far as this report goes, but I find myself wondering about its existence in India. Lot of hype, lot of trades, not many revenue models – that’s a bubble right? Some interesting facts:

  • $4.6 billion in internet deals -> + 12% y-o-y
  • $5.27 billion in software – biggest sector
  • $7.2 billion or 1267 deals – first time financings
  • $6.3 billion or 1410 early stage deals -> + 11% y-o-y
  • $12.2 billion or 1168 later stage deals -> + 41% vs. 37% in previous year
  • Study represents 480 venture capital and private equity funds
  • $2.2 billion in clean tech – fastest growing sector

A Note to the Indian Traveller

Hello You,
You know who you are – the angry young, old man and woman. You, who’s always in a rush to get into the airport, to breathe down my neck till I move aside and let you go. You, who throws your luggage onto the security scanner and runs around and look into the darkness of the machine as if you were searching for your mate in the abyss of life. Please tell me why do you need to stand next to me when I am checking in, with your tickets pulled out and yelling on your phone as if your life depended on it. Is there an ‘An Amazing Race’ episode being filmed that I am not aware of?
Why do you never smile? Why are you never thankful or regretful? Why do you deserve to get everything before everyone else and without any gratitude for the hostess? Are you the reason that Indian Airlines has given up on hospitality? Are you the reason Jet Airways charges more for making sure their people are paid well enough to pretend to care?
Do you ever take the time out to enjoy your travels? The plane will take-off when it’s meant to and will land when it should (for the most part). If you get your bags ready and cell phones humming your latest gratuitous downloads, do you believe we will get to disembark any quicker? Maybe all of us will get out of your way cause you seem to believe you are more important than us mere mortals. Maybe if you push a little bit more we will retreat to our Gandhian roots and selflessly retreat to our seats. Maybe your luggage will get it’s own conveyor belt and we will cheer you on your way to a record-breaking exit.
I know that I will applaud the departure of this depraved indifference to your co-passengers and people in general. I like to believe that we all want friendlier flights.
Hey you, o roamer of the Indian skies, please chill the fuck out.

Future – Past & Present

I just discovered posts from my old blog – vritti.net and it was surreal. It was an impromptu trip down memory lane with some positive revelations. Reading through it I realized I haven’t changed much. The outlook that I had back in 2003 seems to be consistent. I am still excited by the unforeseen and at many levels I still feel like an outsider trying to carve my own niche, though the circumstances defining these realizations have markedly progressed.
It was nice to read lost thoughts on the future that is now part of my past, I feel happier about the present future outlook.