- Not following a discipline - it's very important to fix a time for yourself and your team when they come to office. It's a startup - you need to work more than everyone else. Yes culture is important, coolness of a startup is important but the most important thing is hard work.
- Not knowing what to do - a lot of first time entrepreneurs are confused about what their focus should be. One they need to be hands on with everything - product, design, sales, team and ops. Second - they need to focus a lot on hiring the right people. Third - every morning write on a piece of paper what all you need to get done today and by the end of the day get all that done
- The speed of hiring new people - if it's too fast or too slow you're doomed. It should be moderate - it should be done consciously and you should be involved with each and every step. If your product is selling hire one sales person per month for next couple of months. Don't hire five of them in one go. Rookie mistake.
- Focussing too much on competition - while building Flatchat we spent too much time on what others are doing because they were making news every week. And six months later they are failing in every aspect miserably. Don't give your competitors mindshare. Give that mindshare to your product, to your employees and to your customers.
- Ignoring the importance of processes - when I started my first company my co-founder who was four years elder and much more experienced asked me to circulate daily KPIs. I was irritated - why waste time on noting down key performance indicators - three years later I am teaching the same to my new co founders. Processes and numbers are very important. Startups are more about discipline than anything else.
- Monthly burn rate - I have an excel sheet where I update on a daily basis - money left in the bank. And the other details which I update as they come is my monthly recurring or one time expenses. It shows me how many months of capital is left in the bank with the current expenses and revenue. I am obsessed about it and it makes me very conscious about the money we are spending. I don't overspend - and I don't underspend. Making this sheet will only help you spend the right amount of money.
- Ignoring travel, reading and health - the best ideas do not come in that meeting room they come when you give yourself a few days every month and travel. When you spend time reading books that some of the best people are recommending and when health doesn't take a backseat while you're raising money.
- Not having a "it's not done until it's done attitude" when someone who works in my company comes and says to me it's done - I only ask one thing is it completely entirely done? If the answer is anything less than yes then they know what's coming. It's not done until it's done. X was on leave or Y is not working or the Internet is slow is not an excuse. Every excuse is fixable. So saying that the shipping is delayed by three days is fine but giving excuses is not. Never.
- Glamour and fame is a viscous cycle - you announced your funding news now everyone wants to interview you and invite you for a college talk then half the time you're spending on this than building your business. Set rules for yourself and your co founders. If you focus on your product the fame quotient will anyway increase but if you let these things distract you - your core goal might suffer.
TL;DR Moving to an advisory role in Flatchat, will be working full time on Unacademy.
But then one year later I did quit Directi, and started Flat.to along with Hemesh and Aakrit (who also put in the initial funding). The first few months of running a startup and realising it’s not all that jazz as it seems gave me some of life’s most important lessons. Ten months later we decided to get acquired by CommonFloor on one condition: They will let us run the company independently. People said, 'Acquisitions are bad, you shouldn’t have sold'. People said 'They will merge and not let you run independently'. Some also called it an acquihire. In retrospect, I feel it was the best decision that we made. Why? Because Flatchat would not have been possible without CommonFloor--the kind of freedom, guidance and insights that we got were remarkable, and working with Sumit, Lalit and Vikas is probably one of the best things that happened to us. And we did flourish.
Flatchat has become one of the highest rated apps in real estate category, got more than 200,000 downloads and is now launching in multiple countries. And not ignore to the fact that our competitors are copying us shamelessly, so thank you for looking up to us. In the end, it’s not how much money you have raised, it’s about creating an impact and value that can outlive you.
What also happened in the last one year is the creation of a brilliant and yet lean team across all departments at Flatchat. Thus today, as I move to an advisory and non-operational role, it gives me immense confidence that Flatchat is in good hands under the leadership of Sachin, Sugandha and Alok. Of course, I will be completely involved with Flatchat, I just won’t be managing the day-to-day operations. Like a father is to a child, who has grown up! :)
And what influenced this decision of mine? It is Unacademy, something that started as a YouTube channel in 2010 and that has now become a free education revolution in India. With around 10 million video views so far and one million views every month, it is one of the most subscribed educational channels in the country. This is high quality educational content distributed for free.
Education is something that has always excited me and I am proud to announce that we will be building a platform that takes the democratisation of education to another level. High quality education should be affordable and accessible for everyone. I am joined in this initiative by some of the smartest and dedicated people I know, each of them a rockstar in their own way: Hemesh, Sachin and Roman (who will be taking out whatever time he can from his administrative role with the Government).
We hope to disrupt free education for good.
