Author Archive for Iqbal Gandham

Building a startup in 30 mins (well 41ish) – Iqbal Gandham

Hi Guys

During the Global Entrepreneur Week their were several great presentations made, where I was located. I thought they maybe helpful to some on this blog:

1. My video is about building a startup and can be found at and the ppt deck can be found at

2. The rest of the morning session contained pitches from startups and a presentation on sales.

The afternoon session has a great one from Sean (founder of Multimap) and how they managed to stay the course through the dot com downturn, and how to time exits, and finally sell for about $100 million + to the likes of MS

Following that is another good one from Alistair from Huddle. he goes through the steps they took in raising $5million, and how they got early value in the business by giving away small equity bits to get the project built.

Morning session:

Afternoon session:



Should Facebook and Twitter bother to make money? (Iqbal Gandham)

Another late night post after a evening kicking a ball around a five-a-side pitch 🙂
Have been thinking for a while about Facebook, Twitter and the likes, i.e all the big networks which are trying to make money. Now we all know on the web there are only two ways of really making money

a) The user pays
b) Someone else does (i.e advertisers)

Lets look at ‘b’ since this is where most of the “large” dotcoms sit/used to sit. If you look at Google, it doesn’t really have a closed network as such, all it does is to take data from elsewhere, do some magic, and then return some results. These results we use, and someone else pays to be viewed alongside the results. Now in the case of Facebook, they use their OWN data, and not created by others, by their own, I mean created within their walled garden, same with Twitter, the data is created using the Twitter platform.

Both Facebook and Twitter differ from Google here, Google uses the roads that others built, and adds value to that, Facebook and Twitter are using their own roads, i.e they are trying to build the railroad, but also the services on top to monetise them.

Again and again we here of how Facebook and Twitterwill make money, I am unsure of whether this is a good idea, not the money making, but the how.Facebook and Twitter need to make the roads better and bigger, allowing people to do different things on them (call this opening the walled garden or whatever), the money will be made with the people who use these roads, Twitter and Facebookshould be partnering with these companies in a new type of funding scenario, i.e we will focus on the road building, you guys come up with ways to use it, and together we both make money. Google did this well, it used existing roads i.e websites that were built, and built a business on top…and now its stuck, because its own search engine is now becoming a road in itself, but they cant keep squeezing money out of it, what they need is to let others build on top of that.

I am sure lots of people are confused between the road analogies, but the way I look at it is , roads, railroads were built centuries ago, but the real money being made from them came much after, by the people using them, the same is true with Facebook, Twitter and even now Google, work out whether you are a layer using the roads, or the road themselves.

As a summary, Facebook and Twitter need to make there platforms better, and partner with companies who use their data in order to make money, for them and also for the partners, if they try to both together, i.e create the platform and enhance it, AND try to use the same platform to make money, I think they will hit a deadend, and user’s will move off. We want new things all the time…..

Iqbal Gandham (aka feelin_tired)

How we got Nivio to Davos (WEF)…and won

Alot of emails later, with the same question being asked again and again, I have decided to write a blog post, making my life easier and hopefully yours.

In short you need to partner with a PR company who have done it before (we used Chameleon in the UK). Once this is done you have yourself a team, which is crucial with any type of assault. So what next:

Step 1: Build a Calendar for next year, write down all the events which are global/local/ and hard code the events which are relevant to you.

Step 2: Fine tune this target audience in terms of reach, i.e WEF will be covered globally, whereas an awards ceremony in Delhi, will be local

Step 3: Once you have your targets in place, you need to know the sweet spot for each target. You need to understand what “angle” they are coming from, i.e is everyone talking about “green” or “CO2”, or is it about something else like “broadband speeds”, its like selling, you need to know what the requirements of the buyer are. BUT please note do not lie, this will come out, and you will look really really dumb, its better not to target that event. For example if your product/service is about cars, and you went to a ceremony which was all about mobile phones, I am sure a few creative people could build a link between the two, but is it worth it, I think not.

Step 4: So now you have your target, and their sweet spot, you need to start to put together a piece of paper which hits this sweet spot, what makes your “key” fit into that “lock”, why are you the perfect fit, put together a “cheat sheet” of all the points that fit

Step 5: Okay that’s what you can provide, BUT we need support from outside the circle, we need third party support, we need other people, other reports which enhance your claim, do other people agree, that what you are doing will help?

Step 6: Writing your story – this is the hard part, since they all have a word count, the best thing is to write the full story and IGNORE the word count, and then start to strip bits out, eventually you will have a really tight story, get someone to read it again and again….and then again.

Step 7: Once all this is done, assume that you will get nominated, and no this is not arrogance, but you need a plan of what to do if you do get nominated, since getting nominated can carry just as much PR as winning, so milk it. Have a plan of action to push out the nomination story to a wide audience, push it out to friends and family, make sure everyone reads it.

Step 8: Pray, yes folks there is nothing else you can do, there is no hidden formula, no bribing of judges, all you can do is make sure is that you do your best to beat the competition, the rest is down to the panel, but if your “key” fits the “lock” better than others, and you have supporting evidence you will get there…and if you don’t at least you tried

Aside from the 8 steps above, you need to ensure that this task is not given to a office junior, the company from the top needs to be involved in this, it will take time, and its needs effort, but its worth it…..Oh all of the above does not apply, if your product/service sucks

Will Davos make you famous? possibly not, will it makes thousands use your product? doubt it, the only thing that will achieve those two is a great product/service that people want, PR of course will make the journey smoother and quicker.

And that my friends is “how the west was won” 🙂

Iqbal Gandham

Do we need Teams who have delivered before?

In continuation from my last post “do great startups solve a problem”, I’ve got another pressing question, which seems to perplex me, but seems to be required by just about every VC/startup I have ever interacted with.

Having looked at some really good startups (my criteria for a good startup is quite simple…its big, people know its name, and it makes money), rediff, naukri, google, facebook, twitter (not sure on this one), orkut, netscape, aol, skype (exception), ebay, alibaba, lycos, monster I could go on, but you get the point, I cant see many if any that had teams which had delivered before. Of course I have not done a in depth study, but I don’t think the founders etc in many of these companies had delivered similar size companies before, or after. So my question is why do VC’s again insist in experience teams, even if you have a look down the ranks in these teams, especially in the early formative years, there were not many grey hairs on the board/management teams.

Of course I maybe proved wrong here, and I guess that would make me sleep better at night, but surely alot of these companies succeeded because they took what was out there and did it differently, rather than just going with the flow. They broke the mould, they changed the way the company operated.

I will take a personal example here, several times I have come up against “old skool (showing how hip I am here :-))” teams who say we should
a) market like this — buy TV ad space, do banner ads blah blah blah, i.e the ibibo way, and it does not work
b) we should run HR like a normal hierarchy

etc etc, you get the picture, but the companies who succeeded wrote there own management tools, there own MIS software, and kludged it all the way they wanted and the way it worked, and I believe its because of that they succeeded, rather than following Management 101. Admittedly in some areas grey hairs are good (finance) and as a company grows, more grey hairs are needed, but by then the company is in a operational state (rather than a growing state), where chaos is king.

Again might be wrong, but when facebook was exploding, it was the lack of experience which took them there, when Myspace was hip and cool, and everyone wanted to be on it, it was the chaos, which made it funky.

Again question targetted at VC’s of the companies they have backed, early on, with experienced management/founders how many are household names, i.e how many past CEO’s have done it again?

Iqbal (aka feelin_tired)

P.S On a personal note, guys I have had my Inbox filled with requests for startup help/mentoring etc etc, and although I am once again free (I have moved on from Nivio, since it is no longer a startup but in a operational stage, with sales, and partners all in place…hence job done), I can only do so many pro-bono things, simply because I do not have the resources (time, money, energy). So unless a VC wants to pay me to do this, or someone would like to donate Dominoes pizzas to me, I’m a little stuck, will always help when I can, but please realise it will be “as and when I can”…..currently working/looking for the next big thing, so if you find it before I do, let me know 🙂

Do Great Startups Really Solve a Problem

After a long long hiatus (ie been far to busy working finishing a startup) I decided to write a post. My own blog is still lacking in posts due to work, but will get back to that this week.

Anyhow have been thinking about this for some time. I have looked back at several startups, we all know of Google, Yahoo, Indiatimes, Facebook etc etc, but I am wondering all these which got funding, did they really solve a problem, I mean isn’t that what all VC’s really want, or maybe they did and it was just me that didn’t have that problem in the first place.

Lets look at Google, everyone says it solved the problem of being a better search engine, or rather it was a better search engine than those that were around during those days (I was a fan of Lycos). But how did we know we needed better search, I mean you can only tell you need better search if you know what else is out there, and I for one dont recall comparing search results everytime between google and lycos to see which was better. Hence was google a success because of search or simply because of speed. Lycos was full of ads, we all had 28.8K modems or some of us have the V90, K56Flex modems, but speeds were still slow, when google came along it just returned the results quicker…not sure if they were better.

Now lets look at Facebook, If I was do come to a VC with cap in hand and say “Please sir can I have some more…funding that is” and my idea was to build facebook. I am unsure as to what problem I would actually be solving, is it to get people to communicate, or to waste time at work, or to connect. I am talking about seed stage funding here, not the 3rd rounds where VC’s just follow others. What problem did/does Facebook solve.

What did Skype actually do that Yahoo Voice chat could not (agree quality at that point was better), but did it solve a problem that people just needed to solve.

What about twitter, did we really have a problem with telling the world when we get up out of bed 🙂

Did we really need a Zimbra, didn’t email just work before.

Did these companies and other really successful ones solve a problem, or are they just things that we use because out friends use them, and so we must also, and if that is the case, how would you ask a VC for money for something like that 🙂


P.S Next post – How does a company like minglebox ask for $ 8 million …and what does it spend it on

Proto – The second coming

Just a quick post to see if anyone attended, and what they thought. I’ve been looking through the ones that made it, and reviewed the Internet ones over on my blog, and web apps like routeguru, were simply awesome.

Having said that, I was a bit disappointed by the small volume, and also the quality, but since I have a biased view, am interested to know what others think, and in addition would like to get in touch with the ones who didn’t get to showcase, I see no reason why blogspace cannot be given to them also.

From a VC point of view, any VC’s who went …thoughts please

Designations and mapping a startup

A few of us were discussing startups, and the point/purpose of a designation arose, and what it actually meant in a startup.
So far in life I have been a Founder, Co-founder, CEO, CTO, Vice president, Chief product Officer, Chief of Business Strategy,Executive Vice president, Director, Founding member, Advisor, Board Advisor, and a few other names I am sure I have been called 🙂 The only one I haven’t been is a CFO and COO, both of which seem to make little sense in a startup.

Anyhow the point being, irrespective of these titles, the role (except for 1 or 2) has remained the same, get the damn idea, convert into a business and make some money. I have done the same job in all, i.e build a business/team which delivers.

Which brings me onto the second point, when you have a designation in a startup, does it actually mean anything, who actually makes the decision in a startup. How when you sell/discuss with a startup do you know if you are talking to the correct person, a CEO maybe the one with a rich dad, he may have no idea about business, and COO, maybe just the second person in the team, but operations wise, no clue.

Are there better ways to actually designate startup teams ?, is it better to have no designations?, and does having designations too early cause team problems, imagine your friend is the COO, but 1 year down the line can not deliver, then what?, and why should the founder always be the CEO, at what point should he not? I know VC’s have their take on this, and will ask CEO’s to move aside, BUT what if their is no VC, what happens then, what is the criteria for a CEO/COO/CxO in a startup…or are they all on the same page, and should be all called “Startup team”?

Really interested to know how other startups deal with this, and when performance measurements which are done in fully fledged companies should come into play.

Why are startups boring…in India

At the risk of being accosted on my way home tomorrow, and also risking it all on my first post on this blog. I have a question, Why are/do people find startup’s of no interest in India?

The question is probably not that straight forward, simply because they maybe of no interest because no one knows about them. But here’s the scenario, A new idea launches in the valley, it suddenly breaks into the blogsphere, users start to us, users in India get attracted pass the word word, and voila we all start using myspace, orkut whatever.

Now assume this happened down in Bangalore, budding entrepreneurs risk life and limb , build it and then…wait, emails, calls, tell a few friends, still who cares, who one, how will they, the people who talk, don’t want to talk, why should they?

You can ask all the journos in the world (bloggers excused :-)), but they are not interested unless they can recognize a name, or you can include the word Crores in your budget or revenue stream…why is that?

In a startup the entrepreneur takes a risk, the VC takes a risk…I guess we need a few more risk takers in the mass media. Correction, we need alot more risk takers in the mass media…just maybe someone will realize that some people want to read stories other that Reliance, Tata and Bharti.

To me the ecosystem is not just money + startups, PR is crucial. Example in point Proto been doing alot top get coverage…how many people know about it.