Chronicling NewSpace Part 2: Role of US Space Policy

In the first post of this series, we discussed the space race and how the NewSpace began. In this part, we discuss the role of US government policy in shaping the NewSpace. It is interesting to see how a country’s government can play in advancing the entrepreneurial activities in a heavily technology driven sector like space.

Kalpana Chawla, one of the 7 astronauts to have died in the Columbia disaster. Source HindustanTimes

US Government’s space policy 2004

Following the space shuttle Columbia’s disaster and increasing entrepreneurial activities in the space industry, in December 2004 President Bush announced the ‘Commercial Space Launch Amendment Act of 2004‘  – ‘To promote the development of the emerging commercial human space flight industry, and for other purposes’. The amendment 14 of the act imposed restrictions on the FAA’s ability to regulate safety for people flying on commercial vehicles. It put that restriction, commonly called the learning period” in the industry, in order to give companies time to build up experience upon which regulations could be based, tilllate 2023. FAA in it’s recent report to Congress wrote, “During the learning period, significant advancements have occurred in the human space flight industry”.

This makes one thing very clear – the government started exploring the options and was now open for experimentation by private companies. This opened gateway for multiple companies to do experimental launches, the startups raised funding, made bold announcements – basically the NewSpace was ON. The entrepreneurial activities had started full-fledged.

Ansari X-Prize (2004)

Ansari X-Prize winner SpaceShipOne. Source: Wikipedia

During the same period, in October 2004, Ansari X Prize captured the world’s attention by awarding $10 million prize money to the winning team, MAV out of the 26 participants for their SpaceShipOne. The project was led and designed by Burt Rutan and financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. According to the XPrize website – with the awarding of this competition, a brand-new $2 billion private space industry was launched. In the subsequent posts, we’ll see how it eventually got condensed into The Spaceship Company & played a significant role in the advancement of Virgin Galactic. SpaceShipOne was the first private human space-flight that successfully conducted a suborbital flight. Before the Ansari XPRIZE, space flight was exclusively on the horizon of government. It enabled the possibility of space tourism, which was earlier considered too dangerous and too expensive for the general public and also space exploration for the private sector was neither possible nor affordable

Constellation Program and COTS

Three leaps proposed in Constellation program – ISS, Moon and Mars. It never took off in true sense.

While NewSpace was emerging, US government had not lost hope on public funded space exploration. In 2005, NASA launched the Constellation programme – with an estimated budget of $230 billion. The major short-term goals were “completion of the International Space Station” and a “return to the Moon no later than 2020” with a crewed flight to the planet Mars as the ultimate goal. On the other hand, NASA announced a program named Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) in Jan 2006, anticipating that “commercial services to ISS will be necessary through at least 2015“. NASA stated that it “could start purchasing commercial cargo services as early as 2008 – 2010” through the program. SpaceX was among the 7 first round participating firms who applied by Nov 2007. Eventually, SpaceX won the final round along with Orbital ATK.

SpaceX started its demo flights for COTS with Falcon 9 LV and Dragon spacecraft in 2010. Musk’s company started flying operational resupply missions to ISS in 2012, recording its spacecraft Dragon as first private spacecraft to reach the ISS. These contracts for resupply missions would bring invaluable revenue to the company and follow-on funding, which would help it continue experimenting and further developing the technology. Another winner of COTS, Orbital ATK/Orbital Sciences began flying operational deliveries in 2014.

Change of role of NASA

With the emerging success of private space players and the potential to vastly reduce the cost of running a space program, US President Obama cancelled the project Constellation in 2009, citing it as “over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation.” Given NASA’s share in US federal budget was reducing every year, it gave out contracts for private development of vehicles for use in low Earth orbit. Finally, in 2011, the Space Shuttle program, which brought astronauts and important cargo pieces to the International Space Station, was discontinued bringing an end to the Space Shuttle Era.

The NewSpace industry brought down cost of launch to less than $50 million as compared to the Space Shuttle program which costed $4 billion annually at peak. A Wall Street Journal editorial published in 2010 rightly commented that “a new player has taken centre stage: American capitalism and entrepreneurship. The plan lays the foundation for the future Google, Cisco and Apple of space to be born…“. In the process, the role of NASA transformed from being the agency responsible for designing and building to an agency that was largely responsible for coordinating space activities in the United States.

The NewSpace movement in US was firmly established in the years between 2004-10. This had far reaching consequences in other allied industries as it broadened scope for space services – space tourism, satellite internet, MEO & LEO constellations and so on. We will discuss them in the third and later posts of this series.

