I have a fascination with the novel by Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things. It is that one novel which I remember while starting to read serious fiction. Of course, I went through the usual teen-romance, teen-detectives, et al before I outgrew them soon enough in my early days. This year, I decided to re-read her book and it took me a really long time to finish it.
For quite a while, I’ve been practicing minimalism. Sometime last year, I decided to experiment with the idea of “essentialism” instead of just plain minimalism — stick to the essentials but pick the best possibilities in it. I like to consider minimalism as one of many ways to essentialism. I re-read Joshua Becker’s book – Simplify. If you’re into minimalism and want to explore more, you should also watch, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.
My target for 2018 was to read about 50 books but ended up short at about 40. Some were re-reads and it was a good decision. Going forward, instead of trying to read more, I’ll experiment with re-reading good ones and going deep into them — less but more quality time with each book.
I also continued with the habit of including physical versions of the books that I read. That is one way to make my daughters learn and practice “reading books”. Reading on a Kindle makes them feel like I’m just looking at another screen.
Sometime during late 2004, I got introduced to Stan Liu by a prominent author in the Macromedia Flash Community. It was the start of a lasting relationship which I will cherish throughout my life.
Stan Liu became our client. My team and I worked for him. He was really happy with the result. He offered me a partnership and owner equity in the new venture. Later, he even went on to get a term sheet from an Investor, north of $1.5M. However, he felt the terms were not in our favor. By then, my company got acquired and we both drifted apart, hibernating our business idea.
In the summer of 2005, I got a good opportunity to visit San Francisco. I got invited to Macromedia’s Lego program to spend a week with some of the best Flash folks in the world. I also decided to head to Los Angeles to meet Stan Liu. I have many fond memories of meeting the family — Stan, Joan, and the then 4-year old Khylen.
I had my first experience with a luxury sports car — rev his Porsche (and years later his Maserati). I also experienced my first authentic Chinese cuisine. I learned a thing or two more about Hollywood, got pretty much free entry to Disneyworld (he worked at Disney). I had my first Sushi at the Yoshida Sushi Bar. Later that winter, I went back to his place and repeated many events, including spending the Christmas-eve with his family and friends.
He encouraged me to try this, try that, made me experience many new events. I remember us attending an Adult Film Industry conference – laughing like crazy in-between our animated poses taking pictures with the stars. Unfortunately, I lost that photo collection.
When I left them that winter, River was on his way.
In 2010, by the time I left Paisa (Infinitely Beta) and was pondering on what to do next, I talked to him. We started Levoma, Inc. He, pretty much, bankrolled my stay in Silicon Valley to be part of the Founder Institute in 2010-2011. I survived frugally but he was always worried that I might run out of pocket money. When I visited them before I leave for India, I met the whole family – Stan, Joan, Khylen, and River.
Unfortunately, the business failed; we pulled the plug and decided to work together on something else in the future.
The 8th of Aug, 2014 was a sad day. Stan pinged me on Skype for a talk. We had a long talk. He was sick and at a late stage. However, we drifted and discussed a few business ideas instead. He was full of ideas, all the time.
In the summer of 2016, I visited Stan and his family once again. He picked me up at LAX, “You looked pretty much the same.” I replied, “I was worried but you look pretty cool too. I don’t think anything is happening to you.”
I realized he was tired, he was no longer as agile as I knew him earlier. But, he was still energetic and going strong. We discussed a few business ideas again, introduced me to some new interesting VR stuffs, went to the movies with his family, joined their weekend family lunch, went shopping. I played few games with River and he beat me real bad; just like how Khylen used to beat me in his video games long back.
He saw me off at the Airport. As we hugged goodbye, he asked, “Do you need extra dollars in cash? Extra baggage, coffee, food! You never know when you need it.” He does that every time he drops me at the Airport. “I’m good. I’ll think over the idea, think of a plan. Let’s talk more.”
Last week, I got to know that Stan Liu is no more (Jul 12, 2017).
He was a caring person. I’ve lost a mentor, business partner, and good friend. Rest in Peace.
Yes, for those Startup Entrepreneurs, who cannot fly around the world with their kids, who cannot hire nannies at lavish hotels, and for those who do not have superhero, super-dad, super-mom tricks up their sleeves.
Being a Startup Founder and a parent; while seemingly dissimilar, both require a great deal of time, skill and dedication in order to be successful. It may sound like a daunting task, but is possible to run your startup while still maintaining a good relationship with your children.
