Monday, December 8, 2008

The Art of Bootstrapping

This is a cross-post from Guy Kawasaki's blog which can be found here.


In early childhood you may lay the foundation of poverty or riches, industry or idleness, good or evil, by the habits to which you train your children. Teach them right habits then, and their future life is safe.—Lydia Sigourney

Too much money is worse than too little for most organizations—not that I wouldn't like to run a Super Bowl commercial someday. Until that day comes, the key to success for most organizations is bootstrapping. The term bootstrapping comes from the German legend of Baron von Munchhausen pulling himself out of the sea by pulling on his own bootstraps. That's essentially what you'll have to do, too.

  1. Focus on cash flow, not profitability. The theory is that profits are the key to survival. If you could pay the bills with theories, this would be fine. The reality is that you pay bills with cash, so focus on cash flow. If you know you are going to bootstrap, you should start a business with a small upfront capital requirement, short sales cycles, short receivables terms, long payables terms, and recurring revenue. It means passing up the big sale that takes twelve months to close, deliver, and collect. Cash is not only king, it's queen and prince too for a bootstrapper.
  2. Forecast from the bottom up. Most entrepreneurs do a top-down forecast: There are 150 million cars in America. It sure seems reasonable that we can get a mere 1 percent of car owners to install our satellite radio systems. That's 1.5 million systems in the first year. The bottom-up forecast goes like this: We can open up ten installation facilities in the first year. On an average day, each can install ten systems. So our first year sales will be 10 facilities x 10 systems x 240 days = 24,000 satellite radio systems. That's a long way from the conservative 1.5 million systems in the top-down approach. Guess which number is more likely to happen.
  3. Ship, then test. Perfect is the enemy of good enough. When your product or service is good enough, get it out, because cash flows when you start shipping. Besides, unwanted features, not perfection, come with more time. By shipping, youll also learn what your customers truly want you to fix. It's definitely a trade-off your reputation versus cash flow so you can't ship pure crap. But you can't wait for perfection either. (Nota bene: life-science companies should ignore this recommendation.)
  4. Forget the proven team. Proven teams are overrated—especially when most people define proven teams as people who worked for a billion-dollar company for the past ten years. These folks are accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and it's not the bootstrapping lifestyle. Hire young, cheap, and hungry people—people with fast chips, but not necessarily a fully functional instruction set. Once you achieve significant cash flow, you can hire adult supervision. Until then, hire what you can afford and make them into great employees.
  5. Start as a service business. Let's say that you ultimately want to be a software company: People download your software or you send them CDs, and they pay you. That's a nice, clean business with a proven business model. However, until you finish the software, you could provide consulting and services based on your work-in-progress software. This has two advantages: immediate revenue and true customer testing of your software. Once the software is field tested and battle hardened, flip the switch and become a product company.
  6. Focus on function, not form.
    Mea culpa: I love good form. MacBooks, Audis, Graf skates, and Breitling watches. But bootstrappers focus on function, not form, when they are buying things. The function is computing, getting from point A to point B, skating, and knowing the time of day. These functions do not require the more expensive form. All the chair has to do is hold your butt. It doesn't have to look as though it belongs in the Museum of Modern Art. Design great stuff, but buy cheap stuff.
  7. Pick a few battles. Bootstrappers pick their battles. They don't fight on all fronts because they cannot aff ord to. If you are starting a new church, do you really need a $100,000 multimedia audiovisual system? Or just a great message from the pulpit? If youre creating a content Web site based on the advertising model, do you have to write your own customer ad-serving software? I don't think so.
  8. Understaff. Many entrepreneurs staff up for what could happen, best case, even though they say they are being conservative. "Our conservative (albeit top-down) forecast for first-year satellite radio sales is 1.5 million units.We'd better create a 24/7 customer support center to handle this." Guess what? You sell 15,000, but you do have 200 people hired, trained, and sitting in a 50,000-square-foot telemarketing center. Bootstrappers understaff knowing that all hell might break loose. But this would be, as we say in Silicon Valley, a high quality problem.
  9. Go direct. The optimal number of mouths (or hands) between a bootstrapper and her customer is zero. Sure, stores provide great customer reach, and wholesalers provide distribution. But God invented e-commerce so that you could sell direct and reap greater margins. And God was doubly smart because She knew that by going direct, you'd also learn more about your customer's needs. Stores and wholesalers fill demand, they don't create it. If you create enough demand, you can always get other organizations to fill it later. If you don't create demand, all the distribution in the world will get you nothing.
  10. Position against the leader. Suppose that you don't have the money to explain your story starting from scratch. Then don't try. Instead, position against the leader. Toyota introduced the Lexus lines of cars by positioning them as being as good as a Mercedes but half the price. Toyota didn't have to explain what as good as a Mercedes meant. How much do you think that saved it? "Poor man's Bose noise-canceling headphones" would work, too.

As my friend Craig Johnson, the great Silicon Valley corporate finance lawyer, likes to say, "The leading cause of failure of startups is death, and death happens when you run out of money. As long as you have money, you're still in the game, and outlasting the competition is one of the hallmarks of bootstrapping."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Will the real Pakistan, please stand up?

At work I have am more often than not treated like the official spokesperson for India. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am obligated to state that I am not even an Indian citizen anymore, having traded my Indian citizenship recently for the honor of calling Barack Obama my President.

So it was only expected for my colleagues at work to turn to me for my personal insight into the horrendous attacks that took place in Mumbai over the Thanksgiving weekend. The question that called for the most insight – how was this attack different? Good question. India has suffered many terrorist attacks over a period of time – the attack on the Indian parliament was certainly a lot more audacious; the bomb blasts in Mumbai did cause a lot more damage; the assassination of India's Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was more historic… why was this one different?

