The NEXT Chapter Begins! #startupjourney

Last year and a half has been excitingly eventful. It all started in August of 2013, when I joined Parth & Nikhil in their startup TommyJams. I vividly remember the day Parth called me. It was 10 pm on 19th of July when Parth and I had our first conversation on joining TommyJams. In the beginning, I wasn’t too sure about the prospect, but after a couple of skype calls with both Parth & Nikhil the next day, I decided to take a plunge into the startup world. I was so excited that by 21st morning, I had my train (from Jaipur to Bangalore via Delhi) booked to make sure I join them on or before 29th of July at Microsoft Ventures.

Why is MUSIC a dear friend and Why did I join TommyJams?

Music is very close to my heart since childhood. I participated in a lot of music competitions (group category) during my school days. There was, in particular, two reasons why I was so mesmerized by music. First, it made me super-happy (for no apparent reason) and second, it gave me a sense of being present in this very world. That was my fascination with music in school. Now, what about college? At BITS, I was exposed to tons of new music and especially to Indian music scene. At around the same time, I started following music talent shows like X-Factor. Watching hundreds of artists/musicians fulfilling their dreams on the X-Factor stage gave me thrill beyond measure. By the start of 3rd year, I made a promise that one day I am going to do something for musicians. So, getting an opportunity with TommyJams, where I can do good to both artists and music lovers was a dream come true. And, I joined them to experience that thrill and energy again!

MS Ventures days!

During those 4 months (August – November), we, literally, worked our asses off for 10+ hrs every day for 7 days a week. It was FUN! I am not kidding. We worked together, laughed together, and ate together. To simply put it, we wanted to accomplish great things no matter what. Apart of immense business knowledge/ethics from entrepreneurs, mentors, aspiring entrepreneurs and fellow interns, I also develop my love for technology in here. Technology opened up my mind to infinite possibilities. It made me believe that we have resources to impact millions and billions of lives. Two very important traits/features that I improved during this period were “how to be happy in all situations and how to share”. I thank Parth! for making it happen. I admire his traveller spirit. Talking about Nikhil, he is totally different from Parth. I learned the importance of focus, and hustle from him. Learning from other MS ventures teams was incredibly helpful and inspiring, too.

Important decision to JOIN TommyJams full-time!

After my gig with TommyJams at MS ventures, I decided to join them full-time. My first two months (Jan-Feb) were focused on business operations. At TommyJams, business operations include maintaining a proper sync between an artist and a venue before an event, work collectively with all the team members, taking full responsibility of on the day event management (micromanagement), and smooth handling of payment procedure after the gig. In nutshell, providing a smooth and enjoyable gig experience to both the artist and the venue.

March-November period – A roller coaster ride! Learned the true meaning of a startup!

Just after MS ventures program, we were selected as top 100 startups around the world by StartupChile program. By mid-January’14, both Parth & Nikhil decided that it was a good opportunity for the company to explore international expansion and kickstart operations in Chile through the StartupChile program. It was a huge opportunity for me, individually, to head TommyJams India. For initial few months (after Parth & Nikhil left for Chile) we only had a team of 4 people (Nikhil, Parth, Nandan and me) who were running TommyJams in India and Chile. It was amusing in the beginning to play (work) in different timezones. I still remember waking up 3 or 4 o’clock in nights fixing bugs and discussing way forward with them. Similar, was the situation for both Parth & Nikhil. Virtual team management is difficult to sustain, therefore, we decided to meet twice a week (Monday and Wednesday/Thursday) on skype. These meetings were sort of mandatory. We exchanged over 30 emails every day continuously for a period of 3-4 months, properly going through every piece of work. I know you must be feeling that it is micromanagement and it is not good BUT it was the right thing to do. I was totally NEW to our business and it was every important that we do the right things, right from beginning. That helped me a lot in developing self-confidence as well. My curiosity took a totally different trajectory during this period. I was responsible for the company’s business here in India, so it was my job to keep our company fresh with new ideas/suggestions/feedback. And boy! that was FUN.

During this time, we also collaborated with Solstice Festival, to organize our first International festival in India on World Music Day (21st of June). By early May’14, we hired Abhijit to kickstart our Mumbai operations (he later played a significant role in sponsorship deals for the festival). Throughout the preparation, we faced huge challenges. We had only 2 weeks to make it and since it was World Music Day, many other venues and organizations like Alliance Francaise were organizing their own festivals/events. We were facing stiff competition to attract good artists and to convert more and more venues for hosting our festival. Daily routine was damn! busy. We were setting up meetings with venues, sponsors and calling artists right, left and center. We were, literally, on a 24-hrs clock every day and at one point it seemed that we would lose it BUT Abhijit nailed Millers sponsorship at the right moment and with most of our calls getting converted towards the end, we were right back on track. After 2 weeks of sweat, frustrations, devotion, rejections, we proudly organized pilot run across 12 venues in Bangalore. Convincing artists/musicians to perform for FREE (to keep world music day spirit alive) was a gruelling task for us. Fortunately, 10 out of 12 artists, who performed with us did it for FREE (closing deals feels so, so good! ). And Seeing 100s of music lovers turning up for our gigs at each venue was a delight to watch. I remember Sharath (a friend of ours, who was also helping us) and I were running from venue to venue on 21st June night, taking gig photographs, counting number of walks-in and making sure everything go according to our plan. Shout out to him as well for making it happen! AND A huge thank you to Construkt Festival team and all our friends, who supported us and contributed during the festival build-up and operations.