Founding a startup can be an exciting and rewarding endeavor, but it is also a time consuming process. In order to accomplish your goals while still maintaining a healthy home life, it is important to manage your time wisely. It is easy to get caught up in the stress and excitement of your startup and neglect your family. By the same token, the commotion of a busy family life can cause you to neglect your startup. A healthy balance between work and family is absolutely necessary to running a successful startup while still being a good parent to your children.
Many have written and advocated on effective time management and routines to help you be a super-parent and a hustling Startup Founder. As a Startup Founder, you have to find your ‘style’ of time management and (un)routine to be omni-present for your startup and your family.
In India, we have lots of good schools. The problem is getting to the right one in the right location. Ask any parent and they will tell you their adventurous stories of how they navigated through the chaotic processes of getting their kid admitted to the school of their choice.
Like any other established institutions in India, the Schools follow a rather bureaucratic and pain-in-the-rear approach to new admissions. Admission time is also the time when everyone involved with the schools is at their bossy-best, willing to dust off all their ranks and files to show-off “who they are and what they can do.”
Anyway, without going into the details of the discrepancies in the schools in India, let me tell you the story of how I used technology to streamline my daughter’s admission. I wanted to involved relatives, friends, and family without overwhelming them, so I needed a solution that is an easy, simple and no-learning-needed approach to keep track of the progress.
Let’s get my daughter admitted to a decent school in Bangalore, India.
Yes, I went to lots of ‘Education Fair’, stood in lines for hours in the hot Indian Summer, visited a hell lot of schools to check them out, met with teachers, roam around the campus, even talked to few students. Besides that, I tracked, labeled and measured my actions and outcomes with Trello and mapped the locations with Google Maps. The mobile version of Trello (iOS and Android) is an awesome app and everyone involved really liked it.
My daughter outgrew her playgroup.
My daughter, Laaija, celebrated her 4th birthday on Dec 11, 2012. She is now ready for a ‘real’ school. She has already outlined the kind of school she would like to go to. It is a list of strange, funny and cute (at least to us) criteria and we know what she meant. No, you won’t want to know that list.
Last October, I had initialized the quest for her school. We wanted a good established one and not necessarily some fancy ‘international’ school (without explicitly excluding them), should not be very far from our residence. I should be able to get there within 30 minutes in the typical Bangalore Traffic. It should also not be next-door so she can learn to be independent, travel and enjoy her school.
Trello, Trello & Trello
I treated it like a Project – steps, processes, labels, issues – a flow borrowed from the Kanban Method, which Trello is very good at.
I created 6 core boards:
Inbox – Everything is dropped here first – school names, location on Google maps, notes on people’s review, facilities and amenities available etc.
Considered – All schools which we considered applying were dragged into the “Considered” Board. We try to add as many details as possible here.
Applied – This is the board for all schools where we applied for our daughter’s admission.
Accepted – Schools which have accepted us. It’s now our decision to pick the school, to get admitted or not.
Rejected by Us – The schools rejected by us irrespective of the selection of the schools. The Cards in this List can come from “Inbox”, “Applied” or “Accepted”. It’s not surprising that this List holds the most number of Cards.
Rejected by School – Of course, quite a few of the schools rejected our application. This List holds all those cards.
I used a few simple labels to help with the choices. A card can have one or many of these labels. The labels were
I invited a few of our relatives, friends and family members to this Board. They were told to install the Trello Smartphone apps, so they can do it easily on their phones and not worry about being totally involved.
The idea is to take notes and just write-down details while visiting a School or just seeing one while I travel around Bangalore, made it easy to sort them, work on them later. Writing down help me free up my brain to concentrate on my work and not worry about my daughter’s admission all the time. Same goes for my wife, relatives, friends, and other family members to help us, without the need to indulge in useless talks, gossips and lousy phone calls.
Yes, I finally got my daughter admitted a few days back and she is excited about her new school. We hope she will like it and have fun with her new school.
I created a Public Template of the Trello Board if you wish to use it – Picking a School (India). You should change the List Names, Labels to cater to your requirements.
Besides the activities that I cannot ignore, Trello really helped me get our daughter admitted and freed up quite a bit of my effort, time and I was able to continue my work while I stay engaged with the Admission Process.
