Posted in Entrepreneurship, Startups

4 years of startups learnings culminated

Greatness or nothing

Over last few years I have worked with many start-ups and entrepreneurs. Over a period, I have learned many things which make complete sense but are generally overlooked and start-ups fall in same pitfalls again and again. This is not to say that I am a guru or any better than anyone. But the things mentioned below are just the culmination of thoughts from last few years.

Data is oil

Not knowing about how your users use the product is like driving in dark without brakes and it is not at all cool. Someone said to me “what gets measured gets improved”. Generally, people think that installing google analytics and seeing some numbers is measurement. It goes much beyond it. It’s about knowing what your users are doing on your product and what are the pain points you are solving.

“Trust is good but control is better”

Decisions based on the wrong or half-baked data can be disastrous for the business and kill the business. Start-ups are always full of energy and pumped up, and unrealistic revenue projection can lead to a wrong hiring decision which can kill the business and there are thousands of examples like this.

Hence make sure you measure whatever you do; right from the product usage to the effort people put in, to all the output metrics for the business.

Growth vs Experience

Now you have your data in place and hence you can take the right decision. You come to know that certain features of a product are not showing the expected behavior but you have a growth target. Now generally people get into a dilemma.

I must show growth to a certain set of people, but if I do that new user should go through the broken experience which can lead to a bad experience and restrict growth. Believe me, people have gone behind growth and eventually came back to fixing the consumer experience. So here is your answer.

If you keep spending money on growth while having a bad experience, you have a better chance of winning by putting all your money in a bet with 50% chance of winning.

User Retention

In the new age businesses, all people want to show is the number of website visits, app downloads etc. rather than repeat and paying customers. Given a choice of 10 paying customers and 10000 visits, what would you select? I hope the latter as it is the money which runs the business.

If you agree with above, then why we spend hefty amounts on marketing and acquiring new users on websites and app rather than optimizing the product to retain the users. Closing the gap between the patterns among people who churn and people who don’t will create a lot of impact on the business.

Experiments are key to success

If we stop experimenting, we stop being innovative in finding the solution to the people’s problem and hence we lose out on so many opportunities. Experimentation must become routine as we learn more from our failures than success.

Empowerment

Founders generally want to control everything at the start which is good and helps as no one knows the product and its philosophy better than you. But there comes a time where you should let go and if you don’t you lag in the race and lose out on many things. Hence always prepare a second in command to move up the ladder and make sure that you are running at a decent speed.

Every single person in the team should be involved in growing the company on a weekly basis. Challenge everyone to come up with experiments within their own responsibilities and let them challenges others ideas.

Diversification

Never put all your eggs in one basket. You have developed an awesome product and you are generating good revenues from it. But there is saturation in every market and hence of you don’t diversify at the right time you can be in trouble. Hence having at least 2-3 options in whatever you do will always give you an upper hand.

Revenues are validation

If somebody is paying you means they are finding the value in you and this is the biggest validation of what you are doing. This makes the business sustainable in long term. If you only focus on growth you may end up becoming a billion-dollar company but in the real-world valuations are nothing and revenues are everything and hence you should have revenue model from day one. If your users don’t want to pay from what you should offer, then either you are targeting wrong customers or the business is not sustainable.

Customer Support is the key

Generally, start-ups believe in acquiring new customers but in a way, do not focus much on the existing one if the product is very easy and do not require support. The one who build the product always finds it easy but that may not be the case. Some of the start-ups who have grown substantially are the ones who always focussed on customer experience.

In a cut-throat, competitive market, it’s the experience that makes your growth exponential but all you need is patience which every one of us lacks.

It’s ok if you don’t know something

The know it all attitude is something which is common in most new generation entrepreneurs. At times, it may be necessary to pretend that things are working but never lie. Truth can be ugly sometimes but in long-term, it will always help.

Posted in Experience, Life, Photography

Some of my clicks on beautiful wildlife – Part I

“In photography, there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”

Photograph of snake eating the fish

The snake said “I take my part in the food chain very seriously” 

Photograph of the tiger feeling te nature

The Tiger said ” I think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night”

Photograph of The deer family roaming in the forest

The Deer said “Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten”

Photograph of Lion sitting in the shade in hot summer day

The Lion said “I guess I just have one of those resting faces that make me look like I want to beat you up”

Photograph of the spider in the web

The Spider said “It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time”

(All the clicks are by me. Please let me know your thoughts on the pictures in the comment box)

Posted in Experience, learnings, Life

Tricks to wake up at 5 in the morning

“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” ~Benjamin Franklin

waking-up-at-5-in-the-morning

Waking up at 5:00 AM literally changed my life. Whatever little I have achieved till now in my life, I owe it to this single habit of waking up early. Though there are other things that helped me but it all started with this single habit. I have woken up at 5:00 AM since April 30, 2013 (exceptions holiday and weekends when I wake up at 6:30 AM.

