General Thinking

On Carrying On…

In an experiment that was conducted in the 1960’s two dogs were placed in two separate cages. Each dog then received a series of electric shocks to their hind legs at the same time. The first dog’s cage was fitted with a pad which it could push with its nose and stop the electricity. The electricity would stop for both dogs. The first dog learnt to push the pad; the second dog had no choice.

After conducting the same test 25 times, the dogs were put in different cages. This time they were subject to sharp sound. While the first dog tried to find a way to stop it, the second dog lay on floor whimpering and waiting for the sound to stop.

The second dog had learned hopelessness.


All of us in life are faced with the same probabilities. On odds all of us face the same number of successes and failures. The order in which they arrive may vary.

Let us try a problem in permutation and combination.

S = Success

F = Failure

If I gave you 4S’ and 4F’s, in how many ways can you arrange them?

I am sure there would be one arrangement that goes – FSFSFSFS; and one that goes FFFFSSSS.

The two stories end up separating optimists from pessimists.


What often separates optimists from pessimists is hope. Further, it is the willingness to attribute failure to factors that are temporary and can be changed, whether internal or external that makes someone an optimist.

Pessimists often assume that the failure is due to reasons which are permanent and stop trying. In their case, failure becomes a self-fulfiling prophecy.


Focus on your self-talk. The seeds of what your life looks like today lie within it. If you think the reasons for your failure are temporary, you will change something and believe in yourself and you will persist.

It gives you the strength to carry and to find success.

Keep fighting.

Entrepreneurship General Thinking

Belief is the most valuable currency for a startup

If the owner of a pharmaceutical company that produces Vitamin tablets; says that he believes that Vitamin tablets are a very important source of nutrients for the body and he eats the tablets everyday.

Do you think, he really believes it?

He may or he may not, you can’t tell.

His beliefs are within him.

But do YOU really believe that it helps? Within yourself you should be able to tell for certain. No? Let us say that you do not believe what the man is saying.

I would like to bring to your attention, a recent study that indicates that over the past century the availability of vitamin tablets has increased the quality of life and helped increase life expectancy amongst individuals. In the early 1900’s, life expectancy at birth was 31 years, these alternative nutrients have increase life expectancy to 67 years. The lack of access to these medicines has meant that in parts of interior Africa, life expectancy is still close to 40 years.

Life Expectacy

Source : Wikipedia

Now what do you think?

Are you at least questioning yourself?



The study that I just quoted was made up! I connected various pieces of data to spin this story.

The truth of the matter is that no matter how strong your belief might be, that belief can be easily influenced by information that someone else offers. So our beliefs are not set in stone.

In my experience, belief often separates success from failure. Hence it is the most valuable currency that anyone can bring to a startup. More valuable than any skill or money. A strong belief makes you push and try to achieve things that others would not. This is what separates the ordinary from the extra-ordinary.

During a startup journey you will come across challenges that at first glance might seem insurmountable. If you have strong belief in what you are doing, you will find a way to make it work.

Doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever can.

I have always maintained that when Steve Jobs came back to Apple he brought this one important ingredient to Apple. He brought belief to Apple. He brought a belief that a world with Apple is better than a world without. All the great, talented and gifted people at Apple were able to rally behind that belief. Look what they have achieved.

P.S. – When I talk about belief I am referring to WHAT you seek to achieve, not HOW. The how will keep changing based on how the market responds.

General Thinking


“One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.”

I love this quote from ‘Kung Fu Panda’. I have seen this quote to be true on so many levels and in so many situations.

Nobody likes to fail and failure is not a very pleasant experience. But some of the best learnings come only out of failure. Despite this we all fear failure, it is imbibed in us by society and years of being told not fail. I would like to know one person who went back from school and said, ‘Mom, I failed the test today’ and received a response which went like, ‘Great! So what did you learn from it’.

It often happens that the fear of failure is on top of an entrepreneurs mind and it causes them to make decisions in order to NOT fail. They do things that seem safe and not risky because failure would come at a cost.

Instead, as an entrepreneur it is important to make decisions to succeed.

What is the difference??

Take coding for example; if you are looking to succeed you will make all the mistakes and break the code as many times as possible till you succeed.

If you are coding not to fail, you will only do the most obvious things that you are sure would compile. You will never want your code to fail. In the process, you may never find the more optimised and brilliant solution that was always there within you.

