Focused vs Unfocused – The Larry Page Perspective

The Vinod Khosla fireside chat with Google founders is great. My favourite part from the interaction is this:

 

VK Let me go back to Larry. As CEO of Google, a lot of these guys have board members who keep saying, Focus on a few things. Self-driving cars is one. You’ve done some things in health and others. How do you decide what’s focused and what’s unfocused?

LP I’ve been thinking about this change quite a bit over the years. I think it sounds stupid if you have this big company, and you can only do five things. I think it’s also not very good for the employees. Because then, you have 30,000 employees and they’re all doing the same thing, which isn’t very exciting for them. So I think, ideally, the company would scale the number of things it does with the number of people in a linear fashion. As far as I can tell, that never happens. It’s logarithmic with the number of people, if that.

I would always have this debate actually, with Steve Jobs. He’d be like, ‘You guys are doing too much stuff.’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah that’s true.’ And he was right, in some sense.

But I think the answer to that – which I only came to recently, as we were talking about this stuff – is that if you’re doing things that are highly interrelated, then there is some complexity limits. It’s all going to escalate to the CEO, because you have things that are interrelated. At some point, they have to get integrated. A lot of our Internet stuff is like that. The user experience needs to make sense. It needs to feel like you’re using Google, not that you’re using something else. So I think there is a limit on how much we can do there, and we have to think carefully about it.

Everything about the automated cars is like– Sergey can do that, and I don’t have to talk to him. I like talking to him. But I don’t really have to talk to him about that, because there’s almost zero impact on the rest of our business. Although it does use some great engineers who we have on mapping and other things. Naturally, they move to that project, but that’s a scalable process. I don’t have to talk to those engineers. They just move magically.

So I do think companies usually try to do very adjacent things. They figure, “We’re going to know exactly how to do something that’s very similar to what we already do.” The problem with that is that causes a management burden. Whereas, if you did something a little less related, you can actually handle more things.

Jugaad & Growing Up With Constraints

One of the observations that I made during my stay in Silicon Valley was the absence of Jugaad. Jugaad is a relative term, fellow entrepreneurs in US work hard and do well with bootstrapping just like we do. But the reason I say absence of Jugaad is because the magnitude of Jugaad I have grown up with in India is far higher.

From what I saw people in US follow the protocol (be it business, a line at the bus stand or crossing the railway tracks), they pour a lot of effort in small things. This shows when they are designing a product, launching their ventures or even when setting up their homes. We like to push out things in a hurry, not listen to any wisdom that increases the workload and look for safety hooks. It seems as if we are hard wired differently.

The more I think about it, it is so much cultural. Me and a few more of my entrepreneur roommates (during incubation in Silicon Valley) grew up back in India with little or no luxury. Almost all of us started working In our teens and while today we choose to do a startup and talk of passion, let’s be honest – all of us started working for we needed to either support our families, education or at least not be a liability on them.

I remember a couple of us talking about how Friday evening brings such cheer on the streets of Mountain View. People out in big numbers, long lines outside Ice-cream shop on Castro Street (oh and you can’t imagine the clubs) and hardly anyone works over the weekend (even the startup junta). My roomie was mildly upset that he doesn’t think of his existence in India in the same way. Neither of us would really think of going to a club back in India and can hardly think of life from an angle which would say ‘how can this be more fun?’. That’s when it occurred to me that so many of us back in India have only worried about survival. Survival = Luxury here.

Even after being educated basic existence here is tough. Read More

Barometer of Love

The only thing I have learned about love is that saying it means little on its own. The ones I love should feel they are loved and that’s what counts. So I rarely use the word love, but if the ones I really care for feel loved, my words are worth it.

 

The Hard Things Challenge (Entrepreneurs Listen Up) #HardThingsChallenge

Hard Things

I recently read the book ‘The Hard Things About Hard Things‘ and it couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Every little self doubt that I have while building my company and every fear that I can’t express is touched upon in this book by Ben Horowitz. I have always loved reading Ben’s blog and this book just takes it to another level.

So as I gift a copy of this book to my friends in the Startup world, I propose to start a challenge (thanks Subhendu for the idea). After you receive this book as a gift from me under the #HardThingsChallenge, read it in 7 days and gift it forward to someone else. If you fail to do so, you gotta gift 2 copies of the same to fellow entrepreneurs.

To start with Amit (@amit_lakhotia) and Subhendu (@Skipiit) have accepted the challenge – Go Read :)

#HardThingsChallenge

 

Dear Founders

I see your courage and the risk that you take. I feel it myself, day in and day out. Every time I see you, my eyes lit up in honour of your dreams. Most of us will fail. And all for our own lack of experience, wisdom, ability … <insert reasons here>. But for the foolishness and courage to startup, you have my respect.

