Archive for August, 2010

Why a Java meetup in Bangalore?

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

In Silicon valley, pick a day of the week and a topic and you’ll find an event for the evening along with 20-odd like-minded folks to hangout with.

This is missing in India (esp. Bangalore). There is a lot of top level chatter about startups, entrepreneurship, innovation. There is a huge momentum around events related to entrepreneurship. Just last 2 weeks saw 2 of them. But, the events around fundamentals of building a business are hard to find. To the surprise, there are events around social media marketing but few are talking about ‘building a sales pipeline’ or ‘ABCs of channel marketing’ or even deeper into core technical areas like ‘Building a distributed memcache’! Is it given that we know it all?

Java Meetup

Beyond entrepreneurship, Bangalore sees maybe a handful of events which covers other areas of sales, marketing, technology, intellectual property, cloud computing and such. Even if there is once such event, it is meant to price out a general crowd.

When I moved to Bangalore around 18 months ago — I could not find a place to hang out with fellow geeks but then met a lot of them at a startup event! This was nagging in the back of mind for a long time. Barcamp happens maybe once every 9-12 months. Slowly, things have started coming together.

I was happy to see that PHP Meetup found a place at Microsoft and they have been meeting regularly. Repeated the same thing with Java Meetup earlier this weekend with a similar footing at Google where they have agreed to host the monthly melee.

The whole idea is to get people bumping into each other and hopefully something new comes out of it. Maybe a new startup, a next job, or a solution for a problem or simple plain learning.

Need more of such events, happening at a regular frequency. If you have ideas, drop a line, I can at least get you connected.

And yeah, most of the silicon valley events come with a free pizza, soda and beer at times. Feed them well.

Bootstrapping a startup via consulting gigs

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Every startup requires cash. It’s not built on thin air as early stage investors think. Money for paying the lawyer, government fees, hiring developers and more importantly paying your rent, food, fuel, etc. An entrepreneur starts with a calculated risk of investing (or burning through) his savings for that 6 months period with an assumption that either a customer would start paying or an investor would bet on it.

In reality, a startup takes longer than the original time frame in most cases. If you planned for 6 months, you’ll take 12 before anything comes out of it. A PPT or a paper napkin plans writes you cheque when you already have money in the bank or sold two startups in the past.

So what do you do? You start doing consulting gigs! Smart entrepreneurs do it all the time. Some short gigs here and there. A lot of entrepreneurs I have known do it to get started after quitting their job. Paul, Bill & Co. did the same in their formative years. The most famous of the consulting stories is how Evan Williams consulted for a year at HP while building Pyra Labs which eventually got acquired by Google. Muziboo is a good example in India where the founders did consulting to bootstrap it.

As an entrepreneur, how do you manage it; where do you draw the line as to not getting distracted completely. There is a chance that consulting gig’s sweet money just takes over your primary passion.

I have compiled a list. Also, including some interesting nuggets from a thread on Hacker News (yeah, I love reading it. More gyaan than a single post anywhere!).

  • Do a high impact consulting where a gig of 3 months can cover you for 9 months. The math is 3x.
  • Try to do a gig at a stretch instead of a 2 days in a week stint. It kills the output of your startup but then when you are done, it is easy to just do a complete switchover rather than continuous context switches
  • If you are doing consulting, treat your own startup like a client, as there may be other people working on this
  • Throttle your rates, depending on the project and desperation for moolah
  • Know your deliverable. Pick up hourly rates or visits per month Remember, you have your venture, you do not want to get caught in fixing a bug for days and goes beyond your original estimate.
  • If you know something and you want to learn more which may help your startup, maybe charge a little less. A counter thesis is that pick up a gig which you are a rockstar at and you can do in your sleep and get paid as well.
  • If you are doing couple of days in a week, then restrict it to only certain days
  • Make sure you show up at client’s desk for the work and not really do the consulting gig from your home or wherever your startup is located. This helps you keep it clean and juggle them well
  • Keep the IP clean. Good idea to let the recruiting manager know that you have other gigs. Of course, sign an NDA as required
  • Do combined gigs with other friends with complimentary skills
  • Keep your other team members informed or at least they know that you are not available certain days in a week
  • It’s easier to do technology consulting than “strategy consulting”

India is a tough place to raise money for your venture — though it gets better by the day; the number of ‘pre-series A’ venture deals are still in double digits every year. Consulting is one way to bootstrap it.

Have you done consulting gig while bootstrapping your startup? What are the things you did to keep it clean? What else?