Author Archives: Mukund Mohan

The #MI3 – #Xiaomi android phone is not for those with a corporate account (Exchange)

I bought the Mi3 after a lot of deliberation 2 weeks ago. I currently have a Windows phone and always keep a spare since I go back and forth from Bangalore and Seattle.

My previous Android phone was the Google Nexus. I have had a iPhone 4S as well.

My overall basic impression: This is not the phone for me. I am ready to sell it to anyone that wants it.

I had a chance to see the phone in action 3 weeks ago when 2 other folks at the accelerator bought it. It is EXTREMELY light. It has a gorgeous display and I had heard so many good things about it that I was tempted to buy it.

It is a very well made device. Fast and sharp, if you in the market for an Android phone and have bought into the Google ecosystem (use Gmail, Google Maps, etc.)

The 3 most important things to me are consistent access to email (I have an Exchange and a POP3 account), long battery life (my other phones dont last an entire day) and reliable phone (good signal, loud enough with a headset). I use very few apps except to post to FB and Twitter and some minimal reading (Feedly).

Unfortunately these are the only things that this phone absolutely does poorly. In fact it is so bad that I am tempted to go back to my Galaxy Nexus (which is very slow).

First: email. As I mentioned, I have Exchange and our corporate policy requires encryption of the phone to access email. That does not work with MIUI. After 5 restarts and 4 hard resets, I still dont have my Exchange email. Which also means my calendar is not available. It is a known bug according to Xiaomi and there is no ETA on the fix.

The work around is I downloaded another email client, which seems to work, but my contacts and calendar on Exchange still dont sync. That absolutely is a deal breaker for me.

Second: Long battery life. It is much better than my Nokia 820, but the phone heats up quite a bit when you use it for over 2 hours (especially when you use maps). It is definitely much hotter than my 820 or the Galaxy Nexus. The battery has not lasted an entire day of normal usage. Disappointing.

Finally: I need a good phone. I tend to be on calls for over 2 hours daily. This is very weird. When I call my voicemail, the screen freezes. The phone still works, but the screen just wont turn on. It is absolutely impossible to do anything after that other than restart the phone. I had 7 voice mails to go through and they are still stuck without the ability to delete them.

If you need a good phone and dont work for a large company with Microsoft Exchange, etc. this would work, but there are cheaper phone that do the job as well.

Why the #flipkart battle with #Amazon is less about money and more about customer delight

Over the last week the amount of press on Flipkart’s $1 Billion raise and Amazon’s $2 Billion investments in India have been significant.

I have been a big personal fan of Flipkart, but I notice that they dont have the sense of customer joy and delight that Amazon does. Even though that’s a stated goal and they religiously preach it, they rarely follow it.

I have had personal experiences as well shopping with both companies, and Flipkart is the “reliable grocer” and Amazon is the “delightful marketplace”.

That means the game is not about the amount of money raised or invested by either company, but more the extent they go to make customers happy.

I had an extremely poor experience with Flipkart last week, and it was clearly their mistake. An apparent policy of not allowing a customer id to order 2 phones, was to blame, but nowhere was that policy apparent until after they nearly shipped the product home.

And when asked why they messed the order up, they claimed policy was to blame as opposed to their internal issues. Largely, the experience makes me not want to shop again at Flipkart. Not that it matters to them, since there’s enough demand. But in the 10+ years of shopping at Amazon, I have never had a poor experience, even when it was my fault.

When Amazon messed up my order, last week, I got a full refund and a thank you gift as well for the inconvenience.

With Flipkart all I got was lousy emails explaining their policies.

How to be lucky, a skill to learn #entrepreneurs

Those who think they’re unlucky should change their outlook and discover how to generate good fortune, says Richard Wiseman

My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

There is still a lot of #opportunity in #India for accelerators & early investors #startups

Yesterday, 12 shortlisted companies from a very large list of applicants, presented to our Jury panel of entrepreneurs & investors for Batch 5 at the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator. This time we exceeded the total # of applicants by a significant number given how mature the program is and how well we have gained acceptance in the Indian startup ecosystem.

Of the 12 companies, 4 were very early stage, (think 2 founders and a dog, back of a napkin), 4-5 of them were at product / prototype and the remainder were at revenue.

Except 3, all the others were still bootstrapped. Meaning they had no funding or support from any accelerator, investor or corporate fund. The funded companies, had just (fairly recently, less than 3 months ago) raised money.

If we were to expand the pool to the final “top 50″, we saw fewer than 15% of companies were supported in some way by an institution meant to support them.

I keep hearing from the press, other entrepreneurs and investors that India is “saturated” with accelerators, investors and angels and we are in an “accelerator bubble”.

