Venture Capital essentials - What to know? Jargon, big picture

The VC world also known as Venture Capital is a strange but a wonderful world to visit and live in.There are many gatekeepers who will not entertain you or give you a head's up.The reason, secret agenda  > "Dogs & Assholes not allowed". Many of my connections may say otherwise however in the core this exists.

How to survive here, The key is - willing to listen to the person sitting next to you or opposite to you and UNDERSTAND the facts from the made up numbers. Do not offend people as it is a connected world after all.Be nice & gentle in behaviour but smart in making deals.

There is a set of words and Jargon that is most common & you need to get a hang of it.Let's go through few of them and try to make sense of each, in common language.I do not believe in Confusing people, without any reason. So lets have a look below.

Few word's that may be helpful in your VC meeting's.

Accelerator (aka Incubator) - This is a setup that provides mentorship, connections, reviews MVP and sometimes gives capital to support startups.Ok what they get in return, in most cases they will take 10 to 20% of the equity in the startup.In most case's educational institutes form Incubator.

Boot-Strapping - Hustle, make it happen with what you can get and what you have.Get money from Friends, Family and other people you can get it.Use whatever you can lay hand's off & for God sake make it work.This is boot-strapping in my views.Let's look at few examples.If the MVP is taking more time to get finished, use some Open Source code to at least give demo to people whom you want to explain the concept.Call your cousin and beg him to write few modules in his/her spare time.In a nutshell Just make it happen.

B-to-B = Business to Business. Your company sells things to other companies

B-to-C = Business to Consumers. Your company sells things to masses.

P-to-P = People to People. You own a platform that allows people to sell among themselves.

Burn Rate (aka Run Rate) - How your company is using cash each month.A startup use's lots of cash before it reaches break-even.In most cases the burn rate is measured in $/month.

Cottage Business/ Cottage Industry - The industries/business that are not largely scalable.If you want to really make cash loads avoid these.

Deck or Simply call it Pitch Deck - The most promising will be a 10 deck slide.A science & art indeed.Consider an expert to review your pitch deck before you embarrass yourself and the investors.

Exit strategy - How you will return the money back to investors with a good return.Sell the company and who is likely to buy.

Runway - How long you can run the show without the cash running out.

Sweat Equity - Hiring someone and giving him/her only equity in the company.One of the options to hire talent if you do not have cash to pay as salary.

Term Sheet - The document that covers the % equity to be given to investors in return of capital.What are the voting rights and other sections that will close the investment.

Traction - Are people buying or using your product.A must to have when we need investment from investors, why because these guys care for Traction. Nothing convinces them than the traction.Of course i also prefer companies with good traction.

Valuation - The process by which a company's worth or value is determined. An analyst will look at capital structure, management team, and revenue or potential revenue, among other things.

Vesting - When an employee of a company gains rights to stock options and contributions provided by the employer. The rights typically gain value (vest) over time until they reach their full value after a pre-determined amount of time. For example, if an employee was offered 200 stock unites over 10 years, 20 units would vest each year. This gives employees an incentive to perform well and stay with the company for a longer period of time. Series - Refers to the specific round of financing a company is raising. For example, company X is raising their Series A round.

Connect if you are investor and want in invest in Silicon Valley cities.

Instagram: @sanjaykumarux

Mobile App design - guide line best practices

Mobile apps are entering in our daily life, and there is no stopping. We can access them from anywhere using  any web enabled device.Here are some of the guide line's when are going to design a mobile app.
  • Reduce number of clicks, every click reduces user and costs more
  • Have a link back to the main menu or home at the top of every interaction
  • Provide seamless horizontal navigation between pages in a certain feature (Previous, Next)
  • Be selective in providing Contextual links
  • Avoid lot of white space/unused space as the pointer/cursor cannot float on a smaller device, the way it would on the bigger screen
  • Maintain order of appearance and behavior, as Users would be accessing the device with one-hand and when they are moving. A top to bottom, or left to right order works better against a diagonal/random order
  • Labels should be more descriptive as every click or action costs more. Have Create, Pay, Continue, Decline, Reject, Stop, instead of OK, Cancel, Done.
  • Provide system feedback to the users to convey status” For e.g “Signing in, please wait”

  • Do not leave navigation items open ended. Let users know how many/deep they need to navigate to reach. For e.g. Showing 1-10 of 25. 
  • Users expect similar tasks to behave and perform similarly across features. For e.g. Cancel should be back to the page without any action or transaction 
  • Avoid decorative fonts (Serif fonts) 
  • Use sans-serif fonts which are universal across browsers and devices (Arial, Verdana, Tahoma, etc)
  • Links, should define if they transact or navigate
  • Color code links with a box around it. It helps users identify, access & navigate
  • Avoid long scrolls. 
  • If unavoidable let users know upfront what lies at the bottom of the page  
  • If unavoidable let users know upfront what lies at the bottom of the page 
  • Help should be provide on every possible interaction
  • User inputs can be defaulted as much as possible. (Names, Country codes, telephone numbers)
  • Allow users to import information/content from the devices (Address book, Calculators, etc)
  • Error messages need to be specific to the error, and which can be supported and resolved by the device. Avoid generic error messages
  • Allow users to sign in automatically to different applications as the device is personal and less prone to security theft.  
  • URLs/URIs should be short. 

