Author Archive for Jaspreet

India’s Hottest Startups

Some people may find it annoying, but I think I must write about this.

Almost a month back, I received an Email from NEN for participating in the  hottest startup contest. I looked at the website and was impressed by the participation. What was annoying was the classification of a “startup”. I could see companies founded in 2003 with 70+ employees nominated by NEN with expert rating 8+ ??

Today I was planing to fill the form sent by NEN and suddenly I see an email from an unknown “startup” -

 I, on behalf of my company, request you to find few minutes out of your busy schedule and vote us for Tata NEN Hottest Startups 2008 contest. Your vote matters!

The TATA NEN Startups Awards are the first ever people’s choice Awards to recognize the highest-potential startups in India: young companies with great potential to grow; with the ability to change their industries;  companies that will create jobs and drive economic growth.

You can vote a***.com online at http://www.hotteststartups.inviewandvote.do?method=fetch&businessFn=viewandvote&startupId=2**

…. More SPAM <snip>

CEO and Chairman …
XYZ

And I swear to God, I hate spams. Specially from a CEO and on a Sunday morning …

IMO, this raises some questions -

  1. What distinguishes a “startup” from a “businesses”. Can a new Kirana shop call itself a startup ?
  2. Is “People’s Choice” genuinely a good thing or just means of involving people and promoting spam ?
  3. Shouldn’t mentorship be an important part and motivation factor for such competitions ?
  4. Is cash rewards a good thing to offer. I can see Eureka has it, But I also feel that it again leads the BPlan makers to project arbitrary stuff on paper ?
  5. Shouldn’t entrepreneurs be judged by entrepreneurs and not “respected jury” from some college or MNC ?

Jaspreet

The case of SonimTech – And lessons we can learn

( Some parts of this post may not be totally accurate, I got the info from google and a senior Sonim employee)

” Sonim Technologies (www.sonimtech.com) was founded somewhere between 1999-2000, with a vision to provide Push-to-Talk (PTT) platform over VOIP over major phones. The market was large enterprise sales force which can use PTT to call any colleague. The fund size raised was about $80M. “

The company hired the best talent in VOIP and mobile platform. It spent almost 3 year, building a state-of-the-art VOIP platform. The main challenge was low bandwidth and computation power available to mobiles (back then). They finally launched an almost perfect PTT solution in 2003-2004.

Almost same time or an year later, other phone vendors like Nokia and Skype came up with alternate technologies to achieve the same :(

Sonim tried the best to sell this stuff to enterprises and changed the CEO twice … no luck. They started selling handhelds bundled with their PTT stack … no luck.

Finally they got a break with a large healthcare firm in 2005-06 and started selling two-way VOIP communication stack in PTT solution (skype and Nokia are one-way on mobiles). They made some decent money (between 2-5M).

Then the Sonim product management started asking the customers some “must have” features and got one more prominent reply – ruggedness.

In the next handset, they rubber padded the entire circuit and body … and to their shock and serprise the phone started selling only because of its ruggedness !!!  Now they have exhausted almost 80M, dumped PTT stack (as primary feature), rebranded the website …  and selling just – Rugged Mobiles :)

Moral of Story -

  1. Test the market well, before you start …
  2. Build dirty build fast
  3. Ask your customers …. and be open for change
  4. Be persistent and patient

The Druvaa Story – III

Since the beginning, i have been totally open about my venture. I have openly talked about VCs, good guys and most importantly the idiotic mistakes i made.

This is just an extension of the same. It may pi** off some people, but don’t think i can write an unbiased post otherwise. Just Throw it back on me if you don’t like my statements.

Druvaa won the Indian Entrepreneurial Challenge 2008. Some mistakes i made in the journey + some suggestions  -

1. We tried to make software delta better and cheaper

This is a good  strategy, but then you should really know how to execute it well. In fact that should be your startup’s key strengths.

We made Druvaa Replicator – a ultra-cool server replication product, which was a better and cheaper alternative. We started selling it and got funded. But, we soon realized that, selling it would be a good profitable business, but not worth a startup. We debated for a while and decided that we will in future only make sales-killers not sales-enablers.

And hence we changed the business plan, and came up with the idea of second product – Druvaa inSync. (We are now pushing same tech to both the products.)

2. We played the feature game

I would get totally angry and frustrated when someone compared me on features with the competitor’s product. To “compete” better, we worked out a BIG product feature release plan. But, we soon realized that “features” are for big companies to fight and spend time/money on.

A startup should just focus on those few USPs which would just “kill” your competition’s sales pitch. One good feature which would force the competition to shut up or drop prices.

 3. Those smart looking VCs

Just like startups complain about non-existence of “startup ready” talent pool in India. I guess VCs also have same problem, but they aren’t open about it. Else, you wont see such a large pool of less experienced MBA grads working for VC firms.  They scan business plans like job resumes and ask you to get back with crazy numbers.

