SIM flaw makes a case for a Secure Mobile Container

August 2nd, 2013

Posted some commentary on Bitzer Mobile blog why this moving target of security makes a case for Secure Mobile Container.

Vulnerability in a mobile phone could be beyond just the algorithm, it could be architectural. For example, in the vulnerability researched by Karsten, it is not just the algorithm but the way the phone rejected an unencrypted message by sending an error code along with the card’s 56-bit private key. The private key is decrypted which is then used to create a malicious but “valid” binary SMS message. The attacker modifies the stored data and potentially accesses other areas of the phone which may contain sensitive user data and applications.

Let’s talk about Shadow IT

January 26th, 2013

I just posted some thoughts on Shadow IT on BitzerMobile blog.

Ten years ago, running a shadow IT organization required a certain level of tech wisdom to deal with webservers, databases, programming languages and such. Now all you need is a credit-card to sign up with an online service doing one of many file-syncs, contact/lead management, content workflow, etc.

Read more.

The Introverted self and how to harness it

October 25th, 2012

The motivation to write this post came out few days ago when I was chit-chatting with Bitzermobile’s India team at a CCD in Marathahalli. Thought it’d be great idea to share it further.

Bad_hair_day_meI’m an introvert. A classic one. Ready to lose the debate rather than speak. I hate talking to people. I hate breaking the ice. I also think, if I talk to them, they’ll assume that I have an agenda. I also think, if I talk to them, I won’t have any topic of interest and would be a reject.

However, in the last 5-6 years, I’ve learnt to cover up my introverted-ness with a false facade of extroversion. The realization came to me after many years of feedback from some of the amazing bosses and mentors, I’ve had in life.

As an introvert, you can survive and do really well in businesses where you either do not deal with people or have an army of people who deal it for you. In today’s hyper-competitive environment, having a facade of extroversion is key to survival. You can’t keep quiet when pitching to customers, you can’t twiddle your thumb when you are asked to present to a room full of partners in a VC meeting and more importantly you can’t let your people down in your startup by keeping quiet. Instead, you stand, raise your hand and speak-up on every opportunity.

Here are some of the weird qualities of an introvert (from my personal experience):

  • Don’t like to talk, if don’t have a point
  • Don’t interact with people, if there ain’t a reason. Random guy in front would never be greeted
  • Don’t “hang-out” in public
  • Lonely is good. Leave me to my thoughts
  • Share thoughts once and assume that people got it
  • No ice-breakers, no small talk

Though, I have been fixing my introverted self for many years by doing things which my psyche did not allow, I still get called out in meetings with comments like, “Why are you so quiet? Do you have anything else to say?” (Whereas, I thought that I already spoke volumes!)

Some of the things I did to “fix” the introversion:

  • The first thing is to realize the psychological condition and accept that it’s perfectly normal. 50% of the world is introvert! Some of the best CEOs are. The current POTUS is one.
  • Practice a measured set of small talk with small groups and previously unknown people. There are many opportunities. Attempt massive amounts of networking. Use the 3-second / 6-second techniques.
  • Get public speaking engagements. Now, this is a normal quality of introverts that if people talk to them then they get going. How do you get more and more people talking to you in first place? Get speaking engagements. For the last 3 years in Bangalore, I was a foolish and a hungry speaker. Given an opportunity, I would walk into an auditorium or a classroom even when there were less than a handful people. Though, the larger motive was to share and show what we were doing at Morpheus, but the big hidden agenda was to fix the condition and get talking to more people.
  • Practice confrontation. This is very very important. I was shit scared of confronting people even when wrong was being committed. I use to convince myself that it was okay to let-it-go. Pick small debates and lose it. Keep losing small debates here and there. It’s ok. Your psyche will soon not send that signal to your heart to pump blood feverishly. I still avoid confrontation, but when I do, I no longer shake / shiver (but my voice does get modulated!)
  • Reach early at meetings, discussions, meetups. This is a very cool trick which helped a lot. Early means few people around and by the time it gets to mass, you already know a few faces and most importantly the surroundings.
  • The most important one is to not convert. Introversion is a prize, don’t throw it away.

