As in Japan. Last week I went to Tokyo and Kyoto (the better city, btw) for a little vacay with my buddy Prashanth, and loved it. Rich history, wickedly tasty cuisine, humble people, ridic nightlife (in my pictures I look like I was having a greeaat time), fascinating nuances…I can go on and on. All in the trip was amazing and I highly recommend visiting. Immediately. Below are a couple of random things that particularly struck me:

1) R-E-S-P-E-C-T. You know those masks you sometimes see Japanese folks wearing? Those people are not trying to avoid infection, they’re trying to avoid infecting others. || Every time you interface with someone they always greet you, and no matter what the interaction they thank you, bow, wish you a great day and bow again. || Before exiting a rail car, a ticketmaster will turn around and bow to passengers. || If you ask someone for help they’ll try really (really) hard to help (to the point where we felt guilty asking). Sometimes all you have to do is look lost and you’ll get offers of “can I help you” in broken English (look lost in some other countries and you’ll still hear broken English, but they’ll be asking you to help them…with all your money thankyouverymuch).

2) ALARMS. Alarms in Japan are loud. The ones at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto near the South Wall are imperially loud. Yeah. All I’m going to say is don’t lean up against the palace walls for a picture. (And if you do, walk away quickly, snapping pictures anything/everything while ignoring the squad car that pulls up…that worked for a, uh, friend of mine).

3) TRAINS. They’re everywhere. And despite the massive crowds, they’re *clean*. And, shockingly, on time (another word of advice…when the doors are closing, they’re not suggesting you step back…it’s more of an order). (Not that I was hit by closing doors). (Twice).

4) There’s so much more, but I’ll stop typing and instead just point you to some photos I snapped; hope you like (for anyone curious, most pics were taken with a Canon Rebel XT 8MP Digital SLR).

Book review: “Made to Stick”

Book: Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Summary: When marketing anything, keep these six concepts in mind if you want your message to shtick: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories; yes, my friends, that spells SUCCESs. If it sounds like too much work, these two concepts also work: Free, Sex (noooo, that’s not in the book…but it works I tell you!).

Recommended? Si. It’s a quick, fun read full of interesting anecdotes and examples that make the book’s message more *concrete* (a-hem). If you’re never going to pick it up, at least read a breakdown of the six principles on the book’s website.

One(ish)-liners for each of the six principles:

  • Simplicity – boil it all down to the core message you want people to walk away with….the one thing they should know/do…the key takeaway….the essence of your point…the singular (okay, I’ll stop).
  • Unexpectedness – generate interest and curiosity by being counter-intuitive or using surprise/some other technique. Oh, and you should send me money (see? that’s called “surprise”).
  • Concreteness – explain ideas “in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information”; people think in pictures, so paint a picture. For example, I’m sitting at my desk in my room typing this on my Dell laptop, sipping water and eating green curry chicken over rice. If you make it to the end of this post, I bet you’ll remember what I ate, but you won’t remember all six principles.
  • Credibility – it’s only what is said because of who says it; make sense? If you can’t get a spokesperson (Oprah), be vividly detailed; “sticky ideas have to carry their own credentials”.
  • Emotions – get people to care about your idea by evoking a feeling around your idea, and keep in mind that “we are wired to feel things for people, not for abstraction.” You make me happy by reading this blog post. (Don’t you feel happier knowing that, mom?)
  • Stories – wrap the idea with context and it’ll be remembered as associated with that context; sometimes, analogies work great here as they ground the idea in a story or context folks are familiar with (analogies also allow you to check off “simple” and “concrete”; for example, “my blog is the Pinto of the blogosphere” says a lot about my blog. And me, unfortunately.)

Key takeaways:

  • Think about what YOU would respond to if YOU were your target audience (make sense?). First this means understanding the frame of mind/perspective of your target audience (note: this is HARD). Then, it’s asking questions like “what would make me take notice?” Throw off what the authors affectionately refer to as the “Curse of Knowledge” (corny, but true) and go from there. How does your target audience views the world? What’s important to them? (Which raises some good questions…who are you people? And what’s important to you?)
  • Make ideas interesting in some way/shape/form. Sounds incredibly obvious but it’s in fact hard to do (think of all the crap advertising you see these days…clearly, if it were interesting it wouldn’t be crap…I’ll bet you had a hard time remembering explicit crap ads precisely because they were crap). Playing into people’s curiosity can be a powerful way to make things interesting (guess what color boxers I’m wearing).
  • When pitching something, emphasize benefits, not features; people want to know what’s in it for them (self-interest), or how what you’re offering supports something they believe in (identity). If you can nail both, you’ve got a winner (this whole “organic” craze, for example).
  • Final excerpt from the book. “For an idea to stick, for it to be useful and lasting, it’s got to make the audience:
  1. Pay attention
  2. Understand and remember it
  3. Agree/Believe
  4. Care
  5. Be able to act on it”
  6. Think free. Or sex. Or both.

