tinker on

dreaming up a web that works.

Category: Innovation

An event to seamlesslesly integrate success and failure

by Santosh

H. L. Hunley

I heard an insightful comment the other day “Entrepreneurs who’ve failed once are naturally drawn to the lean movement“. I figure that lean is a great teacher. It gives the entrepreneur a dispassionate framework to learn what thinking failed them and then adapt that learning to how it can be valuable in a larger context. Take for instance this commentary on the role of the Hunley, an early submersible that played an integral role in the evolution of the submarine.

H. L. Hunley was a submarine of the Confederate States of America that played a small part in the American Civil War, but a large role in the history of naval warfare. The Hunley demonstrated both the advantages and the dangers of undersea warfare. It was the first combat submarine to sink an enemy warship, although the Hunley was not completely submerged and was lost at some point following her successful attack.

An event that works will emphasize ingenuity over success and failure as it is in reality. Watching ingenuity unfold is also entertaining. That way curators are free of the pattern of chasing past successes to ensure the future success of the event. For instance, in the academic world the inventor of the Hunley would be encouraged to publish his work if he can demonstrate how it will eventually contribute to the realization of the submersible.

Dutifully filed under a collection of ideas called “give it to me even if it’s buggy“.


Start at the bottom

by Santosh

“Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the Earth with a lever.”

~ Archimedes, 3rd Century BC.

When we struggle with implementing internal change that has the potential to change the very fabric of what it is that we stand for, we see interesting patterns emerge. For instance, we might fall in love with the idea that such fundamental change is not possible or that it is hard. What I figure is that by starting at the very bottom, you’re in the best position to identify the fulcrum that can help you to transform an ordinary force into extraordinary change.

If you aspire to be a better parent to your child but are constrained by time, you can still start with changing diapers and graduate on to being responsible for meals and so on.

If you aspire to build a better home and are constrained by what you can spend, you could start with the kitchen and then move on to the living room.

If we aspire to create a startup-company with the potential to create or change markets but are constrained by resources, we start with one customer. Often times that one customer is you yourself – where you’re designing the product or service around your own needs.

3 Innovations in Payment Technology

by Santosh

Payment technologies are at the heart of the Internet economy. From the consumer’s perspective, the simpler you make it for me to pay, the more likelier I am to open up my wallet. Ever since Paypal and Amazon’s one-click checkout, there have been several innovations (or iterations) on the idea of making payments.

In India, Indian consumers are used to cash-on-delivery, pulling out a credit card, or logging into their net banking accounts to make a payment online, here’s a different take on how US consumers are paying up.

Amazon Global Payments. Amazon get the importance of simplifying payments online. Their first attempt at solving this problems is to offer a global payment system that allows you to accept payments securely in any currency wherever in the world the end-user might be.

Their approach also exposes an interesting payment gateway feature – an escrow service to app developers. It’s a  simple and old idea, payments are ‘held’ by the provider until a set of conditions are met. Only when the conditions are met is the payment credited to the merchant. The idea has been around for decades but has only recently been exploited by an innovative business called Kickstarter. On Kickstarter the average consumer can donate $5 and upwards for a project that he would like to fund to completion. Project owners only receive the money after they’re minimum required funding amount is achieved. In the middle of all this, Amazon is responsible for holding the money, and refunding it back to the donors if the project requirements are not met. With this technology, Kickstarter is able to ensure that the best projects get the money they deserve and efficiently utilize the resources of the community.

Square. So maybe you aren’t an Amazon, or maybe you believe that only Amazon can change how payments are made. Square is the one startup on this list with a grand vision based on a single innovation.


Accept credit cards with your mobile.

Square’s technology makes it possible to turn any smart-phone into a credit card swiping machine. Sound’s obvious right? All you need to do is jack in this small magnetic strip reader into your 3.5mm earphone jack on your phone.

Now consider this – with Android, you can have the Square app installed on a smart phone that costs you less than Rs. 8,000 (or ~$200). Once you are setup, you can accept payments wherever you may be. Still think this is small? Square recently received $100Mn investment, which I think will be used to go global.Their competitors include Intuit who realized, if only a little too late, the impact this could have on small and medium sized businesses across the world.

So any bets on when cash-on-delivery will change to card-me-on-delivery?

Bill Me Later is another single-innovation based service that enables a post-paid billing option for customers. While I would like to try this out myself, I am not a stranger to the idea of ‘book me now, but pay later’. It can be especially powerful if you consumers to purchase from their mobiles, or in a public place without having to pull out a credit card and go through the works of filling out 4 fields.

Also see,

Compelling ideas

by Santosh

What makes an idea compelling? Why are ideas a dime-a-dozen? If good ideas are so common, how do you come up with good ideas reliably on-tap? Are there environmental patterns that encourage creativity and idea-generation?

I recently picked up Steven Johnson’s book “Where good ideas come from“. It has turned out be a fantastic read for any entrepreneur or inventor. Steven profiles the history of innovation and presents a clear perspective into how you can identify what the “edge” of innovation really is in your age. The first few chapters have many surprises, even for the veteran entrepreneur.

One of  my favorite quips on good, nay great ideas is this interview with Steve Jobs on his visit to Xerox. That visit turned out to be a turning point for Apple, we all know that Jobs was inspired by Xerox’s GUI. What you probably don’t know is that Jobs saw not one, but three ideas on that day. Keep in mind that the PC revolution had not happened yet.

If you wish to pick up the book:

Amazon link.

Flipkart link.