July 2008


High into the shivalik mountains….

I m lying in a hammock, under apple trees, at the height of 6500 ft from sea level, in the beautiful shivalik mountains. Life is slow, serene and green here. I just feel like staying here forever.

Yesterday we reached shilma around 11am and had breakfast at buddys resturant near the famous st. Beads.  Ankit and nandini decided to join us for the trip to Thanedar (80 km from shimla). We started around 1530 from Shimla and reached Banjara camps and retreats by 1800. The drive was absolutely breath taking: tall, green pine trees, misty peaks and the cold mountain breeze. On the way we stopped briefly at Narkanda (very popular for skiing during the winter season and one of highest skiing places in India).

We are the only the guests staying at the retreat, this a means we have the whole place and all the staff just to ourselves :-). After looking at a couple of nice rooms we decided to stay in the tents. The retreat  is located in an Apple orchid, the trees with red apples are all around us. The mountains are covered with vibrant fresh greenery everywhere, the monsoon has given a new life to the mountains.

We sat in the lawns and had evening tea with pakoras, soon after that there was a bon-fire. After enjoying a few drinks by the Bon-fire, we had dinner and then moved into the games room, where they have all kind of indoor games and a bunch of books/magazines. We played ludo for a couple of hrs before retiring for the day.

Today morning we got up around 0630 am and drove to a small lake by the side of old temple for the nag devta ( the snake deity). After reaching the lake we decided to drive upto the peak of the mountain, after going up we parked the car and just went around for a walk, meeting nice locals and taking in the beauty of mountains.

The whole area around thanedar is full of apple orchids and since the proper connnecting roads were built around five years ago, the apple trade has brought a lot of prosperty to the whole area. Most people have built cement houses going up two floors and many houses have a car standing outside. It made me happy to see that growth of country is reaching the ordinary people of mountain as well. Himachal pradesh has become particularly good with roads that go thru the mountains and connnect many villages and towns, opening the doors to trade, tourism and many more things.

Our original plan was to head back to shimla today, but the mountains have captivated us and instead of going back to shimla,  we have decided to go higher upto to jalori pass and shoja. The road is dangerous and rains could make it worse…..

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We are right now sitting  in bus going from chandigarh to shimla. Its a 4-4.5 hrs journey and we have done about 2 hrs already, just about half way.

We got up around 0500 am today morning, packed our stuff, got ready and reached the Chandigarh bus stand (new one in sector 43) by 0615. I enquired to see if there was a deluxe bus going to shimla and found that the morning deluxe just left about 10 minutes ago and next one will be after few hrs. Thats was cool, we bought tickets for the normal bus (100 rs per person and took seats no 21, 20 on the bus, waiting for the bus to leave. soon we figured out that we were in wrong bus and the bus we bought tickets for was standing on the other side. Quickly got of and sat in the right bus, same seat numbers – 20 & 21. Bus seats were  almost full as it left Chandigarh bus stand. But soon as it made stops on the way more people started coming in to take standing positions in the aisles. Its always interesting to observe the social interactions in these situations. So one lady comes in with two small kids. A roughly two yr old son in mothers lap and roughly five year old year daughter trying to find a place to sit in a bus where all seats were full. The person sitting on the other side of the aisle from me moves a little makes space for the little girl and lets her sit. A young man on the seat just in front gets up to give his seat to the lady, so that she can sit with her son. How nice! (though its quite common).

Actually my mom used to travel a lot by buses with me and my brother. We travelled between Chandigarh and various towns of Punjab, to visit my maternal grand parents. My nanaji ( maternal grand father) was in a bank job and hence would get transferred to a new place every 3 years. Those visits were always full of fun and nanaji always got us a account in comics shop near home, so that we can rent as many comics as we want during our vacation.

Anyways, coming out of memory lane into the present. We just crossed solan, mid size and well known town. We will be in shimla by 1100 am. Will be meeting ankit and nandini (founders of instablogs ), have breakfast with them and leave by private taxi to goto Thandedar.

My friend Kamal wanted me to put up his requirement, if this excites you, please write to him – kamal DOT raghav AT gmail DOT com

Start up Venture – Sports has broken the barrier of being a pure entertainment channel to being an attractive business opportunity. Currently, this space is dominated by traditional players with an traditional value chain. The venture plans to carve out a niche in this space using innovative methods of reaching out to customers.

Role – Co founder apart from taking full ownership of the technology backbone, would be involved in all operational decision making. Must be a highly motivated individual with lots of enthusiasm, should be comfortable with start-up environment and be able to play different roles. Should have simple and elegant design sensibilities. And most importantly be a fun individual to work with and must like sports!

Status – Legal registration is underway. Future – plans can be discussed on a one-to-one basis.

Location : Bangalore.

The person can expect an unstructured but fun environment (of course its a start-up!). Complete freedom to innovate, share and execute his ideas in this space. Also, uncomplicated work life balance. Of course, equity ownership is part of the deal.