Okay, without looking, what are the six principles? And what did I eat? And how much money are you sending me?

On perceived scarcity, intertia, and relational thought; a collection of mini-posts

I’ve been wanting to write full posts for each of the items below for weeks but haven’t. I just realized that is because I have no idea what I’m talking about. Accordingly, I’m publishing them as half-baked, random rants; enjoy : )

Perceived scarcity creates perceived demand, and thus, perceived value
I wonder, how much of value is perceived versus real? Diamonds. Home prices. “Premium” items. Dating. Heck, even in interactions with friends, I sometimes feel like the less available I am (to a point), the more demand there is for my time (or, at least, the higher the perceived value for my time). On a daily basis, I find that many things have mostly implied value, not real value. This is reinforced by something else I often find: demand creates demand. I often (unfortunately) forget how much the concepts of supply and demand factor into many aspects of my daily life — and how much they are shaped by perception.

Inertia is the strongest force in my universe (yes I know it’s not technically a force)
It’s crazy how if I don’t work out for a day, the next day I find an excuse, and the day after that, until it’s been weeks since I’ve hit the gym. On the flip side, if (huge if) I can break that cycle, it becomes progressively so much easier to hit the gym. Same thing with my eating habits (I already had the cookie, may as well eat the ice cream) and my drinking habits (although, I do blame some of you for being that “net external force” that throws me off there). Though in public I might mock folks who have personal coaches, privately I’m quite jealous; if I had someone whose job it was to make sure that I stayed on track — that inertia worked for me, not against me — I wonder where’d I be?

Everything is relational (right?)
A web search on the term “relational thought” brings up links to esoteric papers and some very random sites/blogs. This is curious to me…why isn’t this studied more? Doesn’t our mind operate relationally? In my life, anyways, it’s “this note reminds me of this song”, or “this perfume reminds me of”…eh, you know what I mean. A couple of years ago I found this cool site that gave you book/music/movie recos based upon an input favorite in a relational way (check it out here); I swore I was looking at the future. Soon thereafter a buddy of mine started drawing mind maps of his thoughts, a way to format output similar to the relational way in which we think; I think he got smarter over the course of just a few weeks (I’m not kidding). I’ve been sitting here waiting for the “relational revolution”, but instead, I feel we’re conforming to the way (current) computers force us to interface with them, which is very “singular input, singular output”. Okay, now I officially don’t what I’m saying so I’m going to stop.

Got some time this weekend? Enter the Current TV Ecospot Contest

Got some free time this weekend? Access to a videocamera (even on your phone or as part of your dig cam)? Consider entering the Current TV Ecospot Contest.

“Make a :15, :30 or :60 second ecospot about
TAKING ACTION: Showcase how you, or someone you know, is taking action to alleviate the climate crisis in their own small or big way
MOTIVATING CHANGE: Create an original, persuasive message that will open eyes, inspire change and empower your audience”

Videos aren’t due until 9/12; for details, here’s the link:

I had fully intended on entering…in fact I even wrote a script (below); just realized, though, I need to focus a bit (for those who know me, please, stop laughing…please?).

Oh, forgot to mention another reason I decided not to enter the contest; my script is weeaaaaak:
0:00 [A few flowers on a ridge wafting in the wind]
0:03 [From camera left, a knee-down shot of a guy wearing dress pants and dress shoes (#1) walking, stepping on the flower, and walking on]
0:06 [From camera right, before #1 exits, a knee-down shot of a girl wearing jeans and tennis shoes (#2) walking, stepping on the flower, and walking on]
0:08 [From camera right, before #2 exits, a knee-down shot of someone wearing shorts and flip flops walking, about to step on the flower, but stops and moves his foot towards camera]
0:11 [Cut to black; fade in/out with the following text: “it’s not too late”]
0:12 [Cut to black; fade in/out the following text: “to see what we have” ]
0:13 [Cut to black; fade in/out the following text: “to save what we have left”]

Message from Sameer – “SUCCESS!!”

