Archive for June, 2009

Am I Good Enough?

Am I Good Enough?

by Sanjay Anandaram

Over the weekend I was a panel member at a mentorship event. One of the presenters was the founder of a company whose business card simply read “Chief Architect”. On being asked who the CEO of this company was, he surprised all by saying, “I’m looking out for a CEO. I realise that I don’t have the ability to be the CEO and that I’m the bottleneck in the company.” Needless to say, this remarkable self-realisation and public articulation astounded all the panel members. It is a tired cliche that the most important thing in a startup is the team. But, it has yet to be internalized by many founding teams (and in several cases by VCs!). So, what is the problem? Is it that the people don’t “get it” or is it that they believe that they are indeed the best team? The team lives in a self-delusionary world, in a state of denial. This is very dangerous. There’s also a third angle to this. Many times the founding team realises that the existing team has gaping holes and there’s a crying need to bring quality external talent on board. But this realisation does not lead to action. There’s a intention-implementation gap, or a knowing-doing gap. While the abstract description and jargonization of the situation helps in putting a framework for analysis, the bitter truth is that in a startup, there is no time for such analysis. Where the CEO and the senior management fail to deliver the goals for the business, they need to step back and ask the reasons for their failure. They need to ask:”Am I good anough?” “Does the business need additional, different skills?” Clearly, it is very hard for the founding team to accept and acknowledge that they are “just not good enough”. In fact, it would be hard for any of us to do so. But to be confronted with a situation where the founding team’s competence is questioned can be quite a draining experience; especially given there’s so much emotion and passion involved. It is this emotion and passion that sometimes acts to the detriment of the company. The emotion and passion creates a kind of security blanket that masks the competence of the team members. Hard work, loyalty, and excitement start becoming substitutes for competence, analytical insights, and action. So what does one do in a situation where one of the founders isn’t performing and has to be let go?  It was a matter of friendship, of common aspirations at least once upon a time. The true test of the CEO and the leader is the ability to differentiate between self and company. And the CEO/leader has to ask: Is what I’m doing good for me or for the company? Will my company be better served by other more talented people? So, the ability to make that clear distinction between self and company is a critical first step.  After all, if the startup is the founding team’s baby, the “parents” have to do what is good for the baby not what is good for the “parent”. The baby has to be trained by qualified teachers in various disciplines, be punished and rewarded by the teachers. The parent feels proud when the baby grows up to be a high achiever and a top performer. The parent has a role to play not all the roles. There are other people who have significant influence and impact on the baby as well – teachers for example. There are situations where the CEO is totally insecure and insists on hiring people who are of lesser mettle. The CEO is concerned that he/she will lose the position of authority. This kind of CEO soon becomes the bottleneck in the company and very quickly drives the startup to the ground; or ensures its survival only as a corner-grocery-store equivalent. The VC has no business funding such a CEO. This kind of a CEO cannot attract talent; will be obstinate; will insist on things being done his way. In short, this kind of a CEO is better off by himself. This kind of a CEO is not a team player. And that can mean death in the business!  You may be a superstar but only if the team supports you. You cannot shoot goals or score runs if the team does not support you. You have to play in the larger interests of the team. Think football, cricket, hockey, basketball. On the other hand, if you believe that its better to be an individual star, then don’t play team sports – golf, tennis, chess are games for you.  Unfortunately startups are like team sports. So, what kind of player are you?  What do you think?

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SanjaThis article was first published in The Financial Express in 2008.

  

Who Owns The Company?

Once in a blue moon, this situation repeats itself. The board of a company along with the stake holders and investors are pushing the entrepreneur towards a direction and he/she is really not liking it, and tries the ownership card. “This is my company, and I do have the best in mind for it”. Nobody usually reacts to those words, but technically one could throw you out for making statements like that. I’ll start with who doesn’t own a company – Its the entrepreneur.

Whoever sold you the romanticism that being an entrepreneur meant being your own boss, was clearly lying. You really never escape the chain of command and reporting structure so easily – not in a civilized society. So Its no wonder that things don’t span out as they say. As an employee you might be accountable to your boss, but as an entrepreneur you are accountable to all of your clients, stakeholders and employees. And every one of them holds you responsible to have the answers and do your best – that’s no different from being an employee times ten. Think about it.

So here’s two things you must know. It is crucial to understand this because this sets the context to understand a whole lot of things that happen through the course of the company.
Continue reading ‘Who Owns The Company?’

