Categories
Entrepreneurship SaaS Startup

Hiring for Passion, Not for Skills

In Nov 2019, we were a team of 7 people at Avoma, then by Jan 2020, we were a team of 13 people, and then by Mar 2020, we were 10 people again.

And no, these reductions are not due to COVID, but what I believe is due to passion (or lack of it).

Early-stage startups are a different beast (note, I didn’t say “hard”).

They require a different level of combination of skills and passion.

I think the mistake we made was – we primarily hired for skills and experience on resume.

But we didn’t hire for passion and grit.

We can teach new skills, product knowledge, subject domain, strategies, tactics, etc.

But I don’t think we can teach passion, drive, or grit.

I believe we should hire for passion and grit.

And then bridge the gap for skills and domain knowledge if there is any.

Categories
Marketing Startup

Produce, don’t just consume.

Anyone who is creating content (including me) is seeking your attention and time.

What if, you seek your own attention and time?

Content creators want you to read their articles, listen to their podcasts, and watch their YouTube videos.

So you invest your time in reading, listening, and watching.

What if, you want to observe your world, think about new ideas, and produce great creations?

Shouldn’t you be investing your time in observing, thinking, and producing?

Produce, don’t just consume.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Philosophy Startup

Our Attitude, Action, and Ambition

Right now, most of us are trying our best to achieve our adjusted goals, but we’re still finding something is standing in our way.

And I hope it’s not one of these:

  • Our Attitude
  • Our Action
  • Our Ambition

Our Attitude

Let’s make sure we see and understand what’s occurring around us with the right mindset.

Let’s:

  • Control our emotions
  • Be objective
  • Embrace constraints
  • Think differently

Our Action

Let’s make sure we don’t keep doing the same thing, or blame society or economic conditions and, in the worst case, not do anything.

Let’s:

  • Keep moving
  • Practice persistence
  • Iterate constantly
  • Follow the process

Our Ambition

Let’s make sure our internal willpower is strong enough, so it’s not affected by the external world.

Let’s:

  • Build inner strength
  • Find a purpose bigger than ourselves

We’re in this together, and we’ll come out of this stronger.

Categories
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? 🤷‍♂️

Categories
SaaS Startup

Replying to Customer Support Issues as a CEO

As a CEO of a SaaS company, one of the most gratifying things I enjoy is – replying to Customer Support issues.

It helps me to stay grounded.

It helps me to be empathetic.

It helps me to understand what they truly care about.

It helps me to work harder to fix issues in our product, messaging, documentation, and more.

Categories
Productivity Startup

Slack Etiquettes

With remote work, I’m worried if we’re spending more time Slacking vs doing uninterrupted high-quality work.

Here are some Slack etiquettes:

1. Fewer messages mean fewer notifications

Never send a one-word message like hey, hmm even if you immediately follow up with your real message.

2. Use Reactions vs sending one-word messages

For acknowledgment, use Reactions instead of one-word messages (Thanks, lol).

3. Use formatting for longer messages

Use bulleted lists, bold, and italic text styling to make your titles and key points stand out.

4. Use threads to reply and comment

Use threads every time to keep an ongoing conversation with replies and keep the main channel clear.

5. Default to public channels

Use @username mention for specific requests or urgent matters. DMs are for confidential conversations.

6. Set prefixes to indicate message purpose

BUG: someone needs to look into it
FYI: no one needs to reply
CUSTOMER ISSUE: a high priority issue

7. Disable Notifications

Disable all Slack group notifications sounds and alerts. Keep only personal DM or @mention notifications.

8. Praise publicly, criticize privately

9. Know when to Slack vs to meet

If you’re furiously Slacking in channel, consider having a meeting/call. Share discussion points & decisions for others.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Product Management SaaS Sales Startup

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.

Categories
SaaS Sales Startup

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! 📈

Categories
Uncategorized

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.

Categories
Uncategorized

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!