Chronicling NewSpace Part 1: Emergence of SpaceX

We have been receiving quite a few proposals over last 9-12 months. Shubham and I took on figuring what should be our thesis in NewSpace in India. While we are figuring our way out, we spent substantial time figuring the evolution of NewSpace in the US. This partly satisfied our curiosity about the key players in that market, also helped us understand the key Political, Social, Technological and Economic trends that led to the development of this brave new world of space entrepreneurs at the turn of this millennium. 

This is a series of five articles – chronicling the evolution of NewSpace on a global level, with the specific case of the US (this market was chosen because of the easy availability of news archives and that it has some of the best known global names involved) and touching on some of the biggest successes and failures in the space (with arguments around ‘why now?’). This analysis is on events spanning roughly 20 years, starting 2000, superimposed on the context of events starting all the way back in 1957. 

Defining ‘NewSpace’

The first obvious question is – how is ‘NewSpace’ different from ‘OldSpace’? Within this question are several things: Why do some space startups succeed astronomically while others fail to even gather the proverbial escape velocity? Is there a pattern behind the emergence of so many companies in a span of 10-12 years – SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, OneWeb, Kuiper, Starlink, Teledesic, Iridium and so on? Also, when and how did all of this start? For us to understand this, we’d have to trace the history going back to the beginning of the Cold War. 

Sputnik 1 – Mankind’s first satellite. Source: Wikipedia

The big watershed moment in the history of space was the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 by the Soviet Union. This was the beginning of the Space Age and got fuelled by intense cold war rivalry between the US and USSR. The Soviets clearly had the early lead. Eventually, the US won the Moon Race by landing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on Moon in 1969. The cold war was getting hotter by the day. It was the historic handshake of astronaut Thomas P. Stafford & cosmonaut Aleksei A. Leonov during ASTP in 1975 that started to ease the tensions in that era of extreme hostilities. 

Unknown to many people, Russian rockets Soyuz and Proton were frequently used by the US in key launches, for example the Hubble Telescope and ISS. And these rockets are still around and are significant to the global space economy. In many ways, coming together of USSR and the US was a pivotal moment in shaping the OldSpace.

The OldSpace era started with a primary focus on exploring space as a key input into expanding mankind’s frontiers of knowledge. In between there were attempts to land on nearby bodies like the moon and asteroids while several spacecrafts flew past many others including Pluto. The key pattern was that this was almost entirely funded by the government agencies like NASA and ISRO. Contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon in turn built capabilities of building a whole range of hardware, from launch vehicles to satellites and components of ISS. But they rarely attempted to fund it themselves or via commercial customers. 

NewSpace, on the other hand, marks the emergence of a set of ventures focused on commercial exploitation of space, funded by private money. This obviously required a maniacal focus on costs and improving predictability of launches. Hence, this era didn’t emerge till a set of key technologies were invented that could dramatically reduce the cost of launches and the cost of making a satellite. 

The early days of NewSpace saw the entry of entrepreneurs like Elon Musk in the industry. Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000, Sir Richard Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004. When SpaceX was founded in mid-2002 in a warehouse in El Segundo, California, Musk stated the goal of the company was to ‘reducing the space transportation costs and enable colonizing of Mars’. He unveiled his first in Falcon series, Falcon 1 rocket at National Air and Space Museum at Washington on December 8, 2003. Musk, so far an unknown entity in the  world of space, brought the ideas of Silicon Valley to the this industry and this marked the beginning of NewSpace. 

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Elon Musk as he unveiled Falcon 1 to the world. Source: The Space Review

Enabling factors for NewSpace 

Space shuttle Columbia’s crash (Feb 2003) was the second fatal disintegration upon atmospheric entry after the disaster of the space shuttle Challenger (Jan 1986), both claiming the lives of all 7 crew members. The public pressure to make space safer was rising. This led to decline of NASA’s budget as a proportion of US Federal Budget. That private sector can make space more affordable was then considered as the logical path forward. This all perfectly aligned with the goal Elon Musk had in mind for SpaceX. It is interesting to note that the first (and so far, most) of the revenue SpaceX has generated is via providing launch vehicles to NASA and for ISS. 

NASA-Budget-Federal.png
NASA budget as a percentage of US Federal Budget. Source: Wikipedia


The genius of Musk is seen in three things. First, he was able to identify that it is possible to reduce cost of launch via making everything in-house using economies of scale. This could hugely reduce the cost of making a rocket. Second, he correctly bet on the fact that the industry and policy is going to shift towards cost-efficient space transport. Third, he kept backing himself up even when he faced initial failures. Rarely you’d see any person/organization try a fourth time after first three launches (Falcon 1) failed. This made all the difference.

In the following parts of this series, we will see that this sequence of events followed by a few others eventually lead to deregulation and privatisation of space in the US. Many space policies and programs favouring private and commercial space would be announced in the following years while certain old missions will die out.

Blume Ventures is hiring!

Blume portfolio founders and team, at Blume Day 2019

In 2011, Karthik & Sanjay started Blume Ventures, with a view to back and help build transformational ventures from passionate founders. Along the way, this startup venture fund of ours has grown, across three funds and some intermediate ones, to a double-digit sized team. En route, we have backed and help build over a 100 startups, across geographies and verticals. As we like to say, we are the startup that helps back, and build other startups.

We are launching our 3rd fund this year, our biggest ever, to back the next wave of revolutionary founders and ventures. We are seeing bigger dreams, and bigger ambitions in these new founders, in larger numbers than ever before. They are targeting bigger problems and bigger opportunities, inspired and motivated by the first wave of success stories that are unfolding more rapidly now out of the Indian startup ecosystem.

To support our 3rd fund, and to help find and partner the next great wave of startups out of India, we are expanding our analyst team in Delhi. We are looking to hire 2 analysts as part of the Investment team.

Investment Analyst, Delhi office

The Investment Analyst will work closely with our Partners and Principals, helping Blume maintain its unique ability around picking India’s most exciting early stage entrepreneurs, and then supporting them to grow their ventures, thereby delivering stellar returns for our investors.

The Analyst’s role will comprise, in decreasing order of priority,

  • supporting our portfolio companies by providing value adds to their growth plans and strategic initiatives, in conjunction with the Investment Lead
  • helping Blume in prioritizing, and building an investment thesis for sectors and opportunities
  • supporting the Investment Lead on the investment evaluation process from start to end
  • helping source exciting startups for Blume via your network (college, friends etc) and / or through your research
  • leading / supporting key Blume initiatives and processes on the pipeline, portfolio or platform fronts.

The role is based out of the Delhi Office. We are a small team in Delhi (2 Principals here – Arpit Agarwal, Sajith Pai and one Analyst – Sanchita Bamnote, and there is always an intern or even two). We work very closely, and are hugely invested in and care for each other’s learning and development.

What kind of candidate are we looking for?

This is a terrific role for someone who is passionate about the startup, venture capital or technology space. The ideal candidate would cue this by either having worked in a startup environment or written articles about these topics or volunteered for a startup-related cause or participated in winning awards at business plan competitions, or some or all of these.

In addition, the ideal candidate will bring considerable curiosity, a willingness to put in hard work and long hours (we work as hard as our early stage founders do), and a proactive ‘how can I help’ mindset to the role. Some proxies of this will come from your academic record, your positions of responsibility in college (Placement Cell Coordinator, Campus Fest Organizer etc) or even projects or hobbies that convey deferred gratification.

Candidates should be well aware that there is an existing team and culture in place that’s constantly learning and evolving on one hand, but has firm unshakeable core principles about the business on the other. You should be comfortable working in a small team, and even more comfortable working with ambiguity across many vectors and variables. This implies that culture fit is critical; and that a hunger to learn, unlearn and relearn is a core element of our DNA.

Rewards in the venture world are rear-ended by default. Therefore, Blume believes in aligning our comp structures similarly. We are a small fund that believes fervently in building immense depth and breadth of value for our founders. This means thin salaries and fat hours, not fat salaries and thin hours.

If you’re coming for the money, you will struggle to even get the right learning. If you’re coming for the learning, you will eventually get the money. If you don’t believe in latter, you possibly don’t believe in the future success of Blume, then best not to venture into the team – Karthik Reddy, co-founder, Blume Ventures”

Long hours and relatively lower pay apart, Blume (and the wider venture world) is a terrific place for supercharging your learning. It is also an exciting industry, offering you a vantage point to view the future, for every startup idea is but a bet on the future.

Primers for who we are, if you don’t know us already, are well captured in many interviews from the founding partners in the media. Karthik’s interview on PlaytoPotential is a good starting point on what to expect.

