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Welcome

This is my personal & professional blog.  It's a place for me to think out loud and learn. I'll sometimes talk about things I don't understand as a way to begin to understand them. I'll often be wrong, short sighted, and unclear. When you see this happening, please point it out!

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Wednesday
Sep032008

DNC vs RNC

The DNC had much better signs.  And of all shapes and sizes.  Enough said.

Monday
Aug182008

Gaming big in China

An individual I had the pleasure of meeting today made the argument that Gaming will be huge in China because the Chinese people have very few media alternatives.  TV and movies are censored.  As are the internet and print.


I buy it!


What a different world censorship makes!


Also, gaming consoles allegedly haven’t taken root in China because of the upfront costs of such devices.  Therefore, the prevailing gaming platform in China will be the web.  The “pay to play on our servers” business model has no upfront costs (enabling broader adoption) and can generate 100’s of millions/billions in revenue!  Woohoo!

Wednesday
Aug062008

Making History Fun!

Mrs. Johnston, my AP European History teacher, only read non-fiction.  She asserted that real life history was full of so many great stories, there was no need for make-believe*.


At the time, I thought her kind of crazy.  Now, I see her point.  But I think it’s still underrealized.


History is full of compelling stories.  But those stories are locked inside textbooks or hidden in thick books.  I remain reluctant to read entire texts of non-fiction because from a 500 page book, I’d get 3 stories I’ll remember forever and share with others.


This is like biryani with lots of rice and little meat.  Mom wouldn’t be amused.


Why are books about history written this way?  Because they’re written by people who want to be scholars rather than entertainers.


I think there’s a huge market for ripping the 3 good vignettes from each history book, adding historical context, and bundling them up in a single book.  All meat, yum!


And here’s the perfect title: “High Brow Dinner Conversation for Intellectual Midgets, Volume 1”.  (Of course it would be a series!)


This hardly makes me an intellectual :(…

(The more I write on this blog, the dumber I feel on so many levels…)

* I think this is true.

Wednesday
Jul302008

Not doing a Seed Fund

I was going to do a Seed Fund.  Raise some money and turn it into more money.


Primarily because I think it would be a helluva a lot of fun.  I love meeting people with more conviction, charisma, brains, and luck than I can manage to muster.  Identifying and working with such people seems like a dream.


However, I’m not doing this.  The economics, according to my math, aren’t that good:

1.  Start with $5M of other people’s money.


2.  Invest it in early stage startups.  Do surprisingly well.  Turn that $5M into $25M in 5 years.  Take that Kleiner!


3.  Distribute 80% back to investors.  You’re personally left with $4M.

If that’s bad math, do let me know!

Wednesday
Jul302008

100 Things I love about New York City

I recently moved to New York City.  And I love it.  If you’re a friend of mine and have never been, you’re invited!


Here are 100 things I love about it (this is now and likely forever an incomplete list that never makes it to 100).


1.  The resolve of New Yorkers running around Central Park.  Forget the Empire State Building, this is New York’s true tribute to human achievement.


2.  Crappy, expensive apartments.  I spend most of the day inside my crappy, expensive apartment.  At my computer.  Yay!  But daily, sometime in the early afternoon, I realize it’s illogical to sit inside all day and pay exorbitant rent.  Immediately, I go outside and walk around for an hour.


3.  People walking fast.  I love fast walkers.  I have no where to go but I pretend.  I really don’t think others are pretending.  If someone walks slow, you’ve license to push them.


4.  Efficient markets.  For everything.  People, food, apartments, jobs, everything.  If there’s an event somewhere on Saturday, someone with a food cart knows about it and will be there to price gouge you.


5.  Small businesses everywhere.  They only take cash and always have change for a $100.  They count their money in front of you.  They know they make more money than you do and don’t let you forget it.


6.  Smell of horse manure in and around Central Park.  Admittedly, I’ve always liked this.  I’m not sure what my parents did to me as a child.  It’s especially beautiful when juxtaposed against all the artificial, concrete smells of the city.