When Sameer first called this morning, I actually sent the call to voicemail (I was still in bed!). Then he called right back, and I figured it’s Sameer, of course I should answer — and thirty seconds later I was jumping up and down. THANK YOU TO EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU WHO REGISTERED, GOT FRIENDS TO REGISTER, FORWARDED EMAILS, ATTENDED PARTIES AND OTHERWISE DROVE REGISTRATIONS!! The note below appears on Sameer’s blog at As I said for Vinay, it’s not over, but this is HUGE!

When my best friend, Robert, first approached me with the idea of ‘going public’ to mobilize South Asians from around the country to register as bone marrow donors, I was quite hesitant, particularly as an entrepreneur running a business at a crucial inflection point. But Robert persisted and put my worries to rest, more or less saying, “Just let us use your name and we’ll take care of the rest.”

Whenever I’ve allowed my crazy friend – also my first business partner – to act on his incredible instincts, something fantastic has happened. But this time, the results have been outside the realm of all reasonable possibilities or expectations.

Ladies and gentlemen, I was informed today that, through a miracle of God, a 10 out of 10 match has been found for me!!

Let that sink in for a second…this is truly a miracle that came through literally at the last minute. If this match had been found even next week, it’s not clear that it would have been in time given that I need some sort of transplant within 4 weeks. This is a case of God simply picking up a boon and dropping it in our laps…how else can one explain such unbelievable fortune??

This match appears to have come from the 400+ bone marrow registration drives that Teams Vinay and Sameer have put forth, registering nearly 24,000 donors to-date. Priti Radhakrishnan has been the national coordinator and driving force behind the Team Vinay drives, which kicked off several weeks before ours, and Robert mobilized many of my friends to join them and begin organizing drives nationally. Literally hundreds and hundreds of volunteers have been working tirelessly during the past two months to register tens of thousands of South Asians. The result? An increase of South Asian representation in the national bone marrow registry by 20%.

Knowing that our friends and volunteers have leveraged my situation to do something so valuable for the next batch of patients has been very satisfying for me. Recently I was also informed that two other patients have found matches through our drives, which has been even more thrilling. But, as I’ve stated publicly many times, me finding a match through this process was going to be close to impossible.

First, let’s look at the numbers: 1 out of 20,000 South Asians finds a match. If those odds weren’t tough enough, my search team at the Hutch found that I have an unusual gene on my father’s side of the family, which would prove to be extremely difficult to match. (In fact, we went the extra mile to type all of my cousins on that side of the family, and the closest we got was a 2/6 match.) To boot, it would take 4-6 weeks for any new registrant from a drive to show up in the national database, and I would need many more than 20,000 new registrants to have a statistical chance at a match. Bottom line: finding a match through this process in the time required would be nearly impossible.

Yet many hundreds of hands and hearts around the nation united behind this cause. You volunteers who have been tirelessly giving up your weekends and evenings to conduct drives have delivered a miracle from God to me – not only a match but a 10 out of 10 match, Pure perfection in the face of impossibility. You all have given me a new lease on life and for that I don’t have adequate words to thank you…

What I will say, though, is that our work is only half finished. We had set out a national goal of registering 50,000 donors, and we’re halfway there now. There are at least 3 other South Asian patients at this very moment who still do not have matches. They are surely as anxious as our friends and family have been, so we cannot rest till our work is complete.

Please keep pushing on all fronts and encouraging people to register. Please continue organizing drives – especially corporate drives and college campus drives. (I know there are a number of upcoming drives being scheduled around the country, and we will update the website soon to reflect these.)

As for me, I’m extremely grateful to have someone who appears to be a very dedicated donor. I don’t know anything about him but that he responded immediately when called upon. I am sure that he is committed and want to say THANK YOU to him for the new life that he is about to give me. I am simply overwhelmed by the day’s turn of events and thank you all for the prayers and wonderful kindness that have sustained me to this point in my journey.

With love and thanks to all of you,


Highly recommended conference coming up: CommunityNext Platform

The event is being hosted by two friends of mine who are ridiculously smart/connected and even somewhat hip. I’ve copy/pasted these deets from the invite.

