Monday, August 25, 2014

TEDx IIMC Experience

Thanks to Abhishek Katiyar, I was invited to TEDx IIMC to share my experiences around entrepreneurship. Given that my story has been a bit hazy and incomplete yet, I did not want to share the story, instead I wanted to just talk about the key learning from the short experience I have had till now. It was great meeting super passionate speakers - Fahim and Tousheef, Krutika and Sumit. I had a great afternoon. Thanks for the opportunity and hospitality. I hope it was useful for some people at least.

My notes:

How many of you here want to be entrepreneurs? Why? Money/ No boss/ Impact/ Hip thing to do?

I my last 2.5 yrs experience with failed startups, I have not got any of these, but still I am happy with the journey so far. Why am I happy? A mentor of mine once said to me that life is nothing but sum of all experiences. I think that because of the start-up experience, I now see life from a different lens altogether.

So this is what I will talk about.

I will just make 4 simple points. 4 points just to share my experience, and how it has positively affected the way I look at things. 4 points to show that after 3 different product launches with 3 different teams, how I look at life differently now. How differently I would have lived my life, if I would have seen the things the way I see now.

1) Do not be part of the rat race - Create your own path
Comparison with others, the hallmark of rat race will eventually stink. Never celebrate coming #1 or #2. When you want to be #1, you are already limiting yourself.
Instead of being a part of rat race, the question that needs to be asked is 'Could I have done it better?' I am myself a product of rat race. Rat race for marks in school, JEE rank, CPI, Performance Review at MNC I worked at.

Best entrepreneurs have quit the rat race long back. Facebook has always competed only with itself, Flipkart had the vision to build an Amazon in India, Ola Cabs has the great vision of better cab system in the country. They were not in the rat race. If you are target is just to beat the #1, you are not thinking big enough. The best entrepreneurs out there, did not just try to be #1. They want to challenge what exists and improve that.

Quoting one of my professors, Prof D B Phatak, Every rat race produce some winner rats, and many loser rats, but only rats. But you are human beings. You are not rats. Do not be part of the rat race. Create your own path.

2) Quit early/ Quit often
I saw a talk by Prof Deepak Malhotra of HBS, and I loved the phrase then. Every entrepreneur talks about it right? And I am not saying this in a revolting and destructive way. I really really mean it as a constructive thing. Now people don't talk about it a lot. People say winners don't quit and quitter don't win. Lets look at the other side together, please. Now anyone of you who have read "The Lean Start-up" by Eric Reis would know about the "Build-Measure-Learn" feedback loop. The objective of a lean start-up is to minimize the time it takes to complete the loop. Iterate as quickly as possible. Only then, you will be able to reach profitability/scale quickly at minimum cost. I would want to apply the same principles to my life. If you have figured out that where you are needs a change, quit. Do not get bogged down by what the world would think. World does not think too much about you anyways. Iterate quickly. Eg: I have quit versions of research, quant, trading, private equity, entrepreneurship, all in less than 5 years. If there is one thing I am absolutely good at, its quitting. Iterate fast. Quit early quit often.

3) Customer is king - Always look for feedback 
In my last start-up, and I have seen this in a lot of friend's companies, we build a product. We go out to the customer. And customer says, we do not want this. Change this. Change that. And then you are like You are not understanding my product. I am not this. That is different. And so on. A lot of times, we, as programmers or as product managers, are not happy getting negative feedback from people. That is a big problem. A lot of jobs that you would join, do not encourage feedback system. Feedback from customers / bosses / colleagues is very very important. That helps you decide where you stand and how you should improve. Proactively, reach out to get feedback from your customers. Otherwise, like my failed startups, you will always be in the cocoon you have created for yourself.

4) Be happy
No one has ever created anything beautiful being unhappy. Whatever you need to keep yourself happy, do it. Travel. Go to movies. Read. Spend time with family. A happy man is much more likely to do quality work. I realised it while working on my last startup. I did absolutely shitty work when I was not happy. In startup, because you impact everything, so the difference is easily seen. In companies, because there are a lot of people, it averages out, sort of. A happy guy is much more productive. As a leader, create a happy team. As an employee, be happy. It will create much more difference than you would attribute it for right now.

So, 4 simple points: Do not be part of the rat race and Create your own path, Quit Early Quit often, Customer is king - look for feedback, and Be Happy!

Hope it was useful for at least some of you. Jai Hind Jai Bharat.

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