September 26, 2012

Entrepreneurship is...

Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” - Anonymous
Choose a job that you like, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius, Thinker and Philosopher
You must fall in love with what you do, because being an entrepreneur is a lot of hard work, and overcoming a lot of adversity. From that love will come the dedication that will get you out of bed at 4 a.m. because of a great idea you just had and get you to work till 11 p.m. and not feel tired.” – Ken Field, Real Estate Magnate
Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers.

September 15, 2012

The Surprising Biggest Problem of Small Businesses: Having Too Much Money

From a post by AnnMaria of The Julia Group.

..sometimes, as Paul Hawken has said, the biggest problem with small businesses is that they have too much money. That may sound crazy, but I have always tried to keep overhead to the bare minimum. Almost everyone who works for us is a contractor, which means we pay them when we have work and when we don’t have work for them to do, we don’t pay them. I’m not too worried about being first to market – I see how well that worked out for VisiCalc and Netscape. I’ve way too much experience to think that you can do a project twice as fast with six programmers as with three. After 27 years, I still have an office in my house. When I meet people, I usually go to lunch...


Interesting and certainly worth thinking about...

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers.

"It's all About the People" - The Truism that Stays True

From a Mixergy podcast interview with Dr.Rajiv Kumar of US-based corporate wellness service ShapeUp. (Emphasis mine)
What’s the one takeaway that you have? One thing that you say, hey you know, I am better because I have this one understanding after having built this business.

Rajiv: Yeah, I think it would probably sound very obvious and maybe somewhat cliché, but at the end of the day, every single thing that a business does, successes and failures, are all about people, and can’t underestimate that. I think we know it, but we forget it sometimes. But it is the people that makes everything happen or makes thing not happen. There’s a huge opportunity cost to having a wrong person in a position, and you don’t realize that opportunity cost until that person leaves, and because either there’s a void and you realize that this person was actually dragging the company down, or someone who comes in that’s much better and you realize how much more quickly you’re accelerating. And when you have that right person in place, magical things start to happen and it really has an amazing effect on the company.

And so, at the end of the day it’s all about the people and you can’t invest enough in people and culture. I think in early parts of start-up companies, often you just focus on the product or the vision or whatever it is. You don’t focus as much on people and culture. But it’s true. It’s not just smoke and mirrors or just something that people are paying lip service to. It is all about people and we need to optimize our companies around investing in people and finding the right people and keeping the people that we have happy and motivated.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers.

September 13, 2012

Why It's Important to Let Go of Non-Performers

From a post on OnStartups titled "Remembering 9/11: Leadership Lessons From Akamai Founder". (Danny Lewin, co-founder of Akamai Technologies, "a commando in the Israeli Special Forces counter-terror group, then a genius mathematics graduate student at MIT, and then a visionary billionaire entrepreneur", "was tragically killed on American Airlines Flight #11")

To Restore Trust When it Weakens: Hold People Accountable and Get Rid of Non-Performers.

Great leaders hold people accountable successfully by honoring an unspoken contract between them. The team members make commitments to each other and to the leader. Then the leader measures each of them fairly and by the same standards - by how well they did what they said they would do. The leader pays each member by how well they performed their part of the deal.

But when one member fails to execute, other teammates see it immediately. They lose confidence both in the non-performer and in the leader for failing to uphold the deal. To preserve the trust that the leader has inspired by example and spread with shared suffering, the leader must remove the non-performer from the team. This restores trust between the team and the leader because they see the leader honoring the contract between them. They feel reassured that they, and their remaining teammates, must be performing. Then they trust each other to do their jobs and can concentrate on doing their own. (Of course, removing a non-performer only builds trust when the team member has had a fair chance to achieve his commitments, fair notice when performance is sub-par, and a fair chance to improve.)


Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers.

September 11, 2012

Should an Entrepreneur Bring Home the Baby or the Bacon?

Bring home the bacon
1. To earn a living, especially for a family.
2. To achieve desired results; have success.

In one of his latest posts titled 7 dark secrets of Entrepreneurs - Revealed, Alok Kejriwal (as usual) provides a lot of material for reflection at the same time making it an easy read.
2. Entrepreneurs are lonely.

Honestly, entrepreneurs are their own best friends.

Yes, family comes close and there is almost a reverse dependency on family (I feel I depend on my wife and 2 daughters more than they depend on me), but there is really no one else.

Maybe I speak for myself, but the gigantic tasks of the day leave no room for hanging out with friends or acquaintances. In most cases, it’s going out with the office crowd.

Entrepreneurs speak to themselves in their sleep. They sell proposals to themselves in the shower and negotiate term sheets in their mind while they are eating sev puri. There is little time for other friendships. Here are a couple that particularly struck a chord:

3. Entrepreneurs are selfish.

I can never forgive myself for one incident.

Neither can my wife. The day my younger daughter was born was also the day I was supposed to sign my final shareholding agreements to close my first round of funding. I chose to sign those documents instead of bringing my wife and new born baby back home from the hospital.

This just pointedly shows how selfish entrepreneurs are.

