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Archive for the ‘entrepreneur’ Category

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

 

I realized the impact of lacking the knowledge of what customer wants when a product that I was working on was shelved for lack of market. An entrepreneur needs to know what customers want, be it in service or in product, in advance.

 

“It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

Vision is almost everything for an entrepreneur. It not only steers the company in the right direction, but also motivates people who work for you. A good product is not a result of how much money you spend in developing it or how much you pay for hiring the best talent. I believe all that someone needs to be happy is something to be enthusiastic about. A good entrepreneur understands this, and leads the people with his vision and extracts the best out of them.

 

“I’m not afraid to start from the beginning.”

To me a real entrepreneur is one who can say this at any point in time. For these reasons, the entrepreneur I admire the most is Steve Jobs.

 

 

This was one of the the essays I wrote while applying to the Marshall School of Business last year. I am preparing for my first final exam (Strategy) of business school. We have a case on Apple Inc., and I can’t help but wonder the void Steve Jobs has left behind in consumer electronics industry.

Have a look at this article which captures this void beautifully:

feeds.harvardbusiness.org/~r/harvardbusi…

 

 

P.S.: Some portion of the essay has been edited for not-so-obvious reasons, but 95% is unchanged.

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Who isn’t interested in music? If there are billions interested in just listening, there are at least a few millions who play, and there would be hundreds of thousands of bands. Most of them are amateur musicians wanting their talent to be heard. The audience they get are at a college fest or on a reality TV shows like American Idol. But how many get a second chance at such a stage? Almost none.

Muziboo‘Get an audience’ is the tagline of Muziboo.com, a start-up co-founded by Prateek, ex-colleague of mine. Muziboo is targeted at amateur musicians all over the world who want an audience, a critic or a reviewer. The best critic/audience one could earlier get were their friends, or family. Here you get to showcase your talents to many people sharing similar interests. You want a band member? Muziboo offers you the platform for you to hire someone for your band after listening to their music.

There are many with original compositions, and also there are people who have sung a popular number, wanting a feedback from peers on their singing. Though Muziboo doesn’t offer rating of the music, you can get a hint on the popular ones by looking at the ‘Most Played’ section.

For some negatives now. The notion of such a platform for amateur musicians is very impressive, but the website itself looks very amateurish. The site looks more like a web forum. Some blogs are better designed than Muziboo, in layout and design, and i’m sure many would agree with me. Why refer to other blogs, Prateek’s blog itself is more impressive than Muziboo in aesthetics and design. Though the KISS (Keep it simple stupid) principle is highly valued, Muziboo has to be more impressive in the design, for that’s the only thing that could catch an eye in the first look. Also, tag cloud is unimpressive. It is repeated in almost every tab of the site.

My rating for Muziboo: 4/5 for the idea, and 1/5 for the design, and this is something that they could work on to make it better. For the rest of the features you can check out Muziboo yourself.

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Facebook’s 3rd party applications, orkut’s incremental approach to this, and recently the launch of Google’s OpenSocial to provide APIs to third party application developers to develops ‘social applications’ for social networking sites like LinkedIn, Friendster, Plaxo, MySpace and many more. These social networking sites are amassing millions of net users providing the features enjoyed by a collective group of users, and networking them. This essentially is the essence of these sites, but they have developed the tendency to kill the startup websites wanting to cater to a specific set of users.

If one wishes to start a website providing a platform for netizens of a particular interest, these social networking sites form a roadblock by giving out these privileges. This would curtail the opportunity for web 2.0 application developers, and other budding entrepreneurs. The roadblock is in the from of a mind set of the users in going for another site, when you can get similar stuff all at one place, even though the ‘other’ site may cater your need better.

facebook event

The pic shows Facebook’s press/developer event in San Francisco. Orkut, and MySpace may be excused for it’s not using 3rd party developers (until now) to develop its features but facebook to me is the real culprit, using some smart ebullient web developers to develop the site for its advantage. Zuckerberg, CEO of facebook, says his move is similar to what Microsoft did decades ago. Rightly so. Who was benefited with that? Microsoft or the 3rd party developers? The answer is evident. Bill Gates move propelled him as the world’s richest man for many years. The Sybase story is evident in the development of SQL, now a Microsoft product. Looks like Mark’s the new one in the making.

Google being the dark horse, looks to have tricked Microsoft in their foray to social networking site. Microsoft finally bought 1.6% stake in facebook for an exorbitant sum of $240 million, taking the net worth of facebook to $15 billion. Did Google have any hand in bluffing Microsoft to overpay for facebook? Read it here.

Google’s launch of OpenSocial is to lessen the dent facebook is making with the third party application development strategy in social networking site space. MySpace which initially was reluctant to open its ‘space’ to third party developers has now accepted OpenSocial with open arms, probably realizing it may soon lose out to others if it doesn’t. Google has the strategy of providing a common set of APIs for social applications across multiple websites with OpenSocial. This would attract developers to use these APIs to develop application for any website or blog. Also, an interesting thing Google has come up with is not to make it mandatory to use a server of the application developer, unlike facebook. LinkedIn, Plaxo, Hi5, Ning, and few others have already accepted to allow third party applications in their sites using these common APIs. OpenSocial blog is here.

I agree that the base of over 50 million users, now over a 100 millions users with the use of OpenSocial, is an invaluable asset facebook, or Google provides, which is hard to reach otherwise. But i think the probability of reaching this user base is only a tad bit lesser if you weren’t on facebook, being just another site in the abysmal Internet. No doubt marketing would be easier on facebook or any of these sites but the price one pays for it is not worth. Just by providing a platform, one should not make a fortune over the one who is actually providing the entertainment to the people coming there. You are there because of the entertainer, not the stage, ain’t it?

Social networking sites seems to become a sub-www within the Internet. But unlike ‘nobody owns the Internet’, these sites are owned, and run (if you can say that in real sense) by some ‘one’. The major benefactors of the growth of these sites is only that group of individuals who have a share in the firm, not the third party application developers. This also deprives the third party developers a sense of ‘Identity’. Now, who would know the person starting FSX(Fantasy Stock Exchange) on facebook? But many would know Mark Zuckerberg, and he would be the billionaire, not these application developers.

My solution to this? I would like to see a network of these startups providing a ‘different’ features/services connected together with a common login. The owners of these individual ‘applications’ would get their share depending of the traffic to their application. Obviously the servers would be of the individual developer. Who are game for this? The hype and brand of Google or facebook would make a fortune from these over enthusiastic web developers.

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What do i wish to choose depends of what i can get out of this for myself and others. Inept scale for weighing the two makes the choice more difficult. Though the choice is not clear cut, i’d choose a million dollars over knighthood.

Funding a small innovative technology business, nurturing it, and help it grow would make the choice of a million dollars more appropriate for me. A seed capital of million dollars is a huge sum to invest in any one business and the risk involved is uncalled for. Budding entrepreneurs with innovative ideas don’t need more than a hundred thousand dollars for any activity, initially at least. The entrepreneurs could be college students or the ebullient graduates. The lack of entrepreneurial instinct in India is due to the risk involved in such a venture. The risk is mainly the money but playing safe would kill the killer idea of a youth. Giving a support by empowering them to achieve what they really want to would give immense joy for me, which even the knighthood would fail to give.

A million dollars is enough to fund at least ten such entrepreneurs. Be it the idea of providing property classifieds over Google earth in real time, or development of a seamless audio transmission network, all it needs is a little encouragement and some capital. The benefactors of such an activity is not only the group of people involved in it but also the one who are using the technology for their convenience, and there by taking India from being a destination for cheap labor to land of entrepreneurs with innovative business development models and ideas.

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