Want to start your own company? Welcome to the Jungle

If I were to compare a startup to hunting, then the idea of hunting that bear is akin to the new business idea you are pursuing. But the hunting doesn’t start unless we get our lazy asses out in the jungle. Similarly, entrepreneurship only happens when we enter the jungle (execution), with all its uncertainty and dangers which we all miss in the city (idea). Below are some rules of the jungle, if you have forgotten –

1. No Reasons and Excuses
Once you have stepped in the jungle, you can’t blame the wild bushes and animals and the lack of roads. You can’t demand a hospital and a restaurant in a jungle. So if you think you need funding to execute an idea, or a quiet time to write that book, or that degree to be successful, then shut the **** up and stop giving excuses. Outside in the civilized world you can give these reasons, but in the jungle these become just excuses. Nobody wants your MBA degree in the jungle, and neither can it make any difference.

Life is a zoo in a jungle. Peter De Vries

Life is a zoo in a jungle. - Peter De Vries

2. No Blame, Only Responsibility
In the jungle, you can either blame the thorns and the leeches for you not being able to hunt, or you can take responsibility for stepping into the jungle and dealing with whatever it has to offer. Taking responsibility will ignite the inner fire in you, to take charge of your life and improve/change and do whatever is required to reach your goal, inspite of all the challenges that the jungle presents to you. And yes, it takes strength.

3. Calmness amid Change
In a jungle, you can’t blame that the ecosystem changes every inch. If fact, it is utter stupidity if you expect anything other than change in a jungle. Similarly, in the startup world, you must learn to accept that life is filled with change. The only thing that matters is how accepting or rejecting you can get of that change, discomfort and hardship? The more you accept that as normal and stop resisting it, the more easily you can find the hidden treasures of entrepreneurship. As one wise man once said – “It is much easier to ride the horse in the direction that it is running.”

4. One Difference
If there is one difference between a startup and hunting, it is that in hunting you know which tools to carry and what animal you are going to hunt. But in a startup, most often you don’t even know your target (customers) so there is no question of having the right tools like a gun or a knife with you. So, you will not have the programmer, the sales guy, the money when you need it the most. Face it. Using whatever tools, you have to do get the job done. Using rocks as knifes and stones as guns can look funny to others, but that is the best you can do in your situation. And so you do it.

Taking it a notch ahead, I would say LIFE itself is a jungle. Think about it? For me, that is what makes it so exciting. For you, only you can answer this question?

Fun as a way of doing Business, and why the “Cricky says Thanks” Campaign?

As I (CricketRadius) launch the Cricky says Thanks to Dravid and Ganguly campaign on twitter today, I want to take you into a brief journey of how I came up with the idea and how I see fun as an integral part of life, whether it is doing business or watching a game of cricket, or anything else for that matter.

If you Obey all the Rules, You miss all the Fun
If there is one mantra I live my life by, it would be this. The focus is not on breaking rules, but on having fun. We learn by doing, and by failing we learn how not to fail the next time. But that failing had all the fun. Remember the childhood days when you fell off the bicycle, or while playing football, and how much fun it was. And with every fall, we became better at not falling. For me, doing something the way I want do it is the greatest thrill in the world.

Cricky The Fan

Cricky The Fan

Work = Fun = Play = Business
I have always been in the business of cricket. Irrespective of where I have worked, I have always followed every single cricket match played by India in the last 20 years. I have devoted hours every day reading articles, watching videos and discussing about cricket with my friends and colleagues. The point I am making is what you ‘care‘ about is your business anyway, in whichever form it is. And throwing yourself into a job you love and enjoy is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

I am my own Customer
The one thing that wakes me up in the morning these days is the idea of giving a great experience to my customer. I have myself followed cricket by way of keeping a track of records in notebooks and cutting pictures from newspapers to form huge albums of collages. Later on I have maintained excel sheets containing all kinds of cricket related data and kept them updated regularly. What I am trying to do with CricketRadius is to deliver a product for myself and people like me. I have still not figured out what the end product would be, but I am sure I know it somewhere deep inside and just have to bring it out in the right form.

Get Started. Make Impact. Small is not Bad
If I have an idea that can save the planet, I will act on it. But if I have a small idea which will just make watching cricket more fun, I will work on that too. For me, the real joy is of ‘creating‘ something new, not in how big or  small, and the journey in itself rather than the destination. So the point is – Just make a difference where you can. Some solutions can be scaled up, some can’t, but I like to realize that after taking action, rather than in classrooms and meetings.

