Category Innovation

Archive for ‘Innovation’

Please watch and contribute (if you can)

By Rajesh Setty on Fri 27 Mar 2009, 10:48 AM – 3 Comments

Watch this short and touching video.

The performance is from students of a music school that teaches music to the blind.

The Southern California Conservatory of Music is the only place in the country that offers a braille music curriculum to teach musicianship of the highest caliber to blind and visually impaired students.  It houses one of the largest braille music libraries in the world, and it also provides outreach programs to both blind and sighted children in the public schools who would otherwise receive no formal music education.  After 37 years of steady service, this important community and national resource for the blind is facing severe financial difficulties, and has embarked on a fundraising campaign in an attempt to keep its doors open and continue its many programs.

I had an opportunity to talk to Dory Bavarsky, teacher over there and asked him about story behind the conservatory. Here is our conversation:

RS: Dory, what led you to get interested in this school?

DB: I was enrolled as a piano student at the conservatory at age 13.  My teacher was Grant Horrocks, who along with Richard Taesch had founded the Braille Music Division of our school.  I was studying classical piano quite intensively, and spent many of my weekends practicing at the conservatory.  Since I was often there on Saturdays, I began to observe and then participate in the group classes for blind children.  It was fascinating because the way these children were taught to engage in music was somewhat different than what I had been used to.  Also, the range of abilities and disabilities presented in our group of students was quite vast and remarkable.  I met children who had tremendous music gifts, including a few with incredible ears.  Many of our blind students have perfect pitch, and some to such a degree that they can easily play back complicated music upon a single hearing.  I was especially amazed by Rachel Flowers, who at age 4 was playing Beethoven sonatas by ear, though she could barely reach the keyboard.  Eager to work with this special group of people, I continued volunteering as an assistant throughout my high school years.  After graduating from UCSB, I was hired as a faculty member at the conservatory.

RS: Tell us more about the wonderful work the school is doing?

DB: Our school provides a variety of important services.  We operate as a regular music conservatory, offering private lessons in all the major instruments, including voice, piano, violin, guitar, and flute.    Our Braille Music Division offers the same level of intensive musical education to the blind community.  We hold weekly group classes in Braille music notation, keyboard skills, and ear training, as well as private lessons for some students.  In addition, the Braille Music Division has conducted numerous outreach programs at other schools for the disabled throughout Southern California.  Last year, our teachers, including myself, visited three different schools on a weekly basis, and conducted music appreciation classes for their students.  These classes involve playing all kinds of music, discussing it, and even giving the kids an opportunity to feel and play various instruments.  These outreaches are an important aspect of our program, as they provided a wonderful musical experience for kids who richly deserve and enjoy it.

Over our many years of service, we have developed strong relationships with many other organizations working with the blind community, including Junior Blind of America, California State University Northridge, and California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped.  We are also the headquarters for The Music Education Network For The Visually Impaired, which is an information network composed of musicians, specialists, students, parents, and music educators.

RS: What can you share about some of the success stories of the school?

DB: Our school has had so many successes, especially in our Braille Music Division.  We’ve had several students who have gone on to study music at colleges and universities.  In fact, some of them have come back and are now working as instructors!  We have also had students who come to our program unable to read braille.  In several instances these students’ school teachers had declared that they would never be literate.  However, music brings out hidden abilities, and after a few years with us, not only were these students reading braille, they were reading braille music notation as well.

One of our most inspiring students is one I mentioned earlier, Rachel Flowers.  Rachel started with us as a tiny, nearly silent little girl.  Though she would hardly ever talk, her musical ears were astounding.  Over the years, Rachel has developed into an extraordinary musician.  Her participation in music has also aided her development into a cheerful, talkative young lady.  She plays piano and flute, and during the last few years become an excellent Jazz player.  Last year, Rachel impressed some of the biggest stars of Jazz, including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Hubert Laws, when she performed for them as part of an celebration honoring Herbie Hancock.

RS: What support are you looking for and how can people show their support?

DB: An important aspect of our Braille Music Division is that tuition for group classes is free for all our students. This policy ensures that no child is denied instruction based on financial circumstances.  Thus, the conservatory has always relied on donations and grants to cover some of our operating costs.  Unfortunately, because of the difficult economy, many of the annual grants we had been receiving did not come through this year.  Simply stated, the conservatory needs immediate emergency funds in order to stay open for the next term.  All donations help us keep our doors open and allow us to continue offering services from our current location.  If we do manage to survive this challenging time, we will need continued support in order to continue and expand our programs.  People can help us so much by donating to the school, and also by telling others about us.

Please visit to learn more about donating to the Southern California Conservatory of Music.

Also, please visit to view photos and performance videos of some of our Braille Music Division students.  There is a terrific video of Rachel playing piano and flute, at the same time!

Posted under Announcement, Innovation, Main Page.

140 characters to make you think…

By Rajesh Setty on Sun 22 Feb 2009, 11:03 PM – 4 Comments

I am 75 days old on Twitter. I have a long way to go there but I know that I have to start somewhere.

So, here is what I am doing on Twitter in the next two three weeks (starting Feb 23, 2009 to March 13, 2009):

Everyday from Monday to Friday I will have five tweets from 6.30am to 10.30am PST under the ThinkTweet category. There will be a ThinkTweet at 6.30am, 7.30am, 8.30am, 9.30am and 10.30am PST. My goal is to make every one of these tweets count – meaning make you think.

I am VERY confident of keeping this promise about the schedule. Why? (wink) because I have already scheduled most ALL MOST of these Tweets using HootSuite. I wrote them over the last few weeks in preparation for these two weeks.

I know, I know – Twitter is all about conversations. However, I think Twitter can be used for something more. To enrich and enlighten. 140 characters is a lot to make someone think. These 50 tweets will be my humble attempt to prove that.

Come and join me on Twitter on this journey. You don’t have to be on Twitter to follow these tweets. There is an RSS feed option on my Twitter home page and you can subscribe using any RSS reader. If you are my friend on Facebook, you will see these Tweets as status updates on my Facebook profile.

My Twitter Id is @UpbeatNow.

Have a great week ahead!

Posted under Announcement, Innovation, Main Page.

Venture Capital Story in Q4 2008 – Now Told Visually…

By Rajesh Setty on Sun 25 Jan 2009, 7:18 PM – Leave Comment

They say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, here is the story of Venture Capital activity in Q4 2008 in pictures – ok, interactive charts powered by iCharts.

Here is the first interactive chart that shows total VC dollars invested – quarter by quarter

You can see more than 25 charts sliced and diced by sector (software, life sciences, clean tech), stage (first time, follow on financing), industry etc at the NVCA (National Venture Capital Association) website here:

NVCA: VC Investments Q4 2008 – Money Tree Report

Have a great week ahead all of you.

Posted under Business Models, Innovation, Main Page.

Google Chrome: Focus moving to capturing “Real Estate”

By Rajesh Setty on Mon 01 Sep 2008, 8:28 PM – 3 Comments

“Real Estate” is precious

Take Retail – The competitive advantage is in owning real estate

Take Transportation – The competitive advantage is in owning the Oil “Real Estate”

Take Web 1.0 – The competitive advantage was in Operating System “Real Estate”

Take SaaS and Web 2.0 – The competitive advantage is in Browser “Real Estate”.

Of course, hindsight 20/20 – we see that Google is entering into the “real estate” game in a big way.

Take a few things that people do normally online.

1. They search

2. They communicate

3. They share

4. They manage their businesses (they use tools)

In the web 1.0 world, the “real estate” needed to do these things was the operating system.

In the web 2.0 and SaaS world, the “real estate” required to build a big empire is the browser. The power is slowly being taken away from the operating system. Google’s move to stake a big claim makes a lot of sense (for Google, for sure)

More about Google Chrome from Michael Arrington here and here.

More from Google’s Official Blog here.

