Venture Realty Capital

Venture Realty Capital

Back when I worked in the venture capital space, startups always came seeking a lot of investment. Often far more than they needed. We would sit with ventures we thought had some potential, and during the process, break down the investment needs. Eventually, we would arrive at a number that was close to what we felt they really needed. And that amount would often be far smaller than what they initially sought. In pre-dot-com Silicon valley terms, we removed the Ferrari and frills from the investment sought.

In my current consulting practice, founders sometimes tell me how investors nowadays really shred the business off of anything heavy. How they like to invest only in the brand if that’s possible. Even pushing the business owners to hive manufacturing or anything else even moderately heavy to another business entity. To an entity they don’t invest in, but which might eventually compete with other companies to supply to this brand.

Obviously logical. Except when it’s not. Sometimes, investors might lose clarity and hive off functions that might be critical to the eventual success (or failure) of the venture. And while restricting investment into a lean venture makes financial sense, it often seems greedy from a founder’s point of view.

Investors, even the most aggressive of them, look for anchors. Anything that will help them measure (or value) and hopefully de-risk the investment with reference to their firm’s or internal reference scale. Basically to give them a level of comfort or confidence in the investment opportunity. That’s of course, when they haven’t let blind optimism cloud their decision. Anchors could be anything from it being a venture floated by a seasoned serial entrepreneur, or the founding team bringing in a lot of relevant experience, big name clients already buying from this startup, a patented product in a big emerging market, etc. It could even be a model that has proven itself in another market.

However, in recent times, given the inclination of venture capitalists to invest in startups that are extremely lean, it is a little surprising to find ridiculous amounts of money being pumped in by investors into co-working spaces.

According to Wikipedia, WeWork (now The We Company) managed 10,000,000 square feet (930,000 m2) of office space globally. US-based Industrious has raised $142 million to date. Of that amount, it raised $80 million last year to double its co-working sites in the US to 60. In October last year, India-based Innov8 raised $4 million. It boasted of 4000 seats across 13 centres in domestic cities. The We Company has raised a heart-stopping $12.8 billion till date.

Even if these firms have artificial intelligence doing matchmaking and improving the quality of business networking that happens, which they don’t – it would still not justify the quantum of funding. And certainly not so if they don’t own any of the real estate that they sublet to businesses and solopreneurs.

I just hope all the investors are aware of that before investing. Because without any underlying realty, the investment is all about creating fun work spaces, events and workshops. In some ways, that could be comparable to a nice bar that organizes regular gigs, has a familiar crowd, and, and that is it!
Sure that’s worth a lot, but worth investing $12.8 billion dollars?

In many ways, it feels like a Facebook. Initially fun for users, but as the founders got ridiculously rich, all it served users beyond a reducing benefit of keeping pace with the lives or events family and friends, is be an advanced, high-tech, time-killer.

Is that what WeWork might be too? While giving members a wonderful feel-good environment, is it really serving that purpose well? Even offering a support ecosystem to businesses via these ventures seems like a complicated (and probably not very effective) way to add value.

VC’s have moved away from investing in core assets. Even to the point of stripping the business of anything non-core, including manufacturing. But they are alright with investing boatloads into tech-using real estate companies.

Venture capitalists seem to have traded the “venture” in their names by betting on owned or rented real estate as opposed to their fundamental objective of funding new age ventures. Sounds messy.

If you own, manage or work at a company, and are grappling with a complex challenge or are in need of innovation for growth, get in touch. More here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon &Flipkart.

Built In Your Image

CrystalPlanet : Built In Your Image

When we barely understand fellow humans, do you think AI will?

We encourage people to be objective, and not to be emotionally imbalanced. We even look down on the rare outburst by family or friends. Right?

And there’s a reason for it. Nobody likes someone who is always cranky. However, I wonder if even the rare outbursts or breakdowns by people we know, are really that bad.

For instance, people from smaller towns sometimes tend to be more attuned to their emotional side (by emotional, I don’t mean emotionally imbalanced, but rather, let’s say, ‘more human’ or warm, and also perhaps more easily offended) compared to those living in metros who, given the fast-paced life, often tend to be more disconnected and aloof to most things. Only, I don’t know if the metro way is the absolute right way, or the small town way, wrong.

Attending a lecture by Prof. Yuval Noah Harari seemed to at least slightly reinforce the thought, unless I missed some point.

Prof. Harari spoke of how organisations are and will continue to enhance human capability. And that while that would grow existing or new abilities in us, how it might shrink our emotional side, which in turn could be more detrimental than good. That seemed to explain the fast-paced pursuit in larger cities and our resulting disposition.

So have we, over the decades, even without biotechnology to enhance us, been gradually pushing ourselves to be more analytical at the risk of being cold and indifferent, while simultaneously punishing by isolating those who tend to be more emotional and arguably in turn, ‘more human’?

So while outbursts like road rage are never good, I am sure there are sufficient and more people out there, students, employees and others who are silently fighting their own battles, and each time they resist an outburst or an expression of their thoughts, and instead bottle it up, they perhaps end up doing more damage to themselves than good.

That is one part of the problem.

The other, more concerning part, given the above dilemma of whether we should allow people the occasional outburst without making it look like a forbidden crime, or not; is the fact that we know so little about human behaviour!

Yet we somehow seem to be alright with artificial intelligence being allowed to learn from us. With the possibility that someday there might be AI systems guiding nations about defensive or offensive actions. About how people are or might be, about how situations might pan out, and allowing man to indulge in his affinity for preemptive action.

It might also cause unstoppable actions on the part of AI. Unless we somehow feel optimistic that AI might in fact, help humans understand ourselves and each other better someday.

Because otherwise, it’ll just be like that phrase that went around during the early days of the computer… Garbage in..garbage out.

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If innovation, strategy, problem-solving, customer experience or ideation are areas of interest, you might enjoy reading my book, ‘Design the Future‘.
Ebook available on Amazon and Kobo, and paperbacks across leading online bookstores including Amazon, Flipkart & Infibeam.
If you do buy the book, would appreciate a review on Amazon once you’ve read it.

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Skill or Skin

A racist, I assume, has a more chronic condition of xenophobia, which is dislike of, or prejudice against people from other countries.Because a racist will dislike or prejudice against even fellow citizens of another race.
Despite knowing this, the laws in some developed countries still use terms such as Black and White. Makes one wonder if they’re attempting to fix the problem, or merely formalize it.

And one might even justify the presence of words like Black and White saying a lot of people might be more aware of them, as opposed to things like African American or, all of whatever ‘white’ represents. But that’s where change needs to come. When a government decides not to use words that might continue a trend that too many people over centuries have fought to get rid of.

Even the darkest of Africans won’t be ‘black’, and even the fairest of white earthlings won’t be ‘white’, so if we can’t get rid of such tags just yet, maybe just make them more accurate…Black could be replaced by brown, ….and white by eggshell colour, or if you appreciate irony, ‘Navajo white’?
Equal or fair representation, I’ll admit, might need to be part of practice, so as not to have companies completely avoid potential candidates of a particular race from being a part of them.

But if we humans are developed enough to attempt to psychologically brainwash people of a certain race to force them into mainstream religion in Chinese camps in Xinjiang, are we also the people who in developed countries are incapable of devising ways to change the mindsets of hiring managers towards screening candidates based on skill rather than skin?

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If innovation, strategy, problem-solving, customer experience or ideation are areas of interest, you might enjoy reading my book, ‘Design the Future‘.
Ebook available on Amazon and Kobo, and paperbacks across leading online bookstores including Amazon, Flipkart & Infibeam.
If you do buy the book, would appreciate a review on Amazon once you’ve read it.

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The Point of disapPOINTment

The Point of disapPOINTment

With our high hopes, we do face the occasional disappointment. Not getting that promotion you worked so hard for. Having to postpone a holiday because of some reason, or difficulty in scheduling a meeting because someone’s too busy. How do you deal with such disappointments?