I think introversion is a good psyche to have, it makes you think, it makes you give others an opportunity, it makes you creative and reflective of your actions, however, the quality has to be harnessed to become successful. If you still don’t believe into the power of You as an introvert, then this TED talk by Susan Cain is a must watch.

I should have written this post 25 years ago and sent it to girls who wanted a date and thought I should make the move. Alas, I was an introvert.

Play button: One of the tricks to keep up with 183 down days in a startup year

October 13th, 2012

The moment I step out of home, I’m cheerful, espousing enthusiasm and all those positive things. However, it wasn’t like that 30 minutes ago.

Usually, the day breaks pretty normal with cosmic energy being diffused from nature to the body. And then, within an hour of catching up on e-mail, skype and reflecting on the past days events around people, product and customers, it starts getting mellow. Inching, as the breakfast comes to the table, the mood has already nose-dived. It happens a good 50% of the days in a year! The dark side of running a startup, we don’t talk publicly–uncelebrated and gory.

Then the play button brings the mojo back!

I fire up one of the 50-60 action movies on the media player while eating breakfast. Bodhi, Bond, Beatrix / Bride, Bruce, Bourne, etc. maiming, killing, chasing, speed-racing and drawing blood in full 5.1 pumps up the testosterone and kicks the day to a cheerful start.

Here are some of the movies in no particular order. Most of them never get watched completely. They are left at a mark and get picked up again in future on some random day.

  1. Bourne Trilogy
  2. T1 & T2
  3. Star Wars (Some scenes are amazing in 5.1)
  4. Matrix (and Reloaded, Reloaded’s car chase is amazing!)
  5. Fight Club (I still watch it, comparably less action, though)
  6. Die Hard (All four of them)
  7. Lethal Weapon (1, 2 and 3)
  8. MI (1 & 2)
  9. Danny Craig as James Bond (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace)
  10. Taken
  11. 300
  12. Arnold (Commando, True Lies)
  13. Kill Bill (yeah Beatrix baby!)
  14. John Rambo (They are all good)
  15. Iron Man
  16. Under Siege
  17. Bruce Lee (Dragon, Game of Death)
  18. Indiana Jones (original Trilogy)
  19. The Mummy (1 & 2) — Thrillers based on archaeology / ancient era are fab!
  20. Con Air
  21. Ronin
  22. … and more!

Agent Smith in Matrix Reloaded:

FUCK, JUST SHOOT THAT FUCKER AND DRIVE HOT POCKETS DOWN THE ROAD, DAMNIT, IT’S PARTY TIME

Enjoy a clip from the car chase from Matrix Reloaded (I remember the days when it was being shot 30 miles from where I lived).

The Art of Networking: The first 3 seconds when entering a room

September 17th, 2012

Prologue: This post may not connect to folks who are born networkers, aka extroverts. Meet an introvert, who talks less, then you’d know how difficult it is to break the ice, forget exchanging cards.

I remember the days when I was a sissy in networking, utter failure. I would come back from events, meetings, gatherings with not much accomplished, maybe meeting an equally gullible 1-2 people.

Then someone (Don’t remember who or maybe I read in a book) educated me about the 3-second rule when entering a gathering. The 3-second rule is simple:

Connect with someone in the first 3-seconds of entering a gathering or a crowd or a room.

Why the first 3-seconds are important?

It’s psychological. The more you delay making the first contact, the harder it becomes. The moment you overcome the first contact, more of them would follow easily.

This rule has done wonders for me in networking even during the days when I was just thinking of starting up and tried penetrating into a room full of “been-there-done-it” folks.

Pro Version: I use a slightly advanced version of this 3-second rule now-a-days. I call it a ridiculously named, “Deep-6-second” rule. Instead, of 3 seconds, I give 6-seconds and try to move as deep into the crowd as possible and make the contact as soon as the time expires. Why? Most people whom I wanna connect to are not near the door, but they are nearer to the center of the room.

