What would our grand children consider classics?

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It is safe to say that; content is in a state of 911.

I find very few sources where I can get content, where a great deal of though and analysis has been put in. Interestingly, I find many more sources where I can get cat videos and snarky two liners. Truth be told, not too many people are reading thoughtfully written stuff.

Why?

Quantity is opposed to Quality

The advent of digital mediums has meant that it is possible for everyone to create content. If you wanted to write a piece like the one I am writing and distribute it in 1900, you needed a newspaper editor to feel that your article was going to be interesting to the readers. With blogs, today pretty much anyone is able to put out their thought for public consumption. But the problem is much worse that anyone being able to write a blog.

This is statistics that the IBM Watson team put out; In 1900 the content available to mankind was doubling roughly every 100 years. By 2020 it will double every 11 hours. This is insane. The amount of content that would be at our disposal is being estimated at 44 Zetabytes. All of us have limited time available to us and the amount of content at our disposal is fast accelerating.

The consequence of limited time at our disposal is limited attention span. We want content that can be consumed quickly and without extending too much effort. Reading a well thought out piece forces us to think and understand; this is not primed for fast consumption.

How many of us have read the Iliad or Plato? How many of us have seen the latest trending video?

When you think of content that can be consumed without much effort, video ends up on top of the charts. Youtube is making money hand over fist, not by accident. Over the next 20 years, ‘text’ is going to move to the lowest rungs as far as content format go. Video is already moving up and this trend will gather pace in the coming years with formats such as Vine finding more and more traction.

Read the responses to this one… People know.

 

Advertising – A Boon or a Bane?

The other thing that is simultaneously destroying content is the fact that most of the income for content comes out of advertising. This implies – firstly, you need to make sure people arrive at the content (click-bait headline); secondly, you need to make the content super easy to consume (so they keep coming back and/or spend the next century clicking though the rest of the stuff). The more time they spend on the site, higher are the odds that they will click on an ad, at least by mistake. Most of what qualifies for this in entertainment and not analysis.

Given a choice between an 8000 word essay on a subject which would take 20 minutes to consumer; and a sequence of 15 videos of guys getting hit in their nuts; which would garner me more clicks and therefore more advertising revenue? The choice for the content creators is clear.

Advertising as a business model has done everything to destroy the quality of content. Thanks Google. Thanks Facebook.

 

Thanks to all this Music has gone to dogs

Songs have been a means though which emotions and stories were communicated. What makes a song beautiful is the poetry and the metaphors, which make several interpretations possible. It automatically implies that you must give it time to grow on you, for the interpretations to set in and for the songs to get internalised.

With the lack of time and attention, musicians are forced to produce music that is catchy and will hook you up soon. This also means that most songs do not have a soul. Most songs use a particular word repeatedly to get you to like the song.

Count the number of time the word ‘Hello’ is used by Adele in her song ‘Hello’.

Taylor Swift is popular not because a lot of college girls sit around listening to her, although that may be true. She is popular because she makes an attempt to tell a story. At the end of the day a song will stay with you if it connects with your soul. The issue with most of the songs written today is that they have no shelf-life, they are meant to grab attention.

Often I go back and listen to some of the songs I had been listening to a couple of years back because of their popularity and I am genuinely ashamed that I had considered them good. If you do not understand what I am talking about, check this link.

The low shelf life means nobody wants to own any music. Hence Streaming.

Take a great song from 20 years ago, you can still enjoy it. Not the same with a song which is 3 years old.

 

Everything is about Entertainment

The proliferation of content and the ad economy has resulted in what can be best described as the attention economy. In fact this article beautifully lays out, how scarcity has evolved from food, to land, to labor, to information, and now to attention.

Consequentially, the only thing anybody is vying for is attention. News reporting is going down the drain. The world has a lot of real problems to deal with, inequality, poverty, terrorism, climate change, etc. but all the news is about things that will be entertaining.

Why?

Ads.

The news has been a part of the entertainment industry for a fairly long time now. Look at what praying at the alter of entertainment has brought us – Donald Trump might be nominated to fight for presidency.

 

If this trend were to persist, and I have no reason to believe it would not, 100 years from now the classics that our great grand children will be reading would be some shit Kim Kardashian wrote (Or worse shot in her bedroom)!

Time Management

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I meet entrepreneurs regularly; I often come across a self-development question that I find really hard to answer. They ask me how do you do so many things? How do you manage time better? I have no clue, partly because I myself was unaware of what time management really meant.

‘To Do’ lists are the best way to put together the list of things that need to be done and get through all of them. Having said that, anyone who has ever done a ‘To Do’ list would tell you how difficult it is to get through the entire list and make sure that all of the items on it are checked off.

I wondered why.

Often, once we make a list of things to be done, we start by getting all the easiest things done on the list before  we cut across to the harder ones. The reasoning is simple, if there are 10 things on the list and 5 are hard and 5 easy, I can check off 5 of the easiest things in just an hour and then there will only be 5 things left for the rest of the day. Instead, if we pick up the hardest thing first, we might be stuck with it for a couple of hours and at the end of it, we would still be left with 9 things to and a lot less time left.

The variable that one misses out on is mental energy.

In order to complete tasks that require hard work, the amount of mental energy required is much greater than that to complete tasks that require little effort.

