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Know More

What separates a great salesperson from a good one?

It’s the same thing for a marketer, copywriter, engineer, lawyer, surgeon, and many others.

They know more.

There are only 3 ways they can know more:
1. They have more experience
2. They seek more knowledge
3. They continuously apply their knowledge

1. The hack to gain more experience at less age is to be more curious and take risks to work at small-scale companies.

The first job I got in 2002 after college was with one of India’s largest IT providers – Infosys.

I left it in 8 months, took a 40% pay cut, and went to work for a 100 person company.

2. The hack to seek more knowledge is to have a growth mindset and devour as many books and training as possible on the subject matter.

I’m an engineer by education, but people get surprised by how much I know about UX Design principles, Sales methodologies, or Copywriting.

All credit goes to reading a lot of books and taking online courses.

3. The hack to apply more knowledge is to try more in your day job but also do side hustles.

The only way I became an SW engineer from an HW engineer, or a product manager from an engineer, or a salesperson from a PM is – my side hustles.

So invest in yourself and know more than others.

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Design Philosophy Product Management Startup

Attention to Detail Matters

Attention to detail is probably the most underrated attribute because of which many organizations are inefficient.

Every spelling or grammatical mistake, UI inconsistency, confusing copy, branding mismatch, etc., are typically considered as nitpicking and not necessary.

But these details matter.

And it starts with leaders.

If leaders don’t care, why should employees?

Attention to detail is about getting the small things right.

Attention to detail is about building a consistent habit.

Attention to detail is about building a culture of caring.

Attention to detail is about being passionate about your craft.

Attention to detail is about walking that extra mile but leaping miles ahead (in your career).

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Entrepreneurship SaaS Sales Startup

Pain Killer Vs Vitamin

Is exercising a pain killer or a vitamin? 🏋️‍♂️

Is a reading book a pain killer or a vitamin? 📖

Is eating nutritious food a pain killer or a vitamin? 🥗

Is playing sports a pain killer or a vitamin? ⛹️‍♂️

Is meditating a pain killer or a vitamin? 🧘‍♂️

All things that are essential to living a happy and healthy life don’t seem to be a pain killer. 🤔

Then why the heck while running a business, everyone advises buying only a pain killer? 🧐

Isn’t it too late to buy a pain killer to fix your broken organization?🤦‍♂️

Shouldn’t you actually be investing in running a better organization and making sure it doesn’t break all the time? 🤔

Of course, you can still buy a pain killer (or a band-aid) occasionally when the organization breaks. 💊🩹

But why be reactive when you can be proactive? 🤷‍♂️

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Product Managers should be Problem Managers, not Problem Solvers

A friend of mine, who’s is a product manager at a large company shared her frustration recently that there were some reorganization and changes in her company that caused her to manage a different product than she was hired to do.

I immediately resonated with her situation. I had personally experienced similar situations multiple times where I had to give up the ownership of products I had started to other colleagues and take the ownership of new things. But most vividly, I remember a conversation with a teammate of mine, who had also gone through a similar experience.

We had hired him as a Product Manager for our Mobile initiatives, but due to some business reasons, management decided to move the entire product (Engineering, Design, Product Management) to a different geolocation center. And he wasn’t happy with this decision at all. He kept mentioning that he was hired as a “Mobile Product Manager” and that’s what he had done in the past and is great at.

I acknowledged everything he was saying, and tried to give him another product in the Web domain which had similar “consumer psychology” problems, but he wasn’t happy. Then I explained him the framework that I use for any decision making for my product or personal career decisions –

  1. First and foremost, is this in the company’s best interest?
  2. Second, is this in my team’s best interest?
  3. Third, is this in my best interest?

I would always put the company first and my interest last. Every single conversation and decisions I’ve made were based on this framework.

With this context, I explained to him that he was thinking about this change in the exact opposite order. He should understand why this is a good decision from the company’s perspective and support it.

Instead of getting too attached to “Mobile” domain and getting obsessed about the app ecosystem or particular features, he should think that — he was attached to solving customers’ problems and Mobile just happened to be a medium to solve those problems.

I convinced him that he should give a chance to other domain, understand those customers, learn their problems and give it a shot. The Web is just a medium through which we solve those problems today.

