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Business Strategy Framework

“Business Strategy Framework” is a framework about how you think about your focus and strategy for Engineering Platform, Product, and your Go-To-Market.

a close up of text on a white background

Let’s consider an example. At Avoma, we’re building an AI-meeting assistant.

From a use-cases perspective, there are many different kinds of meetings. Everyone’s workflows, pain points, and needs are very different.

When we decided to build Avoma, obviously, we could have built a horizontal AI meeting assistant to serve every single meeting use case.

But that would have been a bad business strategy, especially when you’re a startup and just starting out 😀.

Instead,
• We built the engineering platform and AI tech in the most scalable way to evolve into future use cases

• From the product perspective, we decided to focus on only customer-facing (Sales & Customer Success) external meetings

• From the GTM perspective, we reach out to the VP of Sales and Customer Success persona

Hope you’ll find this framework helpful when you make strategy and prioritization decisions in your company.

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Happy Planning 2020!

As we’re preparing for the new year, it’s a good reminder for everyone –

Do not overestimate “planning” 🎯and do not underestimate “constant corrections” 🧭.

Planning is essential, but constant corrections are inevitable.

Happy planning 2020! 📈

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The First 10

It was an intense but a healthy discussion I was having with my co-founders. We were debating about our strategy, our positioning, how we are different than our competitors, what story we should tell to VCs so they would fund us, how can we define a new category and be a leader of that category, how can we build a big independent business instead of entertaining early acquisition interests, etc.

All were important topics. But after a while, I realized they were just not timely. We were talking about the end state after 18 months, 3 years, and 5 years.

I was worried about this month and this quarter. All I wanted to do was – onboard first 10 customers for Avoma.

Somehow we agreed on key points and wrapped up the discussion. But the first 10 customers concept stuck in mind.

Since then, while I continue to think about longer term vision, strategies, etc., but in the end, I always bring the conversation back to getting the first 10 of whatever that key milestone we wanted to focus on.

Some of the examples are:

  • The first 10 manual prospecting emails before we implement email automation
  • The first 10 trials converting into paying customers
  • The first 10 paying customers that we don’t know
  • The first 10 customers who absolutely love us and can’t live without Avoma
  • The first 10 customers came from one particular channel
  • The first 10 customers that were referred by existing customers
  • The first 10 $10K+ contracts

This mindset always helps me to get tactical and start acting on the next milestones immediately, without getting lost in over planning and delaying the execution.

Obviously, the downside of this mindset is that once you are bogged down in achieving the first 10 of “x”, there is a high chance that you are not thinking about the bigger picture. You need to find a good balance between the both.

As they say, entrepreneurs are a special breed who need to have a great macroscopic vision and at the same time they need to have a great microscopic vision.

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2017 Retrospective and 2018 Goals

My reflections on what worked well and what didn’t in 2017 and what I would continue to do and do something new in 2018.

I’ve started this practice last year — to retrospect on the last year’s achievements, misses, and learnings and define the goals for the next year at the beginning of the new year. I have written about why I started doing this exercise in my last year’s post, but if I want to summarize it in one key reason — it would be — to be accountable and answerable to the world about my new year’s goals.

But before I begin, wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2018!

Retrospective for 2017

Overall, it was a great year. I made satisfactory progress across many areas and I feel good about it. Having said that, I still feel I could have done better in a few areas.

As mentioned in my last year’s goals, my 3 big priorities were —

  • Family
  • Health (Exercise + Sleep)
  • Startup (Venture + Programming)

Family

On the family front, I enjoyed spending a great time with family in general.

Travel
We traveled to India, Hawaii, and Tahoe together and spent a great time with the extended family as well.

Daily routine
The most important habit I’ve been following for the last couple years that I continued even last year was — I try to be home from work between 5–6pm instead of staying up late till 7pm or so such that I can spend more time with the kids before they go to bed by 9pm. I catch up on work after they fall asleep.

Health

On the health front, overall I did decently well, but I’m personally not very proud of it.

Workout
My key goal was to complete 3 routines of P90X-3 — that is 30 minutes intense exercise for 90 days — and do it for 3 times in the year. Unfortunately, I finished the entire P90X-3 routine only once, and then for 2 times, I started the routine and gave up in the middle after 4–5 weeks into it. So in short, collectively I’ve worked out only for 5 months than the planned 9 months.

