The Harsh Realities Of Being An Entrepreneur

November 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

  1. Your First Iteration of an Idea Will Be Wrong
  2. Your Friends And Family Won’t Understand What You Do
  3. You Will Make Less Than Normal Wages For A While
  4. Everything Takes Twice As Long…If It Even Happens
  5. Titles Mean Nothing. You Will Be a Janitor
  6. There Is No Silver Bullet
  7. Customers Will Frustrate You
  8. You Can’t Do It All Yourself
  9. There Is No Such Thing As An Overnight Success
  10. Building A Team Is Hard
  11. There Are Forces Outside Your Control

By Dharmesh Shah – On Startups


Problem into a business opportunity – Scott Cook, founder intuit – expereince

October 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

In this video Scott Cook, Founder of intuit shares his experience / hardships of starting the startups. I can see a similar common thread among the successful entreprenures.

First the idea, then the conviction you have about the idea matters a lot.

5 Quick Pointers On Startup Hiring

September 30, 2010 § 1 Comment

5 Quick Pointers On Startup Hiring by Dharmesh Shah of Hubspot.

I’ve been in the startup business for a pretty long time now. One of the things that I’ve found hardest to do is find and recruit exceptionally talented individuals. This is not particularly surprising, I think all businesses (big and small, young and old) have this challenge. However, I think this challenge is particularly acute for startups.

5 Quick Pointers On Startup Hiring Here are some of my thoughts and ideas on the whole startup recruiting process. [Side note: I prefer the word “recruiting” instead of “hiring”, but hiring is more widely used and I’m ranked #1 on Google for the term startup hiring and want to maintain that].

 1. Help The Best Find You:

I’m not a particularly big fan of the classic recruiting channels for one simple reason: they are not that effective. It’s very inefficient to go out into the world “looking” for that perfect new person for your startup. The odds of you finding them and convincing them to join you are slim to none. Instead, I prefer the reverse. Instead of spending a lot of time going out there looking for the perfect person, invest in activities to help that perfect person find you. For example, for my current startup, HubSpot, I haven’t been particularly good at going out and finding people. I have been good and having great people find me. This is a result of a limited set of activities: this blog, the HubSpot blog on Internet Marketing, and local startup activities I participate in. In short, in order to get the best people, you have to help them find you. This is particularly challenging, because many of the best people are not looking.

2. Skill vs. Talent:

I generally don’t advocate hiring for skills (which seems to be the way 95% of companies approach the problem). Instead, I prefer leaning towards talent. So, although the HubSpot platform is based on ASP.NET and C#, I don’t necessarily look for people that have those skills. I’d prefer finding developers that have talent whereby the actual language/platform is incidental. The best people are problem solvers and like to build elegant solutions and are not hung up on specific languages or technologies. Of course, there’s a line in the sand somewhere. I wouldn’t recommend anyone work for a company that is writing consumer Internet applications in COBOL. But, as long as the underlying platform is reasonable for the problem at hand, you should be able to find great people. In HubSpot’s case, I’m sure there will be people that will refuse to join us based solely on the fact that we are using ASP.NET (instead of Ruby On Rails, Java or whatever their learning is). That’s ok. My guess is that most (not all) of these people would not have been a particularly good fit for us anyways. I’m looking for talent, not skills.

 3. The Idea Will Change:

 You probably don’t want to recruit people based too strongly on the idea you are pursuing now. As passionate as you may be about the idea, chances are, it’s going to change. The right individual will continue to be the right individual even when this change happens.

4. What Can You Do For Them?

Too many companies hire based mostly on what they think the new recruit can bring to them. This is the “what can they do for me” line of thinking. This is not totally wrong because part of the goal of bringing new people on is clearly to “create value” for the company. But, I think this is short-sighted. In addition to asking yourself “what can they do for me?”, also ask: “What can my startup bring to them?” Now, many of you may jump to the conclusion that this is “big company thinking”. Only big companies can afford things like career paths, training programs and other benefits to help develop their employees. That’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m driving at is that you need to find ways that the new team member can benefit from your startup that they may not be able to get elsewhere. Things like greater responsibility, broader use of their capabilities (perhaps they want to do technology and marketing), expanding their personal network should they want to start their own company some day, etc. At some level, you are playing a passion arbitrage game. You don’t have the resources to give new hires all the benefits of a larger company. You shouldn’t try to. Instead, find people that are passionately looking to get an experience that only you can deliver. Then, deliver it.