Eventually, he agreed and took up the new role. At some later point, he appreciated me for changing his perspective — and that’s why I remember this story vividly.


Everyone loves to be a problem solver. It’s a common believe that if you’re exceptionally good at solving problems then you have a distinct advantage to become very successful in your career.

But I cringe to give this advice to Product Managers.

Product Management isn’t a well-defined function. Its role is changing rapidly over the past few years. A common understanding is product managers identify problems in the market, come up with a bunch of ideas to solve it, define how the idea should look and work, and then give it to designers and engineers to build it.

I’ve also done this mistake in the past too. When I was new in my Product Management career, I received the feedback from a VP of Engineering — “Aditya, can you please mind your problem boundary?”. That feedback was harsh, but it completely opened my eyes. I realized what I was doing wrong. But I took that feedback positively and quickly stopped my day to day involvement in coming up with different ideas and solutions.

Since then I strongly believe —

Product Managers shouldn’t be problem solvers. Their focus should be to —

  • identify the right problems that their company and a team should solve
  • prioritize which problems to solve first and which can wait later
  • communicate the rationale behind these decisions to their team and other stakeholders

Essentially Product Managers should identify “what” problems they should solve, “why” their company and a team should solve it, “when” those problems need to be solved and then communicate all these things really well to their Design and Engineering teams and to other stakeholders.

And then let Design team come up with “how” it should work and look, let Engineering team come up with “how” it should be built, and let Sales and Marketing teams decide “how” to give it in customers’ hands.

The most important reason for letting other specialized teams to solve specific problems is — they feel valued and empowered.

If you, as a product manager tell a designer what to design and how it should look like, then they don’t appreciate it. Similarly, if you tell an engineer how to architect a solution or use specific technology stack, then they don’t like it. They don’t feel empowered enough to take key decisions. If you take decisions on behalf of them, they don’t feel as motivated and involved and then hesitate to take responsibility for those decisions.


In fact, I believe that we should change the title of a “Product Manager” role to “Problem Manager”. Because of the “Product Manager” title, there is this notion that they are the owners of the product and get credited for the success or blamed for the failure.

In reality, they’re just team members playing a particular role in identifying and prioritizing problems. The rest of the team is responsible for solving those problems in elegant, scalable and profitable ways. While product managers are the face of their respective products, they rarely make or break the product. It’s a collective team who is responsible for the success or failure of the product.

By calling Product Managers as Problem Managers, it will keep them away from solving problems and will remind them to focus only on identifying and managing problems.


Having said all of this, if you’re a very early stage company and can’t afford to hire specialized Designers, Engineers, Marketers, and Salespeople, then yes, as a Product Manager you might need to play different roles and get into “problem-solving” mode too. But as the company starts scaling, you should let go your other responsibilities to specialized teams and focus only on identifying the right problems and prioritizing them.


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Andy Rachleff on Product Market Fit

How I was wrong about some of the concepts of Product Market Fit and how Andy Rachleff clarified it.

I listened to this Mixergy podcast episode with Andy Rachleff, co-founder of Benchmark Capital and founder of Wealthfront. It is an exceptionally great episode. Normally most of the podcast episodes I listened to are great and I learn a lot — every single time. But this episode is special. It had some key nuggets that I had misconceptions or little different understandings. But the way Andy explained it, it made it crystal clear. So I felt compelled to share these nuggets with you in its entirety. Ideally, you should listen to the 1-hour episode, but if you’re running out of time, read the key nuggets here.


“Product/Market Fit” (PMF) is a common concept in the startup world. It is widely used in every conversation, especially in early stage startups.

As per Marc Andreessen, who wrote about ‘Product/Market Fit’ in his post “The Only Thing That Matters”:

Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.

So the gist is — the best team with the best product will fail if the market is not there (using product and service interchangeably). So achieving PMF is “the only thing that matters” and that companies should strive obsessively to achieve it until they do.

So I was under impression finding a great (large and growing) market is the most important thing in finding a PMF. But as per Andy Rachleff –

In contrast to what most people think entrepreneurship is, which is evaluating a market to try to find the holes or the problems and developing solutions of those problems, that leads to very mundane outcomes.

