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what i learnt from the recent 'entrepreneurship' pecha kucha

I attended a pecha kucha event recently where a few entrepreneurs came to share their experiences. 
The experience was illuminating in a whole different way. Hence this post.

What I am writing here, is less of criticism, and more of a reminder to self of what not to do. Especially because, people tend to congratulate for even wrong things as long as you have a podium. So while I am in audience, and have my faculties unencumbered by reality-distorting-praise and encouragement, I will write down the pitfalls that I should avoid. 

About entrepreneurship
1. "Indian people don't understand"/ "Indians haven't evolved."/ "Its so tough to teach Indians"
My jaws dropped with horror as 3 entrepreneurs made such comments at the event.  I really felt like helping their poor souls. But then I caught myself in the irony of my wish - I wanted to 'teach' them, as they wanted to teach 'me' (an Indian).
But how can any entrepreneurs succeed if they think that their customers are idiots and need to be taught. A mega corporation can still get away with it (mercantilism), but these are barely floating small entrepreneurs.
What was appalling was, for some of the presenting entrepreneurs their failure was indicating to them this fallacy which they refused to see. One presenter was a graphic designer. He produced thousands of T-shirts and was able to sell only a few hundred. If I was him, i would take this slap from consumer and learn from it - design T-shirts that consumers want. Not complain about - 'Indians don't appreciate my awesome complicated designs'. There is threadless and society6 for that.

2. "After spending time in US, I decided to return to India and do some good".
This is a narrative that is atleast 15 years old. There is no place for it - first of all, there are too many  people returning. secondly, it probably is due to the vanishing jobs and increasing protectionism there; not because of your moral karma. Most importantly, there is nothing to learn for us from that narrative. 'To start an entrepreneurship, i must first burn my dad's cash in US and feel the first hand vacuum of purpose.' is that what you are trying to say?
You need to have some kind of concrete sense of why and what you are doing. 

3.We don't want to see how 'wasted' you were before turning 'entrepreneurs'. I understand that its a big word, but by itself it is not an accomplishment. Successful startups sometimes mention failures and trials of doubts in their narratives to help the prospective young startups to feel encouraged - to tell them that they are not different creatures.
Hearing stories of 'being wasted' by failing small companies is of absolutely no consequence to the audience.
However, stories of failures can be truly illuminating. Specify the failures and strategies that helped you get out of it. That would be tremendously valuable. 'Waste ventures' presentation at Unbox did that wonderfully - one of the most insightful presentations this year for me.
The pecha kuch presenters chose to spend their 20 slides in a tired old narrative instead of sharing concrete facts of failures, numbers. This tells me why none of the entrepreneurs from the pecha kucha night would succeed. They are too enamored by their own image of being 'entrepreneurs', they are not learning from their failures and they are not willing to live through their consumer's lives.


 About presentation making
1. Be prepared.
I am pretty sure, most of the presenters hashed the presentation in a few days time just before this event. I could see the typical googled up images, and even typical narratives from slideshare.com. Nobody bothered to ask themselves why would anyone want to see their presentation.Nobody shared actual facts, actual numbers, business details/ plan, whether what they are doing has worked or not. Essentially, everyone missed out on everything that is of any consequence.
Exhibit a -
slide no 5. picture of shit (literally) with the intention of saying that 'we didn't know shit' or some such variation.
slide no 8. 'me fishing with my rich uncle in US'.
slide no. 18. 'white partner leaving on an American airline plane' with 'we are hiring'
Slide 17. one slide with the actual product (which looked like it was from dial up days of internet. something about teaching aids.). yes. in a presentation about entrepreneurship, the presenter utilized 1 slide out of 20 to show his product and business idea. and more importantly, he glossed over the purpose of his project.
so was the presentation about his US domicile or his project? (which is going to fail for certain)

2. Be sympathetic to audience
To be fair, the audience seemed to be largely either relatives and friends of presenters or the organisers themselves. (Why do I end up in such events so often?) Yet, it could be healthy to assume that the audience is not there only to cheer for you, but to learn from you too. (or you could learn from them). So usually a presentation that has an explicit purpose, helps. (apart from the purpose being self promotion) Know what you are saying.

3. stop using comic sans serif


About hosting an event
1. friends of friends (FOF) syndrome
This is a peculiarly Delhi thing in my experience. Even Unbox, which was largely an alright festival suffered from it. By FOF syndrome I mean, the lazy organizing principle of inviting presenters and audience only through their own private network. At Unbox, it seemed that most people knew most other people, and there were us few idiots who actually paid for the event themselves and came there to learn something, not necessarily to build network.
At pecha kucha, the presenters seemed to hail from a small section of Delhi - affluent kids in search of purpose and doing 'something good' cuz that is in fashion. There was a general atmosphere of bonhomie among the audience who were being indulgent to the presenter.
 The event needs to have a defined purpose - is it a gathering of affluent Delhites to congratulate each other or is it supposed to be a lively exchange of ideas. It certainly wasn't the latter.
At attempt to have diversity among audience and presenters would be a good change.

2. Screen the content.
I don't mean censorship. I mean just the basic quality check. Pecha kucha presentation quality varies tremendously. This one was my third pecha kucha experience. The first one in American centre featured quite good presentations. This one was terrible. It felt that no one guided these young lost souls. No one suggested them a  few helpful nudges. I can help. I can give a 'brief' of guiding questions that could form the basis of these presentations.

3. keep the free momos. they were good. :)


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