Next Generation Summit

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I had an opportunity to interact with studentpreneurs from over 12 best universities in California this weekend at Next Generation Summit organized by University of California, Santa Barbara. It is fascinating to see “let’s work together” attitude of college entrepreneurs; besides college sports rivalries, we have everything in common. The goal is to create value.

I had great chance to speak about entrepreneurship & innovation at the summit as well. Instead of focusing on intense slides & quotes; I decided to keep my session very interactive by sharing my story as an Indian immigrant, failure in academics & about life as an evolving entrepreneur. I am very impressed by great innovative ideas people shared during the session.

As most of my audience consisted of students from Southern California universities; I am not shocked to know that students are facing the same problem that I had to go through to find techincal cofounders to work on ideas during college. As I learned over the years that hackathons are the best place to meet people and develop ideas into hacks or prototypes. I want to encourage non-tech college entrepreneurs to exhaust themselves into hackathons and hustling.

In fact, it’s sad that our universities don’t put enough efforts to bring science/engineering & business students together. They live in two different worlds. Imagine, if one course runs as an incubator program throughout college and selectively enrolls respective students in this entrepreneurship course. It will be a great initiative to create a top network of college talent and getting them together to do great things. If done right, every single university will have a potential to create Harvard & Stanford entrepreneurial ecosystem.

I understand that most California universities are facing economic hardships; but instead of massively spend on administration, they should invest in their own entrepreneur students. When students gather around subject-experts & professors; instead of talking about textbook problems, they will discuss real world problems and their solutions.

Until then for non-tech college entrepreneurs, hackathons & traveling is the best way to find a great team. Hangout with people who are smarter than you, because smart people know other smart people. Build your brand and network. Get the fuck out of your comfort zone & create value. This life is only 1% finished.

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Startupbus – Part 3

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This is our 2nd night on this trip and we already got to our hotel in Las Cruces, New Mexico. While we were waiting for our food to get delivered, I went out for a walk around 10:30PM. I walked about a mile thinking about this whole thing, people, purpose, and life. I never thought that I would ever stopped by in Las Cruces and literally be overwhelmed by people of this city.

As soon as I got to the hotel, I was little late for food & the only veggie wrap I ordered was missing (already been eaten)! Well, I have been a vegetarian since May 2012, and this was the first time in 10 months I had a chicken sandwich, well couple chicken sandwiches and that too in Las Cruces! Ironic.

Teams on our buses where facing challenges to make real progress on the bus since its very hard to code & design on a moving ride. So almost everyone worked till like 4am in the hotel lobby that night. The best part; teams were helping each other when they got stuck at some point and everyone was/is very supportive & helpful.

Since we already launched our website, and started gaining signups from teachers & learners, we just had to keep to spread the word online and get social traction & partnerships. And yes, figure out the business plan/money part.

Next morning, we said our best good byes to the hotel staff and this lovely city! And we were on our way to San Antonio, TX. It was almost 10 hours of drive in the desert with basically NO or poor internet, and we are driving through El Paso, TX literally looking at a neighborhood in Mexico country just across the highway behind that fence. It was incredible to be there.

After driving for 6 hours, we started to look for a place to eat some Texas BBQ hence took the exit in Fort Stockton, TX. This city was literally dead. Yelp was like “Say What”? And we drove around in our big coach to find a place to satisfy that hunger with no hopes to find Internet at the food place. It was kind of funny to find both at the same spot, Bob’s Steak & BBQ! God, this is a nice restaurant and the best salad bar ever! But I already had chicken night before so I was on an adventure to get food as it comes! We are in Texas baby, no one eats vegetables here! :)

After stopping there for like an hour for food and pushing codes, our bus is ready to role and next stop is San Antonio, TX. Every startup bus will be meeting & staying together at San Antonio for 2 nights before heading to our final destination!

More about the other startupbus, San Antonio, and Startupbus semifinals will be coming soon!

