Product FTW

Could not agree more with this post by Fred Wilson. One of the things we told PMs at eBay is “You are the CEO of the product”. It is great training to become the CEO of the company.

It’s not really different from what we look for in startup founders. Most of the time, the founders we back come from product backgrounds. They have a track record of building and shipping products. They are technical and can go toe to toe with their engineering team. They understand where technology is headed and they understand how software products are made and evolve.

When young people tell me they want to start or run a tech company, I always tell them to go work in product at a big tech company. I believe that product is the heart and soul of tech companies, it is where it all comes together. You can’t build a great company without great products (or great people).

Standing and driving

I’m bought into the whole standing and working thing. I don’t do it enough, but sitting hurts my back and I feel better when I stand.

While this is starting to be a fixable problem in the work environment, one place where there is no alternative is the car (or any kind of transport). Why can’t we stand and drive?

standriving

Or how about seats like this where you are sit-standing? Even this, would be a huge improvement over the one option we have today.

Focal-S-2

Cars would get taller, yes. That’s bad for aerodynamics, so the designs would have to change around them.

The only other alternative is where you are almost reclining, like a race car driver – but I’m not sure people want to crawl into their cars.

I hope someone in the car industry is thinking about this as they rework most of the other things about how cars and transportation work.

*Image of standing driver made in Paper by FiftyThree
*Sit-stand seat is the Focal Seat

Being part of the solution (aka screw secession)

Yes, Silicon Valley does amazing things – creates and changes industries, impacts people, imagines the future. Given that, one can either look at the rest of the country as a burden or an opportunity. One can either say “screw them, let’s move forward alone” or say “let’s help everyone move forward”.

The latter path is, obviously, much more painful.

What I love about the tech folks working in Obama’s “Stealth Startup” is that they are choosing that path.

Oh, and the stories about Weaver. “First name is Matthew,” Weaver says, sitting on a cheap couch in a makeshift office near the White House. But no one calls him Matthew, he explains, since there are too many Matthews in any given room at any given moment. Even among D.C.’s new technorati, people view Weaver as someone separate from the fray. Maybe it’s because he once lived in a camper in the Google parking lot without going home for an entire year. Maybe it’s because he was the one guy who, if he didn’t answer an emergency call, the whole search engine might go down. Or maybe it’s because in a group of brilliant engineers, Weaver, as one of his new colleagues puts it, stands out as “someone who is, like, superhero-fucking-brilliant.” Recruited from California last year by these guys Mikey and Todd to work on the broken Healthcare.gov website, Weaver decided this year to stay in D.C. and leave behind the comfort of Google and a big pile of stock options. He recalls it in terms that suggest the transfixing power of a holy pilgrimage. “That”—he says, meaning the Healthcare.gov fix-it work—”changed my life in a profound way. It made it feel like all my accomplishments in my professional life meant very little compared to getting millions of people through the hospital doors for the first time. And that made me see that I could never do any other work without a public impact.” Weaver now spends his days in the guts of the Veterans Administration, helping the agency’s digital team upgrade their systems and website—and trying to reboot the way government works. As an early test to see if he could challenge the VA’s protocol, he insisted, successfully, that his official government title be Rogue Leader. And so he is: Rogue Leader Weaver.

Valuing the struggle

The popular history of science is full of such falsehoods. In the case of evolution, Darwin was a much better geologist than ornithologist, at least in his early years. And while he did notice differences among the birds (and tortoises) on the different islands, he didn’t think them important enough to make a careful analysis. His ideas on evolution did not come from the mythical Galápagos epiphany, but evolved through many years of hard work, long after he had returned from the voyage. (To get an idea of the effort involved in developing his theory, consider this: One byproduct of his research was a 684-page monograph on barnacles.)

The myth of the finches obscures the qualities that were really responsible for Darwin’s success: the grit to formulate his theory and gather evidence for it; the creativity to seek signs of evolution in existing animals, rather than, as others did, in the fossil record; and the open-mindedness to drop his belief in creationism when the evidence against it piled up.

The mythical stories we tell about our heroes are always more romantic and often more palatable than the truth. But in science, at least, they are destructive, in that they promote false conceptions of the evolution of scientific thought.

The mythification of very hard work makes for a good story, but it minimizes the effort that went into it.

The oversimplification of discovery makes science appear far less rich and complex than it really is.

This very good op-ed in the NYTimes is focused on science, but this is true not just for science – it’s true for almost anything. In tech, it’s the pithy “and now it’s a unicorn”. In film, it’s “and it premiered at (insert name of festival)”. The punchline ignores all the decisions and work that went before it.

While you are in the middle of the struggle, it’s easy to be seduced by the thought that others had it easy, that somehow it all came together instantly. But it’s the grind, the perseverance and the hard work that matters, even though it is unglamorous and hard and unreported. It’s the only thing you control.

The myths can seduce one into believing there is an easier path, one that doesn’t require such hard work.
:
:
The Darwin, Newton and Hawking of the myths received that instant gratification. The real scientists did not, and real people seldom do.

Your beach, in Manhattan -

Your beach, in Manhattan

The beach is always there: you just have to conceive of it. It follows that those who fail to find their beach are, in the final analysis, mentally fragile; in Manhattan terms, simply weak. Jack Donaghy’s verbal swordplay with Liz Lemon was a comic rendering of the various things many citizens of Manhattan have come to regard as fatal weakness: childlessness, obesity, poverty. To find your beach you have to be ruthless. Manhattan is for the hard-bodied, the hard-minded, the multitasker, the alpha mamas and papas. A perfect place for self-empowerment—as long as you’re pretty empowered to begin with. As long as you’re one of these people who simply do not allow anything—not even reality—to impinge upon that clear field of blue.

