Thursday, April 30, 2009

Behind everyone successful... The Girl Effect

After 19 hours of one hell of a train journey with Aditi, Divya, Anubha, Swaty, Nikky and Ram, otherwise referred to as the 'Freaks n Geeks' of IIT-Kgp, I am back in Delhi for the Summer of '09. Let's see what I end up doing this time.

Oh, and about the effect:

This video by the Nike Foundation and NoVo is about the cycle of poverty in rural regions, and the impact one person can create by breaking it. Behind every successful economy, is a prosperous Girl. Just felt like sharing it.

As for my plans for the summer, I'm looking forward to learn a lot, blog a lot, live a lot... While I do have some stuff on my plate, I'm somewhat jobless for the couple of months to come. And an internship's not just about the only thing I am looking for(the title could be a clue).

Either ways, the only thing for me to do is to keep looking. In case anyone reading this has an opportunity to suggest, pleaaazze do, and I say this with reference to either of my requests.

Happy Holidays everyone!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two's Company

Bill Gates & Paul Allen, Steve Jobs & Steve Woz, You & ??

From my article originally published in The Entrepreneur (newsletter of the Entrepreneurship Cell, IIT Kharagpur), about selecting a co-founder for your dream venture, the way the top guns did it. I had earlier discussed The Power of the Duo in the series on Sramana Mitra and Dominique Trempont's keynote address at Entrepreneurship Summit 2009, IIT Kharagpur.

They say choosing your spouse is the most important decision you will make in your life. Similarly, choosing your co-founder(s) is the most important decision you will make while building your startup, since one could argue that at least for some period of time, you’ll be spending more waking hours with your co-founder than your significant other. Great partnerships are like marriages, they need a lot of common ground, strong mutual attraction and a willingness to work hard - especially through the inevitable issues.
You first need to dispel the delusion that you don't need a co-founder. You do. You may have all the requisite skills, but even then, co-founders help spread the work and make better decisions. Sure, you can talk to your brilliant self, but that's not as effective. The selection of co-founder(s) is one of the key determinants of long-term success in a startup. But if you have the wrong guy, that's a hard problem to get over with.

Knowing them beforehand

The idea is that by having gotten to know the person, you’ve already had a chance to see how they work, how they think and whether you’re likely to get along. This makes your college or workplace friend circle a very useful hunting ground for a potential business partner. Consider Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, for instance. Chen and Karim were classmates at the University of Illinois, who then met Hurley at PayPal, where all three were employees. They then founded YouTube, which received funding from Sequoia Capital, whose partner Roelof Botha, who also joined the YouTube board of directors, was the CFO of PayPal.

You better be good friends with them as well, since you're going to spend a lot of time working together. Also, there will be times in the startup lifetime that will test your relationship with your co-founder, so make sure you understand the stakes before going in.

Someone you can trust

Mistrust can be a cancer for your startup. The good news is that you can avoid it by choosing a founder you trust, and then work to foster deeper trust in your relationship over time. Keep in mind that it’s a never ending process.

Play fair. You can’t expect others to care as much about the business when they don’t see themselves getting a fair share. This goes hand-in-hand with trust.

Great minds think alike

There should be aligned interest and commitment from your co-founder. You both have to (at some level) be committed to not only building a company, but the same company. If one of you wants to create a company you run forever (and reap profits) and the other wants to take a shot at a high-flying startup that gets sold or goes public some day, you’ll have a problem.

Of course, co-founders may influence each other’s decisions in this context. Afterall, Larry Page’s "BackRub" might just have remained a research project on citation backlinks in research papers, with limited commercial value, unless Sergey Brin, a fellow Stanford Ph.D. student and close friend, had not come to the rescue and worked with him to make it what we today know as Google.

Choose your compliment

A co-founder should be strong in areas you are not. A great compliment to your skills is someone who loves to do things you hate, someone who makes the sum of your parts greater than the whole. If Steve Wozniak had remained the nerd who was simply skeptical of the idea of selling computers, and had not been convinced by Steve Jobs, the born-entrepreneur, to come up with a company so that they could at least say that to their grandkids, neither would've conceived Apple Computers independently.

Make sure at least one of the founders has the technical expertise. This is so you don't have to try and outsource the actual product development. Similarly, make sure at least one of you can sell. No great idea is of any use to a startup that can’t market it properly. Effectively, you need to identify your “type”, and look for the corresponding complementary skill in your partner.

Practice, not just preach

You need a co-founder who can get things done. If you have a great idea, and you want to bring it to life, find someone who is passionate about your vision, and who is willing to work for it. Since startups involve lots and lots of work (some fun, some not so fun), part of the value of your co-founder should be that the work can be distributed. If your co-founder is too “strategy” focused too early, you’ll get buried because there’s too much to do.

