Sunday, December 21, 2014

Go India!

The population of India is over a billion strong, and a large proportion of the working mass is geared for greatness in tech. A weak infrastructure, a ridiculous amount of red tape and a class divide all undermine this tremendous potential and sets India just those few steps behind its progressive and advanced neighbour, China.

Triumph in Spite of Adversity

India - a new wave of tech startups
Despite everything hampering India's progress, a new wave of tech startups are shaking off the shackles of bureaucracy and not only creating local opportunities and advancements, but also making their mark in the global arena. Confidence in India's budding potential is growing, as are the bank balances of its investors. Three of the most impressive Indian startups are WebEngage, Zoom and Flipkart.


Founded in October 2010 in Mumbai, WebEngage offers targeted marketing solutions for clients. Over $500,000 were raised with the aim of continued expansion of this pioneering company. Already operating in more than 40 countries, WebEngage has a continuously expanding customer base of already thousands.


With an annual car rental market that generates around $3 billion, India has a great need for affordable and convenient car hire. Zoom offers electric cars available for rental in a great variety of locations. Zoom cars are permitted to drive anywhere in India and can be rented by the month, day, week or hour. The company has raised close to $3 million, and now operates all over Bangalore and in trendy Pune.


One of the most highly regarded tech startups in India, and an inspiration to others, Flipkart is an innovative e-commerce company and could be considered as the e-Bay or Amazon of India. Its claim to fame is not only as a leader in the field and as a company that enjoys fantastic popularity, but also owing to the fact that by July 2014 it had managed to raise $1 billion – the biggest amount of funding ever secured by an Indian company.

Exponential Development

Spurred by the rapid growth of Indian tech startups, investors are flocking to get their piece of the pie and experts are earmarking India as the second biggest tech hub, after the US. Is this a wave that has just started gaining momentum? With the rife abject poverty in the country, India could do with a lift. Let us hope it will get one.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Zuckerberg and Zuckerman on Internet Advertising

Everybody knows who multi-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg is. The Facebook founder’s face is almost as famous as Facebook itself. But who is the other guy? Ethan Zuckerman is also a professional geek and his surname also starts with 'Zucker', but that is where the similarities end. These two Zuckers have very different viewpoints when it comes to businesses making money on the Internet.

How companies make money online

How companies make money online
How do they make money online?

With the .com revolution a new phenomenon came into existence: websites created for the sole purpose of generating revenue. Online trading sites like Amazon and eBay make money through commission from traders and sales, online stores make money from sales, betting sites make money from gamblers, and the list goes on. When it comes to social media websites, they have two choices: make money through advertising or charge subscription fees. With so many free social media sites around, it would be crazy to charge fees. So the only real option is an ad-based business model. In a nutshell, without advertising, these guys, and many other websites, simply cannot make money.

What the geeks say

Director of MIT's Centre for Civic Media, Ethan Zuckerman strongly argues that just about every online business eventually slides into an advertising-based business model. This inevitably leads to data collection and ultimately invades the private lives of unsuspecting individuals.

With over $30 billion dollars in personal wealth accumulated through an advertising-based business model, Mark Zuckerberg obviously has a very different viewpoint.

Can any web business make money with advertising?

No. First you need a huge amount of traffic to your site just to entice advertisers into signing up. Facebook was recently reported to have as many users as the population of China. Why would advertisers pay to be on another site there if they can't expect a reasonable ROI? Secondly, even if there is a massive cyber footfall, people do not like advertising. Many internet users go so far as to install ad blockers to avoid advertising altogether. It is so widely loathed that the days of pop-up ads are practically over.
Interestingly, Ethan Zuckerman is considered the inventor of the popup ad and wrote the code for the very first popup.

The solution

According to Zuckerman, subscriptions should be implemented with micro payments, although he concedes that free or ad-supported websites do make the internet more widely available. In an ideal world internet access would be free, content would be free, and there would be no annoying ads. But then who would pay for the other major difference between Mark Zuckerberg and Ethan Zuckerman? That is, Zuckerberg is loaded, and Zuckerman is not. Maybe, as with most other things, money, or lack thereof, is what formulates the strongest of opinions.

Monday, November 24, 2014

5 Top Hiring Tips for Tech Startups

Hiring Tips for Tech Startups
For tech startups, hiring the first complement of staff is exciting and important business. This is the exhilarating moment when you are no longer an entrepreneur and become an employer. The people you bring in at this time are the ones that will do the groundwork that will ultimately make or break your business. Follow these steps to make sure that this vital process is successful.


1. Identify what you need to accomplish next, not in the next decade


Most entrepreneurs have a 'big picture' in mind - the ultimate destination of where you want your business to be in five or ten years. When they start the hiring process, they are picture a fantastic team of software engineers backed by some database specialists with an admin team to support them. Not to mention a marketing team to generate more business and a finance team to count all the money they will be raking in. The best thing to do is to breathe deeply and take a close look at what you need to accomplish in the near future, and then identify what kind of people you need to get it done. After all, taking the next step, no matter how small, is the only way to get to the projected future.


2. Define your requirements 


Once you have established the roles you need to fill, the next step is to take out a pen and paper and draw up a list of requirements for each role. Bear in mind that requirements are not only education and experience but also include personal traits like having a sense of humour or patience.


3. Advertise and network


Don't only advertise, network. Word of mouth is a powerful tool and even more powerful with social networking. It is also a more reliable way of finding reliable prospects. One of your friends (or one of their friends) may have the perfect candidate who may not ever get to see your advertisement and send in their CV.

4. Good enough is not good enough


Once the CVs start flooding in, you may find many candidates meeting your criteria. Picking the right person for the role becomes tricky when you are faced with an abundance of candidates with the right qualifications, experience and traits. The best approach is to look for people with a great track record, those who have repeatedly exceeded expectations. To launch your dream into reality you are not looking for worker bees, you need a team of superstars.


5. Be realistic


While it is important to build a team of achievers, it is also important to remember that software engineers and other staff members needed at tech startups are often spoilt for choice. Their expectations may not mesh with what you can realistically offer. If possible, get in candidates with experience at other startups. They will not only have experience with the unique environment of an up and coming business, but are also more likely to understand the potential for growth and future reward instead of demanding immediate compensation.

Once you have assembled your team of creative and intrepid employees, the best tip for success is to keep communication lines open. Keeping everybody in the loop creates excited and positive employees, determined to take your business to the top.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Stretching & Cycling vs. Pizza & Booze for Start-ups

Sharing bikes to work, Milano
The core strength of every business and every tech start-up is the team on the ground doing the work. But who looks after the core strength of these very important people? Employers inevitably start rewarding a job well done by offering incentives like 'Pizza Friday' or after work 'winding-down' drinks. Although it is meant well, this makes it difficult for employees trying their best to stay healthy.

Long working hours and processed food takes its toll on every worker bee and the risk of ending up with an office filled with lethargic staff members becomes a worrying reality to every employer. The pizza and booze option may sound more attractive initially but the truth is that the productivity of an employee is more likely to increase with healthy lifestyle choices. Fast food and alcohol generally have the opposite effect.


The good news


Luckily, some employers, and indeed some governments, have seen the light and are getting the picture that happy, healthy employees are good for business, and for the economy. Online tech site VentureBeat has introduced HealthBeat, an annual healthcare conference with a focus on how technology can improve healthcare. At HealthBeat the latest trends are explored by the movers and shakers of the industry. This creates general awareness of the need for healthcare and increases the reach that pro-health programs achieve.


What are governments doing about it?


The English and Irish governments started an incentivised cycling scheme with two aims: to get workers more active and to reduce their carbon footprint. Cyclescheme makes bicycles available to workers at greatly discounted prices and offers the added incentive of subscribers paying less income tax. In other words, they get fit, save money, and do their bit to save the world.


Feel better at the office


Along with government fitness incentives like Cyclescheme, pioneering health solutions like the in-office wellness activities offered by the innovative company, Wellshift, may just be the future. Wellshift offers yoga classes, running groups, health seminars, stress management workshops and many more interesting and uplifting activities to office workers at health conscious companies. I guess Google had the right idea with providing gyms, swimming pools, ping pong and pool tables, and luckily other companies are starting to catch on the their progressive mind-frame.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office for Start-ups

So which one is better google docs or micrsoft office
So which one is better?

When choosing an office suite, should start-ups use Google Docs or Microsoft Office?

Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office for Start-ups

If you are part of the technorati, chances are that you have had a debate about Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office. Both are serious pieces of technology and although Google Docs is in its infancy in comparison to Microsoft Office, it has a few fantastic features. When selecting an office suite for a start-up, it all depends on what the business needs, and what the budget is like. These points of comparison are well worth considering.

What is so good about Google Docs?

How does Microsoft Office compete?

Google Docs is convenient. It is online, available to anybody with access to the Internet.
MS Office is not available online. It is a standalone application, available where it has been installed.
The excellent collaboration features in Google Docs makes it simple for multiple people to edit the same documents - even simultaneously.
Editing the same document is slightly more elaborate with MS Office. The document has to be saved from MS Office to the Microsoft online storage service called OneDrive and then invite other users to edit.
Google Docs has relatively basic features.
MS Office is a very advanced suite of software programs with many highly developed features.
Not that many companies and individuals are using Google Docs. That means that collaborating with parties outside the business have to convert Google Docs documents to MS Office documents and back again.
Microsoft is the world's biggest software maker and MS Office is one of the most popular products and therefore very widely used.
The Google Docs spreadsheet application is not as robust as Excel. For standard users it is generally sufficient but advanced Excel users may find it inadequate.
Microsoft Excel is robust and feature rich.
Google Docs has Google Forms. Users can create forms that are accessible by link or email. The answers are automatically saved and collated for users to see. Users can even automatically see the results in graph form.
The only way to create a form in MS Office is by creating a template in MS Office and locking it. Answers have to be manually collated.
Google Docs is free  
MS Office is not only not free, it is quite an expensive bit of kit.

So which one is better then?

Not all start-ups have the same needs.  If the business is going to be driven by pivot tables and fancy spreadsheets it would be best to fork out the license fees for MS Office. The same applies to businesses where documentation is to be regularly shared with companies and individuals that use MS Office only. Besides that, it has been going since 1988 so they've had a lot of time to smooth out the bugs. On the other hand, the fact that Google Docs is free should be enough for most start-ups to give it a trial. It might just be perfectly adequate and after all, it is free.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Share, Stream, Pin, Post, Tweet - Repeat

We recently pondered zero rating and how it almost forces start-ups to use social media as a means of marketing here. Sure, freedom of choice is vital, but would it not be in the best interest of B2B start-ups to get on the bandwagon and do their thing through social media? Probably, here is why.

It is booming

brand awareness - Frederick Achom Blog
more budgets target social media
In the past few years, social media has become colossal. Most of the largest industry players in the world have started implementing special teams and budgets targeted at social media marketing. Although LinkedIn is generally considered as the more professional social media stream, other platforms are not lagging far behind in usefulness when it comes to social media marketing. Campaigns these days include Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube and more.

Brand awareness

Before the Internet became the megalithic machine it is today, brand awareness was usually achieved through saturating the market with advertising material showing off your brand. Nowadays the market is a lot bigger but luckily it is also faster, easier and often cheaper to get your name out there. Re-tweets and re-shares travel globally every day; why not make your name one of its passengers? An easy place to start is with friends and employees - excellent brand ambassadors, free of charge. There is no trick to it, just get your message out there and ask for it to be shared.

The personal touch

Besides the personal aspect of friends helping your business along, the Internet's social media platforms can add a surprisingly personal element to marketing campaigns. In the days of direct mail companies and marketers relied solely on what can fit into an envelope and through a mail slot. By being active on social media platforms, potential clients can become intimately acquainted with company culture, ideals and objectives. For an even more personal touch there is one of the most powerful marketing tools around: video.

Investors love social media

Angel investors and mentors carefully select the brands they choose to back before opening their pockets. Wouldn't it be ideal if you could try before you buy anything? This is exactly what these intrepid investors do with online research. A large portion of the vetting process happens through investors signing up to follow potential investments' social media streams. If a business uses its social presence to show progress and positive client interaction, it immediately increases interest. The Internet is also often where initial interest is sparked.

It is big, very big

Incredibly, this is just the tip of the immense iceberg known as social media marketing. Without even looking at how useful groups, forums, SEO and other aspects of social media can be it is clear that this is a powerful tool for start-ups, not to be missed out on.