Co-Founder @ Rapleaf.com, Entrepreneur, Technologist, Creative Thinker

Text

I’m trying out clarity.fm, which a friend of mine created. It’s pretty slick:

https://clarity.fm/#/mnshah

Let me know if you’d like to chat.

- Manish

Text

Here is my personal list for learning about “Product Design”

1. Read this free ebook from 37 Signals, a web products company.

http://gettingreal.37signals.com/toc.php

2. Read “Influence” By Robert Caldini

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/006124189X?ie=UTF8&tag=themonthlynut-20&linkCode=shr&camp=213733&creative=393185&creativeASIN=006124189X&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&qid=1325913790&sr=1-1

(~ 14 days)

3. Read this blog post by Kyle Neath from Github

http://warpspire.com/posts/product-design/

(~ 10 minutes)

4. Read the Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen

http://www.amazon.com/Innovators-Dilemma-Revolutionary-Change-Business/dp/0062060244

(~ 21 days)

Anything you would add? Or anything i should read instead?  How would you recommend i put these ideas into practice?

Text

Here is my personal list of steps I’m taking to learn about “Data Science”

1. Read this report from OReilly Radar

http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/06/what-is-data-science.html

(~ 30 minutes)

2. Get this book - “Collective Intelligence”

http://shop.oreilly.com/product/9780596529321.do

(~ 10 minutes)

3. Register for this online course from Stanford

http://www.ml-class.org/course/auth/welcome

(~ 5 minutes)

4. Go through these slides from Cloudera

http://www.cloudera.com/resource/how-apache-hadoop-is-revolutionizing-business-intelligence-and-data-analytics

(~ 15 minutes)

What do you think? 

Text

Here is my personal list of items to help me learn about developing company culture

1. Watch this TED Talk by Daniel Pink

http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html

(~ 18 minutes)

2. Read Cult Creation by Steve Newcomb

http://blognewcomb.squarespace.com/essays/2010/10/14/cult-creation.html

(~ about 2 hours)

3. Watch this video presentation by Simon Sinek

http://the99percent.com/videos/7058/Simon-Sinek-If-You-Dont-Understand-People-You-Dont-Understand-Business

(~ 31 minutes)

4. Read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

http://www.amazon.com/Delivering-Happiness-Profits-Passion-Purpose/dp/0446563048/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328595093&sr=1-1

(~ 21 days)

5. Read Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan

http://www.amazon.com/Tribal-Leadership-Leveraging-Thriving-Organization/dp/0061251321/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328595242&sr=1-1

(~ 21 days)

6. Create your company values

http://www.deliveringhappiness.com/core-values/

(~ 7 days)

What do you think? Am I missing anything?

Text

Its fairly quiet around me. I try to drown out the people talking from the stands, the people that just finished their heat, those a few yards behind me waiting for their turn. I close my eyes. I stretch out again, secure my feet into the starter blocks.  Its just like practice. I dust off the gravel around my finger tips. My head is lowered. I feel calm. I feel ready. I can see the first hurdle a dozen yards away. Things go quiet all around.

"Runners to your marks"

"Ready…"

"Set…"

"Bang!"

The pistol fires and we’re off. I’m not focused on the runners next to me. I zero in the first hurdle, nothing else matters. I cross it, on to the next one. And the next one.  Approaching the last hurdle i can see the finish line. I still dont know where i stand, but i know that i will finish. My lungs are burning. My legs are tightening up. I must finish. I’m not going to let up until i’ve crossed.  I must finish. Nothing tastes better than that first breath of air after the race is over.

—-

I started thinking about this story while sitting in front of my laptop. I have my code open in front of me. I’m switching tabs, refreshing to see changes. Believe it or not, i started to see a lot of parallels between this moment and the one above (10 years ago). I ran track in high school (110 high hurdles & high jump) and played varsity basketball.  On occasion i would run the 4x100.  I’ll be the first to admit, i was not the best athlete.  Though, tell me that 10 years ago and you’d be in for a lot of grief.