I have been blessed myself to have several of you helping me when I need (you know who you are). I can’t imagine making an impact without your support. As I begin typing that email or DM to ask for your support (and that happens often), I think if I would be ever able to pay you back. I fear I don’t have enough value to give in exchange. You are paying it forward and I hope to make up for it the same way.

Every time a young one emails me for any help, I try my best to answer. I try and make a connection that would help them and almost always offer a meeting. It may not always be enough, many a times I would know that this is a path of failure (and I would tell that to you), but I will search for that reason to tell you yesa meaningful yes.

 

Do You Want To Pursue Engineering? Request: Think Again (Students & Parents)

I am kinda tired of no of kids I see getting into engineering just for the degree and then coming out unemployable after 4 years or applying for operations / BD roles. Here is a status update from my friend Navin Kabra on FB that I thought is relevant. Discussion on FB.

Heard of a friend’s son who quit engineering (COEP) after 1 year, to pursue design (DSK). This comes on the heels of someone else I know who quit engineering (PICT) to go for Liberal Arts (SSLA) and is much happier there.

So, note to 12th std students and parents: please do not box yourself into a corner and assume that there is no alternative to engineering. You might regret it an year or two from now.

Thankfully, the situation (in terms of educational options) for this generation is far better than for our generation. If you’re unsure of what to do, then a Liberal Arts program (which gives you flexibility of deciding on what degree you want after 1 or 2 years of study) might be worth considering. See http://www.flame.edu.in/ or http://ashoka.edu.in/ or even http://ssla.edu.in (thanks Dhananjay Nene)

Marketplaces Are Tricky, Flipkart Needs To Learn From eBay

With most e-commerce players in India moving towards a marketplace model, I have been intrigued as to why eBay.in (Baazee) isn’t the talking point when it comes to e-commerce. They are THE marketplace, they have their own payment gateway since ages and I know first hand that they have done a ton of leg work to get good resellers on board, educating the ecosystem, finesse the dispute resolution process and get an huge variety of inventory online. It is very tough for marketplaces to standardize the supply and give the consumers a good experience!

Here are a few recent incidents with Flipkart. Note: I have high hopes from FK, but not at all from Snapdeal, do see this as an optimistic feedback. I am not even bothering writing about Snapdeal, my only purchase from them was a bad experience and I have heard many negative reviews and hence Flipkart gets my attention & criticism. 

Incident 1: I purchased a Age of Mythology game from Flipkart recently and got the product via a reseller in Delhi. The packing was ordinary (I have been spoilt by WS Retail’s shipping) and I had a faint doubt if the game is pirated. It worked, but I wasn’t 100% convinced. I am still not convinced, but I think it is a genuine game. However the distributor / importer & MRP sticker was missing from the pack I received and that makes me skeptical. I asked my friends on twitter and here are the tweets exchanged. For once, I am not 100% convinced on the quality.

Flipkart AOM

 

Incident 2: Read More

Wordcamp Mumbai #WCMumbai 2014

Annkur Wordcamp Mumbai

After missing the first Wordcamp India (Delhi) in 2009, last year I got an opportunity to attend the my first Wordcamp at Pune. I got introduced to a whole new set of like minded junta (yet the ones who would blow me away with their talent, creativity & lightheartedness). I also travelled to Baroda to participate at Wordcamp earlier this year and when WC finally arrived to hometown Mumbai, I couldn’t wait to see how the participants mix here would be.

From what I saw, this was one of the only events in Mumbai with more developers than non techies (success or failure?). Wordcamp by its nature attracts a lot of community folks from across the country and that is something I really love. People traveling from Kolkata, Lucknow, all parts of Gujarat and Maharashtra for an event = wow. The Mumbai organizers surely did great by keeping the ticket pricing at Rs 300 (or pay whatever you like over 300) – cheers to Gounder, Kane and the team!  Read More

Brilliant Read: Siddhartha

Siddhartha Annkur

You may or may not have got a copy of Siddhartha (by Hermann Hesse) from me, but you should definitely go and get one right now. A quick but very powerful read. Sharing two of my favourite paragraphs:

“I have not doubted for a single moment that you are Buddha, that you have reached the goal, the highest goal towards which so many thousands of Brahmans and sons of Brahmans are heading. You have found salvation from death. It has come to you in the course of your own search, on your own path, through thoughts, through meditation, through realisations, through enlightenment. It has not come to you by means of teachings! You will not be able to convey to anybody, O venerable one, in words and through teachings, what has happened to you in the hour of enlightenment!”

—–

“Perhaps that you are searching far too much? That in all the searching, you don’t find the time for finding? … When someone is searching then it might easily happen that the only thing his eyes still see is that what he searches for, that he is unable to find anything, to let anything enter his mind, because he always thinks of nothing but the object of his search, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed by the goal. Searching means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal. You, O venerable one, are perhaps indeed a searcher, because, striving for your goal, there are many things you don’t see, which are directly in front of you.”

- Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

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