Relive 5 historic matches of Ganguly and Dravid on Twitter from 23-27 May

Relive 5 historic matches of Ganguly and Dravid on Twitter from 23-27 May

How the campaign came about?
It is not a co-incidence that the campaign is about expressing gratitude to Dravid and Ganguly for their contribution to Indian Cricket. I have spent my childhood watching their entire careers and I believe these two players have had the biggest impact on Indian Cricket in the last 20 years, along with Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar. And in todays inter-connected world, the question I am asking with this campaign is – “What if twitter had been there on these 5 historic matches which I am re-creating and reliving?” Every fan has the option to relive those moments of pure joy by following the commentary, reading articles and watching videos about the same online for 5 days starting today.

And what better way to show that we acknowledge Dravid’s and Ganguly’s contribution to Indian Cricket than getting all fans together in the form of a huge collage made out of our Twitter profile pictures – The Twit-Bat. So follow the matches live on our twitter account, and invite other fans to take part in the campaign all details of which can be found here.

Building the Right Product versus Building the Product Right

In my 7 years in the industry, I have seen that the relationship between the product and engineering teams can make or break the product, and the whole business around it. Product management is about building the ‘right‘ product while Engineering is all about building the product ‘right‘. However, in a business both are equally important and myopic views about any one of them will end up hurting the business in the long term. This hold more true for startups and internet based companies than for established and growth companies where the ‘right‘ product is already identified.

Part of the Same Team

Product management and Engineering need to work together as they are part of the same team, while having very different roles. It is critical that the two see themselves as peers, and on the same side of the table. In most companies these two teams sit far away from each other, limiting interaction, which is critical especially in the beginning stages of any product. It is important to understand that out of PM and Engineering, none is subordinate to another, and steps must be taken to introduce a cohesive working environment between the two to enable better understanding and co-operation.

Make Engineers Understand the Customer

Most of the times engineers are unaware of why they are building what they are building. Their focus is on getting the requirement spec from product management, and then working on implementing that. But without an intricate knowledge of why they are building that product, and for whom, they can never get a complete understanding of their place in the whole company and fully contribute to it. In my view, making each and every developer in the engineering team aware of why they are doing what they are doing is critical to discovering problems in time and preventing frustration and despair later on.

Is this the story in your company?

Is this the story in your company?

Encourage Engineers to Come Up with Ideas

Your engineers are the ones who are the closest to the product, and they know the technology best. They have the best idea of what can be done and what not, and the relative complexities of implementing any two different solutions. Involving them in idea generation and encouraging them to come up with ideas can prove vital in reducing the PM-Engineering mail clutter to come up with better solutions sooner. At the same time, it also gives engineering a sense of ownership about what they are going to implement.

Product Manager should focus on Minimal Product, then regular Increments

It is often considered fancy to come up with a product plan which will take 2-3 months for engineering to build. The product team think they have done a great job detailing every feature and detail in the spec, while the engineering team devotes their best resources to doing it right. But after the product ships (or sometimes even before), the product team (together with sales and marketing) gets valuable feedback from the customer and wants to drop some features, change a few, and add a couple of new ones. This becomes the Product Spec v2. All the while engineering has no idea why their efforts of the last 3 months have gone down the drain, which leads to frustration and reduced productivity. And the cycle continues.

Another way to approach this situation could be to come up with a minimal set of features to build in the first version of the product. It is critical that both PM and Engineering sit together and decide this based on each other’s inputs. If the two work cohesively together on a minimal product, and then add small increments as customer inputs start coming in, the kind of productivity that can be generated could be awesome for both teams, and for the company as a whole.

Why CricketRadius? The problem and the market

As you know, I launched CricketRadius.com on April 2nd. It is my second stint at entrepreneurship after SaleRaja earlier. In this article I will try to answer what idea I had so as to convince me to leave Yahoo and jump full time into this. Being very frank, I got the idea (and it is still refining) after leaving Yahoo. I had a very basic vision of doing something to connect fans when I left Yahoo, but the idea of a social network and what all features it will have have only come in the last three months. See below paragraphs to know more about the problem, the market and the solution.

The Problem
As a cricket fan, right now there are websites where you can check scores, read articles and stories written by former players and experts. Cricinfo, CricBuzz, CricketNext, Yahoo Cricket are some of the popular names. There are also a lot of fan blogs where bloggers share their views about the game. But there is no platform which gives you a cricket profile, where you can express your love for your favorite teams, players, stadiums and matches. There is no platform where all the fans can come together and share the experience which comes when our team wins, or our favourite player gets a century or a hat-trick. We watch cricket and enjoy it with our friends and family, and that is where the real love and joy for the game comes out.

We can obviously share about cricket on social networks like facebook and twitter. But it is annoying when you share about your favorite team on social networks, and every other non-cricket update gets in the way? Like someone’s birthday wishes, or what dish has one cooked, or some funny pic about a guy getting hit by a car. Wouldn’t it be great if you could talk just about Cricket?

CricketRadius - Because Fans Deserve Better

CricketRadius - Because Fans Deserve Better

The Product?
CricketRadius is a social network for cricket fans by cricket fans. Interact with others who have cricket in their blood, and discuss about your favorite players, teams and ongoing matches. Check in to the players and teams you are watching, score runs and let the world know your cricket acumen. Also, score runs and get rewarded on the way.

The Market
Currently there are more than 100 million Indian internet users, of which 45 million are on facebook. There is no need to quantify in numbers the popularity of cricket and how many of these users visit various cricket websites or share about cricket on facebook and twitter. This number is expected to rise to 300 million by 2014, according to Google India. A large young population (more than 50% of Indians will be under 30 by 2015) with better incomes and a growing economy are all reasons for this impending growth.

Online advertising in India is only worth $200 million, of which $100 million is of Google alone. Online ads and engagement models have yet to catch on in India, considering the global online ad market is $ 80 billion while global revenue for Google is $29 billion. This despite the fact that India is the third largest internet populace, only behind US and China. Some more figures can be found at http://thenextweb.com/in/2011/09/16/internet-users-to-triple-in-india-by-2014-google/

This presents to me a huge gap and a product missing for an ardent cricket fan like me. Cricket is something about which I am really passionate about, and it has been a dream come true creating a product which more than anyone else, I want to use and share with my cricket lover friends.

Idea or Execution, What is more Important?

It is a very difficult question to answer, and I can take any side and debate endlessly for its merits. One important point from a business point of view is that both are critical, and there can be no successful business without either idea or execution. In a way, both are inseparable. What will you execute if you don’t have an idea to start with? And there is no such thing as the perfect idea. As you get out in the world and start executing, your idea will obviously change and refine itself based on market feedback and knowledge of realities which you were not present to earlier.

For Idea
Start up is the art of executing an idea, so obviously the idea is critical. If you are hell bent upon executing a stupid idea, no matter what your execution is, it just doesn’t add up. The idea in turn is the key to attract good investment and people, which are critical for the execution. A bad idea will simply not get enough traction to survive in the market place. A great idea is a way to attract other resources who will do the execution. Obviously execution is important, but it is zilch without the idea first. In short, the idea must be executable for the execution to matter.

For Execution
An idea is just an initial vision for a product, or a solution by the founder. To develop it as a business, the whole business model has to be considered. Who are your customers, how will you reach them, what is your USP, what will be the key resources for you, and most importantly, what all will you incur expense for and what all will fetch you money. An idea without answering these questions is well, just an idea. Sometimes no matter how great your product or service is, you simply can’t make the economics work and you end up in the dead pool.

The choice of market, the team, its persistence, timing, and how good you are at adapting the business along the way based on what you learn all comes in the execution sphere. And it is very important to be mature enough to realize that no idea is the ‘final’ idea. You need to pivot your idea and product, and try out different products, marketing strategies, revenue models before you find a product market fit. For example – We all know solar is a good idea, but it has not been successful because there are huge upfront costs which customers are unwilling to pay. But there are many companies like Simpa who have changed their business model by partnering with banks and offer their solutions to the customers at the same expense they are incurring now. The idea is the same, but the execution is the differentiator here.

The bottom line – execution is required for any enterprise to succeed, either with a good idea or a mediocre idea. Of course, nobody can help you if you have a bad idea.

Idea or Execution

Idea or Execution

Derek Siver’s Explanation
He believes an idea is just a multiplier, and formulates its relation to execution as follows:

Awful idea = -1
Weak idea = 1
So-so idea = 5
Good idea = 10
Great idea = 15
Brilliant idea = 20

No execution = $1
Weak execution = $1000
So-so execution = $10,000
Good execution = $100,000
Great execution = $1,000,000
Brilliant execution = $10,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.
The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.

( My) Conclusion
Seth Godin says that just about every successful venture is based on an unoriginal idea, beautifully executed. Nearly every startup morphs their idea, often in very significant ways, once they enter the market. I would say that both are inseparable, you have to continuously refine your idea while you execute, and that is the key. So I would probably put the split at 40/60 in favor of execution. But there is hardly any business success story without both.