Playing sports all my life has taught me a lot about entrepreneurship.  As a short, skinny, indian kid there was no reason i should have been on the track or on the court. But, I didn’t care. I loved to play. It did not matter who the competition was, i always felt like i could compete. And, I always would. I did not care if you were taller than me, faster than me, could jump higher than me.  I could care less if you were 3-stepping hurdles coming out the womb.  I’m here to work.  I’m here to win.

This ethic has kept with me to this day.  There are still those around me that will look down and ask why are you here? They may have more funding, a better office, the top-dog VCs, etc.  It does not matter to me. I love to play. I’m here to work. I’m here to win.

I try to remind myself to block out those in the lanes adjacent to me. Just like 10 years ago. Only now, there is no starter pistol. There isn’t anyone there to tell me to get ready. There isn’t a clear path to the first hurdle. There is no calming consistency of the stretches between the hurdles to follow.  I’ve learned to fire my own pistol. I listen to what i know. I work my ass off to be best I can be.

For me, entrepreneurship is another version of being an athlete. You will be challenged mentally and physically.  Its a must that you surround yourself with a team that will support you and fight no matter the opponent. There will be people better than you.

But, if you love to play, you’re here to work, then its more likely that you will win.

Text

Here is a simple idea to help education around science and engineering. Create an aggregated video feed of product demos and hackathon projects. Showcase what a few people build in short blips of time.

They should be max 2 mins long and the portal should just auto play.

Make this available first to elementary schools and high schools. Show students what is possible and trigger their own curiosity about what else is possible.

If you know of something like this that exists, I’d love to hear about it.

Text

Engineers today are typically regarded as royalty in silicon valley.  The better your skills are the more attention you get and the more people will let you get away with.  When building a company, its often easy for founders (engineers and non-engineers alike) to think that they should just allow their engineers to do whatever they want as long as they ship code.

This kind of thinking is misdirected.  Now, i do believe in granting engineers freedom to explore new ideas, hack on crazy ideas, and build their knowledge base.  But, i wouldnt advocate to engineers that i want to hire that if they work for us, they will be treated like geniuses that can do whatever they want.

I would advocate that our company is a place where engineers (and this extends to all job functions really) have all the resources they need to be the best engineer they choose to be.  We do not put engineers up on pedestals. Rather, we give engineers all the tools necessary for them to build their own pedestals.  

The really good engineers want this more than wanting to come in to the office after 12pm, drink endless amounts of caffeine & carbonate beverages, or retreat to happy hours once a week.  If the engineer is motivated by frivolous perks like these, then they are probably only worth what these things cost.  The rockstar engineers will actually take advantage of everything you offer for them to better themselves and will end up paying back dividends far greater than you could have imagined.

When you’re looking for engineers, dont use these cliche, pseudo perks as recruiting material.  Instead, focus on making your company the best platform for any rockstar engineer to continue to build their skillset and make themselves better.  As an added bonus, if you can get this platform right, you can afford to bring on younger, less experienced talent, and develop them into rockstars.

If you’re interested in hearing some of my thoughts on creating this environment, please leave a comment or email me.  If people really are curious i’ll collect my thoughts and thoughts from others and post them here.

Text

You often hear about or wonder about the entrepreneurs that make it big. They will often be asked, “what was your inspiration” or “what was your ‘Aha!’ moment?”.  I think those are cool stories, but not particularly instructive for people who want to be entrepreneurs and need to find their own inspirations.  This post is meant to provide a least one way that i’ve come to identify opportunities that I’d use as a starting point for evaluating an idea.  It starts with (earmuffs children) the phrase “WHY THE FUCK…”.

Usually when you go through some annoying or frustrating experience, one of the core questions that comes to mind (at least for an engineer like myself) is, “why the fuck does <X> work like this?”

To break this down, there are 2 key components at play here.  One is a sense of curiosity about some issue (“<X>”).  You’re involved with the issue enough to want to question its inner-workings, you question its reason for existence.  This is really important.  There is an answer, you may know it subconsciously or you may not.  But, the fact that its shooting to your conscious thinking means something.  Something has triggered you to ask this question.

