Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The story of Maven is a journey towards perfection.
What started as common sense, slowly evolved into a way of doing things – the Artha Shastra way. The ad-hoc, piece meal approach gave way to a structured and systematic approach to problem-solving. This was step one of removing the cruft and starting on the path to perfection.
However, this methodology that was still so complex that people paid good money and spent valuable time to try and understand it. Here was the next step, to remove the complexity by using machines to do what they are good at and let humans use their intelligence to guide the machines towards the larger goal. Thus began the journey of Maven development.
The third step of simplification was to present non-linear, non-intuitive effects, which arguably mimic the butterfly effect, to appear simple and linear, more like the domino effect. Lots of late nights with the UX experts finally helped us achieve the same.
The fourth step was the development, or rather the lack of it. The discussion of what would remain in the product and what would be left out. It was more than a quest for a minimum viable product; it was to reduce the overall complexity of the product while being useful for a large set of use cases.
And we are currently in the final stages of achieving perfection. How do we communicate the benefits of Maven is a clear and concise manner. We can speak volumes about the goodness of Maven, but as always, perfection lies in taking away until there is nothing left to take away. And we are getting closer with every deleted word and rewritten sentence.
Stay tuned to know more about Maven and how it can help you achieve perfection in your service delivery.
Those were my thoughts when I took up the challenge of building Maven (then known as Project Andromeda).
There were so many reasons not to do it, unfinished and continuously evolving specs, unknown complexity, several dependencies, no development team in place, no clear target user, unproven market, extremely aggressive deadlines, fear of running out of money etc. But there was one important reason to do it: it hasn’t been done before.
Having decided that I want to do it, how do I go about it?
Well there is only one way to build software, to start building it. It cannot be done by sitting on the side-lines and waiting for things to fall into place before you begin. It needs a team to be built, need analysis, write specs, design, architect, code, test… and building Maven meant that we were doing all of these at once.
And then we celebrate…
The thrill of seeing the thoughts of several people in bytes and pixels is difficult to articulate. We know that we have just scratched the surface, and there is a ton of work to be done, but we also know that the journey ahead is much more manageable than what we have went through.
Why copy-cats don’t keep me up at night.
It takes a special type of environment to achieve something like this. You need people who are willing to suspend disbelief, embrace chaos, put their careers on the line and work with single minded focus to make it happen. Maven could not be built in an enterprise environment. It would take over 10 person-years to complete, and will be way behind what Maven would be by then. But to ensure that Maven is years ahead of competition, we cannot rest on what has been achieved and continue to innovate and create new benchmarks.
While visiting rediff.com today, I was intrigued by the home page promotion of ‘Biz Solutions’. Clicking through, I was surprised to see an unbelievable price for .in domains. This sent me hunting for the fine print, but I found none. Here is a screenshot of the offer.
.in - Rs. 125 for one year
Not ready to give up, I decided to test the offer by trying to purchase a dummy domain.
Still Rs. 125, still no fine print or renewal rates. Only when I changed the registration period to 2 years, could I tease out a probable year 2 rate.
So there you have it, rediff advertises a low-low price of Rs. 125, and never discloses that it will cost you Rs. 800 to renew.
I looked up 2 more alternates that target customers of similar skills, bigrock and yahoo. Both had the first year fees lower than renewals (industry trend I am fully aware of), but were upfront that the renewals rate differs. Yahoo was very upfront, whereas bigrock needed some digging.
A short post about interesting business ideas, I came across in the last week or so.
Lost-key drop service
A service, that sells numbered key chains, which has something like this written on it:
When the key is lost, the owner will contact the service hotline to ascertain if the key, with id number 123654789 in the above example, has been returned. If yes, he can pick it up or have it mailed for a fee. Works best if the operation is distributed having franchise operators in each city. Thus the turnaround time between losing the key and regaining it can be minimised.
A customer can register the key code online, to get an email / SMS whenever the key is returned.
Help and advice to DIY farmers
About 6-months ago, I discussed with a friend on, how I am interested in growing a vegetable garden, but have no clue where to begin. I was interested if someone will give me advice on what to grow, when and how as well as supply the needed materials. Six month later, I read about sproutrobot, on techcrunch. Sproutrobot, is a US based start-up, pretty much doing what I described above. Now if someone can replicate this for India.
DIY greeting cards
Create an online service that allows users to create a greeting card selecting the paper, design and wordings. This is then handmade and either mailed to the user or distributed to the list provided. There are a few similar services, but none having the refinement and social integration of the “new web”.
This is the one I am most likely to try out, just for the technical kick. I also intend to concentrate on a very specific niche to be able to provide templates to best match what the user might want.
Thanks to the company I keep, online and offline, the only entrepreneurial ventures I see are tech related. Everyone wants to be the next viral sensation and make pots of money. Hardly anyone wants to add real value to the life of others and improve the community as a whole.
Rant aside, I recently came across a very interesting piece from Vivek Wadhwa titled Replicators, Innovators, and Bill Gates. The form of ventures I described above might be of innovative type, but there is no harm in starting a replicating venture. Especially if it brings in a steady stream of income and gives stable employment to a few people.
One such service I see in Germany which can be easily replicated in India is the ‘Hausmeister’, literally a house master service. For a fixed fee from each resident, a company takes care of all the common issues with a housing apartment. Whether it is cleaning, sanitation, repairs and other forms of maintenance.
With the several million apartment complexes in India, this service could organise and streamline the ‘building maintenance’ nightmare and make decent money, while generating employment for several people of varied skills. People who desperately need a job that they can do with dignity.
The occupants also gain as they have one throat to choke and do not need to deal individually with a number of service providers. The last such venture I saw, was the greatly successful cable wallah. No reason similarly spirited individuals can’t make this service a success too.