Networking and connecting with people is important and it’s an art you keep honing.

Why Enterprise Mobility is important for an entrepreneur?

September 16th, 2012

This is an extract from the keynote I gave at TieSmashup 2.0 last Saturday on 8th Sept, 2012  at IIT Mumbai. The goal was to highlight the importance of business apps and why there is an opportunity. The excerpt has been modified to remove the ramblings. The keynote followed a panel discussion with Narayan of Dexetra and Deepak Ravindran of Innoz. The learnings from the panel would be in a future post.

Tie Smashup Information Technology has bestowed us a 10-year pro-creation cycle. Every 10 years comes an opportunity to innovate and recreate things from scratch. We learn from the wisdom of the previous cycle and attempt to make things 10x better than the previous one. Each cycle gives an immense opportunity of wealth creation and to make the world a happier place to live by making us more connected. How do you as an entrepreneur in the audience benefit from this?

Before lunch time, I heard entrepreneurs talk about website, web-presence, social media, etc. To you as an entrepreneur, anything web related is a thing of past. There are too many people solving problems around the web. The freshness is no longer there. You should be looking three years ahead of everybody. Internet is for the connectivity backbone and the web as yet any other channel. Instead, you should be doing things on mobile. When I say mobile, I don’t mean, yet another app for social, local, news.

Going back to the 10 year pro-creation cycle of IT, this started with:

  • 1980s – Gave us mainframe.
  • 1990s – Gave us Personal computers.
  • 2000s – Gave us Internet.
  • 2010s – Now, the Mobile boom beckons.

Each cycle gives us opportunities which were 10x beyond what it was earlier. For example, the number of consumers for mainframes were not more than a million, followed by 100 million units for PCs, followed by 1 billion internet users. Guess what–10 billion mobile phones would be shipped by 2016. The current IT spend combined across hardware, software, mobile, PC, whatever, is around $1.6 trillion worldwide out of which 18% is for mobile.

I think Mobile is huge, much bigger than what Web was. As an entrepreneur, I believe that mobility is going to fundamentally change how people connect with machines and humans. In a small way it is already happening at home. A progressive doctor in a clinic at Bangalore, uses an app on his smartphone for appointments of a day before his day begins and carries an iPad to keep himself in the loop of patients and peers.

Why Enterprise apps or apps for businesses? You as an entrepreneur should be building things where money is made in every transaction and provides utility to the masses. There are close to one million apps on the appstore. However, 50% of them do not have any ratings nor any significant downloads. Why? Because, 100s of similar apps already exist. Instead of focusing on the usual mix of photo sharing, news aggregation, location, social, games, etc. I feel that you should be building apps for businesses. This is a large opportunity and few are paying attention.

That’s the path I chose at Bitzer. We at Bitzer are building some necessary infrastructure which businesses of tomorrow would need. We are building a secure remote access product which enables an enterprise to become mobile. It’s like VPN but much more done for mobile from the ground-up. Right from accessing the business applications in the intranet, files & folders, intranet websites, e-mail and more. I feel that connectivity is the missing piece in employee productivity. What we are attempting is akin to creating some of the well known Internet infrastructure companies during the internet boom of late-90s/early-2000s, which created the back-bone of the internet, gave the necessary tools to large companies to run their business.

To give you some example of how businesses are rapidly moving onto mobile, esp. adopting tablets, one of the largest domestic carriers in US called Alaska Airlines, removed 11kgs of flight manuals from it’s planes and swapped it with a 700 gram iPad with apps on it. Soon other airlines followed. Thanks to the introduction of iPad now the uber-important flight plan is being sent digitally. Another example is–how mobile apps are changing agriculture in America. There are apps which help increase the produce and predict the harvest time, pest infestation, etc. by analyzing the pictures of the farm. A few other apps exist for farming. There is a separate industry being born for connecting the mobile to the real-world in terms of accessories for such businesses.