The truly great technology companies are the exact opposite. They are the result of an inflection point in technology that allows the founder to conceive a new kind of product.

The question then is, “Who wants to buy my product?” So you start with the product and try to find the market as opposed to starting with the market to find the product.


PMF is also divided into two key concepts — i) Value Hypothesis and ii) Growth Hypothesis —

First you need to define and test your value hypothesis and then only once proven do you move on to what’s known as a growth hypothesis. The value hypothesis defines the what, the who and the how. What are you going to build? Who is desperate for it? What’s the business model you’re going to choose to deliver?

Until you prove your value hypothesis, you waste money to spend money trying to acquire customers. Unfortunately, most people try to get the growth before they prove the value hypothesis. You don’t want to get the cart ahead of the horse.


This is another big misconception I had — if you’re struggling to find a PMF, then you continue to iterate the product until you find it. But that’s plain wrong. As per Andy —

Now, within the value hypothesis, people think, “I should iterate on the product until I find something people want.” No. You stick with the product. You figure out if the first group I approach isn’t desperate, then I’ll try to find a different group that’s desperate.

Now, most people don’t do that. Most people just keep on trying more people to see somebody’s got to want it. The first class in my product market fit class I ask, “Should everyone like your initial idea?” The answer is absolutely not, because if they do, then the only reason they do is they’ve been conditioned to like it by someone else. Means people aren’t desperate for it because somebody else is serving it.


This is also a great advice on finding ideas.

Great ideas find you, you don’t find them. If you sit in a room trying to figure out, “What company should I start?” then by definition you’re starting with the market, trying to come up with the solution and that leads to mundane ideas.

Howard (Andy’s investment idol) describes the investment business with a two by two matrix. I think this matrix describes entrepreneurship as well.

On one dimension, you can either be wrong or right. On the other dimension, you can either be consensus or non-consensus. Clearly, if you’re wrong, you don’t make money. What most people don’t realize is if you’re right in consensus, you don’t make money because all the returns get arbitraged away. The only way to make outsized returns is to be right and non-consensus.

So starting with the market to try to find a problem, everybody can do that. That’s a right and consensus approach to entrepreneurship. Starting with an inflection point in technology which allows you to build a product and find a solution, that is non-consensus. If it works, it works big. That’s where the great venture capitalists all focus, back to the point I made earlier.


If I really want to summarize my understanding of PMF in one sentence is — finding a group of people who are desperate to use your product.

What do you uniquely offer that people desperately want because if they’re not desperate, there’s a good enough alternative. Let me tell you, if there’s a good enough alternative, you’re doomed. So, if you want to build a big business, an advantaged business, people need to be desperate.


Also, having a big vision to conquer a big market is great, but your strategy should be to start small in a niche and dominate it —

If you want to build a big business, you don’t go after the big market first, because those people only buy based on references, and you don’t have the references. You need to create a beachhead, a niche you can dominate. Through references, you grow from that niche of early adopters.


☞ I hope you found these nuggets valuable and useful. If you enjoyed reading this article, then please tap or click “♥︎” below to share these thoughts with others.

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17 Things Newly Hired Product Managers Should Do In Their First 90 Days

A friend of mine recently joined a big company as a Sr. Product Manager after heading the product at an early stage startup. He asked me how should he go about joining a big company, which will be very different in culture, pace, processes, and expectations perspective compared to his early stage startup.

I was surprised he asked me that question as he is an experienced product manager himself with 5+ years of relevant product management experience under his belt. In any case, I shared my thoughts with him and then thought I should expand it more and share it with the larger audience so that all newly hired product managers, irrespective of their position, may find this useful too.


Here are few tips (mostly in the order of its priority) on what you should do in your first 30 to 90 days as a newly hired product management professional in your new company —

1. Be excited

First and foremost, you need to be excited about joining this new company and the new possibilities. You’re going to meet new people, work on new products, and solve new problems. So bring your excitement to the office every day. There will be a lot of information overload and at the same time a lack of clarity in the early days. So unless you’re excited and motivated to come to the office every day, it will be hard to navigate through this haziness.

Also, your colleagues will notice your excitement and enthusiasm. They will understand you are there because you’re interested in the problem they’re solving and want to make a difference and not just to earn yet another paycheck.

