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Showing posts from February, 2011

My Failures

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Image via WikipediaMy first step into tech entrepreneurship was in the late 90s. I was not the leader of the team, but I was a founding member of a team, lead by an Indian American woman out of Philadelphia, that was trying to build the top South Asian community online.

The company raised 25 million dollars round two and dutifully succumbed to the dot com bubble burst. What ensued was a nuclear winter.

She suggested I drop out of college. I should have. It is not like I was having fun in Kentucky: I hated the place after my first year. Over a year after I left promising to come back after graduation, the thing had already disappeared.

Indian Hurdle

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Night Sky

The Angel List Controversy, Fred's Marketing Controversy

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Image by Lachlan Hardy via FlickrThere are two major controversies raging in the blogosphere right now. One is to do with The Angel List. The other is to do with our own Fred Wilson's blog post about marketing. Fred has started a s_itstorm by suggesting the best tech startups don't need marketing budgets. In fact, that is how he spots a great tech startup when he sees one.

The Angel List controversy I am sanguine about. I don't see two sides to the argument. There are many ways to invest. The Angel List is just one of them. Efforts like The Angel List have surely democratized the investment climate for the early stage startups. But there are old school holdouts with proven track records who think the process at The Angel List is too diluted. You can't really find nuggets of gold there.

I have said before that I don't expect an iconic company like Google, Facebook to emerge out of Y Combinator. But Y Combinator has been a great entrance to the scene. The majority …

Santogold/Santigold: Brooklyn Anthems

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Brooklyn And Santogold/Santigold

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Image by The U.S. National Archives via FlickrSantigold: MySpace, Wikipedia, YouTube

Barack almost took Brooklyn during the February 2008 primary. Things were looking so bad before the primary day, Congressman Weiner urged Hillary to make an appearance in Brooklyn, and she did.

I moved to New York City summer of 2005 and placed myself in the smack center of the borough.

Darabi Hits Top 5 Again At This Blog

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The first time was here. Never underestimate the power of a controversy to generate page hits. More page hits from a magazine article controversy than from World FoodSpotting Day.

Bihar, Darbhanga

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Image via WikipediaI am increasingly thinking in terms of India. More specifically the great state of Bihar. Specifically my birthtown of Darbhanga. I am thinking in terms of Darbhanga as the place I want to start with.

I know the terrain. I know the state language, the national language, the local languages.

India has been the largest microfinance market in the world. Bihar is India's poorest state.

But I need to do my homework first.

Twitter Is Amazing For Networking

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Image via WikipediaTwitter is absolutely the best tool out there for networking. Because it is so low pressure. There is much power in 140 characters.

You do have to know the kind of people you are looking for. In my case I am looking for angel investors. There is The Angel List that everyone knows about. Recently I created one called NYC Angels.

You try to enter into the conversation. Once you locate the herd where you want to hunt, you start replying to tweets. You read articles people have tweeted, and you write back your comments. Most of the time you will get ignored. The fish don't bite. And that's okay.

But I got one big shot to agree to meet me. And I am in talks with another with whom by now I have moved over to email. There is rapport.

In Foley Square A Libya Feeling

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Image by Rob Blatt via FlickrI have been obsessed with news about Libya. So when I showed up for the Foley Square rally to express solidarity with Planned Parenthood earlier today, I kept thinking about Libya.

This event had enormous buzz. When you hear about an event on Facebook, and PlanCast, and over email and maybe one or two other ways, you know something's going on. And this rally was as big as I expected it to be. Looked to me like the entire New York congressional delegation was there. And many other speakers.

Incredible India

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"I want to be a truck when I grow up."

A Gurkha Joke

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Image via WikipediaMore people from Nepal died in the two world wars than people from any non warring country. The Nepalis fought on the side of the British. The feudal rulers of Nepal kept the British in India happy by supplying soldiers.

When Thatcher invaded the Falkland Islands in the 1980s, the Gurkhas were at the forefront of the swift victory. It is said they ran with their knives/khukris, not guns.

The politics of fighting for another country is another topic. And I have my views. But for now, here's a joke.

This was World War II. The British were busy defending themselves in Burma. One Gurkha got lost in the jungles of Burma in the north. After long weeks of walking he finally showed up in the capital city of Rangoon, down south. He was asked, how did you do it? How did you make it all the way to Rangoon?

"That was not a problem, Sir," the Gurkha soldier replied. "I had a map."

