Everyone has stories about the highest and lowest moments of their professional lives. An entrepreneur faces highs that are incredibly ‘high’ and lows which are incredibly ‘low’ everyday, often taking him or her into emotional territories never experienced before. If you have not yet felt this, trust me, you will feel it soon.
The fact is, you are working very very hard to fulfill your vision by building and selling products which are close to your heart. You can repeat the same pitch 100 times a day and not get tired. Yet, despite all your enthusiasm, energy, attitude and willingness to serve each stakeholder, you get hit from all sides: landlords, customers, vendors, prospects, and team members.
An entrepreneurs challenge is to stay focused on the goal in the midst of all this ‘distraction’. Problems will not stop, they will only escalate. Either you learn how to juggle them or your drown in the constant stream of failures that come you way. The choice is yours and yours only.
Recruiting is one of the hardest things that a startup needs to do in the early phase. This activity cannot and should not be underestimated. This challenge is even larger if you are located in a city which has a relative shortage of the relevant talent pool. Canvass, my startup, is located in Mumbai which is not known to have large technology and software talent pools. We are facing immense difficulty in acquiring the right people for the company.
My advice to startup CEOs, FWIW, start recruiting early and make it a weekly activity. Spending 2-3 hours per week on shortlisting candidates can help you avoid last-minute hiring crunches and avoid situations where your product development is suffering from a lack of people.
I love learning. I cannot imagine how life would be if I did not learn something new everyday. There is so much to learn from the people who surround us everyday, customers, partners, team members, family, the list never ends. The day I stop learning, is the day I die.
I have been feeling for the past month or so that Facebook has gotten increasingly complex to use. The myriad of privacy settings, the multitude of information streams floating across the screen, and the fact that everyone you know (even remotely) is now a friend on Facebook, are all driving down the user experience from being simple to being very complex.
This thought became even more concrete in my head as I started using Google+ to share my photo albums with close friends. There is a certain ‘lightweight’ feeling about Google+ which is very attractive. The experience doesn’t leave you feeling overwhelmed with information and sharing is infinitely simpler on Google+.
Facebook’s auto list creation feature, while being cool, is also threatening to destroy the user experience. For example, I now have no less than four different lists for my friends at ISB. Three of the four lists were auto created by Facebook, and one was created by me manually several months ago. It is not clear to me if I should just delete the three auto created lists? What value are they adding, I am not so sure. What if I delete them, and they reappear as I add new ISB friends to my network in the future?
Clayton Christensen told us that low-end disruptive innovation happens when a new product attacks the incumbent from the low-end by offering a much simpler, lightweight, minimal, and cheaper alternate product. The audience adopts the new innovation as they are *tired* of bloated incumbent products. This is exactly what I see happening here with Facebook.
Facebook does have the significant advantage of making users feel locked into it. Users have years of conversations, networks, and photos on Facebook so there would be high perceived switching cost for users jumping to Google+.
How this all plays out, only time will tell. The way I see it, Google+ will reach a tipping point where the engagement levels on Google+ will rise fast. The only way I see Facebook stopping this is by drastically simplifying their user interface. Cut out many of the lower used features. This is the only way to maintain user interest and not cede the massive lead it currently enjoys to very promising rivals like Google+.
These two seemingly mundane words wield tremendous power. Think about the following exchange between two MBA’s evaluating a healthcare business plan and a team of entrepreneurs:
- Person 1: This looks like a good team because the individuals have a lot of industry experience. We should score them high on experience.
- Person 2: They have lots of experience, so what?
Think about what just happened. By asking a simple “So what?”, person 2 has just made person 1 think much deeper as to what he/she feels is good about the team’s experience. Is the team’s experience relevant to this particular business idea? If you had to pick just one aspect about the team, would you pick their experience over other factors like motivation, team dynamics, network, etc?
Just these two powerful words can make us question unsubstantiated assumptions, tall claims, and any such construct which can lead us down the wrong path. Asking such “So what” questions is a trait I have recently observed in many good professors at ISB as well as some of the most successful people I have met in my life.
Here is a simple task each of us can execute today which is guaranteed to help us with our own plans:
- List the top 3 activities you are doing today in your professional life (for example: taking a certain course, participating in a competition, working on a certain project)
- For each activity, ask yourself “So what?” and jot down the thoughts that come in your head
I guarantee you, this little exercise will make you think in ways you never thought of before.