Following questions were answered by myself and Nandini for Cerius Shah @ ContentSutra. Reproducing the Q&A here:

CS: Are you going to relegate Morpheus to start-ups or build it into a more generic web consultancy?
SG: Morpheus will be be focused only on early stage startups, our goal is to work with teams who are 0-12 months old or may be even at the idea stage. Teams who can build scalable and fundable businesses

CS: Why the YCombinator model as opposed to an Angel or Seedfund?
SG: Because thats where we believe the gap is most wide. Today there is enough supply of capable entrepreneurs, folks who are taking the plunge – quiting their jobs, putting together a team, building prototypes and dreaming to build a big business. At the same time the supply of money to be invested in startups is also quite enough. Many VC funds, seed stage funds and plenty of angels. These guys are happy to investment in companies who are at the right stage, with the right team and the right model. So we add value to both the parties i.e. the entrepreneur and the startup investors using the morpheus/Ycombinator model. For about 4-6 months we work closely with the founders to build the right product, getting the right team, getting initial customer traction and have something impressive ready which will allow them to raise professional funding. To investors our value add is that we are helping in building high quality fundable startups, we will also be conducting demo events where all morpheus companies will demo the products and the investors can interact with bunch of high quality startups.

CS: What value does Morpheus Venture bring to a start-up?
SG: For about 4-6 months we work closely with the founders to build the right product, getting the right team, getting initial customer traction and have something impressive ready which will allow them to raise professional funding. We make introduction to potential investors, partners, lawyers, accountants, domain experts. These only few main things, the real collaboration will include many more things, needs of each startup are unique and we will adapt to them.

CS: What is the average equity you look at obtaining?
SG: Morpheus will be looking at taking 4-8% equity, there is absolutely no monitory fee that we charge. We are in for the long haul and willing to wait for 4-7 years, which a startup may need to reach the exit point.

CS: What is the average exit period Morpheus is looking at?
SG: I would say average would be 5 years, assuming the M&A market continues to develop.

CS: Can you share some start-ups and their products with whom you have been working off late?
SG: We currently have three portfolio companies, two of which have already raised venture funding ( www.Instablogs.com, www.commonfloor.com) and third one is profitable (www.foodathome.in)

Kamla bhatt blog has a very good interview with Rajiv,  he shares some candid but real learnings from the world of entrepreneurship.

Rajiv’s current company callgraph has built a very cool and useful product that works with Skype calls and allows you to record, store, search, tag, transcript your calls. Give it a spin..

I am just tired and irritated of people who say/think : “Oh! I had that idea years ago..”

A very relevant post from 37 signals blog.

Following questions were answered by myself and Nandini for Ashish Sinha @ pluggd.in. Reproducing the Q&A here:

a. What kind of startups are you targeting? College grads? Boostrapped?

Morpheus is open to work with all kinds of start-ups. However, the following would be our focus area:

1. Early stage start-up teams who have not received any professional funding so far. (Professional funding comes with good amount of advise, mentorship and contacts)

2. Teams which are still in idea stage and have not started of as yet.

3. We’d prefer start-ups with more than one founder (will help single founders find co-founders) and founders who just refuse to fail

4. A team that can bootstrap or has bootstrapped, as that is an essential ingredient of an entrepreneur and a start-up.

5. An idea/product/solution that is solving a real problem and targets a large market. Team should have an open mind to morph their idea, as market realities are often very different than the assumptions made while designing the product/solution.

b. Avg. Investment size that you are interested in?

Our primary value add to the startup teams is the advise, mentorship, guidance, access to the right network, creating opportunity to meeting relevant people, team strategy, product strategy, launch strategy, fund raising strategy (intros and more), getting the right advisers onboard with the right kind of terms, etc.

The most important thing we do is work with startups on their ideas. We’re entrepreneurs ourselves, and we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to make things people want.

The first 12 months are the most critical period in the life of a start-up, they are also know as the “valley of death”. Most people save money for a year, quit their jobs and take a plunge into entrepreneurship and if things don’t go well in the first they will have no choice but to go back to jobs. It is during this period that they require non-monitory investment in terms of guidance in doing it right and doing it well. Morpheus will provide them with the required support to help them validate their idea and roll the venture out.

However, we are evaluating an option of raising a small fund and making very small seed investments into the companies. But even with that, money will remain a very small portion of what we bring to the table. Our goal is to get the team through the first phase. This usually means: get it to the point where the team has built something impressive enough to raise money on a larger scale.

c. As a mentor to several startups, what are the industries you are most bullish about?

Morpheus is bullish about team which can solve real problems and which refuses to fail, come what may. We would like to work with start-ups on all verticals and not just limit ourselves to a technology or a web-based initiative.


d. suggestions/tips to young entrepreneurs?
  • Look for problems around you, and think about solutions that are much better than the existing ones
  • Remember that the power lies with you, the entrepreneur.
  • Think big, dream large.
  • Listen to your customer, as he’s the one that matters and make every penny work for your customer. Rest will follow!
  • (Our favorite advice): Be fair to every one, people who you work with, people who you meet at conferences, on the blogs and otherwise. Startups need a lot of help (and all kind of help) from people around to build their dream product/service and if you are fair to people, they will come forward and help you.

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