Meeting Startups at Conquest, 2019

I’m one of the mentors at the Conquest, 2019. I met up with some of the Startups.

Aayush

Aayush built a cost-effective ingestible battery-less electronic Health Pill that transmits data via a patch that can be easily applied on the body. That patch communicates with a Smartphone App and helps in the prediction and prevention of Heart attacks and Sudden Cardiac Arrests.

The Health Pill uses MicroSensor Technology that can be swallowed by a person. The pill enters the Gastro-Intestinal Tract in the stomach and becomes electrically activated when it reacts with the digestive acids present in the stomach, thus generating a natural electric current. The embedded Bio-Medical sensors once activated, record specific physiological Health metrics from the body. These health data are transmitted to an app via a Wearable Transmission Patch that can easily stick to the body.

These data are stored in the cloud which is can be accessed by family members, friends, caretakers, and doctors who have access to the data. The app monitors health data round the clock and simultaneously identifies, analyzes, and can warn about 9-11 minutes prior to a Heart Attack or Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Emergency Alerts are sent to the victim, predefined members, and to the nearest Hospital along with the current GPS location of the victim.

Aayush built a unique microsensor technology, which is cost-effective, smart private healthcare technology that can be used without the need of doctor’s assistance. Aayush plans to license their product and technology to various hospitals, once their patent is granted.

Xplorazzi

Xplorazzi is building an automated tool which will take retail shop shelf images and CCTV video feed to create Planograms.

Planograms are a crucial part of today’s retail stores. It can be done manually to comply with audit requirements or use software that is an additional cost to the retailers.

Xplorazzi uses imaging technology, deep learning, and sales data to build a smartphone app that will aid retail stores to do items assessment. This will create a consistent visual record to automate the process and use the details for Audit, Assortment Analysis, Stock Management, Shelf-Space availability, and Dynamic Analysis Reports.

Untangled Cloud

Untangled Cloud makes it easy to work across multiple Cloud providers such as Amazon’s AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure.

Untangled Cloud provides analytics and tools to help Startups and SMEs make better decisions while choosing the right cloud service providers. They help in upskilling teams to learn more about the services of various cloud providers. They also plan to build tools to help migrate from one cloud provider to the other easily and seamlessly.

Pigeon

Pigeon is “Zapier for Notifications.”

Pigeon has built an easy to use system that helps businesses manage user notifications & preferences across multiple channels — emails, apps, instant messaging apps, and text messages in one place.

Pigeon targets 3 distinct areas;

  1. Content Management System (CMS) for Notifications: Normally, notification messages are coded in by the developers. With Pigeon’s online Email, Push & SMS editors, marketing & sales teams are empowered to make changes themselves, resulting in faster iterations and can avoid wasted dev cycles.
  2. User Preferences Manager: Users are used to applications like Facebook that provide a high degree of control over notifications. With Pigeon, your users can choose which devices they would like to receive notifications, the time and even control the types of notifications. Pigeon handles all the processing for you. Developers don’t need to re-create this and can focus on their core business logic.
  3. Event-Driven Notification System: With our unique event-based model, Pigeon empowers marketing & sales teams to control the logic of the notifications online. Developers simply hook various events through the app.

Loka

Loka is a hyper-local vernacular QnA app for consumers & local businesses.

Loka’s hypothesis is that about 90% of Indians do not speak English and would rather use a vernacular language that they are comfortable in. They want to bank on that fact and build a community of local businesses and consumers that communicate in vernacular Indian languages.

Loka wants to be the growth-hack platform for local businesses and consumers to ask questions and get answers from their neighborhoods in their local languages.

PROI

PROI is developing a hardware-based POS system for retailers that aims to build a data-driven analytics solution.

There are 10-15 million retail stores in India. But the retail sector is very traditional and unorganized. There is no Inventory and Supply Chain Management system, no data-driven In-Store Management and Forecasting and no large scale retail data provision for the hyperlocal market. In order to organize this industry, PROI will be collecting the data and setting the path for future collaborators. They plan to connect the entire Supply Chain – Retailers, Manufacturers, and Hyper-Local Markets.

PROI aims to help SMEs to compete at the same level as the big players in the industry by providing them the capability to make data-driven decisions and optimize their supply chain. They follow a bottom-up approach while approaching the Hyperlocal market environment.

The Books of 2018

Books by Oinam (2018)

I have a fascination with the novel by Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things. It is that one novel which I remember while starting to read serious fiction. Of course, I went through the usual teen-romance, teen-detectives, et al before I outgrew them soon enough in my early days. This year, I decided to re-read her book and it took me a really long time to finish it.

For quite a while, I’ve been practicing minimalism. Sometime last year, I decided to experiment with the idea of “essentialism” instead of just plain minimalism — stick to the essentials but pick the best possibilities in it. I like to consider minimalism as one of many ways to essentialism. I re-read Joshua Becker’s book – Simplify. If you’re into minimalism and want to explore more, you should also watch, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.