This is a very nice lesson about extending the value chain one step at a time. Not just Google, every business can design and execute on this. Of course, not at this scale but the thinking has to be the same. For a brilliant explanation of the concept, please refer to Adrian Slywotzky’s work. Overview can be found in this book “How to Grow When Markets Don’t

All the best!

Posted under Business Models, Innovation.

DVD Rental Battle Zone – Netflix vs Blockbuster+RedBox+Hulu+Cable Networks…

By Rajesh Setty on Sun 24 Aug 2008, 11:01 PM – 6 Comments

It is interesting to note that long ago Netflix ignited the change in the way DVD rental market worked.

Netflix model was simple and the core still continues to be the same. For a flat monthly fee, you can rent as many DVDs as possible and you can keep them for as long as you want. Depending on your plan, you could have as little as 1 DVD or as much as 5 DVDs with you.

It seemed like there is no stopping for Netflix.

Today, I think the playing field is changing again. While Netflix continues to enjoy the advantage of their innovation, it is now being attacked by a number of players. Here is the list of companies that are not allies but each one of them are trying to take a piece of the market.

1. Blockbuster: Has an offline and online strategy. You can rent online and return offline. Netflix cannot do it unless it has an offline presence. Plus, Blockbuster dropped the rental fee for old movies to $1 for five days

2. RedBox: Redbox has installed kiosks in several supermarkets and MacDonalds stores. The focus of Redbox is to rent only the latest 100 movies or so for $1/day.

3. Hulu and Other Online Venues: Watch movies totally free

Add to this the Cable Networks and Digital Video Recorders (like TiVo) and there is a battle zone in the making.

I am sure there are more innovations coming up. This is a case where whoever innovates first and fast will ultimately win. Will wait and watch :)

Posted under Business Models, Innovation.

Doing Good Via Spam Protection: The Art of Leverage

By Rajesh Setty on Sat 16 Aug 2008, 6:37 AM – 5 Comments

Chris Albrecht at GigaOm writes a story about a Luis von Ahn (Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University) who is one of guys who developed Captcha technology.

The story is about how NY Times is using CAPTCHA technology to fix errors that crop up in their effort to digitize old issues. I put together a schematic to explain what they are doing.

As you can see whatever words OCR (Optical Character Recognition software) could not recognize well enough are handed off to reCAPTCHA which sends them to various websites to be used as “challenge words” for spam protection. When humans decode them as part of their “response” to “challenge words” they go back to the database as “error fixes”

This story for me is simply an example of brilliant use of leverage. You are breaking down the problem (OCR errors) into small pieces and parceling them out to individual websites. These individual problem pieces are part of a SOLUTION to a different problem (spam protection). People are engaging in solving the first problem as a side benefit of solving the second problem – meaning at no cost at all.

Simply brilliant.

You can read the whole story here:

CAPTCHA’s Can Be useful, Don’tcha Know

Posted under Business Models, Innovation.

Innovation Everywhere – Now it is with sarees

By Rajesh Setty on Thu 07 Aug 2008, 5:33 PM – Leave Comment

A saree is a traditional Indian dress for women. Not just in India but probably many parts of South Asia.

Kiruba pointed to a link where a store in Chennai (India) had come up with a Saree with a small pouch – a place where a woman can keep her mobile phone.

I don’t whether this will take off or not but I am all for innnovations everywhere. Hats off for trying. You never know what is possible until you try.

What was interesting with this was the attempt to “change the organization” of something that has not changed for a few hundred years. Let me explain. Organization is an arrangement of components. For a few hundred years, a saree was a long unstitched cloth. While there were a number of changes to the structure (like material, design etc.) never was there a change to the organization of the saree.

Yes, Saree was a long unstitched cloth but there is no reason for it stay that way. After all, there were not a lot of women in the corporate world and no mobile phones a few decades ago and now it has changed.

Posted under Innovation.

Behind the scenes – Dekoh; Interview with Vijay Pullur

By Rajesh Setty on Fri 08 Jun 2007, 7:01 AM – 2 Comments

SaaS (software as a service) applications are now a “no-brainer” alternative to many enterprise applications.  Consumers and business users both are very comfortable using SaaS applications. In fact, there are many companies that are actively moving their current enterprise implementations to SaaS based offerings. However, there are situations where it would be beneficial to have offline access to parts of the application.

