All posts by Mukund Mohan

My discipline will beat your intellect

The best solution to monitor and manage your kids Internet usage at home

We have 4 kids and there’s not a day that goes by without a debate on the pros and cons of “monitoring” and “managing” their Internet usage.

We have not had a television for years, but the older two have phones and every one of us has our own notebook. The notebooks were for essays, homework and the like, but I know everyone of us watches some videos and my son is hooked on Minecraft and my daughter on Youtube.

Meet Circle at home
Meet Circle at home

So, when my friend Sachin, recommended Meet Circle I went over to see a demo video and ordered one in a minute.

It is a small device, that connects to your WiFi device and monitors and enforces policies for Internet usage for all devices.

I ordered it on Monday, it costs $106 with taxes and I received it today.

It took me 4 minutes to setup. I had to connect the device to the Power Outlet, then download the app.

After dual authentication using my phone, the app “identified” devices connected to the WiFi router and I was able to set policies on YouTube, Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, MineCraft, etc.

Absolutely wonderful, simple to use and I’d highly recommend it.

In fact the best part is I have setup policies for myself as well. I wont be on the Internet between 10 pm and 430 am.

It is pretty secure, in fact and I tried to hack my way around it multiple times and failed.

Buy one now if you have kids.

What makes you unique to customers wont be sufficiently distinct to recruits

Although the funding market is getting tighter, there are enough companies getting early stage and follow on funding, to create a strong demand for good talent.

In most of the privately held companies I know of, there is a strong need to hire 3-5 developers for each “other” role they hire. Marketing and Design roles are next, followed by Sales.

Most hiring managers at smaller firms I talk to are finding it very hard to hire good folks in this market. The experienced talent (even if they are willing to pay top $) is pretty happy at their current roles, is what I hear constantly.

Many cite good pay, good benefits and great work environment as the key things they offer, but that’s largely insufficient to attract the best people.

On the other hand, the top companies have enough inbound interest from developers and other talent, not because they made it to be a “great place to work”, but because they are attracting a self selecting group of people based on their culture.

What culture is and is not at a startup is fairly hard to understand and express.

I know this: The more unique your culture (good or bad) the more self selecting the kind of people you attract will be.

What makes a company unique for potential employees is not the same as what makes it unique for customers or investors.

A customer wants uniqueness in capabilities, features, etc.

An investor wants uniqueness in technology, distribution etc.

A potential employee wants uniqueness in mission, vision and purpose.

Pay, benefits, compensation, work flexibility are all assumed to be good and table stakes now.

Your culture and how the stories are told around your culture are the things that will attract the self selecting group to apply and want to work for your company.

As an example take HubSpot’s response to the piece by an ex employee.

Their culture attracts a certain type of employee, who would not like to work at another software company for example.

Similarly Jeff Bezos’s response to the New York Times piece was also a defense of their unique culture.

As a founder, I’d spend more time working on creating a unique and different culture which attracts potential employees via word-of-mouth.

Remember, though that what makes your product, technology and company unique wont likely attract potential employees. What makes your culture distinct will.

How do people get jobs at “hot startups”?

This is a question I get asked every week. There’s not a week without an email or a LinkedIn message from a person who’d like some career advice and an introduction to a “hot” startup that’s hiring.

Most of the folks I know, understand that their “large” company is not growing as fast and providing them opportunities as quickly as they’d hoped to grow.

Hot startup looking to hire
Hot startup looking to hire

I get one of 3 questions:

  1. Can you please introduce me to some “hot” startups? The people who work in bigger companies don’t want to take a lot of risk, so they mean “well funded” and “growing well” when they say “hot”.
  2. Can you suggest a few “fast growing” companies that I can join? Friends who work at smaller, lesser know and slower growing companies would like names of some good companies and hopefully an introduction there.
  3. Do you know anyone at a good startup that’s hiring?

These 3 questions are the hardest to answer.

The best suggestions I have had so far are for my friends to:

a) Look at AngelList jobs

b) Network with their previous colleagues and managers who know them well, so they can vouch for them

or

c) Work on their LinkedIn profile so their profiles shows up for the keywords that recruiters are searching for.

The real answer is that most “hot” startups get a lot more people interested in them than the people they can accept.

So, the bar is fairly high.

To join a hot startup, you need to

a) be referred, by someone in that company who can vouch for your quality

b) be recruited by a head hunter with a mandate to hire for that position quickly

c) get introduced by someone the hiring manager trusts and believes has a high bar for talent.

Most startups post about 70-80% of the jobs (anecdotal information) they are looking to fill.

Finding out the unlisted positions and the executive positions, you have to be an insider – either know the hiring manager or the someone in the senior leadership team.

