The Entrepreneur in a Venture Capital World

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The Entrepreneur in a Venture Capital World

Imagine a food connoisseur has a vision of opening a restaurant. Selling a carefully crafted list of delicacies, whose preparation has taken years to refine. This aficionado has thought of everything. The cutlery that would highlight the preparations, what the entrance to the restaurant would be like, the kind of chefs he or should would need. Everything.

Now imagine, you, as a customer, visit that restaurant. No guarantees you’ll like the food there. Or you might have preferred a better selection on the food menu. Now let’s say you, and your friends or family who have accompanied you, get to have a say in what the menu should be. Just because you’ll be paying the bill. Or simply because a local bank or relative bankrolled the entrepreneur’s dreams, they want to have a say in what food should be served.

Isn’t this the case with the venture capital investment ecosystem? They take a seemingly great idea, imagined by a dreamer. And after some funding, in an urge to “scale” it, they put it on steroids. Often at the cost of the original dream and vision. And with the VC community, their return timelines are shrinking, so their portfolio mutation is growing rapidly. They don’t care about profits. As long as there is sufficient sales and buzz, they’re on track. As opposed to keeping fund and investment choices a little more practical. So as to build a more, bottom-heavy business. On a steady foundation.

In a way, it would compare with a risk in the investment ecosystem called Maturity Mismatch Risk. This is a capital management situation that can disrupt business cash flows. It’s seen when assets held to meet future liabilities are not well aligned from a maturity time point of view. Short term assets should deployed for projects with quick returns. Otherwise, they could cause a financial crunch in the short term. ‘Entrepreneur-Investor’ relationship could be looked at in a similar way. Where an investor who is only there for a few years, sometimes changes the entrepreneurs long term strategy to suit their investment goals.

Now this might seem to contradict my VC related post from earlier this week. One where I said that the VC space seems to have more left-brained, finance, cold-numbers people, and less right-brained, creative ones who would appreciate a good, world-changing vision and back it up in a way that it really changes the world permanently. However, they are two sides of the same coin. Business models do take the world forward. But that doesn’t mean every other potential idea must first blow up with over-funding and investor control, and then explode! And all the while, the disinterested, minority stake-holding promoter is busy with other startups he or she has invested in.

Imagine a great idea and promoter being backed by an investor who actually sees the impact of the idea from the promoter’s perspective. That means, not just scaling an idea, but rather, letting it grow to have the impact it was intended to. Then maybe some of the great entrepreneurs wouldn’t actively shun investors and patiently bootstrap their way to world-change.

It isn’t just about the idea. The entrepreneur’s vision of how the idea pans out matters just as much.

I happened to see this post on LinkedIn when I was writing this post. While decisions like come on one end of the world-change spectrum, a lot of venture funded companies aspire to be on the other. In that they would like to achieve a strong global presence with the least marketing spend. And most importantly, make astronomical stakeholder returns. For the VC community, the ideal place lies somewhere between the two ends of this spectrum. Because in many cases, the entrepreneur sets out on a well-intentioned mission to fix a huge problem for a customer base.

Image source: link

Again, it isn’t just about the idea. The entrepreneur’s vision of how the idea pans out matters just as much.

The title image is that of a vulture. When I worked in the venture capital space, people sometimes referred to the community as ‘vulture capital’. Nowadays, looking at some investment decisions and entrepreneurs who focus more on personal investments rather than their own ventures, looks like vulture capital is contagious.

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Number Fifty-Four…The Bike with a Bamboo Core

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Number Fifty-Four…

…The bike with a bamboo core!

What does it take for innovation to be possible? Simply, just the intention. You need to want it badly enough to make it possible.

I happened to see this online a long time ago. I am still in awe of it though. People in Ghana find themselves in unfavourable temperatures, with long distances to go, but with limited connectivity. But rather than endure, with some external help, they designed bicycles built with a bamboo frame. They could easily source the other parts, which were standard to regular bikes. This innovation however, helped build a bike at a fraction of the cost of the ones normally available.

