Of Startups and other silly things.
I had this little chat with Kush a few days back.
- Me = Diwank
- Kush = My close friend at school. We were at EXUN together.
- EXUN = An awesome tech club at school. //exunclan.com
- ‘We Not I’ = Our motto at EXUN
sorry, was having a nice breakfast.
Way too nice, I guess.
me: Ok. Now let’s get to the point.
me: Why do you want to apply to YC?
Kush: I dont know man, for the experience?
plus, you get to meet like minded people
me: Good start. There are two things I need to say:
-Yes, it’s going to be a hell of an experience.
trust me when I say, the only way to learn is to dive right in.
Kush: Yes, I’m learning that the hard way
me: To build something, you need to build something.
-And the second thing, NO. This is not about experience.
Why do I say that?
Kush: I don’t know
me: Because startups are hard.
Kush: Well, agreed you have to be everything from the janitor to the CEO
me: For a long time, the same thing struck me but the folly is that still doesn’t sound that hard, does it?
it sounds like EXUN.
Kush: Haha, yeah
me: But the reality is more like a …
let me think.
Um.. A slaughterhouse.
me: You work like an ass.
And there is no guarantee that you’ll go anywhere.
The success rate for a startup is more like 5%
Kush: Yeah, but I’ve realised that persistence
shoots that rate up
me: Just FIVE.
No, persistence is the character of THOSE FIVE PERCENT
Kush: Oh, crap yes you’re right
me: Okay, so let’s relax a little now.
Why I said all that dreary bit, is because we need commitment.
me: you can ONLY start a startup if you truly truly have to.
If there is no other way.
Kush: good thing you used the word have and not want
me: We can’t do it as an experience
Kush: Aiye aiye captain
me: We can’t take it as something like an internship.
That’s why all the above crap.
Though there’s one thing I missed out in all that.
Friends make it better.
Kush: See, but now the question is
we can apply
but, what’re we going to do?
me: Listen Kush,
-Ideas are not important AT THIS STAGE.
-so here’s the deal:
are you willing to leave everything else?
Kush: yeah man
me: Really? Think again.
no school, no side projects?
Kush: i can’t leave right now
you understand that
me: Of course/
so let me make things easier
Kush: if we get through, it’s a no brainer
me: -Find a reason.
Not ‘if we get through’
Should be ‘even if we have to bootstrap’
me: That is the Minimum Viable Spirit required
Kush: Agreed, this isn’t just about YC
me: See, this is something very valuable I learnt since the last time we chatted.
Startups are a key.
a key to freedom.
You get to build whatever you want.
You get to exercise your passion.
You get to make people happy.
The financial bit is like a programmed side effect.
If you persist, people will repay you.
Kush: I guess so
me: All this to help you see how I have come to see things.
this is not supposed to intimidate you.
Kush: no, i know man
me: Best bit is: That bit of commitment is already there from me.
-I don’t really have a college to lose. :P
-But basically, I don’t really care as long as I get that freedom
I don’t know if you saw that but Exun was always that for me.
Kush: Yeah, you loved it
me: I didn’t really care if I would be the President someday.
All that mattered was the freedom to learn and create
I never ever had that kind of thing before in my life
Creating things is in my genes somewhere.
Kush: yeah, lol
you keep changing your website
Hahaha. Pointlessly though. :P
Kush: doesn’t matter
me: Okay now, if we can convey to YC:
-A solid team (which can constantly evolve)
-And a killer belief in helping people
WE ARE IN.
Do you use git?
Kush: I can if i have to
but i dont like it honestly
Do you use any other version control?
Kush: i just know of git
me: Good. See here’s the difference.
I learnt of version control right when I was right in the middle of a mess with my IHeartPy codebase.
To me it was a blessing.
From a guardian angel.
So I have (again!) two more things to say:
-Go build something. Anything.
-Figure out why you built that.
And no don’t go right now.
Kush: Oh, sorry
me: We’re still chatting :D
I’m interning for free
for this small start up
and they keep shifting me
first from Java for Android
to plain Beta testing
Kush: and now i have to manage their web site
me: Shit Happens.
Kush: and sad part is they’re not even paying me
and they send me condescending emails
haha, i mean not literally but you know what i mean
me: I empathize. But think about it. That’s what startups are.
they have to hack the system to get past the shitty bits
And one more thing:
-Tushant is not doing this now.
Kush: okay, why?
me: (He realized the level of commitment was way too high for all practical purposes)
Kush: hmm, okay
me: And he’s right.