  • Natural interactions with phones are numeric, hence use numerical navigation as much as possible (for e.g .Press 1 for Save)
  • Icons could be used minimal. Certain devices do not support rich graphic or media. 
  • Icons if used, should have tool tips around them. 
  • Never use abbreviations which are not common. 
  • Use pastel colors which shine bright and display clear in light and heavy contrast. For e.g when viewing the screen with lot of light, pastel colors get enhanced, hence better visibility
  • Avoid, anti-aliasing of text and giving shadow or special effects to buttons and other imagery. Keep it crisp.
  • Images need to be vectorized and optimized for quick download. 

How to develop a winning software product

The best way to develop a software product, is to create a team that works for it.A perfect teamcan be created; by defining the areas that impact the success of the software.

When we try to define the areas that is going to impact success of software then we have key points emerging out. After designing mobile, web-based and desktop based software's i can say that the most important area to focus is

> Simplicity - What makes a software simple? A software that is able to address user needs with ease becomes a simple software. In technical terms we can also say that i am basically talking about usability design.

> Sense - Are we giving the product that makes sense to its user and business community. Will it be a success or a damm failure? Have we thought about it?

> Marketable - Can this product solve a business/user problem? If yes is the problem big enough that few people won't mind giving you some quick buck to use the product. When i say quick buck it dosent mean the price is cheap.

> Social connections - Why this is important? Has Sanjay Kumar gone crazy to mention this aspect. It is said that if i live in a forest and make a product people who need it will create a road to my home. This was true long back but it does not hold so true in globalization and the way we have come till here. A product which does not have influential names and people to back it up is just like a dollar bill lying on the side walk, between the dark green bushes to be discovered by someone, on the streets where people are rushing to catch there morning train. Don't forget that rains may come and melt the dollar bill and degrade, it. Insects etc and added danger.

My whole view is that we need GOD Fathers or a huge bank of money to back the ideas. Few people may not agree with me, however i suggest them to create a product and try to sell it. The reality will be upfront. Making a software product and build a business around is like a war.

To achieve the above areas, we need a team. The best possible team consists of the below people. The names and areas are mentioned as it came to my mind. It is not in any order as in a team all people are equally important.

1. UX Architect/UI/Front end design - he/she will design the software based on user research, stakeholder meetings etc. His job is to create wire-frames and the task flows that arises. Each element is taken care by them.If he is good in UI design it will be an added advantage.

2. CTO - A tech guy, who is good in planning a robust architecture of the software. What technology to use, what technology to throw away, security measures etc.

3. Back end/DB programming - This team will take care of the functionality and related things.

4. CEO/Product Manager - this will be the driving force, that will make things happen. From planning to resource funding, to marketing, networking will be taken care by this guy.

5. Social Media/Marketing - this team will make the product popular among the masses and lure them to use it.

6. UI & Visual design - skins are created and user interface is designed by this person

All the above are the keys to success of the product. The idea being here is that we do not need an army of people to create a worthwhile product that can survive the competition.

Ok, the above is taken care what next? Now find out ideas to work on.

10 Heuristics principles

We have used these principles many times and it is helpful.
 It is seen that for good results, the designer needs to use his gut feeling and change his approach based on the business condition.These principles are only good for basic analysis, for better results you have to rely on the designer.

Visibility of system status
The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.

Match between system and the real world
The system should speak the users' language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.

User control and freedom
Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked "emergency exit" to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.

Consistency and standards
Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.

Error prevention
Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

Recognition rather than recall
Minimize the user's memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.

Flexibility and efficiency of use
Accelerators -- unseen by the novice user -- may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.

Aesthetic and minimalist design
Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.

Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.

Help and documentation
Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user's task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.

The designer was sleeping? User Experience Design continue...

Nowdays i have been a little lazy or i should say got busy in other works that consumed most of my energies.I see that a person has only 24 hours a day and its not possible to be all the things in life, a focus is required.
Well now the questions comes to the fact where was my focus, of course it was on design and helping clients achieve more using less. In this span i had helped many clients overcome business issues, hey i cant tell their names but i can mention few things.

The stills so far was.

  1. Visiting a college and helping them to use technology at its best. Create branding plan for the school.
  2. A business came for a branding online, guided them with technology
  3. Online sales for an e-commerce company, gave consulting tips and new design for their portal
  4. A new online resume/portal was made
  5. An Australian university needs revamping of their portal, analysis for competitive values with its market captures was done and delivered
  6. A dating site was launched

  7. Service industry in UAE asked for a branding work, it was done with pleasure and satisfactions
  8. An online social media search engine was created
I feel it has to be changed to some other creative idea, let me rethink this as i believe always play the game that shows results in first shot. There is no sustainability to play it without returns as we are not corporate mammoths to run the show for long, as of now.

So these activities kept me engrossed so i could not post regularly, I will be writing some new posts on usability and user experience design, specifically how things are moving in bangalore, INDIA.

Please write to me if you are looking for any specific help in user experience design.