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Startupbus + SXSW = Lifetime Experience (Part 2)

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After all the kiosk about business plan & monetization doubts, we decided to put our chances to win StartupBus 2013 title, and build something much more meaningful, and beyond these 72 hours as a team.

As we traveled away from San Diego, and got in to mid-west deserts for hours and hours without internet, and bumpy ride towards Arizona, our team was able to complete the website which was ready to launch. We just need to wait for a stable internet connection to push it live. As soon as we got to a Subway on the way somewhere in Arizona, we were golden because we were definitely the first one to go live from San Francisco Startupbus, and probably first to launch the site from other startup buses in America as well!

Within 10 minutes of announcement of http://www.coderswb.com on my facebook page, my friend Doug Cretes who’s social media strategist for the Microsoft BizSpark program was kind enough to give us our first press & he was a great to give us shout outs on BizSpark’s huge social network. Just because of Doug’s belief in our mission, we grabbed over 1500 likes on our post on Microsoft BizSpark’s facebook page.

We are still confused about how to make money, because usually I know how to make money on certain things, but this time I was totally all about this cause but money, since I wanted to learn “how to code” for a long time without attending a traditional university. I had my own purpose………but that’s not important.

We stopped by in Tucson downtown in Arizona for late lunch, and I fell in love with this town. Beautiful people (girls), college town, friendly neighborhood, and great places to chill with food & beverages. We relaxed there for a good hour, and photogenic David is all about having Ruben clicking great pictures of him and whoever is interested for the website to feature as student or bla bla! Kate was the victim after all.

David is relaxed because he did his part mostly, and its time for team meetings with beers (Ruben’s favorite part), to figure out next challenges. We were excited to see our growing numbers of like on BizSpark post, and then we start receiving personal messages from people around the world who wants to learn code, and then we slowly started to gain profiles from people who wants to teach to these aspiring coders. When people respond to your vision, it is the best feeling in the world.

By now, we got into our hotel rooms in Las Cruces, New Mexico. One of the best hotel I have ever stayed in. We stayed their for the night of March 4th. We had some food from Sonic burgers that night with some scotch and fruits. weird, rightWell, I

well, I will share more in part-3 tomorrow. Peace.

 

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Startupbus + SXSW = Lifetime Experience (Part 1)

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I got super interested, as soon as I first heard about the concept of Startupbus from some random source. I decided to apply (invitation only), and I got selected among the lucky 25-30 finalists out of 1500 applicants to board San Francisco Startupbus.

With zero expectation & tons of excitement, on March 3rd I hopped on the Startupbus San Francisco filled with total strangers who were crazy enough to do this 1800 miles in 72 hours road-trip from San Francisco, CA to Austin, TX to checkout SXSW 2013!

As soon as bus left behind the city of Golden Gate, everyone in the bus started to introduce themselves and pitch their ideas to fellow buspreneurs to form teams and make it into reality.

When David pitched his idea to connect coders with learners was super intriguing to me out of everyone else’s including the idea I pitched….that’s not important.

Within an hour or so, when we stopped at a Walmart in Las Banos by i5 pretty much everybody decided on which team they wanted to be in. Our team which included an amazing designer “Ruben”, powerful “Kate”, a gifted developer “David” and me!

We were driven way too much by our vision of this idea that so we lost track at times, and going back and forth about keeping this concept for profit or for non profit.

After getting feedback from our super awesome bus conductor “Falon”, we were back on track with still many doubts in mind about monetization.

Our designer/photographer/writer, Ruben showed his leadership skills after observing everyone for good-long couple hours, and made a to-do list with followup team meetings to discuss about what got done, or what will never get done on this bus.

We stopped by Launch Pad incubator near beautiful Santa Monica beach & downtown to get feedbacks by experts and free food. We didn’t got much help because we wanted to build Coders Without Borders valuable & meaningful beyond business plan & monetization crap.

By the time, we got to San Diego Downtown Lodge to work/sleep through the night, David who was the only solid developer on our team built the framework and wrote 80% of the code in couple hours.

