Monday, March 24, 2008

Height of Craziness - or the next frontier in Advertising

Advertising on the Moon through Laser projections!!

Rolling Rock Beer Company based in St. Louis is onto this new venture called Moonvertising.

It will no doubt cause a huge uproar everywhere in the world if and when Moon will be used as a big advertising billboard. I for one would like to enjoy the peace and dull illumination of the full-moon night without having to ignore the sales pitch coming along with the moon rays.

Perhaps those were-wolves who turn from men to wolves on Full moon day will be happy with this development. Maybe it will keep them permanently as wolves!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A day with Seth Godin

I have signed up for the A day with Seth Godin event being held in New York City on April 30th. Excited about it! The event price is $2000, and all of it goes to charity (Acumen Fund) ; so effectively I will be getting to spend a day with Seth Godin for free, after making a minor dent in making the world better though my contribution to Acumen Fund!

I came across Seth Godin's name - many times - a few months ago, in my efforts to learn more about starting out on my own. His name kept popping up so frequently that I had to read more about him and by him. Seth's writing is direct, up to the point, insightful and very relevant. His blog is a repository of pithy business & marketing wisdom.

What really captured my imagination about Seth's writing was his comprehensive guide on starting up a business with little or no money - The Bootstrapper's Bible.

Here are excerpts from the book that I noted down for quick reference:
You're going to be running this business a long time. Spend an extra month to figure out what your business model feels like and save yourself some headaches later.

With a business model that works, the deal is simple. You invest time, effort, and money. In return, your market responds with sales, cash flow, and profits.

Business models should have the following five attributes:
1. They should be profitable
2. They should be protectible
3. They should be self-priming
4. They should be adjustable
5. There should be an exit strategy (Optional)

A business model is a machine, a method, a plan for extracting money from a system.

Most people hate to be wrong. Starting a business is the most public, most expensive, riskiest way of all to be wrong.

Without money, there is no business. Run out of money and your creditors will shut you down, your employees will leave, and your spouse will worry.

Here's my best advice for you: Stop planning and start doing.

You don't have to quit your day job. But you do have to get out there and do it. The more you do, the more you do. Doors will open. Opportunities will appear. Your model will change, your reputation will increase, you will become a magnet for smart people, good customers, and investors. But none of this will happen if you stay inside and keep planning.

Build your business. One day at a time, one customer at a time. Lower your downsides, focus on the upsides, and start building. But start.

Revenue is revenue when you see the money. Expenses are expenses when you pay the money. Cash is king and that's what you keep track of.
After entering my details on the Squidoo Lens with the list of people who will be attending the Seminar, I regretted not putting a link for everyone to learn more about me in this post. On Googling for my name, I was thrilled to see my blog come up as the first hit!! I must have been doing somethings right if I get a top hit despite not learning much about Search Engine Optimization techniques!!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Comments required. Good for my fragile ego

Hello My Dear Blog Readers: It is great that some of you have informed me in other ways that you read this blog regularly. Thanks for bringing some valuable eye-ball time on this blog! Thank you for encouraging me in this non-trivial pursuit. The fact that you read my blog makes me proud of myself, and ignore the not-so-small voice in my brain which frequently indulges in a disparaging monotone.
Do comment on the blog as well. It will do wonders to my fragile ego. Don't hesitate to disagree with me; I am sure encouraging words from some will make me strong enough to handle disagreements with others.

I would also like to know what is it that appeals to you in my blog, what else you would like to see, what you would like to see less of, any other feedback you think is relevant.

Bring on the kudos and the brickbats!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

To be or not to be ...... in ILP

I am grappling around a very tricky proposition over the past day or so:
Should I continue with the Introduction Leaders Program at Landmark Education? Or should I drop out in the interest of having more time to dedicate to my other more important & demanding priorities - mainly my entrepreneurship venture?
Participating in and completing the Introduction Leaders Program has been one of my stated objectives for 2008. I definitely want to do it; I see immense value in doing it. Question is :
Can I do it now, when I am taking on a highly unstructured life-style with plans of starting a business on my own - as early as April 1st?

ILP will be a good way to continue my association with Landmark, and benefit from the nurturing and positive environment at Landmark. An unrelated mail from my father yesterday further emphasizes the value of Landmark Education Courses in my life, all but sealing the decision. I want to be the instrument of transformation through Landmark, and why shouldn't I continue in the effort by being in ILP now?