The officer took a look at the map. The guy had a really old map of Lo…

Guns Of Brooklyn: Santogold

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With shared music tastes - if this is any indication - Fred, I might even let you invest in my company! ;-)



(Via Fred Wilson)

Soraya Darabi In New York Magazine

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A Tweet From Someone Running For Congress

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Hackers And Founders MeetUp: Amazing

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Image via CrunchBaseLast night I dropped by the Hackers And FoundersMeetUp after a long gap of months, and it was just an amazing experience. It was about how I felt - very comfortable - and the people I met - fun and interesting and amazing - and some work leads I was able to generate. I might have found myself a business consultinggig. And I am constantly on a lookout for people to grab. If I can't get them in round one, I will need them in round two. That tends to be my attitude.

My Secret Desire To Become A Great Cook

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Image via WikipediaI harbor secret desires to become a great cook and a great dancer. But the definition to both are very, very specific to me.

I want to be able to cook super healthy. I believe that has to be the starting point. But then you also have to take into account taste.

And looks like Google has news for me.
Wired: Google Recipe Search Cooks Up Next Gen of Search: Google introduced a recipe search engine Thursday that serves up dishes based not only on the ingredients you may have on hand, but the calories you want to consume and even how much time you have to cook. ..... About one percent of the queries on Google are for recipes ......

I Knew Google Would Deal With Content Farms

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Image via CrunchBaseAbout a decade ago when blogs became popular as a platform, the blogosphere started seriously skewing the Google search results. Google took care of that. Google made the problems go away. In the recent years content farms have messed things up. I have known all along that Google has what it takes to take care of the problem. And looks like Google just delivered.

Content farms do have their place. But they don't get to skew search results.

The Letter A: Positioning Matters

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South By South West

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Bloggers' Block For Fred Wilson: 10 Blocks Of Emergency

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Image via WikipediaI learned the top VC blogger in the world has hit some kind of a bloggers' block. That is an emergency situation, people. I am declaring an emergency for 10 blocks in every direction from Union Square. All startups in the vicinity, please take note.

You are being urged to participate in the comments section here. If you don't, the emergency is not going to be lifted. And you are going to be deprived of your daily staple of blog posts from Fred Wilson. Think about that.

Not Rich Yet

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Image via WikipediaI am not rich yet, and it really, really bothers me.

For me it is about the power. The power to run and grow a corporate organization. The power to do good. The power to go after the stated mission of curing poverty.

Unless you yourself can create serious wealth, how can you claim you are in the curing poverty business?

Democracy + Education + The Market = Wonderful Things.

Microcredit is only a small part of microfinance. Microfinance is only a small part of the many tools needed for the War On Poverty.

Wordpress For Mobile App Creation

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Image via WikipediaReadWriteWeb: Like WordPress for Mobile App Creation: Cabana is a Service to Watch: Is it possible for a visual drag-and-drop mobile app creation tool to deliver a sophisticated product? ..... Drag and drop addition of features like a camera, check-ins on services like Gowalla or Foursquare, integration of the Instagram photo API and many more things are possible. ..... There is a clear demand for this kind of light app publishing technology This is the future people. Until the mobile web attains the same levels as the big screen web, we will need apps. And just like every offline business needs its own specific website, the mobile phone app has become the equivalent of the website on the big screen web. And the only way to meet that demand would be through services like this that promise to take the wizardry out of mobile app creation. Anyone who can drag and drop should be able to build an app.

Like David Noel?

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Twitter thinks I am like David Noel? Why would Twitter think that? I'd not have thought that myself.

Michael Yavonditte: An Exemplary Entrepreneur/Investor

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If you don't have a Twitter handle, you are not in tech, period. You do not exist. You are a figment of my imagination. And a Twitter handle is so much easier to give out. And your Twitter page should allow for more in depth getting to know. Hashable knows all this.



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Just Because My Name Ends With An A

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Image by Felipe Beiza via Flickr

Black Buddhas: The Madhesis Of Nepal: Documentary

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Social Media Is For Real

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I am not getting this. I think you have to be global at many levels to truly appreciate social media. I don't feel any kind of a "multiple edentity disorder." Social media makes me whole. Minus social media I feel all too fragmented.

I was born in India. I grew up in Nepal next door, attended high school in Kathmandu, not my hometown, came to America for college at a time when I could not have told you the cultural differences between Kentucky and California. A one year crash course in Kentucky's social conservatism cured me of that fast.

Cultural differences are for real. As of today I don't give two hoots - absolutely don't care - about anybody's birthday, not mine, not anyone else's. That does not make me an uncaring person. That means I grew up in a culture that celebrates festivals, not birthdays. They say every single day in Nepal somewhere a festival is being celebrated.

Advantage India, Disadvantage India

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Image via WikipediaI first thought in terms of India. An Indian does not need to look far and wide to find poverty. It's right there. It's right there in the backyard. India has the vast majority of the dollar a day, two dollars a day people.

