Notes from the CRV conference

Spent a couple of days last week at the Charles River Ventures conference. (CRV is the lead investor in Gridstone). The attraction of the conference to me was to meet other entrepreneurs and to meet a great roster of speakers. As it turned out, the former objective wasn’t quite fulfilled, for good reason. But the speakers made the trip more than worthwhile.

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Users in India should have opt-in rights

Rediff, McAfee

Last year I posted on “Indian websites haven’t earned my trust“. What had annoyed me enough to write that piece was moneycontrol.com. Once it got hold of my email, it started sending me an email a day with an inane “Sensex was down 89 points, your networth?” Unsubscribing hasn’t worked so far. Eventually, I relegated it to “spam” in my email client where it finds company with all the Viagra and penny stock spam. I wonder what they’ve done with my email though. Probably sold it half a dozen times already, along with those of a thousand other unsuspecting subscribers.

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Open Letter to the Bollywood Music Industry

Dear Mr./Ms. Music Executive,

First of all, let me compliment you on your pricing strategy so far. You have aced the test on how to price information products. Information products like music are tricky – the content is all in digital form, the fixed costs are high and marginal costs approach zero. How do you price such a thing?

Your current strategy seems to be working well. You have segmented the market according to the listeners’ ability to pay. To each segment you offer a different product (or sometimes the same product) at vastly different prices. I checked prices at different places for the same album – Don. Here’s what I found:

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Apple and the Music Industry

Last week’s post on YouTube and Viacom got some great comments. If you get a moment go read them. Ram Medury brings up the case of VAS content providers in India, who get a small fraction of the revenues. The rest is kept by the Indian mobile service provider. Senthil says that it’s about the quality of the content. If the content is compelling it will pull in the dollars. Also, Robert Young at Gigaom has a very thought provoking post on the subject of Google and old media companies.

Onward ho! As promised, this week I take up another interesting space where the “Content vs. Distribution” battle is being played out – digital music.

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A Tale of Two Techies

Taking up from where I left off last week. Based upon the analysis it appears that the dramatic growth in the IT Services industry in India is the primary force in shaping the Indian techie. The Indian techie is a bright person who did well in college, but even after a few years in the industry, is low on technical depth. Before he can really sink his teeth into something, he is pulled into project management. Not because Indians or Indian companies don’t care about technical depth, but because if they have to meet demand and grow, they have no choice. And to paraphrase Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street – Growth is good.

A study in contrasts is that other techie – the American techie.

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Where are All the Senior Developers in India?

I hope you got a chance to play around with the spreadsheet that I posted last week. I finally got the embedded spreadsheet to work, so you can make changes and see the outcomes right there on the blog post. Isn’t that just a thing of beauty?

The model in the spreadsheet is quite simple, but it can explain a few things – for example, why in India ‘experienced developer’ has become an oxymoron. You simply don’t find developers with more than 5 years of experience. The Valley stands on the broad shoulders of seasoned developers who can weave magic with their keyboards and relish being individual contributors. Try finding these guys in Bangalore.

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Indian startups making a mark

Last week’s post on IndiaPost raised quite a storm of comments. Some of them were supportive of my central thesis that for Indian citizens to get better public services the issue of labour flexibility within public service organizations is the most important one to address. Many were not. Of these some thought that IndiaPost has actually done well, given the circumstances, and that I was looking at the glass half-empty.

So for a change, let’s look at the glass half-full. Let’s talk about some Indian startups that are being noticed.

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Web 2.0 – Dotcom Redux?

TechCrunch recently posted a link to GoToWeb20.net, a self-proclaimed complete directory of Web 2.0. (I would recommend you try the link only if you have broadband) It is quite a nifty AJAX web-site with a logo-listing of a whole bunch of Web 2.0 startups, which are organized by date and tags.

If you haven’t had enough of the whole AJAX-social networking-folksonomy-long tail thing, this website should cure that for you. There are 283 startups featured on the website. That doesn’t tell you much. But when you find out that there are 26 companies working on some form of bookmarking, you know there is kool-aid being drunk in large quantities somewhere.

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Startup – Tips and Tools

As we make our way through the woods on Gridstone Research, the startup that I work at, I often come across tools and methods on solving problems that are probably the same problems that many other startups or larger businesses face. Sometimes we struggle for a bit and then find something that works well. If I think it might be useful to others, I plan to post them here.
Here’s a solution that I came upon recently to a problem that many people in Marketing face. At Gridstone, given the stage at which we are I run the Marketing function myself. Getting the web-site right is something I end up spending a lot of time on. The marketing consulting firm that works very closely with us. As we iterate through design ideas for a variety of things like the home page shown here, it is not efficient or effective to write feedback notes in emails. When you are dealing with graphical images, you need tools that work well in that medium.

Go South, Young Man

A few months back in a post on ‘Paperbacks in India’ I had talked about how information products have some interesting challenges when it comes to pricing in the developing world. I believe that in what is called Software as a Service (or SaaS) – basically web-based hosted software like your internet banking software or even Yahoo Mail – there are significant opportunities for Indian technologists.

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