Development is more than just writing code
Technology is changing so fast that it's becoming hard to keep track of what's new or where it's going. It's typical for a developer to invest a few weeks learning a framework, a productivity tool or a new language, only to be told to her annoyance that there's something better and shinier that has came out just two days ago. Often there's no clear-cut comparison to suggest that one choice of technology stack is better than another. Developer skill-sets, community support, open libraries, documentation, cost, and application requirements are some factors that influence that choice. The problem has become so acute that some developers spend days or even weeks researching and get indecisive. Wouldn't it be nice to have a place that introduces technology to beginners?
When I say "beginner" I don't mean in the sense of someone in college or just starting his career. You could have years of experience in one technology and still be a beginner in Data Science, Big Data, Virtual Reality, IoT or any of dozens of new technologies that are coming up. I've found from personal experience that often initiations are in the form of Getting Started Guides, Setup & Installation Guides or Hello World examples. This fails because it's telling folks how to use something rather than explaining what it is or why it's relevant.
Takeaways from a Singapore-India FinTech event at Bangalore
I have to start with a disclaimer that I'm no expert in the area of FinTech. What I'm going to share here are some things I picked up at an event today where experts discussed FinTech in very specific terms. The event brought together the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and FinTech Valley Vizag, along with Bangalore start-ups and corporate delegates. MAS is partnering with the Andhra Pradesh government on a number of tech initiatives and FinTech is one of them. While Singapore is becoming the FinTech hub in Asia, Vizag is making bold moves to become the FinTech hub of India.
Three things stood out for me at the event:
- Beyond Payments
- Government Policy
- Skilled Manpower
The new kid on the block
The emerging IoT industry is an aggregation of products and services, complementing each other to enable efficiency and cost optimization in multiple industries. It does not have a vertically oriented value chain. IoT end nodes will be scattered in billions in various industries.
As mentioned in my earlier post ARM vs Intel: The new war frontiers, COTS processors will not be ideal for building these end nodes, as the latter are application specific. Companies would be inclined to adopt custom processors as they offer flexibility to assemble only required parts. These parts can include analogue sensor, DSP, proprietary IP, etc. Further, custom processors substantially reduce BoM cost and die size, which will minimize power dissipation. It also helps companies to differentiate their product from those of their competitors. In view of failing Moore’s Law, customization is the answer as it can reduce the BoM cost significantly.
Visualizations in R and their discussion
Two days ago I was thinking of starting a new meetup group in Bangalore but in the process I asked a few questions. I wonder how many meetup groups are there in Bangalore? I wonder many of these are really active? Which are the big ones? How many members are there in total? To answer these questions and satisfy my curiosity, I downloaded some data from Meetup.com and analyzed the same.
In fact, Meetup offers an API to make this process easier but the API has its limitations. You can only look at the details of a group after you have joined it. So I adopted a manual approach since I was interested in only high-level metrics. I copied some overview data manually from the web browser. Subsequently, individual group information was obtained by web scraping. The language of choice for this and subsequent visualization was R. So, here are the findings.
JAM, UPI and related developments
Yesterday I had the chance to attend an event that focused on issues of demonetization, FinTech (Financial Technology) and digital payments. Held at Thought Factory, Bangalore, it featured speakers from Byte Academy and Nidhin George, a writer passionate about FinTech. While FinTech as a domain is well defined in the West, it's still nascent and evolving in India. There's been a lot of focus on payments but FinTech is much more: investment, lending, insurance, digital currency, and so on. This obviously means that opportunities for innovation are plenty and as yet untapped. Perhaps 2017 will be the year when FinTech really takes off in India, thanks in part to the recent demonetization that has given it a major push.
While the demonetization exercise of Nov-Dec 2016 is something that had high-profile coverage, the government has been building up the case for a digital and cashless economy more quietly for quite some time now. At least, the public and media ignore them because they didn't create an immediate impact like demonetization. In the Economic Survey of 2014-15, the government introduced JAM Trinity: Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile. Let's look at each of these briefly.
How good ideas evolve
The four quadrants that you see here are adapted from Steven Johnson's book titled Where Good Ideas Come From. We have in fact done a review of this book many months ago on IEDF but I thought there's one aspect of innovation that deserves more attention and explanation. Johnson tries to analyze innovations with respect to the surrounding ecosystem and the models in which individuals and companies operate. The result is the four quadrants.
Broadly, someone who invents or innovates is either doing it individually in the proverbial garage or attic; or she is part of a bigger research group that has access to funds and resources. The other axis of analysis is about the motive: are the inventors interested in profiting from their creations or are they open to sharing them with everyone else in the ecosystem. This is what the four quadrants are all about. Let's now look at some specifics.
Places to Connect, Collaborate and Grow Your Start-up
Two years ago we published an article titled Start-up Incubators and Accelerators in Bangalore. While many of the entities on that list are still around, new ones have appeared. This post is an updated list.
Incubators are those that provide a working space plus other services that startups often look for. This might include networking events, business guidance and mentor connect. Where expensive equipment is needed, such as for prototyping and testing, incubators may provide these as well. Accelerators do a lot of things that incubators do but with more focused timelines and intensive short-term involvement. Startups in an accelerator program will start together as a cohort, will regularly share their progress with mentors and often end in a "demo day" that will showcase their achievements. Very likely, they will seek to scale their businesses via useful industry contacts.
Visualization and Analysis
This post is partly about learning how Indian start-ups were funded during the first half of this year. It's also about experimenting with data visualization. For the data, I was fortunate to find some open data, thanks to the work of Trak.in. Interested readers can go to the source and download the data. For visualization, I used a tool called BIME Analytics. It requires some time to master but I think I'm getting the hang of it.
Before we delve into the details, I have to make some cautionary remarks. No data is perfect. In particular, it's not clear how Trak.in obtained or verified the data. Was it data submitted online by users? How were users authenticated? Did they interview investors or scrutinize their investment documents? Secondly, a total of 545 projects were funded from January to June 2016. Of these, 235 were funded for undisclosed amounts: 165 via seed funding and 70 via private equity. Since 43% of the dataset has incomplete data, readers must keep this in mind while interpreting the following visualizations.