Sleep
Overall as planned, I continued to sleep well for an average 7 hours/day. Even though we had an infant baby and I had my ambitious startup plans, I managed to get a decently well sleep. Obviously, a lot of that credit goes to my wife! 🙂

Meditation
Overall, I had not planned to do meditation in the last year but learned to do a guided meditation, Pranayama and different breathing techniques to meditate well. I learned this in the 2nd half of the year, but managed to do 20 mins meditation in the early morning at least 3–4 days/week.

Food
As I started exercising actively, I adopted some good food habits too. Most importantly, a drastic reduction in sugar intake — for example, no sugar in Tea, Coffee, etc., but also, in general, less consumption of sweets. In addition, I’ve also increased protein intake mostly through plant-based supplements in smoothies/shakes and energy bars.

I’ve also seen, when I didn’t exercise as per the plan for the half of the year, I lost my control and ended up eating more junk food. So the lesson learned is — when you exercise actively, the guilt of eating junk food is very high.

Work

On the work front, I think I’ve made good progress, but again, I’m not completely happy with my own accomplishments and believe that I could have done more.

Startup
The biggest focus for the last year was to start my new venture. I started exploring the problem, solution, etc. since Jan 2017, finalized what I want to work on in Mar 2017, assembled the co-founding team in Jul 2017 and officially started — Avoma, Inc., and raised a pre-seed funding in Oct 2017.

We’re still in a stealth mode and have launched the product in private beta to a few early customers and iterating on our product. So technically while we’ve made a lot of progress, obviously, I would have wished this would have happened a lot sooner and we would have achieved a lot more things by the end of this year.

Programming
While my initial goal was to re-learn programming and launch a meaningful application by the end of the year, ideally for my startup only, unfortunately, I just learned different programming languages and frameworks but did not end up building a real-world application.

I learned Python, Django framework, Javascript, React and Redux. I’m still not an expert in any of this. Since I was not an expert yet, I was being a bottleneck in our startup’s product development efforts while other cofounders were pretty strong technically. So I ended up getting out of their way and let them handle the end to end product development.

Miscellaneous

Reading
My last year’s goal was to read a book per month. While I read 10 books in the entire year, I must admit — I didn’t really read them each book per month. Sometimes it took longer to finish a book more than a month, and sometimes I read smaller books and could read more books in a month.

The books I read are (with my ratings) –

Blogging
My last year’s goal was to write a blog post per week. I failed miserably in this. I only wrote 14 articles in the last year. One of the challenges was — writing a thoughtful article takes around 5–8 hours per post. So sometimes even though I had a lot of lessons and point of views to share, I ended up not prioritizing blogging over other important tasks at hand.

Goals for 2018

In short, for 2018, I won’t be changing a lot of things from my 2017 goals— just a couple minor changes. My goals for 2017 were pretty decent, and I plan to just repeat those this year too.

Family

  • Continue to spend a good time with the kids and wife — these times won’t come back again
  • Don’t plan to travel much this year due to startup commitments, but prefer to spend more quality time on a daily basis

Health

  • Complete P90X-3 routine at least 3 times
  • Meditate 3–4 days/week
  • Continue to follow good eating habits — no/less sugar, no/less fried/oily food, more protein, more vegetables and fruits
  • Continue to sleep 7-hours a day

Work

  • Achieve revenue and funding goals for my startup — Avoma, Inc.
  • Take Machine Learning, NLP courses from Coursera
  • Build a real-world application — preferably relevant to my startup, but in case if that’s not possible, then a side project

Miscellaneous

  • Continue to read 1 book/month — preferably 50% fiction and 50% non-fiction (or at least non-business related)
  • Continue to write 1 blog post/week — including both for personal and professional (startup related) blog

If you’ve read until this point, then I would request if you have any suggestions to improve my thinking or to achieve my goals, then please free to comment or send me an email at aditya dot kothadiya at gmail dot com.

Also, if you haven’t already done any retrospective for your 2017 and planned your 2018, then I would highly encourage you take a moment and think about it and write down what worked well and what didn’t in 2017 and what are your plans for 2018 — if not publicly, but at least for your own benefit.


Once again, wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year 2018! Hope you all crush your 2018 goals!

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The Delusion of Success and Failure

How Success and Failure are dependent on each other and are also tangled with each other.

I had shared this brief thought on LinkedIn the other day, but due to their number of characters limit for the post (BTW, it’s 1300), I couldn’t explain the thought in detail. So expanding it here.

The Context

A few days ago, I met a founder, who was very smart both academically and intellectually, and had raised a solid Seed round from Valley’s top-notch VC firms, but after 2 years of execution, they had to shut down the company.

In her own words, they failed to achieve a product market fit. They had built an innovative solution, which was looking for a problem.

