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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Lessons Learned from a Lifetime Dedicated to Entrepreneurship

If you’re planning to start a business or a startup, it’s valuable to learn about life and the flow of business from people who have navigated their own paths to success. Though it’s true, no matter who you learn from or what college you attend, ultimately, everyone has to make his or her own way to success. However, no one can make it without borrowing a proven effective strategy or two from someone else.

David Turner Morgenthaler died in June of this year after achieving great success with his venture capital firm, Morgenthaler Ventures.

Turner, known as a successful investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist will also go down in history for his instrumental roles in amending ERISA legislation and lowering the US capital gains tax to 28% from 49%.

Small Biz Trends contributor Scott Shane shared some of the valuable business lessons he learned from Morgenthaler over the years.

What Can Entrepreneurs, Startup Founders and Investors Learn from Morgenthaler?

On Startup Founding and Success

  • Startup success is challenging. Most of the factors that contribute to a startup’s success aren’t factors founders can control. In fact, Morgenthaler equated startup success to, “making lightning strike the bottom of a swimming pool on a sunny day.”
  • Startup investing isn’t a guaranteed money maker. Startup investments only produce returns about 10% of the time. Investors should be prepared to lose money often.

On Investing, Entrepreneurship and Business Strategy

  • Successful investing can come from doing adequate research and knowing everything about a company’s management, their organization, their market and their industry.
  • However, the most important element in the equation is the entrepreneur or management team. The right person/people can change organizational factors and create success. In fact, he felt most startups and entrepreneurial endeavors failed because the business owners and founders, (the people), made mistakes.
  • Successful business heads gather in places where realistic success is plentiful. They leave dead places where new business and investment can’t flourish. This is why you see so many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

On Intelligence

  • Intelligence is not the same thing as getting a lucky break and profiting from it.
  • It’s not being an intellectual snob and discounting the input of everyone around you with a good idea; and
  • Good ideas must also be provable. They must be possible. They must conform to the standards of natural laws like gravity etc.

Guys — Want a Gadget that’ll tell you when your girlfriend is pissed off?

Angry Girlfriend

I thought I would get your attention with that one guys.

Just imagine walking into home everyday after work wearing a pair of O2Amps, glasses that can warn you of your wife, girlfriend’s, female roommate’s, sister’s, mother’s emotions. Most importantly you can detect her emotion BEFORE you say the wrong thing. Brilliant no? By increasing our perception of blood physiology 2AI Labs have come up with the O2Amp glasses, which amplify whether a subject’s blood is oxygenated or deoxygenated, and pooled or free-flowing–or in layman’s terms determine the general emotions of their viewing subjects.

Millions of years of evolution (sorry Scientologists) have already given human beings the ability to interpret blood signals into emotions and overall states of health, like rosy cheeks for overall health, blushing for embarrassment, green for nausea and yellow for fear — or jaundice. Now, like Viagra and boob jobs, scientists have improved on mother nature again.

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Krassimir Fotev scoffs at SEO with his brainchild, Peer Belt

If you’re like me then you are sick of SEO. These cookie-cutter predictive patterns that create a myopic filter for the content we see online make as much sense as casting a rapper in a film noir, or taking a three-year old to a fine china shop.

This must be what Krassimir Fotev thought when he looked at how we gather, process and retrieve information and thought — pssst… I can do better. So he did. (Don’t you just love people like that?). He created Peer Belt — a personalized search engine that organizes the content you encounter online.

After first getting a masters degree in Physics, then giving up a cushy job at Credit Suisse Krassimir created Peer Belt, and hasn’t looked back since.

We had tons of questions for Krassimir — like what the heck Peer Belt actually does, so we fired off a series of rapid-fire questions to him about his entrepreneurial experience and the technology behind the brand. He then banged his head against his desk until something brilliant came out. And brilliant it was…

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Business Intelligence with Retailigence

Retailigence

Peter Christianson’s resume, as he tells it, is like a who’s who of NASDAQ success stories – so when he lent his talents to new startup, Retailigence, people paid attention.

