The Mayans invented the wheel but they never used it. They used to make toys with wheels on them but their own construction projects which were quite immense were undertaken by moving stones on wooden logs. They just could not make the leap of imagination.

We call it the Morse Code because of Samuel Morse, who is also incorrectly given credit for the telegraph. Several physicists experimenting with electromagnetism came up with the telegraph. At the time, these inventors; Charles Wheatstone, Sir William Fothergill Cooke, Edward Davy, and Carl August von Steinhiel were so near to each other that the British Supreme Court refused to issue one patent. It was Joseph Henry, not Morse, who discovered that coiling wire would strengthen electromagnetic induction. Samuel Morse managed to apply to real-life what was experiments. 

Douglas Englebart came up with the graphical user interface while he was working at the Xerox Parc. For him, it was just about inventing and that is all he managed to do. It took Steve Jobs to see the potential and bring it to market. 

Your next big idea already exists. As an entrepreneur, you just need to see its application and bring it to market. 

History is replete with inventors and their inventions that never found their way to the market. They will never be celebrated or be known.

The genius is not in inventing it, it is in getting people to use it.



There was a time (however brief) when Mozart did not know how to play the Piano (he started playing it at the ripe age of TWO!). There was a time before Picasso knew how to paint. There was a time before Einstein knew how to calculate. They learnt.

I often come across Entrepreneurs who will tell me they do not know how to do something. I do not know how to code. I do not know to sell. I can’t understand the numbers. 

Well, then learn! 

There is no choice in the matter. All of us were delivered on this planet, a blank slate. We go on to learn things and apply them. Nobody was born knowing something. So not knowing is not an excuse. If you don’t know something and its important to know it in order to take your venture ahead; LEARN IT.

I know you must be thinking – is that not what the co-founder is for?

Yes. But in the event that you do not have one, you can’t stand paralysed, you need to move ahead. The moment they see the journey moving forward, their willingness to get on-board with your vision increases.

Always move forward.

Never be averse to learning.


Signal to Noise Ratio

In a world where data is the new gold, it is not abnormal to go chasing data and seek to make every decision based on the data at hand. And to have it updated each second. Data is a useful and wonderful guide provided you have enough of it and over a long enough duration.

All information is not good information. When information arrives at very short intervals, it does not accommodate the entire trend or how things play out. Take for instance if you have to decide whether to carry an umbrella or not. You look at the condition outside maybe check the horizon, take another look an hour later and decide what to do. 

If you were to be supplied information about the cloud to clear sky ratio every 10 seconds, would it make for a great decision? When you have a lot of data coming and the time scale of the data coming in is too short, the signal to noise ratio increases significantly. 

It is the same reason following the presidential impeachment hour to hour is useless. 

You need to get on top of discernible trends as a founder. Don’t fall into the trap of data, just because there are updates available each second – even for your own business. Identify the currents that are carrying you.


Solar Car from Sion Motors

Since the Electric Car resolution started, I have wondered why wouldn’t anybody want to use the car itself to produce energy. A car is driven in the open and therefore exposed to sunlight during the day. Photovoltaic cells convert sunlight to energy using a principle called the Photo Electric Effect; the discovery of which got Einstein the Nobel Prize. Why not Solar Car then?

One of the arguments that I have often come across is that there is not enough surface area to produce enough electricity to run a car. I have been brainstorming ideas of potentially applying a nano-film that could harness solar energy for years with engineering students. While such solutions are, at least experimentally available; this is the first application that I have seen of solar cells in a car and I think it is brilliant.

Solar Car - Sion Motors

There have been several solar car competitions in the past, where the objective was to produce the fastest vehicle and hence the designs tended to be crazy. This is the first commercial version that I have seen and I think it is fantastic. Sion Motors from Germany is already taking pre-orders of the vehicle which has a range of 30 Kms. Depending on solar results in lesser pressure on energy storage and this will result in smaller batteries, which is the need of the hour.

I really want to see how it performs in the coming days.


3D Printing to Build

3D printing promised to end all manufacturing and change supply chain forever. It has not deliver on that promise, yet. For a period of time it seemed like 3D printing would only be used by geeks to play with. To build quick and easy components for electronics.

Very specialised application for 3D Printing in healthcare began to emerge where the tech was being used to print skin grafts. This eventually led to cartilage and finally entire organs. The number of tests and certifications needed to bring this to mainstream use has meant that the technology has remained mostly experimental.

Construction seems to be the salvation for 3D printing with the rising adoption of the technology to build houses.



It remains to be seen where things will go from here and what we would be able to achieve in 5 years time with 3D printing but building a house in 24 hours seems to be a really neat application to get started with.


Blockchain Evolution

Last year was when most of the non-nerdy world woke up to Crypto-Currency and Blockchain. For the most part this was thanks to the fact that Bitcoin was on a tear and was doubling in value every few weeks!

Blockchain is the fundamental technology which makes crypto-currencies possible. Blockchain essentially stores all data in the form of blocks. These blocks are connected in the form of a chain. These blockchains are further stored on every computer on the network. This makes it near impossible to fake a transaction. The primary reason for this being that the fake transaction would have to be entered into every system on the network! These are called distributed ledgers.

While crypto-currencies seem like a great application of blockchain, there are fundamental issues in there. It is great that the ledger is distributed but what if I am able to get hold of your password? I can steal everything that is in your wallet and there is complete anonymity. So apart from knowing that the currency has been stolen and to which address it was transferred you would know nothing.

This just makes crypto-currencies a poor application in their current form.  But blockchain has a lot more to it. It can be used to store any kind of data that needs to be immutable such as property documents, certificates, shares, etc.

The trouble has been that all of these solutions need to be implemented at a systemic level.


It is heartening to see some of these implementations take root in different parts of the world.

A bank uses blockchain to store data

A blockchain company called Coinfirm has announced a partnership with PKO BP, a major Polish bank, to provide blockchain-based document verification using a tool called Trudatum. The project is a an actual implementation of one of the primary benefits of blockchain-based tools, namely its ability to permanently and immutably store data. This announcement brings blockchain implementations out of the realm of proof-of-concept and into the real world.

Exchanges using blockchain as a risk mitigation tool

The Indian Factoring Exchanges – A.TREDs, RXIL and M1xchange – have launched a blockchain-based networking platform which aims to prevent financial frauds and double invoicing issues.

Banks using blockchain to secure and track international transfers

Blockchain boosters rejoice: A major bank is using the distributed-ledger technology that makes bitcoin possible for international payments of fiat currency. Santander, which had been testing it internally among its staff, launched the service today, making the Spanish banking giant among the few major financial institutions to go live with the extraordinarily hyped technology.

Now, countries are getting in on using crypto-currencies as a way of trading their most valuable exports

Venezuela, the world’s second-largest crude oil producer, is learnt to have offered a 30% discount on India’s petroleum imports from there—but only if payments are made using the cryptocurrency backed by that country’s government.



Building a world for the self-driving car

I was reading today morning and I saw this blog talk about the potential of self-driving vehicles being able to see around corners of the street by reflecting lasers.

We have built the world around us with the assumption that ONLY we will use it; which has been a fair assumption to make until now…

The roads, the traffic signs, the markings on the road, everything is built for a world where a human is driving the car. Would it be the same had we built the world for self-driving cars? Definitely not. And some of the technologies that are starting to emerge are making this lack of fit so far as design is concerned, very obvious.

As referenced in my previous blog electronics are going to get easier to build. Imagine a road where the road markers are made of Graphene and have sensors and guides built into it which can provide car a better spatial reference. This would make designing the cars so much more easier.

All of the self-driving technology today is based on visual mapping because the roads are designed as such. I think it is important to start having conversations about how the roads of tomorrow would look and start engaging with startups and governmental infrastructure planners to build the cities of tomorrow.


Anatomy of an Investment

Investors determine their investments in various companies based on a variety of criteria. Ultimately, the investor wants to see the startups scale and grow to be a large enterprise. In order to be able to do this, the company must have certain fundamentals right. Having sat through several hundred pitch sessions, these are some of the things the investors look at, often in the order below but not necessarily.


Like the industry

Do I like the industry that this business is in? Animal husbandry might be a highly potential industry but if I personally have no interest in the area I am least likely do go in there and make an investment. On the contrary if travel is something that I like, despite the fact that seven hundred people might be taking a crack at the same problem, I would still perhaps invest in the segment. All you need to do it take a look at the portfolios of most investment funds to see this philosophy at work. Our personal biases matter more than any data.

Like the market

I might like travel and I might think that there is a market for it everywhere in the world! Even so, if you were to start a tour service in Siberia, which by the way is underserved, I might not be necessarily jumping on board the bandwagon. We all want to be playing in the markets that we like, where we have connections and we have the ability to affect the destiny of the business. While data might point us in another direction, we would still gravitate towards markets that we like. Just go search for Siberian tour operators, you will find all 10 of them. And then you will feel so bad for not having undertaken the tour to Siberia, its gorgeous!

Like the founder

People invest in people because people like people. At the end of the day, all said and done we invest in people. To me Airbnb sounds like a dumb shit idea even today! If someone came to me pitching Airbnb, I would probably chase them away, unless… Its the energy and the charisma of a person that guides your judgement on whether to invest in them or not. We all get carried away by the founder, the pitch and the energy. Even the best of us has fallen prey to it. If you are not a likeable person, you are shit out of luck. There is no way that you are going to land money.

Like the business

What you are going to be doing comes after this. Invariably the business plan with which you would enter the business and the business plan with which you would exit it will not be the same. So, while we see what you are doing with your business it is how you are doing it which is more important.

Like the Modus operandi

Which brings us to the how? How are you going about doing what you are doing? Does it seem scalable. Ok it isn’t but would you flip to a direction that perhaps is? Are you mentorable? Would you listen? What happens when I poke holes at what you are doing? This will determine the anatomy of the relationship going forward once the investment is made. So how things are going to be done matters.


This has been my experience, would love to hear from others.


Investing in the past

An investment of a couple of Million was made in a startup that plans to deliver fuel directly to the cars in London.

Zebra Fuel, a London-based startup that wants to eliminate the inner city gas station by delivering fuel directly to your vehicle, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding.

What do you suppose is the long term potential of this company?

Despite the familiar investor lineup, it’s actually the first investment made by Firstminute, the recently launched $85 million pan-European seed fund.

My guess, the guys who raised the $ 85 Million fund did not have a great deal flow pipeline, got panicky and just threw the money in.

Investors are fallible!


The evolution of IoT

There has been a lot of work that has gone into IoT devices and I often find startups which pitch consumer facing IoT solutions to me. Apart from the fact that there is zero differentiation and high reproducibility, my questions often hang around whether people feel the pain or not?

Do you ever WANT to switch off the fan using your smartphone but are unable to?

I get a lot of round about answers but nothing really convincing has ever been said.

My next question surrounds implementation. The need to find and bring in an electrician in order to install any of these devices means the friction is just too high.


If this then what?

I was reading a fascinating blog by Ben Evans over the weekend where he postulates that the smart home will start with smart devices like your fridge and TV and so on. In fact we are already seeing many of these in use across homes. The trouble – how do you interface with them? Voice based devices like Alexa might be the answer.

As the behaviour sets in, you may just WANT to tell Alexa to switch off the lights.

I am extremely skeptical about this, as I explained in detail here. Essentially, I think this mischaracterises the nature of the breakthroughs that machine learning has given us in voice recognition: we can now transcribe audio to text, and we can turn text into a structured query, but have no scalable way to be able to answer more and more kinds of such structured queries. ML means we can use voice to fill in dialogue boxes, but the dialogue boxes still need to be created, one at a time, by a programmer in a cubicle somewhere. That is, voice is an IVR – a tree. We can now match a spoken, natural language request to the right branch on the tree perfectly, but we have no way to add more branches except by writing them one at a time by hand. If Alexa or Siri or Google Assistant can give you cricket scores but not rugby, it’s because someone wrote the cricket score module, by hand, but hasn’t written a rugby score module yet.

Worse, even if you do create hundreds or thousands of such queries (which Amazon is trying to do with Alexa Skills), you haven’t solved the problem, since there is no way for the user to know what they can ask, nor remember what skills Alexa does and does not have. The ideal number of skills for such a system is either 3 or infinity, but not 50 or 5000.

This means voice can work very well in narrow domains where you know what people might ask and, crucially, where the user knows what they can and cannot ask, but it does not work if you place it in a general context. That, I turn, means I see these devices as, well, accessories. They cannot replace a smartphone, tablet or PC as your primary device.

This has quite possibly been the undoing of the general purpose smart assistant that Apple wanted Siri to be. While at the same time might be the impetus for creating a device that can do very predictable things. If you are doing anything in the area of IoT, I would advice this as mandatory reading.


My thoughts

The more I think about it, the more it feels like the IoT revolution will actually start out from TV, Fridge, Microwave Oven, Etc. The things that we are used to having around at our homes already and are behaviourally more likely to buy. As these devices get connected and the habit of controlling them through voice becomes more natural to us, we will then think about moving to smart lights and so on which takes a bit more effort to setup. But the advantages of voice based interaction would far outweigh the friction of setting up the smart power plug.

This transition will be years in the making. Because we do not tend to purchase a fridge, a TV or a microwave every other year, we buy them every 5 or even 10 years!

For a startup, consumer IoT does not look like the right place to be at this point in time. Many of them are just too early to the market with the wrong product!