2. Understand the vision and strategy of the company and your product

Your understanding of what the company is doing and what is their vision will be limited based on just interview conversations with them. So you need to dig deeper and make sure you truly understand their vision and strategy.

Talk to the CEO or VP of Product and understand the vision and strategy at the company level. Also, talk to your manager and peers to understand the vision and strategy at your product level.

Make sure you’re able to connect the dots between your product’s vision and strategy to the company’s vision and strategy. If you’re not able to connect the dots, then discuss in detail with your manager or VP of Product to explain how your product aligns with the company’s vision. That clarity in alignment is absolutely crucial to make sure you will be spending time on the important and required things.

3. Meet 1:1 with as many relevant people as possible

Make sure to meet every single person from your product development team — not just the leads or managers, but every single person.

Identify which other products your product is dependent on. Accordingly, meet other product managers and engineering leaders of those products as well.

The success of a product is not only dependent on the product builders (Development, Design, etc.), but also on the business functions of the product too. So meet with all key cross-functional leaders like — Marketing, Sales, Finance, etc.

The common theme in these meetings should be — introduce yourself, but more importantly, learn about them. When did they join the company, what do they do now, what do they enjoy most, what do they hate most, what do they expect from your product team and specific from you, is there anything you can help them in the short-term, etc.?

4. Write down as much as possible

Take good notes. Everything will be new to you — people, products, processes, acronyms, etc. So take good notes when you’re meeting people 1:1. It will come handy in future as you start executing.

It would also exhibit your disciplined and detail-oriented execution approach to your colleagues.

5. Build relationships

Don’t treat 1:1 meetings as a one-time checklist item. As they say, it’s a people business. Continue to hang out with your teammates at lunch, coffee, or any casual occasions and build the relationships. It will be a lot easier to get things done from people when you’ve good relationship with them.

But make sure you don’t abuse your relationship. Be authentic. Everyone is smart. They can smell your fake or aggressive tactics. It takes months to build a good relationship, but it would take minutes to destroy it.

6. Understand the culture — mend or bend as necessary

While talking with people, learn how do they work —

  • How are decisions made — authoritative or consensus?
  • What gets rewarded — results or efforts?
  • What is preferred — pace or perfection?

This will help you understand what’s the true culture of the company. Culture is not what’s written on the “About Us” page of the corporate website or some posters hung up on the office walls.

Once you understand the culture — decide what you want to mend and when do you want to bend. As a newbie, you will find a lot of things different, inefficient, and broken. But resist the urge to fix everything.

First, try to understand the context and history of why certain decisions were made in a certain way. Accordingly, decide what you absolutely need to mend based on your product goals and vision. Sometimes, some battles are not worth fighting, at least in the early days of your career, so just learn to bend during those situations.

7. Be a power user of your product

Based on what kind of product you’ll be managing — a consumer product or a B2B/Enterprise solution, there will be a different level of easiness to access and play with your product. In either case, setup a demo of your product—and be a power user.

Observe everything — friction points, delightful experiences, wow moments, bugs, lack of documentation, etc. Make notes of these observations and discuss with your design and engineering leads about shortcomings and understand if this is something already known to them, and if it is on their roadmap or is it something by design a particular thing was done in a particular way.

Your goal is to not fix everything. It’s to understand your product in and out — what are its strengths and weaknesses, the reason why it’s designed and engineered that way, etc.

8. Understand the nuts and bolts of your product

Once you become a power user of your product, it’s time to understand the mechanics of your product. Meet with the engineering leaders and architects to understand the basic building blocks of your product —

  • How data flows end to end?
  • How your product interacts with other products in your company?
  • Why was this architecture chosen vs other?
  • Why was a particular tech stack chosen?
  • What are the limitations of a current solution?

At the end of this exercise, you should be able to draw a high-level architecture on a whiteboard.

While understanding the past and current mechanics of a product is a great thing, it will be equally important to understand what will be its future. Make sure you get some inputs on —

  • What new architectures or technologies these engineering leaders are considering to use in the near-term future?
  • How will it help to achieve the desired business outcomes?