There are 2 extremely important factors: HOW and WHY. 

Without any of these, you are bound now to get the best of the results. I’ll go into details with each of them but first, let us set some context.

The most common question people ask is How much Sleep do we need? As for a 25 year, old human being, you will need an average of 6-8 hours of good sleep as per the sleep foundation.

The most important thing to remember for getting up early is to sleep on time. As said just above we need average 6-8 hours of sleep for a 25-year-old and hence to get up at 5 you need to sleep in between 9-11 PM for at least 80% of the weeknight.

WHY?

In any journey wanting something that is not clear or not important enough in your life will end up in disappointment. As we say where there is will there is a way and it only comes when you believe something important.

So, WHY do you want to wake up in the morning?

There are only two choices with us: You have to or You want to

If you “have to” , it is really straightforward because “when you don’t have a choice… it’s easy” as it has to be done. Mostly the decision that comes from top whether it is personal or professional.

Some examples: A project deadline, reach office by 10, call to the family once a day etc.

Many people follow this route, still, it requires a lot of willpower and ‘have to’s’ are something which is not recommended for a balanced life.

If you “want to” then it must be something that gets you out of the bed, out of your comfy sheets and into the dark, cold world early in the morning and hence it is easy for us.

Most of the people I know that wake up at 5AM are those who have a sense of fulfillment when they wake up, such as, creating something unique in the world, people who want some me time to do better during the day.

This is precisely why great leaders like to start the day ahead of everybody else. They like to be in charge (of their own life and company) and they are the ones that send out orders to be carried out being proactive and not reacting at what other are doing.

Wake up times of some famous & productive people: 

  • Robert Iger (CEO Disney) –4:30 AM
  • Tim Cook (CEO Apple) –4:30 AM
  • Howard Schultz (CEO Starbucks) –5 AM
  • Andrea Jung (CEO AVON) –4:00 AM
  • Richard Branson (CEO Virgin) –5:45 AM

If you don’t have some burning desire that gets fulfilled in that morning time for me it’s getting fit and hence going to gym, you won’t wake up early, NEVER. AND there is one more thing that needs to be met at the same time: You can’t find that time anywhere else during the day!  

Chances are that you burn the midnight oil on some things that interest you (a new business, some interesting reading, or anything else) but this is not productive because you are worn out and you put your interests LAST!

A better idea is to START the day with the things that are most fulfilling and to use your best energy. Early in the morning, that time can’t be taken away from you in any way as not one is calling or texting nor do you have any meetings.

So, start your day with YOURSELF so that you can take care of others from a resourceful state and not from a state where you don’t have enough for yourself.

HOW?

Once you know WHY you want to do it, it becomes a lot easier to make it happen in an easier way that fulfills your needs.

The best strategy that I think is set small targets and do it as we move ahead. I used to say If I wake up at 7:00 AM, not tomorrow I will wake up at 6:55 AM and so every day 5 min early. Some may say it will take days to reach 5:00 AM but I see it a slow and permanent change that is here to stay with us and hence we make a change in our habit.

And now some maths:

  • If I was getting up at 7:00 AM. I decide to get up 5 min early than the previous So, it will take 24 days (120 min/ 5 min) to reach 5 AM.
  • If the waking up time is 9:00 AM today, we may take 48 days to do the same but see the difference it will make to your life.
  • 2/ 4 hours gained of the highest productivity.

The trick to waking up early in the morning is going to bed early! People generally start with enthusiasm and will wake up directly at 5 for 2-3 days and will become sleep deprived and hence their productivity decreases.

Golden rules for a great sleep: 

  • Try and sleep for most hours in between 10:00 PM – 5:00 AM as we get the best quality deep sleep here.
  • Make sure you sleep at least 6 hours before waking up.
  • As per circadian sleep cycle, you should sleep in multiple of 90 and hence it is better to sleep 6 hours than 6.5 hours and it’s best to sleep 7.5 then 7 hours.
  • Try to get to bed at the same time every day to set up the body clock and a routine.
  • Spend some time in the sun during the day to balance your melatonin level to regulate your sleep cycles.
  • Have dinner or exercise 4 hours before your good night sleep.
  • Try and sleep with lights closed and room temperature maintained at a constant level to have a good deep sleep.
  • Don’t go to bed angry.
  • Make sleep a priority in the life.

Golden rules for waking up at 5AM:

  • First decide why you want to wake up, how always figures out itself.
  • Get out of bed as soon as the alarm hits
  • Call your buddy (in my case it’s my mom) and talk for 5 min to get out of the zone.
  • Wake up 5 min earlier each day till you reach your goal.
  • Find a morning routine that you look forward to every night
  • Sleep at least 6 hours in a day at a stretch.
  • If something breaks your routine don’t make it a reason to let, go another day.
  • Make a strong commitment to giving yourself quality time first thing in the morning.

These are only some ideas and strategies that I have found out and have tested on myself since last 4 years.