Here’s something I have learnt that seems like a great idea.

If you don’t get that promotion you really put everything to get, try to recognize the people working for you who have been doing the same thing for you. And whose progress might have been unrecognized or not rewarded by you.

Had to delay a long overdue vacation? Find someone on your team who is long overdue for a break. And let them have it.

Finding it difficult to meet someone you really want to? Give in to meeting requests from others that you would otherwise perhaps have ignored.

And so on. Get the drift? You’d be more at peace. And that seems to be the point of disappointment. It is perhaps an external factor that brings your attention to something you might have otherwise left unnoticed.

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My book on design thinking titled ‘Design the Future‘ is out. If innovation, design thinking, problem-solving, human behaviour or ideation are areas of interest, am sure you will enjoy this book.
You can get your paperback copy via Amazon, Flipkart & Infibeam and some other popular online bookstores.
Would be great if you could leave a review on Amazon once you’ve read the book.

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Dr. John Virapen on the Greed of Pharmaceutical Companies

Dr. John Virapen on the Greed of Pharmaceutical Companies

Sometimes when you think about one particular country or another, and admire it for a great government, a transparent press, a robust healthcare ecosystem, and so on. Or when you believe the doctor when he tells you your child has an attention-deficit disorder, as he or she prescribes medication for it. Or when the little discomfort you went to the doctor with, suddenly transformed into something lethal-sounding. And urgently needing surgery. Let’s not always be so trusting and naive.

Here’s a talk by ex-Director of pharmaceutical major Eli Lilly. The global company ranks 132nd on the Fortune 500 list, with a 2017 topline of USD 22.87 billion. Late ex-director of the company, Dr. John Virapen, worked over 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry, climbing from a sales executive to becoming director. And as he climbed the corporate ladder, he realized, and even participated in the dirt his company was involved in. Bribing governments and media houses, the pharma industry is in a dirty loop to make people sick and then treat them.

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The Stand-off called Life

The Stand-off called Life

Random musings.

Life, in some ways, is like a standoff with a wild animal.

You are puzzled, scared and unsure of its next move. So is the animal.

If you panic or succumb to your fears, it will pounce, attack, and possibly consume you. And fast.

On the other hand, if you can keep your sh!t together and stay calm, you might either cause it to run away, or kill it. Or better still, you might tame it.

Video contains violence. Viewer discretion advised.

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Actions With and Without a Face

Actions With and Without a Face

Even today, you can see people of some races cringe or gasp at the sight of the swastika, the symbol of Hitler’s party. Even though the swastika has much older roots. And Hitler himself, continues to be collectively and strongly hated today, over 72 years after his death. And rightly so. He and his people were the cause of unspeakable oppression and death. Collectively, around 42 million deaths (soldiers and civilians), and even more as per some historical estimates. What probably makes it most glaring, is the short span of 12 years across which this happened. And as the leader of the Nazis, Hitler remains the face of all the death and destruction by his people.

Going back again in time, the British atrocities in their colonies is another story altogether. In India alone, their rule lasted around 184 years. And this time too, was witness to unspeakable oppression and the death. Approximately 40-54 million Indians. Dead! Due to starvation. Due to manual labour; and worse, through artificially created famines. When we compare the British kill report card with that of Hitler’s, it happened over a comparatively much longer 184 years. But there is no single face of the oppression. Which is also perhaps why it lasted so long. And was so much more deep-rooted.

In present times, the world citizens should always be on the look out for the second kind of mass-murderers. Eaters of countries. Because the world is a dynamic flow of information, even if a lot of it is manipulated by whorish media, the world citizen is still aware, and will not tolerate a single face of oppression for too long.

However, the second kind of oppression won’t have a single face, or perhaps have one that appeases a section of the masses, speaks directly to their concerns and hopes; while the arms of the organization carry out deep-rooted decay.

Many of us have heard of the myth around the frog and hot water experiments. While frogs aren’t so tolerant to heat, history bears testimony of human ignorance to oppression without a face.

British colonies were a live example of it. Albeit not the most subtle example, given the difference in race/ colour, etc. But imagine the harm a domestic movement with ulterior motives can do. Let’s ensure we guard against history repeating itself in other forms, but using similar tactics.

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Do Some of the Pillars of Democracy need a Shake-Up?

Democracy has rested on four pillars. The legislature, executive, the judiciary, and arguably the most important, the press. All the pillars need improvement, some far more than others. The world press, for instance, has really become dirty. When in reality, it should be a transparent communication channel between the citizen, the country, and the world.

In an increasingly connected globe, traditional media surprisingly continues to wield disproportionately high power. And it has been responsible for numerous crimes, the world over. From keeping entire populations in the dark, to convincing them about who the good guys and bad guys are. By encouraging unsolicited violence on other countries. Press has made large sections of otherwise peace-loving populations completely convinced of the need for war. Not always because any country was under attack. But because politicians and industry stood to benefit from tricking citizens and getting them onboard. And with business people and politicians ever interested in wielding influence over large media houses, it makes one wonder how we are allowing ourselves to be subjected to lies.

The Indian press too, continues to scale new depths by doctoring news or hiding it altogether, to favor various political parties.

Anyway, interestingly, the Congress, among the bigger corrupt parties, recently figured a simple way to fix the distorted media problem. After taking a lot of bashing by two leading TV news channels for some time, the party recently banned the channels from their press conferences. How much is a TV news channel worth if it doesn’t have access to a certain section of national news? Not as much as it had before, right?

Mahendra Palsule highlighted in a good post, about the fifth pillar in a democracy, the (silent) citizen.

Think about it. Let’s assume these two channels got a reality-check after this banning. Imagine then what we the people can, and must do, to get the press functioning the way it is meant to, not the underhand way it is paid to. The day the masses stop consuming lies served to us by these media, we will have withdrawn the right we gave them, and which they continue to abuse.

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Can We Easily Spot Left-Brain and Right-Brain Thinkers?

Can We Easily Spot Left-Brain and Right-Brain Thinkers?

Just a thought. And I could be wrong.

How can we easily spot a strong left-brain, or a right-brain thinker?

In an argument/ discussion between two people with strong, opposing views – is it possible that those who tend to reply almost instantly each time, especially early on, without sufficient information, are left-brain thinkers?
And those who might take a moment to assess both the opposite side’s comment, gauge their reaction, anger levels, body language, etc. before reply appropriately, right-brain thinkers?

Or is it possible that we think and react differently, depending on the topic of discussion, the situation, the people involved, etc.?

I don’t know. Yet. What do you think?

The Thinker

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Our Right to Privacy

Our Right to Privacy

Image source

Towards the last week of August this year, here in India there was a landmark Supreme Court verdict that a lot of you must have heard/read about. It had something to do with the citizens of India, and our right to privacy. After the initial petitions that were filed long ago, a panel of eminent judges finally ruled that privacy is in fact, a fundamental right.

In an age where information sharing is growing at an astronomical pace, an attempt to safeguard privacy almost sounds ironical. And though our smartphones and apps make it difficult for a lot of us to even fathom if and how much we need privacy, we must be grateful to this bench of judges for thinking on our behalf and ruling in favour of the citizens.

Of course, the ruling wasn’t a no-questions-asked-right, but it does safeguard the core.

Chances are most of us would never get to reading the 547-page report ever. However, I do urge you to read just the verdict given by each of the judges. The choice of words and sentences are almost melodious. The depth of the analysis, and the absolute fairness and clarity of thought, is simply admirable. And it is something we should appreciate; it is your privacy and mine that they were safeguarding after all.

Here’s the link to the article: SC Verdict on Right to Privacy – What Each Judge Had to Say

And in case you’d want to go through the report too, here’s the link: Right To Privacy

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