With the new year starting off on a good note, I had the fortune to read Entrepreneur, Blogger & Forbes columnist Sramana Mitra‘s book Entrepreneur Journeys.Though, I am a voracious reader;this article would be the start of a new innings – my very first book review smile

Anyone who is interested in startups would definitely be a reader of her blog but after reading this book, I feel it is a great boon to the existing as well as aspiring Entrepreneurial community !!! The book touches the various aspects of startups namely Bootstrapping, Venture Funding, Business Models, Ups & Downs in the life of an Entrepreneur etc. using a simple medium of Q&A. She also focuses on how Internet has changed the entire game of Business & why Web 3.0 is the next big thing.

Though these simple words describe the simplicity & depth of the book, I would like to couple it with some of the notable excerpts:

Jerry Rawls, Co-founder – Finisar

  • We did not have any outside investors, so it was clear that we did not have enough money to support both of us. So, I stayed at Raychem and Frank Levinson went off and got started. At the end of the year I left Raychem and joined him fulltime in Finisar.
  • While we were doing product development we supported ourselves, probably for four years doing mostly consulting work.
  • I heard a guy a few years ago give a talk and somehow in the talk, he threw a line “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” & I completely agree with that.
  • We have a culture where we accept nothing, there are no sacred cows.We want to continually improve every part of our operation.We have a culture that says we are going to hire bright people who have good interpersonal skills and can really handle pressure & work well in small groups.
  • Because it is a company policy that everybody travels Economy, I myself also travel economy.

Sridhar Vembu, Founder of Adventnet

  • We at Adventnet hire young professionals whom others disregard.We don’t look at colleges,degrees or grades.Not everyone in India comes from a socio-economic background to get the opportunity to go to a top engineering school, but many are really smart.We train them and in nine months, they produce results at the level of college grads.Their resumes are not marketable but these kids can code just as well as the rest, sometimes even better !!!
  • We found we could reach customers directly.Today we have most of the new customers through the internet.It has become much easier to supply companies directly.The internet is allowing us to reach all these customers.
  • I am not ashamed to compete on price, that is our main strategy.
  • Keep the marketing costs low, that is our strategy.If we do the SalesForce economics, 75% of their revenue is spent on acquiring customers.There should be a better way of doing business than charging the customer for acquiring him.Why not give it away for free,if all the money will be spent on acquiring the money elsewhere.
  • Most attrition happens from boredom related issues.We try to keep our team motivated and challenged with interesting work, and as a result, they don’t leave.

Steve Hafner, Co-Founder – Kayak

  • On working at Orbitz: I saw a company start from a few PowerPoint pages and grow to the point that when I left it was booking $4 billion a year in tickets and hotel rooms.
  • Kayak helps users find deals from all of the other travel websites.We thought by doing a bit what Google does, which is build a very simple and sleek interface which goes out and searches on behalf of consumers & brings back the results in a comprehensive display, we would give consumers a choice of where to buy.
  • In the first year or two of Kayak, we focussed on building a great product.We felt if we build a great product, consumers would stumble on it, like it and tell their friends.
  • We are of the mentality that for every dollar which could be placed into marketing, we would rather place it into engineering and make the product better.We spend next to nothing on marketing.
  • On the internet, there is always going to be a lot of competition because it is easy to build a website.The hard part is to make the website scale.
  • There are three things you need to do to have a viable Vertical Ad network.You need to get a set of publishers, you need to get an audience and you need to match them with technology.

Gautam Godhwani, Co-Founder – SimplyHired

  • What we saw in the employment space was an incredibly large market.There is a market of $100 billion market in US alone.At the same time,the market had services that we called pain killers versus vitamins.If you needed a job,you really needed a job.If you had to hire someone,you really needed to hire someone.
  • From the beginning, I have believed the value of a vertical player, search engine or otherwise, is able to participate in a greater lifecycle of the user.