In her defense, it’s not that they didn’t know how to identify a problem. She had read everything about Lean Startup, Customer Development, Paul Graham’s Startup essays, etc. and had done extensive customer development interviews. Despite all of this, they still failed.

While it’s one thing to learn these things in theory, it’s a completely different ball game to follow it in practice.

Failure?

Meanwhile, I kept thinking, did she really “fail”? And failed from what perspective?

If you consider her entire career span is just 2 years, then yes, probably she has failed.

But if she’s still early in her career, then in my opinion, this is just a setback. Her entrepreneurship journey is not done yet. She can come back again with a new venture and be successful next time.

You could argue that she failed to return investors’ money.

But again, if she had executed with her best effort and intent, then those investors will most likely back her again for her future venture, which could be wildly successful too.

Success and Failure — Dependent

The boundaries between success and failure are diminishing now.

Many times you become successful in future after you face a failure. And many times you fail in future because success goes too much in your head.

Success and failure are pretty much dependent on each other.

If you failed to achieve your desired objective, but keep the right attitude and rise up again, the chances are you have more drive and are better prepared to achieve it this time around than the first time.

In that founder’s case, if she keeps the positive mindset, and decide to start her next venture — (it need not be immediate as she could take a job somewhere and learn more skills as well), then a combination of her on-job training and her lessons learned from previous failure, she would be much better prepared for the next venture.

Similarly, as we’ve also seen in many cases for celebrity people, if you achieve too much success too early, chances are you will lose it all if the success goes too much in your head as with the success, your behavior, priorities, and expectations change.

I just saw this tweet from Alok Kejriwal on my Twitter timeline today morning — it’s very relevant and consistent to the point I’m making here –

Success and Failure — Tangled

On the other hand, we classify “failure” as if everything was lost and there was nothing to gain.

Failure can be absolutely devastating if you look at it from only one perspective.

But if you look at your journey to achieve any objective and the number of other things you gained before you failed in achieving your core objective, you will realize that it’s not a zero-sum game.

In that founder’s case, I could argue that while she failed in her core objective, she had achieved success in other areas like — learning lots of new personal and professional skills, building strong relationships and network, etc.

I’m not saying that we should take pride in failing and nonetheless celebrate it because we learned something.

In fact, I argue that you could be considered failure too from one’s perspective while you’re wildly successful from many’s perspectives.

I’ve known some people who’ve achieved great financial success, but at the cost of some health issues, family problems or some kind of personal sacrifice.

In that founder’s case, I could also argue that there are actually thousands of other people of her age who took more stable, less risky, high paid salaried career paths. So financially they are successful, but from one perspective, they could be considered as a failure too because they didn’t take the risky route she took and didn’t gain those valuable skills and relationships, etc.

Conclusion

So the best way is for us to confront these failures as much as possible early in our life as we do successes too.

And we should treat these failures as more of temporary setbacks in our journey than calling it an end.


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How To Deal With Stress

A friend called me recently out of nowhere and asked — “Dude, how do you deal with stress while running a startup? I feel so stressed every day and want to know how do you handle it”.

We don’t talk that often, so I was surprised to receive a call from him and on top of that, was even surprised to hear that he wanted to talk about stress!

Quick background — he’s a first-time founder running a B2B company. He’s solving a good problem, has built a great product and technology, has raised some money, and has already got some marquee customers onboard.

But before jumping to answer his question, I probed him to give me more context — What does he mean by he is stressed? How exactly does he feel? What is the current state of his business because of which he’s feeling stressed?

His primary concern was — he was getting too anxious about the deals taking a lot longer to close. Some days things go well, and he’s close to closing a deal, and the next day it all goes south with lots of uncertainties and delays making him anxious. This anxiety was causing more problems as he was not able to focus well on other business priorities. In the end, he was not finding things were under his control.

With this additional context, it helped me understand his situation, but I also felt it wasn’t just about this one issue (“deals not closing faster”) at hand, but a more holistic approach to how he was running a startup.

Obviously, running a startup is hard. It’s a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs — and probably there are too many downs than ups. There is always something that doesn’t work as per your plan. There is always something that takes the twice amount of effort, cost and time than you intended.

So the first thing I told him was that he’s not alone. Most of the people who are running a startup are also in the same bucket. Everybody has to experience this rollercoaster ride.

The only advantage an experienced founder might have over a first-time founder is — how they handle ups and downs and deal with the stress in those situations.

Since I had thought about this for a while and had been practicing few principles in my day-to-day life quite actively, I shared my perspectives with him. After talking with him, I realized these principles are not only applicable for people who’re running a startup but for any working professional who is experiencing the same level of stress and anxiety at their work. I am sharing these principles with you so some of you might find it helpful.

