Monday 30 January 2023

2 most important skills that every founder must learn

2 most important skills that every founder must learn.

I see so many founders who are great at Engineering and can hack their way through any kind of Technology quite easily. In fact, I was like that in college where I did my undergrad in Computer Science and Engineering.

However, now I don't actively write code anymore.


Because my startup needs me more for other things.

What other things?

Here are the 2 of them:

1. Acquiring more customers
2. Building a great team

My job as an entrepreneur is to build a system that generates profits. Who will pay the money for these profits? Customers. And who will serve these customers? The team.

That's it. If I can do these 2 things really well, I don't have to worry about anything else. Essentially, every Founder must learn 2 skills:

1. Sales
2. Recruiting

And then repeat it again, and again, and again. Every single day. Acquire more customers. Build a great team. Acquire more customers. Build a great team.

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

Sunday 29 January 2023

Get Cofounders who are opposites.

Get Cofounders who are opposites.


Many college entrepreneurs team up with their friends to start a startup. Unfortunately in many such situations (including mine), we end up partnering with our friend who is exactly like us - they'll also know programming, same college, same batch, and have similar skills. Today, for instance, I met 2 friends trying to do a tech startup and both are CAs.

This is the easiest recipe for disaster. Let's understand why.

To run a startup, you need a bunch of different skills - Engineering, Product Management, Sales, Customer Support, Recruitment, etc. When 2 friends, who are similar, start together, they bring in 1 or 2 skills very well to the table. But what's missing is the other skills. For instance, when 2 Software Engineers start together, they'll be able to build cutting-edge technology. But none of them would know how to take it to the market and make a sale.

This is where the problem lies when it comes to partnering with Cofounders who are your college friends from the same branch and have a similar skillset as yours.

I made the same mistake when I started Cogno AI (my startup) back in 2017. My former cofounder was a friend from IITB CSE. We both were great at technology. We both had similar strengths and similar weaknesses. Needless to say, our partnership didn't work and we could not get the startup off the ground. He eventually left after a year, trying to pursue something else.

When my former cofounder left, I got my friend Harshita to join me as a co-founder. In the 1 year that I did business with my former cofounder, customers had started to know me and at the same time, none of them knew Harshita. So Harshita and I divided the roles. I looked at all the customer-side stuff. She looked at all the internal stuff.

So basically I became the face of the company in front of the customers and she worked in the backend, providing all the necessary support once the customer was onboarded. That worked like a charm and we could scale the Business to multiple millions of dollars in revenues.

In fact, personality-wise also, Harshita and I are very different. For example:

1. I'm a huge risk-taker. She is very conservative.
2. I speak a lot. She speaks less.
3. I am really active on Social Media. She is not that active.
4. I love talking to the outside world. She prefers to not do that.
5. I look at the big picture. She is great at attention to detail.

Needless to say, we both form a great team because of our complementary skills and personalities. We both joke with each other that if both of us were like us, we would have gambled the company away, and if both of us were like her, the company wouldn't have started in the first place.

This balance helps us a lot. Whenever a crucial decision is to be taken, we both are able to evaluate the upside and downside really well. This ensures that we take the right decisions.

While the Founders of a Startup must have complementary skills, it is important that the vision is aligned in the same direction so that all the Founders can work together towards the common goal of building the Business.

What's your skillset and does your cofounder carry a complementary skillset?

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

Saturday 28 January 2023

The importance of a Cofounder Agreement.

The importance of a Cofounder Agreement.

I started my startup in April 2017 with a friend of mine from college. We both were good friends and knew each other for about 4 years. We started on a positive note. Incorporated a company and had an equal 50/50 stake in the business.

Later, we got incubated at SINE, the IIT Bombay Startup incubator. SINE invests a small amount of money against a small amount of stake and helps startups get off the ground by providing them guidance, mentorship and access to investors. We got incubated at SINE in June 2017.

As a process, SINE asked us to mandatorily sign a Cofounder Agreement. My co-founder and I were less than a few months out of college and so, we didn't really realize the value of that agreement. But we had to do that as a process of SINE incubation.

We quickly did a Google Search for the Cofounder Agreement format, went through it and started customizing it to our requirements. One of the clauses talked about a Lock-in period. Both of us were naive and so, we didn't really go through it in detail. Here is the clause:

"The Founders hereby agree that the shares held by them in the Company shall be locked in for a period of [*] years (“Lock-in Period”) from the Execution Date. The Founders and the Company hereby agree to take such steps as may be required to give effect to the provisions of this Clause."

