tech media isn’t reporting the truly interesting stuff

there’s more to tech than fund raises & the next big social app

Too much of the tech media is obsessed with reporting the financial events around companies, rather than the products/services and innovation that occurs at these firms.

Sure there is a need to report fund raises, M&A, companies going bust etc, as they are pseudo indicators of market validation (or lack thereof); but that is only a portion of the story. I’d love to hear more about how the privacy model being proposed by the latest social network will enable users to have greater control over their data; or how this little startup innovating in imaging could change the way high-resolution pictures are captured on smartphones.

Before blogs and tablets became mainstream, that kind of reporting was typically done in long form magazines, such as the Wired Mag or the ACM’s Queue magazine, and the new age publications aren’t quite there yet. Even the Wired magazine is still focused on getting its content published through a packaged magazine, rather than an ongoing ephemeral stream.

Wired.com, TheNextWeb, Techcrunch, and a couple others are doing a decent job, but there is a lot more room around reporting the latest and greatest innovation in the labs at great schools like Stanford, MIT, IIT’s, and others.

what do you think? … are there tech news outlets that do this particularly well in your view?

talk to your skeptics

their feedback helps you hone you message & your work

startups and innovators encounter skeptics on a daily basis. most of them like to point at the umpteen shortcomings of your concept (or solution) and how the status-quo or the 800-pound gorilla in your field is better.

i am certain you are thinking “trying to create something new and change the world is hard enough ! … now you are telling me to listen to my skeptics ?!? …are you crazy?”

however, I have found that these skeptics often give invaluable feedback that you rather get from them, than your customers. Use them as a litmus test to help calibrate your solution !

It is because the skeptics are right about some things that they are so wrong about the whole thing. Simon Cox, The Economist

the genesis of my short post was this quote from Simon Cox in the book “Economics, Making Sense of the Modern Economy”, 2nd Edition, The Economist Newspaper Ltd.

Simon gives me hope !

Fight on my friends.

in flight shopping is a relic

Earlier this week, on a Go-Air flight from Delhi to Mumbai, it struck me how much of a relic the notion of onboard shopping has become.

Come to think of it, the average domestic or continental international flight is probably 2.5 to 3 hours in length. What kind of urgency could strike an individual to want to make a purchase for something that will eventually still have to be delivered via mail.

I’d rather get off the flight, and use a smartphone app from Amazon or Flipkart of Myntra to seek, find and order whatever it is I’d want. 

The sheer convenience of one of these services knowing my payment preferences, remembering my shipping address, and giving me rewards points in one place is far greater than choosing to buy onboard a plane.

It is time for the airlines, and mail order catalog companies to evolve, me thinks.

Making big decisions


its not about choosing the defaults

Each of us typically make one or two big decisions about our lives every so often. For example, which career to choose? whether to buy a house or not? finding a life partner, or deciding where to take a big vacation. The implications of each of these choices is varied, but one thing is common — the defaults are well laid out for you.

Defaults are what you are supposed to choose. Thats what normal or good people do. It is what society expects you to do, and will shower you with positive energy when you ‘stick to what is right’.

Fred Wilson wrote a thoughtful article about Foursquare and their deliberations to decide the future of their business.

don’t let conventional wisdom force you into making decisions you don’t need to make and you aren’t ready to make, particularly about very big decisions that you will be living with the rest of your life

I find these words extremely valuable in times of ambiguity and lack of a clear way forward.

You are told that the default choice works, despite being either unprepared or in gross disagreement with it. Some times we do it for loved ones, and at other times we refrain from rocking the cradle.

Its not about spending more time with big decisions, but about spending enough to iterate and not be afraid of making an unconventional choice.

Recently, I made the choice of moving back to India after having stayed in America for a little over a decade. Many friends, colleagues, relatives, and general observers were quite baffled by my decision. I made the choice within the context of what is important to me, and that is what matters most.

Do what you think is right for you.


photo credit: http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/

Annual Reviews

so what did you do all last year?

