How Silicon Valley’s Community Gives Back

Editor’s note: “Silicon Valley is a unique, vibrant intermingling of different ideas and cultures resulting in innovation coming from all parts of the world,” says Raju Reddy, executive vice president of global services at Hitachi Consulting. And it was the ideal location for the recent Sevathon 2012, the annual walkathon that brought together more than 60 Bay area profit organizations to raise funds for nonprofit orgs. In this interview, Raju shares insights about the Indian technology community in both the valley and in India and how U.S. technology companies can get involved in “giving back” and helping others.

SandHill.com: My Internet search reveals that you’ve been very involved in helping young entrepreneurs for many years.

Raju Reddy: Professionally, for me, mentoring others is very important. Like other entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, I’ve been a big beneficiary of people giving back. Many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley kind of take it for granted, but we’re surrounded by such a wonderful infrastructure of people and organizations to help build a company. I have always really appreciated that and tried to work with other entrepreneurs and help them build companies.

I spent about 10 years in Intel before I started my own company, Sierra Atlantic, in 1993. We were venture funded by NEA, Walden and GE Capital, and I had some great board members and mentors. At the end of 2010 Hitachi bought my company. I also had been mentoring an entrepreneur in Toronto, and that startup was successfully acquired by Intel about the same time as the Sierra Atlantic acquisition. Currently I serve on the board of RedBus and GharPay, both in the consumer Internet space.

Read the complete post at Sandhill.com

Techcircle SaaS Forum 2012 announces top 10 SaaS startups in India

If there is one area within the new-age technology that is red hot right now, it is software-as-a-service or SaaS – both in terms of startup activity and as a tool for entrepreneurs to build a low-cost business from scratch. Techcircle.in has come up with a listing of India’s top 10 emerging SaaS companies who have shown significant market traction, created unique products or services that can disrupt existing markets and most importantly, have a very high potential to make it big in the coming years. The listing has been compiled by a distinguished jury comprising Shailendra Singh, MD, Sequoia Capital; Manik Arora, MD, IDG Ventures and Mukund Mohan, an active angel investor. These 10 companies have also showcased their products during Techcircle Runway at Techcircle SaaS Forum 2012, in Bangalore on Aug 31. Here are brief notes on the 10 startups (note: this not a ranking, the companies are arranged in alphabetical order).

Read the complete post at TechCircle.in

Who are the “early adopter” Venture Capitalists in India

Like you, I assumed that all VC’s are risk takers. I mean as an asset class if you have to provide the highest returns over the long term, I would suspect you have to take big risks to get big returns. The average Indian bank has been giving around 8% annual returns on FD (source), real estate returns about 13%, and gold loan providers will give you close to 15% I am told. So, VC as an investment class should offer higher returns given how ill-liquid they are and how risky they tend to be.

So, how do you really measure if a VC is an early adopter versus a late adopter? (lets keep it simple and only put them into 2 categories).

My thinking is the only way you can do that is to look at their investments (portfolio companies) and find out the categories of companies they invested in. Then find out if any other VC’s invested in another company in that category after the “first” VC did. There are other ways to do that, like ask entrepreneurs who responded the fastest when they were looking for funds, but those dont evaluate who puts their money where their mouth is.

Why is this question useful to answer?

For entrepreneurs who are innovating in a new area, this list of early adopters will help you determine who you should go to first versus who should you expect will fund a possible competitor.

Lets define our methodology and assumptions:

1. We will look at all their websites and make a list of the Indian VC portfolio. Fortunately we have that list of over 50 VC’s in India.

Flaw: Many dont update their website as frequently so there may be a 20% (or higher) error, but I have tried to be comprehensive.

2. We will then categorize their investment into 5 buckets – Media and content, eCommerce, Business to Business, Mobile and other (Education, Healthcare, etc). This is important so we know not only which VC’s are early adopters but we can also try to find that out by sector.

3. Then we will look at the announcement dates of their funded companies from press releases, Unpluggd, YourStory, ET and VCCircle. We will give them 2 points for every investment done in a sector before any other VC did.

Flaw: Most (I suspect over 50%) of companies report their funding 3-6 months after they have raised the money, so this will be a large flaw, but lets do the analysis anyway.

4. Finally look at stage of investment. If a VC puts money in the series A, I would give them two points in the early adopter bucket. If, however they participated in series B or later, they get one point in the late adopter bucket.

First let me give you the results (not in any order other than early adopters vs. late adopters).

Early adopters VC’s.

  • Accel (eCommerce, B2B) – 78 points
  • Indo US Venture Partners (B2B) – 56 points
  • Saif partners (Mobile, eCommerce), but they are late adopters in B2B – 49 points
  • Venture East (B2B) – 45 points
  • Sequoia (Media) – 46 points
  • Seedfund (Scored enough, but dont have a clear winning category) 42 points

In the middle

  • Blume ventures – 40 points
  • Nexus Venture partners – 36 points
  • Helion – 36 points
  • Ojas ventures – 34 points

Later adopter VC’s – all scored less than 30

  • Bessemer Venture Partners
  • DFJ
  • Cannan partners
  • India Innovation fund
  • Inventus Capital
  • Footprint ventures
  • IDG ventures
  • India Internet Fund
  • Lightspeed partners (but have done well in Education)
  • Norwest
  • Sherpalo

What I hope this list will do?

1. Make Indian VC’s think about being innovation catalysts rather than ambulance chasers. I understand you have a responsibility to provide returns, but you also have a responsibility to grow the Indian startup ecosystem. Might I suggest a 5-10% of your portfolio towards risky, “first time this is going to happen” investments?

