Strategy eats cool tech and culture for its lunch

Peter Drucker is famously attributed to have said culture eats strategy for breakfast. Every time I have a discussion with my entrepreneur friends, the discussion quickly gravitates towards what we think is fundamentally important for business success. The factors usually include technical skills, marketing capabilities, culture, hiring quality, and funding. I used to think that it was the team and culture that was most important (and certainly at Wingify, we give a lot of emphasis on building the right culture). But is culture enough?

Culture is a necessary, but not sufficient

The way I see it (and many others agree), culture isn’t just free beer and gourmet lunch. (in fact, I think too many “free” things might attract the wrong sorts of folks to your team). Culture is having motivated employees who believe that by showing up at work every day, they are making the world a better place. Culture is being devoid of distracting office politics, culture is believing that morality trumps profits, culture is like a flywheel that like minded people make it self-reinforcing.… Read the rest

What Philosophy should be about?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading two books recently. ‘How much is enough‘, the first one, is a sensible attack on money for money’s sake and the absurdity of it. The second one, ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance‘ is a classic that I read for the second time. This time it became clear to me that the book on many levels was talking about the an ugly outcome of single-minded urbanization. It also questions the apparent superiority of intellect over aesthetics. Of course, the two books are about much more than what I’m describing here but the underlying thread was common – both books urged considering mankind’s total quality of experience, rather than just material wealth or technological / scientific progress.

The idea of rationality holding supreme power to describe the universe is a very strong one and has actually lead to a lot of progress in recent centuries in terms of increased lifespan and other comforts.… Read the rest

How increased automation could lead to a happier and more egalitarian society

First, watch this video titled ‘Humans Need Not Apply’.

Now answer this question: what would happen when all jobs that humans perform today will be automated?

The scenario of nobody having a job might seem fancy and theoretical at first, but it’s becoming more realistic with each passing day. Google, Uber, BMW, and a lot of other organizations are on track to release self driving vehicles as soon as next year. And as the video demonstrates so beautifully, this is not just happening to the transportation industry. Automation will impact every sphere of human activity – be it creative, mechanical, cognitive or managerial.

We live in a world of machine learning, APIs, exponentially improving technology, billion dollar disruptions. A lot of such innovations are about making humans redundant.

What will millions of jobless people do?

Taking transportation as an example again, as self-driving cars become commonplace we will rapidly have millions of jobless drivers who are unskilled.… Read the rest

The real use of money is to buy freedom

As the founder of a profitable software company, I happen to make more money than most office-goers of my age. There’s no shame or pride in admitting that. I don’t dislike money. Having quite a bit of it is simply a fact. Though there must be many thousands of people who have enormously more money than me, I consider myself lucky to have more than I need right now.

However, more than the money, what fascinates me is the nature of money, its ubiquity and how our behavior gets unknowingly influenced by it.

The insecurities attached with the money

I have grown up in a typical middle-class household where one is rightly nurtured into not being extravagant. I was taught to value money (which I thoroughly appreciate). Even though, in my childhood, I always got whatever I wanted, the truth is that I never wanted big, expensive toys. That attitude has lingered on to the present day.… Read the rest

Life as a question with no answers

The meaninglessness grips him by the throat at any moment of the day. Not caring about where he is and with whom is he, like a ferocious, prowling predator, the feeling arrives unannounced, rips apart his flesh and leaves him half-eaten, bleeding with not blood but streams of shameless, naked guilt. The guilt of meaningless existence.

He has been found caught in a swirling pool of this feeling at all sorts of places where the expected state of mind is one of the common moods such as joy, sadness, anticipation, reflection, or tens of others that people keep talking about. Instead, multiple times a day, what he feels is a sharp confusion followed by an invisible, choking paranoia that he’s going to die one day, and nobody really, truly, deeply cares about his existence. And why should they? They have their own lives to bother with.