In an experiment conducted in the US, they took two groups of students and put them in two separate rooms. Both rooms had an oven baking fresh cookies and the smell of cookies was allowed to waft all over the room. The first group of students were told that they were not allowed to eat any of the cookies but the second group was allowed to eat all they wanted. Both groups were kept in the room for half an hour. After this, both groups were given mathematical problems to solve. The second group performed a lot better than the first group. The reason? The first group had spent a considerable amount of  mental energy willing themselves against eating the cookies; while the second group had an abundance of mental energy, having been allowed to do whatever they wished to do.

We all have a finite amount of mental energy at our disposal, and each and every activity that we perform through the day eats into it. Is it not better that we undertake the hardest activities on the list when we have the greatest amount of mental energy at our disposal, rather than when it is flagging?

There were some things that I had put on my To Do list, which I had been pushing for the last 2 weeks. This morning, I started with those tasks and finished them first. Interestingly, I was able to get through them faster and more efficiently. I was left with a lot of time on hand during the day since the easy things were completed in no time.

The simple things can be done when you are low on mental energy, but the difficult things definitely can’t. Every activity dips into a finite pool of mental energy and takes some of it away from you.

If you look at some of the most effective leaders, they are often people who take the bull by the horns, and face and resolve problems as soon as they appear. This is a very important leadership trait.

Hence, the key to managing time well is to optimise the utilisation of your mental energy, and to make sure that you can make the most of the time that is at your disposal.

 

10 Lessons for Startups ~ By Mr. Ganesh Laxminarayanan

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Two weeks back we concluded the Startup Club Demo Day in Bangalore and we had a host of great speakers come in and grace the event. They shared some truly insightful thoughts with our members and the engagement was off the chart.

 

I am sharing the insights that I was able to glean from one of the talks which was delivered by Mr. Ganesh Laxminarayanan. He spoke about the 10 things that you should keep in mind when you are doing your startup.

 

No relatives – Doing business with relatives is the best way to create untenable situations. Invariably the personal and professional boundaries begin to blur and it becomes extremely difficult to balance and manage the situation as an entrepreneur. Also, if an investor was to come into such a venture they would constantly have to guess what discussions are happening inside the house and this puts the investor in a very uncomfortable position.

 

No HR – In a startup work is relentless. Your team will have to spend a considerable amount of time, with whoever is recruited. Its extremely important that the entire team is at comfort with the people who are being brought in. Let the people within the organisation bring new people in. Let them undertake the process of recruitment. There is no point of having a person who is managing HR. Unless there are policy related aspects that would require an entire month’s work, don’t recruit an HR person.

 

No CFO – The needs of a startup is to figure out how to get the money flowing into the business. It requires business acumen. A finance person typically is concerned with keeping the numbers neat and making sure that the taxes are saved and proper structuring of accounts is done for the same. Such skills are useless at a time when survival is under question. This is just going to act as an unnecessary drag; avoid it.

 

No value from board – Do not expect the board to deliver any value to the business. They are a part of the board because of the investment that they have made. A typical investor is a part of at least 10 boards simultaneously. He/She is not sitting around thinking about ways by which they can further your business. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to undertake investment activities along with overlooking 10 boards. Go to the board with a specific ask if you have one, but do not expect them to be actively thinking about your business and figuring out the doors that they would open.

 

Have lots of advisors – Get a lot of advisors for yourself. At any given point of time, there will be a set of thoughts and strategies that you would need to bounce off people to test the veracity of the thought. Connect with a lot of experienced people who you can reach out to at any given point of time.

 

B2B is only about sales – There is nothing called B2B marketing. It is an utter and complete a waste of money that large companies engage in because they do not know what else to do. All sales in the B2B domain is completed through sales activity. In order to get this done, all you need is a good pair of shoes and a lot of meetings to be setup. You may undertake activities to generate leads, but the eventual conversion is going to happen due to a salesperson’s pitch. B2B is only about sales.

 

B2C is about customer – Knowing the customer, and their problem well is critical to being successful in consumer business. The product is the most important thing because that is what is facing the consumer. If you are building a consumer product company it is important to understand that the product is the operation. Saying that you take care of operations has absolutely no meaning. Put the Product guy into the operations. Make the product guy take the calls from the customers one day a week. This will help them understand the customer better and building the product that the customer requires instead of the product that they have in mind. Customer is the center of all operations.

 

Jugaad means we throw more people at the problem – Invariably, Jugaad is undertaken to find a solution that would be more of a band-aid than a permanent fix. When you opt for such ad-hoc solutions, you are often put in a situation where you need to bring in more people because a standardised and automated solution does not exist. As we all know from experience, no two people are the same and more people only mean more variance. With each additional person brought in, the marginal returns of the solution starts to become lower and lower. Avoid jugged as much as possible. This will keep the variance low and returns high.

 

Unit Economics – It is far and away the most important thing to focus on. If you are not able to make a profit at a per unit level, there is no point in doing the business because it will never become profitable. I had written a very detailed blog on this.

 

Do not listen to any of the advice given – As an entrepreneur you best know your constraints and circumstances. Every decision is situation dependent and hence nothing can be applied blindly to all situations. So, if you feel your case is special go ahead and do what you want. Disregard all of these advice and do as the situation may dictate.

 

These were few of the insights that members were able to take away at the Bangalore event. We will have many more such insights to share with you at our Chennai Demo Day this month.