Archive for July, 2006

Idea worries…!

July 27, 2006

I have tossed many ideas from my entrepreneur clients to the angels in my network.   I normally prefer an interface for my client with the Angel directly to  make his / her  pitch.  Sometimes such interface happens without my personal involvement.    A week later,  I get this call from the client asking me whether I got any response from the Angel.   Deep inside I  sense the pitch hasn’t worked.   On checking it out,  it turns out that beyond the sketchy power point presentations,   the Angel is left with nothing on the idea itself.   Mostly entrepreneurs are a paranoid lot and they are quite rightly so.  It’s quite  possible  that an idea may get hijacked.   But then at that stage of your business,  an idea is all you’ve got to offer.  You can intelligently couch it but not conceal it altogether.   And if you ever thought an Angel would sign an NDA for hearing your idea,  you better go hatch yourself.

So I thought,  let me put this up for future. 

Angels normally invest on people and their ideas collectively – not on any one of them.  Moreover,  ideas are not the business itself.  They keep evolving as you move along the execution curve.  It’s not uncommon that an original idea entirely transforms  into a totally different something while getting executed.  It may be due to reasons of executional difficulties your team faced or for the more practical reasons like shift in market trends, access to better technology or skillsets.   While the idea is important to be guarded,  it’s not something that one should be unduly worried about.  Here’s something that I came across on ideas. 

If you keep your secrets from the market, the market will keep its secrets from you — entrepreneurs too often worry about keeping their brilliant secrets locked away; we should all worry much more about springing a surprise on a disinterested market .   To quote Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing an idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats.”  

Pay attention to the idea that won’t leave you alone — this is taken from Paul Hawken’s Growing a Business. Sometimes an idea catches hold of you and you find you can’t put it down. Pay attention to that! Just start working on it. Can’t get yourself to do anything on it? Move on. Find yourself waking up out of bed to write down new ideas about it? That’s a good one to choose.  

Immediate yes is immediate no — does everyone immediately tell you your idea is great? Run away from it. If the idea is that obvious, the market will be filled with competitors, and you’ll find yourself scrambling. One good test : when the popular searches throw up its list of  “great startup Ideas” and if your idea is figuring in there – dump it.   You’re already too late.  

Build what you know — this is the most basic advice of idea generation: scratch an itch you have yourself.   To make a great company,  stop and ensure that your need is broadly felt, and that your solution is broadly applicable — not everyone spends their life in front of a computer, remember.  

Give people what they need, not what they say they need — interviews are tricky. People will swear up and down that they would buy a product you describe if only it were available,  and then fail to do so as soon as it is.  Likewise,  in conversation an idea can sound terrible,  but in actualization the idea can become a compelling product.   You have to sherlock out the truth of the interest   people express,  and “yes/no” questions are usually less useful than “how much” or “how bad” questions.  

Your ideas will get better the more you know about business — engineers hate to hear this, but you can generalize up quite far from here:  the more you know about everything,  the better all of your ideas will get!  If you want to start a business and your strength is in development,  learning about pricing, sales, marketing, finance, and yes, even HR, all of it will make your product ideas stronger and better.


How to drive innovation in India….!

July 4, 2006

Human ingenuity and innovation is always valuable than physical resources.  This has been confirmed by the findings of two Harvard Economists, Sachs and Warner who studied 97 countries over two decades to understand what drove economic success of nations.  To their surprise,  availability of abundant natural resources actually correlated negatively with economic success.

Look at India.  Today India has already established itself as a leader in process innovation between the IT industry that has redefined excellence in IT and knowledge processes  and the pharma industry in the generic space.  These innovations sparked a sense of optimism, that has motivated the entire country willing to invest and consume.  Coupled with a GDP growth of 8% and a runaway sensex, an increasingly dominant knowledge economy – tempts one to believe that we are at the end of the road.

The reality is we’ve only seen the first generation of process innovation and yet to embark on serious product innovations.  Coming at a serious cost,  to stay the course of innovation it takes a strong social consensus.

Major drivers for Innovation

Force of Competition, without doubt is a major driver.  Today in India, it’s the young companies that drive innovation.  That’s because they don’t attempt to become the next `Google’ or `Paypal’.  They just go ahead, try and give something new to the world.  It works.

Effective R& D coordination – between universities, government funded research centres, corporations and startups accelerates innovation.  Working cohesively with a great deal of focus,  this is a surefire support.

Individual commitment – Recognise the biggest sin of all is inadvertence.  Not being fully awake.  The future descends equally on everyone,  but some notice it faster because they are always pushing the limits of their knowledge, asking questions and picking up on weak signals.  Keep your eyes and ears close to the ground to hear its rumblings. 

Intelligent bets – You have to be willing to place intelligent bets, and give up the smoothness of predictability for the non-linear upsides of intelligent risk taking.  Not all bets will lead to success but there’s hardly any safety in passivity either.  We need to have the self confidence to set a direction but not the arrogance to fight the need to change if market conditions so require. 

Goal setting –  Agreed we have constraints of infrastructure and resources.  Never let that restrain our ambition and allow self imposed limitations to make us aim too low.  Go figure how to get over them.  Trust me, people already have.

Between knowledge power, the local market as incubator and a burning ambition,  India has the potential to be among the world’s leaders in Innovation.  The world is waiting.