Category Archives: Management

How to encourage more amazing people to join #startups – for #investors & #entrepreneurs

In the last 2 weeks I have had to catch up on several shareholder’s agreements that startup founders have sent my way to review.

It is very disappointing to see that most of the Indian founders keep 10% or less towards Employee Stock Option Plans.

There’s no better way to say this. This is silly, very backward in its thinking and has no justification.

I dont buy the argument that employees dont value stock options. They dont understand them and hence they tend to ignore them.

As an investor and startup founder it is your duty to make sure employees understand the value of stock options.

All successful startups will agree that the startups with the best people usually wins. Not always the best product or best technology but the one with the best people.

The best people dont come cheap. They have multiple options – Working at a large company, working for themselves or striking it on their own to build their own startup.

If you want to encourage the best people to consider startups, you not only have to pay well, but also give them enough incentives and “upside” to ensure their success.

I am also very disappointed that investors are not asking this of startup founders. The long term viability of the ecosystem depends on the best folks making good money so they can become entrepreneurs or investors again.

The wealth needs to go around. 2-3 folks in any company making a lot of money while the rest slave away for paltry sums is a recipe for a host of B and C players being early startup employees. None of us want that.

I dont think this is very sustainable.

If you are a startup founder, one of the most important things you need to do is to ensure your employees make a lot of money as well if there is a big upside.

I want to be a big force of this change for the good.

Starting today (as part of Microsoft Ventures and my own personal investments) I pledge I will ensure that every startup (starting in India) has at least 15 if not 20% of the shares kept aside for early employees. I also want to make sure that the shares do get granted to employees. Finally I also will make sure that our portfolio will share the wealth with the employees as well. I understand that means we might have to take a haircut on valuations or even reduce our ownership. So be it.

If any of our co-investors do not agree to our model for equitable employee contribution, we will not do the deal.

Be the change.

The Market cap, revenue & profit correlations of top technology companies

Fortune has a post on the “market cap” problem for Steve Ballmer. During the period from Jan 7th 2000 to Aug 23rd 2013 here is the change in market capitalization of the top technology companies.

1. Apple – 1836.30%

2. Amazon – 222.22%

3. Google – 703.44%

4. IBM – 70.7%

Those are the winners. Now for the ones that lost in market cap.

1. Cisco – (54.13%)

2. Intel – (46%)

3. ORCL (70.21%) and

Microsoft itself is (40.46%).

That only tells you half the story.

Lets look at revenues:

1. Apple – 1861.3% increase

2. Amazon – 12118% increase

3. Google – 55389% increase

4. IBM – 18.2% increase

5. Cisco – 143.3% increase

6. Intel – 58.1% increase

7. Oracle – 266.4% increase

8. Microsoft – 222.9% increase

Here is the table.

 Profit Growth % 2000 – 2013 2000 Revenue 20013 Revenue Revenue Growth % Stock price %
Apple  3046% 7.98 B 156.51 B 1861.3 1836.30%
Google  736000% 19 m 55.39 B 55389.0 703.44%
Amazon  2948% 573.89 m 61.09 B 12118.0 222.22%
IBM  46% 88.4 B 104.5 B 18.2 70.70%
Microsoft  (45%) 22.9 73.73 B 221.9 -40.46%
Intel  284% 33.73 B 53.34 B 58.1 -46%
Cisco  73% 18.93 B 46.06 B 143.3 -54.14%
Oracle  (4%) 10.13 B 37.12 B 266.4 -70.21%

What’s the story? The revenue increase for Apple has been excellently rewarded, Google and Amazon have also been well rewarded but they have done better and been rewarded less. No clue on why IBM stock has done well despite the lower growth in revenues compared to everyone else.

The most admirable part of Amazon’s culture that #startups can benefit from

I am a big fan of Amazon. I read Jeff Bezos first “letter to investors” back in 1998 (a year after they went IPO) and was super impressed by his focus on customers above all else. I paraphrase, but he said, we are a one trick pony – our trick is to keep customers happy.

The most amazing part of their culture is the way it permeates and allows each and every employee to be a part of the experience. I dont know how they do it.

There’s another part of the culture that amazes me. How can a company that’s 100,000 people able to get all its employees to sing off the same hymn book? I know companies that are 10+ people that struggle with this. At 100,000 employees (not including contractors), Amazon is humongous.

Let me give you an example. There are many people in the Bangalore office in India, who are part of Amazon’s foray into eCommerce who I know well. Most, if not over 90% of them are not related to AWS in any way at all. Well, they may be users of it for their applications, but not evangelists by role or title.

The previous weekend we had 2 events, which I happened to be at. One was at our accelerator and another at a location in a local college.

I know the key evangelists from AWS fairly well and expected to see them at these events in full force. Except I saw more than 2 people and none of them from the AWS team.

I walked up and talked to them before the events and was surprised to hear that they were “all hands on deck” to support startups on AWS. Many of the folks in the Bangalore (and other offices as well) volunteered to be at these events to help startup developers understand AWS and be evangelists for it. And this was not part of their MBO or their job description. They were doing it because they liked it.

Try getting that from any other large company. Most large companies operate in “silos”, with each team focused on their own turf.

Startups as well for most parts have people “responsible” for certain roles. Getting a developer to support customers can be a challenge but that’s what you should as a startup founder aim to build as a culture. Similarly getting your marketing folks to help with testing should be par for the course.

This is possible to do when the company is 10 folks or so and even possible at 50 people. Beyond that is very rare.

At 100,000 that’s near impossible.

If Amazon’s done that, then it is something to learn from, admire and find a way to emulate that.

How to be ruthless as an entrepreneur and compassionate as a leader

Early in the morning yesterday I had a chance to catch up with a friend and entrepreneur who had started a company 2 years ago. I have known him and his cofounder for a year now and got an opportunity to learn about their business and employees very well. They are both very strong technical folks, and had raised a small seed round of funding from a few angels and a institutional investor.

Both the cofounders are among the nicest people I know. Patient, good humored and simple, they were both genuinely great bosses who attracted a cadre of folks who were loyal, intelligent and blue-collar in their attitude and expectations.

Yesterday was a more sober meeting though, since the business was not in the best of health. He was fighting the good fight, but it was very tough going. In the last 3 months, a very reputed institutional investor had pulled out of a verbal commitment to a term sheet, which caused the company to rethink their plans. Their bank balance was at about 10+ L (1,000,000)  INR, salaries and gross burn (monthly expenses) were at 7 L INR (700,000) and net burn (after revenues) was at 2 L INR (200,000). Revenues were growing, starting at 5 L INR (500,000), but not as fast as they’d like.

The business was losing money month-on-month and they had about 5 months to survive.

The part that bothered me the most was that he knew the numbers well, but did not take any action, because he ran the company from his heart. He had known about the situation for 3 months now and still had not taken any corrective measures.

That to me is one of the biggest mistakes most non-business (technical or developer) entrepreneurs make.

They are not ruthless about their business, and tend to make all decisions from the heart and gut alone, not from the head.

It was clear to me that he had to create a longer runway for his business.

There are only 2 ways to survive. Make more revenue (increase sales) and lower expenses (reduce cost).

Most technical entrepreneurs estimate sales to pick up faster than it actually does. I understand their optimism, but its probably (not scientific, but my gut says so) the #1 cause of companies having to close down prematurely.

Most technical entrepreneurs also dont lower their expense fast enough. For a software company, 70+% of their expense, in the early to mid-stages, is payroll. I understand their reluctance to do so, given how tough it is to hire good talent for startups, but that would be my #2 cause of companies having to close down prematurely.

It was clear to me that he had to reduce his headcount, by 50% at least, to quickly get his business into the ICU and rapidly look for new sales opportunities to increase revenues. While the revenues were largely not in his control (given how finicky customers are), the expenses are within his control.

He had some very valid reasons (as I mentioned he is a very nice person) to not reduce headcount. A few folks in his team had just gotten married and a few had families to provide for.

I have been in this situation two times just in the past 3 years. At both times, revenues from a customer suddenly were in jeopardy and I had to take corrective action very quickly. The day we got to know about it, we had to let go of 4 folks in a very close knit team of 7 and the second time let go of 3 people in a smaller team of 6 people.

I had to be ruthless about the business since I wanted the company to survive. Without those cuts, the business would have folded and the folks would have been out of a job in 3-6 months anyway. I thought it would be more appropriate to be proactive.

I also had to be compassionate as a leader so I took great pains to call at least 50+ friends to find a position that paid better and was more stable for most of my colleagues.  Everyone of them got a role that paid higher and was closer to their home. One of my colleagues was going to get married, so we made a few adjustments to his salary as well so he could get a better pay hike at his next job.

The 7 colleagues are still good friends, and although there might have been some ill-will towards my actions in the early days, I am confident that now they understand that I had to do what was required so the business could survive.

When the writing is on the wall as a business person, have a strong action bias. 

There may be tons of reasons, which are all very valid and humane, for you not to take any painful measures. Your first commitment should be towards your people – so do what it takes to help them land on their feet someplace else, but take the necessary actions to ensure that your business will live to fight another day.

You owe it to your dream, your passion and your family to give your startup a fighting chance and keep it surviving as long as you can.

But ruthless as an entrepreneur, and compassionate as a leader.

Above all, always be a force of good.

Affirmative action (Qualifying by Quota) for startups does not engender success

Ed: By now if you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that I tend to try and write controversial headings to generate some reaction from the greater community. My hope is that the heading draws you in and the body of the post actually makes you want to express your opinion (which I am perfectly ok with being different from mine).

I had a very difficult question to answer 3 friends and investors last week who questioned how and why we chose a specific company in our batch at the accelerator. The fault was entirely mine, so it was very challenging to “justify” my position. Any way you looked at the situation, I could not tell them with a straight face that I really believed that the company we chose, would do a great job and they deserved to be picked. If I did, then they would question my judgment, and if I did not they’d question my ethics. Not a great position to be in either way. I would rather be an ethical person with poor judgment than the other way around.

Here’s the situation and the analysis from my standpoint.

As with most companies, institutions and organizations, we really want to be inclusive and diverse in our selection of companies at the accelerator. I dont think anyone would argue that we need to include many more women, students with no experience or entrepreneurs from tier-2 and tier-3 cities in our startup ecosystem.

We do try to keep the bar extremely high and that ensures only the best (according to our criteria) get to participate with us.

The trouble is when we try to meet specific numbers and commitments prescribed by the MBO (Management by objectives) and metrics driven management culture that most of us use as a guiding principle.

While many other accelerators and investors will tell you that they are not compelled to do a single deal if they dont like it or dont believe it will succeed, they also will tell you that they are driven by the same metrics, judged by the same criteria and “scorecard-ed” by the same characteristics as the rest of us. Let me give you an example.

Yesterday I had a chance to talk to an investor from a relatively passive fund. He was bemoaning the fact that they are hardly known in the ecosystem and most entrepreneurs dont even know that they invest in the early stage. Well, the reason most entrepreneurs dont know their fund, is because in 5 years they have invested in 8 companies. Compare that to an active fund, that invests in about 20 over a 5 year period and you can easily understand why this fund is “unknown”. So he was being judged and scorecard-ed by entrepreneurs and the media, and relegated to being a “passive, niche fund”.

We dont want to be a passive, niche accelerator.

That can only mean, that we “compromise” and include companies that serve the diversity mix but end up with a sub optimal set and lower the bar for certain sets of entrepreneurs so we can comply with our affirmative action criteria.

Luckily we know (or at least I think this to be the case) that deserving companies are not being ignored or being cast-aside to make room for those to meet our affirmative action goals.

I have though come to the realization that the amount of work needed to get high quality startups that also moves the ball forward progressively on affirmative action does not generate the returns from those efforts.

The same effort towards helping all high quality companies, generates more if not better returns.

So the question is: should we care only about returns.

Unfortunately while that was not the case a few months ago, it is becoming increasingly the case going forward.

Its disappointing and not a great situation to be in.

I am pained when in a batch of 50+ companies shortlisted we see not a single person who is a woman, or a very young, inexperienced student or a person who has a significant disadvantage relative to entrepreneurs from large metros. I feel its my responsibility to make room for them so we can create a few successes which will motivate more of them to join our “religion”, but I am at loss to figure out how to ensure that the ones we chose dont feel a tinge of disappointment when in doing so we lower the bar somehow.

To be clear, not all companies that are founded by these groups are “lowering the bar”. My issue is that there’s very few of them. If there are more than a handful, I’d be thrilled.

How much traction is “enough” to get seed funded? or to get into an accelerator?

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with an entrepreneur who had an initial product that was built over 3 months and they were looking to get “traction”. The product was aimed at prosumers (professional consumers) or small & mid-sized companies. He was looking to raise a seed round of $250K and was wondering how much “traction” will he need to show so he can get funded by a combination of individual angels and possibly a seed fund. He’s in the US, so this framework is valid for both India and US.

Here’s a framework for you to think through the traction for your startup. You need to get traction post your MVP. Your MVP should solve a real problem that a potential customer has.

Having been in 100 presentations over the last 4 weeks alone (our demo day at the Microsoft Accelerator, 50+ pitches for our new batch at the accelerator and 30+ pitches at the 500 startups demo day) I can say some patterns emerge.

This is rule of thumb alone. This is NOT a guarantee of funding. I had a chance to talk to about 50+ seed and venture investors, so I know I am in the ball park, but YMMV.

Take your best case scenario of peak # of customers at 36 months (2 rounds of funding out). If you are a B2B startup that might be 500 customers in 36 months for example or if you are a consumer product, that might be 20 million users in 36 months.

The 36 months is critical. Its 2 rounds of funding. Seed and Series A. Or series A and series B.

The “traction” that’s relevant for your current stage should be in the range of 0.1% to 0.5% of your projected 36 month customer base.

0.5% means you can command the top end of the valuation. 0.1% means you are likely to get a serious look.

To get to an accelerator such as Microsoft or 500, you will need 20% to 50% of that user base to get a serious look.

Some examples:

If you are expecting 10 Million users for your product (best case scenario) for your product in 3 years (36 months) then you better have between 10,000 to 50,000 users when you go to get seed funding. To get into an accelerator you will need to have 2000 to 25,000 users at least.

If you are a B2B startup and you are expecting 5000 paying customers, in 36 months, to get seed funding you need to have 5 to 10 customers for a seed round (more is better) and at least 2-5 customers to get into a seed program.

Please let me know if you think this makes sense (Or not).

Thanks to Pankaj Jain and Dave McClure for helping review this.

Differentiate with a personal touch and taking time

Given the huge number of applications we had for the accelerator, one choice we had to make was how do we let people know they did not make the cut.

Having been on the receiving end of many “rejection” emails, I hated the generic “We reviewed your application and did not think it was a fit”.

So I decided to send personal hand crafted, no cut and paste, emails to every founder we could not accept – either because of their traction, the market they chose, the incomplete team they had or the fact that there were 2-3 other applicants in the same space that were further along and had more to show.

Over the last 4 days I have reviewed hundreds of youtube videos, demos and password protected mockups and wireframes.

Its hard and takes a lot of time, but that’s how we chose to differentiate ourselves – With a personal touch and taking the time to be human.

Again, to all those that applied, many thanks.

Since you have my email address (and phone number) feel free to connect with me in a few weeks so we can find ways to help you in any way possible.

Entrepreneurs keep you young – at heart and the mind

Day after batch 1 finished their demo day resulted in some serious withdrawal symptoms for us at the Accelerator. It is not hard to imagine that having 45+ enthusiastic, energized and talented people will have a significant effect on your ability to stay young.

I learned from Rajesh and Prajwal at Amplyfy that everything can be hacked in under 12 hours. They’d scoff at the “develop it over the weekend” concept. “You don’t need an entire weekend” was their premise. Any idea I’d put forth would result in a 15 min “technical feasibility” discussion, which would result in a < 12 hour solution. It was done, not just discussed. Naresh would use every contact in his address book to get a meeting with any customer he desired. Keval just kept them all calm. While the others would hack, Keval would focus on the scale. Big things are destined for this team.

Melchi and Aditya from CloudInfra would start any project with a “lets solve the underlying problem” – usually that meant a mathematical formula which would have to be solved: to get anything from customer traction and SEO to lead generation and product roadmap. Aditya had the unique ability to also hack and make solutions for every problem we had. In fact he was the only one who helped us with a unique solution to our intermittent wifi issues. He actually put his own router in place.

Jiten from Ciphergraph was always on the move. Aggressive timelines were made even more aggressive with him. He has the unique ability to breakup a 1 hour meeting into a 11 minute product roadmap discussion, a 15 minute investor deck rant and a 19 minute sales pitch review.

Healthify taught me how I should build and hire awesome people and keep them engaged. They had the youngest team in the entire batch and still managed to get loads of stuff done right. They ate lunch every afternoon as a team, worked out together as a team and even sang as a team.

Prafull and Piplayan, founders of Hire Rabbit, are the masters of doing awesome with very little money. The ultimate bootstrappers, they got mentioned in all the top blogs and reviewed by many influencers with a shoestring budget and chutzpah. Most of their marketing was very high quality and I’d expect them to have paid significant sums of money for it, but they would end up telling me it cost them < Rs. 5000 by leveraging resources on Odesk.com

The NowFloats team were masters at execution with measured planning. Give them any system and they’d know how to work it. They used the customer and partner development effort and resources the best and had the best traction to prove it as well. They were best at figuring out how to get anything done in a system that prefers the status quo.

Nandan from Gameizon is the most patient and passionate person I worked with in this batch. He taught me more about how passion for solving a problem will help you focus on not giving up. Even though he had many hurdles ahead of him, the fact that he loved the game of cricket and wanted to solve a real problem that exists with gaming and cricket made him the most endearing.

Pratyush is the master of hustle. Having been through this problem before, PlusTxt was his second attempt to solve the problems that were prevalent with messaging the last time he did this. Thanks to his ability to strike up a conversation fairly easily with most people, he knows anyone and everyone in the ecosystem. Some days I’d get a sense that even if he did not have a product he’d get thousands of downloads based on his ability to hustle.

Deba and Kapil of Sparsha kept it simple. They are the best listeners of any of the folks I know. They taught me active listening, the ability to keep asking questions for which I rarely had good answers. They were also the most humble people I know. They had the most going for them of all the companies, but kept focusing on what they still needed to do.

Vinny and Devesh taught me that its always better to be in it to enjoy the game. Whiteshark faced more hurdles and opposition to their idea than anyone else did in the batch. They pivoted, changed, modified and kept going. They just loved the game that startups offered to founders. They’d be found in the accelerator until 5 pm DAILY brainstorming, talking, thinking and developing.

Bhaskar of World Without met taught me to take everything in my stride. Ever smiling, even when things were not peachy, he could be summarized in one sentence “this too shall pass”. Product has blocking bug, lets fix it by tomorrow, this too shall pass. Investor was more interested in B2B not B2C companies, no problems, lets talk to the next investor, this too shall pass.

I am more convinced that there is a serious need for awesome coworking space in India where such excellent teams could work together and make everyone around them younger.

My discipline will beat your intellect

I meet 4-5 new entrepreneurs every week as part of my office hours on Go-to-market help for young startups. Most are based in Bangalore, but surprisingly some are from other parts of the world (Chennai, Singapore and Estonia, even, via Skype).

I have an observation about work ethic that I wanted to highlight among startup entrepreneurs from various parts of the world.

Most every entrepreneur will tell you they work extremely long hours. That’s par for the course. Some “older” entrepreneurs (usually over 35 years of age) will share their ability to “strike a balance” between work and life. Practically speaking (I hate to break this to them) that does not exist in a startup. If you have that balance, you are not serious enough about your startup.

I understand they have families and kids, but I have come to the realization that both smart work and hard work are necessary (but not sufficient) to run a successful startup.

For purposes of this post lets define success as a company that’s growing significantly and rapidly, but does not have an exit yet.

The difference between a rapidly growing startup and one that’s growing “well” is productive (smart) hard work, not just long hours.

If you mistake activity (# of lines of code, # of code check-ins, # of customer discussions) with progress (shipping product, usable and must-have features, or # of active users) then you are just doing long hours.

If you mistake milestones (funding secured, new employee hired) for achievement (# of paying customers, churn rate of existing customers) then you are just doing smart hours.

What then makes smart and hard work such a potent combination? And what really is “smart work”? And how many hours make up “hard work”?

I define “smart work” as a combination of 3 things – asking the “right questions“, having a plan and maximizing the number of experiments in unit time.

I define “hard work” as the most amount of productive work time, with limited to no distractions and ability to do it consistently, for years (not bursts of weeks, not months and certainly not just for a few hours).

Lets look at both smart and hard in detail. Smart, first.

The smartest people I know have learned the art and science of asking the right questions. They usually start with asking a lot of questions, and having literally, no or very few answers. Each answer leads them to more questions. Asking the “right questions” is what they derive from experience.They have assumptions that need validation, hypothesis that need testing and results that need to be measured.

They are also willing to conduct a maximum of 2-3 experiments and have a DIY (Do it yourself) approach towards conducting those experiments to see if their assumptions and hypothesis were valid.

Finally they have a plan to approach their experiments. Not just a “lets try this and if not lets try that”. They rarely “wing it”.

Its very easy to spot smart teams. They have a sense and measurement of what “Continuous Visible Productivity” is. They come to me with a list of 2-3 questions that they want to address in a meeting. They dont just come to the meeting and pick up the whiteboard and start to “brainstorm”.

Now lets look at teams that work hard.

Hard working teams dont ever mention “how many hours they did put in last week or yesterday or that they hardly got “any sleep”. They realize and are aware of their physical limitations and are usually well within those limitations. Rarely do I hear from them “We work the hardest of all the teams” or “We have not slept for 2 days”. They keep looking for time they can cut away from unproductive work to do more questioning, experimenting and planning. In other words they dont brag about their long hours. They assume its a given.

Hardworking teams also tend to compartmentalize very well. Some people call this “bucketing” or “chunking”. Just because they work hard, does not mean they dont give their brains a rest and goof off for a while. Rather, they “compartmentalize” their goofing off or exercising to derive the benefits of a relaxed mind and body.

Finally hardworking teams are consistent. They show up day after day, week after week and go through questioning, experimenting and planning with rigor and consistency.

I realize a that being smart at work and working hard as I have laid out is extremely difficult. In fact its rare. That’s why successful startups are rare.

The combination is what I call startup discipline. Which is why I firmly believe one startups discipline will beat another’s pure intellect (given that hard work is assumed) any day.

Startups and mentors: How to look for a great technology mentor? & A list of top tech mentors in India

I am going to write a 3 part series on mentorship and technology startups. Rather than write about why you need a mentor or how to engage with a mentor (next series) I thought the first step for most entrepreneurs would be to seek out great mentors.

As an additional bonus, I thought I’d list some good mentors in India so there’s a starting point (not comprehensive). Please feel free to add people who deserve to be on this list via comments (you cannot add yourself, someone has to recommend you, preferably 2 people).

We will focus primarily on technology startup mentors, which are < 2 years old. I believe there are 3 types of mentors you need at this stage: Technology, Marketing & Industry specific ones – that’s it. Everyone else is a nice to have waste of time.

Why?

Early in your startup, you should be focused on solving a problem and building your product, while at the same time, talking to customers and understanding their pain points. So if you are spending time doing anything else, its a waste. Mentors should help you do these things alone.

So, if you are thinking of getting that CEO of a 3-4 year old company which is doing well, as a mentor, he should fit in one of these buckets, else he a) does not have enough time to give you or b) does not have enough practical knowledge to share.

This post is about technology mentors. The next two posts are on marketing and industry mentors.

Technology mentors should help you think about the solution architecture, build & recruit a great engineering team and understand how to solve complex engineering problems.

I define technology mentors as people who are engineering managers, UX designers, architects & hands-on senior technical staff members in their day jobs. No one else qualifies. I would not put ex-engineering manager (now consultants at large, etc.) on this list. The reason is simple:

If you are not practicing, in the trenches, you don’t know the specifics and tend to give “Gyan” at a high level.

ps. US folks, I am trying to introduce some cool Indian lingo into your vocabulary, so please click on that Wikipedia link about gyan. 🙂

So how do you look for a great technology mentor?

1. Social proof – GitHub, Hacker News, Hackerstreet.in, HackerRank and Stack Overflow are great places to start. Also seek out folks at offline events such as Startup Weekend, Yahoo Hack Day and other such developer events. Dont look for technology mentors at generic industry or startup events. You dont find good technology mentors there.

2. Look at some awesome product companies – Cleartrip, Flipkart, Komli Media, Yahoo, Google (Map Maker), Microsoft Surface, InMobi, Facebook, etc. Get to know who runs their engineering and technology teams. Find out who their good senior, hands-on, architects and engineering managers are.

3. Reach out through your technical network: E.g. I am trying to solve this complex engineering problem, and we have a few areas where we’re stuck and would love some help. Can you please recommend someone who is a <machine learning expert> who is working on this area at <company name>?

Most good technology mentors I know like to work on really hard engineering problems, so the harder & more unique your problem the more likely you are going to attract a great mentor. Its a self selecting list (which is good) so if someone believes the problem you are trying to solve is not in their interest area, you dont want them anyway.

So now, on to a short list (soon to get long thanks to you all).

<EM> This list is biased right now. These are people I know, like and admire. Please feel free to help other entrepreneurs by recommending good people I dont know to this list. </EM>

Some recommended Engineering manager mentors:

1. Sachin Desai (Ericsson)

2. Mekin Maheshwari (Flipkart)

3. Hari Shankaran (Interview Street)

4. Jayanth Vijayaraghavan (Yahoo)

4. Indus Khaitan (Bitzer)

5. Bharat Vijay (ex Yahoo, Amazon)

6. Amod Malviya (Flipkart)

7. Srinivasan Seshadri (ex Kosmix)

8. Amit Ranjan (SlideShare)

9. Arvind Jha (Movico)

1o. Pawan Goyal (Adobe)

11. Pankaj Rishbood (Walmart Labs)

12. Rajnish Kapur (MakeMytrip)

13. Aloke Bajpai (Ixigo)

Some recommended Architect / CTO mentors:

1. Dorai Thodla (iMorph)

2. Prateek Dayal (Support Bee)

3. Shivkumar Ganesan (Exotel)

4. Avlesh Singh (Webengage)

5. Paras Chopra (Wingify)

6. Lalitesh Katragadda (Google)

Some recommended Cloud (AWS, Google App Engine, Azure):

1. Ravi Pratap (MobStac)

2. Perrraju Bendapudi (Microsoft)

Some recommended design mentors:

1. Sunit Singh (Cleartrip)

2. Rahul Saini (VideoPind)