Your company’s org chart is more important than you think

Startup founders have many biases. Some are classic cognitive biases that impact decision making, while others are specific biases that impact their product thinking.

There’s yet another founder bias whose impact is not felt for a long time. It occurs when founders assume employees think and act like them. The often repeated advice that “early startup employees wear multiple hats” is an implication of this bias. I remember I assumed that just because I was able to do multiple things (coding, design, marketing, etc.) I expected our sales folks to make their own presentations and engineers to think of new product features.  ...  Read the entire post →

On the inefficiency of machine learning algorithms

Let’s imagine Artificial Intelligence, but in reverse. In such a world, humans are equivalent of machine learning algorithms (like deep learning) and some aliens (or our simulation overlords) feed labeled information from their world into us and ask us to “learn” the mapping between the inputs and the outputs. In all likelihood, their world will be incomprehensible to us (as it would have a very different nature than our world). Hence, whatever data is fed to us will seem random (as, in our world, we’d have never come across it before).  ...  Read the entire post →

Evolution explains everything

I love evolution. It’s hard to not get awed by a process that took Earth, a big rock full of chemicals, and gradually chiseled it to create humans, creatures full of complex emotions and behaviors. Impossible as it may seem, the mind-bogglingly diverse human behavior can be explained via evolution.

Let’s take our sense of boredom. We dislike doing nothing so much that sitting still during meditation requires active concentration. We have this anti-boredom drive because our ancestors who were action-oriented survived longer and had more babies, ultimately outnumbering our ancestors who were happy chilling and doing nothing. ...  Read the entire post →

How to critically dissect a success story

We thrive on stories. We want to know who did what to whom and what happened after that. People watch the news for hours and binge on Netflix because we’re evolutionarily wired to seek stories. Our ancestors who told and listened to stories had a higher survival rate because stories bound them together. Stories helped form groups that killed Mammoths and take over the world.

Stories bind people together because they provide a natural boundary between us-and-them.  Those who share similar stories are ultimately similar people – Christians bound together by Biblical stories, USA bound together by stories of freedom and independence. When friends gossip, what they’re really saying to each other is: we belong together. ...  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 →

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 →

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 →

The (de)centralization continuum

Internet visionaries are worrying about the increased centralization of the Internet. They worry about centralization of power as most of the value on the Internet is flowing to four big companies that go by the acronym FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google). Apple isn’t on the list because they make money by selling good ol’ hardware. (Moreover, FAANG doesn’t sound so cool).

Voices encouraging decentralization are strongest in Berlin, home to the majority of upcoming blockchain projects. Last week I was there attending the BlockStack Summit. If you go through my notes, you’ll know that almost all speakers believed how decentralization is the future of humanity. ...  Read the entire post →

Businesses get killed by non-competitors

Entrepreneurs worry about competition all the time. And they’re correct in doing so. I think the “focus on customers, ignore competition” is a terrible business advice. Customers will never ask you to introduce switching costs, yet that’s precisely what businesses should do in order to be profitable for a non-trivial amount of time.

In my last article, I wrote about how an entrepreneur should go about creating a legal monopoly via network effects and economic moats. In this article, I’ll talk about how even legal monopolies get killed.  ...  Read the entire post →

How to create legal monopolies via network effects and economic moats

If there’s one thing that customers dislike, it’s the barriers in switching between competitive products. As customers, we want to retain our freedom. However, as entrepreneurs, we are incentivized to curtail that freedom. As I wrote earlier, head to head competition in a market pushes profits to zero. To make a profit, an entrepreneur needs to find a way to keep customers and competition away from each other.

There are two ways this separation can happen:

  • Prevent competition from entering into your market
  • Prevent customers from switching to a competitor

Obviously, these tasks are hard in a free market (and that is why market pays through the roof for companies with a sustainable competitive advantage). Unless you sell drugs, you can’t (and shouldn’t) hire an assassin to prevent competition. Nor, can you (and should you) threaten your customers with dire consequences if they switch. ...  Read the entire post →