Category Archives: Startup Culture

Blitzscaling 16: Reed Hastings on Building a Streaming Empire

This is my 13th  blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling. Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

The previous blog related to Blitzscaling is here.

In this session, Reed Hoffman interviewing Reed Hastings, the Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix. And the most sought-after mentor of silicon valley shares his mantras of building the culture and scaling the company.

  1. Netflix culture deck is the most evolved culture decks out their. And here are the details of the deck for you :

  2. Putting your culture in writing not only helps you to get right kind of people in your team, it also makes the entire thing more debatable to get more understanding. At Netflix, every new employee goes through the deck to understand about the company.
  3. With the right kind of density of people in the company, you need less processes to manage them. More the people, more processes are required. Reed call this as “Right Talent Density”.
  4. Your manager should always be giving the context of why they are doing what they are doing. And then just give them autonomy to people to execute freely.
  5. Reed highlighted that NefFlix company culture is different from Google. And he emphasised that one company culture is different from another. Organization culture is an expression of what you and your senior leadership want to be. Thought I believe that while it’s important to define that expression of what you want to be, it is also very important that it should be aligned with what your customer wants from you as an organization.
  6. You can only have a strong culture in your company if you can have a strong & clear mission. The funny thing about mission statements/plan is that “it doesn’t wort rk out most of the time”. But one thing it for-sure helps in to help the current and prospective employees and customers see what company want to achieve in next 5 to 10 years.
  7. When attacked by the big competition, focus on your core rather than expanding the offering; because it will further lead to more fronts to fight the battle.
  8. Being too intellectual to your customer on why you are offering what you are offering doesn’t work, as customer care doesn’t care about that. Your customer care about value, price and service.
  9. “The only prediction about the future that comes out to be true is that prediction itself will be wrong”. When Netflix was seeking funding in 1997,  they thought that online video streaming will pick up in next 5 years by 2002. By the time 2002 came, internet bandwidth was still at the nascent stage. So they thought & projected that by 2007, online streaming will be contributing 50% to their business. But it was still ZERO after 2007.
  10. The right time to become an entrepreneur is when you got the idea that to make it work you are ready to go and touch the poverty line. Or other way around is when you can’t get that idea out of your head for next 1 to 2 years.
  11. You can’t let friendship come in the way of professional or business judgements. So when you are hiring your friends or friends of friends, just make sure of this thing.
  12. Use more data when you are picking stocks, but less data when you are picking your spouse or new hire.
  13. As a CEO, you have to invest in yourself on the continuous basis. Because when you become better, your company become better. As you grow your company, you focus on creating the culture, mission/vision, hiring right guys so that they can hire right guys further. To make this all happen, you need to improve every single day.
  14. There is no right answer whether you can become an entrepreneur or not. From Reed perspective, if you have got a strong grit and if you are a generalist who can do multiple things(most of it will be very boring) for many years to come, you can try your luck.
  15. The biggest mistake you can do in your life or as a founder is try and to be someone else. So all Steve Jobs lovers, it fine to read about him and get inspired, but dont want to be one.
  16. Successful teams and employees act like a sportsman/women. Treating your employees like family means you probably need favour’s from them or want them to work for you cheap.

Blitzscaling 12: Nirav Tolia on Growing Nextdoor and the Path to Monetization

This is my tenth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here. Session 10 notes here.  Session 11 notes here

