Notes from Founders mentor Founders [SaaS edition] – April 2018

On 13th April 2018, I hosted a panel discussion with Varun Shoor, founder of Kayako and Pallav Nadhani, founder of FusionCharts. It was an experiment to see whether a many-to-many discussion between SaaS founders turns out to be useful for early stage startups.

To ask questions to the SaaS founders panel, I had received 19 applications, out of which 5 were selected. The call was not recorded so founders could talk frankly. Here are some generic notes and insights from the one hour call. (We all realized that one hour for five founders isn’t really sufficient.) ...  Read the entire post →

Philosophy is politics

I used to wonder why questions in philosophy never get resolved. For example, take the question of whether we have free will or not. From Socrates to Kant and to modern day philosophers (such as Daniel Dennett), everyone seems to have an opinion on free will. Free will is also a favorite topic of many twenty something bloggers, including myself. Thousands of years have passed by since the first time this question was asked and people are still debating on it.

Why is that so? Why, unlike science, where all scientists agree that energy can neither be created, nor be destroyed, every philosopher has his/her personal answer to philosophical questions...  Read the entire post →

Copying ideas is highly underrated

No man’s an island and, as a corollary, no startup is truly unique. Media oversells us the virtue of breakthrough ideas. Journalists are paid to highlighting what’s new and noteworthy. Imagine the number of clicks an article would get if it was titled: ‘Here’s the nth example of a Chinese firm copying what’s working in the west’.

To catch our attention, publications run stories that celebrate innovations.

Wright brothers got the fame, but someone else made all the money

The invention of the airplane was definitely a breakthrough moment for humanity and the Wright brothers deserve all the fame they got. But economically they didn’t do as well as Boeings and Airbuses of the world. Wright brothers knew it themselves that they’re never going to make money from what they were doing. In a conversation with their biographer, Orville Wright said: ...  Read the entire post →

Mathematicians and startup founders

Throughout history, mathematicians and physicists, like entrepreneurs, have craved for a theory of everything. They’ve been looking for a set of principles that can predict and explain all phenomena that we observe. In case of mathematics, this search led to mathematicians Bertrand Russel and Alferd Whitehead write a three volume (thick book) Principia Mathematica. Among other results in the book, they dedicated several hundred pages to derive 1+1=2 from even more basic “self-evident truths” (called axioms). ...  Read the entire post →

Your cold emails compete with cat pictures for my attention

Unsolicited emails – the cold emails – have notoriously low reply rates. I’ve seen sales people celebrating 1% reply rates as a huge win. Honestly, isn’t that a bit embarrassing? Only 1 reply out of 100 emails and even that one reply is usually “no, thanks” or “don’t email me again“.

Common justifications for this abysmal reply rate is either people are too busy or simply throwing up hands and saying: “who the hell knows”. I think we can do better than this when it comes to understanding why cold emails don’t get replies.  ...  Read the entire post →

Review of Life

There’s a new multiplayer game out in the market. It’s called Life. I’m half way through it, so thought of reviewing my experience of it so far. I’ll try publishing the full review once I’m done playing.

It’s hard to pick a genre to categorize this game into. Its open ended nature means it can be action, adventure, fantasy, horror or all of these combined at once. I’m told that the gameplay differs from player to player, and in fact it could change while you’re playing it. (Honestly, I’ve never seen a game before where the genre changes all the time) This fluid nature of the game is definitely confusing and that makes it hard to box into a label. It really is a genre-busting game. ...  Read the entire post →

Notes from Inverted Passion Unconference in Bangalore [March ’18]

After doing the first unconference in Pune, I and Roby did the second one in Bangalore on March 11th 2018. These are my notes from the event.

Fireside chat with Kunal Shah, Founder of Freecharge (sold for $400mn to SnapDeal)

Here’s the entire audio transcript on Soundcloud. My key insights and learnings from the conversation (we were taking whisky shots while chatting, so when you hear me say ‘shots’ you do the math). Also, eChai has collated many people’s tweets into one page (so you can read everyone else’s insights from our chat).

1/ First, the quick fire questions with @kunalb11 ...  Read the entire post →

Your first sales hire should be two sales reps, and other tips

Recently someone asked me a question about hiring and structuring sales team in India.

Incidentally, someone asked a very similar question in our Inverted Passion slack group (now we’re 271 people). I shared my experience of growing an inside sales team at Wingify in India. In this post, I’m copy-pasting my answer from the Slack group and adding some more tips. ...  Read the entire post →

Notes from ‘Skin in the game’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the famous author of Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan, has come up with a new book titled Skin in the Game. I finished it over the weekend and here are my notes.

My sofa, my finger, Taleb’s book

Insights (and points I agree with him on)

Human systems are systems within systems, interacting in complex ways. No article / paper / logical argument can capture all interactions of such systems and their evolution over a non-trivial amount of time. So one shot, large scale interventions (such as invasion, UBI, CRISPR) are extremely dangerous because we now have people in power who can order large scale tech-driven interventions across a large section of society. ...  Read the entire post →

The Motivation, Emotion and Repetition (MER) framework for marketing

Our collective understanding of marketing has a massive hangover from the pre-Internet days. If you ask most people to define marketing, they’d go with definitions like “to inform about the product”, “to create brand awareness” or “to spread the word”. All these definitions are wrong because of the same reason: they serve company’s goals, not customers’.

This error of thinking in which the entrepreneur assumes customers have same motivations as s/he has is called the mind projection fallacy. This error is very common and hard to cure. I’ve written about how it affects entrepreneurs when they design products, get excited about new technology or seek new startup ideas.  ...  Read the entire post →