7.  It’s hard to be a racist in New York.  There are so many people from so many places.  You can’t even tell where people are from.  You therefore can’t figure out who to hate.


8.  Beautiful people.  And lots of ‘em.  I’ve long wanted to make a coffee table full of nothing but photos of people’s faces.  You can do that without ever leaving New York.


9.  Decentralized, one man businesses.  My thinking here isn’t quite crisp.  But there is something I enjoy about these one-two man food carts or the young dudes on bike-taxis.  I really enjoy that they can have such rickety operations and make it.


10.  Big buildings.  A symbol of human power.  Gotta love ‘em.  They make the sky seem irrelevant.


What am I forgetting?

Wednesday
Jul302008

I love flying Virgin America

As most people that know me well know, I’m scared of flying. What’s “minor turbulence” to others is reason to cry for me.  My heart literally races at take off.  All flight long, I silently pray to God and make all these promises of Good I’ll do if I’m spared.


Anyhoo, most airlines say “Hold on tight, our job is to get you there in one piece.”


Everything Virgin does says “Airplane Safety is a solved problem.  Let’s get the party started!  Why aren’t you taking photos?”


This blog post is not full of good rhetoric!  Doh!

Monday
Jul072008

Leaving Microsoft

As I try to figure out what to do next, I can’t help but reminisice about the past.


I use to work at Microsoft.  Part of me really loved it.  Here’s the mail I sent to the team when I left on May 31, 2007.


Today is my last day at Microsoft.


I’m quite sad to leave you great people.  I’ve loved working here and I’ve learned so much from you guys.  I’ve grown much as a technologist, collaborator, and human by working amongst you all.


In life, people matter most.  I will miss each and every one of you.  Part of any good I do with the rest of my life will come from having known you all for the past year and a half.


I have this weird personality defect where I have a hard time taking pride in things I do.  For example, I wasn’t proud of myself for graduating college despite 4 years of arduous work (and, alas, not enough partying).


This product we’ve envisioned and built, I am proud of.  My face lights up when someone asks me what product I work on.  After I relay the product name, I immediately, almost hypnotically, begin rattling off the value prop (I think Todd knows black magic).  And I don’t stop until the victim concedes his need for the product (or runs away screammmmmmmmmmming).


In my immediate future, I aspire to start a software company of my own.  It’s because of what we’ve done the last year and a half that I’m inspired to do this.  It’s because I’ve seen how awesome it is to build a product from concept, grow a team, announce the product, and delight customers.  I’m grateful for this experience.


I’m hopeful many of you will keep in touch!  If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, come see me!


-Suli


P.S.: Enjoy RTM; you’ve earned it!  I can’t wait to buy a half dozen of these devices!

Sunday
Jul062008

Starting a Small Seed Fund?

A friend mentioned that he was considering started a small seed-fund for tech startups.  That got me thinking: the prospect sounds pretty sexy, but does it make economic sense?

1.  What’s the average fund size at KPCB or Sequoia?  What’s the minimum they require from each investor?  How many companies do they invest in for a given fund?  What’s the average investment size?  For a given company, how many rounds do they participate in?  What are the returns on the fund as a whole?  What’s the distribution between home runs, singles, and strike outs?  These two firms are considered top tier firms, how do their returns compare to second, third tier, etc firms?


2.  Kevin Hartz, Keith Rabois, & Jawed Karim do something called Youniversity Ventures.  These guys are experienced, brilliant, connected, and quite aggressive.  I read somewhere they invest in series A/angel rounds and “mark up” in future rounds.  I’ve no idea what that means but it sounded like they invest at one valuation, helping the entreprenuer/company make progress, raise another round, and cash part of their money out…Is that what they do?  Is that a viable business model?


3.  Paul Graham and co do Y Combinator.   I’ve heard people say that Y Combinator “breaks even”.  Is that true or do they make a lot of money?  Why don’t they make even more money?