Time was running away, rather fastly!

By August second week, I ran out of all my steam. I just couldn’t work. I wrote a separate blog on my August month experience here. But with Parth & Nikhil’s support, I was back on track by the end of August. Things were looking fine again but around mid-September, I started having doubts whether I can continue further with TommyJams. I discussed my situation/options with a couple of friends, other entrepreneurs and my family and after my home visit (Diwali breaks), I knew that my time was up. I developed my fascination and curiosity for startups in mobile space during my time at TommyJams and thus, I started my search for startups where I can find this right opportunity. Vikas, a good friend of mine helped me and I was finally able to find my next chapter!

MOMOE!

I met Momoe’s co-founders in 1st week of November. After spending hours and hours over the next couple of visits, discussing their ideas, team structure, vision, mine and their past experiences (both at college and professional levels), I decided to join Momoe from 1st of December. Just to give you an heads up, we at Momoe have a vision to change the way WE LIVE. We provide you an easy mobile based payment solution to pay when you eat out, shop and commute. So, make sure you download and try out our app.

Final Thoughts

Today is 28th November (and my last official TommyJams gig) and with only two days left, I can’t believe my journey with TommyJams is coming towards an end. It has been such a fruitful and enriching experience both at personal and professional levels. Made a lot of new good friends, whom I can bug day and night. The sad part is, last year around the start of December, I joined TommyJams full-time and this year from December onwards, I would no longer be with TommyJams. BUT the good part is, I can see myself becoming the person I always fantasized. You know, a lot can happen if you throw yourself out in/for something/someone you love!

Also, I would like to appreciate Parth & Nikhil for their immense support and guidance. They played a very crucial part in my development. And I wish you guys my best.

To end, I am very ENTHUSIASTIC about my new chapter. Hope I can write a good story in this chapter, too.

Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

next-phase

P.S. My inspiration behind this blog post is this song.

P.S.S. I have not tagged Sharath because he is currently unavailable on all social media platforms. Super busy! guy 😛

 

 

 

 

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“Rocket Science” behind Team Building [Part-1]

Building a team is tougher than it sounds. There is no chemical “X” which could offer you a miracle. Instead, you have to push yourself to the limit to pull out decisive steps to prepare a team for present and future. The three phases in a team building [In my view, of-course] are:

1) Hiring 2) Decentralization & Coaching 3) Finding your successor

I’m going to cover this broad topic through a series of 3 posts. Each post  precisely covering one of those 3 phases. So lets begin!  

1) Hiring:
“Get ready to fire up your brain and prepare some kick-ass interview questions”. If that’s your first reaction, then you better stop and settle down first or you wouldn’t be able to dodge bullets later. Here is what one must do.

a) Decide min. no of applicants you want aboard.

b) Heat-up your applicants by a written test [This is your golden opportunity to test applicants’ thinking process. Don’t waste it by asking stupid standard questions; Give a case study].

…….Now come interviews.

c) By this step, you already knew your interviewees’ thinking process [to some extent]. Therefore, to be absolutely sure, give them a modified version of the previous case study [it should sound/look absolutely different].
Whatever their answer is, just tell them the opposite. For say, if there is no variation in their approach; ask them why same concept to two different situations and if you see some variation, then question: why different approach to a same situation.

Sole purpose here is to check: interviewee’s sharpness and whether or not they have an eye for details. 

d) Final stage: Ask them tough questions [to dig deep]; preferable ones are:

d.1) What similarities and differences you can point out b/w you and “ABC” firm?
d.2) Whom you talked with, in “ABC” firm and what did he/she say that inspire you to join us?
d.3) What initiative(s) you took? What challenges you faced? Do you consider yourself successful in those challenges? and why?
d.4) How much changed person are you now?
d.5) How much “ABC” firm can help you with your long-term prospects?
d.6) What you want to be remembered for, lets say after 15 years from now? And how you gonna achieve it?

You can definitely add more to the above list as per your liking. But remember! judge your interviewee on behavior and not on attributes.

I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.
– Larry Bossidy

Thought Provoking

Some articles really change the way we think and bring a whole new perspective to our lives. Here are the links to my top 5 (actually, 4) of this month, which are worth sharing and reading. Have fun!

1) To keep miseries at bay:  How to Have a Year that Matters 

2) Aspiring entrepreneurs: Is Your Company Ready for the Circular Economy?

3) Deep thinkers: How Will You Measure Your Life?

4) Young masses: Why you should travel young 

5) Follow my blog if you need more 😉

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