Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Google Wave Invites

Just got an invite to Google Wave. I have few invites to give out. Here is the deal. First 10 readers to request one gets it. Email me from your gmail account: admin@offlinr.com


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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Advertisements Fuel the Internet, Other Revenue Models Will Fail

It strikes to me as ironic that people lash out against ads on website that owe their very existence to ad revenue. The online services that I use on a daily basis are all free and I have come to depend heavily on them. Imagine if we had to pay for search, email, social network, forums, news etc. We spend hours online each day on facebook, gmail, youtube etc. without paying a dime. That leads us to the question, if we don’t pay these services then who does? Most people know the answer, but some don’t want to admit it. Advertisements are the fuel for the World Wide Web as we know it.

This leads us to an interesting case. How will the World Wide Web function if advertising was not an option? Here are the obvious models:

Pay-to-access: Websites will charge users to access content. For example you will pay a monthly fee to access facebook, gmail, twitter or any of your favorite website. This will wipe out all the mid to small independent sites because most people will subscribe only to a finite number of top sites.

Website-bundles: These are packages that include some top sites with few mid tier sites thrown in. You pay a monthly subscription fee for the bundles. For example the basic package will include Yahoo, Google, Gmail etc. The gold option will add Facebook, Twitter, top 10 blogs etc. Similar to your cable programming packages. Your ISP might start offering these.

Product placements: Advertising will morph itself as paid placements. Suddenly you will see sites endorsing various products. Today if a blogger writes “I was stuck in LA traffic”, without “advertisements” it will be, “I was stuck in LA traffic in my Honda Accord sipping Coke”.

There could be many other models that will rise out this scenario. Unfortunately I’m yet to come across a single one that seems better than the existing advertising based revenue model.


If are interested in startups join the ctrl+alt+startup community on
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Monday, November 2, 2009

Interested in Startups? - Google Search

We are on the first page of Google search for the phrase "interested in startups". We are enjoying the love. Hopefully we can bubble to the top as we bring you articles that help you catapult your startup.

Meanwhile we will be thrilled if you could give us a plug on your social net (twitter, facebook etc.). Every little shoutout counts.


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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Simplicity Leads To Prosperity

I read this very simple yet sensible article on the Internet today that does a very good job of telling us about the very basics that are required to start a decent startup - the basics that most people (failed companies?) do not focus on. I will (in 2 parts) list all the 8 points that Steve Spalding mentions in that article, and try to add my own views and interpretations.

#1 Bad communication is the death of small companies.

"Get development and marketing on the same page as soon as you can."

Most of us are probably familiar with the never ending conflicts between the design/development and marketing teams. The design team wants the product to be marketed in a certain way, and the marketing team usually doesn't listen to them and comes up with its own strategies - the justification being that it understands consumer behavior better. The marketing team may not realize that the new product may have some features that would totally change the way consumers use that product - it may be bring a totally new experience that would make everyone's life much more easy and exciting.

Understanding consumer behavior is important, but it does not mean that the design team's opinions should be ignored. Being on the same page can create a win win situation for everybody.

#2 You make your product, your community designs it.

"Don’t get so caught up in your idea that you build a product your users don’t understand."

I agree.

Excess of everything is bad. The idea is to provide a service or product to the user community that they would appreciate, not to confuse them with too many options and create unnecessary complexities. Give them the basics first, and then slowly start adding more features based on their feedback. Bells and whistles are nice, but sometimes they are really not necessary.

# 3 You’re not important.

"You are not some creative genius that discovered the mysteries of the Universe. Keep yourself in perspective and learn to take advice."

I would like to mention that I know of a real world example (a new Indian restaurant in my town) that really did not conform to this statement. The owner tried a little too hard - and did not succeed. He offered beef in the restaurant, and did not serve the Indian bread (naan) that we all are so used to eating in a typical Indian restaurant. He perhaps thought that the beef dishes would attract more white folks to the restaurant, but what he perhaps did not realize is the fact that Beef is something customers are not used to seeing at an Indian restaurant. Many Indian customers were bound to get grossed out. And no naan? That is just plain wrong.

We may come up with some great ideas, but we also have to realize that what we think is right may be completely wrong for the majority of our target market.

#4 Talk to everyone.

"The more narrowly you focus on throne room, the more unlikely it will be that you’ll see the barbarians knocking at your door. Get out there and look around."

It is definitely important to include as many perspectives as possible to get the final finished product you desire. Talking to people always helps to understand and gather some very important information that we may have unintentionally ignored. This information would help us focus on our main goal.

These are the first four points from Steve Spalding's article. Read the full article here.

Feedback from all of you would be greatly appreciated.


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Thursday, October 29, 2009

We are arriving a bit late

Yes we are delayed. When we started out we were expecting the first iteration to be four weeks or so. But the little things surrounding the core functionality soon added up. The latest list of things includes features for moderation. If we are going to put it out there we need a way to ensure that evil people are kept out. The new date for feature complete is Nov 10. I tried to tell our code monkey that it is a bit ambitious, but he insists that it will be ready. I believe him.


If you like this article please join the ctrl+alt+startup community on
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Friday, October 23, 2009

Startup Visa

There are many people around you who have great ideas, and given the opportunity can create successful companies that not only churn out great products but provide employment to many. But many of these bright individuals don’t start their own companies, not because they don’t want to, but because they are forbidden by law. These are immigrants from different parts of the world on employment visas residing in US. The visas rules expressly forbid them from starting their own business. Their revenue stream has to be tied to the employer that sponsors the visa.

There is a category of visa called EB-5 which is for immigrant investors. But it requires the entrepreneurs to invest $1 million of their own money. Since the cost of startups has gone down drastically and with the availability of venture funding, this rule makes little sense. A group of entrepreneurs are trying to change that.

StartupVisa.com was created by Eric Ries, Dave McClure, and Shervin Pishevar to help raise awareness and change policy around the EB-5 visa, which enables investors from other countries to get a visa in exchange for starting a business in the US with $1M in investment capital and creating 10 US jobs (or $500K for economically targeted areas).”


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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fortune: 40 under 40

Today Fortune released the 40 under 40 list.

"Meet business's hottest young rising stars. They're innovators, value creators, and agents of change."

I was surprised by how young some of the familiar names in there are.


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Life = Risk

Here is a bit of inspiration if you are looking for some.


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Since the announcement that News Corp is set to start charging online customers for news content across all its websites, there have been plenty of rants on the blogosphere. But the more I read the more I realized that most blogs are a rehash of the newspaper articles. Then came the realization that the blogsphere is not really a sphere at all. It is an inverted pyramid. Here is my depiction of the “blogopyramid”.


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Startups that I stumbled on

Pixorial lets you easily edit your home movies online. You can upload your content from your own computer, or send old tapes to them and they'll upload them for you.

Zoodles is a free online browser with fun and educational games for your child!

Click the barcode above and Discountshuffle will automatically redirect you to a random online shop that has registered with us where you will be given a discount or rebate. It's really that simple.

This tool, simpler than a spreadsheet, gives you a personal snapshot of monetary health. Banking and budget info not required; just a desire to see “the big picture.”

Far too many of us give up trying out new sports or carry on what we love due to 3 main reasons - Access to the right Information, finding like-minded people to share our experience with and finding local or visiting events to participate in. iSweat4 aiming to change that.

Plogger is the next generation in open-source photo gallery systems. A web application not bloated with superfluous features or complicated configuration settings. Plogger is a simple yet powerful tool — everything you need to share your images with the world.

We bring together designers with great ideas and clients with interesting design projects. Thereby allowing designers to do what they do best - design! And the best win the contract. At the same time we aim to offer the best solution for the client.

We only list icons which you can use for free on personal AND commercial projects AND without having to provide back-links/credit to the author.


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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

offlinr.com – status update

1. The design team we had partnered with delivered the stylesheet and HTML this morning. The HTML will be merged with server side code later this week.

2. We are 80% feature complete for the first release. Few features like moderation capability, email alerts, admin features etc. and being added.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What is Brandjacking?

