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3 Critical Questions Technology Professionals Have Before Moving Back to India to A Startup #Smartmove



Critical Questions Technology

Yesterday, Accel partners had an event in Seattle as a follow up to their events in San Francisco and the Bay area. This was a part education and part recruitment event for Indian technology professionals who want to move back to India to work at a startup.

As the Indian startup ecosystem matures, there is a critical need for talent, and what better place to seek it than the startup and technology hubs in the US, where there are a ton of Indians? The SF bay area, Seattle, New York are places where many young Indian technology folks have this ever secret (or not so secret) desire to move back to India.

The challenges, for these professionals, have always been 2 fold so far – a) seeking great quality of work – challenging, innovative and cutting-edge and b) getting fairly compensated for the same.

Or so I thought.

Turns out, the new millennial generation has other questions in mind. These recent entrants coming from India in the last 5-10 years and in their 30’s have very different questions they want to address than the ones the folks in their 40’s and 50’s had.

Which is not surprising, given that they have a more recent perspective on the things happening in India and have likely left for the states in the last few years, after the startup boom has taken over much of the new hiring in India.

Many of them have 3 interesting perspectives which I found out from my discussions with the 30+ people who attended the session yesterday. Some of them are things they learned from their friends, some they read on Facebook and Twitter and the rest they see during their annual visit to India to meet friends and family.

First, they believe that the “startup” boom is largely not real and there is one Flipkart (most of them think they will lose to Amazon in the long term or get bought by them).

Second they believe that the startups themselves are mostly copycats of US technology companies, with very little differentiation and innovation.

Finally they believe that the boom time for startups will be followed by a bust and at that time, in India, getting a job at a larger company, will be much harder.

These, while fair impressions from afar, they speak to how little the perception has changed among the Indian community for startups from India.

Perceptions aside, the main 3 questions I have gotten from younger entrepreneurs since I have moved back are the following:

  1. Which startup should I join? Most of them almost exclusively want to (not judging here) join a “stable startup” – which in itself is an oxymoron, BTW. Parse, through that statement, and the reality is they want a “stable” job at a smaller company than Wipro or Infosys, get paid very well and have a good upside, compared to working at a larger multi-national like Microsoft or Amazon in India. When you ask them what their interests are beyond making money and working on “cool tech”, you will end up getting specific areas of technology, such as drones, block chain, etc.
  2. Is the culture at the startup like an American / global company or still hierarchical like you will find in a large Indian company? Parse through that question, and what they are really asking is will I have the ability to influence decisions and make an impact on the direction and strategy or just be another employee at another startup. Another part of the same question, asked differently is “Will my experience here in the US be respected or will I be told, that’s great, but it does not work here in India”?
  3. What can I expect in terms of pay and benefits? There’s nothing to parse here. They want similar or “identical” pay to what they make here, with the benefits of being at home with family. Yesterday, Dinesh and Narayan from Accel gave them indications that they can expect from 40% – 60% of their pay they are making here in the US as their salary in Bangalore. Their benchmark was dependent on not salaries, but the “value” the employee would bring to the startup founders in India.

If you are an entrepreneur in India, at a later stage of your company and are looking to tap into talent from the US, especially it the areas of product management, engineering or marketing, I’d say these are the top 3 questions you will get – Why should I join your startup (vs. Flipkart, Myntra, Snapdeal etc.)? Will I have an impact in the direction an culture? Will you pay me well and will I have a great upside?

Which is not at all surprising, given that’s the same questions you’d get from Indian employees as well.

Except the employee from India, will likely have expectations of “bonus”, “perks” and a whole host of other benefits, which the US employees will take for granted, I suspect.

The employees from India, though, from my experience order the questions differently.

The first question is of the pay and benefits, the second of stability and the third of “location” – Koramangala vs. Indiranagar or Gurgaon vs. Greater Kailash or Andheri vs. Navi Mumbai is a big deal to them.

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Creating Artificial Constraints as a Means to Innovation




Artificial Constraints

Many of the entrepreneurs I know have created new innovative startups thanks to real constraints they had. For example, I was hearing AirBnB’s Brian Chesky, on the Corner Office podcast and he mentioned that when he and his cofounder were trying to get some money to get started and the only way to keep afloat was to “rent” their air bed they had in their room. That, then led to Air Bed and Breakfast, which is now AirBnB.

This was a real constraint they had – no money to “eat” so they had to make it happen somehow.

I have heard of many stories of innovation where in the protagonists had real constraints of either financial, technology, supply, demand, economic, social or any number of other characteristics.

