Naked Conversations: book launched

Blogging, has changed the way people express themselves. Robert Scoble, along with few others have trulyScoble_and_me_at_the_book_launch evangelized the culture of blogging in enterprises. Scoble brought blogging to Microsoft. Wi th fan following from Tom Peters to Bill Gates, Scoble has evangelized corporate blogging, since its inception. Along with Shel Israel, Scoble had undertaken a writing adventure, several months ago. Their book on blogging – Naked Conversations(which was written after incorporating tons of feedback from bloggers around the globe) was launched today.

My best wishes to Shel and you – Scoble.

Let’s blog it!

Intrapreneur or Entrepreneur?

I have always wondered as to why some people choose to start their own companies, while several other equally smart and risk-loving individuals incubate their ideas within the realms of their corporation. This dilemma is particularly important for me personally. So, I’ve discussed this topic with several successful entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and academicians. A few topics have consistently dominated our discussions. I’ll share the top three factors that dominate people’s decision-making criteria.

The term "intrapreneur" was coined by Gifford Pinchot. According to Wikipedia, intrapreneur is a person who focuses on innovation and creativity and who transforms a dream or an idea into a profitable venture, by operating within the organizational environment. An entrepreneur does the same by starting up his/her own venture independently.

Risk and reward: Individuals perceive that it is riskier to start a venture independently than it is to start a new product group within their own company. It is valid to a certain extent. Individuals will still retain their respective jobs (in most cases), even if the newly started product group fails. In case of entrepreneurship, if the startup fails, the entrepreneur has nothing else to resort to. I’ve seen individuals consider several other risk factors besides job security while making their decision. The major factors include their ability to attract and retain talent, their ability to develop new distribution channels and their ability to defend their idea. But, on the other hand, the potential rewards in choosing the entrepreneurial route can be exponentially higher as compared to the intrapreneurial route.

Impact: Several enterprising individuals (especially at Microsoft) are supremely passionate about making a significant impact on the world. They realize that their idea will get a better platform to make a larger impact on the market, if it is being implemented by their employer (parent organization), than if it is rolled out as a startup. It largely depends on the business-idea or the technology.

Intrapreneurship or nothing: Sometimes, the business-idea is so tied with their parent organization (employer), that the idea can only take shape if it is being implemented as an intrapreneurship project. So, when they have a choice of pursuing their idea or not, they decide to take the intrapreneurial way. Most of the innovative product-launches from 3M, are its living examples. Another example that can be closely applied here is the launch of XBOX. When Robbie Bach, J Allard and team had an idea of creating a new console-based gaming system, to compete against Sony’s Playstation that had more than 50% of the market share, this factor would have played a role. The amount of capital (in order of 100s of millions) and the quality of talent, demanded by the business plan would have not been feasible without the Microsoft umbrella. Another example is the plight of professionals who are working in the US or any other country on some kind of work-permit. These individuals cannot start their own business/startup, due to legal reasons. So, they decide to choose the intrapreneurial path.

Entrepreneurs – according to me are not the greatest risk-takers, but they are the best risk-managers (read risk-minimizers). Personally, I don’t believe that the first factor (risk and reward) should be considered too much in making the decision, as it is the gist of entrepreneurship.One of the most traditional form of intrapreneurship is demonstrated by the hundreds of university-based ventures that are started by student-professor teams in the universities. Unfortunately, the university’s ability to easily file a patent plays a major role in such decisions.

One of my favorite mentors – Guy Kawasaki has written in detail about intrapreneurship.

Let’s go out and change the world.


tagclouds and beyond

A few people have inquired about tagclouds on the right hand sidebar of this blog. Tagclouds are a simple, but creative and powerful way to harness the power of Web 2.0. Tagclouds have been popularized by , connectedy and flickr. A tagcloud is an automated way of generating folksonomy views. Folksonomy, according to wikipedia, is a collaborative way of categorizing information on the web, on the basis of freely chosen keywords (tags) by users.

There are several ways to create tagclouds. Pete Freitag explains creation of tagclouds using ColdFusion. However, I prefer doing it by using a handy service offered by

Technically a tagcloud is a collection of tags (which are clickable hyperlinks). Clicking on a particular link will take the user to a new page with the article abstracts to the RSS feeds associated with that tag. It will also display the other tags associated with that feed.

Typically, the way it works is as follows:
The user can specify a list of RSS feeds, either directly or through an OPML file. Tagcloud_5All these feeds are stored in a database. Then keywords associated with each feed are extracted using a web API, like the one provided by Yahoo’s content analysis web service. These keywords are then associated with appropriate feeds. Based on the frequency of the tag (as to how often is a particular tag associated with a feed), the tags are displayed in different font sizes (using CSS styling) is based on an original idea of John Herren. There are other similar ways Tadalists_3to creatively use CSS styling to display content (text) on the basis of relevance/weight. 37signals uses weight-based CSS styling in its popular Tadalists. Based on the number of to-do things, a circle of varying sizes is displayed in front of the to-do list. A list with 10 items has a larger circle than a list with 3 items.

Let’s be technocratic.

ipod and the design of things to come

I religiously admire Apple for its proven ability to consistently come up with terrific designs. Design is the sole reason as to why Apple has been able to enjoy the price premiums over competitors. Other companies that I admire for great designs include IDEO, Microsoft, Herman Miller, Oakley and Porsche. Ipod has been a phenomenon for the last couple of years and I have been intrigued by the factors that made it a phenomenon.