Academic & Work Requirements

The ideal candidate would have an undergrad degree from a highly selective institute (IITs, NITs, BITS, Premier city colleges – engineering or liberal arts / commerce). We are also looking for 2-3 years of work ex across consulting / BFSI / analytics firms or startups.  Strong oral and written communication skills are de rigeur. If you understand business models, financial reports and the like it is a bonus.

And finally, the role is in Delhi (our office is in Nehru Place in South Delhi)!

Please note that this is a pre-MBA role.

Reach out to us!

Pls send us your CV with a customized cover letter to analyst@blume.vc.  The cover letter should state clearly why you are keen on the venture space, and specifically address why Blume is a relevant option for you. Please don’t send a generic cover letter. If you write a carefully crafted cover note, we will certainly send you a reply.

You can always increase your chances of getting noticed by being referred by a Blume founder or a member of the startup ecosystem who knows us well.

Please be patient. We will do our best to reply within 72-96 hours of your mail.

Women candidates – please apply. Having a well-rounded team is extremely important to Blume and keeping our culture Blumey.

Hurry! Applications close Sunday, 11.59pm, 7th July 2019.

How Prashant Singh of PayTM thinks about product management

A packed house at the 2nd Blume Product Meetup, at LBB’s office in Delhi.

Every month as part of our community initiatives, Blume hosts meetups across Bangalore and NCR for tech, product and marketing leaders across our portfolio companies to meet, interact and learn from each other.

We recently saw our 2nd NCR Product meetup. Dhruv Mathur, cofounder LBB, anchors the NCR product community for Blume, supported by Bharat Pinnam, Blume’s community lead. For the event, Dhruv got Prashant Singh, VP – Product at Paytm for an interactive session. Here is a short writeup on the session and the learnings.

Prashant Singh joined Paytm when his startup Shifu was acquired by Paytm in ’16. Before Shifu he worked in Spice Labs. He has been building for mobile for last 13 yrs.

Dhruv teed off the session by asking Prashant as to how he approaches product management in the context of the choices and prioritization we need to make in product / design as well as the context of team building and processes, in an environment where there are multiple pulls and pressures. Prashant responded by setting out the larger context of product management as well as how he thinks of it, leading to a free flowing discussion, Q&A and some whiteboarding.

Prashant Singh gets ready to draw out his framwork for product feature prioritization!

I am structuring the conversation into three broad sections. Here they are.

(1) Product management styles in organizations, and why self-awareness is key

Prashant stated that there are different definitions of product management, varying from org to org. At one extreme, product management becomes program management, especially in orgs which are very delivery-oriented. At the other end you have PMs who read a lot of medium posts and see themselves as the CEO of the product. The truth is a bit more complex, he said, and stated that the exact definition of product management and how it is perceived in the org is a function of two variables.

The 2 variables that determine the nature (and style) of product management in any organization are

  • Leaning of the leadership team: is it sales heavy (Oracle) or design heavy (Apple) or engineering heavy (Facebook)? The leaning of the leadership teams dictates the priorities the product management team will be faced with. This doesn’t mean one type is wrong and the other is right. All three can work, but it needs strong self-awareness from the leaders of what kind of org you are.
    • Why is self awareness critical? Having self awareness allows the PM and his team to offset / hedge against the downside of the dominant function, i.e., if the org is sales heavy and that then implies technical debt due to speed of development, then a good self aware PM will factor for this by creating a dedicated team for debugging / addressing technical debt related issues, effectively  decoupling technical debt from the cadence of regular releases. Additionally such a PM can also set the right expectations to new hires so that they are aware of what to expect and can avoid frustrations and disappointment due to misplaced expectations.
  • Nature of the industry you are in: If you are in a field that is like the X of India, i.e.,  X is a successful startup or industry in U.S. or China and it is likely to see growth in India, then what matters is time to market. Instead if you are in an industry or stage where you need to fashion new behaviour from the ground up, then speed of delivery doesn’t matter as much as spending time creating or getting to the right  – then you have to teach / create new features like COD. if time to market is critical then you can’t spend too much on design.

(2) A framework to understand launch / prioritization of products / product features

Prashant also shared an interesting framework that he uses to explain product management thinking and actions when it comes to launching / prioritizing products or product features. The framework is a simple 2×2 matrix. On the horizontal axis is the source of feedback or information that we are taking into consideration. On the vertical axis is how we are arriving at the decision. The interplay of these is a 2×2 matrix with the following quadrants.

