Kaushal Kurapati\’s blog

Thoughts on Search, Technology and Management

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Bill & Steve together on stage – one for the history books

Posted by kaushalkurapati on May 31, 2007

Steve Jobs & Bill Gates were interviewed together on stage by Walt Mossberg at the “D” conference outside San Diego. This is one for the history books given the huge contributions each of them had on the technology industry. Great advice from the tech leaders regarding what makes people successful — one word “PASSION“.

“8:40 p.m.: Q.: Advice for the upcoming entrepreneur?
Gates: The idea of being at the forefront and increasing in size has been one of our greatest challenges. Our business is really about the passion.
Jobs: If you don’t love it, you’re going to fail. You’ve got to love it and you’ve got to have passion. And you’ve got to be a great talent scout, you can only build a great organization around great people.”

Being successful is all about having “passion” for what you do. This is the essence really. I have seen this in my own work; when I am passionate about what I do and really love it, thats when my best creativity comes forward. When I don’t like what I do, I don’t even come close.

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Library Model for TV

Posted by kaushalkurapati on February 24, 2007

So what is the “Library Model”? You have a membership in a local library and you can check out certain number of books in a time period. How would that apply to TV shows? Imagine a connected network of DVRs or PVRs (digital/personal video recorders) and other machines (PCs) with video content on them. I should be able to pay for and pull anything from this network and watch whenever I want to. Simple! I am a subscriber who pays a flat fee of, say, $49.99 per month, which gives me permission to ‘check out’ 300 hours (10 hrs/day: 2.5x of what an average American wathces today) of TV shows/movies from the network. The network contains video content that users have chosen to upload and the network could in fact include libraries of shows from TV-stations themselves: NBC, HBO, PBS, BBC could charge per check-out of a show from their libraries and it will count towards your monthly subscription rate (flat or variable).

The power of this network is independence from a set broadcast schedule of course. It is on-demand video. But its much more than that. Lets imagine that the broadcast model won’t go away still. There is a certain power of ‘live TV’ still (sports, Oscars, you want to watch live I presume). The TV-stations may not put everything online or not every TV-station will put stuff online either. In such a scenario, the power of the network of DVRs kicks in. Users in the network may have stored interesting shows / movies that the TV-stations, movie-studios have not put online yet. I should be able to legally pay and pull the content from a networked-DVR and watch it whenever I want to. The copyright owner should get a cut for this model to work.

Ever since I have had a TiVo (since 2000), I have dreamt of this scenario. Even with a TiVo I am still at the mercy of what is being broadcast on the pipe. The recommender system on the TiVo is not smart enough to know all the shows I would like and so it misses some. But if I could tap into other DVRs/machines (PCs) that caught the shows I’d like, that would be awesome. I am willing to pay for this service and be legit about it but the technology is not there yet. Imagine a ‘search’ + ‘personalized recommender’ service over such a network. That is couch-potato-nirvana!

Isn’t YouTube doing this already? Well…no. YouTube has interesting material (sometimes) that users have uploaded but its missing all the great content produced by TV-stations and movie studios from across the world. Yes, they are trying to do content deals…not there yet.

Is Joost  the closest to this model? Yes and No. Joost just extends on the current TV viewing model, so it does not require disruption of user behavior. It is trying to minimize disruption to the current business model as well, which is smart in a way. Joost is trying to create a broad distribution platform for copyrighted video content. Content owners decide what goes on Joost. So it is a walled-garden approach. In that sense Joost does not come close to the Library Model described above. Viacom seems to be interested in finding an alternative to YouTube and has just licensed its content to be put on Joost. This reminds me of Yahoo giving a small search startup called Google to handle search, which was the right boost at the right time. Could this Viacom deal be that inflection point for Joost? It may just be.

Joost is not close to the full-viral p2p, library model for TV that I described because it is not letting users put anything and everything on its network. By tapping into millions of users’ libraries, video gems get on to the network that do not have any other outlet. 

Joost was chosen as one of the next net 25 startups to watch by Business 2.0.

Posted in p2p, Technology, Tivo, TV | Leave a Comment »

Stock Exchange for Start-ups: good or bad?

Posted by kaushalkurapati on December 4, 2006

Rajesh Jain has insightful posts on his blog usually and I am a regular reader. One of his latest posts is about creating a stock exchange of sorts for start-ups to raise capital in order to address the inefficiencies in the Indian VC market to be able to fund fledgling entrepreneurs. From my experiences in advising friends’ startups and having seen their trials & tribulations in getting the venture funded and flying, I am not sure I agree that a financial marketplace is the right way to fund start-ups. Here are my counter points:

  1. No VC Rolodex Power: Start-ups get funding from VCs for sure but they need hand-holding early on to allow their strategy, product vision to mature. A good VC often provides such ombudsman like guidance and more importantly opens doors/introductions to potential customers, partners through their rolodex network. A stock exchange type setting may help the young company raise capital but it may not be able to provide invaluable contacts to generate those important first customers and cash flow necessary for the working capital of the company.
  2. Syndicating further rounds of funding: VCs typically can get other VCs to get to invest in the company as syndicates in future rounds of funding. This is another example of VC-rolodex-power. Stock-exchange based investors cannot provide that kind of future investment potential.
  3. Capital Stability: VCs provide capital, but typically wait 5+ years before they start to look for exit routes for their portfolio companies. They provide that somewhat longterm umbrella of capital stability. Exchange based investors could be fickle. They have been trained on regular stock markets of the world, which are focussed on earnings growth. Such investors lack the patience that start-ups need from their investors. Seeing no cash flow or foreseeable earnings, they would want a quick exit from the company thereby draining the company financially and forcing the company to focus on short-term financial vagaries of investors instead of getting a solid product to the market.
  4. Market liquidity: robust stockmarkets are highly liquid. Start-up marketplaces could be devoid of liquidity and may not provide individual investors with exit-routes when they want to get out of a stock. The investors could be harmed themselves with such exchanges.

It is hard for entrepreneurs to raise capital and this is true anywhere, US or India. The US VC market may be more deep enabling higher risk taking from VC funds, which means more ventures get funded. Lack of depth/variety in venture business plans themselves could be a reason for VC firms/funds in India not funding as many ventures as their US cousins. Lack of entrepreneur track-record is a major reason I’d suspect VC firms in India may not invest easily. This takes time to mature. Especially as technology penetrates many facets of Indian life, more and more people will create ventures to address the needs of a large market and further, the VCs will now fund those start-ups as the market is now big enough to support the 5x, 10x, 100x returns VCs crave for. As some of these ventures achieve success, executives cashing out from such ventures spawn out and create new ventures — now, with success on their resume, they should find it easier to raise capital than the first time around.

Posted in Innovation, Management, Technology | 1 Comment »

Broadband woes in India

Posted by kaushalkurapati on September 22, 2006

A recent Hindu Business Line article points to the woes of various broadband providers in India in getting last mile connectivity to users’ homes. Many companies are apparently partnering with the local cable guy to get into the home. I wonder how this can ever be scalable.

Posted in India, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Tom Friedman’s Talk at NYU Stern School of Business

Posted by kaushalkurapati on April 7, 2006

Tom Friedman of the New York Times gave the 2006 Lubin lecture at NYU Stern School of Business on April 6th, 2006. As a Stern alum there was free admission to the event! The Schimmel auditorium was full by the time the talk started.

Friedman started off summarizing his first book, The World is Flat, and explaining the various stages of globalization: 1.0 happened between 1492 and 1800 according to him. During this time countries globalized–euphemism for colonisation basically. Spain, Portugal, Britain and other European powers colonised the world. Version 2.0 of globalization spanned from 1800s to 2000 accoring to Friedman. This was the era of companies globalizing – think GE, IBM, Philips, etc. Companies tapping worldwide markets for their goods and establishing far flung multi-national empires. Finally, Friedman thinks this is a new era of globalization that has 'flattened' the world and has shrunk it to tiny.

Friedman pointed to 10 dates that flattened the world. Some of them are: the launch of Netscape browser, the development of standards of information exchange like http and tcp/ip, and fiber optics investment boom around the world that allowed people in Bangalore to upload project work from India to anywhere in the world at cheap rates. Of course other geo-political things occurred that changed the world view as well: fall of the Berlin wall led to the formulation of a 'global' strategey by firms, India liberalized in 1991 allowing for FDI to flow into the telecom sector that allowed Indian firms to uplink to the global network at dirt cheap rates, etc.

In general his talk was a 101 crash course on India and Bangalore for the uninitiated. He talked about the plush Infosys campus, the foreign interns working there now, and how India is changing today. An interesting anecdote was this: he talked to Satyam CEO last week, who tells him how they (Satyam) are outsourcing work to Indian villages to take advantage of the graduates there. The benefits of the new economy are trickling down deep into the Indian ecosystem and thats bound to change the economic purchasing power drastically within a decade.

Friedman ended the talk with a pitch on his upcoming book: The World is Flat v2.0. He talked about the types of jobs that can and cannot be outsourced. "Synthesizers", according to Friedman will be in demand to make sense of a complex world and to connect the dots. In my opinion too "synthesizers" are key in many ways – in multi-disciplinary sciences to cross pollinate ideas and push scientific boundaries, to take raw materials/technologies and build something useful out of it by synthesizing, and in organizations, understanding multiple view points and distill the information for clarity in strategy, vision and execution. What was interesting–and the connection that I hadn't made–was that Friedman likened the web 2.0 'mashups' coming out of silicon valley are sort of like synthesizers; they are aggregators (rss, images, video, podcasts, you name it). In an information overloaded world, such synthesizers or mashups always make sense and attract users/consumers.

It was fun to listen to Friedman in person after reading his columns regularly in the NYT. He was pretty funny in fact and of course very articulate. He is someone who can see patterns and can explain lucidly for others to make sense of a complex world. Even though a bit late, I am glad he has taken the case of globalization and is making sense of this critical inflection point.

Posted in India, Management, Technology | Leave a Comment »

List of Web 2.0 Stuff

Posted by kaushalkurapati on April 1, 2006

Sacred Cow Dung has a great collection all 2.0 stuff.

Posted in Technology | Leave a Comment »