4.  What size would a seed-fund need to be?  $5MM?  $10MM?  How hard would it be to raise this money?  What sort of return could such a fund deliver?  And in what time frame?

Hopefully, I’ll be digging in and finding answers to these questions soon!

Tuesday
Mar212006

Conflagartion of Innocence

I've always been a fan of bold claims. They're simple, they're absolute, they're fiery/inspirational/the fabric of legends. I recently made the following claim "I'm not 17 anymore. I'm more amazed now by a deed done than an idea conceived. A product delivered than a phrase turned.".

I've come to believe this wholeheartedly. But the interesting piece is why.

It's not that I've accomplished so much and look back at my litany of accomplishments and say, "hell yeah, rockstar--you're kicking some ass". When I see software sitting in a box at Frye's, I never think about all the driven devs behind it--those who toiled months to make Windows boot 5 seconds faster.

Rather, this about-face is born from confronting reality. Reality is clear, unequivocal, omnipresent, and often instransigent. And yet, all this time, I didn't see it!

I see now the dichotomy between thinking something and doing it. Action is not a natural extension of thought! Let me repeat, thinking something doesn't mean you're making that something happen. The subconcious is good but it's not that good.

I've never been lazy; I've never been one to dream small. But dreaming big is fuckin hard.

I'm a big fan of taking all the nuances of my life and graphing them on a cartesan plane. Time the X axis and fun/success/joy/happiness the Y. To date, there is no inflection point. No point where I break out; no point where the trajectory puts me on a course to conquer the world :). I've never felt the sense of urgency to find/force/muster an inflection point that I do now.

Let me be clear--I am not frustrated or saddened by this discovery. Rather, it gives me new appreciation for the megalomaniacs of this world...

Tuesday
Aug162005

The "Intelligent" Information Age

news.google.com is sort of cool. The folks at google aggregate all the news that's fit to print in one place. The information is categorized; I can glance at the Madonna headlines (what compels me to glance?) right after devouring the nitty gritty business/technology details. The sources are international (how does the Bombay Times know my UPS deliveryman's name?). The look and feel of the webpage is consistent and gorgeous.

But my love for the site stops there. I want more.

I want to read only the best articles. What do I mean by best? Well for business articles, I mean the ones with the most numbers, the one that details how this event impacts other stocks in the industry. For articles about Madonna, I mean the one with the most pictures. For articles about Linday Lohan, I mean the shortest. For articles about the villian next door, I want to read the local article written by the reporter who first spoke with the chatty, snooping all these years neighbors.

I want the site to juxtapose Bill O'Reily's unsubstantiated rightest drivel with an article written by some equally brazen leftest. That way I can attempt to work through the hyperboles to arrive at some semblance of the truth.

I think this is possible with computers. Ok, I honestly believe anything is possible with computers (I don't care what Turing says. And don't try to use your DFA's and mathematical conjecture to sway the Truth.) I think this is possible with computers today!

Here's how:
Heuristics! (I'm beginning to think Computer Science is the study of heuristics!) One heuristic would be amount of information (numbers, quotes, pictures, links) the article contains. Another might be how long readers view the article and whether or not they look for more articles on the same event. The reader's affinity for the author would be yet another.

What are your impressions of news.google.com? Do you get as upset when you read articles that are too short, too long, too anything?

Any other ideas for how computers can do this? Are there other, better heuristics you can think of?

Sunday
Apr172005

Brave New World

Hi, I'm Suleman. This is my personal blog. Herein, I'll talk about technology, business, real estate, my hobbies and misadventures, and occasionally politics. I hope you enjoy it! Above all, I'll try to sound smart. I'm hoping to earn epithets like "visionary" and "industrialist" from this soapbox. Job offers and marriage proposals would just be icing on the cake....

I use to write a wee bit in high school. Writing was fun and forced me to think.

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