Mathematics Does Not Change

It is getting increasingly difficult to keep up with technology. Programming languages, technology stacks, architecture patterns, devices – all of these are changing at an exponential pace. Skills gained by meticulous practice become more or less useless over time. It is a puzzle, but it is not a tough one to crack – you just need to change with the times. It is as simple as that.

It is also getting increasingly difficult to keep up with changes in any given domain. For examples, look at the impact of Bitcoin on the world of finance, or the impact of technology in healthcare overall. Again this one is easy to understand – any domain that is impacted by technology (which is just a different way of saying ‘all domains’) also changes exponentially. You can try and become a Subject Matter Expert – but the challenge is to remain one. And it is not that different from remaining a technology expert. Particularly these days.

Here is the piece that is guaranteed to last forever – Mathematics. Yes, tools and technology have had a profound impact here as well- but if you really think about it – if you look at any Technology-Domain-Math combination around you – you will realize this: Mathematics Does Not Change. For someone looking to build skills that will last a generation or more, that is a great thing to realize. Mathematics is underrated – but it does not change.

And here is the thing – Objective-C could be attractive and Python could be the in-thing today, but Mathematics adds the zeros when it matters.

Learn Mathematics. It is that rare skill that will last a lifetime.

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Facebook Cannot Be The ‘Facebook For X’

The whole concept of ‘One Universal Social Network For All’ is very intriguing. We might be seeing a local maximum in the evolution of online / virtual social networks – but human beings do not function that way. We have different roles in life – spouse, mother, father, friend .. too many to list – and the lines between each of these are too complex to be handled by a collection of settings. We see this happen everyday – something you post intending to project an image of you to a certain circle / sphere getting seen / interpreted by a totally different circle /sphere resulting in a sub-optimal outcome overall.

It’s just not how we are wired. There are Muliple Me’s on the Internet – what we are seeing today, with ‘Facebook will be the Facebook for X’, is definitely a local maximum.

Do not lose hope. Facebook Cannot Be The ‘Facebook For X’.

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Consumer Vs Enterprise

Steve Jobs: “What I love about the consumer market, that I always hated about the enterprise market, is that we come up with a product, we try to tell everybody about it, and every person votes for themselves. They go ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and if enough of them say ‘yes,’ we get to come to work tomorrow. That’s how it works. It’s really simple. With the enterprise market, it’s not so simple. The people that use the products don’t decide for themselves, and the people that make those decisions sometimes are confused. We love just trying to make the best products in the world for people and having them tell us by how they vote with their wallets whether we’re on track or not.”

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Go For The Holy Grail

It is actually very simple to define the holy grail for any problem that can be solved with technology. Google is the holy grail for search. You key in what you want and you are presented with the best possible match. YouTube is the holy grail for online video – click to watch. StackoverFlow is the holy grail for technology questions – if you see someone else had the same problem, you can read how they solved it.

Many, many teams had tried to solve each of these problems – but for some reason, they did not go for the holy grail, even though they knew what the holy grail would be. Here is what you need to remember – if you get anywhere close to the holy grail, you would have created a Google.

Here is a simple heuristic for creating that monster of a solution in your field:

1. Define the holy grail for the problem you are trying to solve.
2. Go for it.

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Top Five Stats From Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends Report

Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends Report is out. Here are the top five stats we spotted in the report –

1. Advertising dollars will flow into mobile more and more. Percentage of Total Media Time Spent On Mobile – 24 Percent, but Percentage of Total Advertising Spend On Mobile – only 8 Percent. Bonus stat – 75 Percent of Facebook Video is watched on Mobile devices

2. If you want to get in on the ground floor, drones could be the thing – Consumer drones estimated to be shipped in 2015 – 4.3 Million, Revenue – 1.7 Billion

3. This explains the whole jobs thing – World Trade is now 25 Percent of World GDP. Since 2000 Population Grew 2.4X faster than jobs. 1948-2000 Jobs grew 1.7X faster than population (USA)

4. A trend you cannot miss – Source of Healthcare insurance moving away from Employers – 54 percent Vs 64 Percent in 1999

5. Here is one that surprised us -50 Percent of Americans receive some form of Government Benefit

So why is everyone talking about India these days? ‘Emerging’ Stat: Big Internet Markets – China #1 in sheer mass, India #1 in new user additions. 65 Percent of India’s Internet Traffic is on mobile. 41 Percent of India’s E-Commerce is on mobile. That explains the app-only moves.

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If You Suspect It Could Be The Ground Floor, Just Get In

There is an obvious pattern to success that most of us just think of as common knowledge – getting in on the ground floor. Most of us think it is so obvious, we just don’t do it most of the times. There are tonnes of examples – remember, Bitcoin traded at $1 in Feb 2011. Hell, we spotted it here in May 2011.

