November 28, 2012

Extreme Startup Hiring

I was recently a guest at the Insead "India Business Dialogue" event at Bangalore. The event aimed to provide Insead grads - who are naturally mostly employed at large corporations - on starting up, attracting venture capital and, if the entrepreneurial plunge is too much of a risky leap, getting hired by a startup.

If the grads thought getting hired by a startup sounded safer, they had anothing think coming. The last session (on joining a startup) had one representative each from a VC firm, a HR Services firm and a veteran entrepreneur. And here's a sample of what they had to say about startup hiring techniques:

The Entrepreneur: One of my friends makes sure to pour coffee on the candidate and takes a call based on how the candidate reacts.

The HR Person: We offer to send a cab for picking up the candidate. And we generally don't bother to. We - and out clients - like to see whether the candidate turns up late and cribs about the taxi or figures out an alternative to reach on time - including, if required, to hop into an autorickshaw.

The VC: The founder of one our investee companies does hiring interviews only between 1 am and 2 am.

The Bottom Line: If the candidate needs too much structure and cannot deal with ambiguity and uncertainity, he's not a good fit for a startup.

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. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

November 12, 2012

Offer Employees Variety of Roles to Stay Fresh

Richard Branson column in Mint
Once your company is well established, keeping your employees engaged in their work can be tough, especially those who took the job because they were intrigued by the excitement and the challenges presented by the launch stage. Most of your best people will always be interested in developing their skills further, but they may find fewer new projects available, along with fewer paths to advancement. Working with employees to find solutions will be the job of every manager on your team.

...One day you might be a member of a team that is working on the launch of a new mobile phone network in Latin America or the Middle East, and the next week you could find yourself helping to develop one of our Branson centers for young entrepreneurs. I like to encourage all our employees to apply for jobs at other Virgin companies that they find interesting.

...Another way we keep our employees engaged is by inviting them to take part in company events, like the Virgin Mobile Live Freefest, a free music festival we hold every year to raise money (through donations) for homeless young people. Along with giving employees a chance to give something back to the community, the festival allows us to say thank you to our customers and staff by providing them with the chance to enjoy themselves for free. Our sense of fun unites our businesses—we love to let our hair down—and so this event reminds employees of what we stand for.

...As you consider how to challenge and engage your employees, remember that it’s important to keep things exciting—after all, we spend so much of our lives working that to stay fresh and creative, we need to bring a sense of play and entertainment to the office. Your employees’ continuing enthusiasm will pay off as they stay on for the long term, build their skills, contribute their ideas, and take a real interest in the business.
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. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

November 11, 2012

You Are Being Watched. Always.

Second time I'm coming across this "being watched issue" this week.

From Srikrishna's post (emphasis mine):
What most of us don’t realize is that we are actively, even if blindly building culture in our companies every waking moment. The trouble is when we do this without being mindful or engaged, we usually end up building a culture that we are surprised about as it invariably bites us in the rear. Starting from the moment you step into the office, people see if you greet the security guard, whether you get your own cup of tea or put it away when done.

Whether you text in meetings or worse yet when you answer the phone during a 1:1 meeting. Even if you answered yes, yes, yes and no & no, they see what you do or say when a senior team member flames another, or a team member screams at a vendor. When you are quiet about a white lie to a customer or don’t question why a payment is being withheld, you are communicating loudly and shaping culture – though not necessarily the way you want. So culture in a startup is not an option – but what sort of culture you want is a choice you can make.

From the Mixergy podcast with Adam Witty, CEO of Advantage Media Group:
And remember, here’s another thing, as an entrepreneur, if you’re going to grow your, inevitably, you’re going to have to have people. You’re going to have to hire team members. And as soon as you hire your first team member, you’re now not just a boss, but you’re a leader. And everybody is looking at you. Every single person is looking at you. They’re watching you. Every word, every facial expression, every act that you make, they are watching you. And you’ve got to be on your best behavior 24 hours a day, because if they see you in a bad mood, if they see you short and ill-tempered, if they see little things getting you down, then it’s going to throw them off. Their confidence is going to go down, and their productivity is going to go down.

And so, this is just a great example, not only in entrepreneurship, but leadership, because leadership is a big part of growing a business, is that you’ve got have a short memory, you’ve got to be awfully resilient, and you’ve got to have an attitude where you can cruise over speed bumps, and that’s OK. It doesn’t get you down. You just stay focused on moving ahead and you know what? At the same time you’ve got a really positive attitude about all of it too. That is so important.
  
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. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

The Impulsesoft Story

Came across this presentation via pluggdin by one of the company's founders, Srikrishna. Sri Krishna  
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. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

November 10, 2012

Do it. Or Don't. Never "try to do it".

Krishnan Ganesh, Angel Investor & Founder of Tutorvista in Business Today:
As CEO of Bharti British Telecom, I used to work directly with Sunil Mittal. During meetings on strategy and plans, we used to have stimulating debates and heated arguments. At the end of it, Sunil Mittal used to take a firm commitment - either the senior managers were going to do it, or they had the choice to refuse. Accepting to try an idea was not an option.

Agreeing to "try to do it" is a sure-shot recipe for a half-hearted attempt that will result in failure. This has helped me as I started four companies and built strong teams to get people committed to a cause or task wholeheartedly rather than start with doubts and dissonance.
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. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

"Attach & Detach"

Anil Gupta, Joint MD of Havells India, in Business Today
You need to attach yourself to certain things to go deeper, develop a passion and get work done. But you need to get detached after achieving certain milestones. If you remain attached to a certain thing, you cannot professionalise and grow it. Detachment makes it easier to professionalise and monitor the work from a distance.
...My father repeated this advice when Havells went through a tough time during the global economic crisis in 2008 and 2009. When we acquired Sylvania (in November 2007) we were very detached from the business for the first one-and-a-half years and we let the existing management team to run the company. But when Sylvania fell deeper into the red, the management team of Havells got fully involved. For one year there was close coordination between Sylvania and Havells. Sylvania became profitable (in 2011/12) and now we again run it from a distance.
The advice has helped me balance my work and personal life as well. We have put professional systems in place, so I don't need to rack my brains 24 hours a day and work 16 hours a day. This has helped me in growing the business and leading my life far more comfortably.

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. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

"Go on a two-month holiday"

Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality MD Riyaaz Amlani on the "best advice he ever received" in a Business Today article: The trouble:
...The same people who bring you from Chapter 1 to Chapter 2 in one's story sometimes don't elevate their own game for what is required to get you through to the next chapter. They get comfortable, become fat cats quickly, and don't seem to want to change. It seems that they needed me to ratify everything. I needed to be everywhere and personally supervise everything. I worked 18 hours a day. And couldn't do enough. It was frustrating and heartbreaking. I loved my people but I just couldn't get them to take full ownership.
The solution provider: Tariq Ansari of Mid-Day, The solution:
"Go on a two-month holiday." As soon as I began to protest, he explained: "It's a concept called 'benevolent negligence'." Leave. Go away. Take your hands off, and your people will be forced to sink or swim. Give them control. Tell them you don't want to be bothered. And when you come back, don't take back their responsibilities. Tell them they did good. And tell them that you are going away for another month, and that they shouldn't bother you for what's urgent, only for what's important.

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. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

November 06, 2012

FusionCharts Story: The E-Book Version

The founder's bother has written an 90 page e-book on the starting-up of FusionCharts - a $7-M revenue product company created by a teenager - Pallav Nadhani - out of Kolkata. 




Read Pluggdin's post on the highlights from the book here.

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. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.