May 30, 2007

The startup that never was.../and a future of promise

Some time ago, I posted about 'Why MBA, Do business'. Several years ago, my friends and I hatched an idea to 'do something on our own'. The 'dot crash' was looming but hadn't happened yet, and it seemed like a cool thing to have our own company. We all were engineers from good institutes and good company pedigree (Motorola, CISCO, IBM...)

It never happened, and in hindsight, and here's why. It's sort of easy for many to look at these points and say 'boy, you were stupid', and that's why it's called hindsight. You don't see it when you're in the middle of it.

1. Too many cooks - Look around. Most successful ventures have one or two founder(s). Not four. Not five. You might have a great team of 5 but often there is/are one or two at the top. A mob is not exactly the right one to take cohesive decisions. We teamed as five friends! The rationale was we were bringing in different skills - and the problem was the same as putting five managers in a room - not much is going to get done. But get one effective manager and five top notch engineers/other team members and a lot will get done. We ended as five individuals with their own opinions, time pressures and priorities. The inherent understanding was that we were all partners, and this pretty much killed quick decision making.

2. True passion is not part time - For various reasons, we did not want to quit our day jobs. I believe that if you want to do it right, you have to do it full time. Same with MBA. Same with your own venture. Part time makes it extremely hard to manage - and in our case, with 'too many cooks', it became close to impossible to make tangible progress each week.

3. "Buying land without knowing what to build" - It doesn't make a lot of sense buy an expensive tract of land in the middle of a city and then wonder whether you want to build a mall, parking lot, apartment or a public toilet. You make investments with a purpose. We got gung-ho about doing our own thing, and then starting thinking of what we really should be doing. Wrong. I believe you need a purpose. You are either solving someone's problem, or you have an idea you are convinced (and are passionate) that it will work. The trouble with not having a strong purpose to start with is you spend hours debating what can even be done, without getting anywhere. The greatest reason is that no one had a deep, convincing argument that one specific idea was worth pursuing. When debates result in no particular answer, the enthusiasm dies.

4. No investment, not 'invested' - If you are putting your money, or are working on someone else's money (assuming you have a concscience), then you are invested in the idea. If you want to work cheap, put no money and hope something works - you are not invested in it. All of us wanted to get things done cheap (hey, barrier of entry is low, so let's try it really low!) and that meant no one had that overriding desire to get things done.

Self venture is hard. I have friends who have gone that road. I've participated in such discussions. And I've worked for a company as an early employee and watch it grow from less than 100 to 5000. It's a lot of work. One of my interests post INSEAD is to seek such entrepreneurial opportunities through venture funding and see if I can get a like minded classmate. But this time it will not be part-time - if I were to get into it, it's all the way. Otherwise I won't at all. If nothing, INSEAD has many alum who've done it their way, I would love to talk to them and hear from them.

(Seth Godin wrote some entry about how MBA is probably useless and all the super talented people should instead do MBA from his 'business school' - which is learn by venturing. If we were to draw an analogy, then 90% of grads from his school would have no jobs after graduating and the other 10% would be several times richer than any MBA grad. But in any case I still don't get the 'this or that' approach.)

May 27, 2007

Class of 2008 and 24 at INSEAD

The following takes place between 7:00 PM and 8 PM
(somewhere in the forests of Fontainebleu)

necro: "D.T.L.F can you download Frank Brown's latest whereabouts to my PDA and also the schematics of his dinner restaurant along with names of the VP's from Google who are with him"

DTLF: "But..necro..that isn't right, you're not allowed to tag behind him..."

me: "Dammit DTLF, don't let Antonio know and I won't do anything embarassing, I promise! I give you my word!"

DTLF: "Bharath, can you pull up our satellite feed and send necro the schematics and Frank's location?"

Bharath: "Why does necro want to know where Frank Brown is?"

DTLF: "Don't ask me questions Bharath, I trust necro more than I trust Wolfowitz! Just do it!"

Bharath: (Yahoo whiz an' all but hey the computers are crappy slow -- the images and text scroll on the screen all the time...) "OK here they are, I got the list of his guests for the evening, it includes several senior VPs from McKinsey!"

DTLF: "necro...we have what you need. Now go to the garden hose near where you are and plug in your PDA and we'll download the data for you!"

necro runs to the garden and plugs his PDA to the rubber pipe and downloads all the data.


DTLF: "necro, thermal imaging shows that there are 7 apart from the dean, and they are near the center tables. Our satellite is also picking up heat from their business cards which are all placed on the table..."

necro: "copy that! I'm moving in...ask Bharath to download some pepper into my PDA!"

DTLF: "copy that! Bharath - send some pepper to necro's PDA now!"

necro sneaks to a car parked nearby and forces the passenger to listen to his life story....after the passenger passes out of boredom, necro plugs the PDA to the audio jack and downloads pepper. He then collects the pepper pouring out of the antenna slot.

necro :"I'm ready to make the move, ask strawberrytints and byoost to take up the perimeter and no one move until I say!"

DTLF "roger that!"


(next episode on what happens, next time!)

all I know is I want Jack Bauer's PDA - it does amazing things.

May 23, 2007

Who is Necromonger?

so here's a little about myself.. (each text refers to the image below it)

I was born here. A little village away from everything else.

Almost all my childhood vacations were spent here, in my father's ancestral home. My cousins and I ran amok the fields, mountains and streams. It was mischief unlimited inc.

Most of my schooling was here (prior to high school and engineering)

And then I did my engineering here, great 4 years, lots of ups and downs, and friendships that have lasted ever since.

Somewhere along the way, and after that, I've lived in these places

and now, I'm headed here...

and then perhaps here,

or perhaps here?

and after ... I don't know where I will be, but I first want to visit this,

and later, after paying all my school fees, making big bucks, I want to own this island and build my mansion there and chill...aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

So, there you have it. All about me.

Minor update: June 2008! - so about an year ago, I wrote about who I was. time has passed, and it's now time to say where I am headed next. Check it here.

May 20, 2007

Vivid dreams - digression

I get colorful, vivid 70mm action packed dreams. Been like that since I was young, and it's still like that. I love it.

The latest one - well, just felt like writing about it, because the mind has a strange way of collaging unconnected events. (spoiler alert in case you haven't watched the latest episode of 'the Office' - episode Job Interview Part I and II)

Event 1: The last few days I've been playing Call of Duty 2 multiplayer. Great war FPS game and multiplayer is very good. So I'm running around gunning people, screaming incomprehensible German, throwing grenades, getting my @ss shot many times, hiding behind burnt Tiger tanks -- it's been a blast, literally.

Event 2: In the latest episode of office, the CFO calls Andy and tells him he has the job at corporate. He tells him 'It will be good to have another MBA in here'. The fact that Andy gets the job is a surprise.

The dream: In the dream, I'm in a war struck town - all torn buildings, and I'm in a weak allied tank trying to attack a Tiger Tank (german make, powerful, sturdy armor). A 'fellow soldier' joins me and comes on the other side of the road with another tank. Andy, from Office, is in the Tiger Tank, in the middle of the road, sandwiched between the other allied tank and mine, and is unable to maneuver. Our tank fire isn't affecting the larger tiger tank, but strangely - there is a window to the tiger tank! And I figure I could set the innards of the tank on fire, so I begin to rain bullets through the tank window and I can see smoke inside..the idea is to fry Andy. Huh. War. Tanks. Andy from Office. And me trying to send him back to his maker. Thank you brain for conjuring that.

I get lots of colorful, flying-shooting-aliens-wars-police-chase-spacecraft dreams..very smugly happy with myself ;)

May 18, 2007

That theory of 'why MBA? do business' - bah!

Bet you've heard this before - "why spend 100,000$ at MBA and opportunity loss when you can invest the same and start on your own"? First of all, the statistical probability that you will actually succeed in your own venture is far lower than you finding a job after your MBA. Secondly, not everyone is a born entrepreneur. Thirdly, starting on your own is not a joke. Fourth - it's not 'either this or that'

Many tend to have a romanticized notion of what it takes to build a company - a common argument is the lowering cost of entry - i.e. the capital required to start on your own and the mediums available to advertise. With decreased cost of hardware and cheap Internet bandwidth, it also feels like everyone can start off at the basement. The reality is for every successful venture there are tens of failed ones - doing your own thing is a lot of hard work. Successful businesses combine passion, acumen, vision, persistence, perseverance, the right people you get onto your team, know when you relinquish authority, marketing, sales, support, handle on the market and domain knowledge.

