Author Archives: sandeepdotburman

Note To Self #42: Why Work?

Don't work for name,
Don't work for fame, 
Work to touch another life,
It makes your soul smile, come alive.

Don't work for the money,
Or for the alluring honey, 
Work to accomplish an impossible feat,
It makes your heart skip a little beat.
Don't work for your boss,
Or for profit and loss,
Work where making a difference is the theme,
It makes your head dream a little dream.

Don't work out of boredom,
Or to build a kingdom,
Work to inspire many a generation,
And fulfil your existential motivation.

Work for the sake of work,
Not for the fruits thereof.

The Answer To Life, The Universe And Everything

Questions about “Who am I’, ‘What is my purpose’, ‘Where or what is God’, ‘Why are bad things happening to me’ have been asked ever since man tasted apple (the fruit, not the company).

Life, the universe and everything

And the answer isn’t 42!

Wonder why we don’t question the awesome moments, relationships and things, however few, that have come our way though #FoodForThought

The Indian rishis and sages however questioned and thought about all this. And they were probably the first to find the answers to these existential questions which they generously recorded in the Vedas and Upanishad for future lost souls to learn from. Alas, if only Deep Thought had access to these philo-scientific gems, then mankind wouldn’t be as lost as the mice.

Mystery of Death by Swami Abhedananda (a first disciple of Sri Ramakrishna) is a collection of lectures delivered to American students  on the central thoughts and philosophy of the Katha Upanishad which distils the essence of the Divine Truth or rather ‘the meaning of life’. Sharing my key take-aways for the curious and crazy.

What are the Upanishads?

Upanishad means “a collection of wisdoms and truths which are eternal, uncontradicted and permanent”

How does this collection of wisdoms and truths help you?

  • It destroys the ignorance and superstition of the individual soul (and teaches men not to remain self-deluded)
  • Guides the soul towards the attainment of the highest wisdom and truth
  • And in the process slackens attachment to your
    • material body,
    • earthly attachment
    • material world

What is the essence of the philosophy?

It teaches that truth is one but is manifested in manifold ways.

What is this “Universal Truth” (The ‘One Truth That Rules All Truths’)?

Your individual spirit (also referred to as ‘individual soul’ or ‘true self’) is a part and parcel of the Universal spirit (also referred to as ‘Creator’ or ‘God’) and your purpose in life is to realize this truth and become one with the Creator by becoming a self-realized soul.

Elaborating this “Universal Truth” a bit…

The universe you live in is a projection of cosmic energy that emanates from the Creator. This cosmic energy forms the body of Creator and through the process of evolution manufactures various objects of nature, including humans, in accordance with the laws of ‘karma’ of previous cycles.

Since you emanate from the same body of the Creator (akin to a single wave emanating from the body of the sea), the same spirit of the Creator lies within you, which is referred to as the soul.

Once you realize that your soul is a part of the Creator’s universal soul, you realize that you yourself are the Creator and you unite and become one with the cosmic energy. Then your journey through your cycle of birth and death ends. Which is why Jesus Christ said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”.

This philosophy on ‘oneness’ is further validated by other self-realized souls like Buddha when he said “He who experiences the unity in life sees his own Self in all beings and all beings in his own Self” and by Swami Vivekananda when he said, “Whoever sees in every being the same Atman (soul), and whoever sees everything in that Atman (soul), he never goes far from that Atman (soul). When all life and the whole universe are seen in this Atman (soul), then alone man has attained the secret. There is no more delusion for him. Where is any more misery for him who sees this Oneness in the universe” just to quote a from a couple of them.

Hence a life without putting in efforts to realize your own divinity, your immortal nature, your true self, is definitely a life missed meeting your maker and might be a life wasted.

How can you realize your true self and become a self-realized soul?