The basic idea is to increase the surface area for positive black swans. Because, like Taleb says, the necessary condition for winning the lottery is to buy a ticket. Do it. Multiple signals will hit you every other day that you suspect could be the ground floor of something huge. And these days, you could get in easily if you want to.

If you suspect it could be the ground floor of something big, just get in. Because, like Taleb says, the necessary condition for winning the lottery is to buy a ticket. Do it.

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Will Google.com Become Irrelevant?

Some Indian E-Commerce firms are going app-onlyMyntra is an example – there are some details that you just cannot miss in these decisions. For instance, this:

“Myntra and its parent Flipkart both shut their mobile websites in their first big move towards becoming mobile app-only shopping platforms, Mint reported on 20 March. Myntra already generates more than 90% of its traffic and 70% of its orders from its mobile app.”

and this:

“The moves by Myntra and Flipkart toward mobile app-only stores are intended to accelerate a consumer shift towards using smartphones as the preferred medium of shopping online, save costs and reduce dependence on the likes of Google Inc for luring new customers.” Source

We had noted some stats before, about India jumping the PC Internet phase and moving directly into the mobile internet phase – these app-only moves from big e-commerce (m-commerce?) players is more validation of the same.

As commerce moves to apps, and consumer acquisition strategies (and hence marketing dollars) move to individual branding rather than Google.com (which has started happening in the developing world in a big way) – Google.com might have challenges in staying relevant.

This is the same question as “Where is the Google.com for apps?”, but with an m-commerce and developing countries flavour. Will Google.com become irrelevant?

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Run Away From The Cost-Plus Model

There are multiple ways every single customer views at a price tag. Here are the common ways (Pricing is a very complex topic, so obviously we are generalizing a lot here) :

In a cost-plus model, the customer understands the product quite well, and can calculate in his mind, with reasonable accuracy, the cost of producing it. He is willing to pay a premium, but only by so much. This is a very common purchasing behavior, and is applicable for most everyday things in our lives.

In a value based model, the customer tries to calculate the value that the product or service brings to his life, and pays accordingly. This is applicable to products that are a little too difficult for cost calculations – consumer electronics for example. Not many people buy a smartphone knowing how much it costs to make – they buy it because they think that the product adds some value to their lives overall.

The third model is a simple ‘best alternative’ model – the consumer will pay based on what his alternatives will cost him. There is no reasonable way for him to calculate the cost, and there is no point in trying to come up with a value calculation because there are so many ways a benefit number could be arrived at. Software products are a great example here.

The real genius of the software business is this: if you have a product or service out there in the market, the customer has ABSOLUTELY NO WAY to understand the price – he will basically pay any number, as long as it is less than his current solution / workaround, or it is priced less than the alternatives he can find in the market, for the feature set he needs. Generally speaking, he does not know how many employees you have, he does not know if you are located in SFO or in Shanghai, he does not know if you use google docs or Microsoft live – he basically only knows that he is currently paying 29.99 per month for a competing product, and as long as you offer him all the features he needs at a lower price and similar quality, he has no questions on the price.

Run away from the cost-plus model. It will get you nowhere.

(Also Read: The Real Genius of The Software Business)

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‘As You Measure, So Shall You Reap’

What you choose to measure is probably the most important decision you make in the early stages of your product / startup. It influences your strategy, direction and product decisions directly and indirectly. The tricky part is that subtle changes in what you choose to measure could place you on a path that is very different from your original vision. This is not bad – it could even benefit you in many scenarios, but it is important to be aware of this impact.

The best part is this – you can use this impact to your benefit, if you could translate your vision into a clear set of parameters. Ensuring that you measure those parameters is the simplest thing you can do to ensure that you are on the right path. Obvious, but easy to miss sometimes.

File this in the same folder as ‘Don’t Listen To What Your Customers Say, Look At What They Do’. Choose what you measure very carefully. As You Measure, So Shall You Reap.

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Capitalism Rewards The Best

Capitalism is designed to reward the best. The best lawyers get to charge the most. The best players get the most lucrative contracts. The best actors make the most money.

There are many good lawyers, good players and good actors. They would survive, but probably not flourish. In any field, the best always make orders of magnitude more than the good. You could be good at many things – but you are playing against the very design of capitalism if you are not the best in any one. Capitalism acknowledges the good – but rewards the best. Really, it is as simple as that.

If you are the best search engine, you get to become Google. If you are the best online retailer, you get to become Amazon.

Do one thing really well. You will succeed for one simple reason – Capitalism Rewards The Best.

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