Nirav Tolia is  the Co-Founder and CEO of Nextdoor. In session 12, Nirav shared his insights into building Nextdoor and his insights on how to grow fast. Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. The median time required to take your start-up to do break even, take it public has increased from 5 years to more than 7 yo 10 years(Stanford Research).
  2. The faster your product/app moves in ranking in app store, the faster it comes down. So slow, steady growth and consistency is still the success formula.
  3. Before scaling your way, do the manual dirty work yourself. This is to validate if what you are going to offer will work or not in offline mode. If it works in offline mode, then put in resources & money to automate the things.
  4. Initially, focus on the quality of your product that solves a problem. Then focus on scaling your product & then sales. Google calls this toothbrush test, which means “Can you create a product which people use at least once a day”.
  5.  Your interpretation & intuition about ‘what is working & what is not’ may be wrong. But if you can define the metrics to challenge your intuition, then you may find the correct path.
  6. Think of your start-up as treadmill where every morning you have to wake up & run on it. You won’t get any credit for the miles covered and remember that you have to run on it again every morning. And if you are not feeling like running a particular morning, and if this starts happening more, than its a serious problem.
  7. If you read the newspaper’s (especially English ones) today, you don’t know what is happening around you in your local communities. The best way to do that is crowdsourcing that news from people living in the local community. That’s what Nextdoor is helping local communities to achieve.
  8. You build user growth, then usage engagement and then revenue scale in that order. But user growth, user engagement & monetization, each of these problems are unique in their own nature & equally difficult. And the way to solve this problem is to divide this problem into stages. That’s the path Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, & Whatsapp has taken.
  9. Five management objectives to focus on at any given point of time. Review these objectives quarterly or annually depending on the stage in which your company is. A framework to implement this is OKR. At qilo, we help organisations by implementing this.
    1. Growth
    2. Engagement
    3. Monetization
    4. Infrastructure
    5. People
  10. As you start to scale , have more and more people in your organisation, you have to start thinking about your people, the various career paths they will have and organisation structure to maximise people performance.
  11. Hire a great HR leader for your growing organisation. Because HR will eventually help you to execute those big goals backwards.
  12. It’s all about your people that will help you move the mountains. CEO’s job is to tell why people should move this mountain.
  13. Your title doesn’t make you leader or entrepreneur; your team and your people do.
  14. Get your mentor who has been there and done that. Ignore theory consultants who throw our jargon’s.
  15. Be extremely cautious about every penny going out of your company while you are on the path of earning revenue.
  16. The basic difference between Google and Facebook is demand fulfilment and demand generation.Google follow’s demand fulfilment model where you come up and search say “digital camera”. And it shows ads related to that. Whereas Facebook follows demand generation, where you see ads of “digital camera” which your friends have shown interested in. This will help you identify which platform suits you for digital marketing.

Blitzscaling 11: Patrick Collison on Hiring at Stripe and the Role of a Product-Focused CEO

This is my ninth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here. Session 10 notes here.

Patrick Collison is the co-founder and CEO of Stripe that allows both private individuals and businesses to accept payments over the Internet.In session 11, Patrick shared learning of being a CEO and production guy. Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. For your hiring and other processes, people just copy paste processes of bigger companies.People keep following it assuming that it will work for them. For example- Google hire’s people from top universities with highest GPA’s . This might work for Google, but probably will not work for your company. Even ex-CPO of Google accepted this that there is no correlation between higher GPA and higher performance at work.
  2. Think and take as much time as possible in hiring right guys. Effort spent is worth because that way you will hire the one’s that will suit your organisation culture.
  3. If you get one great A player, there is a high possibility that your next hire will also be an A player.
  4. If you are an engineer and don’t know how to do business development, hire or get a guy on board as a co-founder to do that. At Stripe, because co-founders didn’t know how to sell, they hired BD guys very early who has helped them crack big accounts.
  5. CEO and founding team needs to be involved in the day to day decision’s on the product, at least for the first 5 to 7 years. Because no one else can better understand what should go in the product to solve customer need than founders.
  6. The reason why product innovation stops in growing start-up is that of people who you hire to support growth adds complexity to the system called the organisation. With more people comes slower decision making and its lowers down the sense of accountability of innovation.To support innovation and keep building new things, create a separate small team of 3 to 4 people to execute the new innovations. And the decision of what kind of new product, idea or feature should this team focus on should be based on NPV or net economic value of that new thing.
  7. Talk to your prospective customers base as many times as possible before you start building or before you ship the product out of the building. At Stripe, for every new line or feature of the product, they talked to the developer community(their customer base) before the new things go in production.
  8. As you grow, most of your time as a founder will be spent on communicating with your different teams and defining priorities for them. The transitioning from “Thinker + Doer” to “Thinker + Getting People Think + Getting People Do” is very difficult. And that’s where you have to invest your time in defining processes.
  9. As company grow, founders and CEO need to shift the way they communicate. You can no longer put all those people in the room to talk to them. You have to pick up the habit of writing in an informal way about what you are thinking, how business is going, what are your learning and even failures that you are encountering in your journey. Written words have much more clear and longer impact. And it gives your employee more one-on-one feeling than those town halls and virtual meetings.

Blitzscaling 10: Selina Tobaccowala on Building a Global Business at SurveyMonkey

This is my eighth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here.