At a conceptual level there are 3 elements that go into self-realization –

  1. An extreme detached longing which makes the seeker after Truth well-qualified to receive instruction and to realize the immortal life. This is very rare to obtain. And an extreme longing yet detached state even harder. Something I tried to put a formula and approach to in an earlier post which you can read here.
    1. This longing must rise spontaneously from the bottom of our souls. How it comes and when it comes nobody can tell. It is the expression of the natural evolution of the soul.
    2. Some people may have that longing from childhood, other may have it in their youth and some others may have it in maturity and old age. It is said, unless all our earthly desires are satisfied, we cannot have that longing.
  2. An open mind which is receptive to the highest truth
    1. Reading various spiritual philosophies with an open mind, refraining from drawing immediate conclusions and seeing similar patterns and truths across various philosophies can warm you up and help you understand
  3. However, you cannot attain the knowledge of immortality by just reading books. Words hint at this Reality, but they do not, cannot, explain it. Truth is a state of being, not a set of words. You have to feel it, and that feeling must be the result of practicing one of the 4 techniques expounded in the Bhagavad Gita which later Swami Vivekananda expands in his lectures in America.
    1. Karma Yoga – through selfless action
    2. Bhakti Yoga – through selfless love
    3. Jnana Yoga – through self-knowledge
    4. Raja Yoga – a combination of:
      1. long practice of concentration (dharana) – to make your intellect or reasoning faculties very sharp and keep to grasp something which is beyond the 5 senses (taste, touch, sight, smell and sound)
      2. meditation (dhyana) – and
      3. ecstacy (samadhi). Samadhi means God-consciousness

In addition, a right Guru can act as a catalyst (some philosophies say a Guru is an essential catalyst).

You will have to go through different grades of evolution. That evolution will come by itself, if we are animated by spiritual longing, strong desires and determination. They are necessary accompaniments of spiritual and mental evolutions, and those qualities will change your whole nature, transforming you into a quite different being.

There are some temperaments which will find it almost impossible to take up this path to the Truth. The suggestion for such souls is to deliberately spend time with inspired works of art (music, dance, poems which are inspirational rather than violent), lose yourself in Mother Nature’s beauty and serenity and embrace silence. As Paul Brunton (a first disciple of Ramana Maharshi) says, “There is spiritual power in these moments which we remember long after they are gone. Rightly used they can become as Jacob’s ladders leading from earth to heaven.”

Why is self-realization so difficult to achieve?

Your true Self, Atman (soul), is very subtle. It is subtler than the subtlest thing you can imagine. You cannot touch, taste, see, smell or hear it. Since it is beyond the realm of your senses, it is difficult to even grasp or understand let alone pursue.

To make matters worse, the Creator has pierced the opening of the senses and has made them go outward, not inward. Hence, whenever you see any fascinating thing, your ego is attracted by it and you become attached to it. Ego is nothing but the name given to your soul when it is on the earthly plane, attached to worldly desires (and has forgotten its true nature).

So long as you are following the power of your senses and sensations, you forget what is within you and you forget your true self and become fascinated, charmed and attached by the external objects of the world (which is why the universal advice from self-realized souls is “know thyself, look inward”)

Why these limitations have been made by the Creator I do not know (if someone does then feel free to enlighten me and the world).

There isn’t any reason to despair though. In his book, Swami Abhedananda assures us that “The soul will not be contented until it has realized its infinite nature, and that is the goal towards which we are running consciously or unconsciously”

And hence you will keep returning to this earth to fulfil your desires and purify your character and soul through karmic lessons till this goal is attained.

Deliberately practicing one or all of the 4 techniques can however help in your cause of getting the Creator to notice your efforts and maybe give you a helping hand to expedite your cosmic union cos apparently he is biased in helping those who help themselves.

Why should you believe this ‘Universal Truth’ on ‘Oneness’?

You shouldn’t believe it blindly. In fact, doubt everything unless you can prove it by yourself.

There are 2 steps involved in proving a postulate to yourself.