Ruben designed the world map which was covered with codes which I had to check for “curse words” because he pranked us by saying that be inserts F words in codes on the world map! Haha. We didn’t find any bad word though.

Kate & I was doing our part of work with conflicts & shshsh, with David coming in between to sort things out and me getting annoyed & Ruben laughing at us, and Kate trying to prove everything I am doing is full of shit. All this was super fun, and brought all of us much closer as a team and I have to think through everything I was doing to save myself from Kate’s super power ;) I have to say, Kate is one of most powerful & dominated girl I have ever met who truly (sometimes blindly) believes in her actions! Big hugs to Kate for correcting my shit. Lol

Ruben on the other hand is the super chill, laid back, understanding guy I have ever met and became friends with, all he needs is beers and his next assignment to get done. Otherwise he will give us a todo list, and put his fancy headphone on with mostly no music. 5000 credits to Ruben!

David is the most humble, honest, and driven developer I have ever got the chance to work very closely with. He’s a god when it comes to write code. In short, he knows what the FJBk he is doing or needs to be done.

I was mostly dealing with social media, managing what goes on website, what button looks like what and where and how do we find coders who are willing to teach aspiring coders in their communities etc.

More to come…..

At a big hug/kiss to eat24 for being our great Italian food in San Diego.

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What is an “Entrepreneur”? – My 5th grader cousin sister

Hi Prachi,

You asked me an amazing question. It made me think hard, really hard to explain in simple words without looking up a dictionary. An entrepreneur is someone who thinks outside the box, and make/create things to solve problems and make money, sometimes lots of money by creating a products (you love iPhone & all those apps), a company (everyone knows Google/Apple/Cisco etc.).

An Entrepreneur (Steve Jobs/Bill Gates) is an individual who thinks/observe about general problems by looking at things differently which we normally use/do daily and makes them better with simple and beautiful products and services to make our lives betters, and change the way people do many things. No one write letters to each other, but we all communicate by emails. So someone figured out a way to improve your mailbox (the one on your driveway) and now I send you emails instantly without any waiting period.

All the big/small companies you see around were started by someone from scratch just from an idea. This is why your teacher gives you homework to be good at thinking when you’re not in the classroom. This way, you will apply your classroom knowledge to homework, and solve those problems to get better at that subject/topic, and you will get good grades by doing so.

Now replace yourself with an entrepreneur, replace classroom knowledge with learning/observing, homework with practice, teacher with experience, and grades with money. See, you’re an entrepreneur as well.

I want you to think about how computer works, what happens when you click, how does an email travels in a second, or how Google knows everything? You will figure it out by learning to write instructions for your computer to do things for you, and other. Please check code.org, or ask your parents about coding or programming. They will be happy to teach you because they know how to make a computer work.

Always think like an entrepreneur, and solve problems.

Love
Manu Bhaiya

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Non-tech founders’ dilemma

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I have been meeting with lots of wantapreneurs who are sitting on some good ideas waiting for a developer to show up and code. Ideally, my advice would be to learn how to code if you can, but if you couldn’t learn like me, go out and impressively spread the idea in your network. My wantapreneur journey was painful, and meeting with lots of engineers who would passionately kill to land a job for money. I respect their honesty, and every time  I had a meeting like that in Silicon Valley, I felt bad for developer ecosystem. The ultimate goal is to find people who are great thinkers, logical, excited to make shit happen, and they happened to be an engineers. Anyways, how to find developers if you’re a non-coder person?

1. Idea

Your idea has to be exciting to attract people. That idea has to be powerful enough to get developed in reality.

2. Spread the charm

Founders have to be charming and outgoing. Idea is worth doubling down on with a great, outspoken, and outgoing founders.

3. Fucking hackathons

I love hackathons, even though I can’t code. I feel useless once the hackathon begins. But goal is to attend hackathons and talk to as many people as you can about your idea, and be cool. Everyone runs away from psychotic people, so don’t be creepy. If someone is not intrigued about your idea, be respectful to them and move on with a smile.