Organizations such as Apple have PM teams that are vision-oriented – they have a strong point of view on the feature, and they base this on internal data and models.  Then there are organizations such as Facebook, which may see its competition launch Stories and decide that it is best for its users to have this feature too. This is product-prioritization driven by competition. Similarly Evernote launched food when it saw a slew of recipe apps emerge.

Instagram pivoted from its original product Brbn to what it is now, on the basis of its users heavily using the photo uploading feature. Effectively its users were delivering strong feedback. Lastly your users can actually create product features as we saw with # and RT. He calls this shift.

Prashant also suggested that most organizations don’t function exclusively in one quadrant or the other but are instead a mix of the four.

Before product-market fit (PMF) he said they are 40% vision, 20% each for the others. After PMF, he said it is more like 60% vision, 20% competition and 10% each for the others.

Where can we see the signals that enable action, in each of the quadrants? Vision is easy, but what about Feedback? What abt Competition? According to Prashant, these are some of the signals to look out for.

  • Vision : Team’s views, intuition, dashboard , gut feeling etc.
  • Competition : Investor feedback, news, rise and growth of competitive apps, API / SDK user views and behaviour, exit paths of users (where do they go after your site?)
  • Feedback :  Bugs, CST, research findings, analytics, dashboard / key metrics that act as performance indicators such as speed of page load , time spent etc.
  • Shift : Exit paths, change in underlying tech, where power users are going etc.

(3) Working with designers, favourite books and more

Towards the latter part of the discussion, Prashant shared this thoughts on a variety of topics, prompted by Dhruv’s quick fire question format. This included such themes as how PMs should communicate with designers – by sharing with them the source of your thinking than merely expressing what you want them to do. This according to him has better impact and long-term alignment of designers with the product team.

Everything new is old actually. Quora is Ibibo Sawaal done right and Medium is FreshLimeSoda on steroids. Cash on Delivery is Value Payable by Post updated for the smartphone age. Virtual Gifts aren’t entirely new – remember Hello Tunes and Caller Ring Back Tones? Connecting the dots between what we see now and the past isn’t easy but it is important.

What books does he recommend for PMs or otherwise? Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia-Martinez, an ex-PM at Facebook for how products get built in real life. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemann was another. The last was an unusual one, called The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg, which is apparently one of Peter Thiel’s favourite books, and is a cult hit in the Valley for its libertarian creed as well as for having predicted cryptocurrency (in ‘97).

And his favourite product? Well, it is the sketching app Paper (by design studio fiftythree). And lastly what would be build today if he could? Prashant mentioned two areas where he would like to work. The first was conversational commerce, which he said is unsolved. The second is generative design – essentially applying machine learning and 3D printing to rethink how we design any object, and thereby mimic how nature designs products in the real world. Take trees, rocks, lakes. There isnt a single straight line or right angle here. If we were to rethink design in a pure functional light, then how would it look?

***

This was a fascinating session for all of us who attended it. Was great to see Prashant’s thinking spurred by Dhruv’s insightful questioning. All in all a terrific evening with lots to learn and absorb. And some new books to check out:-)


Will Global consumer internet winners emerge from India?

At our recent Blume Day, we had a fascinating panel discussion attempting answers to the question of whether global consumer internet winners will emerge out of India? If so, when?

If you scrolled through the list of apps on your phone, it would be really hard to find a truly global Indian consumer app. If you look closely, it is even harder to find a non-US app on your phone. The exceptions to this rule are some chinese apps like Shareit and Tik Tok. In this context we wanted to understand “Will there be a truly global consumer internet company coming out of India?” To answer this question we put together a panel of 4 Blume portfolio founders: Sumit Jain of Opentalk, Tushar Vashisht of Healthifyme, Sachin Kanodia of Rizort and Hemesh Singh of Unacademy moderated by Vir Kashyap of Indeed.

They responded with a unanimous yes. Sachin from Rizort outlined his thought process thus: “A few years ago we were asking the question – Will there be a unicorn from India? Now the question has become how many? Similarly a question was asked – will there be a global b2b company coming out of India? This one has been answered too. So now the question in terms of global internet companies is not ‘will’ but ‘when’”. His view is that theme of the panel should not have been ‘will there be global internet companies coming out of India’ but ‘when will these companies come’, because the external conditions are aligning.

During the discussion the panel arrived at two key factors that impacted global expansion – (1) What need are you satisfying and (2) how do you manage costs when thinking global?

