Motivation is the number one thing founders are looking for in their team

A few weeks back I was struggling with a question – what are the top challenges faced by Indian startup founders?

I tried searching online but most (sorry, all) of the data points were from either the US or Europe. That left me frustrated. And I wondered if there are others like me who want this data. More so, if we really want the Indian startup ecosystem to grow we really NEED data!

Then, I thought of it as an opportunity to start collecting this data for the larger benefit of the Indian startup ecosystem. Consequently, I put up a few questions on a Google Form and published it online.

One of the questions is – What qualities do you associate with the team you have/want to build?

Till now “Motivation” seems to be the top choice!

If you are a startup founder, please fill-up the survey here and help improve the Indian Startup ecosystem. You can as well visit my blog post here and do the same.

A big thanks to all of the amazing 50+ startup founders who have already filled it up!!

Building a fundable pitch deck

As an entrepreneur, I have been making pitch decks for a few years now. While a few of them got funded, a lot of them went into a black hole. In contrast, when I started my new avatar as an angel investor, I started on the other side of the table. Now, every day I see pitch decks from a lot of interesting startups. While almost all of them are doing something really amazing, a lot of the times it doesn’t emerge out of the pitch deck itself.

My Design Thinker friend Atin Kumar heard my rants. And he told me, if I see people are struggling with pitch decks then I should think of a way to help them. That’s where I thought of taking a session on “Building a Fundable Pitch Deck”. We brainstormed a bit and decided to launch a small event. Here is the link to register for the event.

This was two days back ( 3rd Dec, 2019 ). Yesterday something interesting happened.

Ratan Tata posted a pitch deck template on Instagram.

The timing could not be any better 🙂 Here is the link to the template. Now, if Ratan Tata himself shares a pitch deck template for startups, imagine how important it is for your startup!

Getting the template was the easy part. How to follow it for your startup? How to make it work for your pitch?

This is what I am going to cover in the session. If you are a startup in Pune trying to raise funds and are struggling with your pitch deck, please register here and join us on 15th December (Sunday) at Alacrity India Innovation Center, Baner.

One reason why a lot of startups fail – building the right team

According to different studies in Europe and the US, anywhere between 23% to 60% of startups fail due to problems with the team. I could find some data about startups in the US and Europe but nothing comparable to India. And that got me thinking.

I believe the first step towards solving a problem is to acknowledge it. To acknowledge one has to “know” and for knowing we need data. This is an attempt to collect some relevant data from startup founders in the context of the Indian startup ecosystem.

The idea is still evolving – I put a simple google form and initially just shared it within the different WhatsApp groups. On crossing 25 responses I thought – can we really collect some meaningful data from a few hundred or thousand startups across India? I believe it is worth taking the effort. Also, my own selfish motive is to be able to connect with that many smart entrepreneurs and share our mutual learnings.

If you are a startup founder please take out 3-5 minutes and fill this up. The results will be published online and shared with all the participants. Thanks a lot for your participation!
More importantly, please do share it with other founders in your network. More the merrier 🙂

Here is the link to Google Form – https://forms.gle/m4qrnQCMHWBzcbQK9

What is success in a product’s context ?

“Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.”

How many times have we seen team members fighting over a feature ? Do you remember the scene where everybody in team is tense over how to deliver a feature in the most “perfect” way possible ?

Did you ever see team members celebrating a “successful” delivery, only to realise later that the customer feedback came back in negative ?

Most of the time we are so carried away by our routine or desire to build things that we forget why we are building it in the first place. Our obsession with ticking the check boxes, sticking to delivery schedules blinds us to the extent that we forget to see the bigger picture. 

We forget to think about the very problem we wanted to solve for the customer using that coveted feature. We forget to ask ourselves if whatever we are doing is really solving that problem. Instead it creates an illusion of the same. Or worse it aggravates the original problem. 

It for these times that Eric Ries wrote the following :

“Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.” 

This is the definition of success in a product’s context. Let’s all be mindful of this definition of success and work towards achieving this.

#successmantra #learningeveryday #inspirationoftheday #leanstartup  

Believe in your team if you want them to be creative and innovative

Creativity and Innovation are driven only by a leader’s belief in its team.

“Do you assume that your employees are by and large creative, intelligent, and motivated? Or do you assume that they are lazy, conniving, and counting the minutes to quitting time? If you believe the latter, then you might as well just give up on creativity and innovation in your organization, because you will not get it. It’s better to believe the former and assume that people have good intentions unless they prove otherwise.”