Retailigence and its founder, Jeremy Geiger, are leveraging Peter’s thorough portfolio of skills: business development, revenue growth, supply chain management, operations research, statistics, management consulting, business-process re-engineering and mathematics; skills Peter is using to help turn Retailigence into the next big thing. Retailigence is a hodge podge of all those skills, mashed together to create a data-driven, traffic-management platform that connects the 3 prongs of the retail sector: retailers, brands and developers – all without an app or search engine.

If you want to know just what that means, read our interview with Peter below:

Can you give me the quick, elevator pitch for Retailigence?

Retailigence is a hyper-local marketing platform that drives qualified foot traffic into local retail stores. Retailigence does this by distributing a brand or retailer’s product availability information via a network of location-based application partners, used by consumers who are close to finalizing their buying decision, as well as through thousands of publishers in the form of digital advertising, to drive high-value ‘action’ (in-store sales).

You have a three-pronged approach to connecting online retail participants—including retailers, brands and developers, what inspired this approach?

With the explosive growth of online shopping, it is important to realize that over 90% of all purchases are still completed in brick-and-mortar stores. If retailers want to maintain this balance, they need to have a way to leverage the ever-growing population of smart phone users who use their phones to research before purchasing. Unfortunately, the mobile app development community is extremely fragmented. Our platform approach makes it easy for retailers or brands to get immediate visibility in many applications at one time, and makes it easy for app developers to immediately get access to multiple retailers at one time. We feel our unique approach of bridging these three areas addresses this new opportunity to provide shoppers with hyper-local product information.

What advantages do users and businesses have by participating in Retailigence?

With Retailigence, retailers get more motivated shoppers into their stores at the time they’re most interested in purchasing. The in-store shopping experience is also changing; smart-phone customers are now demanding easy access to detailed information about the products in front of them. Retailigence helps make this type of information available to customers when an employee is not available to help them.

What is your educational and work background? 

I have a successful track record in starting up new markets and building businesses at an accelerated pace. As Founder, Managing Director and Board Member of Real-Time Technology Asia-Pacific (subsidiary of RTT, a public company), in 3 ½ years, I grew revenue 1000% and built the organization from 0 to more than 50 employees. Earlier in my career, I held a variety of management positions in NASDAQ-listed CDC Software including VP of Business Development, General Manager and CEO for the Business Intelligence division.

My first experience in a start-up was with LA-based Supply Chain Management company Adexa, where I was involved in the founding of multiple new country operations. When I left Adexa, those regions accounted for 50% of Adexa’s global revenue. I started my career in Management Consulting, advising clients on Supply Chain Management, ERP software and business process re-engineering on behalf of PriceWaterhouse (now IBM Global Services) and KPMG.

I hold a Bachelor degree in Mathematics (with an emphasis on Operations Research, Computer Science and Statistics) and an Executive MBA from Sasin (associated with Kellogg School of Management).

What are your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?

I’d say the biggest challenges are the 4 “P’s”: pacing, product, pivot and personnel. The early life of a startup is not a sprint, but a very fast-paced run. Too fast and you burn out, too slow and you miss the opportunity. You also need to have a good product which takes many iterations. You must be willing to pivot when necessary, and you have to be able to attract and motivate excellent personnel.

What are your plans, hopes and marketing ideas for the future of Retailigence?

Retailigence will become “the” platform powering the increasingly important online to offline (O2O) commerce market.

What are some of the mistakes and/or failures that you learned from while starting up?

In looking back over the life-span of Retailigence, I see several decisions that could be viewed as mistakes, but were good decisions at the time. As a fast-growing start-up in a “hot” space, we are continually being presented with offers for partnership and investment. What is more critical than making the right decision is to make a decision and act on it. If that decision turns out to need adjustment, then make the change and keep on going. Action will win over deliberation in the long haul.
 

What were and are the challenges that you face(d) starting up?

I faced the usual challenges: finding the right team, securing funding, and early on, fine-tuning the message so it was easily understood by retailers, application developers and end-users.