As you keep writing code, which keeps failing, you understand the issue at a more fundamental level, you understand what works and what does not. You understand interdependencies better, which may not be described like an equation, but your mind is clear about it. This insight allows you to do things that others cannot.

Failure is merely experience that helps perfect you!

But you need to fall before you learn to walk and it is only then that you learn to run.

General Thinking

Ramblings on Perseverance

Steve Jobs is considered one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our times. He was involved in three ventures, Apple, Next and Pixar; of which two can be considered bonafide successes. Next was more of an acqui-hire and we really do not know if it would have been a hit, stand-alone.
But if we were to consider the other two enterprises; Pixar was eventually acquired by Disney making Steve Jobs the largest shareholders in Disney. Apple, well I do not think that I need to detail that out.
Pixar was one of the biggest bets which Steve Jobs made post Apple. For those who love to study pivoting, Pixar made the mother of all pivots going from being a high end computer maker to being a animated movie studio. The value that they were able to unlock through the pivot was extraordinary.
Roll back to 1994, all of the three ventures that I have mentioned above seemed to be on the verge of failure. Apple had not delivered a single hit in a long time (agreed Steve himself was not a part of the company). Pixar had successfully chewed through $50 Million and there was little to show expect for a Disney deal to distribute the movies it made, and it is said that Steve Jobs himself was looking to sell the venture. Next had faced failure upon failure and the entire tech world was certain that the latest operating system which the company had been developing was not going to be any match to Windows.
It was sheer perseverance which pulled these ventures out of the abyss that they had got themselves into. The patience to wait and see through the release of Toy Story in 1995 changed the fortunes of Pixar. Next was bought by Apple and Steve Jobs embarked on a slow an painful march towards revitalising Apple and putting out products that the consumers would love to use and admire.
I write about Steve Jobs because I have read plenty about him; although the same argument can be made for some of the biggest successes in business including Richard Branson, Thomas Edison, Sam Walton, Bill Marriott, and many more… More than anything else, it is pure perseverance that has resulted in these successes.
I feel creating a business is like preparing a dish whose recipe you do not know. So if you add a thought like “Fail Fast” to the mix what is going to be the likely outcome? The idea is to iterate with the absolute minimum ingredients to be able to realise whether a model works or not; ‘Fail Fast’ is by far the worst term coined to describe this. ‘Iterate fast and learn from failure’ should be the actual term that should be used.
Don’t put everything that you have at risk, the first time around.
Develop a business on the basis of firmly grounded insights.
Don’t give up if you fail. If you had to give up, might as well have not started in the first place.
It is not wrong to fall, it is wrong to not get up after the fall. It breaks the human spirit.
General Thinking

Things to remember before heading down the path of Entrepreneurship

Last week, we hosted the Startups Club meetup at Chennai. We were fortunate to be joined by Mr. J Krishnan for the meeting who shared some of the wisdom that had been shared with him by the likes of Kanwal Rekhi. I just made a note of them and put them together in this blog.


You are alone in this journey. During some the hardest times faced by an entrepreneur, there is invariably nobody around to fall back upon. In fact many problems are such, that even if others wished to help you, there would not be much that they would be able to do. An entrepreneur should be able to cope with the emotional needs by himself.

The only thing certain is uncertainty. One of the entrepreneurs said “Morning I am up and upbeat and evening down in the dumps”. Your promotion will not be pulled back next evening unless you do something rather questionable. Client can refuse to sign up for no apparent reason whatsoever. You should have a heart that is strong in order to be a entrepreneur.

Failure is not bad. Failure is to your credit. Just as any job experience contributes to the experience that you have gained in the period, a failed venture or a failed pitch is just contributing to your experience. Don’t make decisions with the fear of failure in mind. It is important to leave the fear aside at all times.

Execution is more important than all else. You might have the greatest idea at hand, but unless you realise what you are dreaming up, it will remain just that, an idea. It is important to make sure that you execute and do that to perfection. Getting too bogged down with vision setting and activities of the sort at the initial stages, is not going to take you far. Your product may flip 7 times before it hits the market. Have a goal in mind and execute tirelessly to reach that.

You get early insight on customer needs if you start meeting customers before your product is even finished. Customers are the best people who can help guide your product or service into a shape that they want. Gets your validation. In the process you may find your first customer.

