Today in Tech: Pramati's portfolio; Google's credit card; Steve Jobs & Sheryl Sandberg

NS Ramnath
Updated: Oct 8, 2012 05:56:32 PM UTC

Pramati's portfolio logoPramati Technologies, a Hyderabad based company sold Qontext, a social collaboration platform to Autodesk, a design software firm for an undisclosed amount, the company said. The development team of about 25 engineers will move to Autodesk. The most interesting thing about the news is Pramati's business model. It started as a web technology business, it bills itself as an IT products company, but it operates more like a private a equity firm. There's a good description of its model on its website, but in short, it incubates, nurtures and grows companies that it can sell to buyers. Pramati Studio was the first, which it sold to a US-based company in 2005. Qontext was the second. It has four more in its portfolio - imaginea, SocialTwist, CloudJEE and Groupsave. It's looking out for a buyer for SocialTwist.

There is a case for this model. You don't miss out on growth opportunities. If there are five good ideas, you pick the best ones without worrying about synergy etc. You are clear why you are in it, and you don't spend the crucial decision-making energy on whether you should sell it off or build it. If someone gives a good price, you sell. You are designed to pivot.

In fact, over a period of time, many successful organisations do look like a portfolio of businesses, rather than one that can be defined in terms of a core competency. When it started, IBM used to make meat slicing machine, and for most of our lives it was known as a PC maker, but now, it's predominantly into software.

Isiah Berlin wrote about the hedgehog (the thinker who uses a single lens to look at the world) and the fox (who uses a variety of lenses). But, over time, even a hedgehog tends to look like a fox. Why not be a fox from the day one?


Google's lending business


A few days back it was Amazon.  Now, it's Google. Google said it's launching a credit card for small businesses. They can use it to borrow anywhere between $200 and $100,000 a month to pay for ads. It will launch the service today in UK , and eventually in other countries. This comes just a few days after Amazon said it would offer loans to to some of its online sellers to drive its marketplace growth.

The strategy of lending to your customers is not new. For long, car makers have had finance arms to boost their car sales. It's based on a simple logic: to grow, you have to boost demand for your products. Demand is desire plus ability and willingness to pay. Credit fills in the second part of the equation.


New Books: Steve Jobs & Sheryl Sandberg
New York Times reports  that Steve Jobs' ex-girlfriend and mother of his daughter Lisa (Jobs had named a computer after her during his first innings in Apple, but he also fought a court case denying his paternity) will publish a memoir. Chrisann Brennan was one of the most fascinating characters in Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs. My bet is her book will be as fascinating.

It also reports that Facbook COO Sheryl Sandberg's new book will be out next March. The book grew out of a TED talk that she gave two years ago, she told NYTimes.

Here's her talk: Why we have too few women leaders



Also of interest

  • Skype Offers Free Wi-Fi in U.K., Ireland: WSJ
  • How a Porn Movie Spawned German Crowd-Funding Start-Up:  WSJ
  • The Art And Science Of Nobel Prize Prediction: Popular Science
  • Can ResearchGate really be the Facebook of science? GigaOm
  • MIT researchers create computerized jacket that ‘hugs’ you after Facebook ‘likes’: BGR


The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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