If You Want To Do Something, Don’t Think About It, Go And Do It

I have come to this point many times. Sometimes, many times in a single day. I have a good idea and then think and think and think about it, imagine all the things that could go wrong and all the things that could go right. Weigh the pros and the cons in a rational way and of course the idea is to come to a reasonable decision. The problem here is that the original idea doesn’t actually get done, lot of thinking usually makes the idea not that interesting anymore and I lose the excitement I had in the beginning.

This line “If you want to do something, don’t think about it, go and do it” from Dyson vacuum founder in a podcast with Guy Raz made me think about this a bit. He has a point, why should you spend time thinking about the idea, what’s the fun in that, all the fun is in doing the idea and not thinking more about it.

Apps I Find Useful

Everyday ask yourself “How am I being useful to this world”

–Madhav SBSS

Notion, a neat tool that packs a lot of things into one app. Todo lists, documents, spreadsheets, team collaboration but is it too busy? Is it trying to do too many things, is it trying to be a Swiss Army Knife?

Spark email – love your email again. I like the app, it combines good features from Gmail, Yahoo and other popular email apps into one. Their Smart View option is interesting, it bubbles up email that is more important or relevant to the top of the inbox, instead of a reverse chronological order.

SuperHuman – what’s the big deal with this email app, why is it invite only for ever? I don’t know, interesting thing is no app has been able to monetize email clients. They certainly are doing something right!

Elevate brain games app – Not a recent find, I have been playing the games for a couple of years quite regularly, it takes just a few minutes to complete a session and I enjoy the challenges and visuals.

Flipboard – news personalized for me, hyper curated. Love the ease of use and relevancy of the articles to my tastes.

raagabox – connecting humans through music. Well, this is a website and app I have been maintaining for over a decade now. It gives me so much joy to listen to the beautiful voices of many of my close friends and family.

mint – not a day goes by without checking my portfolio, networth, bills and expenses in this cool little app that has been around for over a decade and hasn’t changed much. UX could be better but I won’t complain, it’s free and it connects to all my banks, investments, real estate and does a decent job of giving me clarity on my finances. It’s time someone developed nextmint that actually personalizes financial planning, is free like mint!

Google Voice – I don’t like most of Google products, with the exception of their Search, Maps and Docs. I have to say Google Voice is a blessing for those who need to call international at cheap rates and get the reliable service. My monthly telephone bills have dropped by 5 times.

Stockpile – a cool little app that I have given to my kids so that they can learn the value of investing in stocks. The app allows them to invest in partial shares, for example, even with $100 they can own AMZN stock which is trading at $2388.55 today.

digit.co is interesting, it is kind of like Acorns. It has been around for over a decade, it connects to your checking account and pulls small amounts of money regularly into a rainy day account.

#6 Vijay Nadadur

On using machines to help humans to understand natural language faster, cheaper and better and on feeling comfortable with your life choices

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Vijaykant Nadadur is the Co-Founder & CEO of Stride.AI. His expertise spans the areas of Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Understanding. He is also a mentor at Techstars Paris and Bangalore. He has lived in 6 countries and speaks 7 languages. 



Enjoy my conversation with Vijay

Lessons Learned From Ben and Jerry

We didn’t think of it as a business, we thought of it as a venture. We wanted to do it for a couple of years and then become cross country truck drivers.

A lot of our problems would be solved if we made the ice creams shittier.

Business is essentially “busyness”, it’s mostly commonsense and lot of work.

We ran a promotion in winter called “Penny Off Per Celsius degree Below Zero Winter Extravaganza (POPCBZWE)”.

Ben and Jerry are two great friends and amazing citizens of the world delivering happiness by the pint, under $5

Random tweet (credit: Marche’ Lawton) about Ben and Jerry, haven’t fact checked but if it is true I’m definitely buying more chunky monkeys as well

Jerry Greenfield, left, and Bennett Cohen, the founders of Ben and Jerry Homemade Inc., pose in front of their “Cowmobile” in Burlington, Vt., on June 15, 1987.
( Toby Talbot / AP Images )
Source: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/heresthething/episodes/ben-and-jerry-warm

Notes and Links

https://www.amazon.com/Ice-Cream-Wendall-S-Arbuckle/dp/1461380677

#4 Sidharth and Somvir

On a mission to rebuild real human connections locally, worldwide

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Somvir and Siddharth are co-founders of MyScoot platform which helps people discover great local experiences and meet amazing people through house parties. They are part of the Y Combinator Accelerator program and are fired up to change the way people build and develop social connections locally all around the world.

“By the end of this week, there will be 50 people who would have met each other through something that we’re doing”
Enjoy my conversation with Somvir and Siddharth

#3 Sumona Karjee Mishra

On a mission to eliminate pregnancy related disorders in India and around the world, starting with early diagnosis of Preeclampsia.

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Sumona Karjee Mishra is a scientist turned entrepreneur. She co-founded Prantae Solutions along with her husband to disrupt treatment of pregnancy related disorders, with an initial focus on Preeclampsia which affects 5-8% of all  pregnancies worldwide. She received her PhD from the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New Delhi.

“You can’t let the pregnant women die” and “Love yourself”


#2 Sriram Emani

On disrupting the 600-year old Indian music and dance industry and choosing to do what you love

Sriram Emani is the Co-founder and CEO of IndianRaga. He is a 2015 Global Fellow with the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA), where he was the only Indian out of 52 Fellows from across the world. Dedicated to popularizing Indian classical and contemporary music and dance, Sriram is the brains behind the widely popular Indian version of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, which has garnered over 25 million views across various platforms.

“I went to IIT to do engineering, but I ended up doing a whole ton of performing.”

How Many Clone Startups Do We Need?

