Monday, November 8, 2010

Professor Stuart Diamond on Negotiation

LSE has a great lecture titled "Getting More" by Wharton Professor Stuart Diamond.

The audio can be listened to from here
(Use Right Click & Save As to download to your desktop)

The Video

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Life and times of a Dragon

James Caan (Bio)

Recording of an interesting lecture at the LSE by the UK-based, Pakistan-born Recruitment Consultant-turned-PE investor. Caan provides several humorous episodes from the TV business plan show, Dragons' Den, in which he is one of the "dragons" (judges). He also has some great advise for job seekers.

The audio can be listened to from
here (mp3) - 58 Minutes, 7MB
(Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop)

The Video

Fail fast and other Silicon Valley Enterpreneurial Myths

Mark Suster (Bio)

In this Stanford's Entrepreneurship Corner interaction, Los Angeles-based serial entrepreneur-turned-VC breaks several myths prevalent in Silicon Valley.

The audio can be downloaded from here (mp3) - 58 Minutes, 7MB
(Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop)

The Video:

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Scalability is easy"

Andrew Frame, CEO, Ooma (Bio)

Source: Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Corner

The Podcast (mp3) - 56 Minutes, 25 MB
(Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop)

Highlights of the talk (links point to corresponding video snippets):

* "Scalability is Easy - If you have a leadership team that can scale, the company can scale"

A team member with both startup experience and big company experience is the ideal, since he/she can bridge between the two.

* "It's hard to start any kind of company. So, why go after a small market?"

* As the company scales, it's important to have a shared vision to ensure alignment among employees.

* Fire (wrong hires) faster at the executive level

"Go with your gut; don't rationalize""Praise (employees) publicly; criticize

* Create a board with "CEOs who've been there before" and build personal relationships
with each of them.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Of Air, Waves and Making the World a Better Place

Shai Agassi is easily one of the most inspring young entrepreneurs in the world. After walking away from the CEO job at one of the world's largest software companies, the Israeli entrepreneur founded Better Place with a view to rid the world of oil. While electric vehicles (EVs) are nothing new, the really exciting thing about Agassi's plan is the way he's attacking the problem - making it more economical to own a EV than a petrol/gas-driven car.

Shai Agassi, Founder & CEO, Better Place (Bio)

Source: Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Corner

The Podcast (mp3) - 47 Minutes, 22 MB

(Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop)

Highlights of the talk (links point to corresponding video snippets):

If you go in to business to make money, you are in the wrong place.

"Money is like air. You sense air, only when there's no air."

What's the next big thing? "If it's already in Wired, it's already too late."

To catch a wave, you need to start before the wave comes. You need to bet ahead.

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Commitment is the Key" - K.V. Ramani

Fascinating account of the tribulations and success of an early mover in the Indian software industry, who chose - in the mid-1980s - to tread a different path than the common "body shopping" route. - The Venture Intelligence Team

K.V. Ramani, Founder, Future Software

Speech and interaction with the students of Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai (recorded on campus on June 23, 2010).

The Podcast (mp3) - 64 minutes, 29.2 MB

(Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop)


  • In the eighties, when banks did not recognize software as an industry that they would lend to and there were so much of red tape, KVR's sheer persistence helped him overcome the odds - even to the extent of arguing a committee of bureaucrats into reversing their decision!
  • Future Software, which stuck to its niche of telecom networking software from inception, was the first Indian company to license "protocol stacks" to global telecom vendors in its pusruit of "non-linear growth". KVR insists that Indian IT succeeded because of "talent/skill arbitrage" and not cost arbitrage. "We could have charged three times as much and got away with it," he says.
  • KVR's story emphasizes how the founding idea - especially for an IT product company - should be based on something that is likely to become popular 3-5 years ahead. He believes the founders should focus on the vision for the company in the next 5 and leave the job of managing the next few quarters to the operational managers.
  • One of the advtantges of starting in a niche market, KVR points out, is that the target clientele is obvious .
  • The podcast has an interesting account of how KVR converted the huge problem of its largest customer, Hughes (which accounted for 30% of the business), wanting to set up its own shop in India, into an opportunity.
  • KVR also highlights how Flextronics acquired and stitched together what is today Aricent by acquiring 5 Indian communications software companies (including Future Software).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hemu Ramaiah – Story of an Indian Retail Pioneer

The story of Hemu Ramaiah, founder of the Landmark bookstore chain (in which the Tatas acquired a majority stake in 2005), is confirmation that a customer facing role is the best start to an entrepreneurial career. As someone who started a modern, large format bookstore (in Chennai’s Nungambakkam area) in the pre-liberalization era, she exemplifies the word “visionary” and her journey showcases how entrepreneurs – as long as they have a clear understanding of customer needs – can make winning decisions by “trusting their gut”. - The Venture Intelligence Team

Hemu Ramaiah, MD, Shop 4 Solutions (Bio) in conversation with K. Satyanarayan, Co-founder of regional language publishing firm New Horizon Media. (Recorded on June 15, 2010)

The Main Podcast (mp3) - 77 Minutes, 35.4 MB

(Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop)

Highlights from the interview:

