Category Archives: Web
I registered on WordPress.com 8 years ago in Dec 2005! It was my experiment with Web 2.0, participatory web, rather than one-way web 1.0.
Thanks to WordPress for flying with me. Keep up the good tool for blogging!
Sequoia Capital organized 24 hours’ hackathon in Bangalore to connect with developer eco-system in the following categories: mobile applications, web apps and systems and cloud infrastructure. The web apps category was sponsored by Justdial, a Sequoia portfolio company, my employer. Kadam Jeet Jain (Linkedin, @kaddyiitr), an IIT Roorkee graduate, head of engineering, mygola and Samyak Jain (Linkedin, @saammybwoy) who formed a part of team, called Seinfeldfans, won the web track. Their product is called IMDBGraph, Facebook Graph search-like interface for IMDB.
Sandipan Chattopadhyay, CTO Justdial presented Web track award to Seinfieldfans for their work. Many many congrats to the participants and winners!
AdChemy is helping retailers upload their entire inventory of millions of products to Google Shopping
Google Product ads got launched in India as well!
Startups and Failures are almost synonymous. They are like 2 sides of the same coin. Some statistics exist, which show that a really high percentage of startups don’t make it beyond first year. If were to go by percentage of startups, which receive funding, that would be a lowly number as well. I recall hearing Vinod Khosla during Nasscom event in Bangalore in 2011. He said that though he gets conference speaker invitations from many and has to say no to a majority of them, he himself reached out to Failcon organizer to be speaker. Sat 13, 2013 Headstart Mumbai’s Startup Satruday (Google Doc link from organizer) was on failures. Romeel Shah was the host of event, who had quit times internet and started up himself. HeadStart started 4 years ago in Bengaluru (Bangalore). It is present in 12 cities now. Various initiatives under the umbrella of HeadStart included Hire, hackathon, Startup Saturdays and a vibrant Google group. Santosh from NASSCOM was present and available to talk to startups regarding 10000Startups initiative (website). Under that initiative, a startup could receive Rs.25Lac to Rs.2 Cr in funding from leading angel investment networks of India. They announced that startups could email firstname.lastname@example.org for funding related queries. Aarti from Headstart was available to help out finding cofounder and provide other troubleshooting to entrepreneurs.
2 Failure Stories
Jahnvi Parikh was working with Yahoo Singapore, when she started Aurality as a personal project, like most of Yahoo-ians. Aurality aggregates web content, and coverts into audio for the people on move. She started it on April 2011 along with a technical co-founder, Bhavin. It took 10 months to build. In Jan 2012, they raised money from Blume. The same month, it launched after feedback, disruption. It was targeted for US market. They used niche blogs targeting avid listeners for marketing. They got decent initial download. Retention, listening time was a challenge. They undertook 8-10 mini pivots within a couple of months to improve. Text to speech quality was not good, so got voice over for top article. Then started focusing on India, tried using Times of India, and VAS. So, they pulled the plug on it. But, they wanted to use remaining money for new ideas. So, a new idea Giftery was born, an MVP of which is launching this week starting 15 Apr, 2013. Learnings from previous are: that took long to launch. Maybe do it in 4 months and get market feedback. Giftery got built in 3 months. Things which worked good last time around: Conserve money and could afford more iterations and have investor’s support.
2: Izzi Deals
Rahul Chidgopar talked about Izzi Deals next: DND (donot disturb), Snapdeal and 1.5 yrs’ journey. In Dec 2010, he quit Bajaj Auto. He wanted to startup in 3G VAS, location based area, but it turned out expensive. So started with mobile coupon. Redeem coupon by paying Rs3 for a premium SMS and get Rs5 recharge. Get feedback, early and often. Choose co-founders wisely. He teamed up with telecom engg batchmate, working at Airtel. 1 important factor to look for is: Co founders should have same runway. Ensure your family’s support. Avoid govt: He was able to close deal MTNL office Bandra within 4 months. In Apr 2012 applied for Morpheus, but got rejected. In Mumbai, he got merchants onboard by his own team. He worked with aggregators in other cities. He violated an important principle here: Keep value chain short – learning from Sameer Guglani, The Morpheus. Don’t outsource key functions. Because to change a module, you are at the mercy of another company. So bring tech co-founder. Waited till oct for mtnl, but when it did not work out. Pivoted to web based model in Sep. Wasnot able to distinguish with SnapDeal. Later tried to do Freecharge in offline. Merchant side learning: crack McDonald rather local vada pav. Blind walk-in. 1st floor merchants are not getting natural walkins, so more receptive. Rs 20 per lead. Net margin 15, as 5 ka recharge. Telco will push deals to customers. Overall, an entertaining presentation with right mix of PPT and talk!