That cannot be farther away from the truth.

While not every company that pitched yesterday necessarily will yield a large outcome for institutional investors and 2 or 3 are not even angel investment ready, the remaining 50%-60% are. And, the ecosystem is not yet supporting them.

Some of these companies will go on to become fairly large. Will any of them become “Unicorns” – I cant say for sure. There will be a few (2-3) winners though.

The next time someone says we have too many accelerators or angel investors, you should point them to the fact that there are over 1200 product companies looking for funding in India, which have over $10K in revenue. Over 50 of them are doing more than $500K in revenue and still happily bootstrapped either because no one knows them or the founders dont want to accept money the investors gave them with the terms they offered.

We are still in the land of opportunity.

The surprising stats on funding in India #500Strong shows up high

CB Insights has a blog post on funding in India. Here are the 3 most surprising facts that I gathered from the post.

1. Education and training was the #1 funded industry by category. Business intelligence was in the middle of the pack. I am very surprised. I would have put them in reverse. In fact if you consider travel, apparel, etc. as eCommerce, then it would be the #1.

2. Bangalore companies have 39% of the share of funding, while Delhi has 23%. If you combine Gurgaon and Delhi, then they would be at 29%.I would have put NCR much lower. In fact Mumbai is #3 at 16%, which is even more surprising. I would have put Bangalore at 45%, NCR at 20% and Mumbai at 7%.

Bangalore city technology funding

3. 500 startups is the #1 investor by # of deals. Nexus is #5. In my mind that should have been reverse. In about 1 year, Pankaj and Dave have gone from being on the outside, to #1. #500Strong is beating everyone else by a wide margin.

The China effect: Numbers dwarf everything else

This weekend over 9.5 Million Chinese students take the National University entrance exam known as the Gaokao. In comparison, 1.5 Million students take the SAT and 1.2 Million take the ACT. 1.2 Million students will take the IIT JEE entrance exam.

Yes, China is that big.

I usually get a lot of questions on startup ecosystems, especially China and India. I used to get more questions about Silicon Valley and India before, but now it is China’s startups that have gotten the attention of Indians.

When  mention that they are way ahead by every measure, I get from Indians a shrug, and the inevitable “Yes, but they are driven by the state and protected by the Government”.

No, is my answer.

China is really that big. Everything they do, they are bigger.

For the 4-5 mobile messaging apps like Hike and others in India, there are 150+ messaging apps, and over 50 of them have more than 2 million users.

If I were a startup entrepreneur in India, I’d be looking more at China for innovation on the mobile and Internet side than the valley.

Should you go for high quality or high quantity of users before your seed round?

I get this question fairly frequently from folks applying to the accelerator. Usually this comes from a team of 2-3 developers who have built an app and are looking to either a) raise a seed round or b) apply to an accelerator.

The question is a very difficult one to answer and requires a lot of context and specific knowledge about the problem the company is trying to solve.

Lets take an example. You have built a consumer mobile application, and have had the app out for about 1-3 months, and have “organically” grown your user base, with word-of-mouth or referrals. The question is what are “investors” looking for in terms of traction? Lots of users – meaning thousands of downloads and many active users? Or engagement – meaning a high rate of your “atomic unit” usage?

Or in other words should you spend your effort, trying to get more users or to get your current users to use the product more?

A similar example is one around many free users for a SaaS service vs. few paying users but relatively high usage.

The easiest answer is both. The best products and startups get many users and lots of usage.

The more nuanced answer is that it is dependent on what is tougher. Investors (Accelerators in this case, I assume, are investors as well), look for one very tough problem that has been solved by you as a metric for your future success.

That means, if they believe it will be harder for you to scale up the number of users (based on your app) then they would want empirical data to prove that you have cracked that problem. If, however, they believe that your solution has a harder “retention” rate, like a Twitter – (where signup is easy, but getting users to understand and use the product is harder), then they’d expect you to have solved that problem.

Either ways, they are looking for you to have a good answer and some initial experiments on how you will solve the other part of the problem you have not been able to crack.

So, leaves us with the question – What should you do about it? Lets say you have runway for about 3-6 months before you have to raise a round of funding. What should you prioritize between now and than time when you run out of funds?

How do you determine which problem is tougher? Getting lots of users or getting more usage?

This answer depends on your (eventual) monetization technique.

At steady state, you will make money from having lots of users doing the “atomic unit” action more often.

For the initial stage, though, investors (and you) should be looking for the easiest route to monetization and how you can scale that route faster.

So, if you will make more money from lots of users (e.g. social network) then that is tougher. If however, you will make more money by getting few users to use it more (e.g. in-app purchases), then that is tougher.