9. Understand your product’s metrics

Get access to your analytics system and understand the usage of your product. Understand which metrics are most crucial that defines the success of a product. Don’t just look at the numbers, but ask your manager “why” certain metrics are they way it is. It will help you understand how your customers behave.

If there are certain insights you want to know and if those are not available, then discuss it with your manager and see if can you add it. It will accelerate your learning of the analytics and reporting system inside your company.

10. Get in front of the customers or users

Numbers will tell you “what” is happening — like which product is growing, or which feature is not working. But it will not tell you “why” is it happening — why certain functionality took off or why no one is using a certain feature.

The best way to learn these things is to get in front of the customers or users. You can be a silent listener on meetings scheduled by other colleagues, attend any usability research interviews, listen to customer support calls or read customer support emails/chats. Your goal should be to understand why certain customers are happy vs some are frustrated.

11. Deliver or ship something

Once you understand what’s working well and what’s not and why it is so, look for any low-hanging fruit that can provide high value. Ship and deliver the end to end functionality and announce it to the customers who needed it. Make sure to measure the impact of that functionality and report it to management.

By shipping and delivering a functionality end to end — however small it is — even a bug, you will be exposed to a lot of processes (security reviews, tech support trainings, etc.) and systems (infrastructure, monitoring, etc.) in the company that are required to ship any feature or a product. This will be a much faster way to learn things than reading hundreds of documents.

12. Achieve or exceed your goals

Once you start shipping some features or new product releases, you’ll feel the momentum of day-to-day execution. But make sure you’re not just spending time on checking off the product backlog items. You need to achieve important goals too and show that you’ve moved the needle.

At the beginning of your joining, ask your manager what’re her expectations from you. What 1 or 2 goals you should achieve by the end of 90-days and what should be its success criteria? And then make sure you focus on these 1 or 2 goals and do your best to achieve those. Ideally, you should aim to exceed these, but since there is a lot going on, simply achieving those would also be great. In general, having a goal-driven mindset is more important than simply getting things done.

13. Develop your execution frameworks

Once you learn how your company works, what are the top sources of inputs for feature requests, what is valued more — vision or customer requests, etc., now it’s time to define your own frameworks for execution.

These are frameworks for —

  • How do you prioritize requested features?
  • How do you do quarterly roadmap planning?
  • How do you communicate product updates with the internal team, cross-functional teams and even customers on a regular cadence?
  • How do you run your sprints, retrospectives, and demos?
  • How do you handle any escalation situations, etc.?

The more you’ll have clarity and disciplined approach in handling these things, the more effective you will be in your execution. You’ll be in a driver’s seat rather than just getting driven by everybody.

14. Read market research and industry insights

By this time, you should have a good understanding of your product — what problems it solves, who has these problems, how does it solve it, how well it solves it, etc.

Now it’s time to start looking outward and learn —

  • In which domain your product gets categorized by analysts or customers?
  • What is the landscape for the underlying technology you’re using?
  • What are the key next technology trends or consumer mindset shifts happening?

Subscribe to some of the newsletters, start following few blogs, take any online courses, or buy books and learn as much as you can about your industry and it’s future. You will be able to provide a lot better recommendations in overall product strategy and future roadmap.

15. Develop a point of view

Product managers without a point of view will be just project managers — who will get things done that have been told by the upper management. But if you truly want to drive a product, then you have to have some point of view, unique insight, and some foresight about the market shift and next trends.

90-days is a good period to learn about the market you serve, your product’s strengths and weaknesses, competitive landscape, technology trends, etc. Once you have all this information, your job is to synthesize it and develop your own point of view. You need to able to clearly articulate —

  • What’s your product’s core belief?
  • What will your product stand for? How will you position it?
  • What will you do and not do in your product?
  • How will your product be different compared to competitors?

16. Educate and inspire the broader team

As you start researching about the industry and future technology trends, share interesting and relevant articles with the broader team. This is an opportunity to inspire your team by sharing with them they’re working on something that’s going to be the future of the company and going to improve the lives of many customers.

You can also share articles or podcast episodes about the best product management practices and processes that other companies are following. Be the catalyst to bring good practices in your new company.

17. Have fun

The most important thing — don’t forget to have fun! Enjoy new learning. Celebrate wins and mini-milestones. Embrace mishaps and failures. Make friendships and laugh. If you’re not having fun in what you’re doing, then it would be very hard to give your best.


