Neuroscience-led Ventures

A friend with a PhD in statistical modeling of brain signals recently shared his view that solving the Brain is a final frontier. Neuroscience and related areas continue to attract the best of breed from engineering, sciences and of course philosophy.

Entrepreneurship and technology are not exempt either. To give you an idea of the scale of the problem at hand, we’re still understanding the biological content of thought, we’re still trying to understand what makes someone effective on a job, or an effective speaker of a language and there are many mental illnesses that need attention.

Here’s a quick roundup of ventures I believe are led by developments in Neuroscience.

Lumosity.com – Games that help you stay sharp.

Pymetrics – Games to help you find your career fit.

Muse by Interaxon – An EEG headset that makes it easy to interpret your state of mind.

Elevate – Another Brain training app that’s also been selected by Apple as the App of the year of 2014.

MagicLeap – Immersive 3D that leverages how the Brain coordinates visual and sensory signals to construct environments.

I imagine that even after we’ve cracked our brains we’re still going to be susceptible to Magic.


India’s Mobile-Only Products 2015

Ecommerce and local commerce services here in India are beginning to soak up the mindspace around the buzzword “mobile-only“. I imagine that the idea of mobile-only will follow the regular cycle starting with sinking in deeper into app design and eventually, business design too. But there’s something superficial about the way its being thrown about.

Here’s one instance of the term in use to critique the product strategy of flipkart, other ecommerce players.

3 questions about Indian ecommerce’s mobile-only obsession – Karthik Srinivasan, MediaNama.com, 22 March 2015.

One of the earlier references I managed to uncover was a report on India’s Internet usage being predominantly “mobile-only” (Over 50% of India’s Internet Users are Mobile-Only, Times of India, 23 October 2014). Fast forward, we now have an accelerator dedicated to mobile-only startups.

To me, mobile-only by design implies direct, efficient function for mobile users, even beyond the desktop. For instance, if you find it hard to get something done with a mobile social networking app (as opposed to impossible) and you switched over to a laptop to do so instead, that’s not mobile-only. On the other hand, Mobile-only does not imply that your product strategy is simply restricted to the mobile as is being used in the popular press.

Mobile-only is intended to simply serve the user with that characteristic. In other words, what makes the Uber app mobile-only is the assertion that you’re reserving the cab on the kerb-side. They’ve fastidiously stuck to this idea despite the immense temptation to solve for other cases. The fact that you can’t book a cab on your laptop is then just a symptom. The day we see an Indian ecommerce service restricting itself to serve the user on the go, that’s going to be an interesting day and will hopefully mean they’ve grown out of a “serve all equally” approach. As you can imagine such as service must have a different product mix on sale, perhaps an entirely different business model as well.

Think HotelTonight and not MakeMyTrip.

We are like this only!


Collaborating Over Ideas

Innovators cultivate rich networks for the purpose of harvesting ideas*. While there exist many solutions for harnessing ideas within an organization, there’s hardly any solutions for harnessing ideas from ‘outside the organization’. I stumbled upon this apparent gap when setting up a venture group around school alumni.

Here’s a concise, 2 min video introduction that explains the problem in the context of the organization.

* For more, I suggest get a copy of “Innovator’s DNA“.


Meaning Meaningless

“What’s happening?” Have you ever had anyone ask you that?

As a beginner in meditation, I’ve often struggled with both sides of the question. At times, I’ve felt that my practice has resulted in a whole lot. From deep insight to even the occasional hallucination. At other times, its nothing at all. Perhaps reality is somewhere in between? You are just sitting down, watching the mind. And then again, there might just be something happening. Like a glacier scraping down a mountain side, its fingerprints are everywhere and its easy to miss recognizing what’s changing the landscape.

Three years down the road, I’m only now getting to a stage where I can occasionally turn my attention to the physiological state of the body to sense how far along I’ve come in a meditation session. In the beginning, the mind is stormy, tumultuous and ragged. Twenty minutes in, I discover the body is at peace, stable, quiet. Needless to say the mind follows.

And then there’s the pace of technology.

When I first saw the Muse headset at Le Web, I was blown away as it had the potential to marry metrics (a favorite subject) with the mind (another favorite subject).

I wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines. The team of Mindfulness Inc. saw that too and have recently shared their invention with the Kickstarter Community. I learned about it through a friend who tweeted it out. A lotus that blossoms with changes in you brain waves. Wow?! Talk about great design. That was way better than I’d imagined it.

The Lotus is a great idea for someone starting out like me. This is what meditation actually does and you can see it happen better this way than any other inorganic method. Meditating with the Lotus can realistically improve your chances of staying on the wagon. Although I do wish it were to come with a warning. If you’ve come so far as to start a practice in a search for answers, I’d share that getting past that mindset instantly is exactly what this is all about. The earlier you deal with this question, that much better for your practice.

As a Zen master once referred to the mystery of meaning,

“If we are looking at something, it can vanish from our sight, but if we do not try to see it, that something cannot vanish. Because you are watching it, it can disappear, but if no one is watching, how is it possible for anything to disappear? If someone is watching you, you can escape from him, but if no one is watching, you cannot escape from yourself.”

– Shunryu Suzuki.


Is your Toddler Using your iPad Touch?

In a recent feature, Bits NYTimes illustrated how toddlers were taking to Apps on the iPhone, iPad and other touch devices. Labs with toy makers Fisher-Price and LeapFrog are covered extensively in the article. The numbers published are astounding considering they want to reach out to the very young starting as early as 6 month-old’s. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn applications have been downloaded over 3 million times!

I’ve observed my son to be pretty hands-on with my laptop’s touchpad when watching his favorite youtube videos. I’d love to learn more about your own experience – do you have a toddler who’s warmed up to your touch device?

Applications include – story books, learning counting, singing along,

Read more.

Here’s a video of a 2 year old using an iPad to draw.

An update 9th September 2012. A study found that enhanced ebooks were distracting and children lost the narrative thread. Read more about it on the Guardian.


An update on my blog

If you are wondering what’s going on here, this is where I write. I have had a live blog on the web for a really long time now. If you’ll look to your right, you’ll see streamlined post categories including ventures, technology, reflection, india, programming and fiction. These are really the things I write passionately about.


Netbooks at $99 from AT&T

This piece of news is exciting enough to merit a blog post.

This year, at least one wireless phone company in the United States will probably offer netbooks free with paid data plans, copying similar programs in Japan, according to industry experts.

But this revolution is not just about falling prices. Personal computers — and the companies that make their crucial components — are about to go through their biggest upheaval since the rise of the laptop. By the end of the year, consumers are likely to see laptops the size of thin paperback books that can run all day on a single charge and are equipped with touch screens or slide-out keyboards.

How long before we have the intersection of 3G and Netbooks in India? I see this as a positive trend for Web services and the Internet economy.