Here, the [*] was to be filled by both of us. We both decided that 2 years is a good enough timeframe and so, we made it 2 years and filled in the rest of the details in the agreement and signed it and submitted it to our incubator.

This agreement was signed on the 29th of July 2017, 3 months after we incorporated our startup. Fast forward to the 6th of August 2018, slightly more than a year after signing the Cofounder Agreement, my cofounder decided to quit. He owned ~50% of the shares of the company when he quit.

Only and only because of the above clause, I could save that. Otherwise, I would be forced to lose 50% of the company to a cofounder who quit barely after a year of starting up.

That incident taught me a lot of things:

1. Legal Agreements can be a big saviour when things go wrong.
2. Not everyone thinks long-term.
3. People can quit abruptly without any notice.

After this incident, I have been generally very particular about all legal agreements, especially the termination clauses like the one above. These clauses help ensure that your rights are protected and that the parties don't end up fighting with each other because of prior verbal discussions.

If you are running a startup and do not have a Cofounder Agreement signed yet, please do it now. You will do a big favour not only to yourself but to your customers, team members and investors.

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

Thursday 26 January 2023

10 learnings from my Startup Journey

I started my Startup at the age of 21, got it to over $1M in revenues in just 4 years, and eventually got it acquired in a multi-million dollar transaction.

The journey was full of ups and downs. Steal these key learnings from my journey:

1. Think BIG in life to achieve BIG goals. Stop worrying about coupons and discount codes. Start figuring out your 5-year game plan and work on it.

2. Spend time with smart people. Smart people will help you build a better version of yourself. Your thinking will evolve and your personality will completely change.

3. Take care of your team. Your team is everything. They are a version of yourself. Take care of them as if you're taking care of yourself.

4. Work hard. That's the only parameter you can control. You can't control money, success or any other outcomes but you can control putting in X hours a day.

5. Focus on customers rather than investors. Customers are the only ones who will give you money. Everyone else wants money. Investors invest so that they can get back the money.

6. Play a long game. Don't spend too much time on short-term successes. If you think long-term, your decision-making will happen accordingly and you'd build a sustainable business.

7. Spend less time in the office and more time with customers. There is no substitute for real feedback from customers willing to pay. Get off your laptop and meet customers.

8. Share your journey with others. What's better than selling your product? Selling your story by inspiring others so that for them, you're already a trusted advisor. Sales will happen automatically.

9. Get a good quality lawyer. A good lawyer is worth the price because once you start making money, that's when all the screw-ups will begin to happen. Be lawyered up at that time.

10. Share your success with others. You can never achieve big alone. Make sure that you give due credit to people wherever they deserve and help them succeed.

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

Sunday 22 January 2023

10 habits of MILLIONAIRES

I started my startup in college at the age of 21 and it got acquired by a large tech company when I was 26 years old, making me a self-made millionaire at the age of 26.

Here are the 10 habits of MILLIONAIRES:

1. Create goals and pursue them relentlessly. I have never seen a rich person who's aimless and has no clue what they are doing. Rich people are always working towards their long-term goals.

2. Eating healthy food. Rich people know that health is wealth. If your body and mind aren't in a good state, you can't be productive. Higher productivity gives you time and time is money.

3. Waking up early. This is debatable with many differing views. But broadly, the argument is that if you wake up early, you get 2 - 3 hours in the morning to meditate, exercise, reflect on your life, etc., before your busy day starts. This "me" time is extremely important.

4. Taking initiative. Rich people are proactively finding new ways to keep moving ahead in life. Be it hiring new people, building new partnerships, or investing in new businesses.

5. Reading a lot. Every rich person reads a lot to keep themselves up to date with new market trends, changes in user behavior, etc. Blogs, journals, magazines, newsletters, etc.

6. Networking with smart people. Being around smart people can help you become smarter with time. Smart people also motivate you to think and achieve bigger goals in life. Rich people spend a lot of time with people who are smarter than them.

7. Constantly learning new things. Rich people read a lot and learn the skills which are useful for them but which they don't know today. Don't know how to hire? Read a book. Don't know Sales? Read a book.

8. Managing time effectively. Time is money. Rich people don't waste time bargaining for a few dollars or cents or finding coupons because they know that their time is more valuable than that.