While this may not be an exhaustive list, I hope I covered most of the key areas. And I hope this will help you make a great impression and build a great rapport with your team in the first 90-days of your new career.

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Why Do Many Smart Engineers Fail To Build A Successful Startup?

Recently, I had a couple of friends reaching out to me to discuss their startups’ progress and get some advice on how to take it to the next level. In all these interactions, there were some common patterns –

  • Most of the founders are smart engineers and some of them have worked with Google, Amazon, eBay, Oracle, etc.
  • They have a B2C (focused on consumer) product, which didn’t have any transactional (i.e. user paying in some form) business model
  • They have been working on it for over a year and have a working product or technology, but are struggling to get users and increase the engagement for their product
  • They are first-time entrepreneurs

What surprised me the most is — while there is so much content available on the internet today about how to start a startup, how to follow a lean methodology, how to do a customer validation, how to build viral hooks in your product, how to implement various growth hacks, etc. but still, these entrepreneurs are making the same mistakes that many entrepreneurs have made 10 years ago.

My hypothesis is —

  1. These entrepreneurs are not investing enough time in learning as much as possible from others’ experiences by reading books, blogs or listening to podcasts and avoid some common mistakes
  2. They are not able to let go who they are and what background they came from (engineering) and grow into a new role (founder), which is required to build a successful product and a company

To build a successful software company, there are 3 skills that are essential in the founding team —

  1. Building a great technology
  2. Building a great product
  3. Growing your users/customers

After talking with these smart engineers I realized— they had largely focussed on #1 but weren’t giving enough attention and importance to #2 and #3.

If you are a great technologist and aspire to build a technology product company, then either you grow from an engineer to a product manager/designer, and eventually into a marketer/sales person based on if it’s a B2C (consumer) or B2B (SaaS or enterprise) product or have someone on the founding team who is specialized in these skills.

As an engineer, the technology innovations you’re doing are really admirable and absolutely essential for a startup. Being a smart engineer is the greatest asset you can have in this startup world. Every other “idea” guy wants you to be on their team to make their idea a reality. So by no means, I’m belittling the value and the need of having strong engineering members on the founding team.

But I want to emphasize the need of having someone with strong product sense and/or great marketing/sales skills as well.

If you don’t prefer to have someone with product design/management in your team, then you will need to play a role of a product manager/designer to truly understand your users/customers and build something they want and solves real problems.

And eventually, you will also need to become a marketer/sales person and reach out your target users/customers, talk to them and convince them to use/buy your product, and eventually know how to do it at scale and do it repeatedly.

Just because you are a great engineer or technologist, don’t assume you can build a great product.

And just because you are a great product manager, don’t assume you can build a viable business.

There is a difference between a technology and a product — most people confuses this. And there is also a difference between product and business.

Typically, technology is an applied science. We build new technologies using some of the breakthroughs in the science world to achieve some objectives — i.e. to make existing things (technologies) faster, cheaper or better (larger, smaller, last longer, etc.)

On the other hand, a product is an applied technology. We build products using multiple technologies to solve specific problems that a user faces or tasks she wants to do.

And in the end, a business is an applied product. You need to take your product and reach out to your target users/customers and have them use it, which helps you generate a sustainable economic value.


As an engineer, we gravitate towards building great technologies. Making that code run even faster, improving the performance and accuracy of that function, etc. And some engineers are really good at that. And that’s why they get hired at some of these great companies, who have built some of the greatest products for mass consumers. But just because these companies have shipped great products, the engineers who work at these great companies start believing that they can also build great products on their own.

While that’s absolutely possible, it doesn’t come handy without you putting any efforts towards achieving that goal. If you are a smart engineer and eventually want to build a great product too, then your existing technical skills are a great asset but are not sufficient. You will need to invest considerable time to achieve those product and business skills as well.

I would recommend learning these skills –

  • Consumer psychology
  • User experience design
  • Prioritization
  • Communication
  • Business acumen

Let’s dive into each one in detail –

Consumer psychology

If you aspire to build a product that is not only useful (solves a real pain point) and usable (effortless and intuitive to use) but also delightful (that creates happy emotions).

