Corporates must tap academic research

It is a fact that most Universities / Research Labs (publicly funded) produce research, publish their findings and have a roster of intellectual property. This is business as usual for them. They do little in terms of commercialising their discoveries.

Corporations on the other hand have ‘innovation’ as the mandate. They attempt to commercialise inventions and profit out of creating value. Since their focus is on commercialisation, they should not be spending too much effort on ‘Research’, but sadly they do.

Most ‘research’ functions have been blamed for not being effective. This is due to a number of reasons. Lets not get into it. Many corporations also do not have the muscle power to sustain long term research activities either! Hence long term sustainability of corporations is under serious threat. Enhancing innovative ability of their organisations is ‘Top Priority’ for the CEOs / Top Management Teams.

Hence it makes sense for corporations to focus on their core activity of making innovations happen while tapping into academic research for gaining access to new inventions. I recently read an article on this topic (Link: https://hbr.org/2016/04/innovative-companies-get-their-best-ideas-from-academic-research-heres-how-they-do-it?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=harvardbiz).

There are a lot of reasons why this may be difficult to practice in a developing economy. Here are some top of the mind reasons:

  • Low public funding for research
  • Poor research infrastructure
  • Low quality research output
  • Poorly documented / published research
  • Little research of practical value
  • Little interaction between industry and academia

And so on… But one is bound to be surprised by the number of useful ‘intellectual property’ that lie dormant in our (India) public universities / research laboratories. Some smart companies are already beginning this…

As a corporate looking to stay relevant in the future, it is useful to include scanning academic research as part of your strategy function. Number of interesting ideas are presented in the article cited above.

Read, access and explore the academic world to find inventions that can be commercially valuable for your firm / organisation.

This could be one way of enhancing corporation innovation.

Indian Entrepreneurship: Interesting Insights

Punit Soni, a senior hire from Silicon Valley quit Flipkart. As always there has been a lot of speculation on him and Flipkart. But that’s not the point. Business Insider interviewed him and I find that his answers reveal a lot about Indian Entrepreneurship and Ecosystem. While I let you enjoy the details of the interview (Link: http://www.businessinsider.com/flipkart-punil-soni-explains-why-he-quit-2016-4?IR=T) here are few points worth noting:

  • Indian E-Commerce is a big opportunity; the winner will have to be a large player
  • Innovation in E-Commerce is behind the scenes and its tough work
  • Mobile is a mindset and not a channel strategy
  • Restructuring is a strategic matter
  • ‘I think the Indian Media is a bit of a circus… way too much is written without substantiation’ (read the interview fully before saying anything)
  • Startups and Media should focus on ‘strategy’ not ‘personality’
  • MUST READ: Incident from Bay Area on Hero Worship
  • Its definitely getting easier to setup a company in India, though it can get much better (Government is trying a lot)
  • Valley’s big difference is its support and mentorship; this is lacking in India’s entrepreneurship ecosystem – needs a big fillip
  • A Google / Apple type of Company will come out of India (Optimism in India’s entrepreneurial potential) – lets live up to it.

I know the above is like dissecting an interview, but I think we should learn to read into what is being said. This is only for learning how to improve, not to generate more ‘gossip’, there is enough of it anyway.

Lets not waste the potential of Indian Entrepreneurship

Happy Reading and Happy Entrepreneuring!

Virtual Reality – A trend to track

VR as it is popularly called, Virtual Reality is a trend to track. Even if you are not an entrepreneur who is attempting to become the Google or Facebook of the VR revolution, you will be caught up in this world within worlds.

As though the existing levels of ‘maya’ are not enough, VR is adding another level of ‘maya’ to our lives. As with all things in life, it comes with immense possibility to make lives better. Just imagine sitting at home and watching the Wimbledon, or spending a day at Disneyland, or actually living in space for a day or just being in a story instead of reading it. Many functions such as marketing, many industries such as entertainment and education may be changed forever when VR goes mainstream. And all of these opportunities comes from very little imagination in very little time from one little mind. Just imagine the possibilities.

Google and Facebook are already on it. And so are the many startups around the world. Start reading to know where this will take the world. At least the possibilities are promising!

Here are two links to start reading:

http://www.fastcodesign.com/3058308/the-perfect-vr-headset-is-actually-just-a-hoodie?utm_source=mailchimp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fast-company-daily-codesign&position=1&partner=newsletter&campaign_date=03282016

http://www.fastcompany.com/3058259/most-innovative-companies/for-oculus-to-succeed-vr-needs-to-succeed?utm_source=mailchimp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fast-company-daily-newsletter&position=1&partner=newsletter&campaign_date=03282016

Keep tracking and Keep reading!