Another big area for business apps is healthcare. There are apps which check your pulse followed by helping you communicate with a doctor remotely. The day is not far when your diagnosis will start before you reach the doctor’s clinic. In future, a specialized app will be capable of analyzing your ailments based on pulse, temperature and heartbeat. The apps fundamentally change how people would communicate with each other.

Don’t look at building apps which make our lives incrementally better, rather take on things which are orthogonal to the current trend. I urge you to build apps for business, which look unsexy but these are much bigger opportunities.

Updated Sep 17. Edited and many fixes.

Giving & Taking, it’s difficult to do in parallel

September 10th, 2012

Mukund writes a great post on why “giving” and “taking” has to run in parallel. One cannot wait to be “made” before starting to give back to the entrepreneurs who are seeking gyaan.

However, I think it’s very difficult to do both, if you are busy “taking”. A startup entrepreneur’s success / failure depends on external variables where he has zero control. He is a “taker” of things material and intangibles in a continuous repositioning of risk trajectories. He continuously requests connections from people, seeks advise on scaling, chases people for funds, etc.

As an entrepreneur, you are busy building and hence busy taking — it becomes impossible to “give” back. I have been guilty of not giving back (whatever little) in the last 18 months. I outright deny entrepreneurs that I’d be able to help them, barring 10-15 minutes of a random hallway conversation. There is so much volatility in my own personal space, that the frame of excitement takes some amount of swap-time before beginning to share.

I have been AWOL from my own duties. I have failed to show up on scheduled skype chats with entrepreneurs. It’s difficult to do both, when I continuously seek out “givers” to help me out.

Interview with Rajeev Suri

August 31st, 2012

Here’s a short interview Rajeev Suri did at the NASSCOM Emerge venue in Gurgaon.

The apathy towards a good code

August 29th, 2012

There is a saying in Marwari, my native tongue which translated, “The kid who shouts a lot gets on daddy’s back and maybe a candy later.” Ditto applied to bad code.

If you have written buggy code or code which has been ad-hoc-ly written, it remains in the news all the time. Resources are allocated, people are applauded, attention propagated.

Compare this to a beautiful piece of software, thoughtfully planned, carefully architected, written with a maximum awareness to the future in mind. This disappears like a perfectly oiled gear-wheel which does not make noise. It’s agility in reducing the friction and keeping up with the torque of  larger than it was designed for engine goes un-noticed.

A good code is like a child who does not get daddy’s adequate attention because he is nice, mellow and “works” as expected.

Buffett or Jobs?

August 26th, 2012

It took me more than 6-months each to read The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life few years ago, followed by Steve Jobs biography last year. Though, I reached the end of Steve Jobs’s bio, 50% of the book is still unread.

Then last week, I read two great articles, one in Wired magazine critiquing Steve Jobs’s ‘social-etiquettes-are-for-the-weak‘ style, titled, The Story of Steve Jobs: An Inspiration or a Cautionary Tale? followed by Fortune magazine’s feature on See’s candies (the iPad version has audio/video of Buffett) which alluded to Warren Buffett’s ‘always-looking-for-a-situation-to-crack-a-joke‘ management style.

Here are two great leaders whose works are impregnated into the minds of the entrepreneurs and are tested during trying times, and then with opposing styles.

I personally get conflicted of which approach is better. Some of the thoughts I keep pondering:

  • Do you hire a missionary or mercenary?
  • Empathy with people or metric-driven connectedness?
  • Products over dead bodies?
  • Micro-management vs. trusting your team?
  • Honest with your opinion or diplomatic?
  • Arrogance vs humility when dealing with employees vs customers?

Over the years, I have learnt that no single approach wins, and more than that it’s a matter of personal style, your own temperament, etc. However, we always look for case-studies in testing times. We learn from others and their mistakes. The challenge is which one to adopt and how do I know a specific behaviour is suited for a personal style.

Time will tell, but the torrent of conflict continues and the quest for wisdom is hungrier than never before.

Off-topic: I seriously feel that Walter Isaacson should do a bio on Buffett.