2. Make Indian company founders announce their funding. Unlike the US, here entrepreneurs are loathe to do so. I can understand the competitive pressures, but not doing any announcement is just lame.

3. Educate Indian entrepreneurs on their target VC list. Depending on the opportunity you are trying to pursue, please target the right VC firm. The only thing you have (and dont have) on your side is time. Use it judiciously.

P.S. I have confidence in the methodology but I would be the first to admit its neither comprehensive nor scientific. If you are an eager MBA / Engineer / analyst and would like to help make this methodology and analysis more robust, I’d love your help. You can take all the credit. In fact, I can convince many publications to give you credit for the work if you desire and if you keep it updated every 3-6 months.

P.P.S. If you are a VC and not in the early adopter list, or you are not happy with the analysis I’d also welcome your associate’s help in making this analysis robust.

The frustration of “lack of progress” with your product

On the outside looking in, its extremely frustrating to hear of product teams shipping product multiple times a day.

I tend to often question: “What in devil’s name am I doing wrong”?

  • Is it that I have not defined the product requirements right?
  • Have we hired the wrong people? Does our team not have enough experience?
  • Is our culture not supportive of mistakes?
  • Are we not focusing on the right things?
  • Do we not have the capability to get stuff done quickly?

Experience with multiple startups has taught me that its ignorant to compare your company with others (who might have stated at the same time) who have more “visible progress” than yours does.

But I hate that experience.

Its hard not to compare and question why is someone else doing so well with a smaller team than you have.

Experience has also taught me that startups for most parts (like kids) have a step function in progress. Its rarely a smooth “up and to the right”.

I hate that experience as well.

Should all that experience not make the next go around a lot smoother?

So the question – “What the value of all that experience”?

There’s only one answer – Its overvalued.

There’s one solution to most of these questions and although it is a cliche and often repeated, the answer is “Hire right” – whether its consultants or contractors or full-time employees, you need to constantly evaluate and hire the right people.

So, how do you hire right? And how do you define “right”?

So lets start with not the job description, but with your culture and values. Hire the right person that fits your culture and can align with your values.

If you culture is defined by moving fast, hire and attract people that can do that.

How do you determine if someone “fits” your culture if all you can do is interview them for 1 hour or so?

Write down questions to situations where you feel your culture will make them act one way versus the other. Ask those questions during the interview.

Depending on the answer to those questions you can determine if they can align.

What I have learned is people rarely change. So its hopeless to expect someone who is not a good cultural fit, to come in and get “religion”.

Original Post can be accessed at BestEngagingCommunities.com

The Product Business is Like the Movie Business

I read the cover story in Forbes on the success of Dropbox, which is set to do about $240 million in sales in 2011, with only 70 employees. As Forbes points out, that is about 3x the revenue per employee of Google, which is no slouch in the revenue per employee department itself. First, congratulations, Dropbox! This is the type of breathtaking number that makes the ordinarily successful companies like, well, Zoho, to wonder “What are we doing wrong?”

In our 15 year history in Zoho Corporation – which is bigger than the Zoho product suite itself – we have shipped over 70 products, of which we would say about 30 have been successful in the sense of being nicely profitable. Yet, even with that group of 30 products, we have seen the 10x effect: a set of two products that have taken approximately the same amount of effort to build, by similarly situated teams, yet one of them does 10x the sales of the other, with both of them being profitable. Of course the 10-bagger is much more profitable but the key point is that both of them could be counted as successful in the sense of being profitable. We have even seen 100x difference for approximately the same effort, but in our case, that is the difference between doing only $100K a year in sales vs $10 million a year, and I would not count that as 100x because the $100K product either grows up or we would eventually discontinue it because it is not profitable.

Dropbox is a logical extension of this phenomenon, where a product does 100x the sales, without taking much more by way of engineering effort than a profitable 1x product. And then the grand daddy of them all – Google search, which in its heyday reached $1 billion in sales, on not much more than the effort of a single engineering team – the headcount gets added later to diversify the company but the original search was a small team. I believe there has only been one Google search so far, so the ordinarily successful (ahem!) shouldn’t feel too bad.

Y Combinator, which has funded over 300 companies so far, is a perfect illustration. All these teams are similarly situated, with similar founder profiles and they all get similar initial funding, and they spend similar initial effort. If we consider only the universe of profitable YC companies, my guess is that so far there is only one 100-bagger i.e Dropbox, in the YC portfolio. Based on Zoho experience, I would estimate YC has about ten 10-baggers, and about fifty one-baggers (i.e just about profitable).

Welcome to the product business, which looks very much like the movie business!

Indian Software Startups Similar to Excitement of Late-90s Silicon Valley

Editor’s note: Sharad Sharma and M.R. Rangaswami are co-hosts of the NASSCOM Product Conclave 2011 (November 8-10, 2011), a must-attend event for software product startups. Now in its eighth year, more than 1,200 delegates from 600+ companies are expected to attend. Sharma and Rangaswami share with SandHill readers their insights on what’s happening in this dynamic market – and why U.S. buyers and software execs should keep the Indian startups on their radar screen.

One of the keynote speakers at the NASSCOM Product Conclave a couple of years back was Guy Kawasaki. In his recently published his book, “Enchantment,” he wrote that our Conclave was one of the most interesting that he had attended in the last few years because of the energy at the conference. And the energy this year is already really high. That’s because, in some respects, the Indian software products industry today is where Silicon Valley was in the 1997-98 time frame.

The Valley then was in a different era of entrepreneurship. There was enormous excitement about where the future of the world was headed and the role that the Valley could play in that. India is somewhat like that in the context of what’s happening now and the role that its software products industry can play in the economic future of India and the rest of the world. It’s a very exciting time.

Original Post at Sandhill.com