Thursday, March 1, 2007

Vaasu Farewell mail

Names replaced with ???
My Dear Colleagues,

It was indeed a great privilege, to have collaborated with all of you
over the years, primarily on ???.

With the world moving from "command and control" to "connect and
collaborate", we worked very hard and sincerely to evolve the role of
the APAC regional hub from 'Monologue' to 'Dialogue', from a "Do" center to a
"Think" center, and from a being a 'Name on the e-mail list' to
providing 'Active Support'. I know we made progress, but there is more
ground to cover.

With tremendous support from ??? and ???, it's gratifying that our
push for a ??? global campaign has now moved from discussion to
action. There are some very exciting ideas on the table, thanks to
contributions from India and Malaysia and guidance from ???.

On the ??? brand, we have a BIG IDEA from Australia. It's a
compelling candidate ( passed link High-High-High ) for a global
campaign. I have brought this to the attention of ???, our new global
creative leader on ???. But we must continue to push.

I leave the industry a happy man. I couldn't have asked for a better
departure timing.

A very good evaluation from ???, clients that I loved working
with, and a team I cherish : ??? I am especially
pleased to see ??? bloom in her role and I know she will carry the
torch for APAC.

I can't thank ??? enough for his unflinching support, trust and wisdom
over the years.

He has been an incredible boss !

If I haven't told you earlier, I am co-founding a pure play dot com
company that intersects shopping, retail, advertising and media.

We initially start in Singapore, but we do have an eye on the world!

Our Beta launch is scheduled for April 2007, hoping to go live by May

I will send an invitation to each one of you.

My last day at ??? is Feb 28th, 2007. From March 1st you can reach me at

Yesterday was my last day at a career I pursued with passion and dedication. Its difficult to leave when you are still in love, so I leave with mixed feelings. As I was describing to a friend, I feel like transferring from a volvo to a roller-coaster whose twists and turns I cant see. And no seat belt. So it must be fun ! And yes I have the stomach to take it.

I am working from home, so have to be careful with the temptations of family, esp the young beautiful daughters I have. They have half day school. A loving wife, a ready pantry and a easy snooze just a few steps away. I need to watch it. I was told to dress as if I was going to office and maybe even wear a shoe just for the feeling. We have to convert one room to a SOHO. Going to Ikea tomorrow.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Vaasu Blog Pic

This was a picture I took for my Vaasu blog.
Will upload Dr.Ravi Koppana pic next week

MENTORji where are you ?

After we built the prototype, the dear Dr.Ravi Koppana and I began looking for a mentor. We were inspired reading an interview with Vinod Khosla and how he mentored Juniper.
We knew the value a mentor would bring to the startup. Singapore has the best in class hardware infrastructure, but its getting very difficult finding a mentor within Singapore. Maybe after we succeed thats a gap we can fill. I'd be more than help to kickstart the ecosystem. There are some world class brains sitting here that need some good old fashioned mentoring, of course the 0.5 equity doesnt hurt at all.
We did have the fortune of engaging Alok Mittal and Sanjay Anandram. They raised some very important points, which we have since addressed. Wish we had that kind of guidance on a continuing basis. Also long distance mentoring is difficult. Plus ideally we need a mentor who understands our space.
Just the other day I was asking a gentleman from another startup if he knew a mentor who could help us. His first question was "Are you in trouble " ? Now that is a big indication that the ecosystem hasnt matured enough to facilitate mentoring. NUS and NTU both local universities of world repute have good entrepreneur programs, but they are geared for their own students. I called the NUS incubation center to see if I could rent space. I was politely informed that its only for NUS people / alumni. Fair enough, but where do we go ? We are way past college.
It might have been easier if we were angel funded. Mentoring would have been part of the package. By not seeking angel funds, I guess this door isnt open to us. I guess we need someone with 'skin' in the game ( remember reading this at Onstartup blog by Dharmesh. Should read it, good blog) .
We are trying our luck at seedfund and band of angels. lets see what happens.
We are trying our luck with seedfund and also knocked on the door of band of angels in India. Lets see what happens.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Circus or Circa May to Dec 2006

Well after deciding to run with my friend, I went for a walk . And 'eight days a week' kept thinking of the idea. Eventually I was seduced by the idea and the gentle persuasion of my friend. I initially agreed to help him flesh the idea and see what comes of of it. And this was back in May 2006. Leaving my job didn't occur to me then.

Cant tell you the idea just now. Shall do in April 2007 when we go into Beta. But what I can tell you is that the idea sits at the crossroads of advertising, media, retail and shopping. We are quite excited that the space is wide open in Asia and open in the USA as well, except there is indirect competition.

The first I did after deciding to get involved was to buy some books and start talking to as many smart people I could. The first book I bought was Guy Kawasaki's "Art of Start". And it was a brilliant read. It was crystal clear what had to be done. We got excited and wrote to Mr.Kawasaki never expecting a reply ( who would reply to some nut in Singapore ?). To our surprise- HE WROTE back !!! Since then he has been helping us, answering our questions and giving us tips along the way. We cant thank him enough.

The second ( came much later ) lucky breakthrough was our dialogue with Prof. Mohan Sawhney of the Kelloggs Business School ( No.1 marketing school ). Again cant thank him enough for the invaluable feedback and comments.

Both these Gurus gave us an indication that we were onto something and an idea worth developing and pursuing. This dual feedback resulted in tremendous motivation as were worried about the navel-gazing syndrome.

Having been involved in packaged goods marketing or FMCG as we call it in Asia, we started looking for data and relevant information. This was tough for 2 reasons. Ravi and I had full time jobs we loved. And love doesnt stop at 5pm. We were each averaging 12-16 hours a day at our day job then would come to our other passion.

To kickstart the data collection, we hired a fresh graduate student from Singapore Management University. This helped a bit till she got a full time job.

I would come home 8ish/9ish everyday and after 1/2 hours with family I'd hit my desktop till the wee hours of the morning. It was very tiring. Some days I wouldnt find anyhting. Somedays I would find a treasure trove of information that now needed more time to read. And raised more questions that needed answers. There were some questions we couldnt find an answer and didn't know whom to ask. We kept listing down everything, hoping to eventually find an answer.

Ravi and I would talk almost every day. My late hours and his evenings or his late nights and my early mornings. This dialogue would keep our spirits going. We went around in circles on two major points - (1) revenue model, though we had a clear view of our business model (2) finding a partner to build our portal. During these exercises, we acutely felt the need of a mentor. It was very frustrating because we didn't know whether we were on the right track. We just kept going on, hoping we were doing the right thing. We invested about 3 months in these two critical steps.

Not having the luxury of a mentor, we spoke a lot to our friends. And tried to initiate dialogue with people in the zone. We were quite lucky to have spoken to Alok Mittal and Sanjay Anandram.

After an exhausting 6 months, in November 2006 we were ready for a prototype and had found a company to build it. Logical Steps run by a brilliant techie - Vishwanath ( Vish ). He is a techie to the techies. So you know the caliber I am referring to. Again a lucky break for us. We went to Cochin, India for a brainstorm and after a month we had our baby.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Adventures in Startupland

ok now that this blog is set up, lets get started. Ravi, my friend and co-founder and I have been having a great time giving birth to an idea which will save the world.(take that with a bucket of salt and if you have a health problem ask Doc Ravi he can help). I wanted to chronicle our adventures so that we could look back and see where we scored or scccrd up ( then why a blog ?, right coming to that) and maybe someone out there might benefit from what we went through / going through.

Cant help romanticizing a bit, but it all started 18 months ago when the dear dr.ravi found a bright idea outside the ear, nose and throat !!! ( as an ENT doc he couldn't find any peering into peoples ears, noses and ! a few things do come to mind on what he might have seen, but will skip for those who have appetites). Anyway, he called to tickle ( now let me get this straight, we are happy friends, not gay) my brains. ( dying to know whats the idea ??????). I happen to be in a profession where I persuade people to buy things they don't need ( can you guess ?). Being Dr.Watson he did need Mr.Holmes to examine the idea for clues of potential $$$$$$$$. By the way my name is Vaasu and I am no Holmes, but home at this moment writing this stuff.

You see I am not exactly a college kid at Stanford ( though I did go to Yale) with a fantastic startup eco system. I am 41 ( The Dr isnt young either, just in case he tries to convince you he is). I have a loving wife, two twin daughters and a job that has no starting and end time. Life at a very large MNC gets quite comfy. I do oversee a large geographic area called APAC for a large MNC. My boss loves me and my clients love me and people I work with love me too ( thinking of a Beatles song ? me too ) So life is nice and tentacles of "dont rock the boat" gradually grow on you and into you. mmmm

Then I saw this train called 'Digital' running straight at me. I could either stand and get run over ( RIP) or run and embrace the train ( mmm lets see, would that be Spiderman 1 or 2 or is that superman ? ). Anyway with a train coming at you at 41, I had to run or my life would be over. And its better to run with a friend than being alone ! right