The 2nd component of this is the “FUCK”.  Not to be crass, but its just as important.  Usually the cursing is an indicator of some sense of passion.  You will not emphasize your frustration or curiosity if you did not care. For entrepreneurs, its usually best to focus your ideas on things you are passionate about.  For some people, its hard to know what exactly they are passionate about.  In my opinion, this passion tends to surface itself at odd times and when you’re not directly thinking of it.  The cursing here is one way that i believe it shows itself.

I would bet that preceding any “Aha!” moment, there is a “WHY THE FUCK…” questioning.  When you are looking for opportunities, go back to the times you’ve said that to yourself or to a friend.  If you start dissecting what you’re questioning, listing out what you know, what you dont know, how it could work, how you get others to not ever think to ask that question again, then you’ll come to your “Aha!” moment.

Text

I won’t be the first person to admit that we, in silicon valley, live in a bubble.  Before today, i would readily speak to how much I wish I was not so tied to this bubble.  I would even fantasize about escaping to another country to experience some of what the rest of the world is going through.  Even if just for a little while.

However, today i realized that i’m actually grateful that i am where i am. I think there is a reason for it.  Today i realized an appreciation for the optimism and positive attitude that permeates our bubble.

What’s sad to me is that we are the exception, not the rule. Any time i come across news about whats going on outside our bubble, its a constant stream of negativity and rhetoric designed to build on people’s fears.  Unemployment at record highs. On 9/11, a day with all the opportunity to rejoice in our ability as a country to become closer together, to celebrate the bravery of those that died to help their neighbors & perfect strangers, i see stories about how we’re not safer than we were 10 years ago. Again, just to bring people back to a place of fear, doubt, and discouragement.

I’m done with that. I came home today from a brunch event to meet with my fellow bubble citizens. We were not talking about the economy, countries going bankrupt, or anything else. No, we were coming up with new ways to hire people because we could not hire fast enough. We were discussing how we could make the lives of our customers better while doing so more cheaply and finding ways to scale that to millions of others.

Now, i’m not a veteran like Warren Buffet and I’ve got a lot more ahead of me than i’ve seen.  But, in my short history as an entrepreneur i’ve seen a tech bubble bust, the rise of another, and one of the deepest recessions in our country’s history.

No matter what was going on, in our silicon valley bubble, we’ve continued to innovate and do better for our employees, customers, and society. Its never stopped.

So, i’m changing my tune.  I’m not going to denigrate this bubble that i’m blessed to be a part of. I’m going to switch my focus to spreading this positive feeling to everywhere else i go.

Text

At dinner tonight, our conversation started to discuss competition as it relates to new startups.  Both my friend and I are working on getting our new companies off the ground and we were trading ideas about different ways to react to the competitive landscape.

Now, I dont think competition is to be ignored. Its important to think about.  But, what i suggested in our conversation was that its probably better to focus your energy on building a 10x solution to a problem.

What’s a 10x solution? Its a product that solves a problem that is an order of magnitude better than anything that has existed in order to lessen the pain your customer is experiencing.  This is by no means an easy task, but its vital that you keep this as your focus.

If you can achieve a 10x solution, your customers will appreciate you and will give you their full attention as your product is solving the heart of their problem.  And better yet, you and your team will be able to get great insight into what is driving your customers to you.  Your competition becomes the status quo and your team and your customers merge together to build something that pushes past marketing, copy-cats, and anything else your “competitors” will do.

This is not a new concept.  Its what Henry Ford accomplished when building the Model-T (competition: horse-drawn carriages).  Its what Apple created with the iPhone (competition: cellphones that could not use the full-internet..remember WAP-browsers?).  Its what Google accomplished with their search engine (competition: essentially manually curated lists of web sites).

I can go on. The point is to make the status quo your competition and beat it by an order of magnitude.  Make it so that the world will never go back to what it was before your product came on the scene.