June 28, 2008

What do INVESTORS look for ?

Many times meeting investors becomes similar to applying for a job in a company.There are some set of basic questions which are repetitive and many times, the answer to these decide your fate.The only difference being in a job interview, the mistake may turn out to be less costly[since,it is only YOU who is affected] whereas any mistake while pitching to an investor won't only affect YOU but everyone CONNECTED with you in the STARTUP.

Just came across an interesting and a worthy presentation which gives an insight into the basic questions and the answer to simple those simple questions biggrin

Reader Contribution:
Lakshman Srikanth shares this insights on OpenCoffee Club dated 21st June,2008 here

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June 25, 2008

7 step "Customer Driven Feasibility Study"

Few months back, I came up with an article titled "What before a Business Plan".Today, we would focus on something which is inseparable from the Business Plan called "Feasibility Study". It is true that once we have the B-Plan ready, the very next step is to get going and focus on how to achieve the optimistic figures mentioned in the B-Plan rolleyes However, few things mentioned the B-Plan is written keeping the investor's in mind but along the entire journey; Customer is and will remain the HERO. !!! This leads to a report titled "Customer-Driven Feasibility Study" [from this point referred as Customer-Driven F.S. ] and my current read The New Business Road Test by John Mullins explained that to the core of it !!!

This article is divided into three parts namely:
  1. What is Customer Driven F.S ?
  2. Thin line of difference between B-Plan and Customer Driven F.S
  3. Contents of Customer Driven F.S
What is Customer Driven Feasibility Study
During the course of any opportunity, the Market Analysis/Study phase always remains iterative.However, at one point of time, the evidence gathered through the research would help us understand whether the opportunity is REALLY an opportunity.This feasibility study is Customer Driven because , unlike most organization charts which has the founder/ CEO at the top and people serving the customer at the bottom, the feasibility study begins with the target customer, without whom there would be no business. It is an internal document that should cater to the seven requirements which are discussed later.

Difference between Business Plan and Customer Driven Feasibility Study
Though there are a number of overlaps in the B-Plan and Customer Driven F.S , there are three major areas where they tend to differ :

1. Customer Focus :
The purpose of any business it to win customers and the Feasibility Study completely caters to that requirement which is quite different from that of most B-Plans - to win an investor. If there is no likelihood for customers, there would not be any investors.

2. Fundamental Economics :
The feasibility study addresses the fundamental economics of the business, by identifying the key drivers of cash flow: revenue, required capital investment, gross margins etc. If these drivers are satisfactory, than detailed strategies like marketing, operations and financing can probably be developed to make the venture economically viable.

3. Mindset :
The purpose of the study is not to sell the venture's merit whereas a B-Plan organizes the answers delivered by the feasibility study and goes on to develop marketing, operating and financing strategies in an effort to sell the opportunity, in a focussed way, to the investors and other stakeholders.

7 step "Customer Driven Feasibility Study"

This briefly describes what follows [tells the reader(s) what you are going to tell them]

2. MICRO- level MARKET assessment :
  • TARGET market and it's pain identified; benefits of your solution identified, with evidence that those in this segment are willing to pay a price that works.
  • Target market segment, size and growth rate.
  • Options to grow into other segments.
3. MACRO- level MARKET assessment :
  • OVERALL market size and growth rate.
  • Macro trends analysis to assess future market growth and attractiveness.
4. MACRO - Level INDUSTRY assessment :
  • Five forces analysis : Whether or not the industry is attractive.
  • Likely changes that may happen going forward.
5. MICRO - Level INDUSTRY assessment :
  • Any proprietary elements.
  • Any superior organizational processes, capabilities or resources identified that are not easily duplicated or imitated.
  • Economic viability of business model established :
- Revenue Forecast.
- Customer acquisition & retention costs and time required to obtain a customer.
- Gross margins.
- Break even analysis.
- Operating Cash Cycle characteristics.
6. TEAM assessment :
  • Team's mission, aspirations and tendency for risk.
  • Team's ability to execute the mission.
  • Team's connectedness up, down and across the value chain.
7. SUMMARY and Conclusions :
Tell the reader(s) the key highlights of what you have told them - why this is/is not - opportunity attractive and future prospects of the opportunity.

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June 23, 2008

ThoughtsPrevail recognized by AllTop...