I'd start out by knowing the culture. I'd know the language. And when I say that I mean to say English also, not just Hindi, not just Maithili and Bhojpuri. India is the biggest English speaking country in the world.

And there is the size. I could take the company IPO based just on Bihar. Bihar alone is that big. It would make sense to polish the basic business model in Bihar and then take it to Africa, rather than otherwise.

India is a vibrant democracy, the biggest in the world.

Top Discussion At A Top LinkedIn Microfinance Group

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Image via WikipediaA discussion I started a week ago (and kinda forgot about) at a LinkedIn group with over 1200 members has become the top discussion at that group. The group is Microfinance Focus. This activity has made me take a serious look at LinkedIn for the first time. This thing is working, yo.

This has also made me look at India all over again. India was the country I started with in terms of where I wanted to go. But I was advised that the Indian government makes it very hard to bring money into the country. It is much better to start with some middle income country in Latin America. So I am thinking Costa Rica, more recently Paraguay. Much more recently I have been thinking Kenya. But I have had this gnawing feeling that a Bihari needs to be thinking Bihar.

Slumdog Millionaire: A Movie About My People

Raising Money, Building Teams

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Rootlessness And The City

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Image by joiseyshowaa via FlickrI was born in India. I grew up in Nepal next door. I came to America for college. When I was applying for colleges while in Nepal, I did not have a favorite college in mind. I liked all sorts of colleges. Every prospectus I picked up I absolutely fell in love with. Now I realize what I was really applying for back then was to get into New York City. People who go to all those colleges all end up in New York City.

I have something akin to a PhD in race relations. There is the conscious level of the mind, the subconscious level, and there's deeper stuff. Racial identity can inhabit the mind at several levels. That's what makes a white guy high school drop out detain the top movie star in India for an hour at the New Jersey airport. Your name is Khan? You must be a terrorist.

Libya On My Mind, Libya On Your Mind

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Image via WikipediaRight now is a great time to follow me on Twitter. I have been reading up on the Arab democracy movements and sharing the links with abandon. I have also been blogging. My blog posts automatically show up in my Twitter stream.

2011 is 1989. This is big, this is historic. This will be a year to remember. Nothing like this has happened in Arab history ever before.

I am thinking Libya. I am thinking Saudi Arabia. Heck, I am thinking China, and I am thinking Burma.

Pray for Libya. Meditate for Libya. Every ounce of mental energy counts. It does not matter where you are. People braving the streets deserve to be in your thoughts.

And, yes, Iran's time will come all over again. 2009 was not a wasted year. That was dress rehearsal.

Two Events: Global Impact With Social Media, Digital Dumbo

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So I am doing the Monday morning thing of opening up the email from Charlie O'Donnell. His weekly events newsletter is the best thing Charlie ever did.

Charlie Bit My Finger

Charlie Bit My Finger

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Charlie O'Donnell At His Inspiring Best
The Most Popular Dish In New York: Shake Shack Burger, Madison Square Park
General Assembly: Singing Praises

The top commenter at the blog This Is Going To Be Big has been blocked from leaving comments at the blog. It happened around FourSquare Day last year. I gladly shook Charlie's hand at the FourSquare Day Party completely unaware he had gone ahead and blocked me at his blog not long before that.
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"Life is unfair."
- JFK

No URL Bar: Big Change

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Image via WikipediaConceivably Tech: Google May Kill Chrome URL Bar: he elimination of the URL bar, which could be the most significant UI change to the web browser since its invention. ...... aim to increase the viewable space for web and application content. ...... Chrome led the pace, but it is IE9, which has the most efficient UI at this time, in terms of available pixels to web content. ...... The classic navigation version, compact navigation, sidetab navigation as well as a touchscreen version. ...... The compact navigation model would only have one line and place the navigation buttons, a search button, tabs and menus next to each other. The URL bar is gone and the URL of each tab is not visible at all times, but only displayed when a page is loading and when a tab is selected. ...... allow users to open multiple Chrome windows and apply different users to them. For example, if you use multiple Google accounts, you have to sign out/sign in between different accounts. Via mu…

Microfinance: No Substitute For Good Governance

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Image via WikipediaDemocracy is basic. I am a firm believer in democracy. The year a country becomes a modern democracy is year one in that country's life. Lack of democracy, bad governance, massive corruption, and civil war are situations that are not within the domain of the microfinance industry. Basic good governance is critical for the microfinance industry to have a playing field where it can start performing, it can start to lift people out of poverty in large numbers.

There is plenty of diversity within the microfinance industry. There are many right ways. And microfinance is not the only tool with which to cure poverty. China has lifted more people out of poverty the past few decades than any other country, and it does not even allow MFIs to come in.

