Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Ever wondered why almost all projection sheets always predict company breakeven in three or five years (odd numbers ;) )?

Whats so great about the numbers 3 and 5 that have caught the collective fancy of investors and entrepreneurs alike? Any ideas on its origins? Does it have anything to do with the average lifetime/ working-life of a person?

Friday, October 24, 2008

myMobile extends myMemory { reQall () }

"Imagine being able to talk to your phone while it intelligently organizes your utterances into your Calendar, Notes or To-Dos."
Disclaimer: I'm just about to give all iPhone and Blackberry users an big dose of ego boost and everyone else a sense of envy (apologies).

I have a confession to make, I am an extremely forgetful person. I mean, if my wife asks me to buy a pack of bread, a dozen eggs, a pack of butter and toothpaste; I'd most likely forget the toothpaste. To take care of this I'd begun to jot notes - Post-It style. That mostly used to work, except when I'd forget to take the Post-It notes themselves! :). That said, I do not recall having forgotten to take my mobile phone - ever; its almost become an extension of me - a part of my identity.

"Imagine being able to simply right-click on this webpage and add this post to your list of The-Greatest-Posts-Ever-Made list (just kidding ;) )"

In my 'phone of the future' vision, my handset would seamlessly extend the function of my brain and one department of my brain which could do with some serious extension is my memory.

Let me cut the chase and get to the point. A few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised when I read somewhere about reQall. While they do not claim to have any direct neural interface to my brain yet, they claim to be able do be supplement my memory!

In their words, this is the 'simple' problem they'd solved: "Ever had a brilliant idea while driving, but couldn't write it down? Needed to remember something, but didn't have a pen?"

Being a Blackberry user, I downloaded this cool app from [Note: reQall for BlackBerry requires OS version 4.2.0 or higher.]. It integrates seamlessly with my device. So now I can fire up the app click the 'Add by Voice' Option and speak "Meeting with John Doe, prepare the presentation". reQall transmits this voice signal to its server where it does a voice-to-text conversion and sends me an email apart from adding the event to my calendar and reQall interface! And the best part - it works.

reQall gave me a pleasant deja-vu as well! Back at TinfoMobile we'd developed a similar app which won us an award at the Reliance-NASSCOM Developer Contest. We'd made an app that helped the visually impaired by reading out SMS and Call History in Voice. We did the exact opposite of reQall. We transmitted the SMS text over GPRS to a server where a Text-to-Speech engine converted it to Voice and this was played back by a Media-Player instance on the phone (it worked even on a very basic and cheap Reliance Java Black-and-White handset).

There are a dozen other things you could do with reQall and I'm sure it would increase your productivity one small notch higher. Do give it a shot. Its innovation at its best and is powered by Indian brains. Its a company called QTech founded by Sunil Vemuri and N. Rao Machiraju. Three cheers for the duo!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Beating Recession

While stock markets are crashing left , right and center, I salute the spirit of its entrepreneurs who despite the seemingly pervasive gloom are battling on with their dreams. If there is anything that can get us all out of the mess we are in - its folks like these.

Beneath the speculative value of any company lies its real worth, based on the value it delivers to people it touches. As long as these foundations are strong, I guess it will be able to survive the bloodbath. While it is true that the prevailing conditions will pull even the strong ones down, persistence will pull them through sooner or later.

It is important for all leaders to now focus on shedding their flab and concentrate on sharpening their cutting edges. If possible - spread a little cheer around. Even 'recession' is a matter of the mind, if you don't mind it does not matter. If there is a collective decision to beat it, we should be able to beat it.

To all who have lost a lot the past few weeks, as difficult as it might sound - let go completely or hold on blindly. The few fleeting moments in our life are too precious to be wasted on whats past! Dream on!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Startup and Family

A few weeks before my wedding, one of my good friends called up my fiance and told her that she better be aware that I was already married! Thankfully, before she could slam the phone down, they explained that the 'other person' that occupied a major share in my life was my laptop . 'Phew!' she thought.; A laptop, huh; my friends sure had a good sense of humor; surely that was a harmless joke!

To cut a long story short, we got married, were blessed with a child and have lived happily ever after :). That's too good to be true, too true not to be a fairy tale! The truth is, she's had to adjust a lot, sacrifice a lot and lower her expectations a lot; thanks to all that - we've had a great adventure together. I'm now in my second startup. The first was as a founder and the second is as an employee. Interestingly however, I don't find too much deviation in the state of affairs in either roles. Bottomline: a startup is a startup because its a startup! otherwise it would've been called something else. A cosy life in any startup is a non-truth/ delusion :).

Trust me on this one - startups and family rarely gel well; they're kindof like oil and water - shake them up together as much as you want, but in the end - you'll see a clear but thin line separating them. One might argue that the same holds for any job - perhaps so, I really will not be the best person to comment on that. There are a few things that make life in a startup different.

1. Commitment. Startup is a commitment that stems from you, especially so if you are a core founder, but none the less if you are a committed employee. A true commitment is a strange force of nature. It is one binding, blinding force that makes one oblivious to other forces. A Family too is a commitment, it too requires a great deal of attention and care. When two equally strong commitments come side by side, it is quite possible at times to slight one and lean more towards the other. Thats when either or both suffer; either the startup or your family or worse - both.

2. Money. This is one big factor that truly differentiates a startup from a regular job. You will see/ hear of your friends having a weekend party in Tumbuktu, buying an apartment, car etc... while you sit day and night on your laptop to make sure you meet some stupid deadline that just might pay you just enough to clear the credit card bills. Prepare to be not able to buy that home theater system, not to be able to gift her a diamond pendant and even cut down at times on your grocery spends. Sure, the entrepreneur in you might understand all that and consider it a 'part of life' but trust me again - its not easy (or proper) to expect your near and dear to 'appreciate' the same.

3. Time. Consider this: On an good day in a typical job, one might use 1 hour to get ready, 2 hours to commute, spend 10 hours at a desk, 1 hour with an 'important' client (imho - all clients are important) and 7 hours to sleep and rest. Now, a day can't be stretched beyond the 24 hours it wholeheartedly offers and that leaves 3 hours with your family. A startup can squeeze even the 3 hours out and leave you feeling high and dry. If one is lucky enough not to be flying around the globe on sales assignments and one does have a good day as mentioned above, let me assure you that good 'ol Murphy will ensure that the kitchen sink develops a leak or some obscure electric fuse blows off or some client threatens to impose the penalty clause. All that translates into - very less time.

4. Mindshare. Perhaps all the three above are just different faces of the same thing. In a startup you have to be as cunning as a fox and as agile as a snake - soon you're soon vulture food. Running a startup needs a lot of thought - deep thought. It is difficult to think about the strategy to blow your competition out of the sky while thinking about how your child might be coping with the recent bout of flu and worrying about your spends zooming towards your credit limit.

Here's my honest advice to anyone willing to be a part of a startup - make sure you understand what you're getting into.

If you're about to get married and are passionate about your startup - think twice. If after a lot of thought, you still feel you need to take the plunge - make sure your fiance understands what you've gotten into and are getting her into.

If you're married and are planning to have a child, think thrice. -If after a real lot of thought, if you and your spouse are really determined, prepare well in advance for the additional expenses and responsibilities. Care before and after childbirth and raising a child is no child's play.

Try and cultivate a sense of adventure. If you get a chance - try and learn tightrope walking. Learning how to concentrate and balance while swaying on a thin line is an essential trait of the trade.

Having said all this;Having someone to talk to when you're down and seeing your little one smile when you get back home - priceless. For everything else you will need a MasterCard. Even a Visa might do just fine.