As you might have seen on my blog, I am an ardent fan of Guy Kawasaki.It is an honor for me[as well as ThoughtsPrevail] to get featured in the India Section of his website AllTop

Below is a email confirmation from AllTop Team:

It is a great moment for me [since, AllTop is Guy's startup] , to add this badge to my blog smile

Alltop, confirmation that I kick ass

Thanks to each one of you for making this happen !!! An interesting journey for ThoughtsPrevail with one more feather to it's cap ; some of the so called "Past Achievements" can be found here, here and here.

This is just the beginning and more is yet to come !!!!

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June 18, 2008

INTERNET RICHES for Indian Entrepreneurs - II

In continuation to the previous article by Scott Fox , author of the best selling book Internet Riches[who is the Guest Writer on this blog]; let us now look at the remaining two factors that would help to create more online opportunities for Entrepreneurs in India.

"I" in the article refers to Scott Fox.

4. India's English Triple Advantage
With their greater literacy in English, Indian entrepreneurs can continue to capture a greater share of English-speaking customer dollars than entrepreneurs from other countries like China.
This linguistic advantage is important because it allows Indian startups to:
  • Compete on a global basis by more easily marketing their e-commerce products and services outside of India into affluent English-speaking markets worldwide.
  • Take advantage of proven e-commerce platforms from the U.S. for use in India. Services like Google's Adsense, Paypal, eBay, Elance, and many others are all available to English-speaking Indian entrepreneurs today, at least for imitation and research if not outright deployment in Indian markets.
  • Access the huge amount of technical and strategy information available in English online. Many of the most important lessons learned by American entrepreneurs are well documented online and often available for free. This expertise includes technical documents, the U.S. Patent Office libraries, community forums of all sorts, and even thousands of free email newsletters and e-courses [like those I offer at ScottFox.com] that teach many of the e-business revolution's tactical innovations for free.
5. Anyone Can Play Online
Perhaps most exciting about the E-Business Revolution is the liberation of the creativity of non-traditional entrepreneurs. With little capital required, low risk, and worldwide reach, the World Wide Web offers economic opportunity to a wider class of people, including the disenfranchised, the physically disabled or house-bound, and lower socio-economic classes, than ever before in history. Particular opportunities are emerging to serve youth markets [with more than half of the Indian population under the age of 25], and women [only 23% of Internet users in India are female], for example.

As previous online innovations like eBay, YouTube, Facebook, and CraigsList have demonstrated in the U.S. , it's difficult to predict how new platforms for commerce and communication can empower people. Today e-commerce's egalitarian approach to allowing participation and making money is increasingly available to inspire bursts of creativity from Indian entrepreneurs. Additionally, it's easy to foresee dramatic advances, including the establishment of new billion-dollar companies dedicated to serving the unique needs of previously underserved sectors of Indian society.

Increasingly, the only entry requirements into the race for internet riches are a broadband connection, creativity, and some hard work. As discussed in my book, Internet Riches, and with free updates by email from my blogs at ScottFox.com , I look forward to helping nurture this coming tidal wave of achievement too. I am excited to see the innovative, profitable, and inspiring ways that Indian entrepreneurs of all kinds will find to respond to the opportunities offered by the e-business revolution.

With this closing remark from Scott, I would like to thank Scott for being a guest author on ThoughtsPrevail and hope to see him back in the near future !!!

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June 16, 2008

INTERNET RICHES for Indian Entrepreneurs - I

With Internet growing leaps and bounds in India, the number of online opportunities for entrepreneurs have also grown as well.The growth of internet penetration in India has opened up new doors for Part-preneurs [My terminology for a person who is yet to completely take the entrepreneurial plunge but works on his venture part-time so that one day he can pursue his dreams full-time].

To tell us more about these opportunities, there would have been no better person than Scott Fox, more about him below.

About Scott Fox:

Scott Fox is the Author of Internet Riches, the worldwide best-selling guide to how anyone can use the Internet to start their own business, even without much money or technology. He blogs and offers free email newsletters about e-business success, entrepreneurship, and online marketing advice on his website.
This article is divided into two parts so, without much wait, let us see what Scott has to say about India and opportunities for Indian entrepreneurs online.

"I" in the article refers to Scott Fox.Before we start, my heartful thanks to Scott for being a guest writer on ThoughtsPrevail.