And I’ve found that regular bikes these days, corrode easily, and require considerable maintenance. These bamboo bikes however, seem to be easier to maintain. They can also be built for different sizes and for different applications (carrier, etc.). A green, economical idea that addresses so many needs. In times of compulsive and impulsive purchases all over the world, this is just the kind of impressive and refreshing innovation the world needs.

Don’t miss the video at the end.

A standard bike: source

A bike with a carrier and a carrier support frame: source

Image: source

 

You can read more about it here: link

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Vulnerability of Tech Processes and Human Decisions

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Vulnerability of Tech Processes and Human Decisions
Here are two interesting incidents I came across online in the last week. One, about a seemingly harmless vulnerability in an online service’s process. The other, a possible vulnerability in human decisions in a human-dependent, traditional business.
First of, a French literary buff, conducted an interesting experiment. It was to check his hypothesis, that the standards of publishing have fallen significantly. Writer Serge Volle, took 50 pages of one of the novels of a Nobel laureate Claude Simon, and sent it to 19 French publishers as his original work. Interestingly, 12 of the publishers flatly rejected it. The others never replied.
While one could argue that publishers might have felt the content or style of this 1962 works, was not relevant for modern readers. However, one could also say that if these people can’t identify quality, how right are we to trust them with deciding if your works are good enough for readers or not.
You can read about the incident here: link
The other incident is even more amusing. An industry colleague of mine in the Design Thinking space shared this one on a group. A writer with an unusual name, Oobah (Butler), once upon a time, used to take small fees from local restaurants to write fake, glorifying reviews about them on TripAdvisor, even if he had never eaten at those restaurants.
And this seemingly huge chink in the TripAdvisor process, got him thinking if he could better himself. And he did. He decided to list his messy shed as a restaurant on TripAdvisor, and then made it London’s top-rated restaurant, without having served a single dish. How bloody cool is that?!
TripAdvisor folks later justified, saying their effort is largely channeled around eliminating fake reviews. Nobody in their right sense would create, or benefit from creating a restaurant that doesn’t exist. But it still is a gaping hole in the process.
Point being, as we continue to be wowed by the latest of apps that simplify our lives dramatically, teams at those companies need to be constantly aware of how their simple-to-use service can be abused.
You can read about the hilarious ‘Taking TripAdvisor on a Trip’ article here: link

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We’re Ready. So Why Not Be Bold and Aim High?

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Two decades ago, it used to take quite a while before global technology and content was even commonly talked about in India. Much longer before it was accessible or affordable to us.

Today, India is home to numerous foreign manufacturing plants that cater to global demand. It is also home to several global R&D facilities. And we as consumers, are at par with the world, quickly becoming aware of, and easily adopting global technology and content. Especially when it comes to smartphones and mobile apps launched universally in multiple languages.

And yet, we Indians don’t seem to aim too high when it comes to our own entrepreneurial dreams. A bulk of us follow tried-and-tested business ideas. We seem glaringly averse to radical innovation; only a few daring to think beyond what everyone else is. From ‘another’ eCommerce site to ‘another’ aggregator, most business ideas are mediocre at best. What’s worse, there is little focus on the actual and incremental value-add, or the differentiation that these businesses are aimed at creating.

Delightful customer experiences too, remain more a mechanical compulsion and less a natural and genuine concern. It is also probably why Amazon has edged past Flipkart. Because Amazon understood customer needs and experiences in a foreign country better than our own folks could. I believe one of the fatal flaws at Flipkart, was that the founders should have been busy understanding how their customers consumed the service. To figure out areas to improve and delight. Instead, they were taking in too much money and too busy investing in other startups before their startup itself had arrived. It’s easy to see through Binny Bansal’s justification philosophy of “because I look at it as giving back.” To draw a parallel from flight safety instructions, ‘you should always fix your own oxygen mask on before helping children, elders, or others needing assistance.’ Let’s just hope it is still not too late for Flipkart to turn around, as Sandeep Singhal of Nexus Venture Partners stated, a few months ago.