Singularity: I Am Not Convinced

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Image via WikipediaTime: 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal: Kurzweil believes that we're approaching a moment when computers will become intelligent, and not just intelligent but more intelligent than humans. When that happens, humanity — our bodies, our minds, our civilization — will be completely and irreversibly transformed. He believes that this moment is not only inevitable but imminent. According to his calculations, the end of human civilization as we know it is about 35 years away...... computers are getting faster faster ...... Maybe we'll merge with them to become super-intelligent cyborgs, using computers to extend our intellectual abilities the same way that cars and planes extend our physical abilities. Maybe the artificial intelligences will help us treat the effects of old age and prolong our life spans indefinitely. Maybe we'll scan our consciousnesses into computers and live inside them as software, forever, virtually. Maybe the computers will turn on h…

Larry Wants To Become A Household Name

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Image via WikipediaLarry Ellison for a brief period became the richest person in the world, and he very much continues to be one of the richest. But he never became a household name like Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg, for that matter. If it is any solace to him, the two Google founders or Eric Schmidt did not become household names either.

The thing about Oracle is the largest database company in the world does background work. Windows is in your face. But the software that processes your credit card transactions stays out of sight.

When Vinod Khosla Took A Break From Tweeting

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I sent out a tweet to Vinod Khosla. Chances are he never saw it. But for a guy who had been tweeting near daily to that point took two weeks off after that. That is not a good sign.

Aggressive Fundraising, Aggressive Recruiting

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I sent out this tweet to an angel investor yesterday.

Alexa Is Paperless (5)

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Alexa Is Paperless (4)

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Alexa Is Paperless (1)
Alexa Is Paperless (2)
Alexa Is Paperless (3)

Alexa says she is a very internal person. As in, she does not attend many events. She stays focused on her customers and her team, and that right there is more than a full time commitment. The media and pundits are lagging indicators. They are usually three months behind. It is so much more productive to get on the phone with a customer who might feel compelled to pick up the phone.

Alexa Is Paperless (3)

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Alexa Is Paperless (1)
Alexa Is Paperless (2)

Deploying the basic product meant people started sending cards out to people in their network. Everyone who received the cards were potential new users. Many of them did come along as users. And when these new users sent out cards, the circle only widened.

Alexa Is Paperless (2)

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Alexa Is Paperless (1)

Alexa grew up in New York City. She attended Harvard. She was at CBS for two years after college. She did not find the medium - television - all that interesting. Everything had already been figured out. The idea for the company first came from her brother who is a cofounder. I don't know of another brother sister cofounding team to a tech startup.

She thinks the ability to appreciate what people bring to the table is key. She thinks it is important to know what she does not know. Every wanna be leader pays lip service to the team concept, but Alexa means it.

Alexa Is Paperless (1)

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I managed to show up on time. I simply ran after I got out of the train. I was on time. I showed up at 2 PM. At first I went into the wrong building. I was supposed to show up at 151, but I walked into 115. The place did not have an elevator, and I am having thoughts of walking up nine flights of stairs. I will definitely be late, I thought. Then I realized I got the house number wrong. I got out quick. And I ran. I showed up. On time.



I took an immediate liking to Alexa's new office. This would be my idea of a great office space. There was this big, open space in the middle. There were work tables. People ended up facing each other, although at some distance. There were unused work spaces. Obviously Alexa had expansion plans.

Microfinance, Not Just Microcredit

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Image via WikipediaOne of the major lessons the microfinance industry has learned over the decades is that the poor need more than microcredit. They need a broad swath of financial services.

As soon as they start a business, they want to be able to open up a savings account with you. They want to be able to make easy payments. They want to be able to receive money from relatives who might have gone to some distant city or country.

And you have to offer the whole package deal. Although I do think microcredit continues to be the crown jewel of microfinance. But people don't just wear jewelry. They also like to wear clothes, also undergarments perhaps.

Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, FoodSpotting: Sharks

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Image via CrunchBaseI asked a question at the final event during Social Media Week I attended.

Microsoft tried to buy or bury Google. "My question is for the FourSquare guy. Google tried to buy or bury Facebook. Facebook tried to buy or bury FourSquare." Well, Facebook tried to buy or bury Twitter first. "But FourSquare instead has attempted integration with FoodSpotting. And that is right by the market, right by the consumer, right by FourSquare, and right by FoodSpotting. Where did that wisdom come from? What made you want to do the right thing?"

And yesterday news was that Google was attempting a much deeper integration of Twitter in its search results. Integration is key. Facebook should similarly attempt deep integration with web properties like FoodSpotting. And there are going to be many, many players in that space. FoodSpotting has occupied but one vertical.