Internet riches for Indian Entrepreneurs - I
Today the Internet offers to Indian entrepreneurs even more potential for e-commerce success than was available in the U.S. in the 1990's.

The waves of broadband penetration and low cost e-commerce tools that led to mass adoption of the Internet in the United States are now reaching Indian shores. Although millions of Indians have been online for years, millions more are just beginning to gain access to the global digital marketplace. Most are still connecting at dial-up modem speeds but broadband penetration in India doubled again in 2007. And while the early adopters of e-business in India mirror those of the U.S., these waves have also broadened their reach during the time and distance they have traveled from the U.S. to India to include more people, more kinds of people, and new platforms like mobile phones.

Its huge population alone suggests that India should be an economic superpower. Usually this massive population is viewed as a potentially profitable consumer market to be exploited. I would prefer to see India's people as a massive natural resource that smart entrepreneurs can leverage to achieve huge financial success. Current challenges in providing basic services like electricity and water will be overcome, and India's astounding continued economic growth rate offers major opportunities to a new wave of Indian e-commerce start-ups today.

At least 5 factors[with two mentioned in the next article] will combine in India to create exciting new markets and unprecedented millionaire-making opportunities for a new generation of Indian entrepreneurs.

1. Capitalism without Capital:
The low cost of entry for starting a business online is unprecedented. The costs of a PC, broadband connection, and especially the education to put them to work remain significant obstacles. But these foundations of e-commerce success are still so much less expensive than erecting a bricks-and-mortar business that small business ownership is increasingly within the reach of millions who have not fully participated in the economy previously.

2. Low Risk:
Because the e-business revolution so reduces the need for start-up capital, it is much less risky. By starting small online, millions of new Indian entrepreneurs will find that they can build their own businesses without leaving their current jobs, mortgaging their personal assets, or otherwise unduly risking their futures. This ease of market entry introduces increased potential competition but also allows rapid product development iteration, customer feedback, and online market testing to accelerate the success of winning ventures.

3. New Local Market Innovations:
Internet-delivered local services and advertising are sure to spread in India even faster than they emerged in the U.S. Years of U.S. and EU innovation in web site and mobile phone-based services will benefit localization business efforts by Indian entrepreneurs, helping them speedily deploy new tools [whether invented in India or imported] to profitably serve their vast domestic market.

I hope that you found insights from Scott useful as well as interesting.You would find the continuing part in the next article.

Reader Contribution:
Get updated Motivation Quotes by Scott Fox using this Google Gadget by Manish Panchmatia

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June 12, 2008

Traditional Marketing : Advertiser - Consumer breakup

Time has changed and gone are the days where you had to spend huge money to advertise on televisions, radios or any such medium.With the advent of Web 2.0, companies especially startups have found a better, easier and faster method of spreading their ideas.You can find interesting thoughts on Traditional Marketing in my previous articles here & here.

Just came across an interesting video [shown below],which demonstrates "Why the big bucks spent on marketing may not be good enough to catch the eyeballs of the consumer !!!"

Source : Marketing Amnesia

If you [does not matter if you are a technical person like me] are interested in Marketing and want to interact & learn from other marketers, do join the Marketing Unconference group called MarkCamp here and here.You would also find the likes of Mahesh Murthy and other industry experts in the group so you can be assured that your first marketing campaign would not end in this way biggrin.

Related Articles:
Successful Marketing stunts
Marketing strategies for Startups
Email Newsletters : Cost effective way of marketing
Harry Beckwith on "Selling something that no one can see

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June 8, 2008

Mistakes : INevident , yet EVIDENT

Few days back, when I was writing my previous article , I clicked the "Publish" Button instead of "Save As Draft" and guess what, the article was not even half written. The fun started when I thought how embarrassing [as well as unprofessional] it would have been, if a reader or subscriber notices the error sad Well, the mistake might have proved costly, with the blog's image getting spoilt for the regular visitors and new visitors getting a first hand BAD IMPRESSION.

In my case, I was able to rectify the mistake by immediately deleting the article and than republishing it with the updated content but many mistakes are not so easy to correct. Yesterday, I received an email from Guruji about their new Music Search service. The service is quite good and have used it before , but the email had some serious problem[Image below].