Because it was personal. Like most Indians, the city of Bombay(Mumbai) has a special significance to me… I have a lot of very fond memories in the city – from my childhood to the last stretch in my recent honeymoon, Bombay plays a central role in the Khan Family Album. So if my usual objectivity gives way to personal bias, I apologize… but it was personal.

And I hold Pakistan responsible. And when I say Pakistan, I refer to Pakistan, the country and adage as it may be, it is very important for me to make the distinction between Pakistan and Pakistanis. Indian friends of mine, will admit to you with a degree of contempt, that it is the Pakistani cricket team that I support in those fiery India-Pakistan cricket matches.

From the outside Pakistan appears to be a democracy; it is anything but. When Bush ideologues were debating if the Muslim world is ready for democracy, they would have probably pointed to Turkey as a shining example of a democracy in the Muslim world and to Pakistan as a counter example. When one examines history there appear to be valid reasons why Pakistan's democracy remains in infancy – it was India that got a ready-made capital in the form of Delhi, while Pakistan had to painstakingly build (quite literally) the structures and the infrastructure that house and support the institutions of democracy; the founder of Pakistan passed away within months after the inception of the country and since then Pakistan has never had a leader that could inspire, lead and work to realize the dream that Jinnah had. When most of your leaders have either been assassinated or executed before finishing their term, I am sorry – you are not a democracy, you are one of those countries that Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock visit on their adventures.

It is quite obvious to even the most casual observer that without stability in Pakistan, there will not be peace in India. I applaud the President-Elect for identifying the crucial role Pakistan, or rather the instable Pakistan plays in the immediate danger from terrorism. Without Pakistan, there would not have been a Taliban controlled Afghanistan, and without a Taliban controlled Afghanistan, 9/11 would have been just another date. Pakistan has some legitimate quarrels with India – India refuses to acknowledge that Kashmir is a problem and it is a problem that needs to be discussed and unless one deals with that 800 pound Gorilla, the peace between India and Pakistan will be an illusion that manifests itself from time to time. And I did not know this, till very recently (and thank you Faisal Bhai for pointing this out) that Pakistan is petrified over the control that India exerts on its waters… if India wanted it can pretty much kill Pakistan's agriculture and render that very well designed irrigation system useless.

But having said that, there are no moral grounds for Pakistan to actively support terrorism and kill innocent Indians. It is high time, that Pakistan grows up and moves from a concept to a country. While India is shining, Pakistan still remains at the mercy of international aid. While young Indian software engineers are signing offer letters from Microsoft, young Pakistani men are apparently signing up Jihad pledges from Lakshar-e-Taiba. While Azim Premji, an Indian Muslim makes an annual appearance on the Forbes richest list, the Pakistan ruling class still remains confined to the 50 feudal families that ruled those lands before Independence.

The first step to solving any problem is acknowledging that it exists… and this is a plea to the intellects within/from Pakistan: own up and grow up.

Monday, October 13, 2008

McCartheism's latest victim: Barack Obama

I wrote the following in response to a colleague sending me an article from American Thinker:

Well scripted article.


  • Funny how experienced people (it is apparently a season for political correctness) pay more attention to poli-ticks, than younger voters... when the young have more vested in tomorrow.

Now, Obama and socialism...

Obama's past associations are being used against him and they are fair game. But consider this: were those associations accidental or incidental? Now, the second test you should apply is that of relativity... consider his associations relative to your associations and those of other politicians. It maybe sad but it is true: a successful launching pad in politics comes with its set of stains. And the third test is put a face to policies, not the other way round:

Today, Barrack Hussein Obama (what only Republican attack dogs in uniform can call him by his full name?) proposed allowing people to take out 10,000 dollars from their IRA accounts without any penalties to get through these tough times. Is that being a socialist?! No matter what McCain says, the biggest challenge for American employers is going to be health care benefits. Obama's health care plan drastically reduces the costs of providing health care in America. This is not "socialized medicine" as Hannity will want you to believe. This is a long-term solution to a very immediate problem. A socialist (read: HRC's health plan) would've made it obligatory for everyone to participate, Obama's plan makes it easier for you to make choices.

It is through tax policies that the government plays a role in the choices we make, eg: cigarrettes are bad, children are good. Now we can argue on the merits and demerits of this system... but the truth is that it happens and it happens when either party is in power. I believe that Obama's and the Democrats rise is the normal "ebb n flow" of politics; it is the invisible hand booting up the political and economic system into a "safe" mode.

A safe mode would mean all drivers of profitability will not load up, but it will get the system into a functional mode, so that the very fundamental problems can be fixed.

Oh and yes they are very fundamental problems: here is some news for the die-hard "Reaganomicians" - the pyramid scheme does not work. Consumer spending is NOT the ONLY way to a strong economy, nor is military spending... we cannot be spending more than we have coming in. America like Americans has been doing that for quite sometime now… and like Rai succinctly puts it: Democrats will tax n spend, while Republicans will borrow n spend.

American and Americans were borrowing and spending. As is evident now, the "strength of a strong middle class" (which I am all for by the way… on second thoughts how can anyone be against it?!?) was borrowed strength. It is our spending habits that has made China a prime nation and America is sadly now a "sub-prime" nation.

If McCain truly thinks that it is just DC that has to change, then he is delusional. America has to change too... it is better to be in heaven than to be on earth, and it is better to save than to invest... that is not to say that investing is bad, but save before you invest, invest before you spend. Priorities are topsy-turvy in this place.

