What Entrepreneurs can Learn from 2014 Nobel Peace Laureates

2014 Nobel Peace Laureates

2014 Nobel Peace Laureates
[Source: The Nobel Peace Prize. Ill. N. Elmehed. © Nobel Media 2014]

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Both these exceptional individuals have had life changing impact on thousands of children, helping them get a life they rightfully deserve. If you are familiar with the problem of child abuse and child labor in South Asia, you will appreciate how difficult it must have been for both of them to walk down the path they chose.

What caught my attention was the two different traits their lives distinctly represent – perseverance and courage. While both have demonstrated super human levels of perseverance and courage, Mr. Satyarthi’s journey is more of perseverance and Ms. Yousafzay’s journey more of courage.

Similary, there are two kinds of entrepreneur stories – one of perseverance and another of courage. Throughout an entrepreneur’s life they continue to demonstrate both, but most entrepreneurs can be classified into one of the two. And there is much to learn from the both of these Nobel laureates.

The Persevering Entrepreneur

These are the entrepreneurs who identify a tough problem, dig their heels and toil till they have made a dent. Most of them like to stay away from the limelight and would rather stay focussed on the problem that they are working on. This is the story of Kailash Satyarthi’s life – an electrical engineer and former educationist who has worked for more than 3 decades protecting child rights and liberating thousands of children from abuse.To solve this tough problem and achieve the kind of scale, one needs great perseverance. When the Nobel prize was announced, most Indians had not even heard of him although many were aware of the program he championed all his life! That is how quiet a life he has led while still making a huge dent.

The persevering entrepreneur picks problems that are often not the current trend. They often pick Herculean tasks, identify long term goals and have the strength to hang in there in times of adversity.

The Courageous Entrepreneur

These are entrepreneurs whom life presents with extraordinary challenges and/or circumstances. Not only do they respond to these circumstances, they shape the future by that very response and continue to thrive. Malala Yousafzay’s life and the extraordinary circumstances she faced did not deter her resolve to promote girl education in the strife-torn regions of Pakistan. It made her more resolute and she rose up to the challenge and has since succeeded because of her outstanding courage.

The courageous entrepreneur is brave and is not shy to make her presence felt. She is not afraid to face adversity and wants to make a dent sooner rather than later.

If you are an entrepreneur, you will identify how these two traits drive us every day. In order to succeed, you must have both. But it helps to know what you are best at. It can help you find a problem more suitable to your abilities and values. Entrepreneurship is a long haul and there are no short-cuts.

You will have to be gritty! [5 Characteristics of Grit]

Be that kid with the LEGO blocks

I was talking to a close friend and advisor about the entrepreneurial life. We were talking about the evolution of an entrepreneur as the business meanders through different stages of iterations and growth. The need to continuously reinvent ourselves and why so many of us stop short of achieving our best.

I have to say, entrepreneurship has not been unbearably hard for me! Yes it has been very challenging, but definitely not unbearable. At no point did I ever feel that I should give up.

The truth is, I am just a kid with the LEGO blocks!

Source: LEGO on Wikipedia

Lego pieces of all varieties constitute a universal system. Despite variation in the design and purpose of individual pieces over the years, each remains compatible in some way with existing pieces. Lego bricks from 1958 still interlock with those made in the current time, and Lego sets for young children are compatible with those made for teenagers.


Six pieces of 2×4 bricks can be combined in 915,103,765 ways.

It is incredible what we can do with just six LEGO bricks. The skills that we build through our lives are our LEGO bricks. Entrepreneurship is a dynamic process where we try different combinations of these LEGO bricks; we keep trying until we find a shape that is perfect!

Entrepreneurship is being imaginative without worrying about failures; it is about trying different combinations before we find our very own perfection; and, it is about having fun while we are at it.

If you have seen a kid with her LEGO blocks, you know exactly what I am talking about. If you have not seen one, gift a LEGO kit to a kid you know and learn from her the joy of building up her imagination with abstract blocks.

Be that kid with the LEGO blocks!

Giving Your Product Release a Name

uniRow SeabiscuitWe recently released the next version of uniRow – which we have named Seabiscuit.

The name was perfect for this release for the following reasons:

  1. This version is a quantum jump in performance, design and experience from the previous version.
  2. We are a small team working hard to deliver top quality results.
  3. We wanted the name to represent passion, endurance and an ability to surprise.
  4. There is competition in our market and that makes us run faster.

Seabiscuit (May 23, 1933 – May 17, 1947) was a champion Thoroughbred racehorse in the United States. A small horse, Seabiscuit had an inauspicious start to his racing career, but became an unlikely champion and a symbol of hope to many Americans during theGreat Depression. Seabiscuit was the subject of a 1949 film, The Story of Seabiscuit; a 2001 book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand; and a 2003 film, Seabiscuit, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Give your product an amazing name, here are some reasons why you should.

  1. You have worked hard on it, show it off – within reasonable limits of course.
  2. Google uses Desserts to name Android versions, Apple names Mac OS versions after the big cats. Give your product a character.
  3. You are building a company along with the product, let the name represent what your company stands for.
  4. Be a trend-setter. There is a fair chance that other companies in your sector are running down numbered versions, do something refreshing.

Your product is your baby, give it a name. Don’t name it with a number. Well, unless you are George Costanza!

Making Digital Education Work In India

Internet is a great enabler. Is has an ability to make quality education accessible. A teacher can share her knowledge with thousands of students. While this sounds grand, like most things, execution and interaction is the key. The hottest thing after e-commerce in the Indian startup ecosystem is education. If VC investment were an indication of the value of a sector, education would definitely be among the top 3. The question is how much of value have we created in this space?

When I started Samuday Technologies, my intent was to build a great product that could enable better collaboration in areas beyond the enterprise – such as education, healthcare and CRM. About 10 months into the company, I understood that problem in Ed-Tech – low (actual) adoption rates among students. We realigned significantly at that point. While you can build the coolest and smartest softwares, usage levels are going to be frustratingly low because students and teachers are swamped with existing problems.

One of the reasons for low adoption is expecting significant change in user behavior. I am a big believer in building products that fit into existing workflows instead of expecting changes in user behavior and workflows. Here are some of my learnings from my experience in the education space.

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