Of course, he was not born with this feeling.… Read the rest

Existential drivel

The problem with us humans is that we want everything to happen today. The reason we are so impatient is because tomorrow is really a bet that we’re uncertain to win. Whether we will be alive to see tomorrow unfold or not, we cannot say for sure. That’s why we want all the love, excitement, significance and exhilaration to arrive one after the other without many breaks. In fact, sleep or exhaustion often feels a guilt-ridden letdown to an over-anxious mind. Why sleep when you could be living, for it is uncertain that you will wake up tomorrow.

It’s funny though how this emotional want for right now and the thin sorrow of not being able to make the best out of the limited time we have conflicts directly with the vivid realization that time shouldn’t matter at all precisely because death is a certainty and all these moments that one so desperately wants to capture for the eternity will fade with oneself.… Read the rest

On being okay with boredom

Imagine a usual Wednesday evening. A week earlier, there was a similar Wednesday evening, and of course, next week, there will be another Wednesday evening. These Wednesday evenings never stop arriving and all of them look essentially the same. Wednesday evenings are insignificant, boring chunks of time that you cannot avoid.

Finishing his work a little early, he comes home tired, mechanically changes into nightclothes, eats a tasteless dinner, and, on the dinner table, engages in a forced chitchat with his wife. As he opens and closes his mouth to utter careless words, he keenly feels the insignificance of the talk because all the significant conversations have already been done in the past. All that is remaining to talk about is trivial curiosities about food, work, travel and other miscellaneous stuff. He forces himself to think of something interesting, but nothing worthwhile strikes his listless mind. He believes he loves his beautiful wife and usually the same chitchat gives him a warm, fuzzy feeling and makes him happy, but today does not seem to be one such joyful day.… Read the rest

What is freedom?

Nonlinearity rules our world, and human minds are often too simplistic and shortsighted to comprehend it fully. People in general will agree that happiness is a (if not the) goal in their lives. However it is ironical that in spite of aspiring for happiness, they still wouldn’t be honest with themselves to pursue that goal single-mindedly. Why honesty and authenticity is important in life? Well, that’s a different post altogether, but briefly speaking, in the face of our inherently meaningless lives, why will anyone prefer a dishonest life over an honest one is beyond me. At least, one should be honest with oneself, if not with the entire world.

An example of such dishonesty is the utter ignorance of what freedom is and why happiness cannot be ensured without freedom.

What really is freedom anyway? I’m talking about freedom in a very broad sense. Doing work for someone else, having a job or loving someone has nothing to do with freedom.… Read the rest

Everydayness and the longing for the magical

It’s interesting how poets, writers, artists and philosophers have to go through their daily ablutions. They have to eat, drink, defecate and clean their bodies every now and then, actually, in fact on a regular basis. A writer may sit in a café for a few hours, churn out some of his best work and feel like he has been transported into a universe where words come alive and his characters are real, but as soon as his coffee finishes and the waiter presents the cheque, he is jolted into the same world he inhabited a couple of hours ago, a world that is very much his. The same world where he was born. The same world he started despising for its endless boredom and repetitious chores that drearily inhabit it.

However, that world is the only true reality he has got. The longing to step away from our everyday lives and get transported into a magical land is so strong that many of us give up little beauties blossoming all around us to chase a scene that doesn’t exist.… Read the rest

Please don’t let yourself get stereotyped. You’re infinite. You’re beautiful.

Expectations are interesting in forming one’s identity. As the CEO of an A/B testing software startup, I am expected to behave in a certain way. I am expected to be on Twitter (@paraschopra), constantly devouring and commenting on funding news on TechCrunch, participate in lean startup discussions, track and gossip on movements of Apple stock and debate on how India can have interesting startups as well. If I’m a cool CEO, I will be expected to hang out at places like Hacker News and Reddit. Within local startup community, I’m expected to frequent startup events and chat about latest and upcoming startups and things like what can be done to improve the “ecosystem”. All in all, the mere label of ‘CEO, software startup’ describes majority of who I am and how I spend my time.

Now, add an additional label like ‘A/B testing‘ or ‘marketing’ and you’d end up describing the remaining modicum amount of my identity.… Read the rest