Zadie Smith, on Manhattan.

Such a great piece on the city, warts and all, and on creating in the city.

Finally the greatest thing about Manhattan is the worst thing about Manhattan: self-actualization. Here you will be free to stretch yourself to your limit, to find the beach that is yours alone. But sooner or later you will be sitting on that beach wondering what comes next. I can see my own beach ahead now, as the children grow, as the practical limits fade; I see afresh the huge privilege of my position; it reclarifies itself. Under the protection of a university I live on one of the most privileged strips of built-up beach in the world, among people who believe they have no limits and who push me, by their very proximity, into the same useful delusion, now and then.

It is such a good town in which to work and work. You can find your beach here, find it falsely, but convincingly, still thinking of Manhattan as an isle of writers and artists—of downtown underground wildlings and uptown intellectuals—against all evidence to the contrary. Oh, you still see them occasionally here and there, but unless they are under the protection of a university—or have sold that TV show—they are all of them, every single last one of them, in Brooklyn.

Designing your path -

Designing your path

When I was in my late twenties, I was convinced that I was on the right path, and one that I would be on for a long time. I was working in Silicon Valley, and while the hours were long, I was having a lot of fun.

But then life happened, I moved to New York and dreams I had suppressed were brought to the fore. Since I was a young child, I had wanted to be a photographer. So, I decided to go on an adventure and become a filmmaker. And what an adventure it’s been. I’ve never worked harder and never been happier.

My dear friend and former colleague, Avid Larizadeh, wrote an article in Forbes about inspiring women to design their own paths.

It has become clear that we need to do more to shine a light on the ambitious, successful women who dream big and achieve their personal and professional goals while staying true to themselves.

She, very kindly, cites me as one of the examples.

Shripriya Mahesh is an incredible woman: A wife, a mother, an award-winning filmmaker and a successful Silicon Valley executive. She owes all of it to her passion, openness and determination. When I first started at eBay, she was assigned to me as my mentor and then became my boss and my friend. I’m now lucky enough to be godmother to her twins, so I know first hand how open, passionate and strong she is. Shri leads by example: She taught me how to create solutions for any problem and above all, that you can pursue your passion at any stage. She reinvented herself as a filmmaker after 15 successful years in technology while having twins and supporting her parents who were struggling with illnesses. Shri has now found a way to fulfil both passions by leading the product launch for a startup and working on her first feature. She proves that it is possible to handle any personal and professional challenge with determination and positive energy.

You can’t co-opt someone else’s path. You are unique, what makes you happy is unique. Figuring out your path is not easy, but it is worth it. For me, the path was much more circuitous than I would have imagined, but also more fulfilling that I could have imagined.

I love film. I love tech. I want to find a way to do both. Can I? I don’t know, but I am certainly going to try.

Each (of the women) is very unique in her path and identity, however they all share a few very important traits: They are passionate, positive, hard working, confident and most importantly, they are constantly learning and teaching. They promote others and are great leaders with loyal followers. And if you ask each and every one of them, they will tell you that they are no better than you. If they can design their own paths and stay true to themselves, you can, too

 

Live With Bliss -

Live With Bliss

MS Subbulakshmi was one of the greatest carnatic singers of all time.

On
October 23, 1966, she sang Maithreem Bhajata at the United Nations in New York City.

My grandparents were in the audience.

My mother used to sing the song to me as a child and I loved it for its musicality. When I learned the meaning, I loved it even more.

The key message, of the song is “Sreyo Bhooyaath Sakala Janaanaam” which translates to “Let all the people live with bliss”.

And that is my wish for 2014.

With friendship please serve,

And conquer all the hearts,

Please think that others are like you,

Please forsake war for ever,

Please forsake competition forever,

Please forsake force to get someone else’s property,

For mother earth yields all our desires,

And God our father is most merciful,

Restrain, donate and be kind,

To all the people of this world,

Let all the people live with bliss,

Let all the people live with bliss,

Let all the people live with bliss.

Photo credit and all rights owned by: Raghu Rai
Source of the translated lyrics: Wikipedia

Consolidating the blogs -

Consolidating the blogs

I started this blog my personal blog, Almost As Good As Chocolate1, on September 29, 2006. There were busy moments and there were large lulls. Over time though, with Twitter and Tumblr, with work and life, I ended up posting here2 less and less.

I am, however, posting on the Tatvam blog and on Tumblr. Given that it’s been a year since I’ve posted here3, it is time to consolidate, to simplify.

All of this content will move to my Tatvam blog4 where I will continue blogging about film, but now, also about things that interest me and about technology. Every post that was written originally on this blog will be tagged with the “Almost As Good As Chocolate” category. And you will not need to update anything – the RSS feed and the emails will still work as I will update them on the back end.

Over the next few weeks, as I transition, there *may* be a few glitches. Thank you in advance for understanding.

I’ve met some great friends through this blog5 – I look forward to seeing you on Tatvam.

Update: I realize this post gets a bit confusing when it’s viewed, post-migration on the Tatvam blog. Just to be clear, it was the last post on my personal blog. All the posts were then migrated. Now it lives here on Tatvam. Clear? Good.


  1. It used to live at http://shripriya.com/blog, which now redirects to my Tatvam site 

  2. see point 1 

  3. see point 1 

  4. it has now moved and you are reading it on Tatvam 

  5. see point 1