On Growth Hacking

Setting aside my plans for world domination temporarily, I’ve started working as a Growth Hacker at one of India’s leading consumer mobile app startups for a couple of months now. We’re working in the social messaging domain, and we hope to be one of the biggest “Made in India” success stories on the global internet/mobile product startup scene.

We are still an early stage startup, but you’ll be hearing about us a lot in the coming months. We’ll be launching soon, and I’ll be updating the blog again when we hit a million users. Just to gloat a bit, but more importantly, to share my experiences about growth hacking — trying to achieve hockey-stick hyper growth in a highly crowded space with not much more than a vastly superior product which blows away the competition and a few ideas (which I hope work out).

So what is growth hacking? In one word, it’s awesome. In a few more words, it’s one of the coolest things one can ever do. (Especially for quasi-megalomaniacal people who make plans for world domination when they’re bored. And this is coming from a guy who hates working for the most part.)

More on Growth Hacking:

Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing

You Don’t Need a Growth Hacker

Defining A Growth Hacker: Three Common Characteristics

5 Ways Growth Hackers Changed Marketing

Growth Is Not A Marketing Strategy

But a million is not what I’m aiming for. Because a million users isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion fucking users.

PS: Always wanted to use that line. It’s so awesome.

The PayPal Wars

The best book I’ve ever read. I’m not exaggerating. And trust me, I’ve read a lot of books.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur interested in startups, you absolutely need to read this book.

The PayPal Wars: Battles with eBay, the Media, the Mafia, and the Rest of Planet Earth

The PayPal Wars – Amazon | Flipkart

I have been a huge fan of the PayPal Mafia, and consider Peter Thiel and Elon Musk as my role models. PayPal is close to my heart, because if it didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. I’d never have been able to start my freelancing career or be an internet entrepreneur without PayPal enabling me to accept payments. Well, I probably would have figured out some other way, but it’d have been much tougher.

Anyway, nothing I can possibly say about the PayPal story can do justice to the complete fucking awesomeness of it. In a way, the PayPal Mafia completely revolutionized the startup scene in Silicon Valley, and played a huge part in making it what it is today.

The PayPal Wars is the story of some of the greatest geniuses coming together to build one of the most awesome startups in the world, which would change the way we transfer money using the internet, against all odds.

While you’re at it, also read this – Meet the PayPal Mafia

If I could be even 1% as smart as Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, I’d be a big fucking genius, and the same applies to you. Do the human race a favor. Be less stupid. Just read it.

Rise!

 

Advice to Graduating Engineers: Don’t Be a Drone

I have seen a lot of these posts going around, so I’m going to pitch in with my own advice. It’s been exactly 2 years since I graduated, so I have a fair idea of what the world after getting out of college feels like.

Don’t be a fucking drone.

By this, I mean never join any of the lame companies coming to your campus for bulk recruitment. This includes all IT sweatshops which offer the normal training-bench-mind-numbing-job routine, bulge bracket investment banks which work you like a dog for meager pay (which may seem high at first to some, but you’d eventually realize that it’s not worth it), and every other shitty company which pays like shit, and more importantly, robs you of some of your most productive years by forcing shitty work down your throat.

This is the worst way in which you could possibly start your professional life. You may not realize this then, but you will regret this when you turn 30 and have a mid-life crisis wondering why you aren’t filthy rich, why your wife isn’t insanely hot, why your job sucks and how your life didn’t quite turn out to be the way you imagined it would when you were a kid.

Steer away from the herd.

Don’t study further just because every other clueless idiot is doing it. I know idiots who have gone abroad for their Masters or MBA just because their friends were doing it and they wanted to have fun for a couple of years. If you do that, never take an educational loan for that, because it’s highly likely that you’ll end up asking “Would you like fries with that?” or work in some shitty job there just because you want to recover your investment. You might feel great when you convert your dollar salary to rupees, but ultimately, you’re still just a drone. If you have a rich Dad who is willing to splurge on your education, then by all means, do it. Better still, just go for a world trip and then come back and take over your family business. Cheaper, more fun and a better use of your time.

