iSPIRT is not a conventional trade body. It’s a Think Tank. Its influence comes from its ability to apply its deep expertise to solve ecosystem problems. It shapes public policy, makes entrepreneurs more effective and provides market catalysts to companies to drive their growth.
You can think of iSPIRT as a builder of “public goods” that are available on an open-access basis to every participant - entrepreneur, policy maker, buyer - in the larger software product industry (SPI) ecosystem. To manage these public goods we follow polycentric governance. This is akin to our traditional panchayat system of governance. This is the appropriate form of governance rather than the traditional President structure that trade bodies use.
We are believers in deep impact. We would rather touch fewer participants (entrepreneurs, policy makers, buyers) and make a big difference to their lives than go after shallow engagement with many. We don’t set goals in the number of companies we’ll touch. Our view is that the number of participants that leverage iSPIRT work is a byproduct of what we do.
Why this deep touch model works for us is because we believe that the consumers of iSPIRT’s public goods are also its producers. So demand breeds its own supply. At its core, iSPIRT is a collection of causes. It’s a platform for software product industry participants to come together to create public goods that’ll lift all boats.
So our inspiration comes from the world of Wikipedia and Linux. It’s a world where people are organized but there is no traditional organization; and disputes are resolved and order prevails but no President is in control.
We submit ourselves to three good-governance principles: Radical transparency – this is crucial to continued operation of our “peer production” (volunteer) model Polycentric governance aka Panchayat system – iSPIRT is bigger than any one individual Open-Access Public Goods – we work for many and not for any one company, no matter how important it might be
From the enormous success of open-source we have learnt that bad behavior is stronger than good behavior and can overwhelm the system. For instance, too many free riders can kill the public good building movement that we have created. To avoid this situation we need a system to aggressively weed out violations to these governing principles. This is why you’ll hear us talk about “nipping it in the bud” and "plumbing before poetry" when discussing governing principles.
The Governing Council (GC) is responsible for upholding these governing principles and ensuring integrity across the board. This is job#1 for GC.
GC is about empowerment, not control. It helps clarify the causes and initiatives that we pursue. It is responsible to the SPI at large and not to donors.
As GC, we have a clear conception of the long-term outcomes that we seek. Today SPI is not even an identified industry. We seek to change this. As we argued in the 2012 iSPIRT Annual Letter, India’s future depends on a vibrant software product industry. This is why we seek to create a NIC code for our industry.
To accelerate the growth of SPI we seek a healthier power-law distribution of big and small firms. Our focus on market catalysts like M&A Connect, Global CIO Connect (InTech50) and Software Adoption Initiative are gear to help companies scale faster. In keeping with the global practice, we measure ecosystem’s success in terms of market capitalization, not revenues.
We also seek to make India a global hub for SPI. Our immediate desire is to see Indian SPI become bigger than Israel’s. We hope to overtake Israel in number and value of M&A deals in the coming years.
We envision a future where there is a strong software products culture where tacit knowledge thrives and drives the success for SPI firms. To enable this, we see iSPIRT being the ‘Cricket Australia’ of our industry. Doing this well will reduce gestation periods over time and show in Market-Product Fit Velocity metrics.
iSPIRT Governing Framework
Bharat Goenka, Jay Pullur,
Ver 5, 6th Apr 2014
Ver 4 1st Feb 2014
Ver 3 11th Jan 2014
Ver 2, 16th Oct 2013
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Third-Gen Industry Body
CII, FICCI, AMA
FSF (Free Software
Our influence will come from:
- Deep Expertise. We are the Brookings Institute for Indian
Software Product Industry and are able to shape policy.
- Representation. Right now we represent the “movers and
shakers” of the industry. Over time we’ll have the broadest
representation in the industry.
- Platforms. Our market catalyst platform like iSMB program,
M&A Connect program and InTech50 are are “public goods”
that drive growth for Indian software product companies.
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iSPIRT is a Collection of Causes
• iSPIRT is a 10-year journey; we take a long view on building the
Indian Software Product Industry (SPI).
• There is no silver bullet to improve the SPI ecosystem. Multiple
initiatives are needed. Each initiative is derived from a “cause” and
has its own success metrics.
• We are believers in deep impact. We would rather touch fewer
participants (entrepreneurs, policy makers, buyers) and make a big
difference to their lives than go after shallow engagement with
• We have faith that each cause will make a contribution to the larger
good and don’t seek to tease out the specific contributions.
– For example, M&A connect will improve early stage funding which, in
turn, will reduce mortality and improve ecosystem outcomes.
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Our Governing Principles
Causes/Goals/Strategies/People may change but core governing
principles remain unchanged. They clarify our thinking when we come
to a confusing fork in the road.
We hold ourselves to 3 good-governance principles:
• Radical transparency – this is crucial to continued operation of our
“peer production” (volunteer) model
• Polycentric governance aka Panchayat system – iSPIRT is bigger
than any one individual
• Open-Access Public Goods – we work for many and not for any one
company, no matter how important it might be
We will actively weed out any violations to these governing principles.
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iSPIRT Governing Council
Intent Resources Plan/Action Review/Feedback
GC Yes Yes
• GC is about empowerment rather than control
– Holds iSPIRT to its Governing Principles and ensures integrity across the board
– Helps clarify objectives
– Aligns timelines to seek synergy across initiatives
– Allocates resources and leads donor campaigns
– Demonstrates collective responsibility – has no silos internally
– Is responsible to Industry at large not just to Donors
– Are the spokespersons for the Industry
• GC follows polycentric governance and is a panchayat of 5 members
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What is Ecosystem Success?
• NIC code for Software Product Industry in India
• Accelerated growth of the SPI
– We seek to create healthier power-law distribution of big and small
– iSPIRT’s market catalysts help companies scale
– Measured by Market Capitalization (not revenues)
• India as a global hub for SPI
– Bigger than Israel in M&A (not startup density)
– Measured by number and value of M&A deals
• Strong software products culture
– Where tacit knowledge thrives and drives success
– iSPIRT Playbooks Pillar is ‘Cricket Australia’ of SPI
– Measured by Market-Product Fit Velocity (to capture reducing
gestation periods over time)
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GC Member Expectations
• Stays abreast of initiatives that have been
resourced and those awaiting resourcing
• Able to inspire Fellows, Mavens, Sarathis, etc.
• Cascades values of integrity, transparency,
public goods and polycentric governance
• Strategic thinker at industry level
• Spokesperson for the industry
• 3 year tenure
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iSPIRT Internal Operating Routines
• FC/Donor updates
– Monthly call
– Quarterly f2f meeting
– Quarterly Financial Report
• Fellows meetings
– Monthly for coordination and cross-pollination
– Standup calls within each initiative
• Policy creation and consultation
– Every policy position of iSPIRT goes through a
• Annual iSPIRT Letter (aka Bill Gates Foundation)
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• Peer Production: Prof. Yochai Benkler - Coase's Penguin,
or Linux and the Nature of the Firm
• Effectual Leadership: Prof. Saras Sarasvathy - Effectuation
• Polycentric Governance: Prof. Elinor Ostrom – 2009 Nobel
• Knowledge economy – “ideas, people and things” as the
relevant factors of production in place of the traditional
factors of land, labor and capital: Paul Romer - Knowledge
and the Wealth of Nations
• Volunteer Collaboration: What the Tech Industry Has
Learned from Linus Torvalds – TEDx video by Jim Zemlin
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