I guess when you approach a VC, after you have pitched your story please politely ask him about his/her background. And if it looks like a mismatch, politely move on like you do with fat blind dates :)

4. When they say no, You say  Next

Learn from beggars at the red-light signal, use law of averages. Don’t waste too much time on customer or VCs which make a face at you. Learn from the experience, ask him how can your improve and move on.

 5. Position your product well.

(this may sound disturbing to a few)  Learn from the hookers – They stand where the market is. Package it well. Look distinct, so that the customer notices. Make the customer come and bargain. And make a sale, even when the customer would have never budgeted for it.

Position your product well. You have limited time and money to buy acquire a new customer.

  6. Believe in your story

There was a gathering in a village to pray for the rains .. and only kid came with an umbrella.

When in trouble just trust your team and work hard.

I welcome comments and help of all kinds :)

10x Faster Enterprise PC Backup

Value Proposition

  1. 10 times faster PC backups with 90% reduction in bandwidth and storage utilization.
  2. Never lose a file. Ever – Timeline based, from the past Restores.

Where its useful ?

  1. Remote backups – low bandwidth scenarios like – remote-office/off-site backup, traveling user backups
  2. Local backup – Savings in time and storage space.
  3. Bare-Metal Restore – Solution is best suited for fast and efficient bare-metal (OS+data) restores.

 How are we doing this ?

Enterprise PC data is increasing at a rate of 40% annually. And within organizations, more than 80% of this PC data (emails/documents) is common between users. This is also validated by Gartner Report (Mar 2008) and MS Report (SIS and its effects in Microsoft).

Druvaa inSync enterprise PC backup solution uses advanced data de-duplication technology called – “SendUnique” to identify duplicate data before the backup starts. It checks with the backup server if the data (file/email) being backed up has already been backed up by any other user and then backs up only unique data. This boosts backup speed by up to 10 times and reduces bandwidth and storage usage by 90%. The fingerprinting used is powerful enough to figure out even same paragraphs between two documents.

Example: HR sends same email to 1000 employees, If one guy backs up, 999 would skip it during backup.

User Experience

This is totally transparent to the user, all he can see is a reduced backup time, which is even more critical for traveling and off-site based employees. While restoring he can see a timeline view of all his backed up data. He can choose any date:time to restore entire data from the past !

 Other Business Use cases

This is a truly unique concept and can be extended to PDA and server backup as well.

Yes, we filed two patents to protect this IP :)

More information

  1. Animated Demo
  2. De-duplication explained
  3. Product Features
  4. Benchmarks
  5. Background of De-duplication (and attempts made by others).

Beta is available for downloads. The product is priced $35/Laptop/annum and free for SOHO/Startups.

I would be interested in knowing how you think about the idea and product.

Some Humor

A bit of Humor. I am writing coz i have some time, and this site has a humor section … and i don’t own a blog (yet) to backlink.

You are reading, possibly because you also have some time. Nice, but then don’t complain. Even VCs read humor section these days (yes, i have heard).

Because of extensive traveling i  don’t own a house anymore, and currently putting up with a close friend. The maid of the house was asked by my friend’s mother to start cleaning the my room (which was vacant for some time now), and which she always used to “forget”. And if reminded, used to give lousy excuses like … someone died or so_and_so in close relation getting married.

We both were quite annoyed, and suddenly Geni.com came to my mind. I asked my aunt to casually ask the maid for her entire family tree, and we sat down and added all the details to Geni. Now, whenever someone got married or died, we just used to update the tree.

The fun started couple of days back, when an old chacha(uncle) who had expired peacefully two weeks back, suddenly got excited to get married on sunday. And old aunt of age 60 gave birth to kid today. Crazy.

Moral of the story: I find it quite amazing how tools like twitter/geni are being used.

Startup And Marketing

Hi,

I guess i am a novice is this field and would like to throw a few questions at the community -

( I understand that answers to these questions may differ between different business types)

1. How much budget do you guys keep aside for just marketing (Pre/Post revenue) ? Please mention type of business.

2. Does web marketing/SEO generate positive sales leads ? I find most of the SEO guys unethical and spammers, and very annoying when they post about your company link in irrelevant blog articles.

3. Whats your take on print media, and how effective is that for positive leads?

4. Practically what worked better for you – google-adwords/ banner at some website ?

5. Any innovative ways you used to get positive coverage ?

Jaspreet

Druvaa inSync

Druvaa launched a new Enterprise Laptop Sync solution called – Druvaa inSync. And within 4 weeks of the launch (of version 1.1), initial response and order books are looking good.

Idea – Fast, simple, secure synchronization for Laptops to an central enterprise server over LAN/VPN/WAN. The inSync client software monitors changes on configured folders and syncs up automatically when the connects to network, securely over a specified bandwidth. Other features

Target – Enterprises.

Presentation -

Future Key Differentiator (ver 2.0) – “Infinite versions” (continuous data protection) – user can go back any previous date/tag and see data “back then” OR a search of file, shows how it looked on various dates.

Evaluate
http://www.druvaa.com/products/insync_evaluate.html

We are thinking of putting it free (of cost) for 50 clients. And charge when users want enterprise support.

