Author Archives: Mukund Mohan

A comprehensive list of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality glass products

I was doing some research on AR / VR and here’s a short list of some available and some preview products (glasses) in the AR / VR space. I will be posting a longer entry with reviews of the products I have tried and the use cases. This is a post to gauge the interest on these products.

  1. Meta 1 Spaceglass
  2. Magic Leap
  3. Atheer Labs
  4. Sulon Cortex
  5. Epson Moverio
  6. Vuzix M 100
  7. Google Glass
  8. ODG
  9. Microsoft Hololens
  10. Optinvent ORA-S
  11. Technical Illusions Cast AR
  12. Laster SeeThru
  13. Laforge Shima
  14. GlassUP
  15. Sony Smart Eye Glass
  16. Oculus Rift

How the AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) victory is like the launch of the iPhone

If you are not into politics in India, you can skip this post.

In 2007, Symbian was the dominant operating system among “smartphones”. There was another popular mobile OS – Blackberry. Then Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. The key feature was it was a “touch phone” and provided the power of the Internet in your pocket.

Then came the Android OS. I personally believe the Android OS was a copy of the iOS. Google did to Apple, what Microsoft did to Apple 30 years ago, but with a key difference – they made it (the OS) free.

Now, the similarities are eerie.

Congress is the Symbian phone. AAP is the iPhone and BJP is Blackberry. It is likely, that BJP or some other party could be Android. They can pick up the best pieces of the AAP and work at scale.

I really doubt that Congress will become the Android phone. They will likely continue to be Symbian or morph into the Windows phone (good for most parts, but with little market share).

What value do #startup accelerators provide to #entrepreneurs?

Many entrepreneurs and other venture investors have a perspective of the accelerator space with little context or a construct to think about their value. I am biased and run the Microsoft Accelerator and I think most programs are extremely valuable, though I am an insider.

There are key questions I thought I’d answer that are top of mind of most entrepreneurs and investors about accelerator programs.

How do we think about accelerator programs?

The best construct to think about accelerators is the MBA program for entrepreneurs with new age changes and modifications.

Instead of tenured professors, you have (hopefully) experienced entrepreneurs who can share their story and journey towards entrepreneurship.

Instead of textbooks with theoretical knowledge you have playbooks based on actual experiences.

Instead of one teaching assistants you have mentors who have relevant experience in the area that you need help.

Is the MBA program great for everyone? No. It is only relevant for those that believe in the power of the network and want to take advantage of the connections (not only customers and investors but other fellow entrepreneurs as well).

What happens to existing MBA programs? Will they go away? No, but there will be a serious consolidation. I can see a future where MBA programs are catered to generating folks purely to be placed at a large company such as Goldman Sacs or Bain. Tier 2 colleges and MBA programs will have to fold up.

Is there value in other accelerator programs besides YCombinator? If you believe the MBA program construct, then this is a question that answers itself. Even though there are many that falsely believe there are no programs that are better, that’s like saying if you get a MBA from any other school than Harvard, then your MBA is useless. Similar to MBA programs you pay a lot (in the accelerator space you pay equity, not cash) to get that “stamp of approval” or “credibility”. Is that worth it? For most it probably is.

What value to accelerator programs provide? For most novice entrepreneurs it is advice, for amateurs it is mentorship and for the professional entrepreneurs it is guidance and connections (the network).

Do most entrepreneurs benefit from accelerators? Or just the young, first-time-as-an-entrepreneur do? Do most experienced professionals (who work before joining an MBA program) benefit from an MBA program – absolutely. In fact I would argue they benefit more from the program than young fresh graduates, because they are able to take advantage of the connections, network, mentorship and guidance immediately.

What does the future of accelerators look like? Similar to MBA programs, accelerators are beginning to specialize to compete better. There is a need for a lot of management thinkers for companies beyond the consulting and banking industries, which is why so many MBA programs are churning out graduates.

Depending on how you see entrepreneurship play out – will it be a winner-take-all market or a very competitive one with many startups and many entrepreneurs, there’s a likelihood that many accelerator programs will consolidate or get “acquired” by venture capital teams.

In a winner-take-all market, YCombinator wins. Which means, they get the 80% of the best entrepreneurs and rest are fighting for the scraps.

In a more competitive market, YC, like the others has good share, but only 30% of the best companies graduate from YC, and the rest from other programs.

I personally think it is unlikely that the accelerator market is winner-take-all. Similar to Venture capital firms, where there are tiers (Sequoia, Accel, A16Z, etc.) form the top tier, and there are over 300+ VC firms still doing well and many return good money to their LP’s. Granted the large funds deliver over-sized returns, but the rest are still doing pretty well.

Should entrepreneurs apply to multiple accelerator programs? It depends on the connections and networks you choose to leverage. If you are a health company, YC will be of value, but not by much. You want to attend YC to get the stamp-of-approval, but you will benefit a lot more from programs like Rock Health.

I don’t know of too many folks that have gone to attend multiple MBA programs, so I think that a startup going to multiple accelerators will just dilute themselves too much. Unless they attend a program that offers no dilution – like the Microsoft Accelerator program for example or many others.

Which is why TechStars is starting to offer their “equity back” (like a money back guarantee) program – You got value or your equity back.

What others questions do you have about accelerators? I’d love to think about this construct and see if it addresses more questions about the value of startup accelerator programs.

Entrepreneurship is an act of self realization more than of markets, technology or customers

Over my career spanning 15+ years, I have started companies, sold successfully and also failed and shut down companies. I have also started over 25+ side projects that have largely failed. I can claim I have learned a lot from both my successes and failures to write multiple books. What I have figured out though is that the act of solving a new problem and the ideas that flow have more taught more about myself than the markets I was operating in, the customer segments I was targeting, or the technologies I was working on.