First, the need. All the panelists said that their apps have targeted a nearly universal need. With Opentalk it is the need to talk to someone new outside your contact list. Healthifyme tries to improve general health and nutrition need of an individual. Rizort caters to the complicated process of planning a vacation. Unacademy tries to democratize education – empowering educators to reach students easily anywhere, anytime. You can move to any country and these needs will be exhibited regardless of socio-economic or cultural differences.

These needs resonate across similar segments globally. For e.g., Tushar of HealthifyMe mentioned that we saw an increase in adult urban obesity rates in India from 14% to 29% in one decade. And he saw similar trends in developing countries with similar purchasing power parities. For Hemesh at Unacademy, UPSC is currently their biggest target segment with approximately 500K entrants appearing every year. UPSC – Union Public Service Commission is the entrance exam for Indian Civil Services. Similarly in Brazil they have the ENEM exam which has nearly 8.6 mn students appearing every year for entrance examinations. Different scale of students that need the service but similar needs.

Second, the issue of costs while expanding globally. Tushar of Healthifyme shed some light in terms of how he chose Malaysia as the market to expand after India. He mentions that although development teams could be based out of India he set up a local office in Malaysia to operationalize the network of local trainers and nutritionists. Local nutritionists are key to converting a local market since they have the key insights into local cuisine and therefore the local customer. For this purpose it was essential for him to have an office.

In this context, Sachin of Rizort had an interesting anecdote to share about building the supply-side for Rizort. He told us that when he was trying to get resorts and other partners onboarded in Bali, their Linkedin profiles and visiting cards all said that the company was based in Bangalore. These partners would not be ready to engage with Rizort since they saw Rizort as an India-based company. Since Rizort was registered in Silicon Valley, Sachin and his executives changed their location from Bangalore to Silicon Valley on their visiting cards and linkedin profiles. This worked out for them. The partners now began to engage with them for building the supply-side of the platform. This is only an image problem they faced, not a trust or a dependability issue.

1/4 Serai a collaborative trip journaling app

The basic premise was to create a universal travel graph by providing a simple, fast and collaborative platform to organize you trip journal. This is how our decision-making framework helped to create the current avatar of the app.
Istanbul
Marketplace:
IstanbulStep 1 was to entice users to start using Serai for archiving their trips and providing a simple user interface for efficient and simple picture import was important. There was a good technical hack to allow individuals to do multiple tasks while the photos loaded.

We used travel as a hook for individuals to use Serai as a repository of all their pictures. Additional meta information could be collected around places, activities, people and products the individuals interacted with.

We then studied the network effect i.e. minimum users for network effects to kick in. On an average we saw users creating 2 itineraries with 7 moments (synonymous to days traveled) and each moment had around 40 photos. Also each trip was co-created by 3 people.

Community:

Past, Present or Future: Use the present as the starting point and have individuals archive their old trips. Start live recording current moments using an app, or allow individuals to leave messages for others to receive in the future (Evergram). Again we used the t-0 approach to seed the community to create active engagement when the app launches.

Social or Private?:

Istanbul

Life Blogging: Mulled over ideas on google glass integration or creating the app around the concept of life blogging (Bokeh) especially with the freelance sharing economy growing substantially with the likes of Uber & Airbnb.

The growth numbers for social sharing photo apps are quite high, but engagement is low and competition is very high – Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram have already cornered the market.

So we focused more on private collaborative sharing with perhaps low interaction levels with the app (travel is note a daily activity) but high stickiness and use of the app.

The close community that expands out to only connected people is more important than just being social just to get more numbers).

Medium:

Istanbul

Desktop or mobile first: Inorder to seed the community one needed to understand the usage or bet on the app trending. Findery (originally Pinwheel) spent around 2 years seeding the community before launching the mobile app.

Serai has spent considerable time in beta to better understand usage from users working on the platform. They have made Flikr, Facebook and other connects to have one sync all their pictures seamlessly onto the platform and have them grouped by timeline.

The plan is to build a few thousand sticky users (again the metric is number of collaborative albums) that would already provide a user base when the mobile is out. Moreover for publishing a journal from past data the desktop is the best medium.

An interesting hack was to have people create a travel timeline of their past trips and invite their co-travelers to join (thus increasing the engagement levels and the probability of getting all the photos in one place.

UPES Mettl Case Study – University scales applications through online exams

How does the University of Petrol and Energy studies address the problem of scalability in applications fast and effectively? The challenges they face include extensive logistical design, piloted months in advance for conducting the pen-and-paper structured exams.

There was strong demand for UPES to simplify the application process and find a solution for students limited by Geographical and other limitations. Mettl stepped in to find a solution.

Read the full Case Study