Name of the intern: – Nihit Desai
Institute: – IIT Madras
Organization interned with: – Beevolve Technologies Ltd.
I don’t exactly remember how my fascination with start-ups began. But it began sometime in my first year of college. So when I decided to intern this summer, it was always going to be at a start-up. Social media monitoring start-ups are among the hottest in the B2C space right now owing to an explosive growth in the use of tools such as facebook and twitter. It is almost possible to find out what the world is thinking right now, by retrieving information from conversations taking place on these networks.
So I interned at Beevolve Technologies Ltd. in Bangalore this summer (June-July 2011). Beevolve is a start-up that provides social media monitoring solutions and business insights to companies by mining data coming in from “social” parts of the web.
The work was insanely interesting- diverse and intense. There are very few things more satisfying than to see your own code go into production and run live in action! I’d like to write a bit about my experience here and what I’ve learnt from it. So here it goes:
0) Startups don’t always have to start because someone has the most brilliant idea on Earth. The way a start-up become successful is by offering people better technology that they already have, or offering it at a better price. People don’t become great entrepreneurs because they are inherently smart and conceive ideas that no one can ever think of. They become great because they have a great product vision and are willing to get their hands dirty to execute ideas.
“Google’s plan, for example, was simply to create a search site that didn’t suck. They had three new ideas: index more of the Web, use links to rank search results, and have clean, simple web pages with unobtrusive keyword-based ads. Above all, they were determined to make a site that was good to use. No doubt there are great technical tricks within Google, but the overall plan was straightforward” – Paul Graham
1) ‘Keep it simple and neat’ : Probably no one in a start-up cares about how well you document your code or how good are you at VIM or how judiciously you compiled project reports back in college for your programming labs. Typically teams in start-ups are small and work at hand is huge – scaling problems, server outages, meeting deadlines for shipping the new version, answering customer queries, responding to feedbacks. The whole idea is to build things quickly, and see them in action, learn from the results and improve as quickly as possible.
2) ‘Move fast and break things’: The goal of a start-up is to build a better product or bring better technology to the market, and not to “not make mistakes”. Failure, wrong decisions, missed opportunities, are all a part of the process when you are trying to innovate.
3) Whatever the start-up attempts to develop, there is that one part of the final product that must differentiate it from the rest, for otherwise, it has no reason to exist in the market. And the best way to ensure this differentiation is to develop any technology that is of prime importance to the product’s quality in house. Building the entire product out of open source tools/outsourcing the development might sound like an easy way out but it is just a matter of time before someone offers the same product at a better price.
4) Finally something about the culture: Teams at start-ups are usually small. So, in a week or so you pretty much know everyone at the company. You have lunch with the founders every day, you drive to and from the office everyday with the CEO :) and you end up having a lot of interesting conversations with people about the company, hangout places in the city, movies and girls. (I do not know of any other instance where someone could say “I took a random sample of girls he gave me and tried them out. We’re 62% accurate”** haha..)
So, it is an interesting life to say the least. It is much different from working at a big company. Both are good I believe, but come with very different benefits. I’d say, from my personal experience so far, that one might end up learning a lot more at a start-up (I might be wrong though. And I’d love to hear what people think about this). Life might not be easy for a couple of months, you might not enjoy the delicious free meals and massages and you might find yourself a bit lost in the beginning seeing that things move so fast. But the experience and the learning are all worth it, if you end up at a right start-up that is. If you end up at a place where the people running the damn place are as lost as you are, GET OUT OF THERE!! I hope this was helpful.
**we were writing a gender classifier to categorize people as males/females based on first name and last name (this forms an important part of any social media monitoring product). The most common way to achieve this is through Machine Learning approaches. We tested our algorithm on a random data set (~22000 unique names if I recall correctly) and managed to classify 62% of the names while others remained unclassified. Although THAT meaning might seem less apparent from the conversation above!
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