This Saturday, I attended a series of talks by the Mauritian Software Craftsmanship Community. So in essence, these short presentations centred around Entrepreneurship and the multiple facets of technology entrepreneurship.
I arrived a bit late – I decided to first have lunch. I reckoned that after all, there would still be time to catch up and meet the speakers in person. Going to a conference on an empty stomach is not something I like to do.
I walked in midway through Jochen’s presentation. Jochen gave us some of his views on his company and how the downturn affected his business, as well as some of the tougher realities of managing a startup that we may not know about. There are often tough decisions to make and good employees to let go of. Interestingly, he also talked about hiring a lawyer to write legal document templates. This is something I will have to look at myself. He also talked about salaries as a freelancer, and how you need to charge higher to account for holidays. We talked at length about some of these before during a Code and Coffee session. A good talk on some of the more pragmatic aspects of running a technology business.
Franco mentioned to us his passion, windsurfing, and how he is working remotely to fulfil his passion and earn a salary. Franco works for a company that, if I’m not wrong, is incorporated in Switzerland. Similar to 37signals (now Basecamp), it is a distributed company working over vast geographical distances. He proffered some basics about recruiting and working remotely. I was avidly listening to this presentation, since I have been working remotely for Red Bull in Malaysia since the end of last year. The one recurring theme is communication, and he is absolutely right. There should never be a lull for too long when you are working remotely. The demands of working remotely are higher – communication has to be clear, concise and extremely frequent. Franco recommended Remote by Jason Friedman as a book to read. It’s been on my list for a while. Personally, I’m a big proponent of Basecamp and have been managing projects through it for half a year now. In fact I’ve already read Getting Real and it was one of the most inspiring books about application development I have ever read. Unfortunately, I did not speak to Franco, he left early. But I look forward to meeting him at another session.
Next up was Dhiruj Rambaran. An eloquent, affable and down-to-earth fellow with a British accent, I particularly liked his relentless approach to the obstacles he encountered and absolutely agree with his comments on accepting constructive criticism and continuously improving and cutting costs. He is right to highlight the importance of feedback and criticism in running a business. I see a lot of denial and defensiveness happening in businesses, and sometimes entire TV Shows like Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares are structured around this very phenomenon. I see a lot of potential in his business, but there is much to do with improving Shoponline’s design and I might be sending him some friendly advice on how I think he could improve soon.
Supinfo then briefly presented their plans for a campus in Flic-en-flac. It seems to be the best thought-out project for tertiary education in Mauritius and they are at the outset, collaborating a lot with the industry, which I find very positive. I might want to recruit interns from SupInfo some day, and now I know how to go about it. That being said, I cannot know yet what the standards of their graduates will be like. But if they continue being as eager as collaborating with the industry and offering internships as they are right now and translate this into work-ready graduates, then there is no doubting my mind about the calibre of graduates they will produce.
Mr Acharis’ presentation was inspirational, extremely informative and well-structured. An Indian man from Hyderabad, he is briefly in Mauritius for his fiancée. He eloquently delivered to us through anecdotes and his own personal experience the story of how he started up his company from his bedroom and made it what it is today. I was highly impressed by the credentials and experience of his team. He was very detailed about things like recruiting (hire slow, fire quickly) and the importance of hiring people who can learn autonomously and quickly. He briefly touched upon perception management and good design. He is absolutely right about this – bad design will inhibit the potential of your company (especially if you do SaaS) compared to competitors who spend much more. You need to get potential customers to trust you, and one important way is through a good image and design. I spoke to him briefly and he mentioned he would be back in the country soon. I look forward to talking to him again.
Vincent and Louis from Pongo Soft spoke next. Their talk was very informal and they briefly spoke about having fun while you are doing what you do. They also stressed the importance of networking to acquire new business and funding, which I absolutely agree with. You’re not going to go anywhere professionally if you do not build a network and continually engage with people. They mentioned some organisations and schemes that provide funding, or at the very least, to obtain contacts with investors. I briefly spoke to Vincent about some of my websites on WordPress and how I am transitioning out of it because of the low profitability.
Ish briefly spoke about his negative experience with banks and competition – a worthy reminder that sometimes it’s better to bootstrap rather than take a loan from a bank to launch a business.
Overall, I’m glad I attended the session. Clearly, the MSCC is gaining traction! I’ve never seen that conference room so full. Soon, we’ll need a new venue. I’ll be inviting some of my colleagues to some of these sessions later on. I highly recommend them.