>Inside the Google machine

>Here is a video I found online at the TED talks. It was shot 5 years ago this Februrary during the annual TED Conference in California. Here Sergey Brin and Larry Page talk about cool new products and services that are being rolled out by the Google Machine.


Services like Adsense and Orkut among others. At the time of the the video being shot, Orkut had only 100,000 users and almost 60% from USA. It also talks about their concept of letting their employees spend 20% of the time building cool new apps including the just released Google News among others.

The video is just five years old, yet it seems like a life time ago. In these preceding years, Google and its products have changed the way we use internet, transact and communicate with each other. It is amazing how the internet world has grown and changed around us these years and how technology is becoming more intertwined in our lives.

>Comprehensive List of Leadership Blogs

>I cam across this list recently while surfing the web for some relevant content. Here is a list of 100 blogs on leadership ranging from, youth, gender and religious, development and management of leadership skills. Check it out, you might find something of interest in there. I know I did.


>Ignore the Nay Sayers

>If someone calls your idea “crazy” then you are onto something. If they declare you “insane” then you are moving in the right direction. And if they “write you off” then you are half way there to achieving your goals and successes.

Whether you agree or not, but history shows that almost all great men (and women) were declared “crazy”, “insane” and were “written off” while they were in the midst of their greatest adventure.

Einstein’s theory of relativity was not only controversial but was deemed “crazy” at the time of its publishing. Thomas Edison first phonograph was considered an “insane” idea. New York times wrote off Goddard, the father of rocket science, as someone who had an insane idea of going to the moon using some crazy rockets.

The list goes on and on. Steve Jobs defied the naysayers with his “insanely great” products for the past thirty years. Google was advised to let Yahoo acquire them as the search market was already saturated and their product would never take off. Ebay was considered a wacky and unprofitable idea when it was originally launched in 1995.

In my personal life, I have been advised dozens of times that my ideas are unsound and I cannot make money and am crazy to attempt them. But each time, I have ignored the naysayers and then gone ahead and done something that I always wanted. And, by Grace of God, succeeded each time.

In 2001, I was told that it was crazy to expect Pakistanis to use the internet to do recruitment and job search. But we believed that such a market not only existed but will be the only way recruitment will be done in Pakistan. We launched, BrightSpyre, Pakistan’s first online Job Search portal. Within two years, we were the first Pakistani company to be profitable from online business and were also the first to register 100,000 unique users online. Today, BrightSpyre has over half a million unique users and receives millions of job applications annually. Our model is copied and replicated by numerous copycat job sites in Pakistan and who owe their existence to BrightSpyre as we created the original market.

In 2004, when we decided to build a rural Tele-health network in Pakistan, we were told once again by all our peers and friends that it will not work and such an idea is outright crazy. Today, under UM Healthcare Trust, we run probably the only sustainable tele-health project in the country. Our services are available at near zero cost to the poor and needy in rural Mardan. Once again, we defied the odds to achieve our goals. I was also recently advised that my healthcare facility will not be successful and no one will ever use it. Today, we treat over 3,000 patients/month in rural Mardan and yes, we are probably the most successful rural clinic in the whole district of Mardan with a population exceeding 1.6 million people. Now, we are planning to take this project national and expand to other districts of the country.

In 2006, when we launched our international office in United States, we were told, no Pakistani company has ever been successful abroad without seeking investment and partners. We defied the odds and today, as a Pakistani startup we have customers in four continents with thousands of recruiters worldwide using our system to find the best talent.

All this time, I am told that there are no successful startups which do not have some source of financing. I remind them that none of my enterprises ever raised funds. We generated our revenues from our own products and services. We are profitable without the need to raise funds.

So my advice to all entrepreneurs out there. Never say Never. Do not listen to nay sayers. Believe in yourself and in your idea and just do it. The rest will be history.

>It’s the Team, Stupid!

>Great companies always have a great team behind it.

If you are starting out, make sure you form a strong and well balanced team. Choosing a room mate or a good friend is never good criteria to form a startup team. Evaluate the strengths of each before making the final decision.

Most of us out there believe that having a great product is enough and the team does not matter. It may seem like that for people starting out, but in reality, only those companies go the distance which have an exceptional team behind them. The others just simply fizzle out. Investors understand this phenomenon and therefore, make it a point to always meet up with the team and do a thorough evaluation of individuals behind the idea. They understand the power of a strong team which can even make a mediocre products become sensational.

Employees tend to look at their managers as role models. Having a weak leader would mean dissatisfied employees or even worse creating a culture of under performance. Just like investors, even customers tend to shy away from companies with weak team players. No one likes to do business with companies that may not be strong enough to work with them. Therefore, make sure you do not let the weak linger on for too long. The longer you have them in your team, the more it will hurt you.