Information and technology in themselves keep us at par with the world. So what stops us from dreaming beyond them at what’s next? And what stops us from setting global benchmarks in genuine and consistent customer delight?

We need to start imagining beyond what is obvious. We need to start understanding more than what data and analytics tells us. We need to be more in touch with customer behaviour and needs. We need to innovate.

That is the only way we can ever come a step closer to being the best in the world.

(updated on 17 Jan. 2017)

Why Are Americans consistently more Innovative and Entrepreneurial?

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“What makes America so much more entrepreneurial and innovative than India?” That question has been in my head for many years now.

Obvious recent contributions including FacebookTesla, and the immortal giants, GoogleAmazon and Apple come first to mind. But the world we live in stands witness to enduring American inventions – the airplane, credit card, transistorlaser, the computer and internet; with hundreds of inventions in-between.

Firstly, contrary to popular belief, the US is not the most innovative country in the world. They ranked 5th in 2015’s Global Innovation Index by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Results by other bodies too put them in a similar ranking.

Two factors seem to distinguish them from the rest. They are perennially innovative across all fields of work. And, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in the veins of its masses. For nearly two centuries, it has been one of the most fertile environments for creativity and innovation. This has resulted in the most brilliant minds from the world over to steadily gravitate to it. To Innovate. To Create.

YouTube (albeit American), is filled with the ingenious creations of their average people. Remote-controlled cars, planes, and numerous vehicles and even other unimaginable contraptions built by average individuals like you and me. What makes them impressive is that they aren’t built out of a kit, but using even scrap or materials found around the house. And their customer experience practices have delighted and inspired the world, and set global benchmarks.

So while we can brush-off some inventions as exceptions; what explains the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the common American?

In my quest to find something that the average American might knowingly or otherwise be doing differently to induce this trait, I quickly concluded it had nothing to do with their super-sugar coated cereals or microwave dinners.  😀

Heredity too didn’t seem like the answer, given the large mix of world population that goes in and out of the US. So how do they maintain a consistent level of creativity even with the influx of foreigners? Is something happening in the background, that nurtures creativity levels?

‘What else are they doing, that subtly but consistently fuels creativity?’

I felt the answer might lie in the power of the right brain. We know the right brain is the seat of creativity. And which in turn controls, and is stimulated by, the left side of our body. So are Americans doing something differently, that might be stimulating innovation?

Left-handed people for one, have been known to have a higher probability of being more creative than right-handed ones. Quoting someone anonymous on Quora, “Lefties have a greater chance of being a genius- or having a high IQ. Researchers aren’t sure why, but those who are left handed seem to make up a disproportionately large part of those who are highly intelligent. For example, 20% of all Mensa members are left-handed.”

But they comprise only about 10% of the world population.

So, assuming a normal distribution of left and right handed people across the world, 10% Americans aren’t conclusive proof of their general creativity. Even if that 10% included the left-handed John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Bob Dylan, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tina Fey. Because, for each of them, there have been other innovators, creative people and entrepreneurs who are right-handed. So while left-handedness might give one an edge, what explains its considerable prevalence in the other 90% too?

Still stuck on the right brain and the left side of the body, there seemed to be sufficient studies concluding that when right-handed people use their left-hand more, it tended to improve general creativity. To what degree, is a great topic for a debate at another time. But if using the left side more fuels creativity, is there something Americans do differently than Indians, that might help?

Then a possibility struck. Can their driving give them some edge in being more creative? As absurd as it might sound, read me out.

About 65% of the world population today, lives in countries that follow a right-hand traffic rule (i.e. where you drive on the right side of the road, and oncoming traffic moves on your left), as opposed to 35% in countries that follow a left-hand traffic rule. India, influenced by the British, follows a left-hand traffic rule.

Right-hand traffic countries tend to have left-hand-drive cars, and in turn, use their left hands more, especially for continuous adjustments of the steering wheel. Opportunity to rest the elbow on the side of the door makes that a preferred hand from comfort and proximity perspectives.