Anyways I can go on and on... but I'd like to say this with all due respect: life-long anything does not make a whole lot of sense. It is about individualism, correct? So how can you be a life-long Republican before you're a life-long American? And how can you be a life-long American when you are obviously a life-long human? :)

My peers in the online media domain will talk to you about content n context: Obama's policies are the content, put them in context with what is going on in the world and in my most humble opinion you will find them to be more in line with the common good than those of John Sidney McCain.

Which brings me to the next topic: John Sidney McCain is a member of an Australian sleeper cell...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Overheard : Web 2.0 Entrepreneur talking to a VC

Web 2.0 Entrepreneur: hey how is this for a company... - so basically people get on the site and plan for a trip that they know that they will never take... that way they dont spend the money and they still get to feel the joy of planning an exotic trip...


Venture Capitalist: Sounds exciting!! what is the revenue model gonna be?!?


Web 2.0 Entrepreneur: Hmmm. That is a hard one.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

An Immediate Threat

It has been sometime since I was affected by terrorism; the last time being 9/11, when I woke up to chaos and calls from family and assurances from my side that things for most part were okay. But the blasts in Ahmedabad are affecting me, not to the same extent as they affected those that lost family members; but I do find myself questioning the safety of my family while we are in India.

In the past, I have argued against Bush's ideology and methods on dealing with terrorism the and often times quite vehemently. But now I am having second thoughts… does fighting them there, so we don't have to fight them here actually makes sense? Does the propagation of war on other shores actually make the shores at home safer? Does India need to adapt the same stand and go on the offensive against these radicals? Are we safer if India eliminates three terrorists for every civilian that is killed by them (a la Israel)? The United States does not negotiate with terrorists, what is India's official standing on the same? I do not know the answers to these questions… but idealism aside, what I do know is: my family and I are safer in the US of A than in India. The law of averages can be discounted when you are on the side from missiles are being launched than the side where those missiles are landing.

Now before I start sound like a "Dick" (Cheney): what caused these blasts in Ahmedabad? The Gujarat state government provided fodder for these radicals by not prosecuting the thousands of cases of torture, rape and murder of Muslims that were filed after the Gujarat riots… did Gujarat to a certain extent bring this upon itself? Yes.

However, the broader problem is that of radical religion. The madrasas in Pakistan and India which are funded by the Wahabis in Saudi Arabia need immediate government intervention. The intervention needs to be direct in India and indirect in Pakistan. The alternative to these madrasas is the secular public school system, which has been decaying for years in Pakistan… Pakistan needs to rejuvenate its public schools and provide viable alternatives for its youth. India needs to take a cue from Europe and close any institutions that foster and ideology of hatred and violence.

This has been said before by people on both sides of the political spectrum, Maher and Limbaugh alike: the US of A needs to issue a direct order to its client-state, Saudi Arabia: stop funding the madrasas or else… well in the words of a not-so-great Presiduck: you are either with us or against us.


Creative Capitalism

While in transit on my honeymoon, I picked up Time's latest issue with Billy G on the cover talking about Creative Capitalism… which begs the question – what am I doing reading on my honeymoon. But you see, the W (W = wife, with a marked reference to George W. Bush – a conservative who is a spending liberal, just like my wife) and I have a prenupt that states in paragraph 5, line 12 – "It is okay for Riff to get distracted from Bill Gates and Katrina Kaif."

Anyways getting back to "creative capitalism", after reading the very well written piece I sent a note to my visionary CEO: "Gates met Haque." Haque being Umair Haque, the edge guru who had called to attention the huge market that exists outside the immediate core; some refer to it as the market at the bottom of the pyramid. I, too had written about how the new Gates needs to focus on the edge to fulfill his philanthropic ambitions… but apparently Gates (being Gates) was already doing exactly that. And I being I and not having access to Gates' mind and his Calagenda (maybe he uses MS Exchange) did not know that. What I absorbed:

  • The bottom of the pyramid is a huge (read $5 trillion in purchasing power) market that is currently being underserved.
  • Serving that market is financially rewarding and brings with certain intangibles… read PR and dedicated employees.
  • Moving the bottom to the middle ("the strength of a strong middle class" say the Republicans) is systemic growth.

But there are minds out there that can absorb more, and people out there that can do more… so this honeymoon or weekend, think of ways on how one can get more creative about capitalism… because there is profit to made and lives to be bettered.

It is back to the beach for me.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Edge Justice

A perfect example of how an edge connected world can dictate to a dominant but decaying localized core: Twitter saga ends in jailed translator going free


Monday, June 30, 2008

Onto bigger things

So every portal and every other blogger has been paying his respect to the super geek on his much publicized retirement day… so I am going to do the "me too" thing and say a few things… hopefully/probably Bill Gates is just about to begin a life that will make a difference to many other lives… yeah, yeah I know about the platform wars and the dominance of Windows… but somehow eradicating malaria has more of a meaning than does creating standards for the software industry.

Maybe Churchill was wrong… maybe you can make more of a difference when you start out as a hard-nosed conservative and then end up as a heart-felt liberal….

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Everything that they do

… is big news. But this is definitely news: Google announces Media Server.

If you were to ask Brin and Page, if they had thought that Google would one day become the most important media company… they would probably tell you Google was always a media company.

Monday, June 23, 2008

“Life is worth losing”

So says Carlin and so probably knows Carlin… Thank you George Carlin for shits n giggles... one of his very best (Courtesy HBO):


I'm a modern man,
A man for the millennium,
Digital and smoke free.

A diversified multicultural postmodern deconstructionist,
Politically anatomically and ecologically incorrect.

I've been uplinked and downloaded.
I've been inputted and outsourced.
I know the upside of downsizing.
I know the downside of upgrading.

