Panel on Poverty videos

A passionate group of Unitus volunteers organize the annual POP (Panel on Poverty) at Microsoft. I got a chance to moderate the panel with leaders from Grameen, Unitus, Global Partnerships, World Vision and Washington CASH to discuss the causes, effects and solutions to eliminate global poverty.

For those who missed it, here are the videos:

Let the ideas POP!


Technorati tags: poverty , POP , Unitus , Grameen , World Vision , microfinance

TiE-Wharton-Harvard funding forum in Seattle

Business plan competitions and funding forums are great for everyone. They compel the participating entrepreneurs to prepare a tighter business plan and an appealing pitch. They provide leads to potential investors and offer an opportunity to experience pitching to the wannabe entrepreneurs. Business plan competitions were a boon to me during my first startup and were the primary source of funding for me. We did get lucky in a few competitions and that had paid off heavily in those days.

Anatomy of a funding forum:
Selected entrepreneurs present their business plan and pitch their plans to VCs, seasoned entrepreneurs, etc., who then provide feedback on the plan. Such forums are super valuable to the entrepreneurs, as they not only provide funding and advice, but also give publicity and exposure to the entrepreneur and the startup.

TiE-Seattle is hosting the TiE-Wharton-Harvard funding forum in November. I’m planning to attend.

When: Tuesday, November 6th, 2007 6.00 PM – 9.00 PM
6:00 PM: Networking
6:45 PM: Dinner
7:30 PM: PitchFest
8:30 PM: Emerging Investment Trends Panel discussion


Bellevue Courtyard by Marriott 11010 NE 8th St
Bellevue, WA


We have received some exciting business plans for this event and with some of the best VCs and entrepreneurs in the northwest on the panel, this event promises to be the best networking and learning experiences for this year. You will also get to hear the latest investment trends at this unique, once a year event. Seats are going fast for the TIE-Harvard-Wharton event: Funding Forum 2007 & Emerging Investment Trends on Nov 6, at the Bellevue Marriott Courtyard. Take advantage of the low prices before they go up on Oct 30th, and get plugged into this entrepreneurial ecosystem for the last time this year! Register Here

Raghav Kher,
Andy Dale,
Managing Partner, BDVLLC
Greg Gottesman,
Managing Director, Madrona Venture Group 
Mark Ashida,
Managing Director, OVP 
Naveen Jain,
Founder & CEO, Intelius


Most likely to Succeed: $1,500 OVP cash prize + 1 hour with one of the OVP VCs + half-day TURNING STRATEGY INTO ACTION training workshop from

Most Innovative: $1,500 Madrona Venture Group cash prize and 1 hour with one of the Madrona VCs plus 2 days of consulting services from CFO Selections.

Best Pitch: $1,000 cash plus $3,000 worth services from AXIOS Law Group (your choice on Provisional patent application OR Federal Trademark filing OR Company formation depending on your need).


Technorati tags: TiE , Funding Forum , business plan

pecha kucha chit chat

Japanese and Japan have always inspired the world to embrace brevity for expression. Recently a designer friend of mine – August de los Reyes introduced me to a popular form of presentation called Pecha Kucha. Originally popular amongst the creative folks, it has made its forays into the business world.

Pecha Kucha (pronounced  peh chak cha) means chit chat in Japanese. It is a neat concept, where the presenter gets six minutes and forty seconds to present 20 slides (20 seconds per slide.) Having given very short presentations (and a lot of elevator pitches) in the past, I can appreciate the value added by this constraint. This is one of the rare examples where constraints actually increase the value of the creation. Constraints typically play a valuable role in design, but I’ve found them as limiting factors in most cases.

I’m forcing myself to make my next few presentations in the Pecha Kucha format. What do you think of creating a facebook app called pecha kucha?

Some interesting topics suitable for pecha kucha could be:
failed ideas
hair styles
top 20 movies
top 20 friends

Daniel Fink had an interesting article on Wired recently.

