Musings on books, technology, entrepreneurship, nonprofits and umm.. everything else …

Archive for June, 2011

Welcome to Blue Jeans Network!

It began as a casual conversation with an entrepreneur who had reached out to me via LinkedIn two years ago. I did not think much of it then and I’m not even sure how useful my “expert” feedback was to him. We kept in touch over the next few months as I pondered over MBA programs and he gave me advice and contacts in return. Once he got funded and I looked at the backgrounds of the two founders, I realized that this was a unique opportunity for me to have a ringside seat to contribute to, and watch something unique being built from the ground-up and I jumped at the opportunity.

And man, what a ride it has been so far! Blue Jeans Network has grown into an incredibly talented team of people and we’re launching our product today! We have been in beta for several months, trialing out our service with several enterprise customers and responding to and improving upon it based on feedback. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been part of this amazing team. Watching the CEO and CTO over the past year and a half as they put this together from a powerpoint slide-deck to a product that the CCO can now take and market to the world has been an amazing learning experience.

I’m not sure if this will be the best thing since sliced bread or not. But one thing is for sure – videoconferencing will never be the same again. Traditional models for this space are outdated and will be transformed with the Blue Jeans experience. And it will be a fun and exciting ride!

Watch this space for news articles and updates as part of the launch!

Press Release

Techcrunch

Information Week

Ascology News

Network World

WSJ Blog

AFP

TMCNet

VentureBeat

June 30 –

DT partnership announcement – Wireless Week

CRN

Advertisements

Social graphs and weak ties

Two years ago, I was among those that scoffed at the idea of virtual birthday wishes on Facebook, classifying them as narcissistic and self-indulgent and not reflective of real relationships. As I look back at my birthday last week and the wishes that poured in via in-person wishes, phone, email, and on Facebook, I think I’m a believer now. In addition to the narcissistic indulgence of seeing your Facebook Wall plastered with wishes from friends from all over the world, the social graphs that Facebook and other social networking sites bring into your living room add value in several other ways. From being a regular user of RSS feeds for news consumption, these days I rely quite heavily on the news feed from my 900+ Facebook contacts to keep me informed and entertained.

While it would be ridiculous for me to claim that I am equally close to all 900+ of them, or to all the 1500+ connections on LinkedIn, these weak ties have enriched my life in ways that would not have been possible a decade ago. Thanks to Facebook I was able to reconnect with several friends from several past lives – high school, grad school, different cities and social groups that I was part of in the past … the list goes on. And it is not that I expect to ever be as close to those folks ever again, but through this forum, the immediacy of an exchange mixed with the nostalgia of years past makes for an interesting experience. I would not be able to comment upon Facebook and its impact on marriages, but I do know how it has been instrumental in my getting back in touch with several people and stay in touch, in a “weak tie” definition of the word.

At the same time, LinkedIn has served an equally important role in my professional life as well. I’m pretty much linked to everyone I knew in a professional setting over the years, and more. Several job opportunities came my way thanks to the weak ties in my network – folks that I met a few times, but did not know that well. While my more immediate network was useful to me while refining my resume or researching different job profiles and companies, the larger network was instrumental in setting up several conversations about startups being formed as well as discussions that helped with MBA work.

In other words, I’m unapologetically in favor of social networks. Privacy remains a concern and I believe that over time society will figure out what the new lines in the sand are with regard to this. All said and done, come birthday time, it feels great to be able to wish others from past lives that I rarely get to meet any longer, as well as hear back from them on my own birthday. So here’s to you, my virtual family – thank you for all your wishes and look forward to more of these virtual conversations translating themselves into the real world in future!

Educate a child, empower a family

Many of us are aware of the transformative power of education – in changing lives of not just individuals that got educated, but their families as well. Groups such as Asha for Education have been engaged in empowering children through education for 20 years now. Today’s post is devoted towards one such initiative – the Timbaktu Badi.  Asha has had a long-standing partnership with Timbaktu. Its been instructive, humbling and inspirational to see how a group of individuals could transform the ecology, environment, and community in a region over a couple of decades through a sustained commitment towards the right kind of inclusive development of the region.

Today, one aspect of their work could do with support. The Timbaktu Badi is looking for “Support A Child” sponsors for the children that go to school at their facility. Asha Bangalore will serve as the medium of communication between interested sponsors and Timbaktu and the children. Please visit their site for more information, and spread the word.

In another post I shall share more about some of the other interesting initiatives at Timbaktu. In an environment where Impact Investing is gathering momentum as a buzzword, there are several impactful ways in which people can engage with Timbaktu and see a good return (social, financial, and sometimes both) on their investments. It takes patient, visionary work from people like Bablu and Mary and their supporters to make this happen.

Updates: To learn more about Timbaktu Badi you can visit its website. Since Prakruti Badi is closed Timbaktu Badi will also have day scholars starting this year, but the SAC program will be supporting only the residential children at the Badi. . These are children who were at risk or in severe neglect that Timbaktu come across as part of their work in three mandals. Thanks for the updates, Sanjeev!

The create vs. consume paradox

I’ve been a reluctant and late adopter of tablet devices, specifically the iPad. Having gotten one, the ability to keep abreast of a myriad different topics has just been incredible. I’m an info junkie and love to read about random stuff across the world on different topics. An app like FlipBoard allows me to do precisely that, with any short increments of attention I can provide to it over the course of a day. I’m reading Nudge these days where they talk about libertarian paternalism. I believe the founders of FlipBoard exercise precisely that – from the clutter of unprioritized information, you are able to quickly glean useful information from a well-laid out format and easy ability to read, share and cross post.

Another app I use a lot is the TED Talks app.  Surprisingly though, while on a desktop or laptop computer I don’t mind sitting through 19 minutes of talk time, on the iPad anyting past 10 minutes seems long. Maybe the form factor of the device? Or my rapidly shrinking attention span given all the zillion things going on around me. It seems like the perfect app to download talks and view offline while on travel, which I have done a few times as well.

Contrast these typical consumption paradigms with creation. I volunteer with a few  nonprofits, so I end up doing a lot of emailing during all hours of the day. While the iPad seems perfect to lie back and consume material thrown at you, or relax over a few rounds of Angry Birds, it seems insufficiently designed to allow for typing any emails longer than a few lines. Yeah I know I can get a wireless external keyboard and all that, but thats not my thing.

But surprisingly, another device has been great for this purpose. I was one of the early beta testers for the Chrome netbooks. Despite a horrendous mousepad, the rest of the experience has been pretty awesome. They have long lasting batteries, boot up in an instant so I do not have to spend the three minutes I have in waiting for my windows laptop to resume so I can login and send a quick email. The keyboard and laptop surface has a nice rubbery feel that makes typing fun. Its easy to file bugs against Google for things that dont work, and I sure hope someone is reading those reports. For sending out emails or creating simple spreadsheets or documents on Google Docs, the Chrome netbook seems like a perfect device. It has pretty much replaced the HP Mini that used to serve this purpose in my household, primarily for its form factor and weight rather than boot up times.

So what does one use a laptop for these days? Mine has a high-end Quadro in it, which pretty much makes it impossible to use it as a laptop. Other than for running complex software that requires compute power, or work related tasks on Excel or other Microsoft products, the laptop has become the dinosaur of the times. A typical Dell laptop is way to heavy to lug around for short trips to the cafe for casual browsing or creating documents.

The mobile phone has replaced a lot of the “instant gratification” consumption requirements as well. More people in the US are realizing the power of SMSes like they do in Asia. I am still a Windows Mobile user, and am pretty happy with the feature set it provides given the rest of the communication devices I have at hand. Though my next mobile device will most probably be an Android phone – I’m quite excited about the way Android adoption has been increasing.

That, in a few words, summarizes the consume vs. create paradox that many of us face today. With an explosion of internet enabled electronic devices at our disposal, I expect that many, like me, would have compartmentalized different tasks to different devices and would have the same mess of chargers at their homes. Lets wait for that magic device from 1 Infinite Loop that will bring all of these together into one product and solve this paradox once and for all.

On writing …

After many years of wishing to start a personal blog, here’s an attempt at one. Briefly flirted with a comedic, self-important one here but it died as soon as it began. What brought me back into regular posts every two weeks was this and am grateful for that opportunity. Thanks to that, I am also a contributor here now, but the posting freqency there is only once in three months.

In short, now that the floodgates for writing have been opened, I needed a space to contain it. And the hope is that this will be it. Hope to have participation from others in the blog through comments over time. Meanwhile, the attempt will be to post once in two weeks on topics related to entrepreneurship, technology, nonprofits, global health and development related issues, and impact investing.