So, the best advice I have is

  1. Make a list of companies by categories, such as SaaS, Cloud Infrastructure, etc. which you think will do well.
  2. Go to Angel List to find out if they are hiring. Apply there
  3. Then go to LinkedIn to find out who can connect you to the hiring manager
  4. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and your title, and keywords that a recruiter might enter while looking for candidates. The keywords need to be Buzzword compliant unfortunately, so make sure you say Growth Hacker, not Marketing Manager, etc. I know this is lame, but in talking with 4-5 of my recently hired colleagues, this matters a lot

What does a PC do and how is it being replaced?

Global PC shipments fell almost 10% in Q1 to less than 65 Million for the first time since 2007.

The total installed base of PCs and desktop computers (consumer and business) is over a billion, whereas mobile phones are at 6+ Billion and smartphones at over 2 Billion.

Most people who wanted to buy a Personal computer have probably purchased it already.

Businesses are replacing PC’s now every 5 years instead of 3 and consumers are replacing their mobile phones every 2 years, skipping the PC altogether.

Most new home owners are buying an Alexa or a Smart Television instead of a PC.

The replacement cycle for televisions is now 5 years worldwide and 4 years in the US. Which means that the average television will get replaced faster than the average PC.

The PC was both, a consuming and a producing device.

Since the consuming has largely shifted to the phone, the PC tends to be used more for producing (writing, developing, etc).

That means both for the home and the business, the % of time the PC gets used has reduced on average by 20-30%.

Which means your PC should last you 20%-25% more than before.

This does not look too good for PC manufacturers overall. In the mobile-first, cloud-first world, the PC is becoming a device similar to the bread maker- most homes dont need one and can make do with an oven instead of a specialized appliance.

Facebook at work – Is it for Collaboration, Communication or Content Sharing?

I have talked to individuals from 2 companies that are trialing Facebook at Work. They were not on #slack before and were not using Sharepoint or Yammer, so this was a new experience for both the individuals I spoke with.

One company uses a hosted version of Exchange, and another, much smaller, use Google Apps.

I was curious as to what they use Facebook at Work for, and how that changes “work”.

FB@Work
FB@Work

The smaller company uses it similar to how many companies use Yammer (Internal social network) or Slack. Mostly for sharing updates (infrequently) and still found that most people were still using email more than Facebook at Work. They did however find that internal calls / video and otherwise were easier with FB@Work.  Which to me, indicates that conference calls, video chats, etc, will likely migrate from Skype, Google Hangouts and other conferencing solutions to Facebook@Work with larger adoption.

The larger company had Sharepoint, but were using it largely as a “hosted file sharing system” than an “Intranet” – remember that term?

A few people had downloaded the mobile app for FB@Work, but many were still checking their FB account (personal) more frequently than the FB@Work.

I have seen that in many other companies as well – large and small. People tend to use what they are used to – Even though Slack is getting good traction, I think they are likely in a lot of trouble, if FB@Work gets faster adoption.

HR organizations seemed to like FB@Work more, apparently since the larger company I spoke with, was trying to recruit more younger folks, who have a natural desire and tendency to adopt mobile first solutions for “keeping in touch with the office”.

So, who will likely be the winners and losers if FB@Work gets massive adoption?

First, I think, it is going to take at least 3-5 years for the product to get meaningful (100+ Million) users. Primarily because most companies still want to be sure about their security and privacy concerns. The real adoption barriers will be central IT teams, not users.

The winners: Smaller apps, that build connectors to FB, similar to SlackBots etc.

The losers: Intranet solutions, corporate Instant Messaging products and Cloud Storage products will all be fair game to get displaced, is my bet.

What do you think?

Hindsight Bias: Focus less on outcomes and more on the process

Discipline
Discipline

Most every serial entrepreneur will tell you to focus on the process and discipline (building a great product, iterating collecting customer feedback), not on the outcomes (getting sold, going IPO or raising funding).

Process (or approach) is the methodology to achieve something.

Outcome is the result.

Outcomes are decided by various factors, some within your control and others outside. Luck for example.

Most people outside the startup tend to focus on outcomes. “Wow, you got sold”, “Whoa you raised a lot of money”.

Inside your startup the only thing you need to focus on is the process.

If you have a great outcome, without a great process, it is likely luck and not easily repeatable.

If, however, you have a bad outcome and have a process, you can revisit your process and tweak it to ensure better outcomes.

A strong process is a guarantee — not of outcome or results, but of the highest probability of obtaining desired results.

Barry Ritholtz

Using technology to reduce cost of living vs. major life costs

Eli tries to address a good question on “How can we use technology to reduce poverty”? In this he proposes that the 3 major costs are housing, food and transportation.

I think that’s short term, though.

The major cost of “living” is actually education – or costs to educate a child.

If you ask anyone that has kids they will tell you that besides home and food the only thing they are saving for is kids education.

To raise a child costs about $500K in the US. The cost in the first 16 years is  a “nominal” $150K to the $250K+ spent on their higher education and then another $100K for their wedding.

Using technology to reduce the cost of education is being tried, for e.g. with MOOC’s, but there’s a lot we can do to make it much less expensive.