Friday, March 30, 2007

Edgy Career Choice

I am in a middle of a big dilemma. What's the best thing to do next summer? (1) Join a big high tech company, (2) Join a high tech startup, or (3) join a not-for-profit in South or East Africa.

When it came the time to accept my Amazon offer a week ago - the only one i had at that time - i realized how confused i was, so i boldly (crazily) declined it. Now I am getting a second chance to be insane, yesterday Yahoo contacted me for a marketing internship. Everyone says Yahoo is not at its best times, but i have an initial liking to the people there. I think it depends on the project I'll be working on. Right now the most exciting would be a big company that has a big stack in the online video space - think TiVo, YouTube, GoogleVideo, or Apple Tv. I hope Yahoo has big plans there especially after the NBCUniversal/NewsCorp new company.

As for startups, most people say the best thing is to join a growth company not at a very early stage - think Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn or eHarmony. However, this needs close networking which will take time and I it would be a huge risk. Another alternative, which is what i am working on, is to try and find a really cool early stage startup set to disrupt an industry - think powerset, joost, or xoopit. Here i have an advantage of the ESP funding offered by the Center of Entrepreneurship at the GSB to cover part of my compensation. I can land something quicker here but it requires more judgement.

The int' development at Africa is a huge decision. A big shift. I don't know much about what to expect. However it seems to be the kind of thing i can feel most comfortable and satisfied to contribute too - think acumen fund,, or one-acre-fund. Kiva is great place because they combine social entrepreneurship with interent technology, however, they don't offer summer internships. The ultimate thing though would be to Win-a-trip-Africa. I can't think of a more life changing experience than this one.

Some would say i am making too big of a confusion for myself, but i think it is worth.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What i didn't expect to find at Stanford?

Someone asked me yesterday what's was an unexpected thing i experienced so far at Stanford. After some thought, i figured out that the most unexpected thing was the growing interest in social entrepreneurship and int' development.

First, the portion of those interested is unexpectedly high considering the primary focus of a business school. I would argue that at least 50 people in class have serious interest, many of which already have relevant experience.

Second, there many organizations out there that are combing creativity, entrepreneurship to eliminating poverty. A company like has tapped into a previously non-accessible market of micro donors that now relate directly to the recipients of their donations across the globe. Acumen fund is trying to use relatively low philanthropic capital to invest in startups that bring innovative solutions to problems facing people at the bottom of the pyramid in poor countries in South East Asia and East Africa.

Third, the business school itself has programs, clubs, and courses tailored to meet this growing interest. There is the Public Management Program under which there are so many socially orietened clubs. There are also courses like "Social Entrepreneurship", "Strategy for non-profits", and "Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability". The latter focuses on innovative designs of affordable solutions for under developed countries.

This has had a big effect on the way i think. Before coming i thought public work is something i mate do late in my career. But now as appears from many of my previous posts, it's consuming a bigger portion of my thought.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Position of Parents in Islam

It's noticeable how these verses from Qur'an (Sorat Al Essra') position goodness to parents as a close second to worshiping no-one but Allah. It orders us, as our parents grow old, not to tell them any words of contempt or repel them but to tell them gracious words. It commands us to show humility out of mercifulness and to ask God to be merciful on them as they have raised brought us up when we were kids.

How often do we remember this when we're dealing with our parents everyday? I wish we remember them before it is too late. I'll go an call my mother and pray for my father.

Disclaimer: I am not a scholar nor a professional translator. The above is my own interpretation of these verses.

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed"

In 1977 Steve Biko a noted nonviolent anti-apartheid activist in South Africa was arrested under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967. He suffered a major head injury while in custody, and was chained to a window grille for a full day. After several days, he was loaded into the back of a car and began a 740-mile drive to Pretoria where he died shortly after arrival. The police claimed his death was the result of a hunger strike. He was found to have massive injuries to the head, which many saw as strong evidence that he had been brutally clubbed by his captors.

Biko, who studied medicine, developed an intense concern for the development of black consciousness as a solution to the existential struggles which shape existence, both as a human and as an African. In his words, "The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

Today Egyptians are expected to vote over constitutional amendments that allow for a Terrorism Law that superceeds the articles that related human rights. More Bikos to come!!!

PS: Thanks for makers of "Cry Freedom" for making people aware of Steve Biko.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Aِِِn Unexpected Dissapointment

Since the shameless constitutional adjustments made by the ruling Democratic party in Egypt is not something new, it wasn't unexpected. My disappointment comes from how the Muslim Brothers have reacted - considering they are the only sizable opposition now.

First, they boycott the vote in the parliament. Even if they disagree their job is to voice their opinion. This seemed to me as a way of preventing the democratic process that they are supposed to be part of. If they think its useless they can give up their parliamentary seats.

Second, and more disappointing, trying to promote people to follow their position as a mater of religious duty. A REGLIOUS DUTY!! This is purely a matter of political tactics, and this si a cheep way of trying to manipulate people using Islam.

This only strengthens the fear of many of mixing state and religion. I thought MB had a different vision that what was revealed in this incident. I personally i am starting to questioning the idea of an Islamic State which i used to fancy.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Parents & Children, could there be Rivalry?

Have you watched "proof" starring Antony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow? I just did, and a key question came to me afterwards. How do parents & children c each other's achievements? What if those achievements are of a competitive nature? What if one's success highlights or implies the other's failure? What if the one who is failing is the one desperate for success?

If those question's seem awkward watch the movie and you will know what i mean - Hopkins and Paltrow are doing a great performance.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Barney of PoswerSet at VLAB's event at the GSB

Just came from one of VLAB's interesting panels that was held at the GSB. I had go to it despite having one of my finals tomorrow. The panel was about "Next Generation Search".