9. Taking care of people who help them. All rich people acknowledge that their success is because of the people who have helped them - team members, mentors, investors, parents, friends, etc. And so, they take good care of them.

10. Not wasting money. Rich people don't waste money on unnecessary things because they know the amount of blood and sweat invested in earning that money.

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

Thursday 19 January 2023

8 lessons that made me a millionaire at 26

I sold my startup in a large multi-million dollar transaction making me a Millionaire at 26. Here are the lessons I learned in the journey:

1. Focus on giving rather than taking: I see many people wanting to earn millions but not making any effort. Look, money is just a measure of the benefit that you've done for others. So focus on creating benefit/value for others rather than chasing money. If you help others solve their problems, they will surely pay you and you will end up making money.

2. Take care of your team members and they'll take care of your business: You can never succeed alone. You will have investors, advisors, and most importantly, team members who will give you 9 precious hours of their life, every single day to help you achieve your goals. You should take good care of them so that those 9 hours that they spend for you, they do it with their full heart and soul.

3. Focus on customers rather than chasing investors: So many young founders chase investors. At my startup, we completely were customer-funded. Our customers used our product and got benefits, and in return they paid us. So, we never had the need to go out in the market and ask for money. Investors will chase you if you have paying customers.

4. Get Cofounders who have a complementary skillset but a similar vision: My cofounder Harshita and I are completely opposite. I look at the business side, she looks at Product and Engineering. I am an extrovert, she is an introvert. I love to think about the big picture, she is great at finer details. I love to be active on Social Media as the face of the company, she has to spend considerable effort to write a simple post on LinkedIn. But, that's exactly what is helping is move the company. If it was 2 people like me, we would have gambled the company. If it was 2 people like Harshita, the company would have never even started. Striking the right balance is the key.

5. Think big and take risks: Imagine a 21-year-old guy who comes from a family that earns less than Rs. 10 lakhs a year and gets a US package of Rs. 1 crores per year and an Indian package of Rs. 47 lakhs per year. Imagine that guy telling his parents - "I will not go for any of these job offers, but rather start something of my own. I have no clue what I will do, but I want to give it a try." Yes, that was me. Can you take such risks? In any such risky situation, there is the downside and the upside. Many people focus on the downside. Millionaires focus on the upside.

6. You can earn more money but you can't earn more time: You can earn as much money as possible, but the time once gone is gone forever. So, utilize it wisely. Don't waste it. Manage it properly. Focus on the high-impact activities and delegate/drop the rest.

7. Be a learning machine and read a lot: I spend several hours of my day in learning. I read books, I listen to podcasts, I read articles, I consume startup news and whatnot. I try my best to keep myself updated on the ongoing market trends, technologies, etc. That's how I am able to take better decisions.

8. Think big, Act small: I see so many people spending infinite time just thinking and not executing at all. Don't be like that. Have big dreams, but then find out what is the smallest step that you can do today, to reach a step closer to your dreams. If you want to earn millions of dollars, you have to start earning $100 today!

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

Tuesday 17 January 2023

8 ways to earn money in college

I see so many students these days, wanting to earn money and be financially independent right in college itself. I was like them - I never took a penny of money from my parents after I went to college. FIITJEE, my JEE coaching institute gave me Rs. 4 lakhs of scholarship and I also won another Rs. 1 lakhs of scholarship from some of my FIITJEE teachers who left FIITJEE to start a coaching institute of their own.

This money helped me manage the first year of college, after which, I started earning money myself and I never looked back at my parents for any kind of financial support.

Here are some ways by which you can earn money while in college itself.

1. Internships: I did my internship at Rubrik's US office and they paid a stipend of $8000 per month. I spent $1400 a month on accommodation and another probably $600 a month on food and other expenses during the internship. Less the taxes, in Indian currency, I saved almost Rs. 8 - 9 lakhs. Rubrik also paid for round-trip flight tickets from India. Find ways to upskill yourself and get a good Software Internship.

2. Freelance Web and App Development: Another great way to earn money. So many startups and small companies want someone to build a Website or Mobile App for them. You can post on Social Media and find such companies. Alternatively, there are freelancing platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, etc., where you can find such work. Of course, you'd have to spend some time finding clients. But I think freelancing is an amazing way to make money.