I'm a high tech lowlife.
A cutting edge state-of-the-art bicoastal multitasker,
And I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.

I'm new wave but I'm old school,
And my inner child is outward bound.

I'm a hot wired heat seeking warm hearted cool customer,
Voice activated and biodegradable.

I interface from a database,
And my database is in cyberspace,
So I'm interactive,
I'm hyperactive,
And from time-to-time,
I'm radioactive.

Behind the eight ball,
Ahead of the curve,
Riding the wave,
Dodging a bullet,
Pushing the envelope.

I'm on point,
On task,
On message,
And off drugs.
I got no need for coke and speed,
I got no urge to binge and purge.

I'm in the moment,
On the edge,
Over the top,
But under the radar.

A high concept,
Low profile,
Medium range ballistic missionary.
A street-wise smart bomb.
A top gun bottom feeder.

I wear power ties,
I tell power lies,
I take power naps,
I run victory laps.

I'm a totally ongoing bigfoot slam dunk rainmaker with a proactive outreach.
A raging workaholic.
A working ragaholic.
Out of rehab,
And in denial.

I got a personal trainer,
A personal shopper,
A personal assistant,
And a personal agenda.

You can't shut me up,
You can't dumb me down.
'Cause I'm tireless,
And I'm wireless.
I'm an alpha male on beta blockers.

I'm a non-believer and an over-achiever.
Laid back but fashion forward.

Up front,
Down home,
Low rent,
High maintenance.

Super size,
Long lasting,
High definition,
Fast acting,
Oven ready,
And built to last.

I'm a hands on,
Foot loose,
Knee jerk,
Head case.

Prematurely post traumatic,
And I have a love child who sends me hate mail.

But I'm feeling,
I'm caring,
I'm healing,
I'm sharing.
A supportive bonding nurturing primary care giver.

My output is down,
But my income is up.
I take a short position on the long bond,
And my revenue stream has its own cash flow.

I read junk mail,
I eat junk food,
I buy junk bonds,
I watch trash sports.

I'm gender specific,
Capital intensive,
User friendly,
And lactose intolerant.

I like rough sex.
I like rough sex.
I like tough love.
I use the f word in my email,
And the software on my hard drive is hard core, no soft porn.

I bought a microwave at a mini mall.
I bought a mini van in a mega store.
I eat fast food in the slow lane.

I'm toll free,
Bite sized,
Ready to wear,
And I come in all sizes.

A fully equipped,
Factory authorized,
Hospital tested,
Clinically proven,
Scientifically formulated medical miracle.

I've been pre-washed,
And I have an unlimited broadband capacity.

I'm a rude dude,
But I'm the real deal.
Lean and mean.
Cocked, locked and ready to rock.
Rough tough and hard to bluff.

I take it slow.
I go with the flow.
I ride with the tide.
I got glide in my stride.

Drivin' and movin',
Sailin' and spinnin',
Jivin' and groovin',
Wailin' and winnin'.

I don't snooze,
So I don't lose.
I keep the pedal to the metal,
And the rubber on the road.

I party hearty,
And lunch time is crunch time.

I'm hanging in,
There ain't no doubt.
And I'm hanging tough,
Over and out

Yep. Over n out…

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Edge Credibility

Now this is a super cool concept… the edge rates the core.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Here they come...

Hey I am not a Mac user. I don't intend on becoming one... not yet anyways.

And borrowing the borrowed from my man Mukherjee... but Apple's "Think Different" commercial goes something like this:

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, We see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,
Are the ones who do.

Monday, June 9, 2008

iPhone 2

I expected more…. Mr. Jobs – I am judging you by the same high standards that you have set for yourselves over the past 7 years. But this post is not without some love:

  • I loved the price tag. This was inevitable… AT&T was not able to subsidize the price to a level they wanted last time. They did so this time. Plus Apple did not want to argue too much… because the apps are coming!
  • LOVED, LOVED and LOVED the apps… the SDK… the vision… everything about iPhone apps is awesome!
  • GPS… hmmm the apps make the GPS fun.

I am going to stay neutral on MobileMe… I like the sound of it… but I don't know why Apple would charge money for a potential MS Exchange killer. Haven't you guys learned anything from Google?

Rest when I actually get to use it….

A Team of Rivals

Ann Winblad had recommended a book - A Team of Rivals to the Marcellus team at our last presentation. Apparently it was a recommendation from Bill Gates… not that I am implying that Gates knew anything about the dynamics of the team… or even knew the team itself… ;).

The point is: I am reading the book and it is by far the most engrossing book on history I have read in a long time. Cable news channels hosts (you know who you are) are referencing the book quite a lot in relation to the highly improbable Obama-Clinton ticket.

Speaking of rivals and Bill, this from Wall Street Journal came as a surprise… apparently Bill Gates was having a hard time letting go during the transition phase at MSFT.

On a side note: Firefox 3 is the best internet browser P-E-R-I-O-D

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How to pick up a VC

Courtesy Guy Kawasaki and Sun Microsystems:

Many entrepreneurs ask me what is the best way to open a pitch to potential investors. I'll answer that question at the end of this posting, but first let me tell you the ten worst opening lines that you can use:

