Month: February 2011

Progress Report: January, February

2011 has been good so far for the company. I did accomplish much of what the surge towards the end of December was meant to accomplish, but it also saw the failure of a very promising alliance that could have taken it in a different direction. The sliver lining in the failure was that I did stick to processes that had been put in place to prevent us from chasing down rabbit holes, even though the fact that the scenario for its use did materialize is saddening. But we survived that phase, got over the disappointment and managed to chart out a future course that is stronger and steadier, even though it may take a bit longer.

We also managed to release MarketVision. The product still has many rough edges. It is a case of naked product development, where you are developing the product in full public view. For someone with nearly a decade's experience in building online products, the website we have is not probably the best advertisement of that fact. But it is just a first step in some major plans we have for the company and the platform. The degree of finesse and flourish the site deserves has to wait for a bit longer while we sort out some other critical parts of the business. We won't keep everyone waiting for too long for the presentation to match the fine quality of the content.

The first quarter of this for me has been all about realigning the company's revenue stream to the changed priorities. A consulting-based organization has a tougher time bringing in recurring revenue and in doing a great job every time you always walk that fine line that empowers clients to work on their own (reducing their dependency on you), while hoping that the transformation you bring about is worthy enough to attract other potential clients. The going has been good so far, but the targets are also stiff, for this is also the year (around June) when I want to reduce the complete dependency on me to keep the show going and bring more hands on deck.

Of course, it is not possible to do only consulting to realize that end. At times we do wind up doing things that I have sworn not to get into. The important thing, though, is to now accomplish the next threshold in escape velocity. By now I don't have any doubts about being able to sustain this, comfortably, as a one man operation. The next target, as mentioned earlier, is to scale it by introducing more bandwidth and remove the equivalence of the company to me. In all this, timing and choices are critical. If you don't have a clear enough picture, it is easy to lose sight of what you are trying to accomplish.

Lastly, I think I am slowly moving out fully into the 'build' part of the entire early stage ecosystem. When I started out, I wanted Frontiernxt to be a major enabler in it, now I really doubt that I have the stomach for it mainly due to two reasons: 1) I don't know and understand enough about a lot of the required things to be able to guide and help others effectively. 2) The ecosystem itself is quite murky and translucent at best. It is tough to get a handle on real value of anything here unless the hype and the cooked books are taken out of the way. One of the best things my father ever taught me was to never run your wheels into a pothole full of water, for you never know what depth it actually hides underneath the surface. And these waters are really murky.

Instead, I will try and do my part to ensure that in whatever we do and companies that we consult with, we will try and promote and suggest Indian start-ups if they have a product that is worth pushing. It may not be the most amazing of things to do, but I think that is the best value I can provide in that chain at the moment. And, most importantly, I am promoting a value proposition that is known to me.

Filed under: Frontiernxt

Abuse Of Discourse And Communication

In the 1990s, as an adolescent, in the small town that I grew up in, there was not much to hold my attention or answer a million questions I had about everything. When I was not making barely serious enough attempts to stay out of trouble, I would be reading anything and everything I could lay my hands on at the local British Council Library. There were not many shelves in the library that did not receive my attention, even on topics that I could understand little of. And my first memorable interaction with a computer was with the terminal attached to their cataloguing system.

It was around the same time that I first started hearing about the internet and a fancy bit of technology that enabled users to browse virtual worlds. Clubbing those with my favourite distraction I came up with a naive vision of the future where I could go 'vitually' to any library I wanted in the world and read all that I could. Few years later, I was introduced to dial-up internet, Netscape Navigator became a familiar bit of software, VRML failed to live up to its promise, the virtual libraries never manifested, but I found another universe of learning online.

I owe a lot of what I have and what I know to a lot of people. Most of them faceless and represented by walls of text posted online. I do believe that we significantly underestimate the impact the internet has had on humanity in allowing people the freedom to express themselves. Publishing your thoughts to an audience is a concept that is innate to us digital natives. It may even become the most-used form of communication for the generations that are to come, but we should ignore, at our own peril, how we got here.

Looking back in history, the same act of publishing was not available to everyone. Even before the advent of printing, the written word and knowledge was the domain of a select few and knowledge was hoarded and kept away from the masses. Even after Gutenberg's game changing contribution in the form of the printing press, being able to express freely was not an option available to most for centuries to come.

In essence, what we take for granted today is something over which many have been persecuted and killed.

It is easy to overlook all of this when you post a blog, tweet about something or post a comment on one of million websites on the internet. We tend to forget that what we enjoy today is a privilege that most of humanity did not enjoy for many hundreds of years. It is a privilege that a vast percentage of humanity won't enjoy for many decades to come still.

In saying what we normally say and write online, we often forget that essential, yet hard-to-find, quality of humility. We don't have to write tomes expressing something deep, technical and complicated to make it worthwhile. We just have to remember in the bits and bytes we contribute, we are in real-time leaving behind a legacy that will be looked up by generations to come.

The internet of today has swelled not only in terms of the consumers, but also in terms of the producers of content. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in an increased degree of intolerance and a disposition towards outshouting each other. To be online today is to be put through a wave of half-truths, misrepresentations and spite to a great extent. In opening up the tools to publish one's self to a much wider audience, we have allowed the immediacy and reach to mesmerize us than the be influenced most by the value of what we have to say.

I find it very saddening that such a powerful tool is now used in ways that spread so much misinformation and spite. I guess a little more of consideration, a little less of aggression and a whole lot more of helpfulness can't be too much ask?

Filed under: Social