Archive for July, 2007

Founders at Work

This book is a collection of 32 interviews with founders of IT startups. The interviewer is Jessica Livingston who herself is a founding partner of Y-Combinator. The interviewees are:

  1. Max Levchin (Paypal)
  2. Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail)
  3. Steve Wozniak (Apple Computer)
  4. Joe Kraus (Excite)
  5. Dan Bricklin (Software Arts)
  6. Mitchell Kapor (Lotus Development)
  7. Ray Ozzie (Iris Associates, Groove Networks)
  8. Evan Williams (Pyra Labs – Blogger.com)
  9. Tim Brady (Yahoo)
  10. Mike Lazaridis (Research in Motion)
  11. Arthur Van Hoff (Marimba)
  12. Paul Buchheit (Gmail)
  13. Steve Perlman (WebTV)
  14. Mike Ramsay (TiVo)
  15. Paul Graham (Viaweb)
  16. Joshua Schachter (del.icio.us)
  17. Mark Fletcher (ONEList, Bloglines)
  18. Craig Newmark (craigslist)
  19. Caterina Fake (Flickr)
  20. Brewster Kahle (WAIS, Internet Archive, Alexa Internet)
  21. Charles Geschke (Adobe Systems)
  22. Ann Winblad (Open Systems, Hummer Winblad)
  23. David Heinemeier Hansson (37signals)
  24. Philip Greenspun (ArsDigita)
  25. Joel Spolsky (Fog Creek Software)
  26. Stephen Kauffer (TripAdvisor)
  27. James Hong (Hot or Not)
  28. James Currier (Tickle)
  29. Blake Ross (Firefox)
  30. Mena Trott (Six Apart)
  31. Bob Davis (Lycos)
  32. Ron Gruner (Alliant Computer Systems, Shareholder.com)

Most of the interviews follow this line:

  • Getting started.
  • Interactions with VCs.
  • Some of the more intense moments.
  • Turning Points.
  • Things that were surprising.
  • Felt like quiting at any time ?
  • Advice for people looking to start a startup.

Most of the interviews were good, a few were boring and a few came out to be outstanding. I dont want to specify which ones bored because you will be prejudiced in case you are planning to read it. The interviews I found most interesting were the ones with Steve Wozniak, Dan Bricklin, Mitchell Kapor, Craig Newmakr, Charles Geschke, Philip Greenspun, Joel Spolsky and Blake Ross.

Most of these startups had more than one founder and they all swear it would have been impossible to do it alone. There were one man shows also, albeit few. Another interesting fact is that most of these people knew each other during their college period or previous jobs. It makes one wonder whether you need to be in an elite circle to rise above the ordinary.Many of these founders came from Stanford or MIT and several of them previously worked at HP. It seems that HP used to be the ultimate dream company for engineers.

Another fact which might not surprise you is that most founders were young when they cut all the safety ropes at went for it. This shouldnt be surprising because that is the time when you have boundless energy and you dont have a family to take care of so there is less risk. Ofcourse there are exceptions to the young founder phenomenon, but very few.

In the interview with Blake Ross he talks about his new company called Parakey which was developing a new application which was under cover at the time of the interview. It turns out that they were developing an application platform for web and desktop – providing applications the framework to work online and offline. Parakey was bought by Facebook recently.

This book follows the style of a 1986 book from Microsoft Press called Programmers at Work. Interestingly Dan Bricklin and Ray Ozzie are interviewed in that book also.

My rating 8/10.


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An interesting article in Forbes:

Indian cities like Bangalore and Mumbai could be eclipsed as outsourcing centers by Chinese competition by 2011, according to a new study.

“Chinese cities are on the rise and nipping at India’s heels,” IDC said. “IDC forecasts that Chinese cities will overtake Indian cities by 2011 due to massive investments made which are favorable towards offshoring.”

India increasingly appears to be a victim of its success. Rates of attrition and wages are rising as companies fight for talent. In the fiscal year through March, wages grew at an average of 12% to 15%, and wages are expected to rise another 20% in the present fiscal year. The Gartner report said India was witnessing a shortage of skilled resources at “all levels” of the tech personnel chain.

China is also on stronger ground when it comes to infrastructure and the relative ease in setting up operations in the country. India’s government has promised to spend $350 billion to improve infrastructure, but companies are often plagued by problems like erratic power supply and congested roads and airports that make travelling from one city to another — or even within cities — a tough task.

Indian companies themselves are setting up bases in China, both at the request of Western clients as well as for the potential to win outsourcing work from local companies. In recent months, Infosys, Tata Consultancy and Wipro have announced plans to ramp up China operations.

Read the complete article here.

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Dude, Did I Steal Your Job? Debugging Indian Computer Programmers

This book is N. Sivakumar’s attempt at caricaturing the stereotypical Indian software programmer. He talks about a lot of things where you go, “oh boy, this is so true”. Examples are Indians buying only Japanese cars (Toyota, Honda, Nissan), bringing lunch in grocery bags etc.

But to say that this is all what the book does is an injustice to the author. He gives compelling arguments supporting the H1B programme (and immigration in general) and  provides a well balanced presentation of facts. Sivakumar brings light to a lot of issues dealing with H1, outsourcing, racial discrimination etc. He does justice to the topics in his analysis of controversial issues related to immigration and post 9/11 hatred.

Irrespective of the positive points, this books has a few shortcomings. It could do with a lot more editing. I even suspect there was no editor for this book. The layout of the text is ugly – the spacing between the lines is too much (a trick we used in college to make our project report appear larger than what it really was). What pissed me off most was the apologetic tone of writing. He always seems so unsure and lacking confidence, as if afraid of rubbing somebody the wrong way with his opinions. Some things are repeated over and over again which persuades the reader to close the book and reach for another. I so disappointed with this book that I quit reading it halfway through and returned the book to the library. After a couple of months, while browsing the library I saw the book again. This time I took it and read the other half.

What makes me so sad is that this could have been a brilliant book. The author is definitely a sharp guy and he has his facts and compelling arguments but the book did not deliver. Despite all the shortcomings this book is still worth a read.

3 stars.

Sivakumar has written another book titled America Misunderstood: What A Second Bush Victory Meant To The Rest Of The World. This seems to be a far better effort.

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Microsoft announced that they would be opening a new development center in Canada. The center would be in Vancouver, British Columbia which borders the US state of Washington where Microsoft has its headquarters. Whether this decision has been caused by the recent failure of the Immigration Bill, which sought increase in H1-B limits, is under speculation. There were times when Microsoft was unable to hire Canadians due to the strict Immigration rules in US.

Good news for Canadian developers.

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Interesting article from The Economic Times:

Eight engineering graduates from this state, known better for its thriving tourism industry, are looking to give jobs to people in their IT startup that is already being valued at around US$ 7 million.

This team of graduates, which actually shaped its destiny by setting up ‘Torque’ to provide IT solutions across verticals, now dreams of turning Kerala into the ‘Silicon Coast’ of India.


Their brainchild Torque has in a short time grown into a pioneering technology business incubated company being currently valued at $5-7 million based in Technopark here.

“Our initial cash investment was Rs eight lakh raised by eight of us while we were in college some 18 months back,” Vijayakumar said.

Besides Vijayakumar, the core group included Kenni Joseph, now Torque’s Chief Technology Officer, Sony Joy Chief Operating Officer and Anil K Antony, son of Defence Minister A K Antony.

Read the complete article here.

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