The MP3 technology had been invented in the mid-eighties and flash-memory based MP3 players had been around since the mid-nineties. But, MP3 players were regarded as geeks’ fantasy toy until the IPOD was introduced.

What is so different about the Ipod and how was Apple able to do it?

I’ve discussed this question with several designers, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs and I’ll share my findings here. As always the designers at Apple and Steve Jobs studied the social, economic and technical factors that dominated the entertainment industry in the late nineties. Let’s look at some of the social, economic and technical factors.

Social: The popularity and proliferation of the internet had made people accustomed with the limitless choices available for any activity. Suddenly, people had the ability to selectively read any newspaper in the world. Selection, choice and personalization were the key trends.

Economic: Peer-to-peer file sharing applications like Napster and later Kazaa were extremely popular (and they worked). Essentially these services allowed people to download media (songs, movies, etc.) for free. There were huge protests from the recording industry (both the recording companies and artists). Everyone from college students to investment bankers were getting arrested for downloading pirated media. Napster was eventually shut down (and is now re-opened with a legal subcription model). A legal way to download media was indispensable at that time.

Technical: While the MP3 compression technologies had enabled people to have thousands of songs, the flash memory-based MP3 players of that age restricted the users from leveraging the technology. The MP3 players were small enough to be carried in pockets, but the ability to have only a limited number of songs with them was a big restriction.

Apple identified these factors and iteratively designed one of the most effective music delivery system. With the contemporary white looks and an intuitive minimalistic design, ipod quickly became "the" thing. Apple had studied all the social, economic and technical factors and predicted "How they were going to change?" over the course of next two years. For some factors, Apple itself brought the change (iTunes). The ipod overcame the size restriction by empowering the users to store 1000 songs in their pocket for the first time in the history. With iTunes, Apple created a legal and seamless delivery system, where the users can easily download songs to their ipods. Most of the people I’ve talked with love the ability to seamlessly transfer music from itunes to ipod. Today Apple and ipod have more than 70% of market share and the ipod family has grown to include video ipods.

What can we designers learn from the ipod?

Study the social, economic and technical factors that govern your target market and predict how they are going to change in the next two to three years. Find the gaps between the predicted factors and the current factors and fill those gaps. The best designs have always simply filled those gaps.

Several books have been written on the topic. Some of the books that I’ve enjoyed reading include:

The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley
Simply better by Patrick Barwise and Sean meehan
The Design of things to come by Vogel, Cagan and Boatwright
Ten faces of innovation by Tom Kelley
About Face 2.0 by Cooper and Reimann

Some of the upcoming trends and related products that I believe will make it big in the next year include smartphones, personalized clothing and collaborative filtering. Please share your comments on design, trends and ipod.

Let’s create the extraordinary.

entrepreneurship and I

A sky-diving training video ended with the following dedication:

“To those who dare to dream the dreams, and then are foolish enough to try to make those dreams come true.”

This definition explains the gist of entrepreneurship in the simplest terms. Entrepreneurs are essentially dreamers, but a special kind of dreamers – with passion, dedication, discipline and willingness to work terribly hard.

Speaking about dreams, I believe that the dreams are not too different from goals. I read somewhere that “A goal is a dream with deadline.” Entrepreneurs truly understand the importance of timeliness. They view their dreams as goals and work passionately towards achieving them.

I am an entrepreneur. After having started Securamed, I am currently working as a Program Manager at Microsoft. I’ve barely seen the real excitement of Web1.0, but have closely experienced the aftermath of the so-called “dot com” days. I’ve never regarded the dot-com days as a “bubble”. Although a whole lot of respectful entrepreneurs and investors did make some impulsively irrational decisions during those days, I consider the dot-com days as ebb and tide. As we’ve seen, it’s all cyclic after all.

Today is the age of Web 2.0. I believe firmly that a lot of impact is to be made by the upcoming Web 2.0 technologies and companies. I am certain that a significant amount of wealth will be generated by Web 2.0 startups in the next two years.

I am currently working on three different ideas, and plan to finalize on the top idea to spend my time on. Whether I will start a new product group within Microsoft or branch out on my own again is not certain at this moment. It depends greatly on the finalized idea. I love Microsoft for two main reasons:

1. Passionate, supremely smart and hard working team members.
2. An ability to make a significant impact through technology.

So, it is more likely that I might be more inclined towards Microsoft. But, that decision depends on a gamut of factors. I’ll write more about it, when the time comes.

I’ve decided to write about technology, entrepreneurship and design for two main reasons:

1. I am super-passionate about t.e.d and I believe firmly that their confluence can lead to extra-ordinary creations.
2. Out of all the people I’ve met in conferences, planes, school, work or society, the most interesting people have always been involved either in technology, entrepreneurship or design (I haven’t met a lot of people in the entertainment industry, but I bet they are quite interesting!!)

After having discussed entrepreneurship with more than 55 successful entrepreneurs, I’ve been amazed to see the thought-process that goes within an entrepreneur’s mind, during the early stage. There are so many (almost life-changing) decisions to be made with so little information. It is always intriguing to see the impact of those decisions. I will share my thought-process with my mentors, friends, peers, fellow entrepreneurs and other smart people ( I believe that the blogosphere is a small world and blog readers are usually smarter than the average population!! ). Please do comment, advise, complain, whine or just say a sincere hi. But, please do not spam.

Let’s go out and change the world.