There are many ways to deal with stress, but at a high level, I think about it in 2 ways –
1. Strategic guiding principles
2. Tactical tips

1. Strategic guiding principles

These are some of the core guiding principles about how I operate in life in general. These are more important than the tactical tips.

1. Have a long-term perspective

Most of the things I do in life have a long-term perspective. Any project I start, or a resolution I make, or a deal I sign, or advice I give to other people — always have a long-term objective or benefit associated with it. Very rarely I have optimized something for my short-term gain.

And since most of the things have a long-term perspective, naturally I have the right expectations set from the beginning — the timeline, the kind of outcome, or the effort required to achieve it.

And since my eyes are fixed on the long-term objectives, even if I get any setbacks in the short-term or failures on the way, it doesn’t demotivate me. While I do get disappointed when things don’t work out as per plan, it doesn’t stress me out much as I know I’m in this for a long haul.

2. Focus on your efforts

I’m a strong believer of I can only focus on my actions and efforts to achieve the desired outcome. But, unfortunately, as we know, the outcome will not be based on only my actions and efforts. There will be many other factors that are not in my control, which will play a role to determine the state of the outcome.

And if there are things that are not in my control, then why I should be stressed if the outcome doesn’t result in my favor?

As long as I’m completely honest with myself that I’ve given my best efforts, then I don’t worry and overthink about the outcome. I accept it as it is. But if I know that I fell short in my efforts, then I recognize it as my mistake and decide to focus on not repeating it next time.

3. It’s not critical, unless…

I firmly believe that we’ve been misusing the “critical” word a lot in the corporate world. Unless you’re dealing with someone’s life, it’s not truly critical. It could be important, and some of those things could be urgent, but still, it’s never critical unless someone’s life is at stake.

So next time you hear someone telling you a particular project or deal or deadline being critical, just hear it being “important” and give your best shot to respond it in your best capacity, but don’t stress out as if somebody’s life is in danger.

2. Tactical tips

Now on the tactical front, there are a lot of great tips on how to reduce stress on a day to day basis on the internet. I follow below tactics — some of them quite regularly and some of them on a need basis –

1. Being disciplined

I don’t shy away from touting myself as a very disciplined guy. The more disciplined and organized I am, the more sanity I have in my day-to-day routine. That, in general, keeps my day-to-day stress level at quite low.

2. Writing things down

I typically find myself stressed when I’m thinking about too many ideas, planning for future, contemplating on past, etc. Writing down all those ideas and to-do tasks in whatever crude way help me clear up my mind.

3. Focusing on one thing at a time

I avoid multi-tasking. My experience is — trying to do more than one task at a time just adds more stress. And very rarely it’s necessary.

4. Spending time with kids

I have two daughters (5yrs and 1yr old), so spending time with them every day either in-house or outside in the park always helps me realize that there is more to life than just work.

5. Exercising

I’ve been doing P90X-3 routine intermittently. But every time I do it regularly, it helps me to gain both mental and physical strength and confidence. If I can’t do proper exercise, then just a short walk in the neighborhood also helps to gather my thoughts.

6. Meditating

I use guided meditation app to slow down myself a bit. I find instant benefits if I slow down my breathing, and focus on the present by scanning the body or on breathing. This helps me to reduce my anxiety.

7. Talking with my wife, family, and friends

In the end, just talking with my wife or close family members or friends about what I’m working on and what challenges I’m facing helps me crystallize my thoughts and sometimes gives me answers that I was looking.


I hope these strategic guiding principles and tactical tips will help you too dealing with your stressful situations.


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12 Questions to Ask Before Starting a New Business Venture

A framework to choose which problem you should solve

Yesterday I met few friends after many years. After everybody sharing their whereabouts, it was my turn to share what I’m working on. I explained I’m working on a new venture and also shared the details of the problem we’re solving. The first question one of the friends asked was — “why did you decide to solve this problem?

It was a great question. As they say, as a startup founder, you should be able to answer these 3 questions with high clarity and conviction –

  • Why this? (Focuses on problem statement and opportunity)
  • Why now? (Focuses on market and technology landscape)
  • Why you? (Focuses on founding team)

The good part was, I had thought a lot about why I want to solve this problem from various perspectives, so it was easy to answer my friend’s question.

So I thought I should share a framework with you all that I used to decide which problem I want to solve.

As mentioned in my previous post

I researched and brainstormed a couple of problems extensively, discussed it with other people too, and eventually decided to solve a problem that I faced every single day in my professional life as a knowledge worker, and is also applicable to pretty much most of the knowledge workers in the world.