4 Lightning Pitches
Jay Rege is a serial entrepreneur, who comes up with novel ideas every now and then. His 3 month old venture is selling chappals! He has teamed up with his wife Lochana, Abhijit to recycle tyre for making chappals and sell online starting at Rs. 499/-. The idea is to benefit the workers, who get much less in labour intensive work, like making T-shirt, foot wear etc. E.g. a T-shirt, which you’d buy for Rs.300, the worker sewing it gets only Rs. 10-15.
This is a portal for crowd-funding for an idea. Wishberry.in – only crowd funding platform in India.
By delivering CA services online, Aankit Kumar Jain hopes to give good services to startups and SME. Answer 7 questions. Pan, tan etc. you have it? Yes, no. Due dates. Interest, penalty. 12 folders. Excel puts into Tally.
Rohan Dey has a drug discovery platform. He is competing with MIMS, CIMS, which are being used by chemists.
3 Expert talks
1: Anand Lunia
He spoke about his experiences of an elearning company and many portfolio companies to drive home reasons for failure and how to avoid them. It had 4 cofounders. Fault: Too many cofounders. Another fault: Consumer product, but none for 4 co-founders knew product, rather it was outsourced. PR agency is set. Product was outsourced and what came out was not as per expectation. After this disaster, 1 person started coding. Raised money, yet failed multiple times. Threadless clone was selling t-shirts, but at less efficiency than offline stores. 100 employees, 6m gone in 1.5 yrs. It is important to iterate on a daily basis, crunch time to come out with a great product. Pro-customer. Saying in Gujarat: any business will take 1000 days. Branded computer shop: pay for food, not service. Faasos, another success story took a long time to get success. It uses software for efficiency like Barcode scan on food going out, SMS. In gist, Anand Lunia implied that a successful startup will go through multiple failures before turning the new leaf.
2: Kunal Shah
The talk from Freecharge founder came as a bonus, as it was not a part of schedule. Animals have fight or flight spirit, which is among all Indian! He defined EMI = entrepreneur Marne ka injection!
3: Ajeet Khurana
He regaled the audience with his experience as an entrepreneur and now as angel investor. It was interesting that 3 ideas during 1994-98, Pet rock, cabbage patch doll, dog ice cream, the first 2 did well. He avoids relative co-founders like siblings, father-son etc. He also avoids first time successful entrepreneurs on a second term.
Nexus Venture Partners (NVP) is an early and growth stage VC fund looking at Indian start-ups going after global market esp. US as well as US companies looking to enter India. PeepalSys follows Y-Combinator model into talent recruitment space. So, when both of these put together an extremely relevant topic of bringing Silicon Valley culture into Indian companies with a panel of extremely successful technology leaders from NVP portfolio companies, it attracted a packed house in Sumant Mangalkar auditorium, MCCIA, ICC Towers, Pune.
NVP managing director Jishnu Bhattacharjee (Linkedin profile, @b_jishnu) introduced the topic to us. He clarified that we should bring good habits of Silicon Valley culture into Indian companies and also supplement it with our own elements. Silicon Valley has proven to be a successful model for innovation with a culture fostering flexible hours, meritocracy, and rewards using stock option. NVP had made its first investment in a Pune company back in 2000 in Sigma, which worked out of Pune IT Park, Aundh. More recently, they have invested in Druva, started by ex-Veritas (later acquired by Symantec), which provides backup solutions. He introduced the panelists to us, which I will sprinkle as I describe each talk. It was followed by a presentation from all 5 panelists of 3-minutes each, before Q&A panel discussion started between Jishnu, audience on one side and the panelists on the other side.
Abinash Tripathy from HelpShift recruits SpecialOps guy
Helpshift makes it easy to create that exceptional customer support experience in native mobile apps, transforming customers into the most passionate sales team. Abinash Tripathy (@abinashtripathy)is the founder and CEO. He led another company called Infinity Beta, a thinktank of startup ideas like Paisa.Com. He recalled that they began talking about company culture even before they began working on product, wow! He illustrated the culture of city with a picture of Pune landmarks, festival, food etc. Culture is value system of a group of individuals, in this case startup employees. He contrasted an army vs special operations team. Whereas an army has the following characteristics: a large number of individuals, hierarchy, obedience, defined roles, and uses mandated tools; the special ops team has high-potential soldiers, only a handful of them, who would use innovative tools, will generally possess high IQ and make their own decisions towards a mission. Building such a culture starts with recruiting high-potential employees. Helpshift values attitude rather than skills. They have inverted the traditional recruitment model by making it inbound. So, instead of HR or external recruitment team reaching out to many engineers, the company pages and its work act as a magnet for the kind of talent, they want. It actually scares engineers with faint heart. This way instead of spending 2 valuable days just filtering out numerous resumes, Abinash and BG are able to focus on high probable. Paisa.com did not have a careers page. Instead it was extremely well architect-ed, so an inquisitive and interested soul would examine it and find it in some HTML tag an email for this purpose. And, that would be just start of a 3-months long recruitment cycle. Everyone was surprised including the host Jishnu, when he mentioned that. He then went on to describe kinds of questions and tasks in the interview process. They look for people, who can learn new skills, they have never used before, quickly come up to speed and accomplish a fairly non-trivial task with it. Prior experience (existing skills) don’t matter to them. One such example is: Using Arduino to build a Build Process Signal, innovative, very, very innovative. So, the candidate learns its device driver and integrates continuous integration system like Jenkins with it. Please
read this comment made by AB in his blog AB’s (the blog is now private) answer on Quora for “How did Helpshift hire talented developers” for unadulterated version.
If one were to walk into Helpshift’s office, it’d look like a playground with foosball, video-games, mini-gym within the office. Some objects, which all of them possessed included:
- Amazon Kindle: All Helpshifters are avid readers. In this digital age, when many professionals I know have moved on just snacking on Twitter, blogs for keeping up with new trends, learning new professional and life skills, it is refreshing to know that company encourages such habits among employees.
- Emacs: With a plethora IDEs and WYSIWG editors, plain text editors like VI( M) and emacs rule geeks like Helpshifters. I remember meeting a Symbiosis Design student working at InfinityBeta bemoaning this fact , that he wasn’t allowed Dreamweaver or something, rather had to use emacs!
- Clojure: Geeks at Helpshift love functional language running atop JVM.
- Raspberry Pi: DIY kit for making your own computer.
- Bitcoin: World’s alternative currency
- Special interest outside of work: Be it Maths, Guitar, robotics or Mahabharata, you have got to be of high calibre in one of your hobbies, that you pursue outside of work.
- Continuous learning and technology eco-system involvement: [Self observation] You’d find Helpshifters at Coursera, local Emacs group etc.
Their role models included Steve jobs, Richard Stallman and 7 more, which audience could barely identify. You will find such quotes like: Real artists ship.
A software engineer at Helpshift is expected to be self-didactic, whose definition none from audience was able to specify. In jest, I say that AB inverted panel discussion by making audiences answer, while he put forth questions! I’d say the audience including me were lousy by his high standards. Coming back to the culture, at Helpshift, the software developers also act as customer support in addition to product development. This way they are aware how their code performs in the field. Recruiting and appreciating employees is quite important in such cases. Otherwise, as noted in The Five Languages of Appreciation:
- Lack of praise and recognition leads to low job satisfaction
- Lower job satisfaction leads to higher turnover
- Higher turnover has a negative impact on customer satisfaction.
Jonah from Indix builds a team of ants for heavy data lifting
Jonah Stephen Jeremiah (Linkedin profile) said the mission of Indix is to store a vast amount of data and make sense of it, derive interesting inferences from it. They have over billion product prices database and a market intelligence system on top of it. They are 35-member team and have an office ready to accommodate 35 more. In parallel with the metaphor of special ops, Indix has ants, who do heavy lifting well beyond their capacities. Indix fosters transparency right from office setup having no opaque walls for managers, even meeting rooms. He did not describe his recruitment funnel from start, but somebody in advance stage spends a full day in the office before (s) he joins.
Gaurav from ScaleArc impresses candidates by its work
Gaurav took the talks further, but the panel started digressing from Silicon Valley culture to company work and their recruitment efforts (We, audience also helped this change of course, but the discussions were stimulating nonetheless, so no big regret from my side). He started by describing how external circumstances like family and society view startups in India. He described how his dad consoled him on his startup job with words: You will get a a job in big company soon! Many marriageable aged boys and girls would take up an MNC jobs to boost their attractiveness to in-laws and potential partners. <Self observation> Many fresh graduates themselves seem to take a startup job as last resort after having been rejected by MNC, as a stepping stone to MNC. They screw up the startup and don’t give their 100% to their current employer. Instead prepare for interviews or MBA’s. On the other side, many MNC engineers will tell startups that they need higher salaries, because they are compromising on the brand of their company by coming to your startup </Self Observation>. The way ScaleArc would approach recruitment would be making founder accessible to the potential candidate, describing the great work they are doing, which the candidate should be able to fathom being technically adept herself/himself. Then, they would talk about the kind of clients using it already – likes of Flipkart, Microsoft, Kixeye (Zynga’s competitor), which would put any arguments to rest.
Ankit Pruthi from Unicommerce looks for ethical hacker
Unicommerce looks for ethical hackers, who is an equivalent of 100 programmers. With a team of 4 developers, they are managing a large scale SAAS order fulfillment system, being used by 1000 concurrent users, for 40 warehouses to ship 50K products everyday across India (Snapdeal, Jabong), SouthEast Asia (Lazada), even Pakistan and Canada. Ankit, the youngest panellist at 26 years of age talked about the custom scripting language they have created to help customers come up to speed quickly on their product.
Atul Phadnis of WhatsOn India builds a cross-functional team without silos
WhatsOn was ably presented by Atul Phadnis as a company, who are further along in their startup journey than rest of panelists. That POV (point of view) gave a glimpse of what you’d do, when you go beyond 30-70’s in employee strength. He was visibly proud of having hired best talents from large companies, two in recent past from Airtel and another one, I don’t remember. He spoke of the high energy atmosphere within the company, which was observed by potential recruits to be a reason for the same. I really liked the fact that he democratically chose an office inside or very near mall in Worli, which many companies are shy of doing lest their employees get distracted. He spoke of a road-show in bay area, where WhatsOn showcased their technical prowess to equally competent silicon Valley crowd and got nod for good work. He also talked about expanding his company to South East (Indonesia) and Middle East (Jordan) Asia and integrating them into WhatsOn culture, very mature POV coming from him.
Q & A
It became more interactive towards latter half by design. I’d leave that for a new blog post in future.
Yesterday i.e. 10th Feb 2013 saw startup crowd getting together in Navi Mumbai at SIES for its maiden event. It was a stimulating 4 hours’ experience for the entire audience – students, entrepreneurs, professionals like myself as well as the faculty. It started with some great videos – Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech and 2 other motivational speeches. Steve jobs spoke of how he dropped out of college, then dropped into classes, which really excited him. Calligraphy classes, that he took then without any purpose were made to good use many years hence to design Macintosh’ font system and make it beautiful. (Microsoft bashing) Microsoft copied it and hence entire PC stack is now beautiful! Connecting the dots and Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish were 2 great quotes from that speech, which led indelible imprints on many minds. After that Ankur P Aggrawal of PriceBaba gave an introduction of Startup Saturday and Headstart Networks. He described how its idea came from barcamp. In barcamps, there is no distinction between speaker and audience. Similarly, Startup Saturdays encourage intense debates around minimal structure of the event.
It was followed by an introduction by Prof.Parag Amin. He talked about startup eco-system of the city and college’s role in it. He then introduced Dr. A.K. Sengupta, mentor of SIES – a World Bank employee, who returned to SP Jain college, Mumbai, then joined SIES as a mentor. He spoke of how entrepreneurs must not only focus on getting best product out, but also steer clear of stress of executing it in bureaucratic system surrounding here in India. He talked of 1000 hours, entrepreneurs must give to their ideas, like bill Gates doing computers for 19 hrs per day for so many days. Such kind of perseverance lead to breakthrough and success. He also talked about the future plans of SIESCOM like starting an incubation facility to promote entrepreneurship within this year.
Mohit Dubey: 7 things around startup cash
Next talk by @mohitdubey was an extremely honest recall of founder’s journey of raising funding, that I have heard in recent times. He started by giving current metrics of CarWale.Com, like 25% of car buyers from India visit the portal. There are 350 employees in various departments. He has been raising money since 2002 in Bhopal. He recounted how he raised money from friends, relatives, his wife, his father-in-law, not father, as he refused . He went on to arguing with a 88-yr old man in brutal honesty telling him – “There is no use saving money now, as you will not be using it much. So, he should fund Mohit Dubey’s venture”. Mohit jumped with joy in 2005-06, when he heard about a new species called “Venture Capitalists”. Now, he no longer has to informally raise funds. He and team relocated to Navi Mumbai, as that was more affordable compared to rest of Mumbai. He ran around 10 banks with customer’s Rs. 5000 cheque before one would open a bank account. He would withdraw Rs.100 many times, so would become unpopular with the bank. This goes back to what Dr.A.K. Sengupta talked about the difficulty of starting up in India. He recommended reading a book “Bargaining for advantage" by Richard Shell to gain perspective. I am awaiting him or Headstart team to share his presentation on Slideshare rather than put my notes here. During Q&A, he spoke of CarWale’s future plans. CarWale wants to focus on better mobility, rather than just cars. There are 14m cars in India, approx 1 per 100 persons. China has 8, US has 1 and Australia has 1.5. In India, because of space constraint, it is not a good idea to increase number of cars per 100 persons, rather invest in shared cars, public transportation. Initiatives like Khaliseat and SmartMumbaikar are trying in that direction.
