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From Proto.in: Mahesh Murthy’s Advice For Entrepreneurs; Left Handed Hockey Sticks

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Some great tips from Mahesh Murthy of Seed Fund and Pinstorm, during his talk at Proto.

1. Spend as little as possible on advertising.
2. The only thing that builds your brand, with no advertising, is price. Price is unique – look at super premium products with super premium pricing. Competition is not as worried about companies that price their products cheaper, as they are about companies that price their product higher. Price is your first positioning weapon – and should not be based on your cost. No company has won the market by simply pricing a product cheaper.
3. Have great User Interface (Ed: later in the day, someone also mentioned that there aren’t enough UI experts in India)
4. Market your product – go to conferences and be a speaker (they get in free). Challenge speakers, and be seen as a thought leader
5. How to get media attention ( ed: I took that as – how to con journalists *grin*) – when you go to journalists, have data to back you up. Have a unique positioning, no matter how niche it is. Be the world expert in “left handed hockey sticks”. Position your product well, and back that up with data. They want to communicate new and interesting things to their audience, and how you position your product is important. (ed: very true)
6. Dont follow a trend: if you cant be 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the market – get out. Don’t follow a trend. Chances are, if you’ve read about a segment covered in a newspaper – it is probably too late already. You can almost never be successful by following a trend. In short – “The Trend Means The End”
7. Market Research is Crap: Every future expectation of market size is bullshit. You have to create a market, you’ll got to get feet on the ground.
8. Finding the right employees – if you’ve found someone who wants a raise to join your startup, that’s a clear indication that he’s not the right guy. You can’t hire a mercenary to fight your battles. It is your passion that will get people on board. Don’t go for the IITs, but get guys from small colleges, who have something to prove.


I also wanted to listen to Sanjay Anandram of Jumpstart Ventures, but had to leave early for our own Seminar and mixer. Hope the WiFi at Proto is up…will be there for the second half of day today.

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  • Mahesh price strategy to position your brand was an eyeopener. He was the real rockstar among all speakers!

  • Kartik Varma

    I would humbly submit that pricing your product cheap can be a source of competitive advantage if the rest of the organization is structured in a manner that can support a low priced product.

    Both Southwest Airlines in the US and Ryanair in Europe are classic cases of companies that are operating in a very poor industry, but have been incredibly successful on the back of their low priced airfares. Both have also successfully taken market share away from premium priced products, and their competition has been scared of the low priced ticketing strategies, which have been made possible partly because of the pricing umbrella that high priced airlines gives these two.

  • Bharat Kumar

    Isn’t Pinstorm an ad services company? Who does it serve? Does it offer premium services?

    Which seed fund does he manage, and some success stories on investments please. Not the stock market ones, the real ground up ones.

    Mahesh is confused in his own recursion. The man seems to have lost something quite badly and it smells like money to me :). Often the losers emit tautological statements which have a profound impact on people, though momentarily before they recover and realize that they just heard some sound.

    The guy is misleading folks in his state of confusion.

  • Nice tips dear. Thanks

  • “Don’t go for the IITs, but get guys from small colleges, who have something to prove.”

    I would like to disagree with Mahesh here. This seems to be becoming a fashionable thing to say lately. I don’t particularly like generalizations and this argument suffers from one.

    It relies on the premise that iitians are in general complacent and do not feel the need to “prove themselves”. That may be true for a small minority but my experience with most of them has been otherwise. The iitians do have things to prove and that too, at a much bigger scale. I am an iitian and I do not think getting a degree from that college was a major achievement of my life. It was simply cracking an exam. We found ourselves in a position where the whole country had great expectations from us and not living up to them would actually be a disgrace.

    You see, we iitians are “expected” to be the best. Mediocrity is simply not acceptable. Not to us. And more importantly, not to anyone else. So we strive hard to prove ourselves yet again, and this time to the whole world.

    Go to the IITs and talk to the students. There is hunger for success which infects everyone at the campus. They won’t be happy with getting a PhD from IISc. They won’t apply to IIMs anymore because IIMs are not good enough for them! Instead they want to go to the best universities in the world for research, build the best products, get the best jobs -> because of their skills and talent and not because of their degrees. Just to prove that getting into IIT was not a fluke accident.

    Because of the sheer competition in the batch, this hunger to prove themselves on the world scale is more prevalent in iits than small colleges. While an average guy from an average college may be happy getting a job in Infosys and the likes, the simple fact that these companies hire in masses makes them unacceptable to an average iitian. I remember we used to call them “bher-bakri company” :-)

    I am not trying to belittle the other colleges but just trying to remind the pitfalls of generalizations like this. Lets find the best candidates, irrespective of their degrees. As Guy Kawasaki says in his hiring tips: “Ignore the irrelevant.”

    Agree with everything else. Point 4 and 5 are really interesting original thoughts. :-)


  • I think his talk was by far the best on Day #1 at proto…

    i agree with the iit bit… try hiring a iitian for a startup n see his demands…

    i have spoken to a lot of ppl about his talk n most of them loved it… some i am sure would be implementing it in the coming weeks…

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  • Mr Murthy has put it very correctly!

    Being a self funded technology startup, we have actually experienced a lot of these points first hand.

    CoFounder – ApnaBill.com

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  • jayant

    I am a non-iitian who hired quite many IIT grads for my start-up… And I am a case-at-the-point to disprove Mr. Mahesh Murthy’s narrow vision of good people whether from IIT or not… I haven’t seen more down to earth people as from IIT Chennai as from any other college. Regarding other views on strategizing your business, I’d disagree again. The Tata Nano project has thrown likes of Bajaj with stupid design-sense off their feet with the best pricing strategy in the world ever. I guess its simply bullshit to generalize your strategy and jeopardize your business from a mediocarly processed thoughts from a successful businessman.

  • Arvind

    Well leave everything aside Nilesh; People like Mahesh Murthy try to piggy-back on brand IIT and offer themselves a raise by naively abusing the the IITian brand & posiibly its flab too. But that’s what differentiates a successful businessman from a jealously successful businessman. I have never heard Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates telling the world Harvard Graduates are expensive to hire so they are not good to have on your start-ups… Mr. Murthy this is a direct word to you: Keep your thinking simple, or keep your mouth shut… Don’t preach your mediocrity to Tech start-ups at least. Sell shoes with your own brand & your own price.

  • MobStir

    Mahesh has achieved what every speaker aims to do … get people thinking, talking, discussing. Provide a spark and watch the explosion and thats what is happening and everyones getting sucked into it… while mahesh moves on and starts another bush fire.

    Job well done Mahesh!