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

This is an excerpt from the book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. One may have recruited the best possible people but in the end only a leader’s belief drives the creativity and innovation in a team. Only a leader who believed that it’s team members are creative, intelligent and motivated can drive them on a path to innovation. 

No one can “force” people to be creative or innovative. Creativity and Innovation are driven only by a leader’s belief in its team.

If you already believe the team members around you are lazy, lack the “common sense” or are there just to punch in the hours then no amount of money can motivate them to be creative. 

#people #successmantra  #inspirationoftheday #leadership 

Who do smart people work for ?

“Smart people do not work for people who do not have their interests in mind and in heart.”
Truly great leaders create an environment where the employee feels that the CEO cares more about the employees. Amazing things happen only in this kind of environment.

What is the prerequisite for becoming a leader or a CEO ?

Many a times people answer from their imagination that the person needs to be selfish, ruthless, callous, conniving and manipulative. 

Nothing can be farther from truth if you really look around at the great leaders / CEOs around you. Leaders who have built amazing businesses and delivered successfully are also the ones who have been able to build great teams. They were able to build great teams because smart people wanted to work with them. 

Truly great leaders create an environment where the employee feels that the CEO cares more about the employees. Amazing things happen only in this kind of environment. 

I am quoting another gem from Ben Horowitz‘s book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” where he talks about who do smart people work for. 

“Smart people do not work for people who do not have their interests in mind and in heart.” 

Ben calls this “The Bill Campbell Attribute” after the legendary Bill who he considers the best at doing this. 

And this is what differentiates leaders from wannabes. 

#leader #ceos #culture #linkedin #amazing #employees #people #book #inspirationoftheday #leadership

Not all work is created equal

“Not all work is created equal”. Activity is not necessarily production.

Many people often confuse “activity” with being productive.Looking busy often gets accepted as being productive or working hard. Edmond Lau in his book “The Effective Engineer” has noted this by saying

“Not all work is created equal”.

Activities like writing status reports, organizing things, creating organizational systems, recording things multiple times, going to meetings, replying to low-priority communications only have a weak and indirect connection to creating value.

I have seen many a times that the productive time of – engineers atleast – gets lost due to meetings where they barely are even asked to utter one sentence or which are one way monologues, the essence of which they could as well have gotten over an email. Or when they have to share the same updates multiple times in different formats or on different systems. Or worse, running around, chasing different layers of management for approvals on mundane things.

All of these eat up their time and in the end they have a false sense of having a “productive day” while they barely generated any real value.

#people #leadership #inspirationoftheday #startups #effectiveteams #effectiveengineer #productivityimprovement 

Story is the output of strategic work

Most often entrepreneurs talk about story and strategy as being separate – story is focussed outwards (for investors) and strategy is focussed inwards (for team).

Ben Horowitz says that is not how one should look at it.In his book “The hard thing about hard things” his point about strategy is very clear and goes like this

“In good companies the story and the strategy are the same thing. As a result, the proper output of all the strategic work is the story.”

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

If you try to build a “story” without having really worked towards it in a strategic manner, it will result in disconnect and eventually failure.

#leadership #successmantra #startups #inspirationoftheday #thehardthing

People, products and profits – order matters

“Take care of the people, the products and the profits – in that order”

Starting up is hard, building a business out of your startup is harder and being able to scale it is the hardest. 

This is what the legend Ben Horowitz talks about in his book “The hard thing about hard things: Building a business when there are no easy answers”. He has openly written about his traumatising days of scaling Loudcloud / Opsware, how the company almost went bankrupt multiple times and how he dealt with three major lay offs in its journey. 

The core of it is simple

“Take care of the people, the products and the profits – in that order” 

Ben Horowitz

Things will always be harder than you expect but never let that impact the way you treat people who joined you in the journey.  He shared an advice given to him by another legend Bill Campbell when he had to fire an executive –  

“You can not let him keep his job but you absolutely can let him keep his respect.” 

Bill Campbell

#leadership  #startups #inspirationoftheday#failures #respect #people #startupgrowth 

Focus, focus and focus !

“We must realize—and act on the realization—that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.”
From “Measure what matters” by John Doerr

If you have not read “Measure what matters” by the legendary John Doerr then read it today. For me the single biggest learning from it is simple – focus.

He says it out loud and very clear – “We must realize—and act on the realization—that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.” Most often entrepreneurs try to chase too many shining opportunities, all at the same time, only to realise they fell short of resources or simply their own bandwidth.

I admire InVision in this regard which has been razor focussed on their product and users. It has proven SaaS is the way to go for all imaginable type of softwares.