My target for 2018 was to read about 50 books but ended up short at about 40. Some were re-reads and it was a good decision. Going forward, instead of trying to read more, I’ll experiment with re-reading good ones and going deep into them — less but more quality time with each book.

I also continued with the habit of including physical versions of the books that I read. That is one way to make my daughters learn and practice “reading books”. Reading on a Kindle makes them feel like I’m just looking at another screen.

I have lined quite a list of interesting books for this year.

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What the Crypto: The Availability of Cryptocurrency

Over the past several years, cryptocurrencies have suddenly become quite popular. People from all parts of the world trade and invest in it, and some even make millions. The market value of each cryptocurrency also bolsters the fact that they are not going anywhere soon.

There are more than 2,000 cryptocurrencies available in the crypto market, set at different prices. You can get familiar with the top 25 by taking a look at the infographic provided below.

The prices are determined by how popular the cryptocurrency is and how many people are trading with it. The more people that trade, the higher the value.

The most popular and oldest cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. It was created in 2009 by a pseudonymous cryptographer. It has the best value because one Bitcoin sells at over $6,500, making it the most expensive cryptocurrency. At some point in 2017, one Bitcoin sold for as much as $19,000. However, it seems to have stabilized at the current price.

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Design Leaders

Leader

Design Leaders aren’t super-designers. Their role is NOT to ‘approve or disapprove’ other designers. Nor is it to dot the final pixel-perfect or sweat the final details to a design.

Many organizations make the common mistake of confusing design managers with design leaders. Design leaders touch upon the organization, and not just the design department. The role is strategic and needs to align with the organization’s strategy and plans.

C-suite Design Leaders who can take decisions

Organizations, in search for a competitive advantage over their counterparts, should have more visible acts of advocacy for design leadership. Hiring design leaders such as “Chief Design Officer” or similar C-suite Vice President design roles is a good start.

A successful design leader brings in a design harmony, patterns, frameworks, and guides across the organization. From the very deep core of visual and experience designs to brand messaging to treating people, a design leader has a meaningful impact. She can have a successful and meaningfully designed product, by working with the team, without herself ever opening Photoshop or Sketch. She might just be sketching on a napkin but she connects the dots and get the team to execute the best of designs.

Erstwhile Craftsman & Practitioner

One key measure of a successful design leader is her effective presentation skills. She should be able to talk with confidence and drive everyone involved towards a common goal. She should have good management skills and leverage the best of design managers. Finally, she should mentor and help more designers become leaders.

Marcin Treder said it beautifully, “Great design leaders are seasoned practitioners, ready to give up the craft.”

A design leader leads and drives discussions with the design team, management and beyond. She initiates dialogue, both good and bad, to achieve the common goal of producing good meaningful designs. She instills an inquisitive mood of asking “what” driving organizations to produce better-designed products. She is confident in leaving the “how” of designs to the designers and the team.

The Right Person

It is sad but many organizations try to bring in design leaders who are not designers but carved out of seasoned managers. Without design leaders, organizations cannot achieve good designs. Without a design leader, even the best designers will just be answering to the whims of managers to fulfill client and customer demands that might not be good in the long term.

A design leader continues to be actively involved in design disciplines, remain driven to design, coaches others, is a team player, always open-minded, is not afraid of change, and is always ready to give actionable feedback. Last, but not the least, a design leader is committed to integrating design and design thinking throughout the organization.

“Design leaders succeed by designing indirectly – through the work of their teams. The key task of a design leader is to become the worst designer on the team.” — Marcin Treder

Here are some good references for further reading;

Photo by Jehyun Sung.

Education Centers should think like big businesses when it comes to technology

Education Technology

Education centers, especially higher education centers, should take technology cues from the nation’s leading businesses. To be successful, the latest technology has to be leveraged to improve attendance, garner new students, retain current students, and improve the student’s overall experience. The following shows how big businesses are driving sales and gaining new customers, and how education centers can follow suit:

Leverage Data Visualization Software

The nation’s largest organizations understand the power of business intelligence, which is why they invest in data analytics and visualization software. Colleges, especially small technical schools, can benefit from using industry-leading software, such as Tableau or Microsoft Power BI. For a detailed comparison of these solutions, check out – Power BI vs Tableau. Comparing them is essential to learning which system provides the most benefit for a particular institution.

Basically, these programs incorporate all the big data collected from spreadsheets, storyboards, and other software. It then places it in a user-friendly space where it can be analyzed and interpreted by anyone. The benefits are immeasurable. It can help schools identify successful student traits, advertise more effectively, and reveal opportunities previously unseen.

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Accuracy in Analytics depends on understanding underlying cultural mechanisms

Analytics

Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Tip O’Neill famously said “all politics is local” when referring to the basic principles of his profession. In many ways, the same can be said of analytics. While the internet as a whole is sprawling and its user base massive, this seemingly singular entity is ultimately made up of thousands of different cultures and sub-cultures.

Similar to how a member of Congress wins re-election not by appealing to the nation but to his or her constituents back home, successful data science is less about deciphering the big picture and more about understanding the nuanced reasons why relatively small demographics generate the sorts of data patterns they do over time. To this end, there’s a certain element of anthropology involved in analytics.

