EDA, Software and Business of technology
Greek, 'loxos: slanting. To displace or remove from its proper place
da·tums A point, line, or surface used as a reference

                        ... disruption results in new equilibria

How to become a VC....

This just had to be backlinked - there's a great post up by Seth Levine, resident VC at Mobius Capital, about how to be a VC.
Maybe I should show my boss this !!
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[Business] Survival of the dumbest

There is a very interesting story in today's New York Times' Online Edition. Titled "So You Want To Be a Venture Capitalist". It accounts for the travails of a few high tech druids who could not make it in oh-so-no-brainer(?) world of venture capitalism. Which brings me to the topic - Is the corporate world, an arena for the survival of the dumbest?

Take for instance take this story about Google. It describes how the angel investors did some Bollywood-style manipulating to bring about the marriage of two VC's and how the uptight founders had to be loosened up by a very elaborate song and dance routine. But the best part...

“I think John Doerr would say Bill Campbell saved Google,” says Kleiner partner Will Hearst. “He coached Eric on what it means to be a CEO—not the CEO of Novell but of a company like Google. He taught Eric it’s a lot like being a janitor: There’s a lot of shit you have to do.

As my second exhibit, I'd like to present to the jury this article about strategy vs execution. The excellent Fast Company article details the essence of success -

When a senior executive weighs a decision to risk tens of millions on an experiment, surely it is comforting to have an outside expert verify the strategy is sound. But regardless of the qualifications of the outsider, the strategy cannot be taken as gospel. There are too many uncertain factors that nobody can resolve. Even the best strategy is only a hypothesis. No matter who developed it, it must be assumed wrong.

What does any of the above have anything to do with VC's ? Simple - the kind of VC's who will eventually survive are the kind of dumb, paranoid investment bankers who will probably never invest in me at all. Because they will have their 2.5X return and are happy with it. Who wants to be dumb enough to fund the next Google.

However, as a counterpoint, Jeff Nolan has this to say
about picking you VC - a financial investor is a good door opener. However the best advice that he gives is about having a checklist to choosing your VC (How often do they attend board meetings, do they have a track record of introducing you to other deals, etc.).
And now this NYT article. It looks to me that all we are left with is Hobson's choice. What the article does is paint a Quixotic picture of the VC arena, with every ne'er-do-well jumpin' to be a VC.
But maybe they are right. One of the brightest people I know, Rajeev Jain, who is now one of the youngest consultants in Oracle India says this about consultants vs technical leads - "the technical leads only know what is cool and what is cooler, but the consultant knows what will actually be sold.". Maybe having a boring banker for a VC is not so bad after all.

... sign of poor execution was that the leaders never questioned the strategy and never revised it..

Th jury's still out on this one.

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[Business] Recovery from cataclysms and exchange rate regime: any dependence?

Very recently global markets were in upheaval over speculations that the Chinese forex rate would be allowed to move freely against the dollar. In a previous post I had looked at the Zen relationship between China and the rest of the world.
Indian markets went into a tizzy recently over rumors of Chinese revaluation. This was primarily due to bets that the Indian govt. would also allow a higher freedom for the rupee as well as excess supply of dollars - which led businesses to hedge the rupee against rises.
Which led me to think - just how important are exchange rate regimes?

There is a recent working paper by Rodney Ramcharan of the IMF where he explores the effect of exchange rates on the ability of a country to recover from natural disasters, like earthquakes and the like. I especially liked the figure on page 13 which showed that in developed economies, disasters had no impact on investment as a percentage of GDP.
I think this in itself is flawed. Rather than base it on percentage points, I wonder what actual dollar figures are. Any investment in a post-disaster economy (the author cites Bangladesh investing in farm equipment, for e.g.), involves a static cost which would be more or less fixed in terms of cost of living. If we take the Big Mac Exchange Rate, a certain number of burgers would be required in each country to help with food supplies, rebuild roads , etc (That no one in India would eat burgers after an earthquake is moot). This cost measured as a percentage of GDP would figure significant in developing rather than developed economies. This the author himself puts forward in the beginning (page 4) as

In advanced economies,
there is no significant investment response regardless of the regime type. These results are
robust to various modifications, and underscore the importance of the exchange rate in
managing real shocks.

This to me sounds like growth, investment , etc. rate depends on the money remaining in your coffers , above everything else. Consider Philippines for example - it is an flexible exchange rate economy. Now, in case of a natural disaster striking, its growth is expected to rebound much faster than fixed rate regimes (page 31). While the IMF guy says that this is due to higher exchange rates, he fails to say why. Allow me to propose one - full capital account convertibility. That's right, let the brickbats come. Insurance payments and claims, post-disaster, will be made from international coffers to a larger extent. Therefore exchange rates rise.
So either I'm wrong (which is very possible), or the data is just a-priori (which is also entirely possible...anyone give me odds?).

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[Software, c++] Separate compilation of templates: Template separation and export

A recent cause of inexplicable flummoxing and gnashing of teeth was a piece of code like the one below.
Look at 1.cpp - pretty straightforward. An instance 'i1' is instantiated. A function 'myfunc' is called, which returns a pointer to an object.
'SSS1' and 'dummy' are declared in 11.h. Now the templatized function is declared in '13.h' and defined in '13.cpp'. Pretty simple, huh? I agree, there is no problem when compiling this piece of code like this:
g++ 1.cpp 13.cpp -I.

But now consider what would happen if I compile them as:
g++ -c 1.cpp -I.
g++ -c 13.cpp -I.
g++ 1.o 13.o

In this case, the linker, cribs about not finding dummy* myfunc(SSS1<dummy>& a);
This happens because (as I found out recently) a long standing argument in the c++ community on how to separate template definition and declaration. Currently, only one compiler - Comeau C++- provides some sort of proprietary support for separation (via the 'export' keyword). As of GCC-3.4.2, this is not implemented.
The problem occurs because, the compiler/linker uses some sort of optimisation techniques to remove multiple includes of templates and template definition code. when 13.cpp was compiled separately, it threw out basically the whole code, because those templates were not being used. Therefore, at link time, the linker is unable to instantiate the templates used in the function "myfunc" .
The hack (sic) that is appearing to be working is to define the usage in 13.cpp itself.

//dummy* myfunc(SSS1<dummy>& a);
//template <> dummy* myfunc(SSS1<dummy>& a);
template dummy* myfunc(SSS1<dummy>& a);

Notice the addition of the "template" keyword before the definition (the commented line is what did'nt work). Somehow it is important to provide that keyword. Even "template <> " doesn't work.

#include <iostream>
#include "11.h"
#include "13.h"

SSS1<dummy> i1;
dummy* d=myfunc(i1);


template <class T>
class SSS1{
T* member;
member = new T;

class dummy{


template<class T>
T* myfunc(SSS1<T>& obj);
return obj.member;


#include "11.h"
#include "12.h"
#include "13.h"
template<class T>
T* myfunc(SSS1<T>& obj)
return obj.member;

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[Business, China] Yin and Yuan

On April 30, the Chinese yuan went out of its government mandated trading range. Currency markets around the worl braced for impact.
What the hell does that mean?

China, like India has always believed that a free floating currency is not advisable till the country's industrial and knowledge base is mature enough to act as shock absorbers. In India's case, the rupee is allowed a little more variation than what China allows its yuan. For example, India's Reserve Bank buys, billions of dollars every day to stem the fall of dollar vs the rupee (This data is maintained by the Bank of International Settlements). The rupee is pegged not against the dollar, but against a basket of international currencies.
The Yuan on the other hand is pegged against the dollar at approximately 8.2760 to 8.2800 yuan/dollar. As mentioned previously, this figure is maintained by the Chinese central bank by buying up dollars. On the 30'th, this exchange rate went to 8.2700 per U.S. dollar, making the yuan much more expensive.

The American Federal Reserve and the G-7 nations are not happy. This is because China and India are the biggest foreign markets for investment. Now as more and more FDI (foreign direct investment) flow in, the central banks buy more and more foreign exchange. This foreign exchange is now re-invested in the US in Treasury backed US Govt. bonds. As a result of this massive investment, the rate of returns decrease for everyone holding the same family of bonds. Now several G-7 countries hold massive amounts of US Treasury bonds and they are not happy about the decrease in the rate of interest.

India, like China, is struggling with a system to maintain control even in crises. We certainly dont want another Asian meltdown. Very recently, the Indian Finance Ministry toughened the path to borrow dollars on the international market. This is part of its effort to reduce FDI. This has not gone well with small Indian businesses who are justifiably wary of any governmental control over business. Therefore the government is now trying to reduce customs duty to decrease the supply of dollars in the country.

But one thing is for certain, India cannot remove the peg on the rupee unless it is assured the yuan will behave the same. It is estimated that the yuan is undervalued by almost 40 %. We buy education, technology and iPods. If the US govt. makes it difficult for Indian students to go US univs. or the Indian govt. makes it difficult to import laptops, this situation will be gridlocked. But the problem is, atleast the government feels, that opening up import trade will harm local manufacturers who have not matured to global economies of scale.
Is that true - only time and China will tell.

UPDATE: Traders are buying up forward contracts of yuan (i.e. a piece of paper that allows them to buy currency at a value fixed now, often by offering the seller a premium)which shows that they expect the yuan to trade upto 5.8 % higher in a year.
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