Brandjacking is the process of creating or aggregating content around a brand and then charging the brand for ceding control.

I did not coin the phrase. I first heard it on Lisa Barone’s article titled “Seth Godin Tries Out Brandjacking”. It all went down when Seth Godin launched his project, Brands in Public. Under this project he aimed to aggregate content about a brand on it own page. Think of it as an automated wikipedia like page which contains articles, tweets, blog posts etc. about the brand. Sounds like a good idea, isn’t it? The only problem here is that the brands don’t opt-in and they have to pay $400 a month to get complete control over the page.

Is this a wrong thing to do? According to Seth Godin, these conversations are happening all over the internet anyway. All he is trying to do is aggregate it and put it on one page. Further he believes that he is doing a service to the brand by giving them insight into what the internet is discussing about their brand. But according to Lisa Barone and other high profile bloggers, the intent behind this is not as noble as Seth Godin would like you to believe. First, the brands did not ask for this. And second they are being held to ransom.

Techcrunch’s Nik Cubrilovic put it best: “We were going to reach out to Godin yesterday, but instead figured we could write this story by aggregating what everybody in the world thinks of Squidoo, and then asking him to pay us $400 to remove the parts he may not agree with.”

Seth Godin has since reversed his position on Brands in Public and made the system opt-it. I give him points for listening to his critics and taking action quickly.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Your Entrepreneur Handbook: Spirit - Southwest Airlines

Last night I was on a short flight from San Francisco to Los Angles. If you know me, you already that I'm a big fan of Southwest. In this day and age of extra charges for rescheduling, checked baggage, leg space etc., all these are free with SW. As the plane took off I picked up the in-flight magazine (which I rarely do) and started browsing. It turns out the main story inside is about entrepreneurs and small business. After I finished reading I whipped out my iPhone and took some notes for you guys.

Your Entrepreneur Handbook: Southwest Airlines Spirit September 2009

Fun facts

Percentage of entrepreneurs who say they launched first venture as a child – 42%

Avg hours a week small business owners work – 52 hours

Avg revenue of small biz with a website – 5 million

Percentage of employers that small business represent – 99.7%

Estimated new ventures a year – 7 million

Percentage of entrepreneurs who will still run their business in 6 yrs – 33.3%

Number of small businesses – 25.8 million

Small business who say losing Internet would make them go bust – 18%

46% of small businesses are financed with personal credit card

Avg years a small biz survives – 11.2 years

Percentage of total new jobs small biz create annually – 60% to 80%

Percentage of business that receive venture capital – Less than 1%

Avg revenue of a small business – $3.6 million

Part of the population starting new business – 7%


The Long Tail - Chris Anderson
Good to great - Jim Collins
The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell

Twitter feeds

After constantly being reminded of the fact that few startups survive, the above points were really encouraging. Hope this article inspires you as well. If you would like to read the whole article jump on a southwest flight.

Update: After a quick google search, turns out that I need not have typed everything up everything on the iPhone to share later. Here is the online link and here is the pdf version.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Self-Employed Are the Happiest

According to Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index poll data collected from January to August, business owners are the happiest.

However, this does not mean that owning your business is easy. When you own it, there is no “off” switch. You are constantly working. You don’t have vacation days, sick days, holidays etc. Also you will be taking care of your health insurance which is not cheap. But from the poll it is evident that despite all the hardship, the satisfaction of working for yourself adds to your wellbeing.

Read what redditers have to say.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index™
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is the first and largest survey of its kind, with 1,000 calls a day, seven days a week. It is the official statistic for Well-Being in America, giving a daily measure of people's well-being at the close of every day based on the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of health as not only the absence of infirmity and disease but also a state of physical, mental and social well-being.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

TechCrunch 50

If you were following techcrunch 50 you already know that redbeacon won the grand prize of $50,000. But what they took home is much more than the money. They got the kind of exposure that will catapult their startup to the next level. Not to mention the opportunity to get funded that will follow.

If you watch the presentations at the conference you will realize that none of the ideas are what you would call “world changing”. Almost of all of them are simple ideas with great execution. And these are the top 50 of the many ideas submitted. The point I’m getting at is, don’t wait for that world changing idea to start on your project. Pick a problem to solve and go after it with all you got.

More about redbeacon

Update: Here is a post by Sarah Lacy where she says that we didn't see any world changing idea at TC50.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Idea

Few days back, after reviewing and researching over a dozen ideas we finally narrowed in on the one that we want to pursue. It follows all the principles from our post earlier titled “Foundation for a startup idea”. We are not yet at a point where we can go into much detail. But we hope to have an alpha version up and running in about three weeks. We are already hard at work trying to put the site together.

Here is the idea: We will connect you with others in your city

We also got hold of a cool domain name. Well, we think its cool, but we might be a bit biased. We would like to know what you think.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Work culture at your startup

In her book “Once Your’re Lucky Twice You’re Good”, Sarah Lacy says that cultures at startups mirror the personality of their founders. Having worked at a startup before I think this is quiet true. It not just true for startups though. I have worked in different offices of the same big organization and found that they could have totally different cultures. Some organizations just accept this fact, while others spend millions of dollars to try and maintain a homogenous culture. Whatever the culture is, you can’t easily change it once formed. But you can surely try and build it from the very begning.

Recently, on Techcrunch, I came across a 128-page presentation from Netflix that was circulated within the organization. It gives you a glimpse of their culture. And coming from a fairly large publicly traded company it will surprise you. They don’t follow the usual rules of the corporate world. In fact many small companies that pride themselves for having a flexible culture can learn some things from them.

I’m embedding the slides below. Remember it is 128-pages. It will take some time to digest the material but it will inspire you.

Netflix: Reference Guide on our Freedom & Responsibility Culture

So why do businesses fail?

According to this article "New businesses fail in large numbers because of cash flow. Many new businesses are started with viable ideas and good products. To the outsider it may seem that the business is thriving. The founder is onto something good. But a few months down the line the business has shut its doors."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Foundation for a Startup Idea

We need to lay down some foundation for the startup idea. These points are intended to channel our thoughts and come up with that one idea which we will pursue and build our product around. Between the four of us we have hundreds of ideas and it is time to pick the best. The problem is, how do we know which one is best? There is no sure way to know, but satisfying the following points is a good start.

Solve one problem
There are many problems around us that need a solution. But we will strive to solve one and only one problem. There will be distractions along the way, but we will do justice to the single problem that we choose to solve.

Simple product
We are a small team working part time on this side project. Hence keeping the product simple becomes a core requisite. Simple product means less overhead, less maintenance and will require less resources overall.

Though we start out simple the idea needs to be scalable. We need room to grow. Internet users can have very short attention span and we need to constantly keep them interested in our product.

This is where all the action is. For any web app mobile is no long a nice-to-have feature. It is a must-have component. Many businesses today are centered completely around mobile.

Though we will start out in one country the idea itself should be region agnostic. Some countries are adding internet users at a dizzying rate. Think India, think China. We should be able to expand internationally with little additional effort.

Since we are starting out a shoestring budget we need to know how we are going to generate revenue fast. We don’t have the luxury of venture capital. Hence the idea that we pick needs to define how it is going to make money.

This list is giving us a good direction to narrow in on the problem we we want to solve. Hopefully you find good use of it as well to filter out the hunderds of billion dollar ideas floating in your head, and pick the best ones.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is the advertising model dead?

Since one of the revenue model we are exploring is advertising, it is very important for us to research the answer to this.

According to the panelists in the video who met at Revenue Bootcamp on July 10 at Microsoft campus in Mountain View, there are plenty of opportunities if you do it right.

more: http://www.building43.com/videos/2009/08/03/is-the-advertising-model-dead/

The Team

We are a group of four friends who met at grad school few years back. Since then we graduated and parted ways. We are successful in our respective careers but always dreamed of creating a product that provides value to our users. Recently we regrouped and decide that it is about time we gave it a shot. Here is the team:

Code Monkey: The website won’t build itself. Hence we have the smartest engineer around doing it. He can build any app in a day. Maybe two.

Web Ninja: Spends all his time surfing the web pretending to be busy doing industry research. He is sure there is a lesson to be learnt from lolcats.

Chief Operating Babe: Keeps everything running. Makes sure no one is slacking and rations beer to keep everyone sober and working.

The MBA: Walks around throwing heavy words that he learnt in grad school. No one understands what he speaks but think it might be important because they don’t understand.

You will know more about the team as you follow us.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What Would Google Do?

Few weeks back I was at the airport waiting for my delayed flight. I ventured into the bookstore to kill some time. One particular title caught my attention “What Would Google Do?”. At that point I didn’t know much about the book or the author (I was too lazy to pull up the reviews on my phone). I bought the book only because of its catchy title. It was an impulse buy. It turned out to be a great read. The book was not about Google, but rather about how companies should start thinking like Google, not just to prosper but even to survive in the internet age.

Following is not a review of the book, but rather some notes that made while reading it.

Lesson: Having a catchy name for you book/business helps.

What Would Google Do?
Author: Jeff Jarvis

1. Successful online businesses allow people to do better, what they already do in real world. You just need to make it easier for them to do it.

Facebook, LinkedIn: Organizes your social network
Flickr: Organizes and shares your pictures
Craigslist: Connects sellers and buyers
Digg, Reddit: Allows you to promote what you like
Twitter: Broadcast to your friends and anyone who will listen
Yelp: Tell others how the restaurant was
MeetUp: Allows creating meet up groups of strangers
Match, eHarmony: Replaces dating agencies
HotJobs, Monster: Replaces newspaper job section

2. Platforms that enable others to build their businesses on are very powerful and successful.

Amazon, eBay: Acts as a platform for others to build their retail business on
iPhone app store: Acts as a platform for other to sell their software apps on
Ning: Thousands use it as a platform to build their own social network
Blogger, Wordpress: Acts as a platform for others to create their own blog
Facebook apps: Acts as a platform for others to build apps and sell

3. The businesses that make most money online do so by allowing others to make lot of money and retain a small portion.

Google adsense, Federated media, Facebook ads: You get money as a publisher, they get a cut
Amazon, eBay: Lets you sell, they get a cut
iPhone app store: Lets you sell, they keep 30%

4. Mobile is the next big thing. There are more connected cell phones than computers.

Twitter: was made with mobile in mind
Loopt: allows you to share based on your location

5. Internet tears down international boundaries.

Google, Twitter, Facebook, Orkut, Flickr, Blogger, LinkedIn: Made here, used globally
Zoho: Made in
India used globally

6. Niches and local products could be huge.

Baidu: Number 1 search engine in china, bigger than google in china
India only
India only, bigger than craigslist in India

7. Big ideas can be pretty simple.

Twitter: Just 140 character microblogging
Reddit, Digg: Share a link
StumbleUpon: Takes you to random websites

8: Do just one thing really well.

Digg, Reddit: Lets user share links and comments on stories
Twitter: Takes one little feature of facebook (status updates) and does it well
Wikipedia: User generated and maintained encyclopedia
Google: Best search results

The notes above are somewhat incoherent because it was something that I had scribbled for personal reference. I decided to publish it anyway because the points are absolutely valid.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

about ctrl+alt+startup

Story of a startup that didn’t know the rules.

We are you next door guys with regular day jobs. Though we are well established in our respective careers all of us have a strong common desire to start an online business and create value for our users. We have always thought about it but never really took the first steps. After talking about it for months we have decided to finally take the plunge. The only problem is that we are not quiet sure where to start.

All of us are new at this game. Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of experience in the internet space, but this will be our first attempt at a startup. If we succeed, this will serve as a guide for anyone in our situation with a desire to build an online business. If we fail, this will serve as a guide on how not to go about doing it. Either way we all learn something.

Follow us as we start out on this wild ride. Let us make the mistakes so that you don’t have to. We will need your support along the way. And remember, we don’t know the rules.