A Different Kind of Light

Margeurite Theophil writes about how we needed to embrace darkness (Learn to Love the Dark). I thought it was a wonderful article, one that asks that we flip our mind and consider a new way of looking at darkness. In an idealist sense, darkness as simply another kind of light.

A few hours ago, I drove around town looking for an open store to buy diapers. Amidst the smoke of bursting crackers, illuminating sky rockets and the lights from the numerous structures I thought to myself, I’d like to wish you a different kind of Diwali. Perhaps a quiet, smokeless Diwali. A Diwali that will allow you to gaze upon the true, awe-inspiring, all pervasive night sky, its medley of infinite stars and the Milky Way. The same night sky we always have above our heads, obscured and ignored.

So with that wish in mind, Wish you a Happy Diwali!

Why the MnA Market for tech. Startups in India is a joke.

An Open Letter to CEO’s, Tech, MnA Execs of Incumbents, Entrepreneurs.

This letter is greatly inspired by Dalton Caldwell’s open letter to Mark Zuckerberg and is aimed at making a corrective impression with those who drive the M&A in technology companies across India. This is an opinion letter written by me based on my experiences of over 6 years as an entrepreneur in the Technology and Internet space in India. I have only the entrepreneurs perspective to offer. But I do believe my experience and views will matter to you, especially if you are in any way connected to or affected by MnA’s of startups. This was not my first conversation around acquisition, I’ve had several in my journey. The funny thing is this story repeats itself every time. In fact, several entrepreneurs who read this post relate to it with their own stories which follow this pattern. Enough that we might even call it a broad trend.

The backdrop.

A couple of months ago I was invited to meet with different executives of a potential acquirer with the purpose of acquisition of a technology that I’ve created. What we were selling was strategically ‘aligned’, could potentially expand the acquirers business, get  them to-market significantly ahead of time, and in turn solve a valuable business problem for both.

Continue reading Why the MnA Market for tech. Startups in India is a joke.

What Makes Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurial?

(c) 2001, Saras D. Sarasvathy.

Professionals who work closely with them and researchers who study them have often speculated as to what makes entrepreneurs “entrepreneurial”? Of course, entrepreneurs also love to hold forth on this topic. But while there are as many war stories and pet theories as there are entrepreneurs, and researchers, gathering together a coherent theory of entrepreneurial expertise has thus far eluded academics and practitioners alike.

What are the characteristics, habits, and behaviors of the species entrepreneur? Is there a learnable and teachable “core” to entrepreneurship? In other words, what can today’s entrepreneurs such as Rob Glaser and Jeff Bezos learn from old stalwarts, such as Josiah Wedgwood and Leonard Shoen? Or even within the same period in history, what are the common elements that entrepreneurs across a wide variety of industries share with each other? In sum, is there such a thing as “entrepreneurial thinking” that can be applied across space, time and technology?

Continue reading What Makes Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurial?

Late Evening Chat with an Entrepreneur

The most amazing thing about experienced entrepreneurs is their ability to think effectually where instead of trying to predict the future, they make an honest attempt to invent it. Even if the future might appear to be uncertain or unpredictable, an effectual approach helps you quickly learn what you need to do now to change things. Earlier this evening, I had a marathon four-hour session with one such entrepreneur who carefully helped me draw connections between my background, aspirations and ground realities.

Over the last few months leading up to this conversation, I’ve researched books including the Startup of You, and articles on the web including my favorite Do What You Love. The writing merely helped by giving me a language to explain what it was that I expected from my future. Having someone to face and trade idea fits was unique in it’s own way. I came away with clearer options, and a bonus refreshed perspective on the same challenges that I earlier felt might be dead-ends.

There is still a whole lot of doing that remains before I can claim that the challenge has been won. This post is really to thank and to underline all that went into making this conversation possible. Common friends, common events, one-on-one discussions, email and phone exchanges that stretch out for well over a year. The threads of our journeys intermingle with so many different people we engage with at work and home. I can’t help but believe that this rich fabric might know some things about you that will surprise you as well.

Finally, both of us did not come into the discussion expecting this. It wouldn’t have been possible to have this conversation and its outcome if he did not firmly believe in the creative practice which teaches respect for intuition and encourages you to recognize that what we expect, and the practice itself are independent and yet interdependent. Without that freedom we make it difficult to welcome new objectives, or new goals that emerge out of any discussion on what is and what can be.

I hope that my own experience will convince you to see all those around you with a refreshed perspective.