Selina Tobaccowala was President and chief technology officer at SurveyMonkey. She has contributed alot in taking Survey Monkey global. In session 10, she shared the insights on how she managed the technology and tech people @ SurveyMonkey.Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. When you architect your software application, not only it should scale on handling traffic, but it should also be able to handle more developers working on it. This basically means that if tomorrow you have to add more technology people in the team, they should be able to work on your code.
  2. Even if you have ended up with software code base which is monolithic( All software layers are mixed), rather than re-creating the system in new technology, pick up the part of the system which is most difficult and try to rearrange and refactor those blocks in existing architecture.
  3. When you have to take your SaaS platform globally
    1. Localisation- which means displaying data and numbers in local language, number system, and currency
    2. Integrating different payment gateways
    3. Your messaging
    4. More technology and customer support people
  4. A/B testing is important part to validate & improve the user experience of your web and mobile app
  5.  For subscription-based businesses like SurveyMonkey, important metrics to measure is (a) Number of free subscribers (b) Number of subscribers converting from free to paid
  6. While hiring, focus on behavioural interviewing to reduce bias in selecting candidates. The question in behavioural interviewing aims at learning about your past behaviours in specific work situations. In a traditional interview, you ask general questions such as “Tell me about yourself.” In behavioural interviewing, questions will be like “How would you handle XYZ situation?” Try this in your next interview. At qilo, we have adopted this and it has helped me pick up really good team members.
  7. Finding up people who can help you scale up the things is damn hard. Pick up people who have both start-up and big company experience.As your company grows, keep people motivated, focused on their role/job & engaging them for the next level of the journey is a challenge.
  8. To reduce the churn rate, look at the insights from the data produced by your customer. And present that on the continues basis to right stakeholders in your company.
  9. A tech engineer looks for following qualities before joining a technology lead company:
    1. The product(s) should excite them as they will be spending many years in building and maintaining it.
    2. They will be getting the right mentor or people there to work with.
    3. Other that engineering, what other things they will learn their.
  10. Anything that is critical to run your business should be in-house. If its outsourced, bring it in-house as soon as possible
  11. Once you have money, hire a BI analyst who looks at the data and tells you: “what you have built”, “how well it was doing” and “how well its is doing”
  12. Service oriented architecture helps you to scale the software system. And as well as helps you to strcture your backend and frontend engineering teams in the proper way.
  13. People management is not for everyone. Put only those people to managerial positions who can serve their teams by acting as servants. For people who want to remain technical, define a roadmap so that they can see how they will grow in your company.
  14. Successful manager’s get satisfaction by influencing people. Technology people get satisfaction by deliverng the product.
  15. Plan every quarter what you want to achieve. And track the progress on that every week.If you don’t do it when you are small, adopting that when you will scale will be much more difficult. On tool to implement this is OKR.
  16. Reduce the time it takes to take your code from keyboard to production. To achieve this automate the deployment process.

Blitzscaling 08: Eric Schmidt on Structuring Teams and Scaling Google

This is my sixth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And it’s also about why organisation culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organisation very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here

