Bootstrapping Checklist

Brad Feld has a checklist for bootstrapping entrepreneurial ventures. One of the points:

Figure out what to do if you fail (face your fears before you start):One of my favorite quotes is from Dune – “Fear is the mind killer.” I’ve always believed that fear is one of the most completely useless emotions. “What if I fail” is one of the biggest fears of a startup entrepreneur. Face it – play with it – figure out what happens if you fail. In most cases, failure is not going to be death (although it could be very uncomfortable). Understanding what your fears are and trying to stare them down in advance of actually encountering them will help you enormously in the process of trying to create a new company.


John Battelle writes about the “ability to capture and record your search history as well as the things you looked at, all in one package.”

What I really wish for, both to tell the story of my search, and to annotate my book, is the ability to take that searchstream and turn it into an object – a narrative thread of sorts, something I can hold and keep and refer to, a prop to aid in the telling and retelling of how I came to my answer. Tracks in the dust, so to speak, so others can follow and make their own, or follow mine and see (and question!) how I came to my conclusions. Imagine, I thought to myself, if instead of footnotes and citations, I could append searchstreams…

That’s when I remembered As We May Think, Vannevar Bush’s famous essay in The Atlantic. I had read it earlier in my research, and was struck not by the idea of the Memex, which is well understood, but by Bush’s explication of the problem – that knowledge and learning has become so complicated, so layered, so inefficient, that it is near impossible for anyone to be a generalist, in the sense Aristotle was. Bush’s answer to this problem was the Memex, of course, but what I find interesting is the mechanism by which the Memex is made potent – the mechanism for capturing the traces of a researcher’s discovery through the Memex’s corpus, and storing those traces as intelligence so the next researcher can learn from them and build upon them.

Searchstreams, I realized, are the DNA which will build the Memex from the flat soil of search as it’s currently understood. Engines that leverage searchstreams will make link analysis-based search (ie, nearly all of commercial search today) look like something out of the pre-Cambrian era. The first fish with feet are all around us – A9, Furl, We have yet to build the critical mass of searchstreams by which this next generation engine might be built (nor will it necessarily be built with our tacit consent). But I can sense it coming.

Manmohan Singh’s Message

Indian leaders use the Independence Day speech to give their vision for the future. Sify reports on what the Indian Prime Minister had to say:

Outlining a seven-pronged agriculture and employment-oriented strategy for higher economic growth, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday said the challenge for reforms was to “breathe new life into government.”

Identifying seven priority sectors — agriculture, water, education, health care, employment, urban renewal and infrastructure, Singh, in his first Independence Day address from the Red Fort, said, “These saat sutras (seven principles) are the pillars of the development bridge we must cross to ensure higher economic growth and more equitable social and economic development.”

At the same time, he asserted that, “The challenge for economic reforms today is to breathe new life into government so that it can play a positive role where it must.”

“The real challenge for me and for the government at all levels is the challenge of implementation of our stated policies and programmes,” Singh said and quipped, “Today, I have no promises to make but I have promises to keep.”

Emphasising that Central, State and local bodies had to work in tandem for government to be an effective instrument of development, he said the concern of most of citizens revolved around action on the front of agriculture, water, education, health and employment.

While committing to deploy most modern technology to improve lives of ordinary people, he said the government would improve broadband access and enable the required investment in IT infrastructure.

“The promotion of scientific temper must truly become a massive national movement,” the Prime Minister asserted but pointed out that that a “concerted action” was needed to deal with two perennial albeit fundamental problems of drought and floods.

“Dealing with the problem of water is an important commitment we have made as part of our new deal for Rural India,” he said.

This new deal must encompass investment in irrigation, credit deliver, availability of electricity, primary education, rural roads and modernisation of farm sector infrastructure, Singh added.

Taking a leaf from the National Common Minimum Programme, Singh said key progress in major infrastructure sectors like power, roads, railways, ports and airports would be “critical” to development.

Although committed to “widen the space” available for private enterprise and individual initiative in tune with economic reforms aimed at ending stranglehold of bureaucracy, he said governments could not be wished away, specially in developing countries like India where it had important role to play.

It will all boil down to execution and elimination of corruption across all levels of government. On that rests India’s future.

Tech Sector Recovery – or Not

WSJ writes in the wake of results that show that even as HP faces challenges, IBM and Dell are doing well.

Combined with recent cautious comments from Cisco Systems Inc., National Semiconductor Corp. and a host of business-software companies, the announcements highlighted how the tech recovery first glimpsed a year ago may already be faltering.

One troubling sign: rising inventories of semiconductors, which are at the heart of all high-tech devices. Chip makers say they expect inventories to return to normal by September. But Tuesday, Kulicke & Soffa Industries Inc., a maker of semiconductor-packaging equipment that was among the first companies to feel the tech slowdown in 2000, slashed its three-week-old revenue forecast for the quarter ending in September by 19%.

The gloomy outlook has dashed hope among tech executives and investors that the sector will soon return to the supercharged growth of the late 1990s. Pummeled again yesterday, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index is down 12.5% for the year, and 19% from its peak in late January.

Knowledge@Wharton adds: “Technology buyers hit the brakes toward the end of the second quarter 2004, and it’s worth asking whether spending on software and hardware–not to mention capital spending overall–is being hampered by gun-shy corporate executives.”

TECH TALK: Reinventing Computing: Kumbh Mela Cycle

Indias Kumbh Mela takes place once every twelve years. There is a fascinating legend about its origins, according to Malini Bhisen:

It is said about this mela that the earth was made sacred at four places by contact with the Kumbh- jar-filled with “amrit” nectar, the Elixir of Immortality.

It is believed that the gods became emaciated as a result of the curse by a saint and wanted to regain their old strength and vigour by drinking the nectar. But they knew that they would not be able to churn the ocean by themselves and bring up the Kumbh, filled with the nectar that was lying on the bed of the ocean. So they approached the Asuras – the demons who were their inveterate enemies, to join hands with them in churning the ocean. For that help, the gods promised the Asuras that they would be given a portion of the nectar when the pot of nectar is brought up from the depths of the ocean. The Asuras readily agreed.

Then the gods and the demons started churning the ocean with Mandar mountain as the rod for churning and Vasuki, the great Cobra serpent for the thick string. As the vigorous churning progressed the ocean began to yield its treasures one by one. In all thirteen precious things came out from the sea. Lastly the Sage Dhanwantri appeared with the coveted jar of nectar in his hands. The Asuras who were physically stronger than the gods seized the kumbh. At that moment Lord Indra’s son Jayant, assumed the form of a gregarious rook- a ferocious bird – whisked away the jar from the hands of the demons and flew high up in the sky. The bird on its way to heaven rested at Nasik, Ujjain, Prayag and Haradwar. He took twelve days to reach paradise from the ocean. As each divine day is reckoned to be equivalent to an earth year, the Kumbh Mela is celebrated once in twelve years at each of these four places.

Religion Samachar adds: The four locations are Prayag (near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh) at the confluence of three rivers Ganga (Ganges), Yamuna and Saraswati Haridwar (in Uttar Pradesh) where the river Ganga enters the plains from Himalayas Ujjain (in Madhya Pradesh), on the banks of Ksipra river, and Nasik (in Maharashtra) on the banks of Godavari river. The pilgrimage occurs four times every 12 years, once at each of the four locations. Each 12-year cycle includes the Maha (great) Kumbha Mela at Prayag, attended by millions of people, making it the largest pilgrimage gathering around the world.

Twelve years or so is also the cycle for computing breakthroughs. 1945 saw the invention of the worlds first computer, the ENIAC. In the late 1950s, IBM switched from using vacuum tubes to using transistors, and also launched Fortran. In the early 1970s, we had the invention of the microprocessor, along with Unix and the relational database. In 1982-83, the personal computer was launched by IBM. In 1992-94, we had the Wintel come into being, with the launch of Microsoft Windows 3.1 and the Intel Pentium. It also saw the creation of Mosaic, the graphical web browser, and the start of the proliferation of the Internet.

So, the next big leap in computing should be just around the corner. What will it be? Google as the supercomputer? Longhorn? Cellphones as always-on, always-connected computers? Utility computing? Wearable computers? Something unseen as of today…?

This series is about my vision of the future of computing. I will argue that the success of computing has limited its prospects for targeting the mass-market users, and what is needed is nothing short of a reinvention of every aspect of the computing ecosystem. The next computing Kumbh Mela is just around the corner.

Tomorrow: Looking Ahead