Business, Culture and Entrepreneurship

Monday, May 26, 2008

Life - two weeks offline! Aoi Maturi to Zen gardens

From January 2008, several months before I got off the job treadmill, I had gotten a serious case of blog addiction and was going to sleep later each night as I found yet another post to read before signing of. Previously I suspect only the New York Times op-ed pages held that sort of neck craning, fatal car crash fascination. And learning how to use Google reader and doing "research" for my next startup were only excuses I suspect to feed my growing blog addiction. There is something mid-afternoon "Ricki Lake-ish" my-sister-stole-my-boyfriend quality about a lot of the soul baring blogs out there, and I don't refer to just personal or mommy blogs but even a wide swath of tech and political blogs. While I have been able to turn the telly off, I have had less success with blogs for reasons I am not too sure of. I have probably avoided going there anyways!

Now the good news is that I went off the air, not just in my own writing but also in browsing, lurking, reading or other forms of being online. It helped that I left town with family and that connectivity was intermittent (which I thought would be poor, was not - and yes, I did take my laptop with me). But just doing real world things such as visiting temples, attending festivals, such as the Aoi Maturi and sitting in Zen gardens pondering the imponderables and lots of walking (to/from temples, hole-in-the-wall vegetarian joints and 7/11 stores) and keeping two nearly teen kids engaged kept me unbelievably busy. It also provided some much needed distance and withdrawal from the whole blogosphere which seemed to be sucking my hours and what few grey cells remain. If in early May you'd have told me that I'd be off line for two weeks, I'd have though that serious withdrawal symptoms would incapacitate me - am happy to report that I couldn't have been wronger. And here I am back adding already to the navel gazing personal post category!

For those of you not wanting to travel to the Orient (or other real world places) here's one of the most succinct articles on avoiding blog addiction!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Five utilities that I can't live without

When I read Marshall Kirkpatrick's post Five Tools Everyone Working Online Should Have (IMHO) this morning on ReadWriteWeb, it triggered the thought about the five tools (ok call 'em utilities) that I can't do without, especially when off line. This is somewhat ironical as I have over the last thirty days tried to move my entire electronic content on-line - basically trying to use my (now borrowed) laptop as a thin client. But that's for another day, another post.

Yesterday my wife finally got her Dell Inspiron 1525 (in a truly inspiring blue) that your's truly volunteered to set up and I realized that even without thought I loaded the following utilities first, so that her (and therefore my) off line experience stayed blissful (ok, maybe that's stretching it). So without much ado, here are the five utilities without which I cannot get through my offline work day:

WordWeb its hard to say which was the chicken and which was the egg. That fact that I had WordWeb made me the local authority (not just to my two kids, but to colleagues) on words from the (not always) Queen's language or that I positioned myself as the LA and found I could not maintain it without the help of WordWeb. Nevertheless, this tiny little program is an incredible dictionary and thesaurus, when offline and even better when you are off line. Get it today!

Gadwin ScreenPrint - for whatever reason I seem to need screenshots at the most inopportune moments and that too without the cursor, or with it and a delay built-in, or I need only portion of the screen/dialog box, want to save it file, clipboard or printer - you get the picture. Gadwin ScreenPrint is that it-slices-dices-makes-breakfast screen printing tool that doesn't need even a high school diploma to operate.

Google Desktop is likely the second most used combo on my keyboard. This is one of those tools that make me wonder how we ever made do without it. Sure I hear muttering out there about how someone's system got crawling after they installed GoogleDesktop but having installed this on five computers at last count, including my parents, I know that I'd install this in a moment's notice again in my next computer as well. Never had much use for the sidebar but primarily use the quick search. I have probably improved my file naming protocols but am likely overly dependent on this utility to find that document I created last year on Why mushrooms don't get their due credit or the scanned copy of my father-in-law's passport.