Intel, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Cisco, Sun Microsystems are just some of the examples of companies with a great team starting out. The stories of their founders are told and retold all over the world, not because they were exceptional individuals, but that they worked together as a great team to deliver on ideas and innovation which were far ahead of their time. All of them had competitors starting out and companies that mimicked their design and philosophy. But decades later, they have survived as market leaders in their areas of expertise while others with mediocre teams have fizzled out.

So when starting out or hiring individuals, make sure you have the right mix of the team. That is one important decision that you will make to lengthen the time of your company. Remember, you are as strong as your weakest member.

>Some Things I Expect From My Team

>I have been asked many times what do I expect from my team. Here is a quick snapshot.

  1. Don’t just work hard, work smart.

  2. Act like a leader not follower.

  3. Don’t just promise, deliver.

  4. Don’t be reactive, be proactive.

  5. Don’t let yourself be ruled by excuses. It’ll get you no where.

  6. Suggest solutions rather than just point out problems.

  7. Make it a point to contribute positively. Too much negativity will cause productivity losses.

  8. Stand up and be counted, especially in times of crisis.

  9. No one will mouth feed you, so get up and and get it done.

  10. If you wake up in the morning and dont feel like coming to work, then it is time to quit. No need to drag yourself around.

  11. Blaming others will get you nowhere. If you see a problem, fix it.

  12. Set goals that you want to achieve and then work like a maniac to achieve them.

  13. Don’t expect others to tell you what to do. Figure it out and do it.

  14. Don’t wait till someone asks you if you have done the task assigned. Just do it and let your superiors know.

  15. Leave your personal issues at home. You are not the only one with personal crisis.

>Startup Insiders in Islamabad on Aug 2

PASHA in collaboration with BrightSpyre will be organizing the Startup Insiders in Islamabad on August 2. This is the 9th such session in the series that have been organized this year.

This is an ideal platform for entrepreneurs and young startups to meet and collaborate. I encourage all to come and attend this session. The event will be held during the PASHA career expo at Pearl Continental, Rawalpindi on August 2, 2008.

Date & Time: August 2, 2008 (4-6pm)
Location: Pearl Continental, Rawalpindi

Please visit the event website at http://www.brightspyre.com/pashacareerexpo/

>Entrepreneurs Should Embrace Linux


Entrepreneurs should embrace Linux. Now, this may seem like a powerful statement. And it is. I have nothing against Microsoft or Apple or any other operating system out there. However, I do believe that among them all, Linux currently favors the biggest advantage to a budding entrepreneur.

With Microsoft Vista and XP persistently scanning for counterfeit copies of their software (God knows what else) on your hardware, a small time entrepreneur in a developing country like India, Pakistan or Kenya will probably never be able to afford the licensed software. In Pakistan, Microsoft charges upward of PKR 150,000 annual license fee just to use their basic OS for a small enterprise. This price is equivalent of almost 6 months of salary of a fresh IT graduate from a good university in Pakistan. And then, the cost for all other softwares including IDE like Visual Studio or Dreamweaver and database servers can push the entrepreneur close to bankruptcy. This is acutely true due to lack of Venture Capital/Fun of bank financing for IT related companies in developing economies.

Instead of seeking out the pirated editions of these robust softwares, my suggestion for budding entrepreneurs is to embrace Linux. Not just on the server side for launching applications, but also on the desktop where the actual development happens. The cost of ownership for all the software and applications will be zero. Yes zero, provided you stick to open source. In fact, most of the Linux applications are now owned or supported by large corporations including Linux by Red Hat, Oracle etc, MySQL by Sun Micro Systems among others. The development environments (IDE) are also improving including Eclipse, bluefish etc. Besides, chances are you will be using PHP, Java, Apache, MySQL and Sendmail on the server side for publishing your web application. All of them are native to Linux and come pre insalled and totally free. And did I mention, that viruses don’t cause as much havoc in linux as they do on Windows. And an industrial strength firewall software is also included free with the OS.

Another major advantage of Linux OS over others is that it is not a CPU or memory hogger. Yes, my Ubuntu linux desktop uses on average 512MB of memory at any given time, even though I am running MySQL, Apache and a Firewall service on my laptop. This is a far cry from Vista (my laptop is dual boot) which uses a minimum of 1GB of memory for basic OS that does not even include any web or database server. Further, the CPU clock cycles are also consumed less by Linux. Hence, you do not need a top of the line system to do your programming or run a server. In one of the companies that I co-founded, Cogilent Solutions, we routinely run Linux on three year old systems and laptops with little or no glitches or upgrades required. So the cost of ownership of hardware is also lower.

So don’t wait around, embrace linux in your enterprise and start seeking the benefits of the OS that can hold its own in front of Microsoft Vista.

My favorite Linux for desktop and servers is Ubuntu. You can download your free copy today from Ubuntu