CommunityNext: Platform
October 5-6th

The premier event on social network Platforms and APIs is here. Over 300 entrepreneurs, developers, and marketers unite for a 2-day deep dive featuring dozens of speakers and developers, from October 5-6th. Special guests include developers of top 100 Facebook applications we are flying in from all over the country.

We are doing a $10,000 platform code off. Without cross-promotion or any outside help the app with the most users after 24 hours wins. Secondary prizes include a trip around the world and an iPhone.

What are the topics?
– Nuts to bolts guidelines for developing successful apps
– 0 to 60 case studies from the top developers
– Drive viral growth through design, metrics, and strategy
– Make money from ad networks, affiliates, and other strategies
– Create real-world community through maps and local features
– Scalability, integration, and other technology best practices

An early preview of companies attending or speaking include:
– 15+ Facebook developers consisting of tens of millions of application installs
– Google
– Twitter
– Offermatica
– Compete
– VideoEgg
– Bebo
– Meebo
– Accel
– Benchmark Capital
– Elevation Partners
– Mohr Davidow Ventures

See you there!
Register with 10% off:

Message From Vinay – Going into Transplant (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Visit for the original post…I had just to re-post here cause this is just incredible!!!!!! Of course, it’s not over yet, and my friend Sameer still needs a match, but stilll…woohoo!!

Good news everyone. I found a match. It is not a perfect match but it is a 9/10 match. The donor is extremely committed. His commitment is so strong that he was willing to pre-pone his stem cell donation to fit my doctor’s recommendations. I can’t express how much this means to me. In the past I wrote about how one of the potential donors became “unavailable” due to a lack of family support. This is not the case here. You, as volunteers and activists, deserve the credit in the change in our community’s mentality and their conviction to be a COMMITTED DONOR.

Tomorrow morning I will begin my journey into the transplant process. I will be admitted and have several procedures done, including placement of 2 Hickman catheters. The transplant will be a long and arduous process but your support and well wishes will get me through these difficult times. I love reading all the “show of support” comments and it really brightens my spirits.

Many of you stay connected to me through this wonderful website. Many of you I know and many of you I have heard of through my family and friends. I will do my very best to keep you up to date on my progress. And even if I am unable to write, I will have Rashmi relay my sentiments. I hope to have new updates at least a few times a week.

Team Vinay should be proud of all it has accomplished. In the short few months that you all have been active, we have registered over 23,000 South Asians. This is clearly over a 20% increase to the existing number of S. Asians on the registry. And as you may know a few of the marrow registrants through Team Vinay drives have already been contacted as being potential donors for others in our community. Through your tireless efforts we have also achieved a few more significant goals. Team Vinay, working along with NMDP, is responsible for implementing a protocol for culturally competent callbacks for potential S. Asian donors. Another wonderful outcome is the creation of a S. Asian specific website that will serve as a sustainable informational and educational tool for our community for the years to come. The content of the website is growing and will include input from key Team Vinay members – it should be up and running next month!

This past week has been amazing. I have enjoyed my short yet fulfilling week at home, spending time with Rashmi and other family and friends. We watched Rush Hour 3, had a BBQ and played dominoes. Thank you all again for your unwavering support and well wishes. Much love to you all; Vinay.

More is less – when value is vicious

When I spend money, I love feeling that I got a good deal, or got good value for my dollar. It’s like a mini-win that always puts me in a good mood for at least 2 minutes. Recently, though, I’ve started realizing that value can be vicious and sometimes it’s worth paying more for less. Example: I live next to a Ben and Jerry’s (-pausing for effect-), where a single scoop of ice cream costs $4.20 (first funny…then angering; $4.20 for one scoop?!). Anyways, just up the street there’s a little grocery shop where I can get a PINT of Ben and Jerry’s for only $4.00. No brainer, right? I’d walk past the line at Ben and Jerry’s with my pint in hand, laughing inside.

And then I realized that those folks were getting the better deal.

Have you glanced at the fat content on a Ben and Jerry’s pint recently?! Folks, there’s a REASON it’s so good. And that reason has costs associated with it. Sure, there are the obvious health costs, but in my head I was thinking “I’m going to have to swim how many laps to burn this off??” That’s time cost, which is much more tangible. When adding up these costs, turns out that it’s cheaper for me to spend $4.20 on a scoop than $4.00 on a pint when I need my fix — so now that’s what I do (my parents think I’m crazy). I’ve applied the same thinking at Starbucks, where I’ve started paying $2.65 for a short mocha (it’s not even on the menu) instead of $2.95 for a tall. I’m getting the most expensive (dollar wise) mocha on the menu at an already expensive joint, but in my mind it’s the best deal they’ve got.