5. Specialists vs. Generalists:

My co-founder and I have this ongoing debate/discussion on whether it is better for startups to hire specialists (i.e. people that are exceptionally good at one thing) or generalists (i.e. people that are pretty good at lots of things). I don’t have a good answer for this because a lot depends on the stage of the company and the specific circumstances. All things being equal (which they never are), I tend to lean towards really smart generalists in the early days because they can wear multiple hats and “specialize” in whatever the company needs at that time. As the team grows, specialists tend to be more necessary as roles start to crystallize.

If you’re a startup that is recruiting, would love to hear your thoughts on what has worked for you (and what hasn’t). On the other hand, if you’re an exceptionally talented and passionate individual that happens to be in the Boston area, I’m always looking. What I desperately need right now is a designer (part developer, part designer) that is passionate about building great web applications that delight users and makes them happy. Just send an email to passionatepeople [at] and let me know what I can do for you.

Disruptive Innovation & Life

September 20, 2010 § 1 Comment

by Clayton M. Christensen

About Clayton

Clayton is Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. Authority on disruptive innovation, a framework which describes the process by which a product or service takes root initially in a simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves ‘up market’, eventually displacing established competitors.

His seminal book The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997), which first outlined his disruptive innovation frameworks, received the Global Business Book Award for the Best Business Book of the Year in 1997, was a New York Times bestseller, has been translated into over 10 languages, and is sold in over 25 countries.

Disruptive Innovation & Intel

Before I published The Innovator’s Dilemma, I got a call from Andrew Grove, then the chairman of Intel. He had read one of my early papers about disruptive technology, and he asked if I could talk to his direct reports and explain my research and what it implied for Intel. Excited, I flew to Silicon Valley and showed up at the appointed time, only to have Grove say, “We have only 10 minutes for you. Tell us what your model of disruption means for Intel.”

I said that I couldn’t—that I needed a full 30 minutes to explain the model, because only with it as context would any comments about Intel make sense. Ten minutes into my explanation, Grove interrupted: “Look, I’ve got your model. Just tell us what it means for Intel.”

I insisted that I needed 10 more minutes to describe how the process of disruption had worked its way through a very different industry, steel, so that he and his team could understand how disruption worked. I told the story of how Nucor and other steel mills had begun by attacking the lowest end of the market—steel reinforcing bars, or rebar and later moved up toward the high end, undercutting the traditional steel mills.

When I finished the minimal story, Grove said, “OK, I get it. What it means for Intel is…,” and then went on to articulate what would become the company’s strategy for going to the bottom of the market to launch the Celeron processor.


I’ve thought about that a million times since. If I had been suckered into telling Andy Grove what he should think about the microprocessor business, I’d have been killed. But instead of telling him what to think, I taught him how to think—and then he reached what I felt was the correct decision on his own.


That experience had a profound influence on me. When people ask what I think they should do, I rarely answer their question directly. Instead, I run the question aloud through one of my models. I’ll describe how the process in the model worked its way through an industry quite different from their own. And then, more often than not, they’ll say, “OK, I get it.” And they’ll answer their own question more insightfully than I could have.

How can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?

The powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements – Frederick Herzberg


Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more MBA students come to school thinking that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.

Over the years I’ve watched the fates of my HBS classmates from 1979 unfold; I’ve seen more and more of them come to reunions unhappy, divorced, and alienated from their children.

I can guarantee you that not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would become estranged from them. And yet a shocking number of them implemented that strategy. The reason? They didn’t keep the purpose of their lives front and center as they decided how to spend their time, talents, and energy.

It’s quite startling that a significant fraction of the 900 students that HBS draws each year from the world’s best have given little thought to the purpose of their lives. I tell the students that HBS might be one of their last chances to reflect deeply on that question. If they think that they’ll have more time and energy to reflect later, they’re nuts, because life only gets more demanding.

For me, having a clear purpose in my life has been essential. But it was something I had to think long and hard about before I understood it. When I was a Rhodes scholar, I was in a very demanding academic program, trying to cram an extra year’s worth of work into my time at Oxford.


I decided to spend an hour every night reading, thinking, and praying about why God put me on this earth. That was a very challenging commitment to keep, because every hour I spent doing that, I wasn’t studying applied econometrics. I was conflicted about whether I could really afford to take that time away from my studies, but I stuck with it and ultimately figured out the purpose of my life.

Had I instead spent that hour each day learning the latest techniques for mastering the problems of autocorrelation in regression analysis, I would have badly misspent my life. I apply the tools of econometrics a few times a year, but I apply my knowledge of the purpose of my life every day.

It’s the single most useful thing I’ve ever learned. I promise my students that if they take the time to figure out their life purpose, they’ll look back on it as the most important thing they discovered at HBS.

Clarity about their purpose will trump knowledge of activity-based costing, balanced scorecards, core competence, disruptive innovation, the four Ps, and the five forces.