3. Teaching Assistant. I was a teaching assistant in 5 different courses across 5 semesters. I got paid Rs. 6000 a month for taking an hour-long class every week. That's a cool Rs. 1.5k per hour for teaching others and improving my own communication skills. I earned roughly Rs. 1 lakhs by being a Teaching Assistant.

4. Solving and creating questions for competitive exams. So many Edtech startups want to hire smart people part-time to create questions and solutions for competitive exams. I worked part-time at Toppr and Slader during my college days and earned a few lakhs.

5. Coaching classes. I never did this, but some of my friends did. So many students want to learn Physics, Chemistry, and Maths from IITians who have been there and done that. Many people pay as much as Rs. 5k per hour. Yes, you read it right. You can earn that much in college.

6. Freelance Content Writing. If you are not good at Programming, you can go for Freelance Content Writing. For standard articles, the pay isn't that lucrative. But if you can write articles on specialized topics, you can earn as much as Rs. 2 per word. For a 1000-word article, you can make Rs. 1500 - Rs. 2000 which isn't bad. You can write 2 articles a week and make Rs. 15k - 20k a month extra. I made lakhs of Rupees by writing articles on specialized topics like Machine Learning, Face Recognition, Web Development, Python programming, etc.

7. Stock Trading. I have never done this, but I know of folks who made money trading in the stock market. It is risky and usually not advisable, but I am mentioning it here because these days, there are so many courses in the markets that teach Stock Trading. Again, I would like to repeat that Stock Trading is risky and I haven't done it in college and neither do I do it now. I am a long-term fundamental investor rather than a Trader.

8. Affiliate Marketing. I made lakhs of Rupees via Amazon Affiliate Marketing. I wrote a blog on JEE preparation and received tens of lakhs of page views. So many students asked me about the books I used during my JEE preparation. I shared Amazon links to those books in my blog and Amazon paid me 10% referral fees on each sale. I remember, during the peak seasons, I earned as much as Rs. 25k a month in referral fees. Of course, Affiliate Marketing requires a lot of effort in creating a credible brand for yourself.

What other ways can you earn money in college? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

Monday 16 January 2023

How to find Million Dollar Startup ideas?

One of the best ways to find startup ideas is to look for problems that you yourself are facing in your life. Why? Because in entrepreneurship, the hardest part is to understand the customer's problem deeply and the second hardest part is to build a solution that has a Product/Market fit.

If you yourself are the customer, it makes your life easier because you understand that problem well and you can very well decide if the solution you made solves your problem or not. So by solving your own problems, you can cross the 2 hardest barriers with much less effort.

Here are a few other ways to find startup ideas:

1. Look for changes in laws/regulations. When the Government changes regulations, it often opens up a lot of opportunities for startups. For instance, demonetization led to Paytm taking off. GST was introduced in 2017 and it created a lot of startups. The ONDC was launched recently and so many companies are jumping onto it.

2. Look for mass-scale changes in human behavior. When COVID happened in 2020, people could not go to the offices and had to work from home. That led to the creation of so many remote tools startups. Many of them are growing fast even today because so many people now want to only work from home. The 2023 recession will lead to a lot of changes in human behavior. Companies will cut costs. So many people are losing jobs and want other income streams. So many of them are becoming creators on Social Media. All of this will create startup opportunities.

3. Look for large industry disruptions. When a large company changes the business model of the market, it leads to a lot of derivative startup ideas. For instance, Reliance Jio changed the business model of the telecom industry and made the internet extremely cheap. So that led to YouTube, Tiktok, WhatsApp, and Instagram taking off like crazy in India. So many OTT Platforms also skyrocketed because the internet became cheap. Ask yourself - "which industry is getting disrupted at the moment?"

Riding on trends is a great way to find business opportunities. However, remember - trends are all short-lived. The one who creates long-term robust business always wins. So, while you can ride on trends to start something, always remember to create long-term sustainable businesses which create value for the customer in the long run.

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

Sunday 15 January 2023

How to be "lucky" in business?

Luck is one of the most misunderstood terms in the context of Business and professional success. Many people think that luck is something that God gives to some people, out of nowhere. That's not true. Let's understand how luck really works.

If you look closely, we call some event luck, when it happens without us taking a direct conscious effort to make it happen. For instance, a struggling startup suddenly gets a large client. We call it luck. An out-of-form cricket player plays amazing innings. We call it luck.