I want to fix the productivity and information loss problem that happens during every “meeting” — the necessary evil of a corporate life.


While it was a simplistic overview of why I picked up the problem that I’m currently working on, here is a list of questions I used to choose the problem I want to solve and start my next business venture —

  1. Do I personally face this problem? If yes, do I face this problem very frequently and how frequently?
  2. Do other people also face this problem? If yes, how many such people exist? Is it a very large population?
  3. Do I have the basic understanding of the problem and the solution domain?
  4. Is there a lot of progress happening in the larger space of that domain?
  5. Do I have initial thoughts on what will be the differentiation compared to competitors?
  6. Is it a hard problem to solve such that it will not be easy for too many competitors to enter into this space?
  7. If I make it affordable and at the same time deliver high value, will people pay? If yes, who will pay and how much will they pay?
  8. Will a single user receive a value from this solution or will it require more people using this service (e.g. entire team or organization) to receive basic value?
  9. How will I sell this solution? Can I sell this using bottom-up B2C2B model or will I need a typical top-down enterprise sales model?
  10. How will I distribute this solution? Are there any viral/referral distribution opportunities? Are there any platforms/partners that I can integrate with to distribute this solution?
  11. Do I believe by solving this problem, will I be making a positive impact in many people’s lives and the world a better place?
  12. Finally, if I fail to solve this problem, will I learn something new that will prepare me for the next wave/demand in the technology space?

The current problem I’ve decided to solve met all above requirements and had very compelling answers for each of the question.

I hope this framework and a list of questions will be useful to you too to choose your next business venture.


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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.


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Starting up… a new chapter

Today is my birthday. Birthdays are generally a good milestone to start something new, to have new resolutions and goals, to reflect on the past and think about the future — very similar to the beginning of a new calendar year.

Today is that day for me. I’m starting a new chapter of my life — one of the most important chapters of my life for the next several years — I’m starting a new company.

A day before y’day, I resigned from my current employer, [24]7 and jumped off the cliff again to start a new venture.

4 years ago, my co-founder and I had sold our previous startup Shopalize to [24]7 Inc. As a part of the acquisition, I joined [24]7 and worked there for the past 4 years. During my stay there, many people (friends and acquaintances) used to ask me when am I starting my next startup?

As they say, once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. So their question was quite valid. But I didn’t have a satisfactory answer. I knew it was not going to be “soon”. Very honestly, it was partly because we had some payouts over the period of 4 years, but largely also because I didn’t want to rush into a startup rat race for the sake of doing it and because it’s a fad.

While I had to wait there for 4 years for the full payout, I enjoyed every bit of this period on both work and personal fronts. Overall I had fun working at [24]7. I enjoyed working with some of the smartest people, built some great relationships, learned a lot of about Enterprise space, built some cutting edge innovative products, failed in getting traction for some of the products and made some mistakes too.

One of the most fulfilling reasons I enjoyed working at [24]7 is — I was able to contribute and make a direct impact in the company’s strategy and vision. It was a full package experience — I not only learned what to do in my next company but also learned what not to do. But overall, it was a great experience.

But for the past 6 months or so, I started feeling plateaued. I wasn’t able to make the progress I wanted. I wasn’t learning something new. And at that moment, the decision became stronger to start something new on my own and accelerate the learning process in pretty much everything.

Once it was clear I wanted to start my venture, I didn’t have a shortage of problems I wanted to solve. The question was — which problem should I pick to solve — and dedicate the next several years of my life for it.

For the past 3–4 months, I researched and brainstormed a couple of problems extensively, discussed it with other people too, and eventually decided to solve a problem that I faced every single day in my professional life as a knowledge worker, and is also applicable to pretty much most of the knowledge workers in the world.

I want to fix the productivity and information loss problem that happens during every “meeting” — the necessary evil of a corporate life.

I don’t hate meetings. In fact, I love them — but when they are productive. So much knowledge gets shared, so much progress is made, and so much alignment is achieved when you have good meetings.

But there is a downside to it the way how meetings are getting conducted today. So much of time is wasted and so much of knowledge that gets discussed in the meetings gets lost. And I hate that part. And that’s what I want to fix.

I’m teaming up with few other people who are equally passionate about solving this problem. It’s a hard problem and it will take many years until we achieve our final vision. But every attempt to reach towards that vision will be worth taking to make a positive impact in knowledge worker’s life.

We’re barely getting started, so the more details will get shared very soon and very frequently on this blog. So stay tuned…


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