Archive for November, 2010

Building great products

November 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I have been thinking about a lot of great products that have now become an integral part of our life aka Google, iPods, iPads, SAP ERP, Zappos, Facebook, Twitter, Intuit, Amazon, Mitticool, etc.. 

When I think about what is common across these products and their growth to super-stardom and i found these common traits:

  1. Great products are highly focused in solving a particular need of a particular customer. No product ever succeeds if it tries to solve a lot of problems for a lot of people. 
  2. Great products are very simple to learn & use. Great user experience can make the difference between greatness and extinction. 
  3. Great products are born out of conviction and never out of consensus. Conviction can create great products or crappy products. Consensus can only create average products. 
  4. Great products continuously improve to solve the needs better. Continuous,  concentrated improvements make good products great.   
  5. Great products are built by small teams. I have never seen any great product coming out of a large team. The larger the team, the greater the chance that the product will turn out to be average or less than average. 
Guy Kawasaki also talks about DICEE (Deep, Intelligent, Complete, Elegant and Emotive as the characteristics of any great product. These are traits that also need to be kept in mind while designing any new products. 

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , ,

Understanding startups – – Amazing photo sharing tool

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

The second start-up that I want to talk about in my series of blogs on start-ups is an interesting start-up called

This is a very simple photo sharing application. To share your photos, all you need to do is drag and drop the photos to the webpage and you get a link that you can then share with all your friends for free.

All this can be done under 2 minutes!

No registration or sign-up required!

No advertisements!

Now this is simplicity at its best.  

Question now is how they will make money. I see the following options for them:

  1. Adopt Freemium model: You can upload photos for a specific size, say, 1 GB for free. If you want to share bigger albums, you need to sign-up and pay for the premium services. For this model to work, they need to make sure that
    1. The free service is very useful by itself
    2. Strong differentiation and feature sets of the premium or the paid service from the basic service. They could add regular features like the multiple albums, unlimited storage, one-click sharing with Facebook, twitter, etc.
  2. Get acquired: I think there is good possibility that they will get acquired by one of the bigger social networking sites (not necessarily other photo sharing sites) if they grow big enough. They will get the users. This is one start-up which needs to really go all out social marketing to get users by getting blogged about, tweeted, creating Facebook fan pages and everything else that can be thought about.
Pitfalls they need to avoid:

  1. Never sacrifice the simplicity of their application. This is their core value.
  2. Do not fall into the trap of generating advertising revenue. This can potentially kill the start-up.
Here is wishing them all the very best in their journey to success !!!!!!


3 reasons to start a successful startup

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment
Any start-up which has gone on to become highly successful does fall under one of these criteria:  

  1. They found a solution to a problem everyone knew but no one had solved till then.
  2. They found a potential problem not known to the market till then and tried to solve it first
  3. They found ways to solve a known problem dramatically (5x times) better/faster/cheaper.
There are a lot of start-ups which achieve decent success just by adding new functionality to an existing product/service as well. They thrive till the overall market grows and then inevitably stagnate for growth. The one’s which get out of the stagnation either do so by repeating the same strategy for a different product/service or end-up in one of the above situations. 

Categories: Startups

The Art of the Quick Phone Call

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment
I have found the article on the art of the quick phone call by Mark Suster very interesting and helpful. I have had to sell to a lot of people on the phone and I have learnt from experience that the tips that Mark has listed work really well.
Few more things that I would like to add to the list are:
  1. Summarize the discussion or decision in an email and share it with the caller. This will help clear mis-understandings upfront. 
  2. Pls share any pre-read that can help save time and provide back-ground information for the call at least a day ahead if possible or at least before the call. 
  3. If you say that you will share some information, pls make sure that you send out the information immediately after the call. 
IS there something else you have found useful for having a productive phone call ?
Categories: sales Tags:

Understanding Startups – D2O

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment
Today, I came across an interesting start-up: D2O (as in Distribution 2.0). They have already been profiled in Headstart network and yourstory. The name sounds very interesting. The space is also very interesting. They are in the process to create a product agnostic distribution network which can distribute any product nationwide. They have started operations in Mumbai and are seeking to scale-up. My take on the start-up is as below.