Entrepreneur is at all points of time a salesman. You have a story which you have to be constantly telling at all times. You have to live the business that you are looking to build each moment. You are the biggest asset that your company has got and the work that you put in initially is what is going to reflect in terms of value when you go in to raise money.

Belief is needed in order to get converts. Three beliefs that are essential for an entrepreneur. Belief in yourself, belief in your company and belief in the product or service which you are building.


Business is all about Trust

I had put this topic down a long time time back. I had wanted to write about this subject, but it is probably better that I write about it now.

It is better that I write about it now because of what has happened with a small company called Healbe. Healbe is a small startup that decided to crowd fund a device that they were developing called GoBe. The device what supposed to be able to calculate your calories, hydration, stress, and many more things. You can find the campaign that they had put up on Indiegogo here.

Everything was going good, they were on the way to a Million dollar funding campaign, when trouble began to brew. First they were not able to trace the business or the business people. Then many of the experts began to question the claims that the company was making. Some of them said it was “bullshit”. And today, people have started asking for their money back, because they no longer trust the company.

The money made its way in because of trust and is now beginning to make its way out because of distrust!

For any business small or big, “TRUST” plays a massive role in how the business is perceived and how well it is able to do. A consumer or client puts money on the table because they are willing to trust that the product or service that a person is selling would perform as promised.

If that trust is lost, there is no way that a business is going to be able to survive.

General Thinking

Reason to Start early with Entrepreneurship

Life is an evolutionary journey. As we go through life, we mature; and as we mature, our needs increase. Entrepreneurship is also a journey, a journey that few individuals feel motivated to embark on.

So, in life, as our needs increase, the resources that we require to meet these needs also increase. When it comes to entrepreneurship, commitment is paramount and an individual is in a position to provide a high level of commitment when their needs are low. This is the primary reason that one must embark on the entrepreneurial journey early in life.

It also allows room for making mistakes, falling and gathering yourself up again when things don’t work out. The later you attempt entrepreneurship, the higher the risks tend to be.

Further as I had mentioned in an earlier post, ignorance is important for success. Ignorance allows a person to take risks because they are unaware of the consequences of the risk. When risks pay off, we see great successes.

So, if you are going to take a risk, might as well, take it as soon as possible.

General Thinking

Knowledge Vs Success

The Intuitively Assumed Knowledge Success Curve


It is often assumed that as your knowledge increases, you become more successful. If there is a particular subject about which you have greater and greater knowledge, you would assume that you would be more accomplished in that area and hence more successful as well. Let us say you played cricket and the more you learn about the game (I am assuming knowledge increases through practice), the more you would expect to be successful in the game, is it not?

The actual Knowledge Success curve

Knowledgecureve real

In reality, the success that you achieve grows exponentially after you reach a certain critical mass. Therefore, many times you feel that you are ploughing away at a problem continuously without getting much in terms of success or breakthroughs. It is important to reach the inflection point, when things start changing for you. When you reach that point, you always end up thinking; “Why didn’t I do that before?”

As an entrepreneur it is important to keep scraping away at the problem, keep working on it continuously and relentlessly. You will never know where the inflection point lies but perseverance invariably pays off.

General Thinking

Importance of Ignorance to Success

I had a wonderful day today listening to some of the most accomplished people speak about their lives experiences and inspire the rest of us in the audience during the TiE Summit. I loved the talk by Paul Deegan. It was interesting to hear a mountaineer make some of the most insightful points about business.

Paul Deegan used his own story to bring out, how ignorance is needed to be successful.

When Steve Jobs quit Apple he said “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” It was during this time that he got involved with Pixar and changed the animation industry forever and for better. One of the greatest asset that Steve had with Pixar was that he did not know much about the film industry. This fact alone helped him define his boundaries in ways that others within the industry would never have thought. His ignorance was his greatest asset.

When you have a great deal of knowledge about something, you also know the risk of failure. This knowledge alone keeps you from achieving success. You tend to fear failure and avoid taking risks that you would otherwise have taken.

Paul also said that “some of the greatest insights that you get about a product or an industry come from people who do not have the slightest clue about what they are talking”.

I have noticed this often when working with students as a part of the mentoring that we do. They seem to show utter disregard for industry structures, prevailing modus operandi, etc. Their ignorance serves them well. They have the willingness to take great risks and the consequences of failure is not very harsh. This is main reason, I believe more and more businesses should be born out of universities.

I really hope that we can successfully achieve this goal in the days and years to come.