New Gupta’s Restaurant problem in tech start ups

Given my indulgence in the arranged marriage market, my latest anecdote is that “an app starter” has the highest market value given the potential for a significant upside – crazy growth or being bought out for a ridiculously high valuation leaving him/ her with enough money to retire at 30. Back in the late seventies or early eighties, the equivalent was public sector jobs which was later replaced by higher paying private jobs. Infosys employment was the hottest thing in the late nineties that later made way for MS in US and so on. There was probably a phase for the engineering and MBA combo as well, which is probably why most of my family seems to have ended up with that combo. The latest fad today is to be an entrepreneur or lets just call them app starters so I don’t join the bandwagon of abusing the word “entrepreneur”.

Almost anyone with a Facebook page, cup cake mold or some app developer friend can very easily become an entrepreneur and it’s great that the barrier to entry is so low because this helps countries like India transcend social barriers such as caste reservations, etc. (Well, at least for now until some government decides to meddle). Given that the barrier to entry is low, nobody is watching you except your investors and hence, you can get away with what I’d like to call the New Gupta’s restaurant problem.

Around mid-nineties, Gobi Manchurian became a fad in Bangalore and every restaurant wanted to serve it. The market was ripe for a new restaurant to open in Rajajinagar 2nd stage in Bangalore – “New Gupta’s”. One should have realized even before opening this restaurant, that there was almost no way in hell one could make it with such a name. For one, it’s not Sagar and secondly, a traditional bromin area would never trust such a name. Still, this restaurant decided to give it a go, swotted flies for a few days and then decided to change its name to “Trident”. Given my father’s appetite for new adventures, we decided to give Trident a chance only to fall sick the following day. Soon enough the name changed again, and again before it finally shut shop (Today it is replaced by a pharmacy).

Just like this, a lot of tech start-ups are changing their names from one nonsensical name to another at the whims and fancies of their investors, all in the hope of buying in customers. If you ask me, I’d trust Udaya TV’s ex-resident astrologer suggesting a “Chandi Homa” to bring success over this name-changing gimmick. I believe, on the contrary, all it does is create some unnecessary doubt over the company’s reliability in the mind of a potential customer (I’m not sure about future investors here). I am guilty of having done this with my own venture when I brought on a new partner, but it was only a minor modification that only helped capture greater customer base.

If you ask me, keep it simple. If you were an email service, it would make sense if you called yourself gmail and not Mississippimudpie.

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