Can we see an Indian child in this picture? IMHO, it looks somewhat disconnected, name is Guruji; which means mainly targeted to the Indian audience and we find ONLY foreign kids in the image biggrin

Advertisements are a major source of revenue for all the websites.But displaying advertisements at irrelevant places might be hazardous for the website.Shown below is an image from a local social networking website SirfDosti , and I could find an Ad on my name sad This may help them generate revenue but may result in a total turn-off for the visitors to the website.

Punctuation & Grammatical errors are quite common and one such mistake was found on Ibibo

[Image source : Deap Ubhi's Blog ]

By no means , there could be any software without bugs or any service with zero problems but the crux is to minimize those so called "Visible Mistakes", which might create a bad brand name[not in terms of service] in the minds of the consumer.You can find some interesting articles on some common mistakes here, here and here

In today's age, consumers are very quick in pointing out mistakes and as Seth Godin says: "There are way too many choices[for consumers] and way less time". So before your consumers run to their next possible choice, just make them addicted to your service and keep in mind "To err is human and to err again is stupid" smile

Image Courtesy:
Fortune Watch

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June 6, 2008

Ten mantras to be become a more PRODUCTIVE Entrepreneur

Time management is a very important factor; consider your work, personal life or anything related in your day to day life. May be that is the reason we have post-its, diaries,hand-held gadgets etc. that come to our rescue smile Effective time management[coupled with proper priority scheduling] leads to better productivity !!!!

To explore more on productivity, we have a guest writer - Heather Johnson, who would give us some insights into what best practices would make an Entrepreneur[and his/her team] more efficient & productive.

About Heather Johnson:
Heather Johnson is a regular writer on the topic of Top credit cards.Heather welcomes questions, comments and writing job opportunities at her email address heatherjohnson2323@gmail.com

Ten tips for becoming a more PRODUCTIVE ENTREPRENEUR:
Being self-employed is both a blessing and a curse at times. Without a boss standing over your shoulder every hour of the working day, you might find it difficult to always stay abreast with your daily tasks. Time really is money, however -- especially when you are solely dependent on your own work performance. If you would like to change your lifestyle in order to become a more productive entrepreneur, follow the ten tips given below:
  1. If you work from home, designate an area that is specifically for work. Don't let your personal life cross into your workspace.
  2. Do not put a television set anywhere near your workspace.
  3. Keep your desk tidy, as you will lose precious time hunting for things. Not only that, but a clean environment will invigorate you.
  4. Eat three well-rounded meals a day and drink plenty of water to keep your energy up [May be I should start practising this one biggrin].
  5. Set regular work hours and stick to them.
  6. Take a day off [when your innovative mind is blocked and you are mentally tired]. Some entrepreneurs are workaholics and feel they can't afford to take a day off. Wrong -- this will actually lead to work burnout, which will cost you much more.
  7. Screen your calls when you are in the middle of a time-sensitive project.
  8. Keep an efficient work calendar and to-do list.
  9. If you work online a lot, there are many distractions that can sap your productivity.If you love checking the headlines, make that part of your lunch hour ritual.
  10. Document everything business-related and save all receipts in a designated file. This makes tax season much easier on you and your accountant. Don't have an accountant? Get one.
Thanks Heather for these simple and wonderful tips , since simplest things are the ones that we take for granted and your tips would definitely help many people[not only Entrepreneurs] to be more productive !!!!

Related Article:
Ten steps to improve your eCommerce business

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June 3, 2008

BELIEVE in your IDEAS and BOSS just DO it - Praneet Kumar, Co-Founder - WebDefenders

Few days back, I had blogged about an Unconference named IdeaCamp,Pune which was all about sharing and discussing ideas.There were lot interesting people that I came across during the span of the entire event.Amongst those interesting set of people , there was a startup guy Praneet Kumar who knew well about cyber law, patents, trademarks etc.

Praneet is the co-founder of a startup WebDefenders Consulting Pvt. Ltd [website under construction] which is into cyber law, ethical hacking and few other activities[which are listed below]. WebDefenders looked a different and interesting startup , in terms of it's offerings and services biggrin.

Below is a small Q&A with Praneet Kumar from WebDefenders.The Q&A session is divided into 2 parts : WebDefenders and Entrepreneurship.

Note : "I" in the conversation refers to Praneet Kumar.

WebDefenders [How,When, Why etc.]