Full article – available at at US$6.95 US$ or mail me for free

Just Dial

December 7, 2009 § Leave a comment

HAILING from a non-business family, VSS Mani is a born entrepreneur. He undertook his first business venture when he was in his tweens. “I had organised a paid video show of Bruce Lee’s ‘Fist of Fury’ for family and friends,” fondly recollects Mani, Founder & Managing Director of India’s biggest search engine, JustDial. The likes of JRD Tata, Dhirubhai Ambani and Verghese Kurien have inspired him to his grand vision to touch the lives of millions of people with an enterprise. And thus was born JustDial

When asked what made him choose this field, he replies, “While working for a yellow pages company in 1989, in a casual discussion with a customer, I conceived this idea of a 24×7 telephonic product and service search engine.” The first version of this concept saw an early demise as it was way ahead of its times. But he was determined to restart the service and transform it into a successful enterprise. In 1996 he launched the current version of JustDial, subsequently adding other avatars–web, WAP and print, which achieved huge success.

Mr Mani tried different ideas (including the concept of a wedding planner) to survive and save money so that he could start JustDial. Started with some borrowed furniture and rented PCs in a small (10×30 feet) hired garage, today JustDial has over 86,000 customers across the nation and employs over 3500 people with offices in major cities across India. In a very short time, has become probably the most frequented local search website in the country. Recalling the 20 years of his journey, Mr Mani says, “So far it has been wonderful; I loved every bit of challenge the market threw from time to time. This exciting journey had no dearth of tests and trials, problems and solutions.” Moreover, he enjoyed proving all the naysayers wrong, those who kept discarding all his efforts by branding them trash.

“We believe in a philosophy of small and continuous improvement on a daily basis; so it is difficult to pinpoint the milestones of this journey. Every day, every decision we took and every effort we put in were milestones,” he asserts. However, if he has to identify a few, he considers the trust and faith shown by international investors in JustDial, the wide acceptance of its pan-India service on the single national number ‘69999999’ and the phenomenal success of as the highlights of his journey.

It wasn’t a cakewalk. He encountered challenges at every step. But he had evolved a game plan to overcome these challenges, which proved successful. “The major issues were raising capital and convincing the advertisers about the feasibility of our idea. We surmounted them through intelligent pricing strategies and innovative ideas,” he affirms. Mr Mani’s success mantra is conviction and passion. “Of course, a good measure of common sense and simple thinking also helps,” he adds.

His ambition is to take the company to new heights in the next five years. Leaving a global footprint, and becoming a world leader in local search services, is his ultimate aim.

As a concluding note, his advice to entrepreneurs is, “First ask yourself why you want to become an entrepreneur? If you have the fire in your belly, and a bright new idea, please go ahead, or else revisit your decision. Being an entrepreneur is all about belief, passion, perseverance and hard work. There is no substitute to passionate desire, will-power and sustained hard work.”

Don Norman

October 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

don_normanProducts do not stand in isolation. They exist in the real, complex world, with unforgiving people, continual interruptions, and an unforgiving environment.  How to cope? Think systems.  Don’t be too logical.  Realize that everything is both a service and a product. Understand that the total experience is more important than functions, the memory of the experiences is more important than the reality,  and emotions are more important than logic.  It’s all about experience.

Don Norman is the author or co-author of fourteen books, with translations into sixteen languages, including: The Design of Everyday Things, Things That Make Us Smart, and The Invisible Computer: Why good products can fail, the PC is so complex, and information appliances are the answer. Business Week has called this “the bible of the ‘post PC’ thinking.” His latest book, Emotional

Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things, is available in 9 languages. This book marks the transition from usability to aesthetics, but with the emphasis on a well-rounded, cohesive product that looks good, works well, and gives pride to the owner.

Norman is cofounder of the Nielsen Norman Group, an executive consulting firm that helps companies produce human-centered products and services, Professor at Northwestern University, Prof. Emeritus of the University of California, San Diego, and co-director of Northwestern’s Segal Design Institute; founded by Crate & Barrel creators Gordon and Carole Segal. He has been Vice President of Apple Computer and an executive at Hewlett Packard. He was President of the Learning Systems division of UNext, an early, online education company.

Happy For No reason!

