Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ideating and Startup Ideas

There is this funny IBM add in which a man walks into a conference room and sees all the people lying down eyes closed(In shavasana (शवासन) yoga posture). When asked he is told that they are 'Ideating' that is coming up with Ideas. The add finally ends with a punchline which says "Stop Talking! Start Doing".

Couple of months ago I was wondering what am I doing with my career. I had been part of a startup company most of the time except for the first two years. The last three years have been with a company which acquired my earlier company. With most of the senior members gone to start their own venture I was suddenly hit by what next reality. I did a lot of thinking, soul searching stock check at what am I doing here and where do I see going in future.

One thing which was quite clear was that it was near impossible for me to work in any software company however good. The culture to innovate that I learned in my last startup would just prevent me to work in a company where my ideas could not take form. My introvert nature would not be of any help either. Moreover unless I personally see any value or benefit out of the job that I am doing, It's very hard for me to continue doing that.

Two things that I love doing most is writing software and reading articles on software (Joel, Paul Grahm etc..). I was fairly certain that what I would do next would be something about creating a good software product and evangelizing about software in general.

Two things happened. First I had a talk with my manager(more on this later) and second I watched the David Hansson video from the startup school. Suddenly things began to crystallize before me. As if the zigsaw puzzle suddenly began to solve itself. Something similar to zen satori.

There are two kind of startup's that I classify. The first one is the one in which you hit upon a brilliant idea (next google) and get charged up to achieve it. The second one is where you realize that a startup is not really about creating a product but creating a company. This company can potentially be a next google, or it could be a simple Software as a Service or hell it can start a resort at the outskirts of the city and rake in the moolah. The important thing is while creating a company you are getting to work with your friends with whom you have a good working relationship. As a result of this you have secured the rest of your working career. Seriously I personally do not think a startup is about getting rich soon. A startup is more about creating a work environment where you can enjoy working maybe for the rest of your life.

What exactly do you do when you start a startup to create the next big thing. When you want to create the next big thing you are always on your toes. Its almost like you wakeup everyday and start running. If lets say you do create the next big thing. What next? You sell it to someone and make millions (if not billions) of dollars. But at what price? You may have spent many sleepless nights, roughed up a relationship here and there. When thinking about this situation I am constantly reminded of Tom Hanks running in Forest Gump and suddenly wondering what he's been running all this while for?

Once this basic idea of what a startup should be clear, the rest of things just started to fall in place. The more I thought about it the more optimistic I was about my future. I have a pretty high level of confidence on my technical abilities and that of my friend. Anything we start I am sure we could come up with decent revenue for ourselves. The risk of failing itself is not so huge primarily because we are not going to do next big thing and we may not be needing as much cash to start our venture.

Would it not be better in that IBM add that instead of talking and spending on innovation it would be much more productive to just go and do it. I had a similar satori when I watched that David Hansson video. With this blog I plan to capture similar thoughts that come to my mind while I am Ideating :-).

Disclaimer: I am not saying that starting a startup to create the next big thing is not good. It's just not my cup of tea.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on your new blog. Liked your ideas on start-up companies. I must say you , me and David Hansson think quite alike :)

Sri said...

Good start sir! Will look forward to more insights and gyan - it will be good to get a dialogue going!