Why Internships are broken

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Having a thread about internships going on and I am realizing how long I’ve been having this conversation, but nothing has changed.

1. Two months of internship isn’t useful at all. It takes about 3-4 weeks for anyone to get inducted into a work environment, and another 2-3 weeks to transition out. And these interns take a few days off in between. What’s left?

2. Its good exposure for the interns, because its the first exposure of a real work environment – and unlike a large company, you cant chillax in a startup. You feel the grind and its helpful. However it is one-sided. Startups train them, but don’t get productive work out of them.

3. The ideal scenario is six months. As a rule (after years of experimenting with this in my stint in IIT), we took a call that internship to be meaningful has to be a min of six months.

4. If it is going to be this two month stuff, every other sector apart from IT and startups have evolved to call it “Industry awareness program” and they charge the interns. I think thats fair.

5. I wish universities – like some are experimenting – will allow the students to take six months to a year off in between to go actually do some work – or figure life out. The employability ratio will increase in graduates.

6. The worst is when the colleges / placement offices assign an intern during their project year. You are a startup. You have one product. And at the end of it, the student would want to publish the source code that he/she worked on – and that becomes a point of contention. Also because publishing that code means, the university owns that code (standard agreement when project work is done). Some startups cook up some new project that these students can showcase for their projects, but that also ends up being unfair.

PS: Looks like the Practice school concept that BITS Pilani has, is a good idea.

 
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Eventifier : When they started

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When We first met them, they were these three scrawny (they still are) boys with dreams in their eyes and clearly uncomfortable in a city that was alien to them. They hesitated before every word they spoke and they were cautious and trying hard not to say the wrong thing.

It was one of the editions of In50hrs in Chennai. They pitched an idea. It wasn’t bad, but not one that you would want to build a startup around. As one of the mentors who was around, I let them know that. When I came back, they had a new idea on their mind, and this time they had associated it with the things we were talking about. “Solve a real problem” – seems to have resonated with them.

Truth be told, it was one of the smallest In50hrs we had done in Chennai. But that edition churned quite a few startups – including Huntshire. They built the prototype – and if you see their current site, you wouldn’t believe that it was even the same product. But it got the point across and we could see what was going on in their mind.

Fast forward 8-10 months later and they had paying customers across the globe. It took us all a bit of effort to teach a group of inexperienced entrepreneurs how to sell to enterprises, but not knowing what failure means, meant that they dared a lot more than experienced folks would dare to. That was their secret.

They raised a small round of funding back then from KAE Capital. Hats off to Sasha Mirchandani for betting on them. That’s a true angel by definition – he trusted me on my word that this was a backable team.

Now with clients such as NASA, Startup Weekend, Clinton Foundation, WWW etc, they are closing their seed round from Accel Partners and KAE Capital.

This team has a long way to go, but they have started off right. Who said you had to jet set all around the world in order to build a global company? They have 2000 customers so far using their product, each and every one of them acquired sitting right here in India. They just needed the right nudge.

It’s amazing to think that it all started over a weekend. Here’s to Eventifier!

Kudos on their Techcrunch Moment

 

 
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Some Stats and Insights on Angel Networks in India

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Some Interesting Stats on Angel Networks in the country: The biggest network in the country last year received 3204 applications. The first shortlist was done for 250 startups which had in person pitch sessions and 13 companies were invested into. The 10,000 Startups initiative received a similar 3000 odd applications, shortlisted to 25, out of which 5 were funded.

This is interesting because the role of accelerators in this country is starting to get defined. The role that will be played will not be with funds and writing fast cheques, but in a way also to provide acceleration with tapping into existing networks. Accelerators are important, because they will improve these odds much better.

A good number of good companies get kicked out in the first shortlist because none of the quality angels have time to go through every application and hence is reviewed and shortlisted through an associate. The associate is looking for a well and complete business plan that meets all the criteria and is setup to fail on spotting great companies. The good companies did not even have a shot.

Accelerators come in, where the associates fail. I have been making a few personal introductions to some of the networks whenever i meet an interesting company – helping them get into the 250 without the aid of an associate, and it seems to be working rather well. I’ve often told folks, that capital is not the problem in this country. Information is. Doing the due diligence on the entrepreneurs – with empathy and spotting potential – and also matching them with the right temperament of investors is the missing gap. Most investors who slip in by default, are a bad match most of the time.

 
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Talent is Great. Character, is key

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I remember having this conversation with one of my mentors: We were talking about how in life, the more you succeed (contrary to popular belief), the more freedom you give up. It was okay to be seen in a few places, with all sorts of people at a time when you were an unknown person, but the path we decide to take and the goal we set for ourselves severely restricts our freedom. Most people imagine that when you succeed, you gain more freedom – its quite the opposite. The more you succeed (and god forbid it comes with fame), the less of what you do will be seen as appropriate. Whether you like it or not, you are kept on pedestals and held to higher standards.

All these stories of people – and not folks who got to where they are by chance but by grit, determination, hard work and substance – falling from grace is a sobering reality. It can, infact, happen to anyone. We all know of presidents been caught in compromising positions as well.

At times i wonder if the frequency and the occurrences of slip ups have gone up with the recent generation though. I do think that people by default buried such “embarrassments rather quickly in the past, but the generation – one or two iterations ago, also learnt value systems in a very different way. They didn’t grow up in a world of instant coffee and 2 minute noodles atleast.

Back in the days of kings and kingdoms, i wonder if this is why it was necessary for princes when they reach a certain age – especially if they were heir to the thrones – to go on their “vanavaasams”, to abdicate luxury and to get a sense of ground reality before they were put on a position of absolute power. Perhaps its time to revisit some of those old values – especially if we have to sustain what we build, brick by brick.

A good friend recently said, “in order to achieve any decent work as an artist or creative person, you have to give yourself to become an asexual being. Someone that the world around you doesn’t see as raging of harmones”. That, I absolutely agree with.

Success is not freedom – that’s the myth. It’s a niche world that you make for yourself, where you continue limiting the choices in front of you. Most of the time, you get there by staying on the path. It’s even more important for you to keep at it, if you want to stay there and enjoy the view from what you have built. I’ll tell you the secret though: Its easier if you don’t have to fake it.

As a mentor once said, “Talent can take you to the top, but only character can keep you there”.

 
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