But that would mean that 65% of the world should on average, be at least slightly more creative than the others.

So then the only remaining variable would be –how many people in each of those countries drive regularly? That brought me to the vehicular density of countries. Here too, the US seems to have the edge (whether for the good or not). It has the 3rd highest motor vehicle density in the world; that’s 797 vehicles per 1000 people! The first two spots are taken by San Marino and Monaco. Both of whom seem irrelevant to our discussion, given that these city-states have populations under 40,000 people. This makes the US the largest nation with the highest vehicular density. Contributors are the lack of a developed public transport systems outside of major cities, and cheap fuel.  This results in Americans driving cars for everything from buying groceries from nearby, to traveling to other cities and states.

So is it possible, that frequent use of the left-hand while driving, in a country with the highest motor vehicle density, contributes to their innovation and creativity in general?

Honestly, I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if driving of left-hand-drive cars is ‘the’, or even ‘a’ contributing factor at all, to explain their creativity, innovation or entrepreneurial spirit.

However, in the absence of other conclusive factors, doesn’t it beg another look?

 

left_right_brain-wallpaper-1920x1080

Image: source

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Think A-Team: The Latest Services Menu for Startups

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Think A-Team: The Latest Services Menu for Startups

Hi Entrepreneurs!

Late last year, I started a service called ‘Think A-Team’, to bring human-centered design strategy & other relevant services in a transparent manner to aspiring entrepreneurs & enterprising startups in India and abroad, to help them grow faster and better.

One of the key This has been possible by using available technology to considerably reduce everything from physical meetings, total execution time, and even paper (except Post-it notes!). The ‘Think A-Team’ website also makes it easy to request and pay for services.

Towards this effort, I have had the privilege of working with some really interesting companies on their growth journey. Including some where the client and me have never met in person!

I am now confident that this model works. Going forward, my focus will continue to be on making the services increasingly effective. As also, they will be relevant & accessible to needs of young, innovative companies in the years to come.

Below is the updated list of services I am offering via Think A-Team. Get in touch today to request one or more!

Do note that limited assignment slots are available every month. So call or email if you would like to reserve one.

I also request you to kindly spread the word to any startups that you feel would benefit from these services.

Thank you!

Think

A Rural Electric Ride

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Hemalatha-Annamalai- Ampere Vehicles

A Rural Electric Ride

While a lot of us are busy in our world of self-indulgence, it’s reassuring to know there are Indians like Ratan Tata, who’d go the distance with regard to businesses that positively impact to one or more segments of the population.

I’m speaking about the Nano in particular here, the world’s cheapest car that was inspired by the concern Mr. Tata had for a number of Indian families that traveled with their spouse and children on two-wheelers, and the risk that posed to their safety.

Now I’ve written a few posts mentioning the Nano, though I don’t think I’ve written enough about that business and engineering marvel.

Anyway, here’s a relatively unheard of company in the field of ‘affordable’ AND ‘electric’ cycles, scooters & load carriers from India.

Hemalatha Annamalai of Coimbatore, the founder of Ampere Vehicles Pvt. Ltd., has been making affordable electric vehicles since 2008. What’s better, is that she has a focus on rural transportation. And it gets better. She is backed by Kris Gopalakrishnan, one of the co-founders of Infosys. And none other than the original king of low-cost vehicles in India, Mr. Ratan Tata himself.

May there be more entrepreneurs like her.

Read more about her and her vehicles here: link

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Think A-Team: For the Design & Strategy needs of Young Businesses

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Think A-Team: For the Design & Strategy needs of Young Businesses

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Image: link

Hi, all you enterprising entrepreneurs,

I am pleased to give to you, ‘Think A-Team’, a growth partnering service for all your business strategy needs.

The intention behind it, is to help you make your business challenges a little less challenging. And to work with you on growing your business faster & better.

The services I have selected to offer, are a result of nearly a decade of close working with entrepreneurs and young businesses. While the portfolio of services will evolve with time, what will remain constant is reliability, effectiveness, accessibility and affordability to young businesses that have had few, if any options as far as growth partners go.