  1. Intellectual rationalization
    1. I’ve extracted the ‘Universal Truth’s’ thought evolution of the rishis/seers from the book Mystery of Death which outlines the logic behind their findings below.
  2. Experiencing outcomes through practice
    1. However, spiritual pursuit is a serious undertaking. Mere curiosity is not enough in that path. What one requires is deep loyalty to the ideal. Curiosity mongers will never reach the highest goal until their hearts and souls have become earnest. So, it won’t be fair to dispel the conclusion in its entirety if you haven’t made any progress, especially sans practice (in the same way it’s not fair to say Mt. Everest cannot be climbed if you can’t do so)

Thought evolution of the seers –

  • The rishis first sought to find out ways and means for earthly pleasures and celestial happiness
  • They had (somehow?) realized that there were realms of heaven
    • According to them there were many heavens which afford different kind of celestial pleasure.
    • Example, in realm of pitr or souls of departed ancestors, departed souls meet their relatives and enjoy the fruits of their good deeds and good thoughts after death (hence probably how the modern spiritualistic ideal of meeting friends and enjoying with them evolved)
  • Souls go to these heavens/realms to fulfil our desires. Our unfulfilled desires cling to us and take us wherever it can be fulfilled. If the desires are of earthly nature, gross or material or sensuous, it will force the soul to come back to earth to fulfil it. Else if it is of refined character (what is refined character desires?), the soul will have to go to such realms as are mentioned in the Vedas
  • The seers believed that the heavens were meant for people who lived a virtuous and righteous life. They didn’t believe in the concept of an eternal hell but believed in the law of karma (cause and effect). And souls came back to earth, after their visit to the relevant realms of heaven. They were born again and again until they have learnt the law through hard experiences and are ready for higher life and gradual perfection.
  • So karmakanda describes the ritualistic portion of the Vedas, various sacrifices, rites and ceremonies, which lead to heavens
  • However, they figured that the difference in enjoyment in heaven and that on earth is only a difference of degree and not of kind
    • And the duration of pleasure on earth is limited with longer periods of pain whereas in heaven that may be just the opposite
    • They realized that even in heaven there is some kind of suffering. Even if there is no immediate suffering, there is fear of losing pleasure from having to return to earth and/or their place being taken by mortals on earth who are becoming extremely virtuous
  • The seers also realized and concluded that the earthly and celestial pleasures were not eternal (Pleasure would be no pleasure if it continued forever. This is a thing that very few people understand)
    • Based on this principle the jnanakanda or rationalistic portion of the Vedas came into existence)
    • They rationalised that while the celestial pleasures could be enjoyed through good thoughts and good deeds in the earthly lives, good thoughts and deeds are limited by time and space and as such finite in nature.
    • Anything finite must only produce a finite result and an eternal effect (eternal happiness/pleasure) is possible only when the cause is eternal and not otherwise
    • There is no work or thought which is unlimited by time and space, and consequently its results, however great it may be, must be limited by time and space.
    • So the Vedic seers of Truth could no longer believe that the heavenly pleasures as well as the heavens were eternal
  • At this point we should bear in mind that the Vedic seers were monotheistic (believed that there is only one God) in their ideas.
    • At first, they tried to explain the mystery of the universe and its creation by conceiving of a Creator who was omnipotent and omniscient Lord of all. But then they rejected the theory of creating ‘something out of nothing’ and used the word ‘Creator’ in the sense of one who projects the universe out of the cosmic energy (mahashakti), which forms the body of the Lord, and manufactures through the process of evolution the various objects of nature, in accordance with the types of previous cycles.
    • Thus, explanation of the origin of the external world depended upon the conception of God as the projector of evolution.
    • The Vedic seers then enquired into the nature of the individual soul, the internal or subjective world and its relation to the external or objective world. They gradually came to the conclusion that the internal or subjective world is connected with the objective world by the individual soul or ego, which is beyond matter.
    • They also discovered through their experiences in the superconscious state and revelation that the individual soul is eternal. It is beginningless and endless, and its relation to the universal Being or Creator is a spiritual one like absolute oneness on the spiritual plane, or in other words, the Creator manifests Himself in the form of an individual ego.
  • Hence, gradually those ancient seers gave up the idea of going to heaven as the highest aim of life, and discovered happiness which is more permanent and more lasting then the celestial pleasures.

Why can’t science prove the connection between True-Self and Cosmic Energy or the Creator?