Kush: btw when we’re done with our application we can send it to this senior i know
he went through YC last to last semester
me: That’d be amazing.
oh and another thing,
Sitanshu is in.
-crazy like me
he’s into design.
Now here’s why him:
Kush: well, he’s an architect
me: -He’s crazy
Kush: explains his design sense
me: -He has a bigger level of commitment than me.
(He dropped out of college to do his own thing)
-Freelancing these days
me: -And most importantly, he is highly stable.
Kush: what do you mean by that? O.o
me: in the sense that he has seen worse things happen and has a cooler head than most people can afford
Kush: oh okay
me: Gooood sounded just right.
Kush: hahaha, sorry
i dont want people to think
i’m all Californian or something
Hold on a sec.
Do you have a copy of Bootcamp Bootleg?
me: Yup. Keep one with you. (a printout)
me: now let’s start again.
-we need an idea
so let’s ask people
(it’s not as simple as it sounds though)
for two reasons:
-people aren’t very good at figuring out what they want
-they are too used to bad things
so make it easier for them. How?
It’s all over the bootcamp.
(they obsess over it)
Which is why we need to too.
(obsess over it)
Kush: sorry, i’ll be right back
Kush: I’M BACK
sorry i’m back
me: Caps lock woes.
Kush: haha, yeah
So we need ideas. We have a few in our heads
(note: in our heads)
and they don’t cut it, yet.
So we go out and ask people ‘suggestively’
“how can technology help you?”
Simple, sweet, done.
Kush: I dont know
wait, let me clear my head out
Ok, so we need a scalable idea?
me: Scalable = bullshit
Because we don’t yet know what will scale.
me: We need an idea that ‘helps people’
(and that people really need)
Then we iterate
and make it into something so that people can repay us
Kush: okay, also something that we would like to use ourselves
me: Something that we use is a good idea.
but I think we still ought to try the above exercise FIRST
me: Here’s what I propose
-Each of us goes to people we know with printouts of a questionnaire ( a reallly short one )
-we get their thoughts (at the expense of making a fool of ourselves)
Kush: I dont know, how many people?
me: as many as possible.
what do you say?
Kush: I mean i think we should decide what kind of people we would like to serve
me: Definitely. ;)
But I think personal discretion would work just fine here.
shall I call it done then?
but still, what kind of people do you hope to serve?
me: Anybody. You choose. In fact, given three of us, as much diversity of ideas the better.
so really, anybody would do fine.
Kush: yes, sorry i’m here
just went to the bathroom :P
you know my brother came up with an idea
me: Ok. Go on.
Kush: i dont want to sound weird/elitist or anything but
people have trouble looking for domestic help
they have to ask their neighbours, other people they know and get drivers who claim they can cook
me: Good point. jot it down.
Kush: So, he came up with an idea to link people directly to the help
you’ll need camps to register people on the website
me: Or even better: make it work over text messaging.
something like airbnb for domestic helps
Can you hold on a sec?
A simple questionnaire. (Too simple in fact)
You can use this for the interviews.
Kush: See, there are already companies that do what my brother proposed, but they are hard to work with, charge a huge fees
and aren’t web based
we do it for free
me: I’ll be back in a moment.
me: : http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7849693/Startup%20Funding%20Questions.doc
This one’s an acid test
For every idea.
So where was I?
Kush: I forgot
me: Yup, you have a great idea.
Kush: my brother
me: But, two things (yet again):
-That idea needs to go through the acid test.
-You need a truckload of such ideas.
Kush: It does pretty well
me: Again, let me repeat.
“Torrent of ideas will wash over you.” You need to do a good job to grab all of them.
Then you put them through the test.
you nurture them, then rank them.
Then we, as all practicalists would do, pick the best.
Kush: okay, so do we follow a timeline?
me: for the next week, we devote ourself to: ideation.
by next week we grab ‘em all.
At the end of each day, perform the test on each one of them.
On the last day, we pool them.
and rank them.
and finally pick a winner.
Kush: okay, agreed
me: Ok then. Let’s do this. With full steam.
me: starting tomorrrow.
Last thing, I’ll patch you up with Sitanshu very soon.
Kush: yeah, perfect
me: He’s a great guy to hang out with.
and one more thing, can I blog this entire conversation?
could be helpful to a lot of people.
Kush: yeah, i dont mind, just that our ideas are important
me: We’ll see at the end of this week.
me: plus, have faith in us.
We not I.
Kush: Haha, yeah
We, not I
Take care. Bye.
Kush: See you