Passion is easy to spot. Years after the two had befriended each other at Lakeside School, Seattle, where they used to tweak the school’s scheduling program to place themselves in classes with more female students, and had faced several penalties for other naughty uses of their programming skills, one of them dropped out of Washington State University and called on the other (in Harvard then) to do the same, for starting a venture together. Both understood each others’ passion and immediately complied. They were Paul Allen and Bill gates, and thus was born, Microsoft.

Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, at 13 and 15 years of age respectively

Talk the talk

Have the hard discussions around equity, compensation and responsibilities early. This stuff does not get easier over time – it gets harder.

How should the division of shares be controlled? Who will make the decisions? What happens if one of us leaves the company? Can any of us be fired? By whom? For what reasons? What are our personal goals for the startup? Will this be the primary activity for each of us? What part of our plan are we each unwilling to change? Will any of us be investing cash in the company? If so, how is this treated? What will we pay ourselves? Who gets to change this in the future?

Deferring these conversations is a great way to ensure problems later.

So what are you waiting for? Step out and start looking.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Answers to Don't Ask, Don't tell - Pilot

So here we are.
As expected, not many answered the Quiz I posted last week, though many emailed, IMed and talked about how intriguing it was, while others declined since they were Quiz Club members who had already seen the Quiz and didn't want to earn any bad Karma (If you ask me, they could've still answered: just Don't Ask, Don't Tell). Anyways, congrats to Palkush and Mithilesh for Googling all of them.

The Questions, along with the answers are given below:

Have another Quiz Club meeting tonight, the final one this semester, with the Governor's Quiz taking place. Expect it to be quite eventful. :)


Sunday, April 05, 2009

A Quiz you can work out

We have something of a Quiz Club here at IIT-Kgp, where some of us who are interested in the art meet once a week to... well, quiz. Of the few regular attendees, usually two or three would bring their own questions and quiz the rest.

Having attended the club for a year now, I finally "collaborated" with a batchmate here, Varun Singh, and we came up with our own set of questions, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", that was presented at last Thursday's meeting. We have tried to ensure there are as many "workoutable" questions as possible.

I have attached the quiz below, or rather embedded it into my post using slideshare. There are, in total, 28 workoutable questions, with the question number given at the top left corner of the slides. I recommend you to forward through each of the slides at your own pace using the forward and back buttons (next to play), or use the fullscreen mode (Doesn't take much time to load). In case it doesn't load the first time, just refresh once.

I am not giving the answers now, and would encourage you to try the Quiz on your own, and leave your answers as comments here. Whether you're a regular quizzer or not, the answers are very easy to work out, and you should definitely give it a try. Just leave a comment with as many answers as you can work out, and do leave a name or moniker. I strongly suggest you to make a guess for each and every question, even if it's very silly or weird (that's how usually the correct answers are). As someone said, the dirtiest word you can utter at a quiz is "Pass!" (A couple of questions here are dirtier still, mind you!! ;) )

Most of the questions are Google-able, which means they may be cracked very easily by Googling. The questions are'nt all original as well, but some reproduced from previous quizzes we've seen over time. Some are, of course, very new. Since the quiz was not made to be given online, I'd suggest you to try it out without help from Wiki/Google. You may still use the online resources, but stay beware of the Karma police then.

I don't expect many to respond to the quiz. In any case, the answers as well as the scores (of those who do answer, if any) will be put up on the coming Thursday, that is, the 9th of April 2009, so you have till Wednesday 11:59 pm to answer. Do come back to check it out; it's a fun quiz, and you'll love the answers.

Update: Answers to the Quiz.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Google April Fool's Hoax 2009: Google Chrome with 3D

Google has done it again this year: April Fool's Day Hoaxed!!!!

Google Chrome Blog: Introducing Google Chrome with 3D should be enough to explain you how Google plans to take Chrome 3D. For this, they've taken the help of CADIE, and you can give the browser a shot by first downloading and printing the 3-D glasses, and then downloading the new version of chrome itself.

CADIE, the world’s first "Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity" is a computer that’s come alive and is making changes at Google. “Earlier today, for instance, CADIE deduced from a quick scan of the visual segment of the social web a set of online design principles from which she derived this intriguing homepage.”

YouTube just flails with upside down video viewing.

Gmail now has AutoPilot.

Google Brain Search uses CADIE technology to index your brain.

Google Australia introduces the gBall, which will change Australian rules football as we know it.

There is also a featured YouTube video of a panda by the user ‘cadiesingularity’ with a profile stating “Cadie - the world’s first Cognitive Auto-Heuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity”.

When browsing Street View in Google Maps, a panda is shown in the bottom right map instead of the yellow person usually shown.

CADIE even has its own blog on Blogger.

There is also a “CADIE’s recommended places for humans” link in Google Maps, which leads to the “Panda Mapplet” and includes several marked locations with “CADIE’s” commentary. Under Redmond WA a link is listed which will rick roll the viewer.

I'll end this post with an observation that I agree with:

April 1 - The day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four. -- Mark Twain