What is money?

Being a CEO and founder of a startup, I’ve been concerned with money in a variety of contexts. A company exists to make money and indeed that was one of the drivers in the days of starting Wingify. I wanted to make money by myself and was pretty happy when people paid for the first version of VWO. I remember my goal was to make roughly USD 1000 (equivalent of the last monthly salary I had drawn at my employer). VWO ended up making me multiple times my initial goal.

Last month at Wingify, we hit a million dollars of recurring revenue. I’m very happy that the team has been able to achieve this milestone, especially because we’re entirely bootstrapped and haven’t raised any outside investment. There has been a lot of enthusiasm about the million-dollar-a-month figure, and all Wingifighters are pumped up to convert the ‘m’ into a ‘b’.… 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

How to find startup ideas that make money

I am glad that my previous blog post Sorry, your “cool” webapp is probably not going to make money received good response and generated a lot of debate. What I discussed in that blog post was that most of the so called startups or webapps which are based on “game-changing” or “cool” ideas never end up making any money. So, if your aim is to make money, pursuing such ideas can be risky. While idea-driven startups rarely make money, I professed market-driven approach for someone looking to find startup ideas that actually make money.

Market-driven approach to finding startup ideas that make money

The market-driven approach is quite simple. It essentially means:

Find a startup idea that: a) is already making money for someone else in a growing industry; b) interests you; c) aligns with your skill sets. Once you find such an idea, simply carve out a niche within the industry by a) addressing pains of an under-served segment within that industry; b) or, making it much easier to use than existing solutions; c) or, disrupting the market by making your product accessible to masses at a much affordable price.

Read the rest

Sorry, your “cool” webapp is probably not going to make money

Sorry for crushing your dreams but your web app for tracking happiness levels (or for “social-aware” todo lists) is probably not going to make enough money to let you retire in Hawaii. Many programmers and web developers find making a web app very satisfying and there is nothing wrong with that. As long as you are doing it for fun, it is OK. But making web apps is the trivial part. After all, most web apps are nothing more than a slick interface for CRUD operations. The key to making money is to find a market where people are willing to pay for those simple CRUD operations.

The usual approach for making web apps (or “startup” as some would like to call it) is this:

  • Have a “cool” idea
  • Implement it in X number of hours
  • Try to justify its need by finding users who may use it

I am just making up a statistic here, but I have seen 9/10 efforts losing hope after the third step and the web app just languishes with the creator given up on it after initial euphoria.… Read the rest

How making money changed my perspective on startup ideas

I admit it: my previous (so called) “startup” Kroomsa was a failure. Back when I was starting up, I remember how game changing I thought it was. We wanted to revolutionize Indian music scene by inserting audio advertisements into music. We also vowed to donate 20% of proceeds from advertisements to a charity organization. Do you see how cool the idea was? Though this business, we combated piracy of music, made money for independent bands and helped society by supporting charities. All at once!

Except that we never made a penny out of the venture. First mistake: none of the team members was doing it full time. Second mistake: none of the team members had any experience in music industry. Third and biggest mistake: the idea was “cool”. To my hacker brain, this crazy business model was like dope. I distinctly remember being on a high for several days when I initially thought of that idea.… Read the rest

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

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

Why time is not running out

I have a friend who thinks time is running out for her. I’m sure she’s not alone, a lot of people share that feeling; I definitely was one of those people who constantly worried that life isn’t moving ahead at a pace that I’d be proud of. Everyday before sleeping, I’d look back and wonder: ‘Gosh! Did I just create a presentation today? How would it help my career?‘. Then I’d have nagging thoughts such as these: ‘Oh god, I’m 25 and I haven’t experienced Sky Diving yet and I haven’t even learnt how to play a guitar.‘ Then when I read about revolutionaries, artists, writers, philosophers and scientists, I couldn’t help but think if I’m wasting my youth chasing money and creating software while I could be a guerrilla artist instead.

Is the clock ticking?

The what-I-could-be-doing-instead syndrome

Having a list of interests, goals and wishes is by no means bad.… Read the rest