2012

This was an interesting year.

Started a company along with two of my best friends – Alagu and Raj. Our startup got selected to YCombinator. That is one heck of a ride.

Wrote lots of code.

Went on outings to Mangalore, Half moon bay, San Francisco,  Goa. I lived in the valley for couple of months. I biked the golden gate bridge. I met a lot of new people. Made new friends. I got together with a lot of my friends from college.

Lived in six different houses.I travelled abroad for the first time. I sailed in a ferry boat for the first time. I drove a car at 140Km/H. I started using metropolitan transport for office commute.

Spent all of my past two years savings and for the first time I could remember, went completely broke.

Have a paunch now and to my embarrassment got it pointed out by a lot of people.

Was way out of my comfort zone for most of the year. I was depressed quite a few times.

Wanted to learn guitar. Have successfully postponed that for one more year.

Repeated the same mistakes I thought I wouldn’t do yet again. Figured I might do them again.

Failed, quite a few times. It hurt.

Was an egoistical asshole quite a few times. That hurt too in hindsight.

Learnt that nothing matters, that each day that I wake up to is new and that I have to be graceful about it.

Just doing what I love could be the best thing I could give myself.

I could say I lived a lot this year.

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Occupy Bangalore

https://www.facebook.com/events/310448432374269
http://www.ibtimes.co.in/articles/350377/20120609/anonymous-protest-india-cyber-law-torrents-webistes.htm

Sure. We don’t like it if some one censored our internet. There will be a social media outrage. We will take government sites down. We will make sure we do everything to preserve our online liberty. We would do an “occupy bangalore” to make things right

BUT.

http://www.ces.iisc.ernet.in/energy/paper/Bangalore_heatisland/results.htm
The city just had its worst of summers. The water bodies are disappearing. Not sure if city could still be called garden city.
Cost of living, rents, food prices – They are only ever increasing.

I am an immigrant to this city. This is also the first and the only city I ever lived in. There was a charm to the city that I feel is slowly being lost. I wish people did an “occupy bangalore” that wanted the city back but not just our freedom to see the sites we want to. That is something I would want to go to.

It is said, things get worse before they get better. I sincerely wish it were true.

A pleasant interlude #1

Off late posts have been rather monotonous. Here is an aberration 🙂

I met her when I was at my work that day. She had long dark hair. She was wearing red tops and a blue jeans. I thought she looked pretty. But then I was working and pretty hard at that. No time for distractions. Ironically, work brought us closer. We had to interact to get stuff done. It was pretty late when we were all done with our work and we ended up going to dinner, along with the rest of the team. Until this point, our conversations were strictly work related.

Then something happened that I totally unexpected. It was quite late and she just had a bicycle to get back to her place and everyone had left. Being a gentleman that I am, I offered to walk her back. Surprisingly, she accepted. Don’t read too much into it. It was a sensible thing to do that late in the night.

“We don’t have to walk. I could ride the bicycle with you on the back”. I can never say yes to that.

“Why, do you think I can’t?” Yes, I thought she couldn’t. But I blushed and beat around the bush.

“Thats bad. We have a cycle, but now both have to walk and its quite some distance.” What other option did I have but to offer to ride it myself.

“Cool!”, she said.

I rode for a while. I hadn’t cycled for more than 3 years. And the cycle was not in perfect condition. With the wind against us, I was struggling. But my ego wouldn’t let me tell I can’t do it. After all if she thought she could do it…

My phone rang. Lucky I thought. We got down, I took my call while signaling her we could walk. There was a smirk on her face. I think she knew I was hoping we would walk. And we continued to walk after I was done with the call. She was talking a lot and I let her do it. Why I liked her talk, I have no idea. And then I said something funny. Not sure what it is now. She laughed…

We reached her place where we had to go separate ways. I bade her good night. Next morning I took a flight back to bangalore. The air hostess might have seen me smile. “Having a nice day sir?”. I smiled some more.

I can’t tell if she was actually interested in me or she was just really social. From my experience its always the latter. I don’t believe in fate, destiny and similar concepts. Neither do I believe in “made for each other” and such stuff that you find in romantic-comedy movies. Its just that something happened that day, something warm and if I get a chance to meet her one more time, I would probably tell her she was quite awesome. I don’t even remember her name right now. All I remember now is that it was a pleasant interlude.

Hacker vs Entrepreneur

Caution: Post written over a period of time.

A hacker is a person who enjoys building cool things not necessarily just related to computers. Pokes around stuff and voids warranty. Not everything a hacker does could be productive. A hacker does something from what she* already knew and learns something new from the experiences, goes on to do newer things with that knowledge.

I believe that there is a hacker in every one. I remember breaking open the numerous toy cars in my childhood just to see what was inside. I know for sure everyone had that curiosity when they were young. To know how things worked from inside. To build stuff. To do stuff. Even though in a playful manner with no real goal/aim. In a way being a hacker is to be be that child again. To get that unadulterated joy of doing stuff.

