atul jha

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Notes from Chris Sacca/Jason This week in startup conversation.

Chris Sacca is considered as one of the best Unicorn hunters[In my observation 🙂 ]. In Investors term “Unicorn” means companies which are disruptive and have redefined the way we are using technology besides billion $$ evaluation. He has invested in over 40 companies almost every other top companies that you know or are aware of! He is currently perched on multi billion $$ funds and is busy identifying his next unicon. Some of his notable investments include Twitter, Photobucket, Instagram, Kickstarter among several others that you can aptly find on Angel List  Thanks to @jason for inviting him to his weekly show where we the audience got to learn more about Chris and his ideologies.

 You can watch the series here( note: grab a cup of coffee or beer as it is a long clip and yes Chris and Jason interactively chatted for over 2 hours)

I on the other hand, have made small notes of Chris conversation with Jason.Take a look!

  1. Firstly he says, “Respect everyone” and we all agree.
  2. Chris accurately mentions that money comes & goes, it is limited.
  3. He believes in building relationships that lasts long.
  4. Don`t be afraid to put your opinion out there, loud and clear for all to hear!
  5. You don`t have to be afraid of losing your job as you will always find a better one if you are willing to try harder.
  6. Whenever you have an idea, find someone to implement it for you
  7. He says there is too much money circulation in the market. As a result, the quality of startups emerging has increasingly deteriorated.
  8. Believe in entrepreneurs who have the zeal and passion to accomplish.
  9. He jokes that beer is good and acts as an idea propeller drawing people to open up and discuss freely. I could not have agreed better, as even in my case I have made some good friends over a pint of beer.
  10. You don’t need big college degrees or diplomas to be successful in life. I think he is referring to being just smart in the mind.
  11. To garner experiences, you may have to work at smaller companies/places to learn and get some valuable experience.
  12. Take risks calculatively but don’t ever be scared of failure.
  13. He quips that we often take ourselves too seriously and that is a result of our depreciations.

A valuable talk and interaction that has thrown some light on how to advance with startups. I agree a hundred percent with his thoughts and hope you agree!

 

On Design of your product

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We are in the age of attention deficiency with so many products being built on the same domain. The primary thing that keeps customers glued is the overall design and I can bluntly accept that design can make or break your product.

With mobile devices getting cheaper by the day and most users speedily connecting to the internet via mobile, it is extremely challenging and thus very important for a brand to provide a seamless and/or intuitive design interface that appeals to the masses. After all product design is the main interface for any product to make it in the market.

The Bad Features Of Product Design:

  1. Multi-clicks: It can be quite cumbersome and as a customer I am least interested in navigating via a portal to read/buy something.
  2. Excessive text: If you have built a portal catering to research information, I would prefer an infographic rather than say a descriptive of two thousand textual content.
  3. Hideous Colors: Brightening the product to appeal to the eye needs to be subtle and inviting,I wont be returning to consider you portal/product if the color combinations start to affect my vision.
  4. Dancing fonts: Building your product with ugly fonts & non-uniform sizing over an uneven platform is distracting and unattractive.
  5. Floating banners: I am keenly interested in the product and the visibility of the same, so these floating banners just creates unnecessary distractions.

 

My Experiment Results

  1. My dad says “I use whatsapp because its very simple interface”
  2. My 8 yr old orders from flipkart in 3 clicks[COD]
  3. My friend says “I use ola apps and not Taxi4Sure as its way easy to use”
  4. I say , “I use Medium not LinkedIn for blog because one is simple & other is ugly”


I suggest to get a designer or outsource the work to a firm who are capable of building your product design fixing “the bad features of your product design.”

Why Start-ups?

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One of the perks of living in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, is the fact that I encounter a lot of entrepreneurs on a daily basis. Based on my rendezvous with these people, I keep asking them this one question : Why do you want to launch a startup?

Most of my friends who are steadily building careers with startups always give me some interesting answers. Based  on their replies, I have formulated my own logic of understanding their perceptions of working with a startup.

 In this post, I am going to keep my examples limited to the Indian companies only:

 Why build startups in India?

  1. It is supposed to aid in solving problems affecting us.
  2. They are built around the inherent Indian condition.
  3. They aim to work towards fitting in the product market.
  4. It is also intended to grow quickly financially.

Aim To Solve Problems Affecting Citizens:

Most startups aim to assist the public get their work done efficiently. While some are built to improve our everyday living, others are serving as an aid to out of reach citizens to enable them to get their regular work done prudently. In my discussions with many of my friends in the startup business, they unanimously agree that startups are more useful when they improve the state of affairs of the current situations.

For ex: the company,Practo, has connected doctors to patients by using a mobile app and it was the need of the hour & these guys just made it happen. At the same time, if you’re looking for a food joint to dine in town Zomato has that covered. Similarly, to book a bus ticket, redbus is the solution.

Build Around The Inherent Indian Condition:

India is a population of a billion individuals. The start ups may be successful elsewhere but in India you have to adapt to the Indian psyche. I appreciate that a company like Mcdonald’s or KFC is constricted to serving pure veg food minus the beef that is cleverly altered to suit the average Indian consumer. This kind of smart marketing is required to understand the audience.   Another example is Amazon, highly successful in the US but struggling to dominate in India due to stiff competition with FlipKart.  One more is Uber that is struggling in India to defeat OlaCabs, their Indian competitor who is gaining more brownie points with its customers over Uber.

Fit The Start-Up Product In The Market:

I get to hear this all the time, a product to fit the market. Whatsapp became an immediate hit with the audience because of the rapid smartphone adoption & its minimal 2G requirement. I can surely say, it literally killed the SMS business. While Yahoo chat had all those emoji features in 2008-09 but nobody cared about it due to a less internet penetration. It was launched ahead of its time and hence failed. Startups require accurate timing to click and succeed.  With 3G and mobile technology reaching out to most of the masses at a very rapid pace, I am sure life will be easier for any startups launching products in this era.

Growing Financially.

Its a generation that wants to make the big bucks quickly and enjoy an early retirement compared to our forefathers.This is absolutely perfect if you have a success plan. Unfortunately, most of the startup founders end up making very little because of stock dilutions.  I remember watching the YC startup school video where one of the co-founders mentioned that rather than starting your own startup, your chances of making more money is while being part of one of the top 10 employers(like google/facebook). So think about. If money is what is only driving you towards a new startup, maybe  you got it wrong.

So, there you have it. In total disclamation, I have written this post to highlight the essence of startup business in India and to guide you to understand the purpose and difficulty to launch your own. In no way am I certain that this is the fast rule to a successful venture, but atleast through the experiences of others can focus on providing frugal tips to benefit any new launch.

Notes from Crash Course on Startup Boards with Brad Feld

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While grazing my twitter timeline, I stumbled upon this recent post from Brad Feld titled The First Board Meeting and as I was going through the comments I found this video on youtube that you can watch for more detail.. Here Brad is describing efficient ways to participate in a board meeting. Brad has attended over 1000+ board meetings and he asks requests his attendees to review his books on amazon and other platforms to gain assistance and ideas of being part of a board meeting.

I made a simple notes of the entire conversation as I found it really engaging. Here are my pointers on the same discussion :

  • At times you may have members of the Board clueless about products.
  • An over absorbing board member could be painful at the meeting. Founders will have to understand and listen to him/her while at same time focus on the business.
  • Ideally, you should restrict to not more than four board meeting in a year.
  • The function of the board should not be defined as just a governing body, but be inclined to help business grow where Board members should invest in creating goals to elevate company standards and setup necessary objectives.
  • Just like leadership, setting up a board is no different and should lead and be able to extend leadership qualities over a period of time.
  • A board must include trusted mentors, advisors with discrete helpful or supportive roles to play. The dynamics among board members must be cordial and to the betterment of business.
  • Lack of commitment of board members can ruin the company. Identifying the right people at different stages should compliment the skillset and fill in the gaps.
  • The CEO must have clear vision and preferably a rulebook in place that includes building agreement among board to evolve & resolve conflicts.
  • The CEO should have a lead director where they go to for suggestions in case of conflict where in most cases this person is identified as the lead investor.
  • Advisory boards are proxy setups for getting networks & name drops on slides for the investors. If present, they should be given some equity to get into the engagement cycle for commitment.
  • Board meetings are meant for discussions and should not be ruled by opinions.
  • It is ideal to send out the board packages atleast 48 hours in advance or just use Google Docs where everyone can read, collaborate, comment and have the pitch in place before the commencement of the meeting.
  • The CEO should inform the board members and investors what his/her expectations are.This provides a sense of realism which is important for investors.
  • CEO should not invest more than 5%  of the time in managing the overall board
  • An ill formed board can destroy the company. Invest in collecting and forming a board that is definite to take the company to another level.


You can find the list of books by Brad Feld on Amazon. Also, please read this blogpost for details or follow him on Twitter.   

Technology as we saw in 2014.

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I know i am little late in posting this, but wiseman said its better late than none. 2014 was year with announcement all around technology.  It had some surprises as well & biggest of all MSFT taking .Net to open source.

  1. Cloud Foundry foundation announced. This announcement will add more value/credibility to overall project. Other vendors/enterprise will happily contribute to it as its no more under Pivotal`s control.
  2. Microsoft open sources .NET core I get a feeling this move is too late, i would still hope if this gets people to Azure platform.
  3. coreOS announces its own container technology.  Its always good to have choice we will see where rocket project goes in 2015.
  4. Docker adds more battery to core
  5. Octablue gets acquired by Citrix Citrix master stroke, this gets their foot inside internet of things, i have high hopes from Octablue project. Let see what happens after the acquisition.
  6. Eucalyptus gets acquired by HP Eucalyptus is dead & HP gets customers for their private cloud.
  7. OpenStack gets more mainstream Even with wide contribution and popularity a lot needs to be worked on especially the networking i.e neutron project.
  8. Microservies We will see more advocates talking about microservices.
  9. Nodejs is forked Let see what we get from the fork & if every other project adopts/supports the fork. It will be interesting project to watch in 2015.

Why startups abort?

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Product market fit:  Let’s say you have built an e-commerce product targeting the local market but it has limited internet penetration &  online banking close to 0%. What happens to your product? It becomes restricted and misfit in the market you are targeting.

Uber changed its payment policy in India because less than 10% of the Indian population owns a credit card.

Traction: When you have built a product with little dissimilarity from existing players in the market, how are you going to compete and get purchase?

Difference of opinion among founders: Building a startup is much more than entering into a relationship or finding a friend. It requires a lot of hard work, patience and dedication and is definitely not for everyone. In startups, it is common to see differences in opinions among the founders which results in a bungle.

Lack of funding: Nobody will fund you if you fall in the above three categories namely where you have no money, no traction, no product/market with illogical partnerships among founders.

 

How to Start a Startup note #5

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Today I spent listing to Paul Graham in the how to start a startup series lecture. Paul is fucking awesome, full of fun, honesty & blunt in giving an opinion. We need more such motivators in our startup ecosystem.

My notes from his lecture:

  1. Listen to your intuition
  2. Work with people whom you respect and have known long enough.
  3. Understand your user, make something people really want  & that is how your startup will grow.
  4. Success of your startup is not fundraising.
  5. Starting a startup during college is not a good idea.
  6. An idea & co-founders is what college can provide.
  7. Domain expertise is what will give you an edge over others when you are building your product.
  8. If you work on things you like you don’t have to force yourself 4 being efficient.

How to Start a Startup note #2

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I know everyone is watching, reading, following @sama course how to start a startup. Today spent sometime watching Brian Chesky, founder Airbnb, he shared interesting story about Airbnb, how it started and all.

I am keeping this notes for myself, if it helps someone else good karma gets added on me.  🙂

  • An idea is important but so is execution.
  • Failing for 100 times does not mean your product suck, it means not everyone are going with your vision.
  • It is not easy to get funded for a crazy idea, you will fail more often but you have to keep trying.
  • Culture is like a DNA for successful company.
  • Most successful companies hire candidates who maps to their culture.
  • Sometimes its good to take bigger blow for short term rather getting decimated from roots.
  • Its really important to have co-founders who compliment what you are lacking.

 

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