You will need to get into user’s head to understand what specific problem they want to solve and what specific outcome they want to achieve, what effort it takes for them to do that, what emotions they feel after they achieve that outcome, etc.

Once you understand the consumer psychology very well, you will nail the product that will resonate with them very well and chances of them using it actively and recommending it to their friends will increase drastically.

User experience design

As per Wikipedia, user experience design (UXD or UED) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product.

The last part is very important — “interaction with the product”.

This is the most common mistake engineering founders make — they confuse UX Design with UI Design (User Interface Design). UX Design is a more analytical and research oriented, while UI Design is largely about graphic and visual design. While both are crucial, nailing the UX design (usable) is more critical than the UI design (look and feel).

UX role is quite complex and challenging. It involves consumer analysis, competitor analysis, product strategy, content strategy, wireframing, prototyping, usability studies, etc. So I’m not suggesting you do this everything on your own and become an expert in this. But if you understand what each function does and practice some aspects of it, then it will go a long way.

At the minimum, to provide a great user experience, focus on the lifecycle of a consumer who wants to use your product. You need to understand what they do in their life before they use your product and after they use your product. And repeat that exercise few times. This will help you understand your target consumers’ life really well to build a product that fits into their lifecycle.

Prioritization

Another most important skill you will need to learn is — prioritization.

As a technologist, you get sucked into optimizing things that are not required on the day one. You tend to build advanced technologies in-house instead of leveraging off-the-shelf services from the 3rd party providers. You believe that that’s your core IP and needs to be built in-house. You argue that 3rd party providers are generic platforms and won’t be as effective solving your specific use case. While that all is true, it’s still a mistake to optimize for these things before you even have any product-market fit. You can always build advanced technologies in-house as you start scaling.

I recently learned this from DJ Patil’s Twitter update

  • Dream in years
  • Plan in months
  • Evaluate in weeks
  • Ship daily

And –

  • Prototype for 1x
  • Build for 10x
  • Engineer for 100x

And –

  • What’s required to cut down timeline in 1/2?
  • What needs to be done to double the impact?

This is such a great prioritization framework that forces you to focus on delivering maximum value at minimal wastage. You will need to learn to be ruthless in your prioritization for all activities.

Communication

While this may sound very obvious and cliche, but written, verbal, and nonverbal communication skills are actually the most important traits you will need to master to gain credibility as an effective and trustworthy founder.

While you might be great at explaining technical details extremely well to your peers, now you will need to communicate the problem, the value and the benefits of your product to various different stakeholders — potential teammates, advisors, investors, prospects, clients, etc. You will need to wear a different hat every single time based on who is in front of you and communicate effectively in multiple languages — executive, development, strategic, tactical, etc.

Your written and spoken communication is going to be an absolutely crucial skill for your sales or marketing efforts. You will need to communicate what value your product delivers and able to align those benefits to the problems prospects have shared and eventually influence them to use or buy your product.

And don’t forget, you will need to be equally great at “listening”. Sometimes you’ll learn more when you’re actively listening as much as you are speaking or writing.

Business acumen

While this is a broad topic, having business acumen boils down having a minimum level of expertise in strategy, finance, operations, marketing, and sales. You may not need to be the expert in any one of these skills, but while communicating with advisors or investors, you will require some level of fluency and confidence in these business languages.

You will need to understand the basics like —

  • what’s the unit economics — how much it costs you to serve a customer?
  • what’s your business model — transactional, subscription, revenue-share, or ad-based?
  • how much does it cost to acquire a new user/customer (CAC)?
  • what’s the market opportunity — what’s the total available market (TAM) size, what’s the serviceable available market (SAM) size, etc.?

Now you might say, for a smart technologist by profession, learning all these skills means deviating from their core focus. While that may be true, the key question is — do you want to continue to stay only as a technologist or do you want to grow into a founder role?

There is nothing wrong with staying as a technologist throughout your startup, but then make sure you have someone on the founding team who has a great product sense and a strong business acumen.

But if all founders have technology background, then make sure at least you have someone in the founding team who wants to grow into a product manager and eventually into a business operations/marketing/sales role.