How have you personally changed since you started?

When we started, we were focused on the concept of Retailigence, which was a new concept at the time. These days, I need to spend much more attention on execution and metrics (both internal and for our customers).

What has been the biggest surprise been as an entrepreneur and business owner?

One of the biggest surprises has been the topic of international. Before starting Retailigence I started-up 12 different new country operations for 3 different software companies. International growth was expected and it required starting-up from first principles.

These days with the internet and with the visibility that Silicon Valley start-ups get, we are seeing huge demand from international markets, far before I would have planned such expansion. Also related to international, I learned early on, that many Silicon Valley venture capitalists are still wary of international markets. I’m seeing a very different perspective on international expansion then when I was in the trenches leading such efforts.

What development, event, or new understanding since you started has had the most impact on your original plans and how have your plans changed in response?

Retailigence had traditionally focused on serving brick & mortar retailers exclusively. When some of the biggest brand advertisers in the world started reaching out to embed “Point of Purchase” information in their advertising campaigns, we started to see an important value-add that we could provide to them too. The great thing is that this development has come back to benefit our retail customers too.

What sacrifices did you have to make in order to focus on your startup?

I had to make a decision to give-up my well-paid position in a fast-growing public company that had many perks including continuous international travel.

Which do you think is most important and why: the right market, the right product, or the right team?

Obviously all 3 are critical. But without a market, there is no need for the other two.

How did you lure your first customers?

Retailigence doesn’t lure customers, we engage them. Our first customers were forward-thinking people who saw the emerging possibilities resulting from the explosion of ecommerce, and understood the need to bridge the retail experience of yesterday to the retail experience of the future. Most retailers quickly see the value proposition of Retailigence. After developing their own app, they start to realize that there must be other things they can be doing in mobile marketing, especially as part of the explosion of 3rd party apps.

If your company tanked tomorrow, would the experience have been worth it?

Absolutely. I believe the journey is what enriches all of us, not just the end goal.  Having started so many new subsidiary P&L divisions before, I know I can make a successful business. The experience of working with some of the world’s leading venture capitalists has been a fun and interesting new experience.

What made you first think that starting a company is right for you?

I’ve always had an internal entrepreneurial spirit, and with Retailigence, the market timing was just right. Even in the mid-90’s when I was a supply chain Consultant at KPMG, I envisioned the need for a solution to solve the “last mile” in supply chain management — connecting consumers with local retail stores.

Was there anyone/anything who inspired your managerial style and defined the culture of your company?

Every culture is different. The culture and management style I use in Japan or Australia or Singapore or Denmark or here in Silicon Valley is very different. I learn and adapt from what I see around me.

CrowdFunding – All about it!

A new chapter has begun with the funding and raising up of startups. The much anticipated JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act was signed by US President, Barack Obama. The new bill gives life to startups to raise money from multiple investors.

This concept is being called — CrowdFunding.

While CrowdFunding allows taking help from many lending hands, it also increases the risk of managing these many hands. One of the biggest challenges handled by corporate CEOs is managing the interests of major investors. It also poses many questions regarding the source of funding, managing the overall enterprise virtually, etc.

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Tech Startups get much-needed Funding Boost with JOBS act

Tech startups just got a much-needed boost in processing power, with the new JOBS legislation passed in congress. The Jumpstart our Business Startups (JOBS) initiative currently being legislated into the US economy passed by a landslide and will vastly alter the startup entrepreneurial and investment landscape.

This new legislation, passed with a vote of 380-41, will remove some of the ridiculous red tape that startups are currently forced to endure when seeking funding. It will also allow young and small companies to go public sooner and allow for crowd-sourced funding, enabling startups to gets funds from small internet-based investors. Track the entirety of the JOBS legislation.

JOBS Act

Under the JOBS act companies looking for funding will no longer need to do so under cloak and dagger, nor contrary to advice from their lawyer. Funding-seeking companies will now be able to post information about their crowd and other funding efforts on their websites and social profiles.