There are multiple things you want to learn about yourself. Introspection is a good thing for most parts. There are multiple ways to learn about yourself. As long as you live every day you tend to learn about yourself, but all of the major milestones at your startup provide you an opportunity to learn more about your likes, dislikes, your fears, things that make you happy and those that make you sad. You also learn about the kinds of people you like to work with and those you’d rather avoid.

The key part is to document all your learning. I recommend the question bank approach to learning from your failures.

One of my side projects many years ago was a crowdsourced solution to price transparency for *everything*. I called the project “pricearoo” and started it exactly a year before “Priceonomics”.

The key difference was to allow users to “check in” their price for any item. I have the initial screen shots as well. It was a simple “I paid XX for YY” at “automatic location

Then you can see how much other people paid for the same thing, or where you can get it cheaper. The idea was pretty broad, and I could price anything from oranges to cars.

There were a lot of things wrong with the project. I launched it for Windows Phone (2012, pretty lame, I know) and it was pretty generic, instead of focused on one vertical. I also did a poor job getting the word out. So, while the prototype and the mockup were very well received by the initial users, the project failed miserably.

I learnt a lot about consumer applications, the launch process, how to build a Windows phone app and build a back-end system with Ruby on Rails. All that was great learning, and something I will keep for a long time.

There’s one thing though about these things I learned. Most have of the items about market, customer segments and product have a shelf life of less than 3,6 or sometimes a max of 12 months.

The most important flaw in my personality that I learned through this project was I like shiny new things more than the discipline and diligence to follow through one thing.

That one piece of learning has stayed with me ever since. I have written much about discipline vs. intellect since, but since that project, I focused on building my muscle memory around being a lot more disciplined. The “I am smart enough to figure things out” has been replaced by the “grin and bear it through the worst and best of times”.

The difference between Novice, Amateur and Professional #Entrepreneurs (Setting expectations)

I get a lot of forward looking plans and projections for revenue, expenses and hiring from many entrepreneurs. I wanted to highlight a key, but subtle difference that I see between entrepreneurs. I can state it quite simply as follows:

Novices set expectations high, and deliver low. They are the ones I see trying to go from investor pitch to investor pitch defending their “industry standard” growth rate, even though they expected higher.

Amateurs under promise and over deliver. They are the ones I hear always complain about valuations. They fail to realize that the “professional” entrepreneur friend they have is growing at an insane rate, but they choose to only compare “valuations” and dilution.

Professionals over commit and outperform.They are the ones that get the best valuations and are diluting very little. They push their entire team to crush already high expectations.

They dont heed the “research” that says that it does not pay to over deliver. They crush their metrics on all accounts and deliver growth that’s off the charts.

Be a professional if you want investors to chase you. Set the bar high for your metrics and push to overachieve them.

The one piece of advice I’d give myself from 15 years ago

“Skills are overrated, Connections are invaluable”.

Fresh out of school and eager to ‘conquer the world” I wish I focused a lot less on picking up “Analysis”, “Critical thinking”, “Strategy”, “Time Management”, “Project Management” skills and instead focused on “building and growing connections with people”.

I get 2-3 people emailing me to be their mentor every day. Most of these folks are young, fresh out of school and are at a large company – most times a tech company like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc.

Since I have very little time, I schedule 15 min when I can with them to help them learn what I did not learn, but wish I had 15 years ago.

Most young people focus on picking up “skills” or “intellectually stimulating global assignments” like a stint in China or India, etc. so they can be a well rounded individual. Then I try to push them towards entrepreneurship.

At this point, they usually (90% of them) tell me the dont think they have the skills to be an entrepreneur and point to their lack of sales, marketing, branding, positioning, coding, scaling, hiring, interviewing, motivating, etc. Any number of skills that they believe they dont have yet to be an entrepreneur.

Here’s the thing – skills are easy to develop for “most” people. If you are at a company like Microsoft or Google (or any other large company), you are reasonably skilled already. Else, they would have not hired you.

Focus your attention on building networks and connections with people instead at these places. There are folks who will be there building careers for the next 15-20 years there. They will get to important positions, just because they are there for so long. You will need their help at some point.

The other way I have found is to offer help on projects that executives have which they will never get to but are keen to execute. Offering your time and smarts towards that helps you build a relationship with top executives.

Build connections and networks not skills.

2014 is the year when India became #3 worldwide in tech #startup funding

I am finally going through all the reports from PwC MoneyTree, E&Y reports and Venturesource data to determine how the tech startup ecosystem did in terms of funding and growth of VC investments. Here is a snapshot from 2013, the report is available for download.

Worldwide Venture Capital Investments 2013

Worldwide Venture Capital Investments 2013

If you look at 2013, US dominated with ~3500 funded startups by VC’s and that represented ~70% of all tech startups funded. There were a total of 5700 companies that got funded by VC’s alone, worldwide.

In 2014, the number (have to get permission to post since it is behind a paid wall) of VC funded startups rose to ~6500. Depending on which number you seek some say it is 7200.

The US was number 1 with 65% of startups, Europe (primarily UK, Germany and France) #2 with 1500, China #3 with 451 and India #4 with 312.

If you treat UK, Germany and France as separate countries (which they really are and I am not sure why E&Y and PwC group them together as Europe for the purposes of the report), then none of them made it to the top 5.

Looking at countries alone: 1) US, 2) China, 3) India, 4) Canada, 5) Israel, then UK, Germany and finally France.

In terms of invested dollars as well, the numbers are the same:

1. US $38 B – $45 B

2. China $4.5 B – $5.2 B

3. India $2.4B – $2.9B

4. Canada $1.7 B – $1.8 B

5. Israel $1.65B – $1.75B