Think A-Team

Give it a try today! And I’ll look forward to working with some of you enterprising folks on building your businesses for you.
Have an awesome weekend!!

R,
Shrutin

Look forward to connecting with y’all on LinkedIn and/or on Twitter.

Bubble Telescope

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Bubble Telescope

Is there a bubble forming in the Indian startup scene?

hubble_in_orbit1

The Hubble Space Telescope

Is the Indian startup space fast becoming a bubble? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

At the Goldman Sachs technology conference earlier this year, leading venture capitalist of Benchmark, Bill Gurley expressed concerns to attendees, of a possible bubble, caused by some over-valued startups in the US. His concerns were directed at the young companies that had almost magically reached over a billion dollars in valuation, which according to him, was largely fueled by investor fear of missing out (or FOMO, as the VC community knows it). He said that investors were making investments of sizes previously reserved for listed companies. Aptly, he said “a founder pursuing a $40 million IPO offering takes the process more seriously today than a founder raising $400 million in private capital.”

Another reason for his concern, was the presence of public market investors like hedge funds, etc., investing in the space earlier catered to only by venture capitalists. Bill isn’t wrong in saying that hedge funds, mutual funds, etc., have traditionally had a different investment appetite and strategy. FOMO, clubbed with this new blend of different investor classes and styles of investing, is perhaps what is fueling his growing anxiety of a possible bubble. Benchmark has funded numerous industry-altering young companies since 1995, including Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Uber, and around 250 other startups.

The Wall Street Journal’s Billion Dollar Startup Club saw at least 73 young private companies valued over USD $1 billion this year, compared to only 41 last year. Nearly half the investors in some of the most invested startups too, were institutional and strategic investors, with Tiger Global (TG is an international firm that manages hedge and private equity funds) leading the pack with 12 investments in private billion-dollar companies. TG also raised the most money last year, $4 billion to be more specific, amounting to nearly 12% of all venture capital raised in 2014. (source)

Coming back to India, should this over-investing and over-valuing in US startups be of any concern to our booming Indian startup scene that is currently fueled by online travel, e-commerce retail and logistics, classifieds, online food ordering, radio taxis, etc.? Let’s find out.

Firstly, one of those aggressive investors that Bill Gurley mentioned, Tiger Global to be specific, is also the most aggressive investor in Indian startups. In 2015 alone, TG disclosed investments in over 17 companies, investing in rounds totaling to about $1 billion. Some of its investments include a $150 million round (series H round!) with other investors in Quikr, India’s largest online and mobile classifieds portal. Then there was a series D round of $ 100 million in Shopclues, an e-commerce portal. We could argue that the exact investment exposure by Tiger Global is not known, and could be somewhat small. Or that perhaps these startups are actually worth the millions or billions they are said to be worth.

Tiger Global, among others, may have helped inflate a startup bubble in the US. But that is a significantly different market than India, with a more mature and aggressive investor community. Therefore, a race to get a piece of what is hopefully the next Google or Uber in the US might have led investors to try and outbid each other with sweeter deals to promising startups. But is TG’s strategy or tendency to overvalue being carried to India too?

In February,  a reasonably well funded ‘mom and baby’ products portal, BabyOye, also a Tiger Global funded company, was acquired by Mahindra Retail for an undisclosed sum; in the hope of boosting their own brands Mom & Me, and Beanstalk, that have not been too strong online. BabyOye raised $12 million in 2013 from investors, partly used to acquire another company (Hoopos.com). After an earlier round of funding in 2011, BabyOye spent extravagantly on TV advertising using a former movie star in the ads.

Mahindra’s acquisition to gain online strength seemed concerning, given that such a large group felt the need to acquire a small company with only 1500 followers on Twitter (now up at 2003 followers), to bring in the capability of selling online, even if the acquisition didn’t cost them much. And at a time when a lot, if not most of those products were already available on Amazon and Flipkart. Did that make good business sense, or is e-commerce happening so fast that even the heavyweights of Indian industry are feeling the pressure to jump on this bullet train?