As I stumbled upon the Forbes nominations for Top 100 Celebrities from India I had a revelation, there is one obvious and highly impactful category missing among all comedians, actors, musicians and authors. The missing category has the potential to create more impact that all of the above combined, the missing category has to the potential to change the fate of the country. It’s high time we should start looking at Educators as celebrities.It all started when a month back I read a post by Miten Sampat - and we ended up discussed how we at Unacademy are doing almost a million video views a month and how Roman Saini is teaching more students than any other educator of this country ever has at the age of 24 - and it's not just him, checkout videos by Ravi Handa, Mrunal and the list has just started to grow exponentially. Technology has a long way to go at enabling educators at massive scale but the symptoms are visible today, for a particular topic why should we see any other video than the best one? Why should we learn from any other than the best teacher for a particular subject?
As with Roman, it’s quite evident that celebrity teachers or educators will have a massive fan following and as you wait for the next trailer of your favorite actor’s movie or book of your favourite author you would wait for the next video by your favorite educator.
And hence, it’s our responsibility to also encourage people to teach. Because for far too long Indian teachers except top schools and colleges are seen as “the ones who couldn’t get any other job hence they’re teaching” which is a very bad mindset to have. An educator or a teacher is someone who can impact people’s lives in a massive way and now more than ever. Educators must and will enjoy as Miten said the same kind of fame and following as other celebrities do.
We at Unacademy believe in democratising free and quality education and doing our best endeavours to provide best explanations of all educational topics. Like to help us? Send me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
1: Don’t consider yourself an entrepreneur
In my first year I didn’t know what the word ‘entrepreneur’ meant. When I saw the Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement address for the first time, my eyes welled up. Since that day, I had this voice in my head telling me, ‘This is how I want to be. I want to do what I love.’ And then what, I did just that—I made blogs, wrote short novels, began teaching on YouTube, and made web portals— the works. Entrepreneurship was the byproduct—it was the term that others started giving to people like us, but we were simply doing what we loved and solving problems for ourselves and others. Finding flatmates, good educational content not being available online were the problems I faced and thus I worked towards solving these. Today a lot of people, especially students, think in the direction of becoming an entrepreneur first and doing what they’re good at or what they like becomes secondary. A friend of mine is an awesome guitarist, I always thought he would do something in music, but just because everyone else was doing it, he also started a food delivery startup. He doesn’t what he is doing— he is simply doing it because he wants to be an ‘entrepreneur’—and he is failing at it.
So, don’t be an entrepreneur. Do what you want to do, do what you love to do.
This one time in 7th standard when I had got a new computer and CD Writer, I started selling pirated game CDs for 50 bucks to my classmates and used to earn around 30 bucks per CD. My Dad found out that, I got a scolding and he slapped me and asked me to focus on studies at the moment and not worry about money. I stopped doing that.When I was in 8th standard and wanted a new computer which my Dad told me he will get me if I got 90% and I knew I could never do that, I thought of starting a magazine for my colony in Jaipur and it will have all the stories and poems from kids in our colony, I got the deal done from the printing press, I got tuition teachers and grocery stores to agree that they will advertise and I realise if I sold the magazine at 17 rupees a piece eventually will end up making some profits and make it large and buy my own computer. I had the habit of boasting, I still do, so I told it to my uncle who told it to my Dad and I remember that I got berated severely for not focussing on my studies and wasting time. So just before two days when I had to give the order to the printing press I had to cancel and stop everything. I studied and got good marks thankfully, though it's never enough.
I had heard somewhere that the best way to connect to someone is to show them that you are as crazy as them.
This afternoon I finished reading 'The Last Lecture' the book by Randy Pausch. The book is really inspiring. There is this incident which Randy shares in the book. During the time he taught the course 'Building Virtual Worlds' he encouraged students to attempt hard things and not to worry about failing. And he had this award called 'The First Penguin Award' and it went to the team that took the biggest gamble in trying new ideas while failing to achieve their stated goals. The purpose was to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and using imagination in a daring way.
Being a crazy Shahrukh Khan fan, I had made a point to keep a track of Ra.One in every possible way. This time all the press conferences were broadcasted live on youtube and I made sure that I watched them. One such conference was the Cinthol Ra.One association press conference, the one in which Shahrukh had launched a special Cinthol Ra.One Deodorant for men. I remember I was watching it live at Shivanshu's place one day before the Advanced Computer Architecture examination. During the press Q&A session I remember one journalist asking Shahrukh whether he will be visiting Big Boss for the publicity and he had replied that he would not be going to the show because of certain time issues but he would be coming to KBC on 7th October. I enjoyed the press conference and got back to studying ACA (that is another interesting story).