An Introduction to the World of Meditation

A year ago, I started down the path of consciously seeking a stronger connection within. I started out struggling to sit, no lotus, with support for my back. Now, with a simple-minded sense I self-study and practice with whatever is available on the topic online. I steadily peel away at successive layers of Zen thought. I can say now that what drew me to it in the first place is it’s unusually strong emphasis on ‘see for your self’.

On my best days I sit for a little above 25 minutes in half-lotus. I sit once on all days, busy or relaxed, easy or stressful, productive and not so productive. I sit in the day and in the night. I’ve come to a point where I am beginning to feel the hunger for a teacher to help me refine. A quick Internet search revealed a Zen retreat in Kodaikanal. Interestingly, there are renown Zen centers in Seattle as well as in Rochester. Both cities I’ve resided in but never looked past my nose for answers.

You can also join a virtual Zendo treeleaf.org, an online practice place that seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Soto Zen Buddhist Sangha. I found them on this reddit.com/r/zen thread.

For the uninitiated who is interested in learning more, I recommend poking around a bit on the Web. There is a wealth of information available on meditation online. See for your self!

Meditation is Universal!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRMf4z8Cs8s]

An introduction to Meditation, Kavita Maharaj.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxhGmzAX-nA]

An introduction to Zen Meditation practice – Taigen Shodo Harada Roshi.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LL2XUTeoUsM]

Diaper Days Dad

My son Megh is now a little over 15 months old. What most experienced Dads will tell you is that these are the most incredible days of fatherhood. Right around 6 to 9 months, infants begin down the path of self-realization and pick up a sense of identity about who they are, that what they want is not necessarily what you might want and most importantly that they are the center of your universe. They can make you smile, laugh and at times they can make you want to cry out loud too.

I would say that it’s not possible to love you more than I do right now, but I know that it’s not true, becaue I love you more every day. I want to remember every minute of this, every joke you make, every smile. Time is moving too fast and I want to bottle this and have you be two forever. I know that that’s not possible, so allow me to write about you, the things I love, and the things I’ll miss.

A friend of a friend wrote these words on his blog and I can tell you that this rings out true every time I read it. Time flies by too quickly and babies grow up to be kids too soon.

It’s painful to have Megh take his shots. This weekend after he had his chickenpox vaccine, I noticed my hands shaking as I paid the clinic on my way out. I didn’t realize that keeping him still and watching the needle go in would have such a deep impression on me.

A personal favorite are those rare moments when he falls asleep in my shoulders. As he slowly drifts into sleep, his little body steadily eases out, his arms wrapped around me. In that brief moment I know then what being Daddy is, really, really. I renew my promise to always be a source of strength and inspiration for him to go further.

Exploring Serendipity

Google defines serendipity as “The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: ‘a fortunate stroke of serendipity'”. The definition implies a sense of ‘chance’ or that which is not directly in our control.

Wikipedia has this to say – “Serendipity means a ‘happy accident’ or ‘pleasant surprise’; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it.” Interesting that they would use the words while not specifically searching for it.

Going by gut, I’ve found Serendipity to be one part belief and one part effort. They’re both dependent on each other and work together to,
* give you the freedom to persistently continue your effort, to improve it,
* hold off despair through self-encouragement and,
* when the opportunity finally opens up – ensure that you are ready for it.

For instance, Roby John walked the Pune Open Coffee Club through how his startup June managed to unlock the serendipity of the Silicon Valley. Roby has made it a constant effort to focus on building his product and maintaining some presence in San Francisco through the better part of 2011 and 2012. In the middle of 2011, his startup were selected to attend office hours with Paul Graham. Later June applied to YCombinator and were accepted, thus becoming the first truly native Pune Startup to have earned that distinction. This is by no measure a trivial achievement. YCombinator are the institution of repute of Startup Incubation. In hindsight, would you still be surprised? And yet, I don’t think Roby knew all along that this was a certainty. That might be a question I want to ask him, but for now I’ll accept that mystery. In order for serendipity to work for you, you will need to keep rising up again, ‘n again, ‘n again.

There are important areas in our lives where we look forward to serendipity of this kind. I guess it is important to remember both belief and effort are necessary ingredients. Take time to list them out and strengthen both.

A day later.

Thinking Outside Steady Income, Savings and Retirement

The current generation above 60 years of age have plenty of reason to feel betrayed and let down. Having brought up their kids into a new India where jobs pay better, opportunities are so much more – the parents are now left to fend off a significant jump in the cost of living, healthcare and isolation. Social structures are constantly changing, change that has brought both difficulty and an opportunity.

Bangalore’s Seniors Head to Work as ‘Traditional Indian Family’ Dissolves – India Ink.