Anyways, the word “value” has taken on a whole new meaning for me. Meanwhile, my parents are wondering where they went wrong…how can spending more = better deal?!

Update: I just bought…maybe there’s a book in here. Want to write it? : )

Message from Vinay (still no match, but some great news)

Just got this email from Vinay & Rashmi c/o Priti…wanted to share:

We’ve heard that people who registered to become bone marrow donors have found matches through the HelpVinay Drives we started in June! What amazing news! To hear that someone else’s life may be impacted through these efforts has brought us indescribable joy in these difficult times.

So we’re writing to ask you: please make one more push: get 10 new people to register. Find a way to become part of the August 15 Freedom Drives or the August-October College Drives! Visit Please join us in this magical moment when we have the POWER as a community to save more lives.

One other thing – we also heard that there may be some donors who registered at HelpVinay drives who may be “unavailable”. That was really difficult to hear – it saddened us to hear that even people who registered this summer may not want to donate, even though they are the ONE person who can save a life. This showed us it is still important to keep advocating, keep educating, and yes, even keep reaching out to people who already registered.

Will you help us? If we as a community have already been able to find that MATCH for some patients, we’ve GOT to keep going. Do something, today.

We’ll keep you posted on my transplant, promise. Won’t be long before we know something now.

Lots of love,
Vinay & Rashmi

Update: I’ve been thinking more about this, and realized this isn’t just good news, it’s *great* news. Everyone who registered, who held drives, who forwarded emails — everyone should feel great about the fact that our efforts are *already saving lives*. Simply wonderful.

Empowerment marketing at Kiva

Let’s define “empowerment marketing” as follows: a marketing technique by which you empower members of your community to market your organization and its cause. I’m definitely not the first person to use the term (in fact a colleague from my MySpace days used it before), but for some reason I feel like I’m one of the first and that’s just wrong; this is powerful shtuff. Everyone is hyper-focused on viral marketing; well folks, I’d argue that viral marketing is a subset of empowerment marketing. Aaand I’d lose that argument. But I think people would agree that there’s a very Venn diagram overlap thing going on between the two.

Back in early 2006 I joined Kiva, a *phenomenal* non-profit, as a part-time staff member to run marketing. If you don’t know about Kiva yet check it out; they’ve built a platform that enables people like us to lend to low-income entrepreneurs in over 30 countries in the developing world, empowering them to earn their way out of poverty. *Absolutely revolutionary*. Anyways, upon joining, I asked Premal what my marketing budget was and his calm reply was $0.

Though I took several standard approaches in crafting Kiva’s marketing strategy, I quickly found that in our lender community we had impassioned evangelists who were running around their communities and networks raving about Kiva. In other words, we had a distributed marketing team on the ground in communities around the world. All we had to do was arm them with the tools to do the job better — so arm them we did.

We developed a suite of banners for bloggers. We provided sample text for people who wished to email their friends about Kiva. We got on the social networks. We provided sample email footers. We set up Yahoo Groups so folks could connect with each other regarding anything from setting up fundraisers and awareness events to sharing best practices (a die hard fan ended up setting up a much slicker kivafriends site for this purpose). We published our one-pager for folks to print out and use at events they hosted. We allowed them to volunteer. We gave them ideas for things to do such as contact celebrities they knew to see if they’d want to promote Kiva (it worked). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we communicated with them so they felt like a part of the Kiva team.

Empowerment marketing by no means got Kiva to where it is today (a world class team, an amazing product, an inspiring mission, and a heck of a lotta press did that). But it has (and continues) to let the small Kiva team focus on execution and not spend too much time on marketing; after all, they’ve got you to do that.

On a side note, we’ve been using this a bit for the Help Vinay campaign as well. I wonder if empowerment marketing is only effective for cause-oriented campaigns. For my myspace page I went out and grabbed banners of a few organizations I support, but they’re closer to causes than companies. If REI (a company I like) allowed me to get banners from their website for my blog, would I put ’em up? Hmm….