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Answer by Visakan Veerasamy:

I remember reading Tina Sellig's (executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program) book- What I wish I knew when I was 20. (I don't know Tina, though I wish I did, and I love her book.)

She gave her students the exact same problem. Here are her words, with my emphasis. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, just skim and read the words in bold.


"What would you do to earn money if all you had was five dollars and two hours? This is the assignment I gave students in one of my classes at Stanford University, as part of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program…

 Each of fourteen teams received an envelope with five dollars of “seed funding” and was told they could spend as much time as they wanted planning. However, once they cracked open the envelope, they had two hours to generate as much money as possible. I gave them from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday evening to complete the assignment.

Then, on Sunday evening, each team had to send me one slide describing what they had done, and on Monday afternoon each team had three minutes to present their project to the class. They were encouraged to be entrepreneurial by identifying opportunities, challenging assumptions, leveraging the limited resources they had, and by being creative.

What would you do if you were given this challenge? When I ask this question to most groups, someone usually shouts out, “Go to Las Vegas,” or “Buy a lottery ticket.” This gets a big laugh.. These folks would take a significant risk in return for a small chance at earning a big reward.

The next most common suggestion is to set up a car wash or lemonade stand, using the five dollars to purchase the starting materials. This is a fine option for those interested in earning a few extra dollars of spending money in two hours.

 But most of my students eventually found a way to move far beyond the standard responses. They took seriously the challenge to question traditional assumptions—exposing a wealth of possibilities—in order to create as much value as possible.

How did they do this? Here’s a clue: the teams that made the most money didn’t use the five dollars at all. They realized that focusing on the money actually framed the problem way too tightly. They understood that five dollars is essentially nothing and decided to reinterpret the problem more broadly: What can we do to make money if we start with absolutely nothing?

They ramped up their observation skills, tapped into their talents, and unlocked their creativity to identify problems in their midst—problems they experienced or noticed others experiencing—problems they might have seen before but had never thought to solve. These problems were nagging but not necessarily at the forefront of anyone’s mind. By unearthing these problems and then working to solve them, the winning teams brought in over $600, and the average return on the five dollar investment was 4,000 percent! If you take into account that many of the teams didn’t use the funds at all, then their financial returns were infinite.

So what did they do? All of the teams were remarkably inventive. One group identified a problem common in a lot of college towns—the frustratingly long lines at popular restaurants on Saturday night. The team decided to help those people who didn’t want to wait in line. They paired off and booked reservations at several restaurants. As the times for their reservations approached, they sold each reservation for up to twenty dollars to customers who were happy to avoid a long wait.

As the evening wore on, they made several interesting observations. First, they realized that the female students were better at selling the reservations than the male students, probably because customers were more comfortable being approached by the young women. They adjusted their plan so that the male students ran around town making reservations at different restaurants while the female students sold those places in line. They also learned that the entire operation worked best at restaurants that use vibrating pagers to alert customers when their table is ready. Physically swapping pagers made customers feel as though they were receiving something tangible for their money. They were more comfortable handing over their money and pager in exchange for the new pager. This had an additional bonus—teams could then sell the newly acquired pager as the later reservation time grew nearer.

Another team took an even simpler approach. They set up a stand in front of the student union where they offered to measure bicycle tire pressure for free. If the tires needed filling, they added air for one dollar. At first they thought they were taking advantage of their fellow students, who could easily go to a nearby gas station to have their tires filled. But after their first few customers, the students realized that the bicyclists were incredibly grateful. Even though the cyclists could get their tires filled for free nearby, and the task was easy for the students to perform, they soon realized that they were providing a convenient and valuable service. In fact, halfway through the two hour period, the team stopped asking for a specific payment and requested donations instead. Their income soared. They made much more when their customers were reciprocating for a free service than when asked to pay a fixed price.

For this team, as well as for the team making restaurant reservations, experimenting along the way paid off. The iterative process, where small changes are made in response to customer feedback, allowed them to optimize their strategy on the fly.

Each of these projects brought in a few hundred dollars, and their fellow classmates were duly impressed. However, the team that generated the greatest profit looked at the resources at their disposal through completely different lenses, and made $650. These students determined that the most valuable asset they had was neither the five dollars nor the two hours. Instead, their insight was that their most precious resource was their three-minute presentation time on Monday. They decided to sell it to a company that wanted to recruit the students in the class. The team created a three-minute “commercial” for that company and showed it to the students during the time they would have presented what they had done the prior week. This was brilliant. They recognized that they had a fabulously valuable asset—that others didn’t even notice—just waiting to be mined."


You're framing the problem too tightly. 5 dollars is as good as nothing. Buy yourself a coffee and figure out how you can solve existing problems for free, and then charge for that.

(Better yet, buy that coffee for someone you respect or admire.)

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GeekDad is doing it right.

Posted: March 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

Geek Dad is doing it right

Post by Monika Kothari:

This story has gotten a lot of attention over the past week or so.

Doting Dad Mike Mika couldn’t bear to see his daughter’s disappointment at not being able to play as a princess in Donkey Kong the way she had in Super Mario Brothers 2. Rather than explain to her why Mario was always the hero and Pauline always needed saving, though, Mika changed the game, putting together a patch that turns let his daughter get her game on as video gaming’s original damsel in distress.
More here:…

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Excellent warning …

Posted: March 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

Post by Kaushik Chakraborty:

Excellent warning …

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Answer by Shanthi Swaroop:

This is the same situation I was in an year ago, in fact mine was even worse. I hardly found anyone below 6.5-7 CG securing admission in a decent/good university.

Yes, most admitted students will have high CGs and most universities will have CG as their main criteria(at least 40 – 50%) for admissions. A low CG will definitely lower your chances but all is not lost, there are always some exceptions.

You will need to improve you non-cg profile to negate your low cg. You will need to have a high GRE score, strong recommendation letters and a well crafted Statement of purpose. Research Papers and work experience will further improve your chances.

Not all universities know about BITS as much as they do about IITs. If you apply to universities where there have been more BITSian admits, you will have a better chance at admission as there's a good probability that the admission committee has at least a decent knowledge about BITS. 

I have heard a "WES evaluation" helps in making your CG look better on the 4 point scale. You can probably look into that.

There are also some GRE subject tests. Some universities will give them a high weightage. A good score on this test will show your subject knowledge and will negate you low cg. While a bad score on this test can completely ruin your chances. I found the test pretty hard for me and most test-takers are PhD aspirants so you will even have a very tough competition.

There's also a bits2msphd yahoo group with a very vibrant and helpful BITSian community.

Source: Me. I got an admit from University of Florida with 5.71 CGPA.

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Answer by Shanthi Swaroop:

"It's not true that I had nothing on. I had the radio on." -Marilyn Monroe.

"All generalizations are false, including this one"

"I dream of a better tomorrow, where chickens can cross the road and not be questioned about their motives."

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." -Oscar Wilde

"If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?" -Abraham Lincoln

"I'm a good father because I promise you lots of things. Doing them would make me an excellent father." -Homer Simpson

“You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said 'Parking Fine'.” -Tommy Cooper

"Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your children" -Sam Levenson

"Every once in a while, I feel like exercising. Whenever this happens, I just lay down and wait till the feeling passes." -Winston Churchill

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