Q. Can you tell something about WebDefenders ?
Well, WebDefenders is a unique endeavor in itself. It provides a complete solution package for cyber security which includes cyber law, cyber crime investigation, ethical hacking, cyber forensics and its related training and education.

Q. What are some of the sectors that WebDefenders caters to ?
Well! We wish to target initially the following sectors:

  1. Banking and Finance
  2. IT
  3. Government
  4. Authorized investigating body [both Government & Non Government]
  5. Education [Higher or Specialized]
  6. Defense
  7. Matters related Legal Exigencies

Q. Cyber Crime & Security is a niche area, so when did you guys feel that the time is right to venture into this field ?
Well! We have been involved in this area individually from 2004-05 but it was in mid 2007 that we [partners] met online, later became friends and finally the partners.

Q. What is your take on the recent happenings in the cyberspace with respect to cyber crime, security etc ?
Hmm! We feel that the major problem which India, particularly, is facing today is an acute crisis of awareness about cyber security with respect to cyber vulnerabilities. It is a now the cyber-age and so chances of being victim of cyber crimes is very evident.

Q. Since, your startup also caters to Intellectual Property[IP] services,what are some of the basic things that startup should take care of while filing a patent ?
Hmm! If someone has a creative idea or invention, or is interested in starting a techno company (s)he may wish to protect, the first thing (s)he does is contact a patent attorney and file a patent application. (S)he believes that (s)he has protected his/her invention, so is (s)he protected? Not necessarily!!!

Preparing a patent application is "only" one of many action steps to consider. But along with it, I opine following things must be kept in mind:
  1. Understand your product and market. When discussing your invention or idea, it is helpful to know "What is the ultimate goal?" & "What impediments to market entry exist?"
  2. Expand and test the limits of your invention.
  3. At least some analysis needs to be done to support broad claims of a patent.
  4. Identify your competition.
  5. It is important to understand the patents that protect your competitors.
  6. Consider foreign markets.
  7. Contemplate costs.
  8. Select a proper attorney.

So, when one has an idea which (s)he intends to develop it, (s)he must be a bit more careful to consider all the requisites and technicalities involved before jumping into the patenting process. One may find that there is a lot more to consider than merely filing a patent application.

Isn't it!

Views on Entrepreneurship

Q. You took a plunge right after your internship in Persistent Systems, which is quite early; so what are some of things that came into your mind ?
It was one of my most adorable experiences as in how an organization has to be run transparently to such great heights.

I read a book called "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" by Robert T Kiyosaki, gifted to me by my dad when I was in my 2nd yr of B.A.LLB.I then only decided that I am going for a business. After that I opted for a few internships to learn more about running a successful firm.I am a voracious reader. All these things together gave me the adequate impetus to choose for what I am today.

Q. You have a good team with you, what are some of the things you take care (as a startup) while building your team ?
Someone rightly said: It's not you [organization] who build team, it's your team which builds you. God gave me two gifts Neeket Pokharrna and Rohan Vibhandik..... rest happened automatically biggrin

Q. You were at IdeaCamp Pune, what is your take on such unconferences and how would that help startups ?
I feel that low mind talks about people, average mind talks about event but great minds talk only "IDEA". That's why a person of my frequency would have high stakes on such unconferences because any startup needs "the" association. In my views it's "the" place for starts ups which aspires high.

To corroborate this, I would like to state what my mind believes. Good association gives you good thoughts based on which one ends up doing good deeds. These good deeds, if performed again and again develop into good habits. All good habits if taken together form what we call a good "character" and no doubt, Character is the decisive factor.

Q. Can you throw some light on the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Pune ?
I as a person really appreciate and adore the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Pune. It's amazingly healthy, young, energetic, and explosive and it has what we call the "X" factor. One need less admit this fact, in presence of entrepreneurial endeavors like the Bajaj, the Punewalas, the Firodiya's, the DSK Toyota's, the Manikchand, the Persistent, the techie HUBS of the city and the list goes on. The silicon valley of east, the oxford of east, PUNE ROCKS….

Q. Many of startup activities happen in reputed institutes like IIT/IIM, what are some steps that an entrepreneur can take to carry Entrepreneurial message to other institutes (like yours or mine) ?
Wonderful question indeed! Just One expression for this - "believe in your IDEAS, have the hunger for right association and BOSS just do it, no excuse please"

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