An Entrepreneur is some one who creates wealth by trying to solve a common problem. The bigger the problem and better the solution, higher is the wealth created. Some one who sees/creates an opportunity and bridges the gap between what is and what could be and fills that gap, making money in the process. I think there is more to the an entrepreneur but I can see this much for certain.

The way I see it, if you are an Entrepreneur, you *should* be a hacker. If you don’t enjoy the stuff that you are doing, if you don’t love building something, it is going to be a very difficult to sell it. But being a hacker does not automatically make you an Entrepreneur. In fact, it is difficult to be a Entrepreneur. One has to do thing one does not love or even like.

So why this post? To find out if it is to be or not to be. The only fool proof way of finding out if something is not meant to be seems to be is to try and learn by failure. Even though the failure is costly, I think _that_ fear of failure should not stop me from doing stuff that I could be doing otherwise.

* she ⊂ { he, she }

Survival

A month or two ago, I lived in a different world. There, survival was not an issue. There I had different issues which seem quite funny now.

It doesn’t matter if we were part of a world’s best startup mentorship program or get featured in a newspaper article. Sure, those are pretty good stuff and not easy to achieve. But it is only a milestone. It is not a destination. Its not worth a dime if we get complacent one bit.

We are still a start-up, which means we are still bound by the basic rule that governs a start up : Every day is about survival. There is no room for complacency, ego or slacking. If anything, it only gets difficult from here. I thought it would end with the demo-day or at least become diminished – all the pressure, fun, failures and successes . To the contrary, it only begins now.

In a start-up, the highs are very big. But so are the lows. The highs show how far you have come. The lows make you stronger.

When I think about it, I only face a fraction of pressure what my founders might face. And I wish I could be more like them.

Quotes:
-. “And you thought you would have fun here, did you ?”
-. “Everything is a mirage, inside is very different from outside. Still a long long way to go.”

One month at Interviewstreet.

Joined InterviewStreet a month back. We are now a fast moving Y-Combinator startup, team of 5 (Anand, Hari, Vivek and Yuvi and myself). And we were featured on Techcrunch.

Following are few of my observations.

  1. Life in a startup is fast. It might sound cliche, but it really is fast.
  2. Customer is the king. One will end up doing what the customer needs. I had tough time adjusting to this. But the truth is, if your code doesn’t sell there is no point if its the best code ever. That said, crappy code doesn’t stay. Do as best as possible and try to write it optimally in the time available. A feature that user does not need or does not understand is not worth developing.
  3. Don’t ever fail on your USP.
  4. Customer support could be your USP. I never realized this before.
  5. No matter how awesome your code is, one single wrong query can screw up your life.
  6. Testing gets a new meaning. Along with speed comes more chances of breaking in production. Make sure to test the way the customer uses your site and not how you want them to use it. Break fast but fix faster.
  7. It was tough saying no to a lot of people. You get almost no time for yourselves in a startup in its high growth phase. Emotionally its a roller coaster.
  8. Sleep is for sissies.
  9. There is definitely a big high in pushing your code to production and seeing a satisfied customer in the next five minutes
  10. The lows are as big as the high’s in a start up and some times it is too overwhelming to handle . Keep the bigger picture in mind that you are trying to change something in this world. If that does not motivate enough, then entrepreneurship is not the answer.
  11. Last but not least, with my heart in programming, its tough to be an entrepreneur. Quite simply it sucks at times. But this is a new experience and I am still getting used to it. Something says, I am going to like it very much

Failures.

I had a fairly easy school and college life.

I was born and brought up from Neyveli, a small town in Tamil Nadu. At school, I was spoon fed and overly encouraged to perform at levels which was not so easy for some one from elsewhere, say a city. I had the great fortune of having excellent teachers, mentors and peers, who made my task well defined and easier. Quoting one of my teachers, “Its so tough to fail the secondary examinations after all the training you kids have had”.

College was not so much very different. Though I consciously didn’t concentrate too much in academia, I ended up spending my time, working on stuff that I loved and excelled in them than most others. I learnt computer science, life skills, attitude from a wide variety of people. While there are many who made it bigger than me at college and thereafter, my mileage in college was unique to some extent and no way less accomplished. I had acquired talent that would get me a good job, friends with whom I going to share most of my future with and most importantly, an urge to do something big with what I loved to do. All this while, I had very limited setbacks. My decisions were easier to make, for I was naive to an extent and I had ample time and direction to make those decisions.

Things have changed. Its no longer an easy ride. There are no longer any simple decisions. There are bridges to burn and in some cases, not the ones I want to burn. There are opportunities I have messed/messing up. I am sure, this phase shall pass and at times I sense, this phase is more self inflicted than otherwise. But the constant uneasiness is new to me and I have a tough time shutting it out. I don’t know what I am trying to achieve by this post for even if there are few of you who might share my quarter life crisis, its no consolation. All is not well that just ends well, the means are equally important if not more.