The reality is that luck is an outcome/result where we can't directly "connect" the effort. That doesn't mean that the outcome happened "without" the effort. For instance, we all saw the story of Flatheads founder on Shark Tank where he has become famous overnight. It might seem like he was extremely lucky. What we all forget is that to get to this luck, he spent almost a decade trying out multiple startups that didn't work as expected.

His story and efforts over a decade took him to the Shark Tank stage. He has spent his own money to pay the salaries of his team members. As Aman Gupta said - "he's down, but he's not out". He didn't put a conscious effort to do marketing on Shark Tank and so, the marketing he received and the efforts he put in over a decade, aren't really "connected". At least not directly. But then without that decade worth of effort, he wouldn't have had that "luck" of becoming famous overnight.

Another form of luck is when you don't really do anything special, but just persist, and you achieve success because the circumstances change. Let's take an example.

We all saw the success of ChatGPT and the crazy marketing it received on Social Media. Isn't it the new hot thing? Yes. But do we know that Open AI is not a "new" company? They have been persisting for 7 long years now. What seems like their lucky moment happened because they did what they were supposed to do, but the world shifted from Crypto and NFTs to AI and so, they are now able to surf that wave.

Same for Cogno. Covid was a breakthrough event for us. We didn't do anything extraordinary. Covid came and companies struggled to get their call centers and Customer support in place. So what did they do? They all wanted Chatbots for automating their support. After 3 years of struggle and a cofounder exit, we suddenly started getting exponential traction. And in roughly 18 months since Covid happened, we got acquired in a life-changing multi-million dollar transaction.

Was it luck?

Yes, it was luck for those who don't understand the true definition of luck.

For me, who has actually lived this whole journey, it wasn't luck. It started back in 2011 when I took the decision to do something big and prepare for IIT JEE and crack it with a top 50 rank. That was 2 years of rigorous efforts, followed by 4 rigorous years at IIT Bombay, trying to convert me into the best version, and then another 1.5 years of trying to find a product/market fit and then a sudden Cofounder exit and then another 1.5 years of roaming in the streets of BKC and Lower Parel areas of Mumbai to sell to every enterprise I could.

So, for me, it definitely wasn't luck.

What is luck for you?

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

Do investors only fund IIT and IIM Founders?

"Investors only fund IIT and IIM startups", said one of the founders pitching to me to raise money.

"No. Investors fund smart founders, irrespective of whether they are from an IIT or an IIM".

Is my statement correct? Let's take a look.

So I am invested in a total of 7 startups including Exotel. At Exotel, I have not directly invested my money, but then time is bigger money than money itself so definitely I am invested in Exotel deeply.

Here are some of the statistics I found:
1. Total startups - 7
2. Total Founders - 19
3. IITian Founders - 8
4. IIM Founders - 2 (of which 1 is also from an IIT so double counted)
5. Founders without IIT or IIM tag - 10

As you can see, the count of Founders without IIT or IIM tags is 10 out of 19, which is a whopping 52.6% - more than half!

Did I have the option to invest my money in IIT and IIM founders only? Yes. Did I only invest in IIT and IIM founders? Nope. Are the non-IIT and non-IIM founders in my portfolio doing well? Absolutely! In fact, Jar's founders haven't even put a college education on their LinkedIn profiles. They've raised money from Tiger Global!

So, for me, my statement stands correct - "Investors want to invest in smart founders". Sure, there would be investors who would not fund you if you are not from an IIT or an IIM. But then you can't chase their thinking. Instead, go and talk to investors who have invested in non-IIT and non-IIM founders because if they've done it once, they will definitely do it for you.

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

Saturday 14 January 2023

How to build an Investable startup?

Startups are difficult, especially the early-stage ones. An early-stage founder usually has a hypothesis about a problem statement and a probable solution in mind. How do you get from there to an investable high-growth company?

Here are my thoughts:

1. Find proof that confirms that the problem statement indeed exists. Let's say you have a hypothesis that men above 6 ft height have difficulty finding clothes of their size. How do you validate it? What proof can you showcase to someone who doesn't believe in this statement? To do that, talk to some 50 customers ('men above 6 ft height') and capture their feedback in a notebook. Spend time with such men in shopping to actually understand their pain points. There is an amazing book on this topic called 'The Mom Test'. Every early-stage entrepreneur must read it.