Companies in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs around the world are acting accordingly. The decision to outsource analytics is becoming a more common one in these business circles. Rather than a matter of cost, it’s a matter of remaining relevant to a diverse spread of users.

In fact, tech companies in San Francisco and elsewhere are preferring to outsource analytics on an individual basis in order to appeal to a more talented pool of data scientists overseas. Rather than look for existing facilities to transfer duties to bottom dollar staff, businesses are offering enticing arrangements for independent contractors. These often include automatic payment via many international money transfer channels, scheduling freedoms, and access to cloud services for openers. If you are a top-level data scientist in China, India, or Sub-Saharan Africa, it is a good time to be open for business as a self-employed professional.

For tech business leaders getting inspired and are hiring data analytics specialists abroad, it’s critical to note the aforementioned geographical settings are themselves extremely broad generalizations of where the growth in internet users is its ripest. Within China, India, and the Sub-Saharan Africa are many dozens of sub-regions each with their own cultures.

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Meeting the Startups at Conquest, 2017

Startup

Last weekend, I was invited to talk and critique some of the Startups at the Conquest International Startup Challenge, 2017. It was short sessions of about 20-30 minutes each with the Startups. Most of them are looking for investments. The generic suggestion I mustered up was not to limit to investors in India but to look outside too. The other key missing piece was that they need to hustle a lot.

Here are the Startups I talked to;

Trell

Started as a handle on Instagram, Trell went on to become a sensation amongst young travelers, who love to look at pictures of local places to travel to. They leverage the finger-snappy millennials that love photographing places they visit and sharing with their friends and fans.

The Trell App is a buffet of picture-stories of interest to users who want to explore new places with their friends.

The team is doing a good job of hustling with the right audience, they have a really good traction. I was able to give them few technical feedback and suggestions, especially with the UI/UX of the app. They were interested in a more in-depth technical discussion on how to scale their image hosting/delivery mechanism to give their users the best picture quality at the most optimized setup. It is a solved problem and they should not worry too much about it.

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How To Quit Your Job And Become A Freelancer

Freelancer

The reason you show up day after day at your job is because you need a paycheck. On the surface of it, this looks like a good reason to continue to drag yourself to a place you’ve quietly come to despise and to associate with people with whom you have little in common. But, when you examine your predicament a little more closely, you can be much happier, freer, and more prosperous by becoming a freelancer.

So how do you become a freelancer?

Start by deciding what it is that you love to do. Once you’ve identified what it is—writing or photography, graphic design or making videos, throwing parties or organizing spaces—then it’s time to figure out how to get paid for it from multiple clients.

Next, come up with a business plan and fill in as many details as possible.

Finally, launch the business by building a website. Theoretically, you can launch your freelance business without a website, but it’s so much easier to interest clients if you can direct them to a website that explains what you can do for them.

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Partnership on Artifical Intelligence to Benefit People and Society

Ex Machina

Of all the modern demands on Artificial Intelligence, “open the pod bay doors” is arguably the most infamous. Years after Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, you can ask your own pocket AI. Unlike Siri, HAL 9000, the fictional AI who kept the pod bay doors closed, is a revealing reflection of humanity’s anxieties regarding technology created in one’s own image.  

Perhaps the same shared, underlying unease that caused HAL’s misbehavior to still resonate to this day is partly behind Google, DeepMind, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM banding together to police the development and implementation of AI.  Notably absent are OpenAI (Elon Musk’s research project) and Apple. The group’s chosen name, “Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society,” is fairly self-explanatory, if not clunky and slightly sinister. As stated on the Partnership’s website, the group was formed to leverage the “great promise” of AI “for raising the quality of people’s lives” and addressing “important global challenges such as climate change, food, inequality, health, and education.” However, many of the Partnership’s stated goals seem geared towards shaping the future public attitude towards AI via knowledge and reassurance.

  • Advance public understanding of artificial intelligence.
  • Create standards for future research.
  • Support best practices.
  • Create open discussion.

Further, some of the Partnership’s eight tenets listed on its website almost directly address public concerns regarding AI and its logical conclusion, robot uprising. In general, the tenets involve the following principles:

  1. As many people as possible should be benefited and empowered by AI.
  2. The public should be involved in the development of AI.
  3. Development will be held accountable to “a broad rage of stakeholders.”
  4. Research and development should be conducted with transparency, and systems’ reasoning should be equally transparent, but also explainable.
  5. Development will seek public feedback and address public questions.

The Partnership’s formation, as well as its focus on transparency, public involvement, and ethics, is notably near to the White House’s series of workshops and groups on AI’s risks and benefits. The government’s workshops addressed complex policy, safety and security questions, and also revealed fears that jobs will be lost to AI, and behavior will be unpredictable and uncontrolled.

One must wonder whether the Partnership is less an exercise in selflessness than a strategic maneuvering to control the AI conversation.  Arguably, presenting solutions via the Partnership would potentially discourage government regulation, and in so doing avoid regulatory speed bumps to company growth.