At the center of the event was Barney Pell the CEO and Founder of PowerSet - the startup aiming at disrupting online search through the use of AI. Barney made a very informative presentation about his vision about search and PowerSet's potential.

It was interesting to know that PowerSet's technology is based on exclusive rights to some of PARC's NLP technologies that weren't widely applied. I would typically think a startup develops all its core technologies from scratch. This said, PowerSet has added value by adapting this technology to serve online searchers and advertisers.

Among the things Barney presented was the results searches like "who did IBM acquire?" as obtained from PowerSet and Google. The discrepancy in the relevancy of results was impressive. Despite this being a highly controlled experiment, the potential is clear.

Among the panelists, was Munjai Shah, CEO and Co-Founder of Riya that had launched Munjai pointed out the relatively high indexing cost both and PowerSet have - Powerset cost is 100 times more than Google's. This requires huge CapEx giving Google a big advantage. PowerSet offsets this by renting processing power from Amazon at relatively low costs. Nice interplay with AWS.

Another concern is language sensitivity, not to mention dialects. From Barney's response, it seems there would be considerable discrepancy in the accuracy across different languages.

Despite these shortcomings, the promise of PowerSet remains compelling. And it would be nice to see how this will develop in the future. It was very interesting to be int the middle of this active discussion because i was just proposing to my strategy professor to do an independent study about incumbents and entrants in consumer Internet with digital media and search as the first two suggestions.

For such events and interactions, i don't want to leave the bay area in the summer :( and go to Amazon.

Monday, March 19, 2007

What is Israel that we recognize?

I came across an interesting article in the LATimes - "In the war of words, The Times is Israel's ally". Although the article is focusing on media biases, what attracted my attention was a question about the notion of recognizing Israel. Here is that part:

Second, which Israel, precisely, are the Palestinians being asked to "recognize?" Israel has stubbornly refused to declare its own borders. So, territorially speaking, "Israel" is an open-ended concept. Are the Palestinians to recognize the Israel that ends at the lines proposed by the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan? Or the one that extends to the 1949 Armistice Line (the de facto border that resulted from the 1948 war)? Or does Israel include the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it has occupied in violation of international law for 40 years — and which maps in its school textbooks show as part of "Israel"?

I am so quite surprised to know this is not clear!!!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Misplaced Priorities

Fact 1: More than 5.6 million children die of malnutrition each year in developing countries.

Fact 2: More than $50 billion are spent on Coke & Pepsi each year.

According to the UNICEF, The world produces enough food to feed every man, woman and child on earth. Hunger and malnutrition therefore are not due to lack of food alone, but are also the consequences of poverty, inequality and misplaced priorities.

For some reason, this doesn't make me feel good about what i am doing.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ballmer Visiting the GSB

Yesterday, Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, came to talk to the GSBer's. It was interesting to know that he is a GSB dropout. He left school after his first year after being pitched by Bill Gates.

He's definitely a very smart and intense guy - If you haven't experienced his intensity, check the video below :).

Ballmer talked about...
- how he joined Microsoft - Gates pitch
- taking over after Bill Gates
- Bill Gates - the smartest guy he ever met,
- Microsoft Vs. Google - how Google made one big trick (search), while Microsoft has done more than one trick and how he thinks the rate of Google's growth is insane.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Experiencing Venture Capital @ the GSB

Yesterday I had one of those special experiences I get at Stanford GSB.

I attended a panel organized by Charles Moldow of Foundation Capital who brought in the founders of 4 of his portfolio companies - an exceptionally smart gang: Barney Pell of Powerset, Ketan Shah of Weblistic, Gautam Godhwani of SimplyHired, and Bijan Marashi of Xoopit.

The group shared with us their challenge of targeting huge existing markets like search and email in contrast to creating new markets. They talked about how they compete with incumbents like Google, Yahoo, and Monstor. Brave thoughts!

After the panel around 10 gsb'ers went out for dinner with the group where we had more detailed discussions. I sat next to Charles Moldow so i had the chance to learn more about his experience both as an entrepreneur and VC. He shared his views about various issues related to Venture Capital - successful venture capitalist, seed investment and private equity and their impact on VC, investment in cleantech...

At the end we had a group discussion about how entrepreneurs seeking their first round of investment, valuations, term sheets, and investment shopping.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

What about Africa?

While considering an internship offer from one of the big Internet companies, i strangely find myself contemplating on a completely different endeavor; What about working on helping the poor of East Africa. What a jump?!

While thinking about getting an internship as a product or marketing manager at companies like Yahoo!, Google, and Amazon, I am find myself thinking what about going to Kenya or Tanzania and working with a
company like One Acre or Acumen Fund that aim at eliminating poverty at these places.

The question that i am finding hard to answer is; where can i have the most meaningful impact on people's lives. Should i work directly on the problems of the poor by joining int' development organizations, or will I have more impact by leading hugely successful yet socially responsible for profit businesses?

Something to think about for the next few weeks.

Visiting Seattle

I am finishing a quick visit to Seattle. I didn't c much of the city as i only had one day to go around. But from the little i saw it seemed a nice and clean one.

Downtown is very beautiful. Nice shops and buildings. People playing music at almost every corner.

The most exciting was a guy doing an African dance show at pioneer square. He invited the audience to join and dance and it was such a nice show. It seemed like a lot of fun. I wished i had someone to hand my stuff to and join in.

I also passed by pike market. The food and especially the fish looked very fresh and was displayed in a very attractive way.

I think it's a nice place to live in.