I hope you enjoyed reading the review cum insights of the book Entrepreneur Journeys.There are many more exciting lessons from the other Entrepreneurs featured in the book which would be unveiled in the Part-II of the review…till then, keep breathing the fresh air of Startups smile

It has been a long long time since I wrote my last article.Guess time has finally come to break the BLOGGING shackles [one of my new year resolution’s] with another great news for ThoughtsPrevail.As per the recently released list by eCairn Marc Dangeard,ThoughtsPrevail is the 91st most influential blog for Entrepreneurs smile…Check the entire list below:
  1. http://www.techcrunch.com
  2. http://www.venturebeat.com
  3. http://blog.guykawasaki.com
  4. http://www.gigaom.com
  5. http://www.alleyinsider.com
  6. http://www.readwriteweb.com
  7. http://www.avc.com/a_vc
  8. http://www.pehub.com
  9. http://paul.kedrosky.com
  10. http://www.entrepreneur.com
  11. http://www.valleywag.com
  12. http://www.scobleizer.com
  13. http://www.thefunded.com
  14. http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com
  15. http://redeye.firstround.com
  16. http://www.buzzmachine.com
  17. http://www.smallbiztrends.com
  18. http://www.venturehacks.com
  19. http://www.socialedge.org
  20. http://upandrunning.entrepreneur.com
  21. http://blogs.openforum.com
  22. http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content
  23. http://www.informationarbitrage.com
  24. http://blog.entrepreneur.com
  25. http://www.instigatorblog.com
  26. http://networking.entrepreneur.com
  27. http://vestpocketconsultant.entrepreneur.com
  28. http://www.gapingvoid.com
  29. http://lsvp.wordpress.com
  30. http://www.howardlindzon.com
  31. http://inspired.entrepreneur.com
  32. http://weekend.entrepreneur.com
  33. http://www.vcconfidential.com
  34. http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/blogspotting
  35. http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing
  36. http://www.texasstartupblog.com
  37. http://fiveyearstoolate.wordpress.com
  38. http://www.coloradostartups.com
  39. http://www.markpeterdavis.com/getventure
  40. http://www.startupnorth.ca
  41. http://www.business-opportunities.biz
  42. http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com
  43. http://socialentrepreneurship.change.org
  44. http://campusentrepreneurship.wordpress.com
  45. http://www.billionswithzeroknowledge.com
  46. http://www.getentrepreneurial.com
  47. http://www.nextbillion.net
  48. http://philanthropy.blogspot.com
  49. http://www.tacticalphilanthropy.com
  50. http://blogs.wsj.com/independentstreet
  51. http://www.newhampshirestartups.com
  52. http://www.kentuckystartups.com
  53. http://www.techflash.com
  54. http://www.davidcrow.ca
  55. http://www.bootstrapme.com
  56. http://www.northcarolinastartups.com
  57. http://vcmike.wordpress.com
  58. http://joi.ito.com
  59. http://www.ocvcblog.com
  60. http://www.startupprincess.com/wordpress
  61. http://blog.acumenfund.org
  62. http://startup.partnerup.com
  63. http://www.startupmeme.com
  64. http://blog.timberry.com
  65. http://www.thefrankpetersshow.com
  66. http://www.growthology.org/growthology
  67. http://www.montrealtechwatch.com
  68. http://www.innoeco.com
  69. http://founderresearch.blogspot.com
  70. http://canentrepreneur.blogspot.com
  71. http://bizcoach.blogspot.com
  72. http://ben.casnocha.com
  73. http://www.gifthub.org
  74. http://www.askthevc.com/blog
  75. http://www.startupcfo.ca
  76. http://blog.ecairn.com
  77. http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs
  78. http://blog.socaltech.com
  79. http://www.mvmpartners.com/blog
  80. http://www.nivi.com/blog
  81. http://www.allantyoung.com
  82. http://coheda.typepad.com/israel
  83. http://www.christine.net
  84. http://www.vcrants.com
  85. http://www.tjacobi.com
  86. http://blogs.forrester.com/colony
  87. http://www.adeoressi.com
  88. http://commonangels.wordpress.com
  89. http://vcinjerusalem.typepad.com/vcinjerusalem
  90. http://wallen.typepad.com/wallen
  91. http://thoughtsprevail.blogspot.com
  92. http://www.infochachkie.com
  93. http://www.afpr.com
  94. http://www.epicchange.org/blog
  95. http://blog.bootuplabs.com
  96. http://www.skollonline.com/blog
  97. http://www.dorm-room-biz.com
  98. http://www.vccafe.com
  99. http://marktomarket.typepad.com/marktomarket
  100. http://blog.marsdd.com
  101. http://www.altgate.com/blog
  102. http://www.jasonmendelson.com/blog
  103. http://www.wellingtonfund.com/blog
  104. http://english.martinvarsavsky.net
  105. http://www.socialmediaclub.org
  106. http://www.toiletpaperentrepreneur.com/blog
  107. http://www.delbourg-delphis.com
  108. http://vcratings.thedealblogs.com
  109. http://www.unleashingideas.org/blog
  110. http://www.energybyte.com/blog
  111. http://www.venturedig.com
  112. http://www.microcapital.org
  113. http://www.theequitykicker.com
  114. http://www.theclosetentrepreneur.com
  115. http://presspass.entrepreneur.com
  116. http://shiftingcareers.blogs.nytimes.com
  117. http://www.change.gov/newsroom/blog
  118. http://www.startuptweet.com
  119. http://altos.typepad.com/vc
  120. http://blog.bplans.com
  121. http://www.churbuck.com/wordpress
  122. http://www.onthecommons.org
  123. http://www.zviband.com
  124. http://www.businessblogwire.com
  125. http://yallaguy.wordpress.com
  126. http://laurent.pierssens.com
  127. http://babblingvc.typepad.com/pjozefak
  128. http://www.unstructuredventures.com/uv
  129. http://www.floridaventureblog.com
  130. http://www.leveragingideas.com
  131. http://www.allthingscahill.com
  132. http://www.stetoscope-blog.com
  133. http://www.johngannonblog.com
  134. http://everythingstartup.blogspot.com
  135. http://www.thepomoblog.com
  136. http://www.smallbusinessbrief.com
  137. http://www.austinstartup.com
  138. http://bluepointmktg.blogspot.com
  139. http://www.abovethecrowd.com
  140. http://schumpeterscentury.blogspot.com
  141. http://vcwhisperer.blogspot.com
  142. http://www.techflash.com/venture
  143. http://www.appfrica.net/blog
  144. http://onhollywood.goingon.com
  145. http://www.ariwriter.com
  146. http://www.insidevtknowledgeworks.com
  147. http://www.socialcapitalmarkets.net/blog
  148. http://thebostonentrepreneur.wordpress.com
  149. http://www.startupweekend.com
  150. http://microfranchising.blogspot.com
On the personal front, I have relocated to Hyderabad where I am currently working for a startup;more about which would follow soon on my LinkedIn profile.To keep up with the same spirit of blogging, there are a couple of book reviews,interviews with startup founders, personal experiences & few surprises on Thoughtsprevail surprised

