About nimitkumar

Engineer. Thinker. Doer.

The curious case of Facebook Video Calling

FB Video Calling Application LogoFacebook recently launched Video Calling (only one-to-one) in partnership with Skype at http://www.facebook.com/videocalling. Yes, you guessed it right! This was the page URL of our fast growing Video Calling application that Facebook disabled, without any explanation ofcourse, on April 7th. Clearly this had nothing to do with any policy violation. Facebook wanted the URL for itself and went ahead and disabled an application demonstrating its one-upmanship attitude in dealing with situations.

When we tried to understand the reasons for this action, a generic email was sent which basically read this:

This app pre-fills user´s message and this is not allowed according to our Policies (point IV.2): “You must not pre-fill any of the fields associated with the following products, unless the user manually generated the content earlier in the workflow: Stream stories (user_message parameter for Facebook.streamPublish and FB.Connect.streamPublish, and message parameter for stream.publish), Photos (caption), Videos (description), Notes (title and content), Links (comment), and Jabber/XMPP.

We recommend you to fix this and re-launch again the app. Also, in order to avoid bad user´s feedback, we recommend you to monitor user reports and be sure to comply with all Facebook Principles and Policies (http://developers.facebook.com/policy/).

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A case for productized services – why a pure services play is not always awesome

Mark Suster (@msuster) has written a very insightful post (What Should You Do with Your Crappy Little Services Business?) on his blog. If you haven’t read it already, you should. He sums up with the following advice.

I’m not advocating that companies are crazy to try and be product companies. In fact, that’s all that I fund as a VC. But I don’t want the narrow world of venture-backed companies and the trade rags that report on them to dissuade the overwhelming masses of potential entrepreneurs from building meaningful businesses that are both fun and economically rewarding.

Basab Pradhan (@basabp), further extends Mark’s post here, where he suggests that services companies never need to find a product strategy “given their lack of skills and management experience of the products business“. Rightly so considering he is mainly referring to the offshore services business.

There is, however, an interesting case for product companies (particularly early stage technology companies) to have a services focus to solve the cash problem. I call it productized services, and this is exactly what we do at Samuday. This is particularly relevant if you are not VC-funded and need to build high quality products with sustained revenue stream. If you are an India based technology company, this might be even more relevant.

Early stage technology companies that are aiming to build high quality products have a tough life in India. Indian VCs mostly invest in e-commerce driven (technology) companies, so funding is scarce for pure technology players. Indian customers have a slightly misplaced definition of technology, thanks to the plenty of offshore/outsourced/software services companies. Several potential customers do not appreciate the difference in technology capability for building a website as against building a real-time communication and collaboration solution. Anything delivered through a website falls in the same league. This leads to a perception problem where your product may not be valued at what it deserves, posing a challenge in building sustainable revenue streams.

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The value of professionalism

[ This post is in context to part-time freelancers ]

We are gearing up to launch our flagship collaboration product – www.unirow.com . While the design and development of the product happened in-house, we thought it would be a good idea to get the marketing material developed by a professional. Our first requirement was to get some product videos made that would demonstrate the capabilities and simplicity of our product. We engaged with a freelancer, whom I knew from before. He runs a neat production house, but mostly in freelancing mode as their primary job commitments are different.

We had agreed on a set of requirements before beginning on this project. I spent a few hours going over what we wanted in the script, to the extent of giving the sequencing for shots. He was pretty excited and said he would be able to deliver the three videos within our budget. We bought all the iStock materials he wanted and ensured nothing stops him from moving forward. What followed from that point was a chain of disasters, ending up with him freaking out and not beeing able to meet expectations. Continue reading

The death of world’s most wanted

Media has been reporting the death of Osama Bin Laden. He is said to have died in a fire-fight with CIA officials in Islamabad. Some things are interesting to note.

  1. Osama Bin Laden was killed in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. What was he doing in the capital city of a country that is an ally in US’s war on terror?
  2. The operation was carried out by a small team of CIA officials and there were no foreign officials involved. Did Pakistan consciously choose to stay away from this operation to “maintain” its relationship with the hardliners and extremists?
  3. The fact that this was a CIA-exclusive (and president Obama highlights this when he speaks), does some redeeming for the agency that failed to see 9/11 coming.
  4. President Obama has recently started his re-election campaign (Facebook townhall). This will be a big bonus as he gets on the campaign roads. The timing for this is also apt and American people will have this fresh in their minds when they go out to vote.
  5. This happened when the markets were closed. It will be interesting to see how the crude prices change once all markets are open. My guess, it would be mixed in fear of retaliation and potential volatile circumstances in the middle-east.

Gridstone Research: What can go wrong in spite of all the good people and money?

[ This is going to be a long post. It is a very sensitive matter to discuss failure, particularly when it involves highly accomplished and commendable professionals and VCs that have put in more than $18M. It is not my intention to get into the analysis of board-room strategy decisions, particularly because I am not privy to any of them. However, I worked there long enough to understand what was going wrong. I have very high regard for the leadership team of Gridstone Research and continue to believe that it was a great business idea. We (Yes, and I am part of it) just failed to execute! ]

Gridstone Research was a company that aimed to simplify the delivery of financial data of public listed companies, while expanding the scope of available data and reported metrics. The company had a Research Ops (read people who did the hard work of capturing data, auditing them and writing reports) and a Product Development (people who built customer facing products and and an internal product that was used by the Research Ops for data capture). The larger technical goal was to build technology that can significantly automate the data capture process, thereby making it possible to scale up significantly without expanding the work-force. This was a unique differtiator and could potentially challenge the big boys (Reuters, Bloomberg) of the club. Continue reading

Rebooting my blog

TimReboote flies! As if in a blink of an eye, 18 months have gone by since I wrote a blog post. So much has happened in this time, that I may have enough to write on for a while. In a nutshell, the following were important (in chronological order).

  1. 2009 – My plans to restart my higher education did not quite work out. In the process I realized an education like MBA would not particularly benefit me and would end up adding a financial burden that would hinder my entrepreneurial spirits.
  2. Early 2010 – I started formalizing my ideas towards building a product that would simplify group communication and collaboration. Discussions with friends and seniors were fruitful and early market research indicated a need for this.
  3. March, 2010 – I quit my job at Gridstone, to concentrate on building Samuday and its business model. Continue reading