  • “Make Your Own Mistakes”
    • Trust Your Gut (based on your understanding of customer needs)
    • “Don’t let Accountants take over your business”
    • Examples: Deciding to get software designed by a start-up firm (which made the effort to understand her requirements better), deciding not to charge extra for courier delivery for Internet orders, deciding to buy (rather than rent) space for the stores, etc.
  • Importance of Growing the Market vs. worrying overly about competition
    • Amazing story of how she decides overnight to start supplying books to her competitors (in order to boost volumes for the import orders)
  • On the choice between Private Equity and Strategic Investors
  • Planning the Personal Exit
    • Because “business is a treadmill” and “life shouldn’t pass you by”
    • Basing the decision on an age cut-off (rather than some target corpus)
  • Converting Problems into Opportunities
    • When she learns that her daughter’s schoolmate has never visited a bookshop, Hemu decides to turn the problem (of parents not exposing their children to books), by “taking the bookstore to the school”. You can download the audio (mp3) of Hemu’s recounting of this interesting episode – which is not a part of the main podcast – from here (Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop).

Great Early Career Advice

The speaker in this podcast has quite literally saved the best for the last. As part of the Q&A with the audience, Jeff Housenbold reels off one great tip after another on how young managers (including wannabee entrepreneurs) should approach the first few years of their careers – The Venture Intelligence Team

Jeffrey Housenbold, President & CEO, Shutterfly (Bio)

Source: Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Corner

The Full Podcast (mp3) - 56 Minutes, 25.7 MB

(Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop)

Highlights of the talk (links point to corresponding video snippets):

  • Early Career Advice (Minute: 51)
    • “Go where the money is made in the company” – if it’s a sales driven company, go to sales; if it’s a company which has a key product line, try and get into that division, etc.”
    • “Solve your boss’ and your boss’ boss’ problem. And go beyond what you are told to do and try and see how your work relates to the problem the company is trying to solve.”
    • “Go where there’s tremendous growth or a disruption or a turnaround situation”
    • “Don’t care about titles. Be a sponge – figure out know where you want to be in 3-5-10 years and focus on acquiring the relevant skillsets for that. Attach yourself to those people who can help you with that.”
    • “Go to company with a culture where you will fit. If you are about teamwork, if you go to a hero/cowboy driven culture, the politics will crush you”
  • Other highlights
    • Entrepreneurial Thinking – Nice examples of how Ebay innovated in using the Google Adwords program more cost-effectively.
    • Hiring Criteria for Start-up Cos.: Functional expertise; Culture-fit (“how do they acheieve what they do; not just the results”); Written and Oral Communication Skills; Problem solving skills (ability to make decisions without 100% data); out of the box thinking; intellectual curiosity.
    • Differentiation (for a Premium Player) – Nice description of how Shutterfly differentiates itself as a Premium Player from the competition given that even huge players like Walmart offer services in the same space.
    • Customer Feedback. Do research but don’t go and build what customers tell you what they want. Because often they don’t have an expansive vision of where the market’s going 3 years from now.

Google Culture: Is it for all startups?

There is a perception, given how successful Google has become, that all kinds of policies the company adopts – like 20% time for employees “own projects”, free gourmet food, etc., etc. – is something that all start-ups should adopt. As we listened to the following podcast from an early employee at Google, we made notes on what start-ups should definitely ape. – The Venture Intelligence Team

Marissa Mayer; Vice President, Search Products & User Experience (Bio)

Source: Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Corner

The Full Podcast (mp3) - 48 Minutes, 21.9 MB

(Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop)

Highlights of the talk (links point to corresponding video snippets):

  • No one at Google can get away by presenting an Executive Summary which cannot be backed with data. Everyone down from the founders will insist on drilling down to the data
  • This academic culture at Google – “Stanford with Stock Options” – has helped minimize internal politics. Since decisions are taken based on facts and figures, it’s difficult to point fingers and say this project got approved because of favoritism, etc.
  • Provide complete information to employees and they will then prioritize their jobs
    • Until a few months before it went public, Google used to share revenue nos with all employees
    • 50% of the products launched in the second half of 2005, came from “20% time” projects

“Start-up Fun: Not Only for Founders” – Tom Conrad, Pandora

Tom Conrad, CTO, Pandora

Source: Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Corner

The Full Podcast (mp3) - 67 Minutes, 27.9 MB

(Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop)

Highlights of the talk (links point to corresponding video snippets):

  • Fun and rewarding career is possible as an employee of start-up(s) – you don’t necessarily have to be a founder.
    (“Follow your passions and good things will happen”)
  • “Look for opportunities to go deep” – for both employees and cos.
    • Focus on a small number of things and be great at what you do. Key to know what you want to be the best in the world at and do it well.
  • Encourage direct and personal interaction of top management with customers
    (ALL welcome mails from Pandora go out from the CEO’s personal ID. The exact opposite of which is emails from “”!)
  • Stay Agile: Avoid long-term and medium-term plans
    (Helps avoid distractions and temptations of entering into unweildy partnerships and is something larger competitors can’t do well.)
    and finally…
  • Favorite stories
    Like how they discovered after giving a half-price sale, that $1,000 worth of dog food weighs about a metric ton! And the company was going to pay $15,000 to ship it!!!

Building a Company – Jensen Huang, Nvidia

Jen-Hsun Huang, Co-Founder, President and CEO, NVIDIA Corp. (USA) (Bio)

Source: Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Corner

The Full Podcast (mp3) - 62 Minutes, 28.1 MB

(Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop)

Highlights of the talk (links point to corresponding video snippets):