If you do an MBA just because you want to “get into finance” since you can’t code for shit, then you need to know that most post-MBA jobs are very fucking boring. And the interesting ones are so few that only a fraction of the top students at the top colleges will be able to get those. The chances are so low that it’s not worth studying like a dog to get a good CAT/GMAT score, and then again for two years to get good scores in your MBA tests. Rather just work at interesting startups in related profiles, and jump on to the job you want without studying further.

Start/Join a startup!

In your first couple of years after college, you probably aren’t going to make a shitload of money, so your opportunity cost is the lowest that it will ever be. This is the best time for you to experience the startup way, because you don’t really have much to lose. If you don’t have a great idea or team or aren’t sure that you can do it, then join one.

Read: Why I Quit My Job, Dropped My MBA Plans and Joined a Startup!

Start something, work on side projects, freelance and do whatever it takes to diversify your income sources, so you aren’t dependent on a job, and don’t lose much even if your startup fails.

If your startup takes off, you’ll get to the fuck-you-money point in a few years, and won’t ever need to work again just for money. You can then pursue something you’re really interested in — your passion — which improves the odds of success significantly.

If not, you’ll have learned a lot more than you’d have at any lame job at a BigCo, and you’ll easily be able to get back in a better role at a BigCo than your peers. But you won’t want to. Because once you’ve worked at a startup, you’ll never ever want to work at a BigCo again. You’ll want to build one from scratch.

Don’t be a fucking drone. Steer away from the herd. Startup!

PS: I know this seems rushed, but I’m too fucking bored to put any more effort into this. May update this later.

What does it feel like to be the CEO of a startup?

What does it feel like to be the CEO of a startup? – Quora

A very insightful reply by Paul DeJoe, the founder of Ecquire.

Very tough to sleep most nights of the week. Weekends don’t mean anything to you anymore. Closing a round of financing is not a relief. It means more people are depending on you to turn their investment into 20 times what they gave you.

It’s very difficult to “turn it off”. But at the same time, television, movies and vacations become so boring to you when your company’s future might be sitting in your inbox or in the results of a new A/B test you decide to run.

You feel guilty when you’re doing something you like doing outside of the company. Only through years of wrestling with this internal fight do you recognize how the word “balance” is an art that is just as important as any other skill set you could ever hope to have. You begin to see how valuable creativity is and that you must think differently not only to win, but to see the biggest opportunity. You recognize you get your best ideas when you’re not staring at a screen. You see immediate returns on healthy distractions.

You start to respect the Duck. Paddle like hell under the water and be smooth and calm on top where everyone can see you. You learn the hard way that if you lose your cool you lose.

You always ask yourself if I am changing the World in a good way? Are people’s lives better for having known me?

You are creative and when you have an idea it has no filter before it becomes a reality. This feeling is why you can’t do anything else.

You start to see that the word “entrepreneur” is a personality. It’s difficult to talk to your friends that are not risking the same things you are because they are content with not pushing themselves or putting it all out there in the public with the likelihood of failure staring at you everyday. You start to turn a lot of your conversations with relatives into how they might exploit opportunities for profit. Those close to you will view your focus as something completely different because they don’t understand. You don’t blame them. They can’t understand if they haven’t done it themselves. It’s why you will gravitate towards other entrepreneurs. You will find reward in helping other entrepreneurs. This is my email: paul@ecquire.com. Let me know if I can help you with anything.

Your job is to create a vision, a culture, to get the right people on the bus and to inspire. When you look around at a team that believes in the vision as much as you do and trusts you will do the right thing all the time, it’s a feeling that can’t be explained. The exponential productivity from great people will always amaze you. It’s why finding the right team is the most difficult thing you will do but the most important. This learning will affect your life significantly. You will not settle for things anymore because you will see what is possible when you hold out for the best and push to find people that are the best. You don’t have a problem anymore being honest with people about not cutting it.

You start to see that you’re a leader and you have to lead or you can’t be involved with it at all. You turn down acquisition offers because you need to run the show and you feel like your team is the best in the World and you can do anything with hard work. Quitting is not an option.

