Archive for the ‘Gyaan’ Category

Are you seeing a trend? You gotta prove the hypothesis

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

The Pinta and NinaThe journey of a startup is like a hypothesis to be proven. Chains of big, small, nested, one layer giving birth to the other experiments to be run to prove it. Unless you prove it, everything remains an idea, the seed of which remains in your head. To allow the seed to germinate and the shoots to pop-out, you have to convert the idea into something tangible.

In a high-technology startup, an entrepreneur looks at a series of trends or observable phenomena, as scientists calls it. The trends give you a certain set of assumptions. Based on the assumptions you run multiple controlled experiments.

Something similar happened to me in just around summer last year. I developed this belief, “If there are 300m youngsters on facebook, then they would look for jobs within the boundaries of facebook.” A hypothesis was born.

How do I prove it? Not easy, without having a full blown product with a good user-interface. A step in proving the hypothesis is figuring out the variables in the controlled experiment, that first variable for me was validation from a small group. Facebook Dev Garage, Bangalore chapter happened in October and I presented at the event (Thx, Vijay). A scrappy prototype cooked with 2-3 days of effort over Facebook API and Amazon S3 was well received in a crowd of 140+.

Then things took back seat and the hypothesis was semi-forgotten; The Morpheus Batch 5, broken laptop, sickness, family chores, visitation from extended family, yada-yada. Then the year-end downtime happened, I wrote a blog post and restarted the experiment and whipped the code out from woodwork. After several weeks of intermittent coding, last week, I quietly released the consumer facing version to check the reception of the antenna. Then I got a resume. One experiment was over.

Tonight, I incrementally rolled out an alpha version and started another experiment. It is still very brittle, has a simple user-interface, but is set out to run that experiment to prove the larger hypothesis.

The Pinta & The Nina were the two ships (out of three) used by Christopher Columbus in it’s first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. The replicas are shown in the pic above. Picture courtesy Christopher Columbus foundation.

Your 1st venture? Are you waiting for the right idea/team/conditions?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

In the 5th grade of my Hindi class, I learned this:

जिन खोजा तिन पाइया, गहरे पानी पैठ

जौ बौरां डूबन डरा, रहा किनारे बैठ

It’s a popular saying recited by many and written originally by the famous Indian poet, Kabir. My own translation reads:

Unless you jump, the oysters are found deep.

Continue to wait on the sidelines, busy counting sheep.

Entrepreneurship is risk free, as Sameer wrote in a popular post a while ago. No point waiting for the right idea or the right time, or the right set of market conditions. The ideal time is for analysts to conjure the future which already exists in an entrepreneur’s eyes. Bike rusting on the shore Unless you write a manuscript and revise it multiple times and get rejected by at least 5 publishers–how can you write one of India’s best-selling book? Unless 20 VCs label your ideas as stupid, how can the 21st get it funded?

Unless you take the plunge, you would never know, what you are doing is right. Planning is required–Accumulating a small buffer to support your personal life is a good idea. But, being a wannabe entrepreneur forever kills your self-esteem slowly.

A lot of entrepreneurs wait for the right team, right set of market conditions and getting validated by the investors before starting them. If you are an ecommerce upstart in India, would you start right now and run a few experiments or wait until the big guys have already muscled into the market.

Team is you, when you start; people follow you when you have jumped. Unless you put your everything into chopping block, no body else would. Product is what you create the demand for, idea is the seed, consumers often do not know what they want. Of course, market conditions are never right. If it were right, you’ll have to worry about competition rather than creating products.

Unless you fail in your first venture, how would you do the second one which may turn out be OK and then the third one which may turn out be a success. You don’t have to give it much of a thought if this is your 1st venture. You learn from the mistakes and plan better in the next one. For this one, you just have one option–Jump and try collecting the oysters, at least you’ll find fish.

The pic is of a bicycle rusting on a sea shore.

How to become a millionaire in 3 years?

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Axis: Bold as Love cover Jimi_HendrixI was reading an interesting thread on Hacker News where the poster wanted to find out how he can become a millionaire in 3 years. One of the commenter has replied beautifully sharing his pearls of wisdom. Blatantly copying / pasting the bullets I liked (ignore this and go straight to the source, otherwise), here’s what the commenter said you need to have / look for to become a “success” and not necessarily a millionaire:

  • Market opportunity – a million dollars isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly is a lot if the market opportunity is not large enough. Even if you put Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as founders in a new venture with a total market size of 10 million, there is no way they could become too wealthy without completely changing the business
  • Inequality of information – find a place where you know something that many undervalue. Having this inequality of information can give you, your first piece of leverage
  • Leverage skills you know– You can go into new fields such as say Finance, but make sure you’re leveraging something you already know such as technology and/or product.
  • Look in obscure places– We’re often fascinated with the shiny things in the internet industry. Many overlook the obscure and unsexy. Don’t make that mistake. If your goal has primarily monetary motivations, look at the unsexy.
  • Surround yourself with smart people– smart people whom are successful usually got there by doing the same and have an innate desire to help those do the same.
  • Charge for something– Building a consumer property dependent upon advertising has easily made many millionaires, but it isn’t the surest path. Build something that you can charge for.
  • Go with your gut and do not care about fameballing– Go with what your gut says, regardless of how it might look to the rest of the world.
  • Be an unrelenting machine– Brick walls are there to show you how bad you want something. Commit to your goals and do not waver from them a one bit regardless of what else is there. I took this approach to losing weight and fitness. I have not missed a single 5k run in over a year. It did not matter if I had not slept for two days, traveling across the country, or whatever else. If your goals is to become a millionaire, you need to be an unrelenting machine that does not let emotions make you give up / stop. You either get it done with 100% commitment or you don’t. Be a machine.
  • If it’s a “trend”, it’s too late
  • Be a master of information– Many think it might be wasteful that I spent so much time on newsyc or read so many tech information sites. It’s not, it’s what gives me an edge. I feel engulfed.
  • Get out and be social– Even if you’re an introvert, being around people will give you energy.

When I first saw the cover (probably in my 8th grade) of Jimi Hendrix’s album ‘Axis: Bold as love’, I was like WTF, how can he do it to the deities? Hendrix is depicted as two Vedic deities, with the multiple hands of Durga and as avatars of Vishnu.

As a startup entrepreneur one has to embody multiple incarnations in one single lifeycle and that pic above is very relevant. What the commenter mentioned above is a lot of things to be done in a short span, but yeah, not every startup gets there, unless you have multiple hands and heads.