Here are a few examples to demonstrate the usefulness of offlining:
1. Access to your customers, prospects and opportunities on the go.
2. Access to a product configuration engine offline – so that the sales person is empowered to create a quote offline.
3. Ability to provide survey participants an option to fill out a survey offline and sync. Up the answers.

Dekoh is a product that can enable this and more. Here is a quick interview with Vijay Pullur (blog: Software (Ad)venturing) , one of the founders of Pramati (the company behind Dekoh)

1. RS: Vijay, you have a fascinating story having founded one of the leading product development companies (Pramati) out of India. Please tell us about your journey so far?

Vijay: I and my brother Jay started Pramati in 1998 in India, goal was to build world-class products leveraging India’s strengths namely low-cost and great talent availability. The journey has been very satisfying and exciting one. We have built products that out-perform the biggest and best names in the industry. Our flagship product Pramati server competes with products from BEA, IBM and Oracle. Our recent product Dekoh is in RIA space, competing against Adobe’s Apollo product. We have two simple goals

1.  Build products that our customers love.
2.  In the markets we compete we should be innovating faster than our competitors.

That gives us a kick. We are very proud of it.

2. RS: What is the need for a product like Dekoh in the marketplace today?

Vijay: Dekoh is a Rich Internet Application and Social Media platform on the desktop. Today desktop and web applications work as silos. Look-n-Feel, installation, access and technologies used to develop these applications are very different. Dekoh bridges the gap between desktop and the web. The “Rich” in RIA refers to richness in user interface (Flash and AJAX), richness in functionality (desktop and web) and richness in availability (online and offline). Providing a seamless user experience for applications on desktop and web in both connected and disconnected mode is the goal. This is the next frontier for internet applications.

3. RS: Adobe has Apollo and Google just announced Google Gears. How does Dekoh compare against these offerings?

Vijay: There are several approaches to solving the problem. Each one attacks the problem from their natural strengths. Adobe Apollo is a runtime that allows developers to applications on the desktop using web technologies like HTML, AJAX and Flex.

Dekoh supports these and more web technologies like JSP, Servlets on the desktop. The key difference are in 2 areas. Web has moved on from 1.0 to 2.0, supporting just HTML, AJAX and Flash is not enough. Dekoh addresses this hole which Adobe has left. Dekoh is a social media platform on the desktop bringing web 2.0 functions like sharing, tagging, commenting, rating and RSS to the desktop. The second difference is Apollo applications run outside the browser, more like desktop applications. We at Dekoh believe that users are very familiar and they like using browser as the client and that should be honored. Dekoh applications run inside the browser.

Now talking about Google gears, it is about making certain functionality of web applications offline by re-writing them. It is not a desktop platform. For example Google gears application cannot show you local filesystem to pick a directory. Google gears is targeted at more Javascript heavy applications.

4. RS: You mentioned about offlining parts of a SaaS application for one of your clients. What was the need and how did Dekoh fit in there?

Vijay:  Thanks to the torch bearer SaaS applications have become mainstream in enterprises. Unfortunately, world has not moved that fast to provide ubiquitous anywhere/anytime internet connectivity. Depending on the nature of the job connectivity varies. People who travel very frequently are the worst hit. Due to this access and availability of SaaS applications become intermittent. Dekoh has developed several key components to partition application and data of SaaS applications and to install the application on users desktop in one-click. Once this is done, the user continues to access the application and modify the data in a disconnected offline mode. We have a sync module that will synchronize data back to central server when the desktop connects back. The utility and user experience for SaaS applications get significantly enhanced with such offline functionality.

5. RS: Why should developers be excited about your platform?

Vijay: Dekoh is a open source platform. It is built using open technologies like Java, AJAX etc. It is very easy for developers to write applications on Dekoh. No new technologies or tools need to be learnt in order to write applications on Dekoh platform. As an icing on the cake Dekoh brings in exciting web 2.0 features to the desktop, developers can write applications and show them off to their network of friends and family right from their computers.