March 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

happiness When Buddha professed, “Life is suffering”, he was likely referring not to a gloomy picture of our lives of sadness and suffering but to the constant inner struggle we have with our thoughts and emotions. Thoughts are ceaselessly traveling to the past or to the future – what I did well, what could have been better for me, what I would love to happen and so on. These thoughts are not an occasional occurrence but are a human preoccupation. A human mind typically has over fifty thousand thoughts in a day – and, all these thoughts are accompanied by corresponding emotions. Thoughts of things going are accompanied by feelings of satisfaction and happiness; thoughts of things potentially going wrong lead to emotions of fear and anxiety. As a result, our moods and state of happiness is always at the mercy of our thoughts and emotions. Is there an alternate to this existence? Can one have greater equanimity, irrespective of the direction of thoughts? Can these thoughts be minimized?


As we attempt to answer these questions, we need to first recognize what causes these thoughts in the first place. It’s our ego. It’s the notions of ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’ that we grow up with, which develop a deep sense of independent personality and separateness of our identity. We then begin working towards our own survival and growth and can end up leading an entire life focused on pursuit of personal pleasures. This sense of duality (I am different from others) is the genesis of our thoughts. As long as we see ourselves disjointed from the whole, we will continue to feel incomplete and have thoughts driven by our craving for more (money, success, knowledge, happiness etc.) or fear of losing something that we already possess (money, power, reputation, happiness…).


While there are numerous methods out there to deal with this unending train of thoughts, one powerful approach is related to connecting with ‘awareness’ or ‘consciousness’. Awareness is not the mind, or our thoughts; it’s the consciousness which allows us to observe our mind, thoughts, and emotions. If we close our eyes and just focus on the thoughts that arise in our mind, it’s the awareness which allows us to notice these thought patterns and we can notice the observer as distinct from the thinker. We can then train to recognize that this awareness is like a mirror – it only reflects what the mind is going through, without any projections of its own. The mirror has no worries, fears, anger or cravings – its pure awareness, pure consciousness. All the thoughts and accompanying emotions arise in the mind, even though we experience them only through this awareness. As we begin to connect with this inner awareness, we start to realize that this awareness is who we really are. In our normal life, we are so busy with external stimulus that we lose connection with our true inner selves. We can simultaneously learn to comprehend that this awareness is omnipresent, and governs everything; all of us are made of it and that we are all connected and part of the same whole – the awareness continuum. Just observing ourselves, without paying attention to our circumstances or potential outcomes, can be a great way towards liberating ourselves of many of our inner struggles.


Being such a witness makes us realize we have no independent identity, which in turn reduces our ego and our overarching sense of separateness and duality. Instead, it initiates us into greater equanimity – that can assist us in reducing our continuous thoughts of craving and clinging, and of judging everything as good or bad. Cultivating equanimity can help us better normalize what the Buddhist teachings identify as the eight variations of our tendency to continually hope and fear – pleasure and pain, praise and blame, gain and loss, fame and disgrace. Practicing mindfulness (by staying connected with our awareness) and an attitude of equanimity can open us up to all types of experiences (pleasant or otherwise) with equal acceptance. In fact, if handled well, suffering can then become another opportunity for further learning and personal growth. Suffering can teach us greater compassion by helping us better appreciate the difficulty of others in similar situation.


Of course, one can argue against all these ideas with a “so what, who cares?” attitude. It is so possible to continue living without bothering to analyze these aspects in our daily existence. There’s also the question around, when and where do I begin, if at all? I reckon there are various perspectives to that. I believe we are all at different stages in the circle of life (not ahead of or behind any other) and spirituality works for those who need it at their stage for personal growth. Further, it makes eminent sense to start from wherever we are – we can never be too early for it or too late; our own time is the right one for us. Having said that, once we do become conscious of these aspects, it can be hard to ignore them any further. As Socrates said, “A life not examined is not worth living.” Socrates, who lived at a time not very different from Buddha’s, believed that each person is born with full knowledge of the ultimate truth and we need only be spurned to conscious reflection to become aware of it. Socrates went a step further, to also differentiate between this quest and other self-help processes. Like the contemporary self-improvement trend, there were the Sophists in ancient Greek, who Socrates felt were more driven by imparting worldly knowledge that could be used to further one’s own interests and not really interested in searching for the truth. Like many other philosophers and sages, he believed searching for the truth to be the deepest purpose of human life.


As Patanjali, the great Indian sage, said, “The Self is pure, free from decay and death, free from hunger and thirst and free from sorrow. This is the Spirit in man. The only thing this Spirit desires is truth. This is the Spirit that we seek and know: we must each find our own Self. When we have found our Self and gotten to know about it, we have reached the ultimate, and there is nothing more to desire.” In that context, any baby steps we can patiently take towards learning mindfulness, connecting with awareness, gaining equanimity, or striving towards the journey of truth, can greatly help us experience inner joy and peace. With that, more of our actions also tend to arise from pure motivation rather than from desires of gain and loss. We then also no longer need a reason to be happy!