4. Smart people

Know smart/positive people because smart people know other smart people. Once you’re in that network, you have access to their thought process. Be yourself, and have amazing positive personality. Positive people hates negative people. Be positive.

5. Live on a budget

I have been living on $10/day budget for last 9 months and try to save. Its easier for me because I live with my family (parents), and I absolutely love it. Be the dude with money to cover operation costs. Don’t expect your engineers to pay for that extra server they want to handle the traffic (if any).

6. Life is short, don’t waste resources

Most important resource in our life is time. Since life is short, you have to be smart. I encourage people to work smarter, rather than harder.

My 2 cents for non-tech founders is to be outgoing, outspoken, accessible, be active on social network, believers, and optimistic. You got to be the guy to think about 2018 in 2013 because that’s what make us different. Don’t be impressed by fake people. You will meet hell lot of people who will claim to be the gamechanger but don’t believe until you see the results.

And be pragmatic and love the people who care.

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How I met Team FreshTag

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After working in a startup for almost a year, I had some experience of startup environment, and its fast paced ride! At the same time, I got to know my own skills, and a reality check that I can’t code (or learn to code). I am always the one with ideas, executions, and marketing strategies. Ideally, my challenge was to find a technical co-founder who could brainstorm ideas with me, and develop them into reality, while I will do the rest.

In last week of May 2012, someone re-tweeted me for the first time, and I had to look who this person was. I found, by looking at a very tiny (140 charac.) profile that this person had an unsuccessful kickstarter project, even though they were able to fund around 40% of the required capital for an app. So I knew that this person, Ben Daniel is a hustler who moved from Utah to Silicon Valley, and before coming here, he dropped out of college. This excited me enough to meet him.  We met in a tiny but great café called “Peanuts” near San Jose State University. After hanging out for good two hours, we talked about entrepreneurs, facebook stock, creativity, startup ideas, and Sean Parker’s much hyped airtime.com etc.

June 5thWednesday, Airtime launched, and Ben & I were very disappointed by the whole concept of it. Ben called me with an idea; we met the very next day in San Jose Downtown. After brainstorming for like an hour, we knew this is our startup. Concept was to connect people by common hashtags in real-time on video platform, like people with #SuperBowl2013 are instantly connected face-2-face without any strings attached after. Idea is to connect the hashtag community on video chat instantly by keeping the social privacy and having it monitor by the users.

Ben & I can’t code, even though Ben is a classic graphic designer, we desperately needed engineers to work with us on this project. Funny thing, we came up with our company name “FreshTag” before the product. We were sitting facing “Baja Fresh”, and talking about “hashtag”, it hit me hard and “FreshTag” domain was bought within couple minutes.

Twitter once again helped me to discover a hackathon, xHack2012 in San Francisco hosted by Via.Me. I registered for both of us, it was free to attend, and most importantly it was happening the very same weekend of June 8th, Friday. As soon as we got there like bounty hunters to search for our technical cofounders, we asked “do you code?” to like about 50 people including the “janitor” gentleman, who laughed on my face like I am asking for his kidneys. Anyways, after an hour or so, we finally found the most promising engineers, Jon Bardin & Cody Byrnes. Bearded, hipster looking, beer-holding engineers were there to hangout with couple of their friends who work at via.me. They loved our idea, and oh boy! Team FreshTag was good to go.

After 17 hours of non-stop coding, brainstorming, designing, arguments, & discussions, we had our first prototype. It was working exactly the way we wanted it to be, and it was beautiful. You know the feeling, when your idea becomes a working prototype only after like 2 days. Team high-fived with beers at 5 in the morning, walked around on San Francisco streets, came back and passed out. We were one of the first team to finish like 6 hours ahead of the time. We won 2nd place in People’s Choice Award. This is how “FreshTag” was founded. I will share rest of the story next time!

Written by: Prateek Gupta, Co-founder & CEO @FreshTag.Me

P.S. VentureBeat covered us.

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