Consumerization of Enterprise

The notion of enterprise customers as large monolithic technology purchasing entities is on a decline. This perhaps was first visible in sales people popping out their credit cards to buy subscription to salesforce.com. However, the trend is expanding with more and more of social web principles being applied to enterprise software. For some time now, Spiceworks has been making inroads – this is is a free ad-supported IT management tools, and has over 700,000 IT professionals and system administrators – who as we know control large purchasing dollars in enterprise customers.

Such behavior has perhaps existing for far longer in SMB/SOHO segments, especially owner driven organizations. In my view, this represents a significant shift in how enterprise software will get developed, distributed and monetized. The most popular web applications like email, chat, news etc are already seeing the personal-professional divide blurring – not to talk to blackberry which blurs the time divide between personal and professional lives, and iPhone logically extends the notion on a feature set basis (is it a consumer phone or a business phone?) Future software will be designed around people, encompassing their personal and professional lives – personalization to the core.

Thinking outside the (cellphone) box

Gigaom has a thought-provoking article on non-cellphone devices which use the cellular networks. The ones that Stacey mentions are:

* Smart Insoles
* The BI HomeGuard Anklet
* Zoombak
* The Cameo Picture Frame
* Ford Work Solutions
* The Flaik
* DriveCam

Ubiquitous networks are the future, and IMHO, represents a great opportunity for building specialized businesses. What India specific device-oriented applications do you think would be most compelling on top of a network?

NASSCOM EMERGE 50 is all about honouring the true spirit of SMEs

The contribution of the SME community to the Indian IT-BPO industry can never be overemphasized but most Emerging companies face a major challenge in getting their due recognition and at times even loose out to the larger players. Size definitely does matter, but should not be the only criteria for recognition. The Indian IT-BPO Industry is replete with examples of SMEs who are really doing some path breaking work, using cutting edge technology but not getting due visibility beyond their ecosystem. Similarly, there are others operating out of Tier 2 or Tier 3 cities employing differently abled people, and serving the nation in a big way. Their example too needs to be brought forth.

The NASSCOM EMERGE 50 is all about honouring the true spirit of SMEs. It is about recognizing the uniqueness that each company brings to the table and giving them the opportunity to showcase their achievements. To induce objectivity to the nomination process, some unique parameters have been drawn, so as to increase the ambit of selection and also bring in transparency to the entire process.

If you are an SME, with an annual turnover of less than 50 Crores and fall in any of the below mentioned categories, then please use this platform to send in your nomination to NASSCOM EMERGE 50. Here’s an opportunity to reach out to the larger community and showcase what you have been doing successfully over the years.

The top 50 companies, selected by the panel would then be nurtured, and mentored to take it to the next level of growth and productivity. In the years to come by, we too can proudly lay a claim to your success story.

The categories where companies can nominate their applications are:

EMERGE Growth – The rapid growth and success of companies in tough times is not a matter of chance! Challenging economic conditions not only test companies but should also motivate them to innovate and offer opportunities to reinvigorate themselves. NASSCOM invites companies which are growing faster compared to the existential markets and are all profitable. The criterion for selection would be based on the percentage revenue growth achieved in the last three years in any market(s).

EMERGE Markets (Non-Traditional/Domestic)

Non-traditional Markets– US and UK being the dominant markets for the Indian IT industry, and contributing to about 77 -78 % of the entire industry revenue are considered traditional markets. Other countries besides the big two are being considered as non- traditional ones. If your organisation has a successful business in any of the non-traditional markets you can nominate yourself for the category.

Domestic market – India in the last few years has grown substantially with adoption of IT products and services. Companies exploring avenues in the domestic market and creating high revenue earning possibilities may nominate themselves for the category.

EMERGE Products – Emerging Indian IT companies which own proprietary intellectual property or proprietary technology that contributes to a significant portion of the company’s operating revenues are invited to nominate their candidature for this category. The selection criterion would look at the online opportunity in the specific segments and the ability of the company to adapt to the market.

EMERGE Services – This category would look for companies having a strong domain focus specializing in a particular services business. This category would be vying for companies which have identified a niche for themselves with a strong foothold in the market w.r.t their services domain and have a unique differentiating factor from the competition.

EMERGE – Jury’s pick – Our eminent jury panel would be short listing 10 companies which would display a unique value proposition in their service/product offerings not getting covered in any of the categories mentioned above.

We are looking forward for your participation in this initiative specially focussed around the emerging companies. The last date for submitting your nominations is 15th June 2009. So, what are you waiting for, send in your nominations today!