Every year in January, many of us sit down with our bosses, supervisors, and mentors to review the year past. Often these reviews are institutionalized (read:required) by our organizations, and closely tied to financial incentives (bonuses). Through the years, I have found these reviews to be a great look-back mechanism for what I achieved (or didn’t) in the past year. In conversations with friends and colleagues though, I have found that many of us don’t like these reviews as much as I seem to. So, I thought I’d write a short post to share my point of view.

Realizing that every organization does reviews differently, encapsulating thoughts on the subject instantly starts to look like multivariate calculus to some. I distill reviews into the following measures for the individual:

  • Have you defined the right measures?
  • Are you making progress toward your long term goals?
  • Do you like your organization and your team?
  • Does your manager really care about your career?
  • Was it a good year or a bad year?
  • How did you perform compared to your peers?

These are the questions I’ve asked myself, my team, and my organization every year. Some of these are obvious questions, and others are not. For example, the measures change through different stages of our career, life-stage, and external circumstances.

For organizations on the other hand, annual reviews are a good way to recognize, reward, and retain their top-performers; and at the same time introspect whether they have the right mix of people to meet the goals of the business.

How do you think about reviews? … like em? … hate em? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Note: this is a repost from my blog, and was originally posted in Jan 2013

Mentors – your aides in career navigation


I often find myself deeply confused and unclear about navigating life and career decisions. These may range from simple things such as whether to take on a project at work?, or broader questions such as what geography do I want to be in 10 years from now?


No matter what the question, it is quite challenging to step outside of one’s own bubble and see the forest from the trees. What makes navigating these crossroads even harder is that the consequences of most such decisions may only be evaluated over long periods of time. All of us face these questions regularly, and am sure each of us has devised unique ways to find answers.


I constantly turn to my Mentors for guidance and direction when faced with multifaceted decisions. They (my Mentors) are the only way I am able to understand what is going on beyond my own life stage, industry, financial circumstances, geography, career track, and ideologies.

Surround yourself with mentors who not only share their life experiences but also challenge you to think about dimensions you may not have contemplated. Having an insight into what lies ahead, or how people in a different industry think about the same decision is invaluable.

As you think about Mentors, here are my thoughts on who to surround yourself with:

  • a peer in your industry
  • someone whose life/achievements you admire
  • a family member
  • someone in a different geography than your own
  • someone much younger than yourself
    (you are the
    present, they are the future)

Keep in mind that cultivating a Mentor/Mentee relationship takes time and diligence. You want to be selective in finding Mentors who are genuinely interested in you as an individual, and this takes time. An ideal mentor is someone you have known for atleast a couple of years, and is someone you would love to have a beer with.

Your relationship with your Mentors is a two-way street. You have to pay it forward and share as much as (and perhaps more) you wish to learn.

Think of a person without mentors as a sailor relying on astrology to cross the seas, and a person with mentors as an Admiral with the support of sophisticated GPS satellite navigation and mapping to assist him. The Admiral has a much better lay of the land and the many pitfalls and traps on the path to his goal.

Be the Admiral.

I hope you find Mentors that help make your life more interesting, and at the same time be sure to share your own perspectives with others who could benefit from your experiences.

(Special thanks to Aakrit Vaish, Dev Khare, and Tomas Tunguz for their feedback)

the curse of 10%

a 10 percent improvement means that you’re basically doing the same thing as everybody else. You probably won’t fail spectacularly, but you are guaranteed not to succeed wildly.

the curse of 10%

Larry Page succinctly described, in the above quote, the 10% growth syndrome that companies get into and miss out on doing great things.

Don’t get me wrong, it is extremely challenging to run a large company and motivate the team to work towards a common goal of 10% growth, but at the same time our business leaders owe a debt to society to attempt great things with the resources at their disposal

I hope more business leaders and politicians would see the roles the way Larry Page does.

You can see the entire interview with Larry Page in Wired mag here.