Mar 112016

Three good reads on starting up and entrepreneurship, this week

a) I asked Larry Page, Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey how they felt starting their companies. Their answers caught me off guard – Linkedin is fast becoming one of my favourite content sites. If you curate your own follow list, you will end up with a wealth of extremely good articles. This was one of them. And, this paragraph resonates:

When most of us fear failure, we walk away from our boldest ideas. Instead of being original, we play it safe, selling conventional products and familiar services. But great entrepreneurs have a different response to the fear of failure. Yes, they’re afraid of failing, but they’re even more afraid of failing to try.

I was talking to friends in a VC firm, and they told me that their problem is finding ventures that are original. Most of what they get are ‘copycat businesses’. Let us make one more uber site , or our business model is like air b&b. Or, in the impact space, people are funding high quality, low cost sanitary napkins- let us do this too. There is the rush, not surprisingly, to come together to create ‘safe’ business models.And this,

Publishers rejected Harry Potter because it was too long for a children’s book. Executives passed on Seinfeld for having incomplete plot lines and unlikeable characters. Pay a visit to Jerry Seinfeld’s bathroom, and you might find a memo hanging on the wall that calls the pilot episode of Seinfeld “weak” and says “”No segment of the audience was eager to watch the show again.”

Throughout history, the great originals have been the ones who failed the most

Worth reading the full piece.

2) Why do start ups fail – part 1 and part 2– interesting insights, including “Of those that failed, 74 percent failed due to premature scaling.”; un-coordinated transformations – a nightmare in any scenario, worse if it is your own company;

An organization’s capacity to digest new elements depends on a complex set of organizational processes. It’s difficult to add employees and customers at an extremely fast rate without diminishing the quality of output or running out of cash. Failure to define processes for recruitment, selection, motivation, control systems, and development of values within the organizational culture creates chaos rather than providing the kind of transformation that will allow a new business to thrive. Ultimately, these issues can crush any hope of sustainability. Each person who began with the firm must change as the organization does, entailing a shift that can feel profound. The days of ad hoc management disappear, and managers must learn how to work at a strategically higher and faster level and to define the principles that will govern decisions such as who should be hired and fired.

IMO, this is where the bulk of the problems arise. As you scale, you may need to get in professional help. But, when you do, it may not be the company you envisioned. As you grow, the bonds that made it such a fun, eclectic and organic workplace change. You need to be ready for this. And, this is true not just for startups.

3)  How I Successfully Run Two Startups – just for inspiration, as I contemplate two startups – in two related yet different spheres.


(picture courtesy : Alternaimpact)

Mar 102016

My brother got me to watch this lovely 5 minute clip, on his mobile. A talking head. No flashy camera movements. No overwhelming music. Nothing. Just incredible story telling. I watched on, because i wanted to know what happened next. What is it about?

‘HUMAN’ is made of aerial images and interviews. Close up shots captured people around the world who tell their life stories looking directly into our eyes, without any outside element disturbing their word. There only is us and them, words that touch us, move us, make us think. The picture tells us nothing about their lives. Shot against a black background, they all appear on an equal footing. Whether we talk about war or about the meaning of their existence, only their words, their tone of voice, the musicality of their language and their faces speak for them. This is the strength of ‘HUMAN’.

I looked up the clip, and it is part of a series of 200 unique stories that look at what make us human. I look forward to chunk on the remaining 199 (in small doses). I am also going to look up the work of the director of this film, Yann Arthus-Bertrandhis journey seems fascinating. Watch this clip. it is less than 5 minutes, and it will make you feel good about being a human being… This is the promo

The full film is here


Mar 062016
Some basic maths.
most Indians finish their 10th at the age of 16-17 ; their 12th at 18/19 (depending on which part of the year they were born)
They finish graduation at 21/22.
they finish their masters at 23/24
If they then enroll for a PhD – it can take between 3 and 7 years. That would make them 26/31 when they get their degree. I don’t know anyone who has finished their Phd in 3 years. I know people across the world, who after a decade or so, are yet to finish their Phds. 
And, post a Phd there is a post doctoral research – which makes you even older.
Also, if you come from rural, rurban India, add a year or two – sometimes lack of teachers, schools, floods etal increases the finishing your education by a year or two.
Also, if you take a gap year to work between your degree and your Masters, you may be older when you enroll for a PhD. And, sometimes, people do a second Masters’ before enrolling for a Phd. 
So, while i may understand one’s opposition to Kanhaiya’s views, i don’t understand the issue with  age. 28 and a Phd student is not a bad number. Had he been 35, i would have raised eyebrows (slightly). I know 35 year Phd students (who didn’t take a gap year, who haven’t got a second masters – who enrolled for their Phd straight after their masters, and are yet to finish)
Academia has traditionally been funded by Government – be it a Monarchy or a Republic. And, that means tax payers’ money. So have been art, music and science. So have been wars, and monuments to a regime’s greatness. So have been roads and schools, and hospitals.  None of us is consulted on what it is spent on. I am not sure we can selectively decide which of the Government’s schemes we fund.
So, i am just as cool with Kanhaiya’s Phd, as i am with some person doing their Phd in the links between ancient astrology and astrology. It is a given that i am going to pay for their curiosity/research/ future. It is also a given that there is probably no practical output from either thesis.
Mar 032016

The FT, eviscerates Donald Trump

It would be a global disaster if Mr Trump were to become president. Even if he fails, he has rendered the unthinkable sayable.

Mr Trump is a promoter of paranoid fantasies, a xenophobe and an ignoramus. His business consists of the erection of ugly monuments to his own vanity. He has no experience of political office. Some compare him to Latin American populists. He might also be considered an American Silvio Berlusconi, albeit without the charm or business acumen. But Mr Berlusconi, unlike Mr Trump, never threatened to round up and expel millions of people. Mr Trump is grossly unqualified for the world’s most important political office.

But, cautions that it is less about Trump, than the Republican Party’s mutant chickens coming home to roost. Even if he doesnt’ win, he has made bigotry acceptable.
Here is John Oliver on Donald Trump


Feb 272016

I have been consuming a lot of youtube content. A lot of it is work based research. Some of it is pleasure – primarily classical music on youtube. Others have just landed up on one of my multiple social media time lines.

I thought i will curate three of the best things i have watched (i will spare you the classical music on this).

How To Help Every Child Fulfil Their Potential – I love well designed Whiteboard Animation, and i love it when complex ideas are broken down into easy to understand animation. This is a slightly older video (about 6 months ago) but, i just had time to see it now. if you have the time, savour the entire series by RSA Animates, some great videos


The No Smoking Campaign which stars Sunny Leone, Alok Nath and Deepak Dobriyal

story telling in 3 minutes, at its’ very best. There is a good strong story, great casting fabulous performances, a great screenplay dialogue, fantastic audio effects and music. And it is under 5 minutes.

Go watch


P Sainath at JNU

Sainath at his acerbic best. I don’t agree with some of what he is saying, but he says it so well. His command over the audience, over his communication, over data points. Also, he has these great one liners that has the audience smiling (if not downright laughing).

One sample. He is talking about how the advent of the Indian billionaire has changed the very nature of the political game. He compares us with other economies including BRICS nations. He has this line about Russia and her billionaires “every 5 years the Russians send their billionaires to prison, we send them to Parliament”

Watch it. if only to understand students and how they respond.