Zepo: Shopify for India
@im_nitin showcased Zepo.In, a platform for opening eCommerce store in minutes. They have 300 active customers. They also have a trial offer, for which they receive 500 signup every month. They started in June’11 and launched in Jan’12. So, 300 customers in 12 months is a remarkable achievement. While cold calls worked out well in the initial days, now inward marketing like word-of-mouth and Powered-By-Zepo account for 40% sales now. They provide payment gateway integration and logistics support, both of which are great value-adds. unlike Flipkart and BuyThePrice’s marketplace model, you can host on your own domain name. While basic SEO is taken care of by Zepo, the onus of promoting it is on the store owner.
Hyquee: Tees with user generated quotes
Tushar Shetty described his idea of selling tees with quotes contributed by the Twitter users. He has worked on SOR and display rack inside shops to sell his goods instead of standalone stores.
S Swaminathan (Iris)
A Yale graduate S. Swaminathan floored us next with his entrepreneurial journey of Iris (an XBRL provider) , life lessons, philosophy, stories.
FutureWise: Ronak Hindocha
Ronak took the stage next to publicly unveil, for the first time, the interface of the finance portal FutureWise.
I was mighty impressed with the value proposition and pleasant UI/UX of the portal. He showed profile and recommendations screens, which seemed well-done. He talked about algorithm-powered recommendation against finance agent’s recommendations. He talked about evil ULIP. The service is going to be free for end-users and will be eventually monetized by them becoming broker for buying insurance and mutual funds. That part was transactions portion of the site, which will require human intervention currently. He is aiming at young crowd, which might not have big-enough savings, as HNI’s are already served by bank’s money management divisions. Someone in audience spoke of Intuit’s offering, to which he was quick to point out that Quicken is on its way out. They have even not renewed their tie-up with Moneycontrol. All in all, a promising startup to watch for in next 6-10 months.
The Playce: Gargi Shah, Shekhar Gurav
Gargi Shah showcased their venture, The Playce, a coworking place in Mulund, where one can rent desks, cabins with minimum necessary facilities provided for. They are slowly making a palce for themselves having hosted 15 events in last 3 months’ of their existence and garnering 40 co-workers.
They provide some support like help in registering company, hooking up with say freelance designer etc.
It was followed by refreshments and networking hour. Next Startup Saturday Navi Mumbai will be held on 2nd Saturday of March at the same venue in a bigger hall.
This post covers the inside mechanics of game development, as I understood from a lecture of Roberto Dillon at Techfest 2013 in IIT, Mumbai last Saturday.
Game designers explain their approach in a subjective manner. Hence, there is a need for pragmatic view of the same to break down a game at different level of complexities. The post starts by describing the classic M.D.A. framework and goes on to describe new frameworks, namely A.G.E. and the 6-11 framework. A few games including Rovio’s Angry Birds will be used as examples to make us understand the concepts.
Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics Framework
Hunicke R., LeBanc M. and Zubek R. proposed this methodology in 2004 at National Conference on Artificial Intelligence.
- Mechanics: the game rules i.e. basic, atomic actions that players can do to play the game
- Dynamics: Runtime
- Aesthetics: Emotional, Visual
Eight kinds of Fun based on:
- Sensation (e.g. pleasures)
- Fantasy (e.g. role playing)
- Narrative (e.g. Storytelling, game as drama)
- Challenge (e.g. problem solving, obstacle course)
- Fellowship (e.g. social framework)
- Discovery (e.g. uncharted territory)
- Expression (e.g. self discovery)
- Submission (e.g. Game as pastime)
6 basic emotions and 11 instincts
Emotions: Fear, Anger, Pride, Sadness, Excitement, joy
Instincts: Survival, Revenge, curiosity, Self identification, Aggressiveness, Competition, Protection, Greed, Collecting, Communication, Color Appreciation
Analyzing the game
- Play the game
- Determine the main aesthetics and how they develop into the player’s experience by using the „6-11 Framework“
- Draw the „On the way to Fun“ diagram
- Relate instincts to game dynamics
- Explore how dynamics are obtained (i.e. analyze mechanics)
- Not sure? Go back to Step 1! 😉