6. RS: Life is going on fine without Dekoh or Apollo or Google Gears. Some people may say you have a solution waiting for a problem. Your comments?

Vijay: Think about it, people said the same about telephones! I am not saying Dekoh is comparable in proportions to that, but Dekoh offers some unique features that can dramatically improve web experience of users. Offline is only one part of the story. The bigger thing about Dekoh, is it can change the request-response model of the web. For example, today users have to manually click to go to a website and look at new information or use the service. Dekoh can help users make time on the internet more productive by pulling content on their behalf. For online services, this is a platform to provide valuable user specific information even when the user is not on their site. This is a new paradigm.

7. RS: What were the challenges in developing this product? Now, that the product is out, what are the challenges you are facing in bringing it to the marketplace?

Vijay: The biggest challenge for us was to package technology components into an end-user friendly, zero maintenance bundle. Once we got past this hurdle, we are seeing so many possibilities of putting this technology to use. The challenge ahead of us is much tougher one, to showcase and tell the story to the audience. To build a larger community of users and developers.

8. RS: On the product front, you seem to be ahead of both Apollo and Google Gears. However, the other products are from Gorillas in the marketplace. How do you plan to compete with the size? What kind of help are you looking from the community (developers and users)

Vijay: Yes. We are well ahead of the competition. With all things we are currently working on, I am confident the gap is going to get wider. I agree we are the David fighting the Goliath. Technical superiority, innovation, nimbleness and most importantly our openness (open standards based technology, open source software and open mind to listen to our users) has started to create the positive word of mouth. It is just matter of time when mindshare is going to overtake muscle power (think what was Google when they launched their search engine).

We have created a platform that developers can use to write applications without learning any new proprietary technologies or tools. Whatever they write on the desktop can be shared and shown to their friends network. We want to hear from developers their experiences to enhance the platform. We have created several personal media applications for end users to use. We hope people enjoy organizing their media, sharing with friends. Any new ideas for applications can be shared on new ideas forum on, some developers may pick up the idea and turn it into reality. Dekoh gallery will showcase applications.

9. RS: What is in the horizon for Dekoh? Where are you planning to take this Vijay?

Vijay: We have tried to create useful value to developers by opening the platform. We have written several media and utility applications for end users to use and enjoy networking with their friends. We will continue to build on this. Dekoh is a good platform for online services/websites to create a desktop presence. Similarly, SaaS applications can leverage our platform to make their services available anywhere/anytime (literally).

Posted under Innovation, Main Page.

Quotes worth recording – William Gibson

By Rajesh Setty on Thu 07 Jun 2007, 1:32 AM – Leave Comment

Here is one way to look at innovation – to see things before the world sees it. This short quote captures the essence of innovation brilliantly.

“The future is here. It is just not widely distributed yet.”

– William Gibson,
   Science Fiction Writer

Posted under Great Quotes, Innovation, Main Page.

Behind the scenes – Eventbee Network Ticket Selling and Event Listing

By Rajesh Setty on Tue 05 Jun 2007, 7:27 AM – 1 Comment

I get fascinated whenever I see the power of leverage in play. Recently I saw this with SimplyHired job boards. With almost no coding, you could create a job board on your blog or website and start making money.

Bala Musrif at EventBee has a new offer from his company called Network Ticket Selling and Network Event Listing. I am also interested in the people who are behind companies with interesting business models. So I had an opportunity to ask Bala Musrif a few questions about himself and his business. Here is the quick interview that will provide the “Behind The Scenes” view of the whole thing

1. RS: Bala, tell us a bit about yourself. You had a successful career at Sun. What prompted you to start EventBee in the first place?