Starting own your own isn't a substitute to doing an MBA. It's an overriding passion. Someone who's still wondering 'hmm..should I do my own thing or should I do MBA" doesn't have the hunger and single minded passion to build their own company, because the one common thing you will hear from every entrepreneur is that going their own way is not in place of something else, or an alternative - it's what they really, really want to do.

And many get there by using the MBA as tool to networking and gaining certain skills that help them. So that's my take on the argument - the next one on the plate is the interesting notion of 'visionaries are great but managers are not'...that's for next time.

May 13, 2007

Best of Blogger Results/stats

I've been marooned in the island of dinged blogs ;) Anyway, congratulations to the winners! Rungee, you don't really need an iPod, send it to over to me.

I do hope to keep blogging, if nothing for the fact that I could look back on my posts years from now and see how my journey evolved. From a statistical point of view, for the first time since I began observing visitor stats, I'm getting more hits from Google (direct) than from referral sites like opencoder and clearadmit. I have close to 50/50 on new and revisits, which is pretty good. As I acquire new customers, I also need to keep my current ones! ;)

Thanks for reading.

May 12, 2007

My top 10 gadgets and software for school

I will be heading back to school, after a long time, in August. In preparation, I'm making my own little list of what is important and what I will be using during studies. Without further ado, here is my list of 10 essential gadgets and software that one should have while going to school.

1. Tablet PC - school environment requires some note taking, collaboration, annotations, impromptu diagrams/idea generation - and a Tablet PC is the right device. Traditional notebooks are simply too cumbersome to use. It's the same thing like sitting in a meeting with a notebook and trying to take notes - it's annoying, slow, and simply not spontaneous. I'm thinking Lenovo Tablet PC is a good choice. I've used IBM previously and they are solid devices.

2. Palm Treo 650 (or greater) or Windows Mobile Device - I've owned a Palm Treo (650) and now own a Windows Mobile 5.0 phone/PDA (Cingular 8125). You cannot go wrong with either - they are pretty full functional PDA and mobile phones. I was pleasantly surprised with the Cingular 8125 Windows Mobile 5.0 phone/PDA which is a quad band GSM phone (should work in US, Singapore, France and India..everywhere I go) and has excellent Microsoft Outlook integration. Comes with pocket word, power point and excel and I purchased this really cool add-on software called SPB Mobile Shell which enhances the functionality of the OS by a good deal, making it very easy to use. This will act as my integration mail + on-the-go documentation + quad band phone + media player + camera + video camera + data storage (supports memory card add-on) + possibly Skype too (support Wi-fi and works fine). INSEAD has Microsoft exchange e-mail and my phone will work handy.

3. A Google account with subscriptions to gmail, iGoogle and google docs. Everyone knows GMail. But iGoogle is Google's 'customized' homepage which is very handy to put all kind of online gadgets and web tools in one place. You could have a page with all your blog feeds, email, your calendar, weather, bookmarks, top news from preferred sources - and many more. So when you start your day, don't waste time web hunting, just go to one place for consolidated information. Google docs has documents and spreadsheets and pretty good collaborative capabilities. That means it's much easier to share, edit and view documents with multiple ownerships/authors. While we may use Microsoft office for e-mail (outlook), these online tools are great for access from anywhere.

4. Google desktop - why waste time searching for documents (or contents inside documents) when you can have them 'popup' almost instantaneously as you search for a file name or phrase inside a file, cached web page or e-mail? I use this very regularly - in fact I've pretty much stopped folder hopping. I just type into the deskbar and get what I want, in a fraction of time if done otherwise. And it's free! (Apple MAC users will use inbuilt Spotlight.. and Windows Vista search - am not too sure yet)

5. XPlorer2 or XYPlorer - I use the free edition of XPlorer2, which is a replacement for your standard Windows explorer (file browser). The typical windows explorer is very limiting - just opening multiple folders, copying around, seeing contents of different directories - is all a pain. XPlorer2 is really good - you can have a single explorer window, have multiple tabs, have bookmarks for your often used paths, view 2 directories side by side, and quit/restart will restore all your previous paths! It also has many other features but I find that these alone save a ton of time for me and reduce annoyance. Google desktop + XPlorer2 = save lot of time searching for stuff.