Let’s pecha kucha!!

Technorati tags: Pecha Kucha

Microsoft executives on poverty

It is rare that I would share an email publicly. But this one is pretty interesting. Microfinance, poverty elimination and Unitus are gaining popularity in the Microsoft community. Ed Bland, former General Manager of XBOX marketing (he and his team first launched one of the biggest marketing campaigns for the first launch of XBOX), recently left Microsoft to join Unitus as the COO. Here’s a mail from him, with interesting video messages from other Microsoft executives and employees.

Dear Kintan,

When I left Microsoft two years ago, I set out to discover how I could best invest my time and effort to make a real difference in the world.  But where was the greatest need?  Here’s what I learned:

  • Half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day.
  • Over 100 million primary school-age children are not in school today because they cannot afford to be there.
  • Every year, 6 million children die from malnutrition before their 5th birthday.

Despite the numbers, there is reason for hope—and for action.  As I dug deeper into these issues, one idea kept surfacing: microfinance.  It was a concept as quantitatively successful as it was radically ambitious.  Microfinance offered the big idea I was after—a remarkably effective, sustainable, and scalable approach to alleviating global poverty.  And among the most innovative organizations leading this movement, one stood out: Unitus.

I have been the COO of Unitus for just over a month now.  In that time, I’ve visited several of our partners (the small banks to the poor that we partner with and help rapidly grow), have seen our impact on the ground, and have met women and men lifting themselves out of poverty with nothing more than a small loan, hard work, and an overwhelming desire to improve their family’s future.

Microfinance works.  Unitus is making it work for more people by increasing access to these life-changing financial services throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  Our partners add clients an incredible 11 times faster than the industry average.  But today we need your help to realize our ambition of reaching 15 million of the working poor by 2010.

Click here to support Unitus through the Microsoft Giving Campaign.

Best regards,

Ed Bland
Chief Operating Officer

p.s.  To the right and below you’ll find several familiar faces explaining why they support Unitus.  I hope you will join them, and me, as we change the lives of millions now and for generations to come. You can also help by forwarding this email to your Microsoft friends and colleagues!

Steve Burns

Kintan Brahmbhatt

Abhay Parasnis

Mike Blaylock

Steve Burns
Principal SDE,
Dynamic Systems Foundation

Kintan Brahmbhatt
Program Manager, Unified Communications Group

Abhay Parasnis
Director, Windows Live Core

Mike Blaylock
Partner Test Manager, Office

Technorati tags: poverty , Unitus , Microsoft , Giving , Corporate Philanthropy , microfinance

How many languages should you know?

I’ve been brought up in a culture, where knowing "more" languages has often been equated to the acumen of a person. I’ve always enjoyed "multilingual" and "global" aspects of products. My first company – Securamed was formed around the notion of providing multilingual health management tools and services to people.

Here I just want to share a few thoughts on designing one’s personality, with no intentions of being didactic. Despite the perception of "high acumen", I’ve always believed in the power of learning and knowing multiple languages. I’ve always enjoyed visiting places, where I don’t know the primary language and am often forced to learn parts of a new language.

My experience of learning Spanish about six or seven years ago has been very fruitful and has introduced me to a variety of extraordinary pieces of literary and art masterpieces, which I would have not known of without learning the language. Knowledge of a new language often crosses the threshold of utilitarian value and provides opportunities to learn new cultures, meet new people, enjoy newer delicacies and brag about it all.

Often times, the biggest barrier to entry had been a community of people to practise/experience the newly learned language. Learning Spanish was very easy for me, as I did it in university, where I was surrounded by a lot of Spanish-speaking students. Besides the books and audio CDs, my latest and the most useful tool for learning my next language (which happens to be French) has been LiveMocha. I enjoy its well-designed community and tools and recommend it to you.

Let’s learn a new language.

Technorati tags: multilingual , Live Mocha