Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Think Strategically!

Every job, every role, every company you go to is an opportunity to learn how a business works and how an industry works.

Learn everything you can about the business and the industry in which you find yourself.

Think strategically:
How would I start a firm like this today?
Or, if I were starting a company in this industry today, how would it be different than this firm?
Why is this firm and other firms in this industry doing what they do?
What are the assumptions underneath their behavior?
Should those assumptions be changing?
How might this industry work differently?
Which customers are being underserved?
What new technologies might change things completely? How were things working 10 years ago, versus today, versus 10 years from now?
And, my favorite: if the creators of this industry were starting out today, what would they be doing now?

From :
The Pmarca Guide to Career Planning, part 3: Where to go and why

Also check out :
The Pmarca Guide to Career Planning, part 1: Opportunity
The Pmarca Guide to Career Planning, part 2: Skills and education

Brilliante!

And while we're talking about career advise, check out Scott Adam's take on it as well.

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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

How Something Huge Can Evolve Out of a Simple Idea...

Evan Williams, founder of Twitter and Blogger, talks about how Twitter (Blogger too) started off as a tiny little side project... and how it has evolved into what it is today. How it is being used in a LOT of different, interesting ways that he had never imagined.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/evan_williams_on_listening_to_twitter_users.html

Follow your hunch, and let it evolve, he says.

But you'll never know how big your idea can get unless you implement it and put it out there for your users!

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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Hyderabad Police Website has been Mapped!

...by yours truly... : )

We (Microsoft) just released the new version of Live Maps for India, and our VirtualEarth MapControl SDK.

Anyone can use Live Maps to enhance and enLIVEn their sites with maps.

We're collaborating with the Hyderabad Police, to make their site even more useful for the public. You can now search though all the police stations in Hyderabad, and get the relevant details. You can get driving directions to and from the station, and much more. Check it out...

I'll write another detailed post later on how to customise the MapControl SDK, and how you can build your very own mashup in minutes.

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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

How To Blog?

Merlin Mann puts everything that you need to know about blogging on one slide...


He also gave a talk... With some more slides...

How To Blog
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: blog blogging)

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Monday, 20 October 2008

How to Make Money While Doing What You Love, and Be Happy!

I was reading Paul Graham's essays today... And I thought I'd share some of his insights that hit home with me... (apart from "Start a startup already!")

The definition of work was now to make some original contribution to the world, and in the process not to starve.
To be happy I think you have to be doing something you not only enjoy, but admire. You have to be able to say, at the end, wow, that's pretty cool.
Do NOT worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. Don't worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. When you can ask the opinions of people whose judgment you respect, what does it add to consider the opinions of people you don't even know?

If you do anything well enough, you'll make it prestigious.

Much as everyone thinks they want financial security, the happiest people are not those who have it, but those who like what they do.
Go read this essay. Paul also elaborates on some strategies to find "what you love to do" and how you can make money from it... but makes no bones about how its not easy - it requires hard work and discipline. Me thinks its worth it!

Seth Godin, on the other hand wonders...
"Maybe you can't make money doing what you love"...

Maybe everyone can't, but I'm sure as hell going for it!


Side Note : While reading Paul's essay, I also realisedWhy Parents Will Never Understand Their Kids... And Also Why Uncles and Aunts Will Always Be Cooler!

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Wednesday, 10 September 2008

The College Project Startup Challenge...

The other day I was chatting with a bunch of new interns at Microsoft. Like most interns, they were young, ambitious, super smart, and quite clueless!

They were eager for advice and direction from a "seasoned" Microsoftie (me, apparently)...

How to decide what "idea" to work on for my "Project"...

We got talking about their final year projects, and ideas for them.

My basic advice was:
- You're just going from 3rd year to your final year. You now know enough about software to build something that other people might find useful.
- You have all the time in the world... (Cos well... you're in college... and we all know how many lectures final year students attend!)
Now is the time to experiment and see what all there is out there in the software world.

1. Follow the buzz in the blogosphere, and get to know the latest. (You can start with checking out my blogroll)
2. Chase anything that you find interesting and read up all about it. (anything from linux drivers, to Facebook Apps, to game programming, to network protocols etc.)
[Yes, you can, and should "chase" multiple different things]
3. Get your hands dirty, and play around with it. Prototype something!
Now that you know you're way around, you can prototype a couple of ideas, and get better ideas, and keep improving them.

Startup plans anyone?

So then I asked them, does anyone plan to do a startup?

They all looked at me as if I mentioned something like "outer space"... (They'd love to explore the idea, but "know" that they're never gonna do that. Its for them "astronauts", not us regular folks.)

They replied "How can we do a startup!? We don't know enough yet! We don't have enough experience!"

Nidhi : "Entrepreneurship is risky and we cant take such risk!"

Mukul - "But its usually better to work for a couple of years and learn before doing a start up and all na? What's the point of thinking about all this till then?"

Deepank : "A start up involves a lot of luck"...

A couple of issues...

I realised that there were 2 problems here...
1. These people had too much limiting social conditioning that "Startups are only for superstars... Its not for us"
2. They don't realise what an amazing time it is for Web Startups! It has never been easier, cheaper and less risky than today!

Social conditioning...

Me : 6 months ago, did you ever imagine you were gonna be interning at MS?
Interns : *all smiles and starry eyed* Nope... We never imagined we'd be here, doing such cool stuff!
Me : Without hoping/believing or even thinking about the possibility of interning at MS, you guys are here... Imagine what all you guys can do if you'll think about it, and plan it...
You could come up with the next facebook!
Interns : True, but Facebook, is like 0.00001% chance... that's a lot of luck.

You have a whole year of your life, and you need to do a BE/BTech project anyways - why not shoot for the stars!? You might as well build something you enjoy, something you can show off to the world, something you're proud of creating, something that might even take off, and make you rich and famous someday![1]

Startups have never been easier, cheaper and less risky!
(by easier I mean upfront investment in terms of technical and financial resources in getting your idea out.)
Read some Paul Graham!

Why not give yourselves that 0.0001% chance. Whats the worse that will happen? You're app won't take off... At least you'll learn! And have something to show for it. And you'll have no trouble implementing the next big idea that you have.
You might fizzle once, twice, thrice, but the fourth time you'll come up with something awesome!

Otherwise, you always have all these other start ups that are dying to get passionate people like you to work with them!

Imagine having a Final Year project thats live, and being used by thousands of users! I'd rather hire a kid with such experience than the class topper who has zero real world experience.

So go for it! Take up the challenge... Try building something you think you might need. Scratch your own itch if nothing else, and see where things go from there.

But most importantly have fun with it!

[1] You're welcome to give me a percentage of your wealth in exchange for all the inspiration... ; )

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Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Guy Kawasaki on The Art of Starting Innovation

I was watching Guy Kawasaki's talk on the "Art of Start", and also the one on the "Art of Innovation"...

The Art of Innovation is a speech for any stage of company that is trying to create and marketing innovative products and services. The Art of the Start is for the startup stage--but for anyone starting anything.
Both of them had a lot of overlap... But I watched both anyways, cos Guy is a fun speaker. I like how he is cheerful and funny, and most of all he's comfortable being casual and "himself".

I've taken notes on them and combined them into "the Art of Starting Innovation".

Why start a company?
Make Meaning
- Increase the quality of life.
- Right a wrong.
- Prevent the end of something good.
(basically SOLVE an ACTUAL problem!)

When pitching to VCs tell them what meaning you are trying to make...

Too many people start a company "to make money"... They don't realise that almost all big successful companies were started to make meaning...

Microsoft wanted to put a desktop in every home... all the billions of dollars are just a happy side effect of that. Google wants to organise the worlds information. They're doing pretty well. Facebook started as a simple way for college students to keep in touch...

Make meaning... solve a problem.

Make a Mantra!
A short simple line that encapsulates the essence of your "meaning"...
3 or 4 words long... like...
Wendy's - "Healthy Fast Food"
FedEx - "Peace of mind."
Nike - "Authentic athletic performance"
Target - "Democratize design"

Jump the next curve
Don't do better sameness... Rather than 10% better... Go for 10 times better!
Change the playing field altogether.
eg. Amazon with Kindle!
- Think different!
- Find a few soul mates...

Build a business model...
- Be specific
You should be able to answer clearly...
"Who is my customer? How do i get MY money from her purse?"
- Keep it simple

Weave a MAT
- Just get going!
Ready, Fire! Ok, now aim, and keep firing!
- Come up with Milestones..
- Assumptions of the company (whats the sales cost? customer ROI?... write them down and test them)
- Task (achieve milestones / test assumptions)


Don't worry, be crappy
Release early and get your product out in the hands of customers as soon as possible. Don't worry about putting in all the finishing touches possible.

Write a business plan, and then forget about it. The exercise of writing it down will help clarify your thoughts, but once you're out in the real world, the customers, and their feedback will shape your product/business.

Niche thyself!

Create a product that is unique and of great value...
And convince the customer that its true.

Great Value, Not Unique : Compete on price (Dell)
No Value, Unique : Stupid!
No Value, Not Unique : Very Stupid! (eg. selling dog food online during the dotCom boom)
Great Value, Unique : eg. Online movie ticket booking.

Polarize people...
Great products polarize ppl! Dont be mediocre!

Follow the 10/20/30 rule for Presentations.
- 10 slides
Title
Problem
Solution
Business Model
Underlying Magic
Marketing and Sales
Competition
Team
Projections
Status and Time line
- 20 mins
- Smallest font is 30 point.

Hire infected people
Work experience, educational background, infected with love for the product.
Hire better than yourself!
Hire only those people that you see the first time and want to go up and talk to them, hire them...

Lower barriers to Adoption
- Flatten the learning curve
- Don't ask people to do something you wouldn't do...
- Embrace your evangelists

Seed the Clouds!
- Let a hundred flowers blossom (people use our products differently)
- Enable test drives
- Find the true influencer's
- Listen to user feedback and let it mold your product.


Don't let the bozos tie you down!
- Loser bozos : Useless pessimistic good for nothing killjoys. They'll always say your idea sucks.
- Venture Capital/Industry expert bozo : Lots of supposedly smart people get things wrong.
eg. Almost everyone thought that wikipedia was one of the stupidest ideas of all time...

Don't let bozo's bring you down. Keep the faith.

It's an amazing time to be an entrepreneur! Get started already!

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