It will be incomplete for this article if I do not include the story of the ‘interview’ which got my daughter selected. We were invited to meet the Head of Department (HOD) aka Principal of the School. She talked and got my daughter comfortable, after which she asked her questions including the likes of Apple’s color, the monkey’s favorite fruit. She was a bit concerned about my daughter’s inability to count numbers. The last question she asked my daughter was to use the crayons and draw a circle. That’s easy as Laaija is very good at drawing. She drew a circle. The Principal told her, it was awesome and finally asked her if she can draw a Balloon.
At that moment, I thought my daughter was doing pretty well and we’re pretty close to finishing this event. My wife told me later that, Laaija will now draw a balloon easily. The cool part was, instead of drawing a separate balloon, she just added the thread to the previously drawn circle and made it into a balloon. My wife and I were surprised and I’m pretty sure, if anything, that was the one that sealed the deal. :-)
There’s been quite an array of reactions to the new move by Y Combinator when they announced the application for startup entrepreneurs sans the idea of a Business or a Product. As a ‘Startup Entrepreneur’, my spontaneous reaction, wrapped in a tweet was, “any entrepreneur or founder eager to do a Startup will be brimming with ideas.”
Oh! Yes, I don’t hesitate calling myself a Startup Entrepreneur these days as I’ve failed quite a few times to have experienced and know a thing or two about Startups and Entrepreneurship.
However, on a second look at YC’s initiative, I realized this is a brilliant gambit – YC is ready to take a much bigger albeit calculated risk for a long term winning move. Here’s why.
Last November, when I was away to be part of the Founder Institute, my wife and daughter went to stay with the in-laws in our hometown – Manipur, a north-eastern state of India. My daughter have a very fuzzy eating habit and have to be watching something while she eats her breakfast, lunch and dinner. With no Internet in that part of the country and frequent power-outages, she was having a hard-time. I sent them an iPad (3G) and had a BSNL SIM carved out to fit into the MicroSIM Slot of the iPad.
Luckily during those days, Manipur was one of the testing ground for 3G internet in India and the speed was very good. With the internet working flawlessly, my wife was able to get my daughter to watch her favorite YouTube videos and she fell in love with the iPad. Few Barbie apps were the early apps downloaded to the iPad and she loves them. She even begin to called the iPad, “Barbie”. Even today she would ask me to put the “Barbie” to charge and sleep at night so she won’t die. These days she does say iPad but mixes it quite often with “Barbie”, “iPad Barbie”, “Barbie iPad”.
It is the generation of the lazy, the people who need their 11am cuppa coffee to even register that they are alive, and the generation of the creatively competent, the ones who are up all night writing about their fantasy alternate worlds. Is blogging dead then?
Writing isn’t easy, and Blogging is even tougher. Keeping up with the self acquired deadline of creating something readable on a regular basis is quite a task, especially when the only proceeds are the comments and a readership. Blogs that began as a drunken epiphany have a short shelf life, and even the ones that were born out of a meticulously thought out ideology are tough to keep up with. So what do you do when you want to prove that blogging is your calling, especially in this micro-blogging obsessed world that gets jaded if you write more than 140 characters? Do we need to force-fit blogs into snack-sized containers?
Those 101 days at the Winter 2010 Bay Area semester, Founder Institute was one hell of an action-packed, fast-paced learning experience. Some of the who’s who of the Startup world, who mentored us delivered some of the best sessions, which taught us a lot more than we anticipated. Thanks a million to Adeo Ressi.
Let me tell you my story
Somewhere around July 2010, I left Paisa.com after working with it for a year. Designing the whole User Interface and Interaction of Paisa was a wholesome experience. I remember re-iterating about 5 times until we settled on the final UI/UX.
After Paisa, I spent about a month trying to decide what to do next. I got in touch with a good friend and decided to pursue the startup that we’ve been thinking since 2006. We felt the time was right, technology cost and availability – favorable and the usage of video communication on the rise.
Sometime around September, I stumbled upon Founder Institute and applied for the Winter 2010 Bay Area Semester. By late October, I got selected into the program after passing the IQ, aptitude and personality test. I packed, left Pune, escorted my wife and daughter back to my hometown in Manipur and I flew down to the Bay area to be part of the Founder Institute experience.
The Founder Institute Experience
The very first day, I realized that it was not going to be easy at all. Well, by the second session, I was already told to leave the program unless I can prove that I should be part of the program. I did and I stayed.
The second shock came somewhere around the holiday season, 2010. I was to leave the program, unless I beta launch my startup (which was impossible at that time). My team helped me and figured a way to prove that I can still kick ass. I realized, it was not just me but almost all of us had to some daunting task during the holidays to stay back in the program. By that time, if I can remember correctly, almost half of the class were out of the program.
