HackMIT 2014

Highlights

  • Met Alexis Ohanian (again) and Stephen Wolfram!
  • Hack: Yo to your coffee machine to start brewing your coffee, and receive a Yo back when it’s done.
  • Hosted by Pi Lambda Phi for a night.
  • “What exactly are you going to hack into?” — Immigration officer
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YHack 2014 (Yale)

Highlights

  • Beautiful university.
  • Met Betsy, a humble person and a student at Yale who showed us around and was really helpful! Hard to find people like her.
  • Met Edric Tam, a student at John Hopkins. Dare to beat his intelligence.
  • Slept in a Yale residence lounge.
  • Read up on Bitcoins and cryptocurrencies. Unfortunately couldn’t come up with a hack.
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To The Third And Beyond

ForzaVeyhan Pitbooth

I think it was a Sunday, year 2005 – when I was in the third grade. My dad woke up my brother and me to share the news that a driver from India, for the first time, would be participating in a Formula 1 race and that the race was just about to start. Never having heard of F1 in particular before, the passion I grew for it just by my dad’s words and the race was surprisingly amazing. For weeks to come, we used to stick to our screens and watch the complete races, albeit not seeing the Indian driver winning, but the spectacle that was put up was just mesmerising. As the time passed and I progressed into higher classes, the time commitment reduced and I gradually stopped watching the races but the love didn’t die.

Fast forwarding to the 11th grade, when my first term exams had just ended, one day our Physics teacher came in and asked us if anyone was interested in participating in the F1 in Schools India competition – where we had to set up our own teams, design a miniature car for drag racing, setup pit booths and deliver presentations. Err… Continue reading

Discover I in Review

Discover I has come a long way since its inception in October last year, from hosting four competitions in slums and rural areas, collaborating with our own’s school social efforts in teaching girls from underprivileged families, organizing a summer camp with the help of an NGO school — impacting over 500 children with the help of over 100 volunteers! It has also been awarded the Best Awareness Campaign under the Youth Power competition conducted by the newspaper The Global Times and also received a mention in the national daily The Times of India. Similar initiatives have even been undertaken under different names in cities like Manipal (thanks bro!) and Mumbai (thanks internet friend!). I feel proud of being a part of such an organization. Continue reading

The Design Thinking Process

Today’s workshop was an unusual one — of course, it involved design! How should startups face the design challenge? How can the startups better identify and better engage with their customers? We had Ketna Hirji from The Innovation Tool Box to mentor our startups on how to go about the design process. Rather than just being lectured upon, the startups brainstormed on ideas and finally made a visual prototype and showcased them via elevator pitches.

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

— Steve Jobs

Startups should question a customer to understand what he or she feels. Keep asking why, why, why to properly understand the customer and build an empathy map of the customer as to how he or she was feeling while answering the questions and arrive at a final statement like “Kate is a big coffee drinker who needs to make her own coffee quickly and wants the experience to be fun and seamless because she values her time.”

Next, brainstorm on the idea, keeping the following points in mind and follow the method in this video.

  1. Big
  2. Visual
  3. Quantity
  4. No judgements
  5. Go wild

Vote on the ideas and build a visual prototype which gets the most votes!

  1. Be mindful of the process
  2. Focus on human values
  3. Change your perspective
  4. Collaborate across boundaries
  5. Create clarity from complexity
  6. Show, don’t tell!

Cross posted on the GSF blog. The GSF Accelerator is a 7-week program designed to foster innovation in India’s fast-growing digital economy. It aims to provide select, promising start-ups with unparalleled access to venture and business networks, personalized and intensive mentoring, and initial capital. Coaching is provided to each of the GSF startups by a mentor pool of over 200 cofounders and digital entrepreneurs from across the world. This article is a part of the series of the mentorship sessions held for the startups in the winter 2012 iteration of the accelerator.

Acquiring Customers and Marketing Your Startup

What is the foremost reason for a startup failure? No, it’s not being unable to understand the market right. It is having high costs of customer acquisition. So how to acquire customers in a cost-effective way and what digital marketing strategies to use? This is the question that is asked by all the startups all over the world. We had Nikhil Rungta from Google, Bhawna Agarwal from Seventymm and Anurag Gupta from DGM to answer this question for us.

There are various channels of customer acquisition — they’re different for every kind of business like B2C non-ecommerce, B2C e-commerce, B2B and so on. Pick a method to acquire customers wisely — on the basis of what you’re trying to achieve. And it should give a steady graph in customer acquisition, not ups and downs. Don’t try all the techniques at one go.

Internet channels

  • Search: SEO (free). If your product is solving a problem and is not based on content, SEO and other things might not actually work for you, as the user wouldn’t be looking for your product.
  • PPC: Can be for brand building and non-brand building.
  • Affiliates: Largely steady and controls acquisition cost. If you spend x amount on PPC, you’d be spending 0.8-1.25x on affiliates.
  • Display ads: 4-10x the amount on PPC.
  • Social
  • Email: Have a catchy subject — don’t try to sell in the email, offer information. Use your messaging effectively, have the user to enter some information than having him to buy.
  • Referrals (free): Try and target this. If a customer starts speaking about you, you’ve hit gold.

Mobile

Mobile targeting involves low costs and can be used if you think you can target the appropriate audience.

Always remember that the target audience might not be the user. Target each audience with a different message. For example, while buying a car, an adult might be interested in fuel efficiency and specs, but children would be interested in the music system and other features that appeal to them.

Cross posted on the GSF blog. The GSF Accelerator is a 7-week program designed to foster innovation in India’s fast-growing digital economy. It aims to provide select, promising start-ups with unparalleled access to venture and business networks, personalized and intensive mentoring, and initial capital. Coaching is provided to each of the GSF startups by a mentor pool of over 200 cofounders and digital entrepreneurs from across the world. This article is a part of the series of the mentorship sessions held for the startups in the winter 2012 iteration of the accelerator.

Monetizing Your Product & Pricing Strategies

How can you monetize your product? What pricing options should you offer? Today’s talk addressed this aspect of an entrepreneur’s problems. We had Suresh V., EVP and Head of Sales of Naukri and Siddharth Puri, co-founder and business head of Tyroo to mentor the startups.

If your product is first in the niche, either start with a freemium model in which you’ll get a lot of feedback, or price it very low and develop a connection with the customer to build trust.

Always remember that your customer is the end customer whom you’re primarily serving, even if he doesn’t help you get money. For instance, on a jobs listing site, the job seeker doesn’t get you any money, the recruiter does. We do not know our indirect customers — and even if we know them, we don’t know the value that they derive.

Think yourself as a customer. Would you ever buy what you’re selling?

An interesting question that was asked was when is a product ready for serious monetization. The answer to that came was it’s when the app has either 10,000 registered users or 100,000 unique users on the site or 100,000+ app downloads.

It is interesting to know that only 0.0125% of the users engage with the advertisers from email marketing — only 5% people open advertising message sent to the opt-in database until and unless it’s highly customised for the audience, out of which just 5% people will end up clicking and going to advertiser’s site, out of which only 5% people will end up engaging with the advertiser.

The mobile market has a lot of potential, but is generally not targeted due to the lack of targeted ads, more of youth using it, lack of users profiles and the small size of the screen.

The whole world could talk of something as a problem, but can be an opportunity for you. Suresh explained this by telling about his experience at Naukri — post 9/11, the challenge they were facing became their opportunity. The quality of the traffic improvised — NRIs started coming back to India, more recruiters started coming to the website and that is how it grew. He continued his experience by telling about the monetization strategies that Naukri used — it used to advertise on the home page. But they later realised that any job seeker would actually just visit the website and directly search for the job he’s looking for — it was essential for them to have targeted advertisements on these search pages and this increased their revenue.

Points to remember

  1. Evolve your product by listening to your customers.
  2. Keep the pricing strategy very simple. Don’t overcomplicate — specially in the early stages.
  3. Have special prices for beta customers — build trust for renewals.

“Pricing is not related to costs. Price as how consumer would perceive the value of your product.” – Rajesh Sawhney

Cross posted on the GSF blog. The GSF Accelerator is a 7-week program designed to foster innovation in India’s fast-growing digital economy. It aims to provide select, promising start-ups with unparalleled access to venture and business networks, personalized and intensive mentoring, and initial capital. Coaching is provided to each of the GSF startups by a mentor pool of over 200 cofounders and digital entrepreneurs from across the world. This article is a part of the series of the mentorship sessions held for the startups in the winter 2012 iteration of the accelerator.