These days, reading any news headline without jeopardising personal sanity is a rarity. When it comes from the largest-read daily newspaper, whose arguably greatest trump (no pun intended) card is its spread of pictures that outweigh and outnumber written content on its third page, it gets more eyeballs, and forces someone like me to go into evasive mode – all the more so, since the news is about the job I do.
Without further ado- the most ridiculous news of the week by ToI: T-Hub to close doors on 150 startups?
Turns out I can write half decently as a few writers can run an organisation.
Running the largest tech incubator in a country, whose eventual issues will in almost all certain terms be solved by the might of our entrepreneurs, is hard enough, let alone, the tough decisions that one takes, to eventually further push the envelope that we are building for the city and for the country.
Some of these tough decisions involve moving up the value chain (wonder when was the last time that was looked down upon), and taking a tough call. Some others call for heeding to myopia, as exhibited by the class of ecosystem that remained at the bottom.
The greatness of myopic story-telling is a fascinating case of not being able to see the larger picture and focus on the stuff that’s conveniently chosen to ‘short sell’. Speaking of which, short selling is defined as the sales based on the belief that an instrument’s price will decline, enabling it to be bought back at a lower price to make a profit.
A case in point- the recent Times of India article titled “T-Hub to close doors on 150 Start-ups?”.
T-Hub’s sole role is the vision for which it exists – to create a world-class startup hub and transform the startup landscape of Hyderabad. For that to happen, one has to
a. Stop fighting math
b. And be cognizant about not being myopic
At T-Hub, I have the luxury of crossing paths with the entire spectrum that will work on this vision: the government, investors, corporates, institutes- academic and otherwise, and most importantly, startups.
“Stop Fighting The Math”
This is as actually as straightforward as the impossibility of Amitabh Bachchan playing Batman, after the debacle of Ben Affleck & Zack Snyder. This, inspite of the Main B drawing more than 20 Mn followers in Twitterverse.
Our friends at ToI don’t seem to understand the otherwise simplistic rule that has been inherent in the startup world for years – that 80% of startups fail– that percentage is significantly high in the early years.
Strangely, the article used words like ‘close its doors’, when the reality is far from that. The startups have been offered open access to most its programmes, if not all. They have been further offered other co- working spaces to move to.
A word that almost all incubators use is ‘graduate’.
Unfortunately, myopia tends to blur the need to do a raster scan of incubators and even understand what ‘closing doors’ even means. Moreover, incubators are not schools for the weak- minded kinder-types. An entrepreneur’s journey is fraught with perils that exist in the journey of building a grand company with grandiose in its ability to deliver that mission- objective. I’m curious about the myopic lens through which ToI decided to evaluate and value all startups as doomed through this ‘closed door’ perception.
It is important that startups fail so that the entrepreneurs, employees and the entire ecosystem gets better and better and better. It is even more important that we embrace failure as a notion of perfection.
Looks like a reasonable chink of the ecosystem are ok with this. What seems like a soft bellied non-buyer are the laissez faire report fraternity- the same fraternity that seems to struggle to move to what contributes to fair and ethical journalism.
So an opening line that goes like: “After a glorious 2015, the vibrant start-up ecosystem in Hyderabad seems to be going downhill” could otherwise have been stated thus: “T-Hub embraces 150+ startups from its pool of 3000+ applications, pivots and picks probabilistic winners based on data,” and therefore works with the math and placates itself to make that journey to carve Hyderbad’s destiny for its own spot in the sun.
But let me take a leaf from an entrepreneur’s book and vehemently state that a title like that wouldn’t “SELL”.
And at the end of it all, there are a few of us here, actually working for that cause – to create a great destination for startups – which includes taking tough decisions and paving the way. While the rest of us schmooze on the circulation of media buoyed by the clairvoyance that page-3 offers.
A journo’s hegemony of data is as cemented as the belief system of that print institution itself- as cemented as America’s foreign policy, as forced as the non-existence of WMD in Iraq and as pervasive as the idea of being stubborn for the sake of short selling. The article is myopic enough that it mentions ‘close its doors on over 150 start-ups that made their way into the state-run incubator only 11 months ago’.
The Things That I Find Amusing
- The lack of ingenuity in realising that every incubator in the world gets a fresh batch of startups regularly.
- Having built and run multiple startups myself, I can assure the writer that a startup is better off leaving an incubator and taking wings as opposed to being in one for over six months.
- The reality of the 3000+ applications that deserve to be looked at, not so strangely isn’t event mentioned in this great investigative piece of literary litany.
Myopia in startuposhpere is a state where one focusses on the 80% failures (and mind you- the 150+ startups are not even close to failing!!) and harps and stakes claims of a failed state.
The “ecosystem going downhill” is a classic example of a someone who has no clue about startups and the startup ecosystem writing away at will – oblivious to the great ecosystems that exist in the world – the valley that comprises ever-evolving networks, of workers who leap from startup to startup, of companies that fail and then recombine with other failures into big successes.
Singapore, that has seen the rise (and multiple failures) at Silicon manufacturing, fabrication, fintech.
An elixir of brains, money, and technology will typically drive an ecosystem, unless of course we are talking about the genesis of why Trump keeps winning in an ecosystem that has always won. An integrated manager focussed on verticals and stages to drive startups will help further curate that deal- flow: that’s who T-Hub is. And to get to that state of karmic relief, an entire city is pulling its socks up as we speak. I doubt if one myopic article will short sell the larger journey that we’ve undertaken. That being said, I must point out a few facts about the disorder.
Speaking of the entrepreneurs that form the denominator as the article indicates, a glance at the numerator indicates how healthy the city actually is.
The issue with Myopia is that in a risk versus success context, which is usually fairly long-drawn, an analysis requires possibly higher comprehension methodologies to grasp what is going on, not to mention stochastic approaches to what has happened in the past world- over.
Hyderabad Versus Rest Of India
Here’s another way to evaluate Hyderabad and comment on the larger canvas. Let’s take a look at India (this of course means the ability to skim over and look at a broader horizon).
Beyond the scope and size of the impending internet bust which will scar us like Vinod Kambli’s unfortunate ignominy for a while, or the great tech boom, like the emergence of faith restored like the new young Indian Turk in Kohli- as both are as inevitable, though, and the differences with today’s situation are ominous.
For one- the base of today’s success is far broader, be it Hyderabad or India.
What this means, is that notwithstanding the total amount of disclosed funding, Hyderabad stands fifth this year in India. The cumulative effect of taking into account all PE + debt rounds, Hyderabad stands third in India as of this year.
Deceleration is defined as change in negative velocity over speed per time interval. A heuristic approach at data would indicate that Hyderabad has been better than India as a whole.
Then, of course, we are dealing with reporting that addressed mock stories like a startup for burning buses but never covered a great local story from T-Hub that can possibly do a curative cure for Anaemia and are now in Israel, engaged with market leaders – thanks to T-Hub and Hyderabad.
Personally, I swell with pride in any form that represents the struggles of an entrepreneur. The last thing an entrepreneur wants is solace. He (she) needs support to push and push and push the ecosystem beyond what the envelope was originally conceived for.
I can possibly represent the entrepreneurs in Hyderabad when I state that the last thing we need is a myopic short changed article that barely articulates anything and substantively undermines the massive gravity that every entrepreneur fights to survive, stay alive and becomes the best in class. ‘a door forcing shut’ means many open elsewhere. But it requires the ability to see the woods beyond the tree.
The Issue With Myopia
The risk with myopia is the inability to loathe in the tough tasks that T-Hub, and importantly, Hyderabad’s startups and the entrepreneurs are trying to pull off.
The risk with reflection on a myopic dystopia is that you shun and discourage scores of, otherwise, primed to take risk brigades of diverse technologists.
The risk with myopia is the caricature of the startup ecosystem in India – is to focus on the woods and not get bogged down by the dirt gathering around the trees, which of course is understandably hard, when one’s mandate is to short sell the otherwise naïve reader who picks a publication for its ease of portraying stores through its third page.
Here’s the good news. Earning empathy from the windmills from yonder who understand this new aged journo- affliction. The thing with being a myopia- laden writer is exactly that- being myopic and stating explicitly that you are one.
The risk with short selling is that you sell a story, but you sell a few thousand short of what they deserve. Entrepreneurs in our country deserve much more. T-Hub, the face of our entrepreneurs deserves much more, given our vision.
To sum up in the words of Queen
“One man, one goal,
One heart, one soul,
Just one solution.
One flash of light, yeah,
One god, one vision”
Myopia will come in the way. But it can be overcome.
[This post by Jay Krishnan first appeared on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with permission.]