Thanks to Invenio group for this wonderful list, guess it is time to relook at my feeds in Google Reader !!!

My blogging rate has gone down drastically due to the lack of internet connection in my residence cry [Blame it on my my recent relocation but I am sure that ThoughtsPrevail would bounce back !!!].Today, we have a guest article by Kelly Kilpatrick who shares some mantras on “How to keep your startup afloat during the economic crisis“.Kelly writes on the subject of best business schools and can be contacted via her emailNo one likes a downturn, least of all when it has to do with the economy, not just of a company or even a country, but of the entire world. It’s a domino effect that we’re witnessing now, as the mighty fall of a few big names are bringing down others associated with them and causing a global crisis the likes of which have not been seen for a long time now. When even the huge conglomerates are known to be shaking in their boots, is it any wonder that the little startups and fledgling businesses in doubt about their future? However, all is not lost, not yet. To use a cliched expression, where there’s a will, there’s a way; so hold your head high and let your positive attitude take you forward in these difficult times:

Believe in your abilities
A bird on a shaky branch is not afraid, because it is confident in its ability to fly even if the branch does give way. An apt analogy for our present situation – even if the economy of the world is unstable, as long as you believe in your abilities to make it through this bad patch, you’re going to be ok.

Adopt conservative measures
It’s not the time for risks, not when people are struggling to stay afloat. It’s best to be as conservative as you can, both in terms of current business principles and future plans.

Go back to the basics
It’s now more than ever that you need your customers to stand by you; so pick up the phone and let them know that you’re counting on their support and that you’re committed to providing them with the same kind of service they’ve been receiving all this time. True, you already have a relationship with them, but in these tough times, you must focus on re-affirming the relationships that you already have rather than looking to forge new ones.