  1. You say: "I'm bright and ambitious." Investor thinks: "That's a relief because I usually invest in stupid and lazy people."
  2. You say: "I'm a blue sky thinker." Investor thinks: "You have no business model, and you don't know how to ship."
  3. You say: "I don't know much about your firm, but I thought I'd contact you anyway." Investor thinks: "You're a lazy idiot--why are you wasting my time?"
  4. You say: "I love to think of new ways to solve problems." Investor thinks: "Is this a high-school science fair?"
  5. You say: "I have lots of great ideas, but I have trouble figuring out which one to try. Let me tell you about a couple." Investor thinks: "I want to know which idea you're going to kill yourself trying to make successful, not which ideas have crossed your idle mind."
  6. You say: "I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur." Investor thinks: "I've always wanted to be a professional golfer. So what if you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?"
  7. You say: "I'm sure you are aware of the growing need for security. Web 2.0, Open Source, whatever." Investor thinks: "If you're sure I'm aware, why are you telling me you're sure I'm aware."
  8. You say: "If you sign an NDA, I'll tell you my idea." Investor thinks: "You are clueless. How can you not know that venture capitalists don't sign NDAs?"
  9. You say: "The last time I contacted you, I..." Investor thinks: "I'm going to fire my secretary for putting this clown on my calendar again."
  10. You say: "My goal is to build a world-class company." Investor thinks: "How about you ship and sell the first copy before we talk about world-class anything?"

Now you know what not to say. Here's what you should say:

"This is what my company does..."

It's that simple. What you're trying to do is get potential investors to fantasize about how your product or service will make a boatload of money. They can't fantasize if they don't know what you do. And they don't want to be your friend, mother, or psychiatrist until they understand what you do, so cut the crap and explain what you do.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Thank you

This one is to thank the angel that found my phone on the BART and took the pain to locate me… she was so thoughtful that she used her own phone to call my last number dialed to locate me.

Thank you so very much…

I have been real lucky when it comes to losing stuff… an auto rickshaw driver in the city of Hyderabad, who probably earned 2 dollars a day returned my wallet to the police. And here is the miracle within the magic… the often criticized Indian police published an ad to locate me.

In both cases, I had given up any hope of getting the items back… and each time that I got my items back, my faith in basic humanity got renewed.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Social Software

I was discussing Sharepoint/Drupal at work today and decided to look up "social software." Social software was on the list of the Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2008. Interaction is cheap and collaboration is a necessity… enabling the conversion of knowledge into information and then connecting that information with people, who then design processes around that information, should be the goal of all organizations who want to fully exploit the concept of enterprise 2.0 and the potential of a knowledge worker. Whew! Exhale…

However, it is really important that these tools are used the right way… and by the right way I mean that they are not used the wrong way, i.e. one dimensional information sharing interfaces. The best utilization of a Sharepoint intranet portal at your organization should resemble that of Facebook – coworkers should be connected to each other like friends on Facebook… their activities at work published as a news feed… when they discover information, you discover information.

At the end it does not really matter if you go with Drupal or with Sharepoint – the way you use tools is more important than the tools you use.

FSJ on the Google App/Salesforce Tie Up

It is a little late to opine on the subject, but I can appreciate the humor and the insight at the core of it all… this from Fake Steve Jobs:

The problem with Benioff is that for all his talk about the future, and the "end of software," he's got a bad case of McNealy-itis. That is, he keeps fighting the battles of the last decade, over and over and over again. Meanwhile the Borg has already written off Office. They'll milk it for a few more years but they can see the value going to zero. (They'll never admit that, but they have. Trust me. I've got spies close to Ballmer.) Another problem Benioff has is that his business can't scale. CRM is nice but let's face it, it's CRM. It is what it is. It ain't ever gonna be something that everyone uses. Like an iPod.


Over the weekend, I got a text message from a CEO of a hot upcoming start up offering the ability to publish videos online(I know, I know… but have to do the PR bit for the company… they pay me (sort of)):

Are people like Salesforce viable clients for us?

My response: Yes. And so are customers of Salesforce.

SaaS is freedom… it is like those "Go" phones… pay according to usage… it makes no sense for one to 59 bux per month for 1000 minutes if you are using only 700 minutes.. and it makes no sense for people to pay 300 bux for MS Office if they are not using all the features… and that is what MSFT, DirecTV, Cingular and other examples of strategic decadence have to seriously re-examine if they plan to remain relevant - are our price points adherent to the new bylaws of value chains, i.e. pay according to usage.

I don't know where I am going with this: but a SaaS Service A + SaaS Service B makes total sense as SaaS Solution (A+B).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hitchhikers Guide to Bootstrapping

Going through my blog roll, found this piece of really useful and succinct information for entrepreneurs: The Bootstrappers' Guide to Strapping Up. It is an unusual role – entrepreneurship… the rhetoric of course (courtesy duperstar) is – make a lot of money and have lot of fun while doing it…

Appending some of my thoughts to the guide:

  • We gave Officelive a fair chance, but the project manager felt like Oliver Twist drawing the smallest straw when he started using it. It was clunky, slow and bug-ridden. With all fairness MSFT has not taken the "beta" label off.
  • Well neither has Google with Gmail. But it is an absolute delight to use! I used to be a MS Outlook guy… and was cajoled into the implementation by: "Dude you can use it as an IMAP account!" I haven't used Outlook for my "entrepreneur" account for the last two months. "What about organizing?", you say. The convenience of search takes away the need for organizing I say… plus Google is doing the organizing for me.
  • Awstats is a good compliment to Google Analytics if you need more detailed web stats.
  • Need a professional sounding PBX system? Evoice is your answer.

Anyways here is to fun n money… and in this case one out of two ain't that bad. Good luck!

Friday, May 23, 2008

If at first you don’t succeed…

…read a book, talk to a few people, get a reality check and try again.

This to another Steve… I am addressing quite a few of my blogs to "Steves"… speaking of – yo mystery man! When is the 3g iPhone coming out?

But this one is to Steve Shannon of Akimbo. Akimbo decided to close doors, shut down the operation and sell assets (you guys got streaming servers?)… and I have nothing but good wishes for Steve. Steve took the time off to speak to us about Marcellus and offered us good advice and provided us with contacts of content owners. But Akimbo was designed to fail. It was trying to solve a non-existent problem with an expensive solution – On Demand TV with a box that cost $300. Steve's time at ReplayTV must've contributed to the notion of On Demand TV… so Akimbo tried what it thought was an unconventional approach in a conventional market… and kudos to them for the thought. But the strategy was flawed: it was a one dimensional product when it should have been a multi-layered service. And I say this with zero bias: Marcellus's personalization engine would've helped. Marcellus's interactive platform would've definitely helped.

Funny - the same news article also refers to the demise of another company that we tried helping during our formative years – Movielink.

I am telling you core-driven guys: pull beats push, listening beats talking, edge beats core and the network beats the channel.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

An Open Letter to Steve Ballmer

Dear Steve,

I am sure I caught you at a bad time… you must be on the phone with Carl, while you are texting Bill with "WTF dude?!?! Why are you selling?" But when you can please pay close attention to what I say, because I say it with love (I was the one that bought the only copy of Bad Boy Ballmer sold) and respect (I am the guy that sent you the uRock email). I believe that you've got it all wrong. You are fighting a battle that you don't need to fight, and you are losing a war that you need to win. You've been playing a lot of golf with the President? Oh wait, the President is not golfing any more… for respect! Hmmm, maybe I need to send him a letter too. But let's focus on you and MSFT for now:

I loved it when you took over from Bill. Always thought of you as the consumer guy… always believed that you will understand the edge a lot better than Bill did. Bill was the core strategy guy, so much so that MSFT's internal org structure was hub n spokes… and we all know he was super successful doing it his way. So when Billy said he was leaving MSFT to change the world (irony: Bill Gates is doing philanthropy like he did technology… from the core… Bill the edge needs you!!)handing over the company to his best bud – I got all excited.

And MSFT did undergo a transformation under you. Splitting the company up into 7 semi autonomous divisions was a bright idea! got a make-over and started offering longer trials, with a focus on problem solving and customer service. Change was coming… but no it was Vista that came. Now don't get me wrong… it is a pretty okay OS… umm well correction it is a pretty OS. I used it for a while and then upgraded to XP. And boy you guys did a good job with XP!

I know you already know that the client-server model is becoming increasingly redundant, and with that MSFT is becoming irrelevant. Google is breathing down your neck and you sure must be feeling like throwing something right about now. But relax. You and MSFT do try and solve problems… but the way you them is wrong. And that is what makes the difference between profitability and sustainability. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Open Windows up. No, no. Put that chair down and hear me out. I heard about you calling Linux communism (that comment must not have resonated quite the way you wanted in China). But that is the future dude… open platforms that networks will morph to best suit their needs and pump the value at the edge to the core. It is a different world now. It requires a different approach.
  • Move from semi-autonomous divisions to independent divisions. Make your 7 divisions completely independent of each other. The cancer that is growing in the desktop systems should not spread to the Xbox… I love the Xbox. Do it before you get "sovietized."
  • Get Umair Haque on the MSFT Board. He can be a little sensitive at times… but I am sure you understand.
  • Promote the product strategist for Sharepoint. I think Sharepoint rocks!
  • Buy Facebook before you buy Yahoo. And open Facebook up. If Mark is open to it, have him talk to the dude responsible for Sharepoint. You will find that they have a lot in common… and will learn from each other.
  • If you do end up owning Yahoo, don't assimilate them. Learn, adopt, change and become more like them. Yahoo does a lot of things right… and human resources is one of them.
  • Drop the People Ready campaign… people are ready. Knowledge workers are not a new phenomenon; they existed when Bill was drafting the first copy of Business at the Speed of Thought. How does People Enabled sound? =)
  • Silverlight is hot but it is a little dense for people like me. You better start talking about the problem it solves, rather than the value it creates.
  • .NET – how about .NOT?!?! Please abandon.

Ok that is all for now. I should publish this before Vista conks out on me… j/k. Oh by the way – I love Office 2007!


PS: My Xbox 360 has the red ring of death? Who do I call?

Friday, May 16, 2008

What is the Edge?

It won't take long for a member of Team Marcellus to start talking about the edge. Edge competencies are in the Marcellus DNA... it is what we do better than any other company in this space. So your question naturally is – what is the edge?

I am tempted to do my best Morpheus impression and tell you that everything that you see is the edge… but I am going to refrain and tell you the edge is the boundary that divides the internal and the external, the producer and the consumer; the service provider and the client… it is that very distinct (you can see it if you look hard enough) membrane through which the value/revenue osmosis happens. And the edge is where the action is at…

The internet has changed a lot of things, but the single greatest impact that the internet has had that it has changed the linear flow of what used to be called the value chain… companies are used to pushing "value" at the consumers and the consumers reciprocate by providing companies with "revenue." But in this new world of cheap interactions between consumer <-- company --> consumer value is increasingly and exponentially (referred to as the "viral effect") created at the edge… each time a consumer interacts with another consumer or with the service there is a distinct, tangible value that gets created… firms (read Google) that are able to capture and consequently leverage this value are the epitomes of hyper efficient business models. The reason that the same hyper efficiency is "el dorado" for some firms (read Microsoft) is that they are still operating with the core strategy and hence are in a strategic decay.

Wanna know – how you can avoid that strategic decay in this oblivion called online video? Well you can start by considering Marcellus…

Thursday, May 15, 2008

“The Eagle in the Mirror”

So I am reading this book Are We Rome?
Great read… combines retroactive clairvoyance with historical relevance. Plan to write more about the subject later, but here is something that I did not know – Romulus was the name of emperor that founded Rome…. And Romulus was also the name of the last emperor of Rome… and like the author says won't it be really ironic if America's decline started with a President named George…

Sunday, May 11, 2008

So, why not Youtube?