6. Launchy - bet a lot of you haven't heard of this. This little handy software will popup when you hit 'ALT-SPACE' and type a letter or two and your program names will show up (with autocomplete) and then you hit 'enter' to launch your program. If you're the type with lots of programs and you keep going to program files->..etc..etc.. or have shortcuts scattered all around the place, this super little launcher is a time + clutter saver.

7. Google Earth - simply the best 'see the world' software out there. It's free and available for Apple too. Do your place search, location recon, neighborhood analysis, school campus check-out, places to go - everything from here. I do all my place scouting from here.

8. Adobe Reader 8.0 - for essential PDF viewing. If you have older versions, then uninstall them and get 8.0 which is faster and has a cleaner interface. Much nicer to use.

9. Microsoft Office 2007 - many complained about the new 'ribbon' interface and revamped UI even before really using it. I got office 2007 free in a MS event and my own experience is the new UI is a huge productivity improvement. Often used features are so much easier to use, and the new PowerPoint is pretty good. Hey, gotta make good lookin' resume now. Office 2007, in my opinion is still the best. There are open source alternatives - I've tried them, and I don't like them. Check if you get student discounts and that might go easy on your pocket.

10. Skype - you know why. Google talk is very good too.

So that's my bare essentials list. I'm sure there are some questions you could ask

1. Why not use Linux?
A. In the past I've tried getting me a fully Linux desktop environment, and it's still not ready for prime-time business environment. Too many quirks and those at Slashdot seem to think we all have time to recompile kernels and keep track of patches. Thanks, but no thanks.

2. Why not buy a Apple Macbook/Pro?
A. I actually own a Macbook Pro and had a Macbook before that. Again, for wide business integration and number of software applications, Apple Macs are still a step behind. It's kinda fashionable to say you own a Mac, but after using one for an year - I don't see a point in creating a dual boot (I have Parallels desktop which lets you boot to Windows from within a Mac) and keep using Windows. Might as well just get Vista. But with new Intel Macs dual boot works great and if you should have a Mac - go buy one and use it. It's a matter of personal taste. And BTW, iPhoto sucks compared to Picasa and Picasa isn't available on Mac.

So, time to get-set-and go soon!

May 05, 2007

sundry this and that

Work's been keeping me *very* busy, but I plan to ramp down slowly over the course of the month.

In the meantime - I'm welcoming Le Blog Hog and Bharat to the Class of 2008 blog list. Stefanos of Brutal Facts, class of 2007 is also back on the roll.

For some reason, I wanted to do a collage of Lord of the Rings as "Lord of the Labs" (for something else), and I realized that the title text of none of the 3 movies have an 'a' in them! "Fellowship of the Ring","The Two Towers", and "Return of the King" - I can understand 'b', but 'a'?

I've been playing Call of Duty 2, great game. It's been a while since I gamed -- so I'm enjoying it instead of worrying about moving my family, finances and what not ;) I've also been doing some thinking on 'what really do I want to do post MBA'? the answer so far is 42.

I got a new Windows Mobile 5.0 device (Cingular 8125) after breaking my Treo 600's screen. I actually like this new phone! excellent Outlook integration, browser is pretty cool, and I got some nifty software to make it easy to use. Since it's quad band GSM I should be able to use it in India and in Singapore and maybe in France or Philly - wherever. Thank GSM for at least being one technology that's widely adopted that you don't need 4 phones - unlike electric outlets. It makes you wonder sometimes - electricity is possibly the most widely used modern invention (discovery?) and we don't have common outlets. Problems of legacy and national egos and no end in sight due to the sheer logistics of conversion (it wouldn't make much sense anyway - but I'm commenting on the state of things).

More soon. I think I got dropped off again from Hella's list - thank you blogger >:/ I'm too busy to investigate it right now.