Cut unnecessary expenses
Money is definitely going to be tight for a while, so it’s best to cut back on your overhead costs and any expenses that could be considered as frivolous. Focus on reducing the recurring expenses – these, even if not a large amount, could add up each month to a significantly huge sum.

Ditch unprofitable ventures
If there’s a department that’s not doing too well, it’s best not to persist with it at this time, not when money is hard to come by and you’re struggling to cut your losses.

Cut production costs
If you can do so without compromising on the quality of your products. If you can’t, and if you know your market is secure, raise the price of your products. Of course, you will have to deal with unhappy customers, but if you put it across to them in a positive way, they’re likely to understand.

Boost your employee morale
Unhappy employees cost you a lot in terms of time, money and productivity. So make sure your employees are mentally secure; even if you have to lay off a few of them, make the rest realize that their jobs are safe. Or if you could get them all to take a pay cut rather than force them out of a job altogether, that would work fine too.

Getting a new business to grow is hard work even in the best of times; and now that we’re going through the worst, you must work even harder to make sure you stay afloat.If you have to lay-off people, this article by Guy Kawasaki , would definitely help you in laying off people while making others feel safe wink.

Last week, we had an interesting interview with Vineesh Kumar of Pictualize where he shared his thoughts about Pictualize & Entrepreneurship.In the final episode of this interview, we question Vineesh Kumar about Pictualize’s future plans with usual glimpse on Entrepreneurship !!!

Do you have any fixed marketing strategy for Pictualize?
At the moment, we are actually marketing our work and we are finding takers for the same. The BarCamp Delhi [BCD] presentation helped us reach out to some clients and our recent work on the credit crisis has reached out to a much larger number of people due to solid efforts that we put in to get the word out.The plan to market Pictualize to the world is through carrying out innovative communication that enraptures the hearts of people and bring this power to other businesses and help them succeed too.There isn’t a very hard plan as such and we are going with the flow. Just paddling, when we start losing direction.

As per your opinion, which are the three most striking things that makes IITs different from others?
In IIT Delhi [IITD], it’s tough to tell how striking it actually is wink, because the daily grind actually makes one abhor the entire IIT system. But now being an outsider, I realize that the rigor of IIT has fundamentally affected my being and the same happens with everyone.

  1. In my opinion, IITs are a little different from other institutions mainly because of the amount of raw talent that one can see and feel each day.
  2. Apart from that IITD particularly provides quite a lot of exposure, so I had opportunities to see entrepreneurship closely before taking to it.
  3. The third point would be that being through the IITs instills a certain degree of confidence, that helps tremendously in facing the opposition to entrepreneurship.

How do you filter valid/invalid user feedback [especially after BCD presentation]?
The BCD presentation majorly brought us positive feedback, so we didn’t actually filter anything and just enjoyed the moment smile. We actually don’t aim to filter feedback, but take all of it seriously and see how can we improve with it.

Has the risk appetite increased or what are some of the reasons that more youngsters are willing to startup/join a startup?
I wouldn’t call it an increase in the risk appetite. The numbers seems to be growing proportionately to the opportunities available.
In my opinion, all entrepreneurs are rebels of sorts, looking to create the future. As we advance, there are more and more of such exciting opportunities and it is just the issue of mind over matter for a person to shift to the entrepreneurial world.

What are three most important things that you see when you guys formed the team?
We actually didn’t think that we were forming a team. We are just a bunch of friends. Each has a different view of life and each has big dreams, but each of us have a vision to grow, improve, enjoy and succeed. As they say in love that two people needn’t look at each other but in the same direction, the same I feel is true for a team.

Can you share some key learnings before/after co-founding Pictualize?
I would like to share learnings that I obtained in the last 5-6 months but prior to Pictualize.

  1. Team building is not as easy as it seems and team members are though not tough to find, but they aren’t easy to find either.
  2. When you work and meet, make notes. Keep things in written. Helps in disputes later and is extremely important for facing clients, since their needs change by the minute.
  3. [For students & wannabe entrepreneurs] If you are starting up after you are passing out you are already late. Hurry up and start earlier. You really need to earn money by the time you pass out.