The most important aspect of any successful business is the business model. Let me try to put in my understanding of their business model:

  1. Value Proposition:
    1. Re-define conventional distribution networks and create product or service agnostic distribution networks
    2. Use financial services and insurance as the vehicle to create and test the network
  2. Customers: Consumers of any product/service channeled through the network.
  3. Key activities:
    1. Identify potential channel partners across geographies
    2. Identify potential services that can be distributed
  4. Cost structures:
    1. Setting up a scalable technology backbone to support operations
    2. Identifying potential channel partners across geographies is a cost intensive exercise
  5. Revenue plan: Margins to be made by using the same channel to distribute multiple products to same or similar consumers.
I find that the idea is novel. However, there are some major challenges ahead for them which they need to address:

  1. Setting up a nationwide or even a regional distribution network takes time and is cost intensive. This means that to create such a network, they will need a lot of cash to burn upfront.
  2. The product/service they have started with is a high margin product. But the customer segment they have decided to focus is at the bottom of the pyramid (BoP). This is even more challenging as this can potentially slow down their progress on scaling up.
  3. They need to reach a critical mass in terms of their distribution reach in order to become profitable and to be considered an alternative or a ready channel for new products/service launches.
  4. The choice of channel partners/distributors/affiliate partners will determine the constraints of the products/services that can be distributed. It is a tough choice to make.
  5. Channel partners will loose interest in the company if they do not get quick RoI or from being a part of the network. OF all the challenges, this is one which can decide the fate of the start-up.
Having said all of these, there are some other things that are favorable for D2O:

  1. The founders have a small team and are thinking big.
  2. Cloud can help them build a really scalable technology back-bone to support operations.
  3. The start-up ecosystem and the business environment (with India growing handsomely and most of the growth coming from tier 2 and 3 towns) is very conducive for start-ups like them to flourish.
In my opinion there can be a slight shift in their strategy so that they allow themselves to grow fast. That will be the only way they can ensure success.

These were my opinion on the company, their business model and challenges. Do you agree with my opinion?

NASSCOM Product Conclave – Indian IT Industry comes of age

November 15, 2010 3 comments
This year’s NASSCOM Product Conclave which concluded last week had a few surprises in for me. This year’s theme was cloud computing and start-ups. A few things that stood out at this year’s events are:

  1. Co-Creator forum: One unique activity that has been tried out at the event was a match making process where big SI’s and MNC’s were introduced to Indian product companies to explore possible partnering opportunities. I participated as part of the SAP team. We met some interesting product companies and are exploring partnering opportunities with them. I think this indicates another shift in the industry. Partnerships are going to be crucial to win in the new reality.
  2. Presence of investor community: Start-up’s invariably attract investors (Angel investors and VC’s). This year there was a good participation in the event by the investor community, not only as speakers, but also as sponsors and more importantly delegates. This indicates that there is a lot of money waiting to be invested in the Indian product companies which is good news for the industry at large and start-ups more specifically.
  3. Perceptible shift in the industry: There are a lot more companies in India who now want to create products than just offer services. This indicates that the Indian IT industry is moving up the value chain. I am sure that India will emerge as a hub for software products soon and there would be no surprise if the next Google or Microsoft will emerge from this community.  
  4. Emergence of ZOHO: One success story of a product company in India has been ZOHO. ZOHO has proved to be a path breaker in this community and I could sense that they are being considered the leader in the pack, just like Infosys was considered when the services economy was about to take off. Whether ZOHO will also grow as big as Infosys, time only will tell. One thing for sure is that they have shown to the Indian software industry that creating world class products from India can be a reality. The importance given to them was evident from the fact that their CEO had 3 back-to-back sessions on the last day of the event.  
  5. Dilemma – Cloud or On-Premise: I could sense that there is no consensus on the cloud or on-premise dilemma. I guess both will have to co-exist and grow together for some more time to come before one or the other emerges as the clear winner to create and deliver great products.
Here are some interesting product companies to watch out for:

Do you know of other interesting start-ups in India which have the potential to become big?