Startups are like a game of poker

I was listening to Fireside Chat with Chamath Palihapitiya , the guy responsible for  the so called FB growth hacking and user growth to 1 Billion users. He comes up with a very interesting analogy between Poker and Startups.

“Poker is just an amazing thing. You learn to take risk and you learn to love risk. You learn to make decisions in ambiguity.Its like cycle of a startup condensed in 2 minutes. You start with a hand, its kind of like you start a company with an idea. You have no idea whether its good or not good, because you really have no context and knowing of everything else which is out there, in this case the other hands and in startup’s case all the other companies. You try. You take a bunch of risk. You expend a bunch of capital. Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t, sometimes you win for the wrong reason, sometimes you lose for the wrong reasons, sometimes you win for the right reasons. So its just like a really great teacher of life.
Other thing that I love is I really like to understand people. What makes me reasonable in that game is to my ability to understand people. And anything I can do to refine that skill is time well spent. Poker tends to be great outlet. Also, you meet all these great people, you spend time talking, you debate stuff. 

So for all those playing poker, there is good news.  You might not be wasting your time and just gaining/losing money :) you would be learning emotional balance , eliminating emotions from decision making.  Analyzing risk and reward and learning the art of understanding your competition and people in general.


Basic rules of innovation for aspiring entrepreneurs

How many times it has been that you thought of a cool idea had surge of happiness, googled it and turned away disappointed seeing 100 search results about something similar already done. How many times you come up with some small idea and think, this is not useful and throw it away. Those tiny epiphanies can actually be useful. Its these small ideas which mix together, refine themselves to make something bigger. Sometimes one hackneyed idea leads to inspire another and opens new chain of thought. So don’t let that basic idea welt in darkness but rather make good use of them. Here is how one can be more creative –

1) Write – Maintain Your ideas document 

We never forget ideas we get excited about, concepts we learn by doing and things which irritate hell out of us. They remain as background thread in our multi-processor mind. A lot of times these threads join to culminate into a great idea or new way of doing the same thing. To ensure that you still remember thoughts and ideas you had some 4-5 years ago, write them in a document (Use your smartphone or keep a pen and scratch-pad ). Read the back entries once in a while. With increased knowledge you might be able to connect the dots backward and come up with something significant.

2) Analyse Things which irritate you 

My brother told me this after coming back from his first vacation from college, as told by one of his professors in orientation to Mechanical Engineering as basic rule of innovation. Keep a constant eye on things which irk you. Possibilities are its not just that you who gets irritated by them, but hundreds and millions others as well. Things which are as trivial as shopping to travelling to maintaining expenses. You never know when you might get a new business idea. Shining example of this is – Red Bus , where the founder realized that something needs to be done about bus reservation system in india when he failed to get himself one on Diwali to go to his hometown.

3) Listen to what your users say 

I can’t stress this enough. Working at a job, coding some shit up or already have alpha test of product running? Don’t forget to understand the mindset of your users. Listening to users can a lot of times result in adding new features and or give whole new direction to your product or a new totally new idea. Sometimes they would be explicit and ask for what they need, sometimes a lot of them would be trying to tell you the same thing in subtle way. Learn to develop a third eye because at the end of the day you are making product for a person to use. I myself have interacted with users while making Spellathon and know users can be smarter than you think they are.

4) Share Ideas –  Let Ideas have sex :) 

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” — George Bernard Shaw

When people get together and share ideas, those ideas mesh, combine, and ultimately evolve into new ideas. If you talk to each other, you can ultimately come up with new ideas that are even better than the original. That’s ultimately how the world has developed. There is excellent Ted Talk by Redley about the same. Go to Meetups listen to what people are doing and share yours.

5) Surf and surf a lot ! 

Ideas and knowledge cross your path either big or small while surfing, something which held your attention long give you the ‘aha moment’, save the link. I read hackernews regularly and keep jotting down anything which impresses me enough, widens my knowledge or stuff I would want to explore more about.

6) Have experiences out of your comfort zone 

Widen your experience. Try other disciplines. You will have better realisations and understandings. From designing to travel to eating food. Don’t be afraid to try something small to test idea and fail. You will learn a lot. Failing teaches more Don’t s which in my opinion are more important than the Do’s.

They say.. but what if ?

They say,
Catch the dreams before,
They slip through your hands like a wisp of smoke.
Before they burn your hands,
and burn is all that is left to stare.
What if I want to feel the pain from the burn?
carry the black burnt mark on me,
Be the tainted vagabond,
but not the spotless dove
they want .
They say,
Work your way through the labyrinth of world,
Be the spider of the web,
not the insect struggling in cobwebs,
ready to be feasted upon.
What if I want to be locked in cobwebs for now?
For the cobwebs are my cocoon,
which I will shelve to fly away to my glory,
but not the glory they want.
They say,
stay away from the darkness,
for the soot cannot be washed away,
Be the happy child of the light.
What If I want to be covered in black,
to learn the value of even scintilla of white.
Just stop and stare at the lights
Till my eyes hurt me in delirium,
Pupils so shrunk that I see darkness in the light,
and light in the darkness,
But not the light they want !