In a place like India where families are close-knit, how important is “Family support” for any startup’s success?
IMHO, family support would contribute to over 90% in the success of a startup running without external funding. As long as family can tolerate a productive person doing seemingly non-productive things [like starting up], the person is in the best of his situations to actually build a successful business. Without family support, it becomes a multi-dimensional problem and multiplies the risk of failure.

Enjoy another presentation by Pictualize which shows the Current Economic problems in a hilarious as well as meaningful way smile

Entrepreneurship right after college seems risky as well as cool.In this article, we have a Q&A with Vineesh Kumar [co-founder of an interesting & cool startup Pictualize], who jumped into this idea after completing his graduation from IIT-Delhi.

Everyone knows that “Pictures speak louder than words” and this is where Vineesh and his co-founders felt there lies an opportunity !!!

Q&A is done in two parts where Part-I would focus on Pictualize and Part-II would focus on Entrepreneurship [and many aspects related to Straight-Out-Of-College-Entrepreneurship].

If you have any questions for Pictualize,please leave them in the comments section & it would be included in the Part-II of this interview smile

Let’s start off with the interview …

Everything starts with a problem, how did the concept of Pictualize arise ?
Pictualize, was born out of the realization that we need to change the current system of communication. It is just too ineffective, incomplete, lacking simplicity and possessing many other issues. The logical solution seemed pictures – the universal language, simple or complex, it is about expressing the core matter and with that came Pictualize.

Pictualize is a catchy name, which are the other names that you came up with while brainstorming & why did you choose Pictualize ?
Anirudh Maitra, our Idea Catalyst had put down numerous names for us to choose from. Pixlr8, Pictualate, and a variety of other names. Am not sure who exactly thought of Pictualize, but the moment it came onto the table we all fell in love with it instantly. Seemed to be love at first sight with the name and then the tag-line “Visualize. Actualize. Realize” followed almost effortlessly.

Who are the current team members and their roles?
Current team members are Aakanksha Gaur, who is currently our Visual Architect and she is the one who churns out all our imagination on paper.Anirudh is the idea catalyst and his wacky ideas are mostly out of this world. He leads in churning out ideas that rock, not just with us, but with others too.I am among the lesser mortals in awe of both of them, who gets to connect them to the rest of the world, i.e. bring us business and think about all the other things.Despite our roles being segregated, we all have an immense amount of fun, brain-jamming together and imagining and dreaming wink.You can know more about us here

Pictures speak louder than words, how do you guys ensure to bring the same creative feeling with each picture ?
It is precisely this effort that differentiates us from all the others who can doodle. We doodle, with a purpose and apply a lot of our mind to it. Three creative beings doing stuff they enjoy, certainly spew out tons of ideas and then it’s more or less a war to select the best.We don’t strive to maintain the creative feeling. The aim is to constantly improve.

What are some of the services that you are planning to offer like Marketing, Branding etc ?
More than marketing or branding, we are aiming to deal with “Communications”. As individuals we all have been brought up with a certain sanctity of the written word and an unusual fear of drawing. We intend to bridge this gap and bring visual communications and understanding within individuals as well as corporations as well as help everyone express themselves visually.

Our current services deal with creating visual presentations for corporations to reach out to their clients/customers in a more understandable and personalized way. Additionally, we are aiding in marketing efforts of our clients.

In the near term, we are targeting to move to clients like UNDP, Micro-finance organizations and NGOs that deal with a large number of people from different backgrounds and it is obviously tough to manage the diversity. We believe that we can offer some order in this chaos of communication through pictures.

You guys started fresh out from college[some like Aakanksha are still studying], what are the pros & cons of doing the same ?
1. We have sufficient time to experiment, fail, learn and start over again.
2. [The beaten down one] Risk is a lot lower since liabilities are lesser [though this isn’t true in general].
3. Not knowing anything about business is sometimes extremely useful, since the person doesn’t know what the real roadblocks are and when you aren’t worried about certain things, those happen most easily.

