1. Met Alok. Discussed a lot of things. He brings clarity and sanity to my life. I am proud to have a mentor like him 🙂

2. Met Nitin, AVS and Kapil. It was great again talking to Nitin, and meeting AVS the first time after IIT. We discussed the kind of talent shortage IT sector in India is facing. It makes me to rephrase Paul Graham’s “Its the best time to be an entrepreneur” to suit present day Indian environment – “Its the best time to be an employee.” Have talent? Companies will find you out.

3. Met Niraj through Ashish. Niraj is a person with an idea. A good idea.

But there is a problem with ideas – Most ideas are good. Some are brilliant. Execution makes the crucial difference. Search was a good idea even in AltaVista age. And there were scores of search engines untill Google finally came.
Execution.

If you are planning a startup, one of the issues you are likely to face is finding a partner.

Before deciding upon wether a you really have found the right fit, do take up important but contentitious issues –
1. The roles are less important. Discuss responsibilities.
2. Level of comittment. Its your brainchild, its likely that the other person will not have the same passion about it. Discuss and find out what really is his motivation to get into it.
3. Exit routes – What if one year down the line, one of you loose interest, or belief in the venture? What if one of you anyway want to go?
4. As the company grows its more likely that you will need someone more professionaly qualified to move in, esp at key positions. Are you/your partner willing to step down to a less “glamourous” role, because that is where the good of the company actually lies.

I believe, taking up these issues will help you before making that very crucial decision of partnership.

Btw, if you know someone who would like to build a potentially explosive company out of nothing but an idea -> approach Niraj. Via me or Ashish. Niraj is searching for a right fit to join at co-founder level. I would have loved to, but I have my own designs 🙂

Sometime back in Noida I had a chance to meet Nitin, my friend and batchmate from IIT. Nitin and Abhishek (whom we fondly call AVS) have recently bootstrapped their startup – DbyDx. (Ok, if the mathematician in you notices something in there – there is. The name.)

Three things I liked about them –

1. The name. DbyDx.

2. Their punchline – ‘Differentiating business with technology’. w-o-w! So much in line with the name, and so much in line with what they do.

And third, what Nitin said about the difference between the time when you are about to do a startup, and when you have just done it.

Pehley, when we were just starting: ‘Tab neend nahi aati thi ye soch kar ki kitna kuch karna hain.’ Now that we are on: ‘Ab itna kuch karna hain ki time nahi hain sochney ka, ki kitna kuch karna hain‘!

He has put it really simple – When you’re almost at the edge of an startup, you will have sleepless nights thinking about it. Once you start up, you will be too tired after a full days work to do anything but sleep sound.

I will be Noida this weekend, and I have every intention of catching up with him again.

If only…

Two words.. Endless possibilities..

Of course, a brand is made of the company, its product and services, the advertisements and the promos. But all that happens after you have already decided a name. The question is how to come up with a good name in the first place?

First your have a business in mind, then you choose a name for it. What type of name do you choose?

Depending on the market you are in, the significance of a name varies. In niche and b2b markets, names don’t matter as much as they do in consumer markets. Consumer markets are made of masses. A name which makes sense to space organisations won’t have the same appeal with general public. That is why a satellite launching company can be named Antrix, but ask the average person on the road, he is more likely to say its the name of some medicinal capsule. Consumer brands have to appeal to a much wider audience.

So what makes a good candidate for a public brand? I think the name should be –
1. Easy to pronounceMonosyllables are best, two is ok, and three just about qualifies. Not more than that. Sony is the best on this one – monosyllable and ends in ‘y’. BlackBerry – 2 syllables, plus ends in ‘y’.

2. Easy to read and hard to mispell.
You don’t want people confused when their browser shows them Tricon.com (when they really meant Trikon.com). You don’t want them waiting on the keyboard and recalling wether to type Jhoomla or Joomla or Zoomla or Jomlaa.

3. Signify something about the line of business.
Not really necessary, but such names are better candidates. Think Microsoft in its early days.

Of course there are exceptions to these ‘rules’. Sony is monosyllable, but Microsoft has three and the world’s biggest brand Coca-Cola has four. Apple is easy to pronounce but its name (apple is a fruit) has got nothing to do with its business. Yahoo confuses you about the number of ‘o’s you need to put. It could be Yaho, Yaaho or Yaahoo.

Exception, right. But you want to place your best bet.

Now what makes a good brand name in mobile space? I really like Orange and AirTel. And I was looking for a similar name.

After some juggling I came up with FireFly. It instantly struck a chord with me.
FireFly – Its energetic, its catchy and is 2 syllables. Plus it ends in ‘y’ 🙂 Just like Sony, BlackBerry.
FireFly – Its clear sounding. Tell your dad over a long distance phone, or shout to your coworker across a noisy room – it will reach the recipent without any signal distortion. He will hear it right.

FireFly – is just plain simple FireFly. When you type in your browser, you simply type F-i-r-e-F-l-y. You have to be very bad at English to be able to mispell that.
FireFly – Fly, roam freely across the sky, freedom and mobility.

So there was this name, with everything I needed – a catchy sound, easy to remember, hard to mispell and signifying something about the line of business. I was so excited at having found such a perfect name, that I instantly called up Alok. And he instantly told me that the domain FireFly.com is taken, the brand FireFly is trademarked and worse its a mobile company! In short, I was so bang on target that it didn’t help. The bomb I had choosen was someone else’s.

Came up with BlueBird. Instantly liked it. Same thing, easy to pronouce, easy to remember, hard to mispell, catchy and all.. but guess what, BlueBird was taken.

Since the day this exercise has started, I have pushed myself into coining numerous words – good and bad.

Mobilocity (Liked this one very much, but not as short and easy as FireFly. FortuneCity, Tripod etc in early days.)
GoMobile
MobiMax
MobiNation
MobiSoft

and so on… (No no, its a long long long… long list. Cant put it all here.)
But unfortunately they are all taken. As time passes by, it is becoming more difficult for me to come up with a name. Human mind has an uncanny habit of sticking to its past, so I am generating names closer to what I have already thought – none new or radically different.

Its not difficult to coin a potentially good consumer brand name. But the really remote possibility of getting the matching domain name, thanks to domain kiting, makes turn it all upside down . I think ICANN must do something about it really fast.

Now you know what keeps me awake at nights. I am still looking. If you have any suggestions for a whacky cracky name, do drop me a line. Even if you don’t have a name, do come up with one – I need it.
What’s in a name, That which we call a rose by any name would smell as sweet. When Shakespeare’s wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’, domain names were a long time in future.

Via Arun Natrajan  –

As part of its Mobile VAS Connect event on December 12, 2006, Venture Intelligence is providing opportunity to select companies to showcase their technology products to an exclusive audience – consisting of Venture Capitalists, Investment Bankers and experienced entrepreneurs – in the form of demos. Companies that have developed a technology product in-house AND are planning to seek VC funding within the next 12 months are welcome to apply to demo at this exclusive event.

More information is available at http://www.ventureintelligence.in/vas-demo.htm

Suman & Poorna are writing something good for wannabe entrepreneurs at Zerocaffe.in

Time to head there. Waiting for part II of their series.

Abhijeet points me to this.

I think its a much needed effort. First time entrepreneurs in India face considerable difficulty in seed funding and mentorship. What would I want to see in a Y Combinator done in India?

1.  Mentorship. Yes, not just money but mentorship. Money is difficult to come, but can still be arranged – at least as much as in required to pull off a technology company for the first few months. But valuable mentorship is more dear. It involves an understanding of the line of business, an insight into markets and future trends, people skills and contacts.

2. Focus Teams – to take care of HR, Finance, Law, Taxes, Sales Processing etc so that intially I can focus on what the venture is about. Of course, once the business is up and running you need to hire people for these things as well.

3. Freedom – I would luv to have the freedom to work out of anywhere. But I know it conflicts with the idea of mentorship. Mentorship involves communication, and communication is best done face to face. Plus startups need to do lot of networking, and networking opportunity varies with the kind of city you are in. So maybe I will have to give up this freedom. But as long as the city I am in offers similar level of ecosystem (networking, employees, infrastructure etc) I should not be required to move to the city this YC India is based out of.

But I think BoA will have some challenges in doing a YC in India.

1. The Paul Graham factor – he inspires an army of entrepreneurs by his essays, and has a huge fan-following. BoA will need someone who is as great a role model as Paul G.

2. Mindset – there is considerable difference in mindset of Paul G and the typical VC firm. BoA will need to do away with formal business plans, and bet more on the team and ideas.

A YC India would be a good thing.  Actually a great thing! It may help create the badly needed ecosystem for startups in India. I am definitely up for it.