Wednesday, April 22, 2009

the great indian election

Even though this Economist article says it all, the numbers signifying the scale of the national elections in India is something I just have to highlight by repeating here:

It will be spread over 5 stages,
taking 4 weeks and
involving 6.5 million staff.

In 543 constituencies,
4,617 candidates,
representing some 300 parties,
will compete for the ballots of an electorate of 714 million eligible voters.

In 828,804 polling stations,
1,368,430 electronic voting machines will be deployed.

It is hard not to be impressed by the process—and its resilience.

Do read
I so wish India had a provision for absentee ballot.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

the stimulus package and the Valley

I was at a panel discussion hosted by Stanford's Venture Lab today called "The New Stimulus Package: What Does it Mean for the Valley?".

While a lot of it was plug by the panelists to promote their own organizations/businesses, and the rest too high level, there was some interesting information in there.

Quite a bit of money in the stimulus package is available to entrepreneurs, if they apply for grants. Obviously, their businesses must be able to justify these grants. The government is focusing on things like clean tech, energy efficiency, healthcare, infrastructure, etc. and so the money is allocated to these sectors. The numbers were from $500k to $20MM per grant.

The best part about these grants? They are anti-dilutory.

The amount of detail published (on, the stimulus package bill, etc.) by the government about the spending plan for the stimulus money is extremely impressive. It is available to everyone to comment, criticize and use. And people are doing it with a lot of interest.

The government itself is asking businesses and entrepreneurs to take initiative in this economic climate. See - Federal Business Opportunities.

Research institutions like the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories have a huge corpus of technologies unused for any commercial purpose that they are willing to let entrepreneurs use. Information about these is up on their websites, and anyone can partner with them to use their technology. Last year LLNL had 16 startups from existing technologies they had created but weren't using. And, they fund startups too.

The Fogarty Institute for Innovation does similar things around healthcare. They are part of the El Camino Hospital and are even helping a startup working on helping diabetics through social networking and an iPhone application prepare their grant application.

Movement of anything costs money. And government grants are not an exception. There are startups helping other startups get these government grants - they will do all your paperwork and grant applications for you, talk to legislators for you, etc. But a secondary economy was to be expected when sums of money amounting to nearly a trillion dollars are involved. It is not surprising how middle men are everywhere, and how quickly any vacuum is filled up.

Every sector has a detailed plan of how to spend their money. Except for education, which has $60 billion allocated. No one knows what to do with education!

There are some slides with exact numbers about the amounts of money involved and how it is all allocated and where the opportunities are. I'll link to them once they are up.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Among hype about everything Twitter, one that caught my eye recently was Tinker.

It is a simple idea but extremely powerful in its ability to go viral. It is based on searches on Twitter and people create Events and provide keywords that might be used in tweets talking about that event to find tweets about that Event. Their website, of course, will show-and-tell you more.

These "Events" have a much larger scope than just real-life events that seem to be the focus at the moment. Essentially, discussions involving any entity can be tracked using the appropriate keywords. I really like how Tinker has packaged a simple use of the Twitter Search API - making it viral through widgets and a community. It is also mind-bogglingly easy to find events and track them - browsing and a click will suffice for the popular events. Most people using Twitter would be tech-savvy enough to be able to search using the right keywords and add the resulting feed to their feedreaders. But the concept of sharing "Events", finding those created by other users is very cool.

Something Twitter ought to have done already?

And this question re-inforces my belief that Twitter is a platform. But does it think and behave like one? In its quest for a business model, perhaps not. How about letting others in this ecological system find the business models and share revenue?

Coming back to Tinker. Play around with for 5 minutes and you will see that it just displays tweets that match certain keywords. And raises the question: what does Tinker not do. It does not make it easy for you sift through the numerous tweets about an event and glean information from there. Which, I would assume, is crux of the problem.

And since that is not enough food for thought, do not miss reading where Zach Gemignani talks about analytics as opposed to just metrics and shows some very interesting things he's done with the Twitter data.