This excellent piece of journalism by India Ink (NY Times in India) points out that the problem is indeed both deep and wide. I don’t know how many seniors out there face this problem, but I don’t have to look too far to understand how this can upset the elderly.

I tweeted that and endorsed an extreme position some time ago. Since then, I’ve had plenty of time and experience to think through both sides of having a steady income. I’ve looked at it from the perspective of growing up, having a steady job and later as an entrepreneur by self-choice. I’ve lived both avatars, the locomotive kid* and the 25-yr old who’s plugging away on his venture from his parent’s basement (they’re my Angel Investors!). A steady income has significant upsides. It will help you save regularly, smoothen out sudden spikes in expenses, qualify you for borrowing from institutions and get you ready for your retirement.

On the other hand, the total absence of the ups and downs that is life encourages complacency, over-reliance and self-indulgence. Who can tell? Perhaps the nest-egg we’ve put away today still won’t make the cut tomorrow. In the words of Nassim Taleb who author of the Black Swan, the total absence, or insulation from even the minor shocks leaves your earning potential vulnerable to the bigger and more infrequent shocks.

In any case those who are unfortunately disenfranchised from mainstream jobs include recent Mothers who chose to stay longer hours at home, and as in this case Senior citizens. They all need better awareness of opportunities for work and encouragement. While retirement planning helps – it helps better to nurture the ability to locate opportunities, deliver and get paid at any age or stage. Not having a steady income begs a more evolved survival mindset. The confidence that comes from going out there and learning to make a dollar is worth so much more. As you can imagine, I never want to have to think that I’ve retired. I’d prefer to be working away and creating happiness throughout my journey. In a nutshell, I want the notion of ikigai – “the reason for which we wake up in the morning” or, “the reason for being” to pervade my entire life.

Tony Hsieh’s childhood mail order business comes to mind. He describes it vividly in his book Delivering Happiness. In fact, Tony handed it down to his younger siblings before he left home for college so that they might continue to run it and reap the benefits. A wonderful gift! The opportunity to drive a business that transforms effort into a cheque can spark confidence in the inner-knowedge that the future is yours to create. Now armed with this confidence, will you need great effort in securing your future?

Of late, I’m working on making it a habit to ask myself – how do I want all of my efforts to take shape? This thinking comes with commitments to absorbing effectual reasoning and an attitude of ‘always produce‘. For instance, this blog has always been a work of passion for as far back as I can remember. If I could keep the essence of it, and yet to be able to realize the value it creates. I think that’d be a step in the right direction. Now when I write, I consciously link via an Amazon affiliate link which pays if someone were to buy. I wish to think up more ideas like this. Simple actions and commitments, even if they don’t yield significant or immediate results can directly address any financial pressure and encourage clear thinking that something can be done.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not railing against a steady income – that’d be truly hypocritical at this point. The comfort that you’ll know from pro-actively creating a better financial future with your single income is a blessing. If you think too seriously about supplementing that income, you risk stress and losing the happiness and freedom that comes with it. On the other hand, if you want to think entrepreneurially – then ask yourself why stop there? The whole point of realization of wealth should be the same as say committing to life-long learning, or instinctively listening to an audio book while you wait in traffic for the light to turn green. Find meaningful investments.

I’d look to learn as much as I can from blogs such as getrichslowly.org and by observing other entrepreneurs with the midas touch about both aspects of wealth – how it is realized, as well as making it work for you. If you want to stop having to think about money, ignoring it is the worst policy. Work at it diligently and it’ll take it’s place at the back of your mind on it’s own.

*Locomotive Kids – First read of it in the New Yorker, “They are the locomotive kids, pulling their whole family behind them” when referring to some of those with Stanford fellowships.

Is your Toddler Using your iPad Touch?

In a recent feature, Bits NYTimes illustrated how toddlers were taking to Apps on the iPhone, iPad and other touch devices. Labs with toy makers Fisher-Price and LeapFrog are covered extensively in the article. The numbers published are astounding considering they want to reach out to the very young starting as early as 6 month-old’s. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn applications have been downloaded over 3 million times!

I’ve observed my son to be pretty hands-on with my laptop’s touchpad when watching his favorite youtube videos. I’d love to learn more about your own experience – do you have a toddler who’s warmed up to your touch device?

Applications include – story books, learning counting, singing along,

Read more.

Here’s a video of a 2 year old using an iPad to draw.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGMsT4qNA-c]

An update 9th September 2012. A study found that enhanced ebooks were distracting and children lost the narrative thread. Read more about it on the Guardian.