>Startup Insider Session #8

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This 4th of April will be the 8th edition of the Startup Insider Session and 3rd in its series in Islamabad. This brain child of Osama Hashmi (greenwhite.org) in collaboration of PASHA has become the biggest IT social happening of the year. Already the past seven events have attracted sizeable crowds of over 100 people per session. And this time round, it is hoped will be no different.

What is amazing to see the amount of talent out there that is making it happen for the IT industry in Pakistan with little or not support from the government and/or local sources of funding. Most of these startups are a great success not only locally but internationally as well.

What is also amazing is to see such a huge turnout and interest shown by budding entrepreneurs and students. Maybe, one of these sessions will produce the next generation of Pakistani entrepreneurs that will make us all proud.

Time and Date: April 4, 2008 (5:30-9:00pm)
Location: NIIT (www.niit.edu.pk) Campus, Chaklala III, Rawalpindi
Host: NIIT, PASHA and BrightSpyre

Web Link and Online Registration:

http://www.niit.edu.pk/Seminars_workshops/pages/startup/index.php

>A-Players Bring the Best

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When you have lots of B and C players in your team, chances are your organization is not likely to achieve greatness. It will live out its life in mediocrity.

So what defines an A player and how do the players differentiate themselves from others? Jack Welch and other such leaders have their own opinions, but for young entrepreneurs and startups, it has a very different definition and meaning. Here is what I think are the characteristics of an A player for a startup:

  • Allround Personalities: The top of the class student is usually bookish and probably has avoided any other activity (social and extra curricular) among his/her peers, considering it “waste of time”. Such graduates are great for, may be, large and established enterprises, where work is defined, but are of little value to startups. The startups are better off hiring all round personalities, are street smart and can handle situations that are not pre-defined for them and can make crucial decisions in crunch situations.
  • Should be active on social and club level (extra-curricular activities) on campus: This trait is extremely important. Once a person goes through the grind of managing an event, say, a music concert or running a student body/club, he/she learns things that are usually never taught in class and it better prepares them for the real life. These events create lots of opportunities to hone one’s skills including communication skills, crisis management, people management, time management and relationship management among others. At times, these issues and skills are exactly what one encounters in their job. Therefore, this experience really helps.
  • Should have played some active sport at a competitive level: This will bring out the competitive factor in a person. This really helps if you are competing hard against an established company as you will not wilt under pressure and can deliver the goods against all odds.
  • Good schooling: This is extremely essential. I have hired from the best of the schools and the worst. I have worked alongside Ivy leaguers as well as community college graduates. In the end, I have always found the top schools produce the best students and hence the best colleagues. If you hire someone with mediocre educational background, you will spend more time teaching them the ropes to do things as compared to someone from a better school. In other words, the productivity of the organization would suffer. So hire smartly.
So can the B players deliver? They will, but will not be able to contribute significantly in keeping your organization as the best in class for that industry. A-players have thrived on being the best all their life and will bring the same attitude and mind set into your organization. They know what it takes to be the best.

There are lots of other characteristics that these individuals should have, but if they have the above background it will really make them stand out from the crowd.

If you are seeking a job or a business relationship with a company then check out its top management closely. See their profiles on Linkedin or google them carefully. If they are not part of the A-team, chances are you are setting yourself for up for disappointment. The top leadership defines the company’s vision, policy and work ethics. If they are mostly B and C players, then the company is not likely to grow beyond a certain point and your career or project will go nowhere anytime soon.

So think wisely and hire smartly.

Lahore Book Fair

Lahore Book Fair

This is probably Pakistan’s largest book fair to be held this year at Fortress Stadium Lahore. There were publishers from all parts of Pakistan, and a few from our neighboring India as well. An estimated 40,000 people have visited the fair since it started on February 28, 2008. The last day is Monday, March 3, 2008. Many big publishers and bookstores had setup huge stalls where they sold books at steep discounts including the well known ones like Ferozesons, Sang-e-meel, Liberty Books, Vanguard, Readings, Oxford University Press, among others.

There were also many text book publishers and religious publishers who also sold books in English and Urdu including the Holy Quran. I even saw one stall selling audio books which was attracting lot of interest. I ended up picking up many wonderful books (business, fiction and biographies) at over 50% discount and even more for some of my favorites.

One interesting point to note was that lots of families were there with their young kids. And many of them were pushing, pulling and coercing their parents to buy them their favorite children books. It was amazing to see such huge interest in the youth in reading. It shows that Harry Potter is not the only fiction that kids read today. And it further validates that the tradition of Lahoris (of being lovers of poetry and literature) is not lost but is still vibrant and being passed onto the youth of the country with much fan fare.

I would love to see such events happening more often all over Pakistan.

Spring Time

The cold spell has finally broken. And with it the wonderful spring atmosphere is finally here. This was probably the longest cold spell for a long time in Pakistan. With Islamabad, Lahore and other major cities suffering from near freezing temperatures at night. But now with warmer afternoons and pleasant evenings, the spring weather is finally here.

Spring time

Here is a picture of my garden taken today. In a week or so, it will be blossoming with flowers that make the Lahori spring a wonderful experience.