The intense time demands of the course is what is making it difficult for me to decide on participating now; the fact that I could continue with the course in Bangalore and Denver (should I move there for the Summer) adding another argument in favor of continuing now. ILP is a demanding course: Over the next six months till Oct 3rd 2008, I will have to commit two evenings per week, four full week-ends, some additional time to do the assignments, and quite likely some more time for the socializing around Landmark and the course.

The next few months are going to be crazy with my life taking a steep trajectory in an unknown direction. And it is better spent with the structure provided by ILP and the support, motivation & encouragement I can get from the course-mates, and having the satisfaction of working towards an important personal goal, rather than be weighed down with a regret of what could have been or would have been. It is going to be challenging, and I am up to the challenge!

I am the master of my life. I choose to be in the Introduction Leaders Program.

At the end of this course, I am sure I will be better skilled at managing my time, and wondering what the fuss was all about at the beginning.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bootcamp for Entrepreneurs

I visited Boulder, CO to attend the TechStars for a Day event on Wednesday. The decision to attend this event was a last minute one - I decided on Sunday evening that I am going for sure; however, deciding to go was a no brainer. Think Ben Casnocha, Shelfari, Brad Feld, Mobius, Rocky Mountains & Tibetian restaurants.

The event was fun, quite enjoyable and very useful. Felt good & inspirational to revel in the energy of 50 or 60 young & budding entrepreneurs and a few experienced folks who have been there and done that. Participants had come from as far as UK and Australia!

Since I was already sold on the idea of TechStars even before going there, I wasn't really listening keenly during some of the parts where people were on a "TechStars is a gift from God" mode.

The first-person accounts of and were interesting case-studies of the Entrepreneurship band-wagon, highlighting some of the practical issues faced in the startup years, the personal sacrifices involved in making it big, and the importance and value of team-work & mentoring / outside support and nurturing in the entrepreneurial efforts.

The session with the founders from the previous year's TechStars Bootcamp was the highlight of the day for me. Amazing to see a few 'kids' talk about their journey from guys-with-ideas to founders of startups with funding - and a product - to show for the effort!

Got to speak with a few of the other participants about their business ideas. One guy - from Mexico - is already way ahead in the startup game with his company : Shastic!

Another person I met had an idea of having restaurants in his home city to put up their menus on the web and allow for patrons to place an order through the web-application. I told him about the Seamlessweb web-site which I have been using to order my lunch in New York City for the past few weeks. I might have made him rethink his business plans!

It is still a mystery to me how an idea grows into a million-dollar - if not a Google-esque Billion-dollar - company, and given that TechStars provides the tools, knowledge, environment, mentoring, seed funding, contacts, legal advice and anything else required to do so, I am bullishly sold on TechStars!

I have already applied for the TechStars Bootcamp program this Summer. Over the next few days - till the dead-line date of Mar 31st - my emphasis in this regard will be on the following activities:
  • Refining the objectives of the business - getting to the nuts and bolts.
  • As Guy Kawasaki says - and TechStars repeatedly emphasizes - to find a soul-mate or two to work with me in this effort; someone who is / are as passionate about the business idea as I am, and who is /are willing to move to Boulder for the period of the boot-camp, should this business idea be selected for the boot camp. Regardless of whether I am in TechStars program or not, I definitely have to find partners to work with on this. The fact that I have found enthusiastic and willing partners in the RunWalkIndia project is a harbinger of good things to come in this business as well!
An unexpected by-product of this trip is the contact with Newmerix - which is operating in a very similar business space as I am planning to get into. While they focus on the well-known ERP packages like SAP and PeopleSoft, I am planning to focus on a less well-known and a too-often not-identified-as-an-Enterprise-wide-application package: Murex. While I was not able to visit their offices and meet them in person (as I would have preferred), I did speak with the person who is working as a VP of marketing at Newmerix, and got some valuable feedback about the business.

Newmerix' success is dependent on the fact that SAP and PeopleSoft provide a meta-data model to work with on automating the testing and life-cycle management processes. As far as I know Murex does not provide a meta-data model, and does not have it as a priority in the near future. Food for thought and discussions ...........

One thing to work on later: To replicate the TechStars bootcamp program in India, in some favorable location(s). Boulder is a favorable location because of its strong local business culture, University town ambiance with a few Nobel Laureates to boast about, proximity to Denver, etc. Wonder if Bangalore or Mysore or Pune or any other Indian city will have similar factors to make for successful entrepreneurship culture.