You have to be willing to sleep in your car and laugh about it. You have to be able to laugh at many things because when you think of the worse things in the World that could happen to your company, they will happen. Imagine working for something for two years and then have to throw it out completely because you see in one day that it’s wrong. You realize that if your team is having fun and can always laugh that you won’t die, and in fact, the opposite will happen: you will learn to love the journey and look forward to what you do everyday even at the lowest times. You’ll hear not to get too low when things are bad and not to get too high when things are good and you’ll even give that advice. But you’ll never take it because being in the middle all the time isn’t exciting and an even keel is never worth missing out on something worth celebrating. You’ll become addicted to finding the hardest challenges because there’s a direct relationship between how difficult something is and the euphoria of a feeling when you do the impossible.

You realize that it’s much more fun when you didn’t have money and that money might be the worse thing you could have as a personal goal. If you’re lucky enough to genuinely feel this way, it is a surreal feeling that is the closest thing to peace because you realize it’s the challenges and the work that you love. Your currencies are freedom, autonomy, responsibility and recognition. Those happen to be the same currencies of the people you want around you.

You feel like a parent to your customers in that they will never realize how much you love them and it is they who validate you are not crazy. You want to hug every one of them. They mean the World to you.

You learn the most about yourself more than any other vocation as an entrepreneur. You learn what you do when you get punched in the face many many times. You learn what you do when no one is looking and when no one would find out. You learn that you are bad at many things, lucky if you’re good at a handful of things and the only thing you can ever be great at is being yourself which is why you can never compromise it. You learn how power and recognition can be addicting and see how it could corrupt so many.

You become incredibly grateful for the times that things were going as bad as they possibly could. Most people won’t get to see this in any other calling. When things are really bad, there are people that come running to help and don’t think twice about it. Tal Raviv, Gary Smith, Joe Reyes, Toan Dang, Vincent Cheung, Eric Elinow, Abe Marciano are some of them. I will forever be in their debt and I could never repay them nor would they want or expect to be repaid.

You begin to realize that in life, the luckiest people in the World only get one shot at being a part of something great. Knowing this helps you make sense of your commitment.

Of all the things said though, it’s exciting. Every day is different and so exciting. Even when it’s bad it’s exciting. Knowing that your decisions will not only affect you but many others is a weight that I would rather have any day than the weight of not controlling my future. That’s why I could not do anything else.”

Michael Lewis on Luck

Michael Lewis’s Princeton Graduation Speech

Thirty years ago I sat where you sat. I must have listened to some older person share his life experience. But I don’t remember a word of it. I can’t even tell you who spoke. What I do remember, vividly, is graduation. I’m told you’re meant to be excited, perhaps even relieved, and maybe all of you are. I wasn’t. I was totally outraged. Here I’d gone and given them four of the best years of my life and this is how they thanked me for it. By kicking me out.

At that moment I was sure of only one thing: I was of no possible economic value to the outside world. I’d majored in art history, for a start. Even then this was regarded as an act of insanity. I was almost certainly less prepared for the marketplace than most of you. Yet somehow I have wound up rich and famous. Well, sort of. I’m going to explain, briefly, how that happened. I want you to understand just how mysterious careers can be, before you go out and have one yourself.

I graduated from Princeton without ever having published a word of anything, anywhere. I didn’t write for the Prince, or for anyone else. But at Princeton, studying art history, I felt the first twinge of literary ambition. It happened while working on my senior thesis. My adviser was a truly gifted professor, an archaeologist named William Childs. The thesis tried to explain how the Italian sculptor Donatello used Greek and Roman sculpture — which is actually totally beside the point, but I’ve always wanted to tell someone. God knows what Professor Childs actually thought of it, but he helped me to become engrossed. More than engrossed: obsessed. When I handed it in I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: to write senior theses. Or, to put it differently: to write books.

Then I went to my thesis defense. It was just a few yards from here, in McCormick Hall. I listened and waited for Professor Childs to say how well written my thesis was. He didn’t. And so after about 45 minutes I finally said, “So. What did you think of the writing?”

“Put it this way” he said. “Never try to make a living at it.”

Link: Michael Lewis – 2012 Baccalaureate Remarks