Finance for Entrepreneurs: Value and Valuation

While today we speak of companies such as Flipkart and Zomato, most of them seem to be running a ‘valuation’ game. But according to my understanding entrepreneurs must run a ‘value’ game. While the two should be related, there is a huge difference between the two.

Value – is what is created by the entrepreneur for a consumer. In the process the entrepreneur gets rewarded. All of this if done in a sustainable way, the business runs for a long period of time. Rare, but examples exist.

Valuation – is when an entrepreneur attempts to create value for themselves and their investors. They provide consumers services to make this happen. If the business makes through the difficult mathematical puzzle of numbers, it exists, else death is certain. Examples are a plenty, but exceptions exist.

If a startup create value for its customers, over time it is rewarded by valuation too! But if valuation is the focus, value is at times compromised, industries undergo turmoil and there is a shakeout of good players too. This is not very good for the long term.

Last week when I was speaking at a panel discussion I was reminded of this: why creating business models and identifying value are more important than raising money.

I hope entrepreneurs and startups understand this and live it. It is important considering the fact that, even if all the Venture Capital money flows in and gets invested, the number of startups getting funded will be a minuscule portion of the startup population. And more importantly, entrepreneurship is a career, a journey, not just a race or a competition.

Think and decide to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. Its fun and fulfilling! I can vouch for it both from my personal experience and of having groomed many.

Happy entrepreneuring!

Entrepreneurship is a verb

How much of entrepreneurship is spoken?

How much of entrepreneurship is done?

If one takes a candid look at it, one is bound to see that all the talk leads to nothing, but even an iota of action leads to value creation. Even a failed entrepreneur does good things: moves experimentation forward, learns lessons and improves himself/herself.

When I authored a textbook, I defined entrepreneurship technically, but above all I shared with my readers that ‘entrepreneurship is a way of life’. One lives entrepreneurship. And living is a verb, not a noun! Internalising this makes a huge difference to how one lives life entrepreneurially.

Think about it!

Entrepreneurship is for everyone

Its not only for startups attempting to commercialise an idea. It is not about building the next Google, Facebook or Infosys. It is not just for those who come up with a brilliant invention. It is not only for the smartest amongst us. It is not only for the most privileged amongst us.

It is for everyone. For I believe, entrepreneurship is a way of life. It is about independence. It is about freedom. It is about courage. It is about dreaming. It is about hardwork. It is about taking action. It is about trying things out. It is about taking calculated risks. It is about taking chances without being destroyed. It is about doing something that you care about.

Entrepreneurship is about doing. So if you are willing to go through the roller-coaster ride and laugh your way through the thrills and tensions that the ride offers, you are ready for entrepreneurship. The best part of this journey is – you don’t need your boss’s permission to start; you don’t need your spouse’s permission to try (may be its a good idea though); you don’t need to worry about what others will think about you; you don’t need to worry.

In essence: entrepreneurship is about doing; entrepreneurship is about living; entrepreneurship is about blossoming – and most importantly ‘no worrying’.

So, why are you waiting to live an entrepreneurial life? Begin now. Start today. Because starting up is not about starting a new business; its about starting a new way of living your life. Think and Act. But act, act now. Because entrepreneurship is for everyone.

Happy entrepreneuring!

Teaching machines to learn

“Machine Learning” is no more new. Literally every new kid with even a wee bit of curiosity with technology knows about it. But while programming machines to act intelligent was the earlier approach, teaching machines to learn for themselves is where the world is headed.

With Google and Facebook making substantial investments into the tools needed to make machine learning happen, the trend has only been speeded up. The next fight for these biggies in technology is on whose artificial intelligence tools are going to be used more widely to enable machine learning. At least in the case of Google and Facebook the tools seem open source and available to the world at large.

On its part, Google is providing a free online course through Udacity. The course is going to be led by Vincent Vanhoucke, a principal scientist at Google. I am sure by sharing their knowledge on this toolkit, they will open up the minds of many more engineers beyond Google to experiment and take machine learning forward.

For more information look up these links:

TensorFlow (Google’s latest machine learning system) – http://googleresearch.blogspot.in/2015/11/tensorflow-googles-latest-machine_9.html

http://googleresearch.blogspot.in/2016/01/teach-yourself-deep-learning-with.html

Putting Deep Learning to Work – http://blog.udacity.com/2016/01/putting-deep-learning-to-work.html

Course Link – https://www.udacity.com/course/deep-learning–ud730

I am posting this so that many of my young engineering minds (especially the entrepreneurial ones looking for new opportunities) may pick up such emerging skills. There is so much engineering talent across India, which if can be educated on skills like the above, will startup scalable unicorns.

Startup India by learning how to teach machines how to learn!