Some questions

1. Did you like it ?

2. Would specially like to hear back from startups which tried this product under our startup and open source initiative.
3. Can this model scale for consumers, where a users sync 2 GB free and 10 centrs/GB after that. Yes, i have heard and tries www.mozy.com , www.idrive.com and IMO -

a) inSync stands appart as a solution

b) “infinite versions” and cost can be a key differentiator

c) Experience says, storage is a big enough market for 100 companies like this.

PS: I am not able to embed the slideshare presentation well :(

The Druvaa Story – II

[ I was planing a small musing and then saw a post from Sumeet, so thought of completing it. ]

Almost two months back, Druvaa hit its lowest … and merely 1 month from our first few paid deployments we were holding heads in hands with no clue how to proceed further. Low on resources, we could feel our holding capacity blowing up. But, luckily we did what we do best – “Worked on it”. Seriously, persistence is _the_ most underrated attribute of entrepreneurship.

We are now hopefully out of the situation and working 24×7 to achieve upcoming targets.

I would like to point out some the mistakes we made as a team. I believe learning from others mistakes is better than learning from their power packed success recipes. These points are _not_ directly pointed at any individual

1. There are these 4 dimensions which every startup should follow like a polar graph – People, Market, Product, Captital,

We knew this rule, but probably failed to apply it … ..We over-engineered the product .. missed some market essential features, were late to raise money and approached wrong people. Never ever loose focus from customer/consumers and keep it simple. Cut any feature, any piece of code, marketing effort which doesn’t suit 80% of the customers/consumers you are directly interacting with. Blow this horn every now and then in front of your team.

2. We quit our jobs before we started, but left of some commitments alive ……

Once you are reaching the summit your oxygen supply goes low and so does your holding capacity. And I guess, it becomes extremely important to let go any extra burden you are carrying.

Quit all jobs and promises. Say your wife and parents a goobye and donate the kid.

3. We got got some wrong people on board …

The founding team should have that killer startup bug everythig else is secondary. And it never takes 20,30 or 100 people to make a product .. Just 3/4 good ones.

4. We were Too late to raise the money …

Always overstock money and good people. You never know when you are going to need them.

And now, a few tips which i think worked for me … i am not going to put any claims on them -

  1. Get the first round of startup fund to reach your first milestone yourself.
  2. Prepare a business plan which explains a your business in simplest form. Get that money before you need it.
  3. Talk to your consumers.
  4. When in trouble, work hard.

I have seen people making millions of dollars making use of nails of dead animals. I am just selling software. :)

I learned quite a lot from this community, send me an email if you think i can be of any help. And a small initiative to give back.

Some Generic Entrepreneurial Questions

Hi, i am facing some generic problems and i think many of us out here should be facing the same …. so i thought i might put up a post regarding the same and attract some wise answers.

My customers are enterprises, so my viewpoint and questions revolve around them. Feel free to give generic answers …

1. Website management – Whats’ the easiest way to manage and scale a website with more of less static pages. I found wordpress to be an overkill and wiki an over simplification. In wordpress you have to remove/turn-off all the extra features which are blog centric and wiki’s flat URL hierarchy kills a lot of fun.

2. Online suppor system and Knowledge base (KB)- I found no good (esp. Open Source/Free in code or cost) solutions for managing customer centric issues or knowledge articles. Any suggestions. I can foresee in very near future that, KB and support and licenses if not centralized can become a mess. I just found JIRA and Confluence good, but seems like even they are not very much customer centric and costly. BTW, I use trac for internal development and project management.

Also how do you handle customer calls. Its easy now giving customers just one mobile number, but don’t see it scaling.

3. Open Source: Any indian companies here, with good experience of utilizing the Open Source development model, not just PR ?

As i understand, to utilize the benefits of open source, you should have a community which also gives back in source or opinion. Rest is just PR.

4. Enterpreneur Meetings : Do you guys meet up some place where VCs are not there ?

I am not particularly happy the way these conferences by nasscon/Tie are organized. They charge a big sum + travel and usually there are just 1/2 speakers ready to share and interact. VCs and Speakers are praising what they have done “right” in past and attendees are just busy pleasing them. Now it may be just me feeling this way …

IMO, Good food involves much more than knowledge of “good recipes”. I guess you should know the possible mistakes/gochas as well. I have done atleast 1001 mistakes, and would like to share them and learn from others.

So, if all those who have done in the past and all those attempting the same can get together dumping there company tags behind, outside a five star hotel … I think it would be great !!
Opinions ??

Google – Android Open Mobile Platform

PC sales in Japan have been sinking for the past 3 quarters and 40% of Japs are using their mobile to reply emails. (related news)

I guess while the world is moving away from heavy weight desktops and seems like no one wants vista … I think google’s announcement for Android as Open Mobile platform just came in time. (see news and video)

And with that opportunities for entrepreneurs to create something new in Google’s Android Developer Challenge with $10M prizes.

Jaspreet