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

  • Freecharge experience in 3 words: confusion, evolution and depression
  • Money in one word: access
  • Life’s purpose in one short sentence: make up a game and win it
  • $100mn or dinner with Elon Musk: $100mn
  • Free speech or Universal Basic Income: free speech
  • Political correctness vs brutal honesty: brutal honesty (always)
  • More likely cause for human extinction between AI or nuclear war: nuclear war
  • Private jet or anonymous donation to Khan Academy: private jet
  • Dal vs pizza: keto diet
  • Music you’re listening to: vocal EDM
  • Book you’re reading: not reading any book (since last 3 months)
  • One book that the audience should read: skip (as can’t think of one book)
  • Your favorite interview question: what’s your source of energy? (Hindi translation: yeh chul kahan se aati hai?)
  • What types of people do you dislike: those who’re super-confident (they learn poorly)
  • What do you regret in life: not learning fast enough
  • Good lenses to predict future: efficiency
  • What people should be thankful about but aren’t: their human existence
  • What are you excited about: learning 2-3 insights / day
  • What are you worried / afraid about: getting dumber in life

2/ When I asked him about his favorite job in his career, @kunalb11 replied: “I don’t believe in the word ‘favorite’ as it limits me”. His most comfortable job, though, was of being an investor.

3/ Investing is an easy job because returns take 8-10 years and in that time period you can potentially die (or others may forget or stop caring). And you can blame 100s of outside factors why the investment didn’t work out.

4/ On the subject of ICOs, @kunalb11 suggested nothing replaces anything, we just invent new things to represent the same idea (for fooling other people). Many use cases of ICOs don’t exist (say where there’s no decentralization) and people are overselling the potential.

5/ “We’re getting into a world where idiots are full of extra information and there’s no cognitive energy to process it”. It’s a post-truth world.

6/ “People should get scammed, they should just avoid the same scams”. There’s no learning without taking (non-fatal) risks.

7/ Is there free lunch out there? @kunalb11 thinks peddling hope is in high demand, so if you do that, you can keep getting free lunches.

8/ Hope sells because humans constantly think they’re inadequate and chase perfection. “Imagine you bring someone from 1980 into 2018, they’ll think we’re gods” Things like pressing a button and food comes to your home will look unbelievable to them.

9/ The core reason of human (economic) progress is extreme unhappiness. (I agree with @kunalb11 here, and as a corollary think that meditation is negatively correlated with economic progress).

10/ All intellectuals who seek truth have a lower birth rate and they keep getting wiped out. Hence the world is getting dumber – it’s perfect for our species. Dogs and cats are hacking into our oxytocin supply for reproducing.

11/ @kunalb11 cited The Slingshot documentary where Segway’s inventor Dean Kamen asks: “if you’re a genius who has capability to impact 1 million lives, should you have a kid? Is that ethical?”

12/ Philosophy degree helped @kunalb11 realize that in the past there were lots of rivers (unfulfilled human desires/motivations) and way to build wealth was to build dams (products) on it. We over invested in building dams, and now we’re all engineers who can build dams but have lost the ability to detect rivers.

13/ All  technology creates wealth by making it easy to solve existing human motivation. If you don’t understand that, you’ll build a dam and keep wondering why water isn’t coming.

14/ Startups are never done because humans keep on inventing problems. Existing solutions lead to new problems. People have large problems trying to solve trivial problems (like a startup that raised $200mn to help people outsource their problem of taking their dogs for a walk)

15/ Humans have an inherent desire to do stratification (differentiation). As soon as we (hindus) removed the caste system, we bought goods, cars and dresses to differentiate ourselves. Social media is going to accelerate the trend of our differentiation.

16/ “Fail fast” is the stupidest thing. Rather, “plan better”. Sometimes you can get lucky by building something first, but understanding what underlying motivations does it address is the important better.

17/ The only good use of money is access. Money is no different than IIT degree as that gives you extra attention and open doors. Money does the same as it solves the curation problem to the recipient.

18/ @kunalb11 seeks contrarian views on Facebook by sharing his notes. He said if he wanted more likes he could post one motivational post per day and be done with that.

19/ What will people think” is the worst idea a society can implant in their young ones. There’s a permanent problem of training through shame.

20/ A lot of people are addicted to hard work because they’ve grown up with the idea that only if you work hard can you go into IITs/IIMs. So we have an entire generation of people who think they can only progress if they work hard and not through hacks or smartness.

21/ Founders are addicted to being able to hit sixes even on bad balls. But we’ve forgotten that predators are the ones who make most energy (money) burning least amount of calories (effort). Founders should learn to not hit every ball but detect a good, fast paced ball and smoothly deflect it to the boundary.

22/ When @kunalb11 was building Freecharge, he didn’t have problem of recharging personally but he understood it was a big pain for a lot of people. So before writing any code, he went to the mall and asked 500 people and only started working on it when 95% of people said they wanted it. (And he outsourced the code part too).

23/ Most people won’t agree with @kunalb11 that we’re monkeys too and we copy from superior monkeys. No idea moved from poor to rich or weak to influential (always vice versa).

24/ @kunalb11 is super concerned about India’s future. Indians don’t understand what they stand for. India is not one country (people speak English because it’s a neutral language). Indians are drawn to neutral grounds because they’re genetically heterogeneous. So Indian government should ban intra-caste, intra-religion marriage if we want to save India.

25/ India has 14% women participation in labor force (and that’s declining). India is also an extremely distrusting society and mistrust always lead to economic inefficiency (and countries that have mistrust generally remain poor).

26/ Trust is an output of strong judiciary so technologies like blockchain that remove the need to trust can benefit India. If we can make things cheaper for good actors, that’ll make society more trustworthy.

27/ Democracy is a flawed process where most popular leader – not the most competent leader – gets elected. That leads to populism that drives away entrepreneurs who worry that fruits of their labor will be taken away.

28/ @kunalb11’s delta 4 theory in one tweet: any time you have a product or a service that someone brags about, it’s highly likely to succeed. For example, WhatsApp launching payments suddenly makes existing independent payment apps look like a feature.

29/ One way to make money is to do unsexy things: cleaning, lingerie, garbage picking. Our (Indian) society shuns these things so whoever is willing to swallow the pride and do it gets economic benefits.

30/ Conferences are nonscalable ways of becoming smarter. Unit that stays same across Warren Buffet, Mukesh Ambani and Bill Gates is time. If you don’t know the value of per unit of your time, you’ll never take good decisions.

31/ Ethics is a moving target (in the past, slavery, child marriage was ethical). We should not force our ethics on others and try to be judgemental (it’s a dick move).

32/ To improve tax collection, government should make the spend of taxes attached to specific people. (E.g. naming roads, projects and other expenditure to specific people)

Links to talks

For slides and bios of speakers, check out this sheet. The videos aren’t professionally shot. They’re on periscope and I was slightly drunk while shooting (remind me again: who said drinking whisky during fireside was a good idea?)

Other Activities

All attendees came up with a list of their book recommendations. Pranay collected the suggestions on whiteboard and put them into a Google Spreadsheet (with Amazon links).

We did clay modeling (thanks to Dipti of Yourstory)

We had a book exchange going on at the Unconference

Plus a collaborative story being written in parallel (any attendee could add a new line to continue the story)

Then there was a collaborative drawing being done (anyone could extend the drawing whichever way they wanted)

And finally, here’s a group picture of everyone who attended.

That’s it 🙂

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