Surviving each week was hard enough and there was no room for compromise. We slogged on the weekly assignment, special assignment and product building of our Startups. Finally, the persistent, relentless and hard working ones remained. Out of the 50+ odd entrepreneurs that started with the Semester, only 14 graduated on 23rd Feb, 2011.
We became good friends, helped each other and enjoyed the time spent together. I’m sure, we’ll always remember the great time spent at the Antonio’s Nut House, Palo Alto.
The graduates from the Winter 2010 Bay Area Semester, Founder Institute:
The Founder Institute is a technology pre-seed incubator currently on pace to launch over 600 companies per year in 17 cities worldwide. The program identifies high-potential entrepreneurs using predictive social science testing and then guides them through a series of collaborative company-building sessions featuring a network of over 400 CEO Mentors. All program stakeholders, including the participating Founders and CEO Mentors, share in the equity upside generated by companies formed in the program. In addition, participants get access to free and discounted services and are not required to quit their day job.
Some interesting FAQ and References about Founder Institute.
Today, my daughter is 2 years old and I’m unfortunate that I won’t be by her side. I’m writing a letter to her and making it public so my readers, friends, and family will, in a way, remind me to keep my promises to her.
During her first year, I was working on my first startup and I missed most part of her earlier months. It was easier on her as she has no understanding of my absence. By the time we were together for about a year, I had given up on my failed startup. I knew that I had to be away from her again when I decided to take another plunge, get-up from my failed attempt and try harder. I just wasn’t sure how soon that would be.
However, the ultimatum came when my application to the Silicon Valley Winter 2010 Program of FounderInstitute was accepted.
Now that she’s 2 years old, understand separation and the very fact that I’m not there, had been making her hate the words “Bye Bye”. She would be angry at her mother — “No Bye Bye! No Bye Bye!” These days, she cries, “No Bye Bye” when anyone dear to her says “Bye Bye”.
Those words used to be something she likes saying, knowing that I’d return back home and watch TV together, play around, sing & dance all night, swing in the garden whenever she wants. The last gleeful “Bye Bye” for her was when I left her early this November. She felt it was routine until she realized I was not returning for quite a while.
Happy Birthday to you!
I hope you’ll read this one day and forgive me for not being there. I hope we can cherish these moments of separation, in the hope that we’ll spend more time together in the future. By the time you read this and ponder upon the lost moments — you’ll no longer need me to help you with the swings, you won’t need me to push you all around in your scooter, you would even have stopped crying and nagging me to buy you a new balloon each and every-day.
To most people, I was more of a heartless person hardened by the bitter experiences of life. I had a hard time respecting relationships and had never pursued one meaningfully. However, after you were born, I began to realize the deep impact and importance of the human relationship, love, forgiveness and the ability to express them openly without burying them deep within myself.
You’ll soon learn that Life is hard and very-unforgiving at times. There will be times when you feel that the whole world is conspiring against you, trying to prove you wrong even at some of your best intentions. Many a time, you’ll be left alone to fend for yourself, even out-casted in some cases.
You’ll also learn that when the going gets tough when you’re in your weakest, you’ll be tempted to take shortcuts, you’ll try to get away by lying, doing superficial actions just to make you feel good in front of people. I know that you’ve to learn through all the facades of life, but let me tell you early-on, it’s always better to do the right way. There is always a right way of doing things.
Patience is a virtue you’ve to learn and practice right from your early stage in life. Modesty is something you’ll learn when you faced multiple failures and able to learn from it. Honesty is another you’ll want to practice and master when people have cheated you. Do good and you’ll earn goodness.
I can give you an excuse for being away from you today but I won’t. However, I’m trying and will do my best that I will be there for you more often than not, in the future. I’ll tell you lots of stories when you grow up, I’ve lots to talk to you. I’ve lots to teach you from all the failures that I stumbled in my life.
Africa! You are probably envisioning savannas, safaris and political unrest, but amidst the AID projects and Elephants there is a new Africa emerging. Throwing off the shackles of oppressive African stereotypes, the new Africa is experiencing a technology paradigm shift vis-a-vis its high-tech entrepreneurs.
Africa’s technology entrepreneurs may not be catapulting the nation into a tech future like what occurred in India, but they are making incredible grass roots advances. Internet penetration has climbed to 30% in the more developed countries, and numbers continue to grow across the continent.