Bala: I started my full time job as a Hardware Engineer when I was 19, since then I worked in National Remote Sensing Agency, Wipro, Imake Software and Sun Microsystems. I am always fascinated with new technologies and ideas. My quest for technologies made me work in many areas at Sun, from clustering to Portal servers. While I was managing portal server partnerships at Sun, I saw the opportunities Internet is brining to every industry you name it.  I evaluated many opportunities and found focusing on events market is not only rewarding, but also risk is limited with huge market size.

2. RS: EventBee was competing with many other registration systems out there. Apart from being commoditized, what were the challenges with EventBee?

Bala: Yes, there are many companies who provide registration software. The fact is events market is very big, and there is no clear established leader. That gave us opportunity to enter the market with new innovative ideas, and quickly establish our self as a most advanced web  based registration system. The initial challenge for us was to establish our self as a trusted partner as we deal with tens of thousands of registration payments. The next challenge for us was to educate Event Managers to tap state of the art technologies to promote and sell more event tickets.

3. RS: Network Ticket Selling and Event Listing seem to be the place where you are expecting home run. For the benefit of readers, tell us what exactly is “network ticket selling and event listing”

Bala: Network Ticket Selling allows Event Managers to sell tickets from third party Websites (or Blogs) that are part of  Eventbee Partner Network. By simply listing and enabling Network Ticket Selling at Eventbee, Event Managers tap “Network” effect to drive more ticket sales, and reward commission to third party Websites for each ticket sale they generate.

Using Network Event Listing, now Webmaster (or Bloggers) can monetize traffic by enabling premium event listing on their site with zero investment. By simply enabling Network Event Listing on their site, webmasters tap new revenue stream that was not there earlier, and allow Event Managers to reach website visitor community in a seamless fashion.

Network Ticket Selling combined with Network Event Listing allows Event Managers to create Viral Marketing effect, Distributed Ticket Selling phenomenon, resulting in maximum ticket sales with minimal efforts.

4. RS: Why should webmasters or bloggers be excited about Network Ticket Selling and Listing?

Bala: By joining Eventbee Partner Network, and displaying Evnetbee streamer (widget) on their site, webmasters (or Bloggers) earn money two ways –

1. Get paid premium listing fee on their site,
2. Get paid commission for each ticket sale they generate.

This is completely new revenue stream for Webmasters (or Bloggers) with zero investment, does not conflict with other revenue streams they already have in place, such as Google Adsense or Job Boards.

5. RS: How did this idea come about?

Bala: Last three years blogosphear is growing explosively, but the audience have limited time they can spend online, that made them to stick to their favorite websites or blogs. This created a new challenge for Event Managers on how to reach this audience which is scattered across multiple websites or blogs, it is very time consuming and almost impossible for Event Manager to contact each webmaster and request them to  display his event on their site. That is when Eventbee saw new opportunity and came up with the idea of building Partner Network that consists of Websites and Blogs, and allow Event Managers to make use of Network Ticket Selling and Event Listing features to push event across multiple websites (or blogs) automatically, and reach wider audience with minimal efforts.

6.RS: How do you think your competition will respond?


I am sure competition will come up with similar solution, the fact is

Eventbee has been in the business since 2003, we already established

our self as a trusted partner with over 6000 event managers. Apart from

being first to the market, we have the advantage of loyal customer base.

7. RS:  What were the lessons learnt during your four-year journey with EventBee (from inception until the launch of “Network Ticket Selling and Event Listing”)?

Bala: Well there are so many things I learned as a first time entrepreneur for last four years.  Most importantly one need to build great team that is flexible enough to adapt to new market conditions and deliver the results in half the time than competition can do. Most of the times markets may not react the way you expect, so be bold to recognize market dynamics and change the direction of the company if needed.

8. RS: If you were do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Bala: Having done one startup, now I can take more risks in my next ventures. Focus on completely new idea that has viral marketing built into it.

9. RS: What is next for Bala and EventBee?

Bala: My goal is to make Eventbee most successful company in events space, reach every event manager and become their trusted partner in promoting and selling their event tickets. Eventbee will focus more on leveraging existing customer and community base, and release more innovative features that tap “Network” effect to sell more tickets.

Posted under Innovation, Main Page.