Why is the world obsessed with building so many similar products and companies, is it that many VCs are just sheep and throw money at startups in a large and growing market? Or is it that the world needs variety? current solutions are not serving the market well? the market is big and more companies can co-exist and thrive?

For example, I don’t work in the Cloud, Data or Monitoring space and I don’t spend much time thinking about this space but I have seen many companies popping up that are all doing variations of Cloud Backups, Cloud Log Analyzers. I can only imagine how many companies actually exist in each of these areas, I am probably only aware of a small percentage of them.

I see this happening in many industries, not just cloud computing. I see this even in Transportation (Lyft, Uber, Didi, Ola and on and on), Hospitality (Airbnb, Sonder, Lyric, Vrbo, Vacasa, Holidu and on and on), Streaming (Disney+, Peacock, Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu and on and on). I understand variety is the spice of life but I also know the “paradox of choice”.

The fundamental question I’m intrigued by is “why do people spend so much money, time and effort on building things that are not unique”, that are not, in my humble opinion, zero to one companies.

0 to 1 Product Manager

“0 to 1 product management is simple but very hard to get right, billions of dollars and months of time and effort could be saved if PMs follow a few basic principles”

Does product management vary between before and after product-market-fit (PMF)? This is the fundamental question that led me to research this idea of 0 to 1 product manager and how his/her role differs from a PM that is trying to grow an established product.

What is the key objective for a pre-PMF product? It’s to find and solve a customer problem in a large market.

What is the key objective for a post-PMF product? It’s to grow the business. For example, you are an e-commerce company selling shoes online, you found your customers, you are able to serve them well (sales, marketing, support). Now, how can you grow this business? There are a few options –

  1. Sell other products augmenting the shoe product line e.g clothing, caps
  2. Sell shoes to more people (expand to other markets, e.g. international)
  3. Sell analytics to healthcare companies e.g. training data

Product management can focus on creating new products to increase ARPU or introduce existing products to new markets (other countries, segments etc). When you don’t know that “shoe” is your product or “lack of shoe” is the problem to solve, does the PM role change in that context? i.e. before product market fit.

On a typical day, a PM makes many decisions, tradeoffs and prioritizes product features while keeping ROI at the center of it all. ROI framework works very well for a post-PMF product. For a pre-PMF product, if we try to optimize ROI, we will end up building a local optima. Yet we cannot ignore ROI, I have made this mistake a few times, “build it and they will come” may work but the question is “will they just come or will they also buy?”. What do I mean by that? Would I be able to convert the users to paid users? Am I providing value? Do they perceive value in the product that is worth spending money on? My point is, for a product that has not found PMF, while ROI metric is important, it alone cannot be the metric that’s driving decisions to help us find product-market-fit.

For example, at Akamai we developed a product that can be integrated into streaming apps to enable downloads for offline consumption. This is a great product, has a good market fit and a positive ROI. However, there are other factors that needed to be weighed in, competitive offerings, business model, long term company strategy, margin, customer delight. If ROI is the only metric we cared about, we would have pushed the product ahead but we decided to not pursue that product even though we had 10 paying customers and close to one million dollars in annual recurring license revenue in the first year of launch.

So how exactly is product manager’s role different before PMF? PM’s main objectives before PMF are to –

  1. Identify a customer problem in a large market, and go solve that problem. This takes building, iterating, learning, listening to the customer, there is no overnight eureka moment here. The most crucial superpower any successful pre-PMF product team can posses is experimenting, learning from data (qualitative and quantitative) and quickly iterating to reach PMF.
  2. Ensure that the customer is willing to pay for your product.
  3. Be clear on who the user and customer are for your product, sometimes they are the same people and sometimes not.

When you are before PMF, focus obsessively on getting to product/market fit. Do whatever is required to get to product/market fit. Including changing out people, rewriting your product, moving into a different market, telling customers no when you don’t want to, telling customers yes when you don’t want to, raising that fourth round of highly dilutive venture capital — whatever is required. When you get right down to it, you can ignore almost everything else. I’m not suggesting that you do ignore everything else — just that judging from what I’ve seen in successful startups, you can.

Marc Andreessen – https://a16z.com/2017/02/18/12-things-about-product-market-fit/

Let’s unpack that to get a sense of what frameworks, metrics and tools a PM could use to get to PMF.

First, identify a customer problem in a large market, how to do that? Through build-measure-iterate loops. Running experiments, be willing to fail and learn what the market is telling us. What value we think we are creating and does the customer see the value as well? This is validating your value-hypothesis, I’m paraphrasing Andy Rachleff.

Second, ensure that customer is going to pay for the product otherwise it’s a nice hobby but not a business. Again test-measure-learn what pricing works, what business model works the best. Subscriptions? Transactional? Bundling with other services? Giving the product away for free in order to grow another north star metric?

Lastly, be clear on user and customer. Are you selling to the end user? Are you giving the product for free to users but charging your partners? Is your user the customer e.g. Netflix subscriber or is your user just a user and your customer is a small business e.g. EventBrite. Understanding this and setting the right priorities to delight both the customer and the user in different ways is important, ignore any one of them at your own peril.

Bikeshedding

“Number of opinions on a topic is exponentially directly proportional to the triviality of the topic”

Source for this blog idea: http://bikeshed.com, I heard about this profound idea from Matt Mullenweg of WordPress fame.

Should we use technology X or Y to land the first spaceship carrying humans to Mars?

Opinion 1: Yes to X

Opinion 2: Yes to Y

Opinion 3: May be we should do a combination of X with a small variation on Y.

We are DONE, really no more opinions?

Should we paint this bike shed red or blue?

Opinion 1: Red would be great

Opinion 2: Red sucks

Opinion 3: Red might work but blue would be better

……

Opinion Million: Let’s not paint it

Opinion Million + 1: Do we need a bike shed?