Opponents to the new law object on grounds that opening up very public opportunities for investment in startups will open the public up to increased risk in consumer investment and increased vulnerability to fraud via unmanaged crowd-sourced funding.

Investment fraud and scams may pop up on both sides of the fence though. Small-scale internet investors could be ripped off by investing in risky, possibly fraudulent investments, while at the same time funding-seeking businesses may be taken advantage of fraudulent funding opportunities — especially now that their lawyers will have backed off on legal advice, now that public funding is no longer a legal matter.

Y Combinator’s new Gambit is the ultimate founder dating & recruiting manna

There’s been quite an array of reactions to the new move by Y Combinator when they announced the application for startup entrepreneurs sans the idea of a Business or a Product. As a ‘Startup Entrepreneur’, my spontaneous reaction, wrapped in a tweet was, “any entrepreneur or founder eager to do a Startup will be brimming with ideas.”

Oh! Yes, I don’t hesitate calling myself a Startup Entrepreneur these days as I’ve failed quite a few times to have experienced and know a thing or two about Startups and Entrepreneurship.

However, on a second look at YC’s initiative, I realized this is a brilliant gambit – YC is ready to take a much bigger albeit calculated risk for a long term winning move. Here’s why.

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5 Ways to Build an Online Community for Your Startup

There are multiple benefits from building an Online Community to create demand for your product. Unlike marketing campaigns, the efforts placed in building online community will give results in the long run.

Let us find useful ways to build online community especially for startups;

Appropriate Platform

Select the most appropriate platform to reach your customers. If some discussions are already happening about your products on a platform like Facebook then you can involve more in those discussions. You should ensure that ‘Facebook Page’ reflects up-to-date information and talks about new launches, etc. It is right opportunity for you to add the required material and facts and figures to convince or substantiate the effectiveness of your products and services. You can reply user’s queries and ask for more questions. If you are doing well at one platform gradually you can extend to another affective platform.

Engagement

Engage your audience or customers. This is very much important. As your concern is in the initial stages of growth, you should listen to the requirements of your customers. If you are able to satisfy existing customers, satisfied customers will bring in more numbers of new customers. You should respond to the comment placed by a visitor on your blog. You should reach audience in various locations like forums and discussion groups. Instead of expecting a sudden surge of visitors you should be able to serve the needs of existing customers. With consistent engagement with customers, you will be able to remove the drawbacks of your products and launch better products in future which will invite many more new customers. By engaging customers in proper way, you can build community that will add-up on a continuous basis.

Socialization

You should offer users ways and means to socialize. There should be an option to subscribe to your newsletter. You can offer multiple ways to connect with customers. Connectivity icons of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. should be easily accessible on your site. They should be placed in the most prominent location so that icons can be easily noticed by users. You should offer links that can be shared by users’ friends. You should also expand your presence on social bookmarking sites. These sites will draw lot of traffic as they create authority on your product.

Quality over Quantity

You should focus on quality in every aspect. You should deliver the best product. The product should be optimized as per the changing times and lifestyles. A lack of one single simple feature can make a very big difference. Hence, you should be in the forefront of adaptation of technology and grasp things from the market. In addition to the product quality and quality of service, you should also implant quality conscious customers who will promote or rather advocate your products.

Quantification

At the end of the day, what you obtain from all your inputs will matter your business. You should have access to data that pertain to different aspects of business. By quantifying the results you should be able to know in which direction your business is going. You will be able to find the returns on investments. The quality community build over the years will attract many new visitors.

Tips to Pitch your Startup

While I was pondering over the most effective ways to pitch a business, I came across it’s this for that. The startup generators which generate one-sentence pitches can work, but not always. So, let me put this straight, if you need a startup, then all the basic stuff you need is MID or Money, Idea & Determination.

Many think that if the idea is good, people will discover it somehow and they can move faster with their business. Communication with the public is another important aspect. Though you have the best programmer in the globe, if communication to the outer world fails, the path to success is way too long. Pitching process is one of the most important steps.

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