2. Once you have the proof that confirms that the problem statement exists, work backward to create a solution. Build just enough features to solve the major pain area. The Product create would be called an MVP - Minimum viable product. Then go back to those 50 men you met and show them the Product and see if it solves their problem. Are they able to shop easily now? Do they get a better fit? Do they save time? Does it cost lesser? Ask for feedback.

3. Basis the feedback, go and improve the product and show it to them once again. Repeat this exercise until many of the 50 men are happy and want to pay for your product. Let's say some 15 - 20 of them are keen to pay you for your product, congrats, you just found a 'Product/Market fit' - one of the hardest things to achieve in a startup. This activity is beautifully captured in a book called 'The Lean Startup'. Do read it if you haven't already, irrespective of the stage of your startup.

4. Now that you have a Product/Market fit with some 15 people keen to pay for your product, you need to build a story around why your startup can become really big. When I say really big, I mean, nothing short of $100M in revenues. Because that's the kind of startup VCs are keen to fund. This means that your TAM (Total Addressable Market) must be large. A quick Google search tells me that 1% of Indians are above 6 ft. Let's say 50% are men. So that's about 75 lakh men. At Rs. 1000 spent per person per year, that's a TAM of $100M. If you capture 10% of it, you can reach $10M in revenue. But then you need a $100M revenue story to be investable by most VCs.

5. On day 1, you may not have a Product that can go to $100M in revenues like the above case. But then what can you do to reach there? An obvious example is to add a Product line for women. That's another $100M of market. Total $200M. We've assumed Rs. 1000 per person per year. If you could sell other things like tall men/women slippers, that would be another Rs. 2000 per year which is $400M for a total of $600M.

6. What other problems do tall people face? They might need taller doors to not bang their head. But then you're a fashion e-commerce company. So that's not relevant for your line. Basically, focus on adjacent product ideas for the same customer base. Here is an example - you've built something for tall people. How about adding something for people who are a little out of shape? They too might need help in purchasing clothes and they can relate to tall people's problems. That will surely be at least $500M worth of market.

7. So now, you have a fashion product for tall men but you've built a story comprising of tall women, and out-of-shape people for a total of $1B market. If you can capture 10% of it, you're in a position to disrupt a large market. But then why you? What's special about you? Why can't someone else do it? Why should an Investor not bet money on that VP of Myntra who has the same idea?

8. You will have to answer this question - Why you? It could be that you have deep connections in the fashion industry. Or you have some prior experience working at such brands. Or you are an extremely smart person who can learn things fast, including learning about a new industry quickly - this is where many people ask me why Investors are so keen to fund IIT and IIM founder startups. Well, investors have no specific preferences for funding only IIT or IIM founder startups. They want to invest in generally smart people. If you can prove it to them, most investors won't care about your degree. But then you have to find a way to convince them.

9. That's it. You have answered most of the questions - what's the problem statement? What's the solution? How big is the market? Why you? There are a few other questions that you may want to answer that many investors would like to understand - why now? What's the competition? What's the underlying secret sauce (could be tech or anything else)? What's the moat? How can you ensure that others don't simply copy your idea and so, it becomes a price war?

Whether or not you want to raise funds, these are the right questions you should ask yourself if you're starting ANY business. At the end of the day, you have to create a sustainable business that solves the pain points of the customer. Are you doing that? These questions will help you answer that.

What else do Investors look for?

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

Sunday 8 January 2023

10 skills to learn to become a millionaire today

Being a founder is difficult. You have to manage so many stakeholders every single day. You have to take care of not running out of cash, reporting metrics, customer escalations, salaries, rent, government, compliance, taxes, agreements, and whatnot.

Here are 10 skills to learn to be a successful entrepreneur:

1. Sales: knowing how to sell is the most important skill. You'd be selling your product to the customers, your business to the investors, and your culture to your employees. So you better learn to sell/convince people if you want to succeed in Business.

2. Hiring: how do I deliver 1200 hours a day worth of output by working for 8 hours a day? I have a team of 150+ talented team members. Learning to hire has the highest leverage (value multiplier).

3. Perseverance: most startups shut down because of the founder burning out and quitting. I had been through the difficult days of a cofounder's exit and less than Rs. 5 lakhs ($6000) in the Bank. What got me to a multi-million dollar acquisition is that I didn't quit.

4. Negotiating: you'd be negotiating every single day. Negotiating salaries with employees, negotiating contracts with customers, negotiating with service providers, investors, etc. Learn to negotiate to save costs.