Picassa - I'd have thought I'd have picked IrfanView as the utility of choice - but it turns out that I don't do a whole lot of image gimmickry besides, storing, sorting and acting as the family image repository manager. And truth is we presently have far too much vested in Picassa, with location tagging as well as comments. Also I love the time based viewing of (searched) images so for instance, I can view a slide show of all pictures of my daughter Roz taken in Singapore in chronological order (don't even ask why!)

iTunes - I am just spoilt. Despite its reluctance to easily convert my wife's 300+ cassettes into digital music, iTunes is the music player of choice in our household and so it's got to be there. This is particularly weird since none of the three (I can't even find that original Shuffle) iPods we have in our house are actually used. But I never said this made sense.

Special mention (the only not-for-free app in my top list)

David RM's Journal - journaling and practically most of my writing is done in this. You gotta experience it. Comes with an addictive free to use for forty five days trial period.

Even putting this list down helped me gain some insight on how I work - do most of my work with words (hence The Journal, WordWeb, Google Desktop), use pictures reasonably (Gadwin Screenshot, Picassa and IrfanView) and actually listen to music (even though moving all our content on to the 500Gb HDD remains a dream) from the computer (iTunes).

What gems do you have to work off line?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Marketing your entrepreneurial business for success

From my tenth article in the Start-up Logic entrepreneurship series in the Hindu BusinessLine

Most people seem to have a reasonable idea of what engineering (design and build stuff), finance (manage the money) or sales (make money by selling stuff) do in a business. Marketing is another story altogether, being confused with sales in the best case or perceived as a money-sucking black hole in the worst. It is likely the most misunderstood part of doing business.
Read the rest here.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bootstrapped Startups, first and second time entrepreneurs in Bangalore

Yesterday I read an interview with Kiran Nadkarni, former VC and presently founder/CEO of Kaati Zone on Kiran was one of the first VCs that I met when I came to India in 1995/6. At that time he had just begun working with Bill Draper's organization after having run ICICI Ventures and was before he got involved with JumpStartUp, I believe. It was refreshing to hear his thoughts from the entrepreneur's side of the table, particularly with reference to early stage funding, which as so many entrepreneurs and bloggers have noted is practically absent in India. Read the interview and check out CitizenMatters as well.

Talking of early stage funding I finally managed to get off my duff and to the NSRCEL (NS Raghavan Center for Entrepreneurial Learning) at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore. My erstwhile partners in entrepreneurship, Baskar, KAS and Vidhya had just moved their new startup Amagi Technologies into the incubator at NSRCEL. Never one to pass up on a free meal, I dropped in on them during lunch time to catch up on what's happening with their startup and their recent whirlwind tour of all the major VCs in India. I hope to have Baskar on here as a guest soon and will let him share his insights and learnings in his own voice.

The realization that dawned on me in the meeting with him, was the sheer number of bootstrapped startups that our friends and acquaintances have launched. These include:

Amagi Technologies - local ad syndication for digital TV;
Baskar, KAS, Vidhya; bootstrapped - looking to raise a round

diMobili - [in stealth mode]
Ganesh, Rajesh, Michael; bootstrapped - looking for angel funding

HealthcareMagic - consumer medical portal bringing doctors & consumers together
Kunal Shah; bootstrapped looking to raise a round

loconomy - finding, using & rating of local (neighborhood) services
Sanjay, Gaurav, Pallavi; bootstrapped

RightFields - business automation & ERP solutions around Microsoft AX
Raghu; bootstrapped, has revenue and looking to raise capital
Most of these are first time entrepreneurs and a couple including Amagi and HealthcareMagic are going around the entrepreneurial whirl for the second time - all of them have been India based, as elsewhere people wondered if it is foreign returned Indians who are doing a whole lot of bootstrapped startups. Only diMobili is still in stealth mode, with others having at least a website if not actually operational or a couple actually making revenue. I hope to get the founders of these startups visit us in this blog, sharing their thoughts and journey in the near future.