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Startup & Entrepreneurship podcasts I’ve been listening to


I try to read a lot — mostly blog articles, books, and even e-books. There is no doubt that reading helps you get smarter, improve your vocabulary, explore new ideas, etc. I mostly read about topics which are relevant to my personal and professional development and articles that add positive impact in my life, stories that inspire and motivate me to do something great. I avoid reading daily news about politics, entertainment, etc. unless it’s a really critical news. But since last year or two, in addition to reading, I’ve been addicted to listening podcasts too for my personal and professional development.

Podcasts are mainstream now

While podcasts have been around for about a decade, I personally experienced that they’re getting mainstream since last few years since they’re getting extremely convenient to consume. Podcasts are to the radio industry as blogs are to the mainstream media. Anyone who is expert and passionate about any topic can create a regularly updated content and publish a podcast. You can find thousands of podcasts which are well produced, inspirational, educational, and entertaining.

Unlike reading blog posts or watching videos, which require someone’s full attention, podcasts give listeners a flexibility of multi-tasking. Listeners can subscribe to specific podcasts, auto-download new episodes, and listen whenever it’s convenient for them on their smartphones while doing some other mundane chores. Every day, I listen to somewhere between 30–90 minutes podcasts while commuting to the office (25–35 minutes each way) and exercising (30–40 minutes).

The one overarching reason I listen to podcasts is I learn stuff. As they say, we’re influenced by what we see and hear. It’s a way of exposing myself to the influences of people who are smart and successful. I’ve found them highly inspirational and educational. I’ve learned how to form healthy habits, how to be more productive and efficient, how to start, run and grow a business, how to manage relationships, how to write better content, etc.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying podcasts are a substitute for reading books or blogs. It’s just a different mode of consumption for a different kind of content. Podcasts don’t give visually rich experience if you want to put the faces in front of names, or see things in picture or action. So there are some things which I still prefer to read at my desk while some things which are better to consume while I’m driving.

Podcasts I listen to

So here are few podcasts that I listen to actively. These are my interests of topics, which are skewed to Entrepreneurship, Startups, Product Management, Part-time Businesses, etc. But you will find podcasts on pretty much any topic that interests you.

Entrepreneurship


Mixergy

Andrew Warner’s mission is to introduce you to doers and thinkers whose ideas and stories are so powerful that it will inspire you to build something on your own.


Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Weekly podcasts from Stanford University regarding entrepreneurship — hear straight from entrepreneurs and innovators share their stories.


Dorm Room Tycoon

Hosted by William Channer, a British designer, founder and journalist, this podcast is a show that interviews the world’s most influential innovators in business, design, and technology.

Startups


This Week in Startups

Hosted by Jason Calacanis, an entrepreneur turned investor interviews some of the most influential names in the entrepreneur and startup communities in order to provide inspiration and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to grow their startup.


The Rocketship

Every week this podcast chats with successful entrepreneurs on how to grow a startup — topics include self-funding, raising capital, product development, and customer acquisition. These podcasts are packed with informative content that every startup founder needs.


The Startup Chat

Unfiltered insights and actionable advice straight from the trenches of startup and business life. The show hosts, Steli Efti and Hiten Shah, are both serial entrepreneurs who have founded multi-million dollar SaaS startups.


How To Start A Startup

Sam Altman and the folks from Y Combinator offer up an amazing course in “How To Start A Startup” at Stanford. This isn’t typical ongoing podcast, but a one-time course.

Ecommerce & Part-time Businesses


My Wife Quit Her Job

Steve Chou interviews successful e-commerce entrepreneurs that all bootstrapped their businesses and most of them in part-time while working at their day jobs.


The Side Hustle Show

Hosted by Nick Loper, this podcast is for part-time entrepreneurs who are looking for business ideas, actionable tips to start a business, and killer strategies on how to turn their side hustle dreams into a growing business.

Product Management


Inside Intercom

On the Inside Intercom podcast, you will hear the team from Intercom interview makers and do-ers from the worlds of product management, design, startups, and marketing.

I hope you will find this resource useful.

Of course, I’ll continue to add more podcasts to my list as I discover interesting podcasts. If you have been listening to any great podcasts recently, and would like to recommend to me or my audience, then please share it in the comments area.


Originally published at aditya.kothadiya.com on March 20, 2016.