Zarking Farkwards!!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Microfinance and India : third and final part (for now)

I did more digging into the www over the past few days, and my mood has improved considerably with what I have found!

Srinivasa Rao informed me about Vikram Akula, and about him being threatened by local money lenders' mafia. Vikram Akula - the founder and CEO of SKS Microfinance - was named in Time Magazine's list of 100 people shaping our world in 2006. Very impressive work by SKS India so far! Using SmartCards to provide MicroLoans makes it a safe transaction, as well as puts in place accountability mechanisms.

I wrote to mailing address on the SKS Microfinance web-site inquiring about their non-participation as a field partner in Kiva; haven't heard from them yet. I will follow up with my friends in India who are more knowledgeable about this topic later on.

Matt Flannery - the co-founder and CEO of Kiva - maintains a blog called Kiva Chronicles on the Social Edge site. Quite interesting to know what is happening behind the scenes at Kiva.

Social Edge site gives an immense boost to my spirits and makes me believe in the goodness of Human Beings, as well as in the social awareness & spirit of responsibility among Indians (which I don't have a high opinion of so far). There are quite a few Indian microfinance institutions and individuals high-lighted in the various sections of Social Edge. The blog by Bangalore based Sagar Gubbi is a particular favorite of mine as he talks about the places I am very familiar with, and am very much connected to.

Another interesting organization I came across in this journey down the rabbit-hole is ITIHAS and the magazine they publish - Sattva. In addition to being impressed by their efforts towards accelerating social change process, the dual meanings of the organization's name made for a lasting impression. ITIHAS means 'history' in hindi, and the organization spells it as I-think-I-have-a-solution!

This is the last post about Microfinance and India in the near future, as I am putting away my effort to dig further into the world of Microfinance in India. I am satisfied there are many able people with deep social conscience working on alleviating poverty in India through various means.

The discussion titled Microfinance Revisted on Social Edge brings up quite a few interesting aspects of Microfinance. One of the respondents in this discussion states the following:
Though micro-credit is a way of helping people out of poverty, that alone is certainly (not) enough to deal with poverty. I think the most important option is attitudinal change. Success first begins with having a positive attitude. People ought to be taught and educated on the principles of poverty eradication. More attention should be given to the up and coming generation.
I agree completely with this statement, and I will continue on my efforts to bring the attitudinal change in the following ways:
  • Spreading the mantra of Entrepreneurship.
  • Contributing to the health and well-being of Indians by making running popular in India through Run Walk India.
  • Encouraging self-examination and raising the community awareness through Landmark Education courses.
  • Raising the awareness about the value of Psychotherapy in improving the quality of one's life.
Right now, onto my efforts at launching my entrepreneurial career with the trip to Boulder, Colorado to meet with the folks at TechStars!

Thank you note to an inspirational figure

Recently I had a miscommunication with some of my friends where I had assumed to have informed them about something but they had no idea about it. We put the topic to rest by saying that I had told it in my mind. This is not similar situation, but it is very close to being one.

I am highly indebted to Ben Casnocha for being a huge inspiration over the past few months since I read his book My Start-up Life. I have talked about him and the book with my friends, on the Shelfari Entrepreneurship group discussions, gifted the book to a few of my friends and recommended it to some more, have been following Ben's blog posts regularly and gained valuable insights, and have been in communication with Ben himself - to thank him for writing the book. I guess it is not a matter of being ungracious that there has been no blog post dedicated to Ben Casnocha on my blog so far.

So here is my official thank you note to Ben Casnocha through the Blogosphere. I take this opportunity to elaborate on what appeals me about Ben's books and his blog.

My Start-up Life instilled new life into my entrepreneurial ambitions which hitherto were only wishful thinking at best. The book made me believe in my ability to achieve success in business. I am convinced of the value of entrepreneurial spirit in making the world a better place.

Ben's accessibility and openness - through the book, the blog, and his speedy & thoughtful responses to personal emails - makes him a trusted 'friend' I have made over the internet.

Dear Reader: Fortune or serendipity or bored browsing has brought you to this blogpost; Take it as a sign that the powers-that-be are telling you to go to the nearest book-store and buy yourself a copy of Ben Casnocha's My Start-up Life!