2016 iSPIRT Annual Letter

AnHRA0C0tF4mI0qO-9WAwf-AXl383SqEDMGC9He_wzNoSeven years ago a band of volunteers came together to move the Indian software product ecosystem into the next orbit. Three years ago this movement became a think tank, iSPIRT. We pioneered the idea of building public goods without public money in India. Today, India has many software product Unicorns and many more are in the making. We are doing one M&A a month. India Stack is reshaping many sectors especially the financial sector. And, the Government of India recognizes the power of startups and have started changing their systems to enable us. This has been a long and a fun journey for us all. This letter captures what we have been up to, our learnings and our dreams.

Bharat Goenka, Jay Pullur, Naveen Tewari, Sharad Sharma, Vishnu Dusad

Governing Council, iSPIRT Foundation, 4th Feb 2016


The difference between iSPIRT’s Playbook RTs and what we have planned for the #PNgrowth Camp

We are now only about 90 days away from what will be a first of many sorts in the Indian ecosystem. The #PNgrowth camp at the Infosys campus in Mysore will be the first long-term program ever initiated for product startups in India. That much has been established. But at the Google hangout we were in yesterday, where we talked about what to expect at #PNgrowth and the process by which we were screening applicants, there arose a question that needed to be answered.

Some of our applicants are asking themselves about the need for a program like this when they have already been getting a lot of insights from our hugely successful Playbook RTs and other events.

I just wanted to make clear the difference between them, as they are both completely different beasts.

First, on content

The Playbook RTs are solutions for the problems that startups face in the here and now. Startups have an extraordinary amount of daily challenges and decisions to be made. Playbook RTs are designed to help founders and employees navigate them. On the other hand, the #Pngrowth camp is a long term mentorship/peer learning program that is focussed and has only one one aim – category leadership. The Playbook RTs are pointed, razor-sharp workshops, the #PNgrowth camp is a university course. The former will award you a diploma and send you off, the latter will give you an education for life.

Second, on numbers

Around 860+ people have, until now, been part of the Playbook RTs. The #PNgrowth camp will have only 200, and that’s it for the whole year. The #PNgrowth camp is selective, and open to product startups at a particular stage of their life cycle – when they need to scale. This selectiveness also means that we have to disappoint several startups who will want to join the program but aren’t in the perfect stage to. We intend to be very choosy here; this is a premier program whose graduates will come out with skills that can never be learnt elsewhere, and therefore it has to be this way.

Third, on the question of overlap

The Playbooks are tactical meetings almost, with different approaches aimed at something immediately tangible. #PNgrowth will design the architecture for the path ahead for startups looking to scale. Playbook RTs are peer-fuelled. #PNgrowth has a important component of academia involvement that will make sure that it succeeds as a long term program for improvement and action. Though the two can be complementary, they are definitely not substitutes. They are very different from each other, and aim to do two completely different things for the ecosystem.

I hope that makes clear the distinction between both of them.

Lastly, I’d like to stress once again the fact that #PNgrowth is going to be incredibly selective and there will be no last minute places. Each applicant goes through a screening process, and there will be no exceptions to that rule. Which means that if you are even slightly interested, please do apply immediately.

The Nascent Transparency Movement Shifts Gears

Two recent blogposts, one simply titled Transparency by Amarpreet Kalkat of Frrole, and the other labeled Sharing by Sumanth Raghavendra of Deck, have given embrynonic radical transparency movement a boost.

This movement in India started many years back when NPC started published its internal metrics (see the example for 2009 & 2010). Initially this caused a stir. Luckily, appreciation, especially, from entrepreneurs quickly kicked in and this level of transparency became the norm until the handoff of NPC to a corporatized setup.

Transparency movementThe transparency and sharing tradition carried over to iSPIRT. Nowadays, iSPIRT routinely shares the good, bad and ugly, often in the form of a “journeyline”, so that everybody in the ecosystem can learn from its experiences (see PNCamp’s example here). It even publishes its volunteer model so that other community efforts can build on its lessons. In fact, now, the concept of radical transparency is baked into iSPIRT’s guiding principles itself (alongside polycentric governance and open-access to public goods).

Early last year entrepreneurs started embracing the radical transparency movement. This started with PlaybookRTs. In these PlaybookRTs, the facilitator, always an in-the-saddle entrepreneur gets “metaphorically naked” till all the other 10 participants are (metaphorically) naked too. This nakedness sets the stage for tremendous give-and-take of insights and learning. Today, there are almost two-dozen entrepreneurs who regularly “pass knowledge to others in a pay-forward model” in these PlaybookRTs. They go by the name of iSPIRT Mavens. You’ll be happy to see that this list includes some of the most prominent software product entrepreneurs.

The example of Mavens motivated Raj Sheth of RecruiterBox (an iSPIRT Product Circle donor) to embrace radical transparency by sharing their December marketing plan openly. The recent blogposts by Amarpreet of Frrole and Sumanth of Deck have given this trend more momentum. Kudos to them!

This is an important dynamic that is playing out in our ecosystem. This type of radical sharing increases the tacit knowledge in the ecosystem and it drives faster learning for everybody. It’s particularly helpful for novice entrepreneurs. It builds trust since the sharing is entrepreneur to entrepreneur with no middlemen involved. All these soft benefits power faster growth of our software product industry.

Come, take inspiration from Raj, Amarpreet and Sumanth. Join the transparency movement and help India become a Product Nation!