5. Finance: in the ongoing state of the economy, investors are primarily investing in those startups where founders are building profitable businesses. So learn to track the right business metrics and manage your finance.

6. Programming: while you can always hire a technical co-founder or technical team members, it's a cherry on the cake if you, as the Founder/CEO, know programming. At Cogno, the biggest comfort our customers had was that I knew to program.

7. Focus: we are surrounded by so many distractions. Social media, family, friends, news, media, neighbors, and whatnot. Seeing mega funding news of another startup, how many of you have questioned yourself - "what am I doing with my life?" Learn to avoid that.

8. Time management: as a founder, there is always more work on the plate than the hours. Knowing what to prioritize is an invaluable skill so that you can focus on the big needle-moving tasks and avoid wasting time on others.

9. Control over emotions: entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride. Today you'd be happy because you got a big contract. Tomorrow you'd be sad because some critical member resigned. Learn to stay neutral in both situations.

10. Gratitude: success gets into the head of many entrepreneurs. Understand that your success is a combined effort of you and the people who have supported you. Always take care of them and be thankful to them for their support.

What else do you think an entrepreneur should learn?

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

Don't let anyone tell you what you cannot do

Don't let anyone tell you what you cannot do. In all likelihood, they're saying so because, in reality, they are the ones who cannot do it and so, they're comparing themselves with you, and basis that, they feel that you also cannot do it. Their opinion is a reflection of their own inabilities.

Here are a few instances when I faced this and emerged successful:

1. Back in class 6th, when my parents got me admitted to Kanpur's best school, the Principal told my father "he has been doing well in his earlier school but it would not be possible for him to maintain that in our school". She was initially correct because I started with a rank of 23rd in a class of ~50. But then I worked hard and eventually reached the 1st rank in class 9th, and topped the school in class 10th Board exams with 97.4% marks.

2. When I started my preparation for JEE Advanced, I had one goal in mind - to crack IIT Bombay, CSE. Everyone told me that I was being too ambitious and that only 50 people every year make it to IITB CSE. They were initially correct - I scored merely 153/240 in my first all-India test when the highest was 232/240. But then I worked hard and ended up with AIR 33 in JEE 2013, joining IITB CSE and fulfilling my dream.

3. When my previous cofounder quit in 2018, everyone told me that I should shut the startup and take a job. They were initially correct - I had less than Rs. 5 lakhs ($6000) left in the Bank and just 1 intern and 1 full-time employee. But then I worked hard and persisted and today, we are 150+ members and multi-million dollars in revenue.

Hard work is one parameter that you can completely control. People will try to tell you that you're mediocre. They'll tell you that you can't succeed. They'll tell you that you cannot do it. Don't listen to anyone. Focus on your hard work and keep surprising people with your wins.

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here:

If you're going through hell, don't stop. Why would you stop in hell?

One of the important qualities that every entrepreneur should have is to stay calm during extremely tough times. The good thing about the tough times is that they don't last forever.

Here are a few tough situations I faced in my Business where I didn't give up:

1. Cofounder exit:

Back in August 2018, my cofounder abruptly decided to quit and pursue something else. I was left with 1 intern and 1 full-time employee. We had less than Rs. 5 lakhs ($6k) in the Bank. I didn't quit. I convinced Harshita to leave her job at Citibank and join me as a co-founder.

We started rebuilding the entire product. I focused on the customer side and she worked on Product development. Things worked out. Fast forward to March 2021, we did a revenue of over $1M and in November 2021, we got acquired by Exotel in a multi-million dollar transaction.

2. Large customer not paying:

We had a large government institution as our customer. Due to their internal transfers and restructuring, our significant payment got stuck. I chased every person I could for more than 6 months but still nothing happened. 1 person told me to go to the other person. Another person pointed me to a 3rd person to 4th... Typical Government office scenario.

COVID fear was already rising. I had given up all hope because there was ZERO possibility of getting the money if a lockdown happens. To my surprise, 2 days before Junta Curfew on 22nd March 2020, the money hit the Bank. I immediately called Harshita and we both got a huge sigh of relief. That money was extremely important for us to survive during the uncertain situation of the COVID lockdown back in 2020.

Both the above situations were extremely negative. But I kept myself calm and focused on doing whatever was the right thing to do at that time. I focused on the effort and left the result to God and God didn't disappoint me.

There is a saying I read - "If you're going through hell, don't stop. Why would you stop in hell?"

I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here: