Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Breakup, hitting rock bottom, standing up, bouncing back

I had heard somewhere that the best way to connect to someone is to show them that you are as crazy as them. 

Six months back

She called me ten days after the breakup and told me that the breakup hasn’t happened only yet and then she broke up with me the very next day again. I was sure this was the girl of my life and almost sure that I will end up marrying her. Did it hurt? Well, the only time I did not feel the pain was when I was sleeping and that’s why I slept most of the time. And then I skipped couple of days of work. It wouldn’t have mattered much to a company if I were an employee and would have been taking a leave but the problem was that it was a company I had started and I was the so-called CEO of the company or if you want to be more mainstream call it a “startup”. Between the lines advice: unless you are building the next Whatsapp, it’s better if you run your startup like a company and not your company like a startup. If you didn’t understand that, someday you will. Even worse is when this is the company which you have started after putting whatever you had on stake, after quitting a 16L CTC job from Directi which people yearn, after not listening to your parents to do further studies.

In a relationship as in a startup there is something called as the honey moon period where everything seems perfect and filled with passion and you are excited that you have just found your love (or started something you have been dreaming of). It’s filled with some of the most awesome moments the happy times, telling people about your happiness and sharing with them. It seems like things are all sorted and you are always in a certain sense of high. Then reality hits in…

The problem which happened with me was that the honeymoon period of the relationship and the Startup actually started at the same point and when reality hit in. When you realise running a company is more than telling everyone that you are the CEO of company that has just raised funding and you face the bigger challenges i.e. Hiring/Firing (your lead developer getting an offer from Flipkart and you trying to retain him), Operations, Money in money out, marketing, product and more importantly survival. So the problems while running the company had just started when she broke up with me, the so called love of my life (damn Shah Rukh Khan, I hate you for this, but I love you for the entrepreneur you are). And then I hit rock bottom, what’s the use of going to office? there are investors, there are employees who cares? I just want to sleep and not face reality. But then there was another voice, isn’t that what you craved for Gaurav? This adventure? This low followed by high followed by another low? Isn’t that what you were getting into when you left your job and started your company. And obviously it’s never supposed to be easy. If it’s easy it wouldn’t be worth it, will it? But my chest hurt, I wanted to cry, I wanted to call her and ask her to stick with me in these bad times so that I have the courage to fight them (lame reason you give yourself during worst of the times). But I didn’t call her and I did the following things.

  • I called up all my friends and talked to them, went and met them especially the ones who inspired me always
  • I started reading a lot. Started with two books, Choose Yourself by James Altucher (thank you once again, James) and Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacton
  • Found good mentors and listened to them on how to fix things and get back on track. 
  • I brought positive changes in my life, more exercise, less junk food, less alcohol, less Facebook. More work, more discipline. 
  • And not to fall backwards


The last line is from James Altucher’s blog post, this is the whole paragraph. I guess he pretty much sums it up in one para better than I will do in this whole post. 


"You Fall Backwards. You’re losing clients. Your best programmer quit. Your traffic is going down. Your girlfriend is not returning your calls. Your boss promoted someone over you. Time to get creative now. You need to think out of the box. Again, this is just an obstacle. Not a failure. Failures start off as obstacles. You want to overcome obstacles. You can’t make your girlfriend call you back. Maybe you get a new girlfriend who calls you back. Maybe you take a step back and build a new site. You start looking for a new job so you find people who value you. Falling backwards consistently will make you go to zero. So when you start to “fall backwards” you say, “ok, I have an obstacle. Now I need to think out of the box to get rid of this obstacle.” Its not bad to have obstacles. You just have to overcome them.  If you fall back too far then you fell down.”

Three Months back

It took three months of discipline from the point when I used to wake up and be like “I just want to sleep more and not give a fuck about anyone anymore” to the point where you get the same passion back for your company as you had on day one. It wasn’t easy, but well good things are never easy. And slowly things started to get better. December was the time when we reached from 19 people to 6 people because well, we had to survive and it was the right thing to do. Difficult but right, and then things started to get better. More traffic, more customers, more inventory, more colleges. Few learnings:

  • Say STFU to all funding news. I used to get scared a LOT when time and again I used to read “Housing has raised 2.5M$”, “Housing has bought a domain and number for 1M$”. Let me tell you one thing very honestly which I have learnt over past few months from my mentors (Thank you Sameer Guglani, Aakrit Vaish, Miten Sampat) and running the business myself that how well you do has nothing to do with how much money you have raised. Infact raising the money should be the last thing in your mind. At one point we hired like crazy because we were seeing Housing expand aggressively. It was a mistake and I did learn a lot from it. Focus on your product and business and not your competition.
  • Handling your emotions. Either you can run a company or be emotional. You cannot do both. I did not fire an employee for two months because he was my junior from college and emotionally I thought things might improve when I very well knew nothing good is going to happen. 
  • Discipline. I was working with Directi before Flat.to. Being a product company and having a Google like culture made me follow the same at Flat.to, but I soon realised my company is not a product company. It’s a business that’s as much offline as it is online and for that more than anyone else I need to be disciplined in terms of the office timings, flexibility and work culture. Whatever said and done you have to do sales and get money and sell the product you are building and trust me selling to a broker is not easy especially when you have 10 big competitors in the market.
  • Get good mentors. I was constantly in touch with Sameer Guglani of Morpheus, Waqar Azmi of SutraHR, Aakrit Vaish (my co-founder and investor) and few other friends who would prefer if I don’t mention their names.
Today

As they say, just don’t give up yet, things will get better. As I look back, things did get better and a lot better. And it took a lot of effort on my part to focus on the positive aspects and learn from my mistakes. As House says, time doesn’t change anything, doing things change things. There are times I do get anxious, start worrying but then I smile, focus, read and do my work :)

On another note, Flat.to recently launched in Bangalore, Kota, Pune and soon launching in Delhi and Jaipur. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Happy Birthday, Steve Jobs!

After a lot of searching through Kindle highlights, here are some of my favourite lines from his biography.

He had neither Ellison’s conspicuous consumption needs nor Gates’s philanthropic impulses nor the competitive urge to see how high on the Forbes list he could get. Instead his ego needs and personal drives led him to seek fulfillment by creating a legacy that would awe people.

"He told me, with an intensely earnest look, that his father was not a cold profit-seeking businessman but was motivated by a love of what he did and a pride in the products he was making." - his son to the author

'“No,” he replied. “If I do something else amazing, that means you get to write a second volume.” He smiled at that thought, then added, “Or at least a very long epilogue.”' - to the author when he asked if he could delay the novel

“I don’t think it would work to try to make Steve look humble,” McKenna explained later. “As Steve says about himself, ‘What you see is what you get.’”

At one point the pulmonologist tried to put a mask over his face when he was deeply sedated. Jobs ripped it off and mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it.

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer said in a CNBC interview. “And it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard.” (for the iPad)

The iPhone was immediately dubbed “the Jesus Phone” by bloggers. But Apple’s competitors emphasized that, at $500, it cost too much to be successful.

“There is no one better at turning off the noise that is going on around him,” Cook said. “That allows him to focus on a few things and say no to many things. Few people are really good at that.”

“He takes contrary positions to create more discussion, because it may lead to a better result. So if you don’t feel comfortable disagreeing, then you’ll never survive.”

He wanted to be seen (both by himself and by others) as someone willing to work for $1 a year, but he also wanted to have huge stock grants bestowed upon him.

The mark of an innovative company is not only that it comes up with new ideas first, but also that it knows how to leapfrog when it finds itself behind.

“In one of our marketing meetings just as the stores were opening, Steve made us spend a half hour deciding what hue of gray the restroom signs should be.”

“You have no fucking idea how I feel,” he shot back, “no fucking idea what it’s like to be me.” - Jobs

Apple had been more innovative, imaginative, elegant in execution, and brilliant in design. But even though Microsoft created a crudely copied series of products, it would end up winning the war of operating systems. This exposed an aesthetic flaw in how the universe worked: The best and most innovative products don’t always win.

Happy Birthday Steve Jobs.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

AK-47

When one thinks of an idea of starts a company there is certain objective and a certain goal in mind to hit that first milestone. And to reach there sometimes it takes months, sometimes even years but the journey is the reward and the journey in no way is completely sweet. There are moments when you have to fight and get past the competition, you have to fight the people who are going to stop you (can be physically or even emotionally) and not let you do what you want but then the entrepreneur has to stick around and persist and figure out other ways to approach a problem, get rid of obstacles and push himself or herself. But in absolutely no way quitting is considered an option and those who do are weak. 

That's why I think it I relate this to AAP, then Arvind Kejriwal has made a huge mistake by quitting. 

This is one way to look at it. The other way is that people who make a difference, the entrepreneurs, the rebels, geniuses, they act on intuition more than anything else and time has proven that on a long term intuition serves more good than bad. Now I want to believe that his decision to quit is because of intuition and not incompetence. Because it doesn't matter what a million people feel. If he doesn't feel that staying is right then I think that's the best decision anyone can take. Give up power for the right reasons or whatever his actual reason maybe. 

But I truly believe rather I want to believe that this in no way is the end of AK. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

EVENTUALLY EVERYONE IN YOUR WAY DISAPPEARS

+james altucher  yet again. Link to the original post: https://www.facebook.com/james.altucher/posts/10151870231025636?stream_ref=1

EVENTUALLY EVERYONE IN YOUR WAY DISAPPEARS

Sometimes people don't always do what you want them to do. 

In fact, sometimes they do things that suck. 

They do things you don't deserve. They do things that make you angry. You say to yourself, "how dare they!" And you start to list the reasons why they are wrong. Then you might quit, or stop talking to them, or cut off contact, or whatever. 

Hold on a second. 

When I first wanted to write for other websites it was mid-2002. I wrote to Jim Cramer, who started thestreet.com, and I gave him ten ideas I wanted him to write about. 

No expectations back. I sincerely wanted him to write the articles. I would've been flattered with a response but none was necessary. 

He wrote back, "these are some great ideas. How about you write about them!?" 

He introduced me to the editor of thestreet, Dave Morrow. 

I was in heaven! I was very excited! I daydreamed about writing famous articles and going on TV and raising lots of money for businesses. I wanted to start today! yesterday! I wanted the future right now! 

Dave never wrote me.

I wrote Dave every day and reminded him of Jim's intro email. I called Dave and he was always busy. And when I finally got him on the phone he was always nice and said he would get right on it. 

But he never would. I was really frustrated. Suddenly I REALLY WANTED to write for thestreet.com. 

I said to a friend of mine,"That's it! I don't even want to write for a company that is going to treat someone like this." 

My friend said something very smart to me then that I never forgot and I say it often to other people as advice. 

"Shut the F*ck up. Eventually he's going to get back to you. Eventually you will start writing for thestreet.com and everything you are daydreaming about will come true and you'll never even have to deal with that guy again." 

And he was right. Over and over and over again in many different life situations - writing, investing, customers, relationships, everything. 

The gatekeepers in your way eventually crumble. Eventually your perseverance prevails. Eventually everyone in your way disappears. 

He was right. Today, 12 years later, I have to remind myself of that one line again. Take a deep breath. He is right.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Why is "neediness" such a repulsive characteristic?

Resharing Oliver Emberton's answer from Quora. 


Let's play a mating game.



Put 100 men and 100 women in a sealed room. On each person's forehead, write a random number from 1 to 10, and call that their 'attractiveness'.




You're not able to see the number on your forehead, and no-one will tell you what it is either. The game is to pair up with the highest ranked person of the opposite sex that you can. 

Ready? Go.

Pretty much immediately, any nines and tens are surrounded by huge crowds vying for their attention. 

If the crowds flock towards you, you know your score must be pretty damn good. If strangers flee as you approach - not so much.




People will lower their expectations when rebuffed, and raise them when surrounded. If every single person you meet wants to pair with you, you'll probably never settle for less than a ten.   

But for everyone else, you're forced to guess and gamble. And the clue to your attractiveness is how needy other people act around you.

This game is simpler than real life, but the essence holds: if someone is desperate to be with you, chances are they think you're better than they are. They may be utterly wrong, but that's what they're conveying.

Conversely, if someone is aloof with their affections, they probably think they can do better. They may also be wrong, but in both cases we're wired to interpret this as feedback on our own attractiveness. You're trying to guess the number on your head, and their feedback is all you have.




You can't help being influenced by this, and it's one reason why 'playing it cool' is such an attractive trait, even if it's such an easily contrived one. Being needy essentially says "you're so much better than me, please pick me". Not a great sales pitch. 

Neediness is repulsive because we've evolved to recognise it as a bad signal. It's like a fear of spiders or scorpions: a primal instinct which protects our best interests, even if we don't understand why.





If this strikes you as depressing and soulless, take heart. 

Real life has a few extra qualities that make it less of a one-dimensional meat market. For one: all numbers can change. But most of all: everyone sees a slightly different number when they look at each other.

http://www.quora.com/Psychology/Why-is-neediness-such-a-repulsive-characteristic/answer/Oliver-Emberton

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Real Reason and Don't fall backwards

James Altucher: Here’s the REAL reasons entrepreneurs fail. Its not because of a bad programmer. Fire him and get a new one. Its not because a client pulled out at the last minute. Get a new client, or anticipate. It not because your girlfriend cheated on you. Kick her to the curb. Its not because some guy sued you or your employees delivered an unfinished product. We already know its your fault. Every failure (EVERY) failure boils down to these core reasons that come from the INSIDE. Some might seem obvious but they really are the ONLY reasons for failure. They are the CORE FOUNDATIONS of every failure. Pay attention to them please: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/05/the-nine-ways-to-guarantee-success/

You Fall Backwards. You’re losing clients. Your best programmer quit. Your traffic is going down. Your girlfriend is not returning your calls. Your boss promoted someone over you. Time to get creative now. You need to think out of the box. Again, this is just an obstacle. Not a failure. Failures start off as obstacles. You want to overcome obstacles. You can’t make your girlfriend call you back. Maybe you get a new girlfriend who calls you back. Maybe you take a step back and build a new site. You start looking for a new job so you find people who value you. Falling backwards consistently will make you go to zero. So when you start to “fall backwards” you say, “ok, I have an obstacle. Now I need to think out of the box to get rid of this obstacle.” Its not bad to have obstacles. You just have to overcome them.  If you fall back too far then you fell down. - James Altucher http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/05/the-nine-ways-to-guarantee-success/