Personally, while I completely relate with the "Entrepreneurs are lonely" part (including the "reverse dependency on family"), I wonder whether Point 3 should be re-titled "Entrepreneurs Desperately Need to Prioritize their Time".

On the working day on which our baby came into the world, I remember taking some 2 hours off from the office - half of which was probably spent in the commute. The reason I could afford to hold the baby in my hands for just a few (nervous) minutes (before gingerly handing back to the doc) was - again - family: with my wife's mom and my mom around to take care of anything else (and my wife needing to rest), what was it that I was going to achieve by sticking around?

With that familial support available, my best contribution (including to the less-than-1-day old baby) could only to be back at my job. Obviously, one looks forward to the many joyous personal hours to be spent with the child in the months and years ahead, but is it "selfish" to be working/heading back to work at that time? I don't think so - it's just where the entrepreneur's time is best spent at that point. So, I would encourage Alok to forgive himself. As an entrepreneur, you just did what comes naturally - prioritize. Your child obviously will never hold that "selfish act" against you. On the other hand, you better reserve time (work or no work) in the years ahead. Or else.....

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers.

September 07, 2012

"Avoid Mind Blocks & Artificial Boundaries" - Pandia Rajan & Latha Rajan of Ma Foi

Cross Posted from the Venture Intelligence Entrevista blog:


Latha Rajan & K. Pandia Rajan of Ma Foi ( Bios)

In conversation with K. Satyanarayan, Co-founder of regional language publishing firm New Horizon Media.
(Recorded on August 15, 2012 in Chennai.)

Highlights:

Takeaways for Other Entrepreneurs: (Click on the links for the video segments)
  • Don't add artificial constraints when it comes to entrepreneurship

    KPR:
    Separating home and work, politics & business - we tend to have many boundaries where none need to exist. These are Western notions and mind blocks that we can revisit.

    Being a Husband-Wife Entrepreneur Combination was never a major hassle for us. In fact, as Latha says often, we would have probably fallen apart but for Ma Foi!

    Latha Rajan: In the early days, he used to travel 25 days a month and I used to travel 10 days a month. But since I was there within the system, I could understand (the pressures and issues). Both of us knew what we were working towards.

    Entrepreneurship has given me a lot of flexibility mentally. I used to take my daughter and son to office if it was required. In fact, the 30th day after my son was born, I was in the office and I took him along.
  • Employees as Members: Everyone who joins Ma Foi is referred to as a "member" (as against an employee).

    Latha Rajan:
    "Employee sounds so transient".

    Even if someone leaves the organization (as an employee), he/she still remains a Ma Foi member (and hence an ambassador for the firm).
  • Innovation in funding: Converted the company into a public limited one very early and raised small amounts from over 275 well wishers, employees & ex-employees and clients. Made sure to pay the shareholders a decent dividend each year. (Ma Foi paid 20% "religiously".)
  • Growth, Diversity, Transparency and Integrity
    Everyone knew how much everyone else was producing
Other Highlights (The Journey & Lighter Moments)
The Full Length Interview Video



Video Of
The Q&A Session




Click Here to Download The Full Interview Audio Podcast - 69 minutes, 32 MB. Use Right Click & Save As to download to your desktop

Click Here to Download the Audio of the Q&A session - 8.54 minutes, 4 MB. Use Right Click & Save As to download to your desktop

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers.

September 05, 2012

Tips for Technology Start Ups

From Art Reisman's post titled "Nine Tips for Technology Start Ups". (Hat tip: Terry Gold)

5) Product companies must avoid the consulting trap.

If you produce a software product and (or any product for that matter), you will always be inundated for specialty, one-off, requests from customers. These requests are well intentioned, but you can’t let your time and direction of a single customer drive your feature set. The exception to this rule is obviously if you are getting similar requests from multiple customers. If you start building special features for single customers, ultimately you will barely break even, and may go broke trying to please them. At some point (now), you have to say this is our product, and this is our price, and these are the features, and if a customer needs specialty features, you will need to politely decline. If your competition takes up your account on promises of customization, you can be sure they are spreading their resources thin.

6) Validate your product see if you can sell to strangers.

Early on, you need to sell what you have to somebody that is not a friend. Friends are great for testing a product, or making you feel good, or talking up your company, but for real honest feedback on whether your product will be a commercial success you need to find somebody that buys your product. I don’t really care if it is a $10 sale or a $10,000 sale, it is important to establish that somebody is willing to purchase your product. From there, you can work on pricing models. Perfection is great but don’t stay in development for years making things better and perfecting your support channel, or whatever. The reality is you have to sell something to build momentum and delay to market is your enemy. If you do not find customers willing to commit their hard earned money for your product at some early stage you do not have a product.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers.

September 04, 2012

PaaSage from Cuddalore to California: The OrangeScape Story

Rediff.com has an interesting profile of the Chennai-based Platform as a Service (PaaS) software product firm and its founder Suresh Sambandam (who grew up in the small Tamilnadu town of Cuddalore).

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers.