The simple truths for being a founder
“Being a founder isn’t easy” is something that I heard a million times but did not completely understand the sentiment before I actually became one. When I compared notes with fellow founders I realised that most of the things were very common with most of our experiences so here are the list of truths I wished I knew before hand:
No one gives a fuck (at first): If you are doing it for impressing someone, stop and rethink your priorities because it’s not worth the pain. When water starts flowing in you tend to question your sanity and the world thinks you have gone mad to do whatever you are doing. Only after Funding, Onboarding some brag worthy customers and hiring well do most people give a fuck about your startup.
Fooling yourself is easy: There is a market, I can smell it and feel it - every first time founder ever. Chance is what you are looking at is a mirage, not that it’s a bad thing in itself. Learn to spot mirages or to clone them in actual markets before you are fucked. If you are not verifying markets, customers, products, progress you are doing it wrong and chances are it won’t be a smooth sail later.
The time spent will not come back: Starting a startup is a long term game and it takes it own sweet time, don’t do it as a method/activity of escapism. I dropped out and did not attend classes since I was trying to give my startup it’s fair share of time it needed and let’s just say I do regret doing it on some terribly fucked up days. I regret the fact that those days are not coming back!
Play long term games with long term people: Startups are long term games with payoff coming after an average of 3-5 years of good hustle. Pick your co-founders, markets, employees, investors like you would pick your partner (Someone you probably don’t want to divorce ever). Startups, actually Tech ecosystem is a pretty small world and it will pay off in ways you can’t think of.
Avoid Bad Cofounders, Customers (also Markets), Investors and Employees: Bad actors in any of these verticals will slow you down by a factor you can’t even estimate. Bad of anything bring in more bad folks and before you know it you will be either forced to do a firesafe or to shut your startup down. Just go to any serial entrepreneur and ask her why her previous startup did not work out, don’t be too surprised after you see the reasons.
Don’t loose out on essentials aka your life: Being busy is okay in the short term, but understand that this will probably be your life if it works so don’t take anyone for granted. Let your loved ones, family and friends know you exist: You will need them in terms of uncertainty as well as distress. Also don’t forget to stay fit, detox and disconnect every once in a while, I call it un-hustle weekends.
Do whatever it takes: Buy out your existing investors if they are being unreasonable, get rid of your employees if you think its not working out, talk about your problems to your cofounders and advisors. Eric Ries says you need to get off the building I agree with him but sometimes it’s equally important for you to throw things, ideas and people out of building as and when needed.
Feel free to hit me up on Twitter or Email to let me know if you have any feedback or thoughts.
Prepping for 2019
2019 is just a few days away and I ended up retrospecting my life, goals and the events that have got me through the year. Most of the guiding paths remain the same for me but i have realised writing them down somewhere is the best possible thing i can do so here they are:
Velocity over Speed : I love measuring impact and impact are akin to outcomes they tell about the direction and speed at the same time. Speed is akin to measuring outputs.
Simplify your life: The world has its own agenda and most conspire to get them done from you. As long you you stay firm on your own agenda moving ahead and doing anything that is remotely worthy is going to be really hard.
Get rid of all the baggage Every Year: One of the thing that has controlled my life as long as i can remember is my baggage. A voice inside my head finds me and leads me to insecurities and self doubts because of this baggage. Baggage come in various packages: some from my love life, some professional, most that are halfway between.
Understand and respect the 3 Circles: One of the most simple truths i learn’t the hard way is that managing your life is all about managing the people and their expectations in your life. One of the ways in which i do the same is by diving them into 3 circles : 1st Circle : Close Family + friends, ones that really matter no what and transcend all of the boundaries. 2nd Circle: Friends, the ones who always lookout for me. 3rd Circle: All of the folks that ultimately may no matter.
What are the things that you think are worth doing?
Losing battles, no more:
I have always wanted to take my blogs seriously, and in the final leg of 2018 i finally found the footing for that.
Reading books has always been a deep passion for me and that is one of the reasons for what i am and where i am today. I had almost given up on it, and in the last few months i managed to get back to a doing it back again.
Taking care of my health has been if anything the least thing that i gave two f**cks about. I am back on track to walk an average of ~5 KMS/Day and meditate for ~20/Day.
Gaming : Sadly, i no longer play all of the latest titles within 2-3 months of their launch. Less time means less no of titles but i hope to play the ones that are probably worth it.
2018 thanks for everything, it was a year of many firsts and i went through mostly ups and a few downs. Here is to 2019!
Scale of things that don’t scale
One of the take aways from life, starting up, doing things that are damn serious about is doing them in a way that doesn’t scale at the beginning. It was something i was i read on Paul Graham’s blog, go read it here if you didn’t already. One of the most counter intutive advice you can get is “Do Things That Don’t Scale” and my first reaction was why in the world would anyone do that?
Doing things that don’t scale
The economies of (un)scalable:
A lot has been said about 80-20 rule, and all of the strategic folks i end up meeting tell me a version of the same, but what unites them is not their statements(about 80-20) but rather that it works when whatever they are talking about has only worked for APMF (After Product Market Fit) and not BPMF (Before Product Market Fit). Half of them would be clueless about getting the initial 20% of the work done that adds up ~80% ROI. Anyone in search of Product Market Fit, needs to do the unscalable to get it right. Wait till you ask yourself about where most of the 80% came in from ? Professional CEO’s attributing Ivy League’s to their networks and success forget that getting into Harvard or Wharton isn’t exactly a scalable proposition. 80-20 principle highlights how much we suck at understanding the Cause and Effects in any world (Imaginary or Otherwise).
Want to understand anything worth while you are probably gonna have to rely on non scalable ways which is to go out there and put in the time before you eventually get an idea about what needs to be scale and what should’nt. A popular anology (which is also a good marketing advice) is painfully finding the right channels to market anything (unscalable), trying out things (semi-scalable), and then doubling down on the ones giving good output (scalable) and then driving them to intended outcomes. Whenever some tells me X,Y,Z isn’t a scalable i mostly wait for them to tell me the tales of why did it not work out. Push markets are like vacum, they mostly have space that will be taken by anyone who is in there. The other one, one which most of the not so lucky ones like me are bound to find are the pull markets where you need to push everything to move the metrics till they start moving on their own.
TL:DR ? You need to do one thing really well before you start getting affected by (hopefully good parts) of economies of scale. And that effort is probably unnderrated, a lot. If you are somewhere in there keep going :)
Side Note: Despite me not wanting to write a summary or a rip of Paul’s essay i think i have done the same, mostly because Paul is not just a great writer but also because things worth knowing rarely can be spinned in a lot of ways.
Escape Velocity and Products
I still remember asking my physics teacher as to why can’t i throw my pencil into space when i was in 6th grade: That day i learnt something called Escape Velocity. Couple of years, as a founder and product owner i asked my engineering team why can’t we ship X in a day or a week. When i finally understood everything about Gravity, Mass and Velocity a lot of things made sense and a lot did not. Similarly when i donned the Product Manager’s cape i ended up learning that there are three things that matter a lot to every product and also anything that needs to take off or go down: Gravity : How hard is is to get off the ground Mass :How much should we do to get enough speed for a lift off Velocity : Direction is everything and if you fail to send anything without a direction your prodect ends up no where.
Pushing things for takeoff
#Gravity: Think of this as something that can be called cost of doing biz, things like Product Marketing, Sales, Branding and all of the associated activities to achieve Market Penetration for your product ends up setting your course for the product. Most of the times you can keep tabs on these values by looking at things like CAC(Cost of Acquisition), LTV (Life Time Validity) and ARPU (Average Returns Per User).
The general consenus is the higer the gravity levels the more firepower you need to give your product a good liftoff.
#Mass: What are the parts that add a lot of value (weight) that your product passes the following stages : usable, marketable and billable. These are essentially the roadmaps for building things to help you scale and double down to capture market share. This is the part that is the most valuable that ends up multiplying a lot of factors.
Mostly the values here are strongly correlated with the building blocks of Gravity (CAC,LTV,ARPU and the likes)
#Velocity: “Not knowing where to go is often the same as not going anywhere”. Knowing where a product (or a rocket) should go is often one of the things that a lot of first time founders miss (I did it as well). You need north stars to determine if the product is going in the right direction or not and that is why often Velocity is a better thing to monitor than speed. The metrics of Speed in these cases are DAU,WAU,MAU and the likes and Velocity is often determined by a metric that strongly determines what your product (or rockets) is doing or not doing.
These values are the thrusters + fins that power it are gonna help determine how far your product (or rocket can go).
So what are you going to power your Product or Rocket with? :)
Show it, sell it; hide them, keep them
The best product marketing campaigns follow a very simple road map: “Show it, sell it; hide them, keep them”
Show it : Optimize your marketing to get to the “Aha, i knew this was a problem i have and this thing solves/improves it.”
Sell it: Sell them, the problem,culture or whatever your products/processes can do for them.
Hide Them: Hide your customers from other (hopefully inferior) ways of doing things.
Keep Them: Keep all of the core audience with you forever or till your product/brand/company stops care about the audience.
What will you now sell?
Getting to this part is hopefully easy and not so confusing. A couple of side notes:
What you are selling can be anything and the value prop can be pretty subjective.
Different Target Groups simply respond to different and (mostly) distinct props. It can be Price Points, Product Positioning, Process (too complex of a subject to write about here), Simplicity (of using it, migrating to and fro among many other things) and for any decent sized product (by $$$,no of customers, features and more) you will typically have a bit of all sprinkled all over your constraints.
The one that never was
Naval Ravikant constantly talks about staying in the present and that strikes a chord with me all the time but there is just one problem, a significant one at that. I love being in control and also I think a lot about past and the future. When was the last time you kept track of things? When was the last time you kept track of time? Time and Space are two things/constructs that have excited me by their properties that they run by / are made of.
5 Minutes Ahead and a Day behind
Being in the present is an extremely tricky thing to crack especially since skin in the game is the name of the game for me. I love risks, I love taking chances and I love endlessly hoping for a lot of things. My watch represents and reminds me of something that I base my life on. All of the watches I have are 5 minutes ahead of the actual time and One day behind the actual date. I tell myself everyday and every-time are that I need to out do everyone else because my clock runs 5 minutes ahead of everyone else’s. I also tell myself that I can take things less seriously when needed since I am running a day behind than everyone else’s. These are the lies that I believe in so much that I refer them to the ones that never was.