The interesting story that I have also recently heard of how Facebook has “pivoted” from being a desktop offering to getting a significant part of their revenue from mobile is how they were given the arbitrary constraint of only accessing Facebook via the mobile phone.

So there are ways that you can create “artificial” constraints to force innovation to happen.

Most larger companies and some smaller ones as well, have to constantly find ways to create artificial constraints – to find a way to innovate and be more be a pioneer.

While some constraints are good – lack of funds at the early stage for example and lack of resources, there are entrepreneurs that are stymied by these constraints and those that will find  a way to seek a path to go forward.

I think this is a great way for you to think about innovating in a new space. If you have constraints, find a way to use it to your advantage.

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The Great Mobile App Migration of March 2020




Mobile App Migration

Over the last few weeks as many in the world have been in lockdown, there has been a temporary “mobile app migration” happening. There are new apps downloaded and they replaced existing apps on the “home screen”.

While some of these apps are likely temporary use, for e.g. I have 6 “conferencing apps” – Zoom, Uber Conference, Webex, Google Hangouts, Blue Jeans and Goto Meeting. That is because of the many people I have conference calls with – each company seems to have chosen a different web conference solution.

Other apps seem like they will have staying power – Houseparty, for e.g. which has games, networking and video conferencing all built into one app to keep in touch with friends and relatives.


The apps that have moved away from my “home” screen, which I expect will come back once the crisis will be behind us include – Uber, Lyft and all the airline apps from Delta, Alaska and United.

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Perseverance with the Ability to Pivot on Data: 21 Traits We Look for in Entrepreneurs




Perseverance with the Ability to Pivot

There are 5 key inflection points I have noticed which makes founders question their startup, to either make a call to continue working on their startup, pivot to a new problem or quit their startup altogether.

It is at these points that you really get to know the startup founder and their hunger and drive to be successful. I don’t think I can characterize those that choose to quit as “losers” or “quitters” because of many extraneous circumstances, but there is a lot of value that most investors see in entrepreneurs who face an uphill part of their journey to come out on the other side more confident and stronger.

These five inflection points are:

  1. When you have to get the first customers to use and pay for the product you have built after you have “shipped” an alpha / beta / first version. Entrepreneurs quit because they have not found the product-market-fit – because the customer don’t care about the product, there is no market need, or the product is really poorly built, or a host of other reasons.
  2. When you have to start to raise the first external round of financing from people you are not familiar with at all. Entrepreneurs quit because while it is hard to get customers and hire people, it is much more harder to get a smaller set of investors to part with their money, if you do not have “traction”, or “the right management team” or a “killer product”.
  3. When you have to push to break even (financially) and sustain the company to path of being self sufficient. Entrepreneurs quit at this stage because they have now the ability to do multiple things at the same time – grow revenues and manage costs, and many of them like to do one but realize it is hard to do that without affecting the other. So, rather than feel stuck they decide to quit.
  4. When you have to scale and grow faster that the competition – which might mean to hire faster, to get more customers, to drive more sales, or to completely rethink their problem statement and devise new ways to grow faster. Entrepreneurs quit at this point because they are consumed by the magnitude of the problem. They overassess the impact the competition will have on their company, give them too much credit or focus way too much on the competitors, thereby driving their company to the ground.
  5. At any point in the journey, when the founders lose the passion, vision or the drive to succeed. Entrepreneurs quit a these points because they have challenges with their co founder, they don’t agree with the direction they have to take, or encounter the “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome.

While I have observed many entrepreneurs at these stages at  discrete points in time, I have also had the opportunity to observe some entrepreneurs in the continuum, and I am going to give you my observations on 3 of the many folks I have known, who, have quit.

Perseverance separates great entrepreneurs from good ones
Perseverance separates great entrepreneurs from good ones

One went back to college to finish his MBA after getting a running business to a point of near breakeven, another found the business much harder than he originally thought he would and got a job at a larger company and the third was just unable to have the drive to go past 11 “no’s”‘ from angel investors.

Over the last 8 years, if I look at my deeper interactions with over 90 entrepreneurs, who I would have spent at least 100+ hours each, I would say that of the 24 people that are not longer in their startup, the one thing that stands out among the ones that persevere is that it is not “passion” or “vision” at all.

It is the inherent belief that they are solving a problem that they believe is their “calling”. They also don’t believe that there is any other problem that’s worth solving as much, even though there may be easier ways to make money.

So most of my questions of entrepreneurs to test whether they will pivot or quit are around why they want to solve this problem (which I am looking to see if they know enough about in the first place) versus any other one.

The answer to that question is the best indicator I have found to be the difference between the pivots, the leavers and the rest.

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