US’s popular classifieds service, Craigslist, only had one known investor ever; eBay. And that too not for too long. And was Craigslist popular enough? More than it perhaps ever expected. In comparison, a similar service in India, Quikr, has raised upwards of $350 million so far, and we can only wonder why. To buy and sell other companies, maybe?

And just then, in comes news of a possible acquisition of the nearing-a-billion-in-valuation Housing.com, by none other than Quikr. If the acquisition does happen, it might be a progressive step for Quikr. But it also leaves me wondering about the vision of these startup promoters. With growth strategies and business direction that seems to be going all over the place. In many ways, this startup mania is turning out to be more of an exit ground for investors, rather than an effort to give the world the next great company that’s made in India.

Looking at the magnitude of investments themselves, a layman could argue that ‘the more the funding, the better’; after all, is there anything like too much money? Or for that matter, even a sky- higher valuation. Imagine the pride and respect in your social circles when they read in bold, the value of your young company. But venture capital and investing isn’t as simple. If one funding round happens at a significantly high valuation, the next round becomes that much tougher to raise, as does getting a suitable exit for your existing investors. Of the $51 billion worth of private equity deals in India from 2000 to 2008, there have been only around 30% exits, according to a McKinsey and Co. report.

Over-investing in companies brings with it, the tendency to spend it, whether it makes perfect business sense or not. As the world, and more importantly India, is getting increasingly interconnected online and socially, it is worrying to see the amount of money young online businesses are investing into expensive traditional media, with the likes of Amazon’s catchy ad, or Flipkart’s loud and confusing one, everyone’s on TV and on billboards, trying to push their way into the heads of prospective customers.

About 5-8 years ago, it was comparatively tougher for companies to scale. Building capacities, adding servers, fleet, manufacturing capacity, manpower, etc., took a lot more time and more money.

So, while salaries are much higher today, many services and business functions can also be outsourced efficiently. This allows companies to focus on core activities and scale faster. There is the evolution of analytics, contractual manpower, hired CXO’s and everything in-between available. Basically, the seemingly impossible tasks that earlier needed a small army, can now be pulled off with a small team.

All this brings us back to “how do we make sense of the heavy investments into these, still nascent startups?”  And more importantly, will such heavy spends only on marketing guarantee a successful future for these young ventures? And, is any funding being spent on better listening and understanding of customer needs? Or on empathizing with problems customers are currently facing?

The notorious, multi-billion dollar Uber for instance, has an extremely light operating model, asset-light, limited overheads, and is highly scalable. But has it done anything to address woman passenger safety in countries where it operates? Not so far. Even Indian taxi aggregator Meru (2 years older than Uber) had a panic button on the app long before Uber decided to put one there. Uber waited till after unfortunate incidents occurred, before putting a feature that was so logical and obvious. All that funding seemed to be spent on technology and marketing. Then why do customers still shower so much love on services that don’t feel the same way about them?

Between aggressive promoters and aggressive investors, focus has gradually shifted from the customers’ best interest. It now seems to be more about startup and investor’s best interest. Online food ordering businesses too, for example, have built strong websites and apps. And they have been advertising like there’s no tomorrow. But their internal processes remain shockingly primitive. Back in 2008, I had toyed with the idea of starting an online food ordering service, and had listed some concern areas that needed figuring out, in an effort to shape the idea better. While I eventually didn’t pursue it, online food ordering startups today, surprisingly still live with those same problems, despite the advancements that have happened in the interim.

The possible risks of overvalued and over-invested startups are many. From VC firms going bust, to startups not being able to raise the next round of funding. Or for that matter, those being made redundant by other startups. And with every startup that shuts shop, it also affects a large number of other individuals and businesses. Everyone from logistics businesses to small suppliers to even home businesses and employees. Anyone who has come to serve these super-valued startups.

And finally, in an effort to boost entrepreneurship, India has considerably relaxed rules for listing startups in the recent past. But this bold step will take its time to see benefits, especially since there is poor liquidity in this space. And the experience in valuing new age businesses isn’t anywhere near accurate.

The sky-high valuations of startups would make for interesting conversations with friends and a few rounds of beer. However, lack of clarity in funding and growth strategy in these heavyweight startups could be a matter of concern. For young stars of a new and emerging India. And India’s big startup contributions to the world would hopefully be those that are highly profitable and scalable. And most importantly, solely focused on delighting its customers.

Originally posted here: http://yourstory.com/2015/07/startup-bubble/

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Social Media, What Next?

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Hybrids come naturally in most businesses. Hybrid products/ services. The easiest example that comes to mind, is the BMW X6 (something between an SUV and a sedan). I don’t think that particular line has been very popular, though it does look massive, and reasonably cool. A more common hybrid is a mutual fund or similar investment program. Another recent hybrid is the Connected Camera by Samsung. We are surrounded by hybrids.

Hybrids attempt to give you the good of two or more worlds, and unfortunately more often than not,  not the best of those worlds.

Surprisingly, I don’t see any hybrid social media sites yet, that have tried to take a shot at Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (unarguably the top 3 social media sites on the net today) by capturing the good bits from all three.

All three lack certain features, or are an overkill when it comes to certain  features. And they’ve been around long enough for some, if not a lot of us to have started getting bored of them. Here are some of the lacking & overkill features.

Facebook recently added a ton of sections to the Timeline (I know a good number of people who find the Timeline itself way too complicated). Anyway, the new sections include one for movies you’ve watched (bringing to you, the likes of themoviedb, etc.), for books you’ve read (that’s like shelfari or goodreads on FB), for tv shows (phew.!). All in all, overkill.!

LinkedIn’s got a lot missing. It won’t let you add an acquaintance without knowing their mail id. But if you select that person as a friend, it doesn’t complain. Then why the fuss differentiating between everyone from an acquaintance to a long-lost childhood friend? Look at it differently, and I might raise an eyebrow (if I could) if someone I’d just interacted briefly with at a conference added me as a “friend” on LinkedIn. The discussions pages on LinkedIn are just bleeding boring. Plain, dull, and I think its something to do with the layout as well.  Sleep-inducing. I’ve already written enough about my reservations with the endorse feature already.

And a la Twitter, while quite progressive in thought with the ‘all-you-can-do-with-140-chars’, could have been way more useful from an information sharing point-of-view, if the limit was more like, say a paragraph. Because unless you’re at a school chatting with friends or reading one-liners or short jokes off my Twitter page, apart from getting news updates, most of the interesting stuff is still a click-of-a-short-link away. And the click takes you to a big post or news article. I have a view about a lot of things, but it’s difficult to sit them comfortably in 140 chars. Now imagine if you could tweet a short-link along with a short note sharing your views about a certain event or news item. Kind of like a comment on FB. Maybe even have a conversation about it there  with like-minded people. Wouldn’t that make Twitter more interesting?

What I had in mind about a new social media site, is a hybrid that can be used for professional as well as personal purposes. Firstly, because it would be less complicated than managing stuff across 3 or more sites. And because I believe for most of us, our Facebook profiles would be a better reflection of who we are in real life (if you’re extremely formal and uptight, and are more at home on LinkedIn than for FB, that too would reflect easily on FB, right?) Instead of everyone looking all formal and uptight on LinkedIn when they may be just the opposite in real life and on FB. It would even make it more accurate for your colleagues or prospective employers to understand your personality better (of course, they’d only have a limited view), enabling better job fits. LinkedIn is a little too formal, a little lacking and quite boring. Facebook’s alright to stay connected. And Twitter does really well when it comes to communication, but it does feel a little too restrictive.

So if you do plan to create such a site after reading this, I wouldn’t mind 15% of revenues or the venture funding received 😉

Just kidding there, but let me have your thoughts on it. On what next after Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn?

What Next

Social Media images:Courtesy sayingitsocial and DesignBolts