Who doesn’t know Eric Schmidt. He is the one who has contributed A LOT in making what Google is today. In session 8, he shared his insights on how to structure the teams and scaling Google.Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. As a young manager, observe and do everything to learn various aspects.
  2.  The first 10 years of your career is too crucial & that’s where you learn all the s**t. Thus it’s important that you focus on getting right kind of learning.
  3. To make a better decision, keep asking yourself “What should be happening in your career/start-up in next 5 years”. I know this advice might sound like a theory to you or you probably have heard from yogis to practice living in the moment. But that doesn’t mean you should not try to foresee or plan where you what to go and how probably you can reach out there.
  4. Making faster decision is one single trait that CEO’s should focus on developing.
  5. How to handle issues and situations between founders and outsiders(probably older than founders) who are part of the company: – Outsiders should understand that it’s not his company. This means to avoid being the face of the company or getting media coverage. That’s what Eric did when he was leading Google and Larry Page, Sergey Brin. He focused on running the company & making it profitable leaving Larry & Sergey to be the face of it.
  6. The way you build great products is by building a small team, work really hard, push the team & get the product out which just barely work. Example:- Original iPod just barely worked initially. From there, Apple improved it before it was taken to mass market. As a founder, you have ti have a judgment when your product & start-up is ready to scale.  At qilo , we faced the same challenge. Where I want to speed up the scaling, Vipul(another co-founder) slowed the things down to make sure that product actually solves a problem, before we scale out and hire sales guys.
  7. Great products are built from self-use. As a founder, you know your product really works or not. And if you don’t know, get the data from your initial set of customers and analyze it. Making sure your product works before you take VC money and start expanding in all directions.
  8. Tips on hiring
    1. Hire intelligence over experience
    2. Take your time to hire the right guys. And if things are not working with new hires even after doing multiple interventions, fire them fast.
    3. Sell your dream to prospective candidates. Hire those to whom it makes sense. If you have to convince the guy, he/she is not the right hire.
    4. Hire ordinary people who have done extraordinary things.
    5. Hire people who can work better in teams. Give a person an exception to be an individual contributor if she is an exceptional talent.
  9. Next generation of successful programmers will be those who can write programs such that software themselves can learn how to solve a problem. This is also called as machine learning 🙂
  10. At finance side, hire CFO’s who have gone bankrupt because they have seen what should not be done to become bankrupt
  11. In every successful company, you have got a core team with following qualities:
    1. The one who has very good product sense
    2. The one who has emotional intelligence for all the stakeholders
    3. And the one who knows who to make people move fast
  12. All successful start-ups do one thing right:  Hire right people
  13. Strong values and beliefs take company to the next level of growth
  14. If you got a large team of programmers and s/w engineers to work on your product, then probably your s/w architecture is not right
  15. Advice to entrepreneurs who want to build a great company
    1. Have an incredible founding team & right founders to address right kind of problem
    2. You need to have some luck
    3. Passion, lots of hard work and hiring awesome people

Blitzscaling 07: Mariam Naficy on The Dot Com Days and Knowing When To Blitzscale

This is my fifth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.

Mariam Naficy is an American entrepreneur who is founder and CEO of Minted, an online design marketplace. In 1998, Naficy co-founded Eve.com, the first major online retailer of cosmetics. In session 07, she shares her journey and challenges while building marketplaces/e-commerce start-up.

  1. Always think long term when taking decisions from building product to hiring to raising money
  2. Get mindshare of the customer as soon as possible when you are into defining a new category
  3. It will always take more money & more time than what you think as founder to achieve all those things from launching MVP, to getting your first customer, to raising money
  4. Marketplaces are about people on both sides of the platform. Leverage the power of community to get competitive power for your marketplace start-up.And to leverage community power, more than focusing on money, focus on giving value or personal growth.
  5. Taking point 4 forward, the Internet and digital tools have and will keep enabling creative talent to earn more money & praises. Giving a platform to these creative people to earn money and build their reputation is how your marketplace will become successful.
  6. When your start-up is growing and you need people to handle operations at the larger level, your first preference should be people who joined you initially. They are the one’s who understand your core business in much better way than outside hire.
  7. You need right kind of capital to survive and grow your start-up, because you are bound to make mistakes. So focus on making money and not just raising money.
  8. To make employees more accountable and more skilled, make peer feedback work in your growing start-up.
  9. When your start-up is small, you will focus on getting the product right, getting numbers and customers. But as you become more growth-hungry and scaling up, you need not know everything that’s going on in your company. Don’t micromanage or get into every detail. Instead, delegate and focus on building ownership and accountability for your teams.
  10. To achieve focus on execution and on building ownership and accountability, get data/metrics on the table and review them every week. Here the key is to decide what kind of metrics is applicable for your business. For example:- At qilo, at technology end, we focus on (a) time taken to deliver new functionality or defect (b) Number of defects detected in delivered functionality in production. At sales end, we focus on (a) number of outbound prospects to reach every month(b) no of conversation going on with prospect & demo’s given (c) revenue numbers
  11. Keep reviewing your metrics till you get them right. Invest in technology that gives you dashboards about those metrics. Otherwise, it will impact the decision making and performance of your team’s.
  12.  To create a marketplace, make sure that you have much more diversity in your product line.
  13.  Advice for women entrepreneurs
    1. Start as early as possible as life will start putting trade off’s to you very soon.
    2. Get male mentor’s as much as female mentor’s.
    3. Focus on earning revenue and VC’s will have no reasons to chase you as they also want to make money from you
  14. Reaching out to VC’s:  Best way is to reach out through reference by someone they already trust.
  15. In a marketplace, focus on supply and demand side at the same time. Focusing on the supply side will lead to more revenue. And value from your platform and focusing on demand side will help you get customers.