Good question Joe! So you are asking me why shouldn't you just post your videos on Youtube where you have a Googilian people coming every day?

Youtube is amazing by the sheer volume of content available on it – you want to know how to be a ninja? And Youtube has a one minute video on it. That is Youtube the brand – a massive volume of video interactions. But what if you were to believe that video brings a certain value to your brand or if video is your brand? Then Youtube dilutes your brand.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Much Ado

…about nothing! After getting us all worked up about the pros and cons of Microsoft-Yahoo merger did not happen. Steve "Baller" knew how much Yahoo was worth to him and refused to pay a penny more. Well he might have paid a penny more, but you get the point. Speculation has already started on what Microsoft will buy next? Microsoft is a software company that is looking to become a media company… and has made one bad move after another, starting with partnering with GE on MSNBC. The one good move it did make is when it developed a product called the Xbox in house… so there is a lesson in there for Microsoft… make a good product, make it fun to use, make it so that other companies can add value to themselves and to the product and you would've done something meaningful… and profitable.

And acquired a network of very loyal users.

Ontology of Blogs

"We blog, therefore we are" says the tag line for one blog directory. The discussion on the affect of blogging on the sports-media landscape on Costas Now got me thinking on why people blog. Blogs are opinion; when I blog, I am exercising my right to freedom of expression further enabled by the democratization of publishing because of the internet. My blog is what and how I feel about what and how things are… is it all fact? No. It is opinion about facts.

By blogging I am also indulging in what Friedman refers to as "information arbitrage:" buying information from one place and then reselling that information at another place. You cannot be a good publisher without being an involved consumer, so I read a lot of blogs. And in doing that I am "subscribing to people, instead of magazines."

Interesting point someone made the other day about blogs being a tool for self indulgence… but there is an element of self indulgence involved each time you are expressing an opinion… opinions are personal and everyone has them… some tend to express them a lot more. Hey but isn't it a lot easier to stop reading than to stop listening?

There is no denying the fact that blogging has become an important factor in the consumption of information on the internet. The question becomes: do we as bloggers need to adhere to the same ethics code that journalists (are supposed to) adhere to? We do have a certain responsibility to people that are subscribing to our opinions and sensationalism isn't always the most effective way of engaging your readers. When one engages their audience, one is able to listen and speak. At the same time there are different reasons for people blogging and therefore different levels of responsibilities - I do expect a lot more responsibility from a CEO blogging on his company blog…

If you are those very few lucky ones out there that can actually inspire people through blogs… then you should be blogging. But one thing I can tell for sure (opinion =)) if Adam Smith and Karl Marx were alive today, they both would've been bloggers… and would have commented on each other's blogs… ah utopia… speaking of which Moore would've been a blogger too.

And I think to myself… what a wonderful world.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sammy would have been proud…

With all due respect to Sammy (Johnson)… knowledge is of two kinds. Either we know it or we can Google it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

MSFT at the tail

You know it is never too late to learn, even though it might be a little late to save yourself. MSFT has fine-tuned its promotion strategy, even though its product strategy needs a serious re-examination… the "sea of change" that was promised is taking time to deliver; probably another heavy-machine inertia symptom. But I get excited when a Product Strategist at Microsoft draws charts that look very similar to Chris Anderson's "The Long Tail."

Even XP Embedded seems to have gone through a make-over…

Then again Sharepoint, much like its social networking counterpart: Facebook is a gated-community… I would like to see a lot more cross-functionality in Sharepoint and I do not just mean AJAX… how about letting Sharepoint work with say Drupal?

Right… I am dreaming.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Preetam's blog posting, all this money invested and the fact that we still have to see a sustainable business model for online video got me thinking: it always takes us sometime to realize that the new is not old and the fact that it is not the old makes it new. It is still a hybrid experience when consuming video; content is still being pushed at us and we have also recently been enabled to pull it. The powers behind that push are trying to become relevant in the pull economy. NBC has Hulu, ABC has a look-alike, so does Fox and CBS thinks it is being a little different by focusing on the live streaming experience… they don't get it. Things are a lot different in the pull economy… audiences are increasingly attention deficient and they don't guarantee you anything…. they have youtubillian options out they… so your question naturally is what we are we doing wrong…. Well apart from the obvious - old methods in new times, you mean?

You are not looking at the power of the "network", you are being constrained by the myopia of a channel.

The network is power; your content is a part of the network; a network of users powered by a database of intentions, opinions and selections… How did Google – a search company become a media company? How much of the so-called mainstream/hit driven content does it boast off? Virtually, none. Then how is Google becoming relevant and.. dominant? Simple - it has the database.: a collection of values derived by leveraging user interaction. A online video platform that is able to capture the value from the hyper-distribution within the edge network is a big part of the answer. We still have to see one that does that.. and here is some criticism after throwing some love at them – even Google has not been able to come up with.

The trickling down economy is trickling the other way, the value chain has been reversed… whatever way you want to say it, the point is "haquely" simple: the value lies on the edge now.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I must say I was cynical when I first heard about the americanization of cricket. What? You are telling me that you do not see the similarities between the NFL and the Indian Premiere League... those were Washington Redskins cheerleaders in Kokatta versus Bangalore game?! Did I just read about someone adding the IPL Fantasy League App to their profile? By the by, someone needs to consider mashing up the Codecx Video Score Board with the Fantasy Up.. that'll be a sweet mash up. Anyways back to cricket: I thought at the time that some things could not be treated as commodities, I mean Cricket did consider itself sacred once upon a time. But after watching the games (they are available on demand: all I could think of is: oh let the sweet times flow...

NFL is the best show in town... yes there is a little of the circus in the NFL, but at the same time the NFL showcases the best of athletes on earth, it is also a hotly competitive arena, it also has a lot of strategic maneuvering and then there is the drama. I hope the IPL learns those things from the NFL as well...

It was in the very recent past that Cricket and match fixing were synonymous and at those times profit incentive took precedence over nationalism… it is funny but true, at least in this case: doesn't take much for capitalism to trump nationalism… and ironically I think the commercialization of cricket to the degree that IPL has done so has actually benefitted cricket… these players are getting paid big bucks on field.. and are therefore (one would think) less likely to try to make the big bucks off the field..

At the same time it has to be about the sport… those 22 guys are getting on the field to play a sport… and the focus needs to be on the sport.. that is how you will engage and retain your audiences… and eyeballs = money in conventional media.

Well what I am trying to say is the Kolkatta Knight Riders need to be more about Ganguly than about Sharukh Khan and they need to be more about Ganguly the player than Ganguly the man and therein lies the key to the success of this venture. It is a lot of fun n profit when you commercialize a sport but it ain't so cool if you call a commercial a sport...

Of social dogmas…

Thought of looking up the word social, while contemplating on trying to define the "We" in We are India. "We" definitely includes the element - social in it... I mean we are far more social than Youtube - with one click you can share the videos on WAI with your friends in different social networks. We are starting to engage in a social marketing campaign to promote movies that I believe rise above the conventional movies that one sees on every other medium. Social comes from the Latin word socialis "to comrade or partner." Hence, weareindia…

Now while on social networks here is a 850 million American dollars (has it started to mean less?) question: did AOL make a huge blunder in buying strategy little too late?. Did it pay a bigger price a little too late? I mean AOL was the bomb, an ISP whose USP was the fact it provided a social networking framework: chat rooms, instant messaging, emails from other members, groups and even home pages… sounds very familiar doesn't it? The elements that are present in every other successful social networks – Facebook and MySpace included. The elements in lacked? The ability to let us actually see social network itself: a web of how we relate to others. It is a question that can still be explored further: what did AOL lack that Facebook has?

We have not completely started utilizing the power of these social network… walking through Sather Gate I am often handed flyers by different student organizations and for campus events… the student government body was getting elected recently, so it was definitely a busy season of banners. I was hoping to see at least one banner that had added the very useful: "find me on Facebook at:"

To say that the way we interact has been changed fundamentally forever would be understating it… so if I may take it further… we have build these networks… now watch as they start building us…

Anyways, what are you doing right now?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Oh I may have burst a bubble...

So anywho... anyone here from the bubbly generation... this is what i was trying to imply when i said:

"...Umair (comma) loved the over-simplification: 2007 was the year of networks. 2008 is going to be the year of communities.

2007 was the year of fragmentation. 2008 will the year of more fragmentation, and 2009 will probably(if we're lucky) herald the beginning of cohesive networks and symbiotic walled gardens. which ultimately might lead to the creation of gated communities by 2011 - is so much more boring..."

I really thought that Umair was over-simplifying... how do you get from networks to communities in a year? The answer is: you don't! I call it the big bang theory of new media:

a solid dense mass of internet users has exploded into this chaotic quest for social networking glory represented by myspace, facebook, etc. from within that mess will emerge smaller and more cohesive social networks: linked-in, ittoolbox, etc... the more cohesive the social networks the more symbiotic the relationships... and it will be a lot slower and a more complicated process than it sounds.

At we are abt those edge applications (and more) that umair talks so much about... tools that will connect publishers with users, users with content and advertisers with buyers. it is not a simple task; and the thing is we don't really talk about it much... we are actually doing it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Don’t cry for me America, I’ll do it for you

Yo! I don't know about you'll, but I think we live in a stupid country if a "signature moment" in someone's campaign involved them crying. What the hell?!?! Hillary Rodham (I am not going to call her Hillary Clinton) cries and the state of New Hampshire's like "awww! You poor baby! Here is a vote." Wake up America! We don't select prom queens on the basis of sensitivity, you are selecting the next President! I do not think Hillary Rodham's record as the first lady or the Senator from New York makes her a viable choice for the Presidency of United States. And because she was married to Bill Clinton does not mean she is Bill Clinton!

When the Chief Minister of India's most backward state – Bihar (Manoj – respect) went to jail he anointed (as opposed to appointed) his wife to be the chief minister in his place… I find this no different. Yeah, given she has a law degree and has met foreign leaders, but she has also endorsed torture and presented the most screwed up health care reform plan when she was the first lady. And what is up with this Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton musical chairs? This ain't no dynasty, this be a democracy, yo! Respect.

Ask not what a Clinton (or a Rodham) can do for you, ask what you can do to put a deserving President in the White House. Obama and Edwards might not be the best of men, but I do think they are better candidates. And I think that purely on the basis of the issues and their geo-political agenda (by the way, can Hillary spell environment?).

Just an example of how nutty this country is:

A caller calling to a radio show: "Hillary stole the election in New Hampshire by fixing the polling machines."

Radio Host: "How do you know?"

Caller: "She put a computer virus in the machines."

Radio Host (louder): "How do you know?"

Caller: "The virus deleted Obama votes and added votes."

Radio Host (almost screaming): "HOW DO YOU KNOW?!?!"

Caller: "I have a secret source."

Radio Host: "Ok! That is all I needed to hear. Oh wait I am getting a call on the other line from your secret source. He has a message for you. I do not have the special decoder ring to decode what he is saying, but he is asking me to tell you – go to bed!"