1. Most people don’t take out-of-college entrepreneurship too seriously. It sounds like a frivolous idea of fools who are just trying to run away from the “real world”.
2. Support for out-of-college entrepreneurs is just too less or usually absent, since they don’t have any experience.
3. Out-of-college entrepreneurship is perhaps still a bit late and it is certainly way better to start while studying, since the risk of failure is totally absent

Does your startup have mentors and how important is mentorship for a startup ?
Mentors are perhaps the life line of any entrepreneur or a startup. Personally, I wasn’t able to discover/find a mentor for quite a while until we met Mr. Kris Nair. He met us for some other venture and it was his initiative that we actually met him [since he has his own venture capital firm, we were a little skeptical about meeting him wink]. But I guess, Kris is the next best thing that has happened to me on my entrepreneurial journey after I, Aakanksha and Anirudh started working on Pictualize.

For any startup dreamers, would-be entrepreneurs or just anyone willing to take the route less trodden, always seek a mentor. There always comes one who changes the course of your thoughts and also your life.

You guys come from different backgrounds[and colleges], how did you guys get along ?
All the three of us are friends and each met the other only by chance and through random connections. The difference in familial background is not very significant and colleges don’t seem to make any difference at all. It is just the matching that we have mentally that makes us go along. Creativity, passion and the fun we have in each other’s company solves the issues that come our way.

How was the response to your BarCamp Delhi presentation ?
The BarCamp Delhi presentation had a cracker response. We were expecting it to be well-received but the amount of appreciation we got was well beyond expectations and was a major confidence booster.

Enjoy the creativity of Pictualize in the presentation below:

Hope you liked this interview, stay tuned for the Part-II of this interview !!!

There is an interesting e-book “Testify-How remarkable companies are creating customer evangelists” which focuses on how companies are winning customers and effectively making each one their evangelist !!!

It is a very interesting compilation, the companies about which I enjoyed reading the most are:

You can download the ebook from here

Next day being the auspicious occasion of Diwali,I decided to get a different look wink and the time spent at the saloon shaped up in an excellent learning experience.

The barbers at the shop showed great professionalism[both in terms of work and customer delight] which can be easily co-related to our day to day activities.

Below are the 6 simple learnings from that experience:

1. Always be watchful for customers
I went to the saloon in the afternoon & due to heavy rush there, I returned back home.When I again went in the evening, that same barber recognized me & asked me the reason to do the same i.e whether there was a problem or I was not satisfied with their service during the previous visit or any other reason.
It is very important to take feedback from the customer since, in today’s time, customer always has more choices than you can ever think of !!!

2. How to break the communication barrier
As I don’t belong to Bangalore,some times it becomes difficult to communicate[especially if the other person does not know Hindi or English].Hence,if I don’t hand over the exact requirements, I cannot expect a proper output from that person.Same was the case in the saloon where language became a communication barrier sad.But soon, I remembered about my passport size photo in my wallet and that photo became a single line requirement for the barber.
It is of utmost importance to find alternate as well as smart ways to break the communication barrier else it would have a negative effect on the deliverables.

3. Benchmarking always helps
As mentioned in the previous point,my photograph became a benchmark for the barber and benchmarking always speeds up things.
Always check out if there is a benchmark in what you are doing & that would speed up your entire process of development.

4. Team-work is the mantra
At one point,the barber who was making my shave got confused & could not proceed.Immediately, the other barber came to his rescue[though he was not called for any help] & took over the baton from him.
In a team,it becomes very important to gain as well as share knowledge as at the end of the day, one person failing in a team would lead to the entire team’s failure !!!

5. How to kill the Distraction
As you are aware that all saloons at least have a TV & many times, it becomes a source of distraction rather than entertainment.Same was the case with the barber, who concentrated equally watching the TV along with the hair-cut.His co-worker switched off the TV[after a while] when his slow output was creating an irritation to customers.

Every person has at least one source of distraction but when the individual distraction results in a negative effect on the other co-workers, it is time to take strict action !!! As a team, your intent should be to deliver the best and convert your first time customers to repeat customers to loyal customers to customer evangelists [as stated below].

6. How to create Customer Evangelists
As I was paying the barber,I appreciated him for his work and he reciprocated for the same.The other guy[who had got confused as mentioned in point(4)] did not only thank me but also promised me to deliver his best next time [that too without requiring the photo biggrin]
Simple words of gratitude helps develop as well as maintain a good relationship with the customer.Though the barber could not deliver, his promise [to deliver next time] makes me recommend his shop to others and this way his/your loyal customers would become your evangelists !!!

Image Courtesy:
Clipart ETC