  • Science as it deals only with the sense perceptions, cannot explain the mystery of self. It is only within the province of philosophy
    • Science cannot reach it as its domain is within the sense perception and all its observations and experiments depend entirely upon the sense perceptions too. The Atman or soul however is beyond the realm of the 5 senses.
  • At the same time the Atman (soul) forms its background by which we perceive the sense objects
    • The studies of percepts and concepts will not reveal what we may call the witness. The chair is illumined by the light but if you want to study the light the chair will not help you.
    • Similarly the sense perceptions will not help you in studying your own Self cos they have no separate existence from the Self… sense perceptions and Self are one and the same
      • They cannot reveal any truth but truth is revealed by itself
    • Hence, study yourself and find out who you are and what you are, and that study will reveal to you that constant entity.
    • Through practice of deep meditation, when you are able to reach super-conscious state, samadhi, will you be able to find your true self, your soul.

“The soul will not be contented until it has realized its infinite nature, and that is the goal towards which we are running consciously or unconsciously.” – Swami Abhedananda

So why not run consciously?

And btw, if you haven’t guessed, the answer to life’s existential questions is not 42 but ONE!

Is There A Magic Formula To Building A Billion Dollar App?

Billion Dollar App

aabracadabra make me a zebra

Apparently not!

“The formula is not magic, it is simple, and it’s about how religiously you adhere to the tactics and the calibre of people you attract to join you on the journey.” – George Berkowski

But why should you believe “Georgie Porgie who kissed the girls and made them cry”?

For one, he is one of the minds behind the internationally successful taxi hailing app Hailo where he led the product team and launched the app in 13 cities and helped drive the first $150 million in revenue. Hailo was acquired by Daimler in mid 2016.

But a more relevant reason may be because he has put in the effort to research common threads and practices, tying them through his experience and stories of some of the billion dollar club members – wassapp, Instagram, Snapchat, Square, Flipboard, and a few more, to publish “How To Build A Billion Dollar App: Discover The Secrets Of The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Of Our Time”

Sharing extracts from the book of my key take-aways, for those aspiring to build (or are part of building) a billion (or even million) dollar app.

7 tips for building the B-App (pun intended)

  1. Think big by thinking about –
    1. What people love to do
    2. What people need to do (solving a universal problem)
  2. Disrupt and reinvent a service that millions of people around the world use on a daily basis
    1. A disruptive idea is one that
      1. Delivers a step change
      2. Hard for an existing player to copy
    2. Mass appeal is a core component of far-reaching disruption.
  3. Disruptive entrepreneurs need to understand –
    1. The capabilities of technology available to them
    2. The necessity of building a new platform
    3. How to integrate virality into their products
    4. Power of timing (probably most important)
  4. The best disruptions appear simple –
    1. They are best because they are the simplest to communicate and the simplest to understand by the largest number of people.
    2. Despite the veneer, simple ideas are rarely simple to execute
  5. Leading apps trigger and maintain strong emotional relationships (2 strongest sentiments being ‘connected’ and ‘excited’) by focusing exceptional effort on –
    1. Usability
    2. Design
    3. Performance
    4. Tone of voice used in copy
  6. Build a business, not an app. 5 business models that work –
    1. Gaming: Users pay for a virtual service or good
    2. E-commerce/market place: Users pay for a real world good or a service
    3. Advertising:
    4. Software as a Service (SaaS): Users pay for cloud-based software (typically via subscription model)
    5. Enterprise: Companies pat for larger-scale software (again, via a subscription model)
  7. Big ideas are going to take a while to get there (and it’s bloody hard… so you’ll need to want it bloody badly)
    1. Evan Williams, founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium says, “By definition, if it’s big, and no one has done it before, it’s not going to be 1-2-3, ‘We got it!’ There is going to be a dark period in there, because you don’t know what the key to getting there is. You have to be willing to be in some murky territory, and be prepared to invest, if you really want to do something different”
    2. It takes about 7 years on an average to build a company that raises $30 mn and gets acquired for $150 mn
    3. You need to be tenacious and lucky to make it to the top

Bonus tip (from moi) – Focus on building an amazing product that people can’t live without, not chasing the billion dollar dream. After all, that’s also what’s common between Mark Zuckerberg, Sergei Brin, Larry Page, Evan Spiegel, Brian Acton, Jan Koum, Brian Chesky and all other 37 founders in the Billion Dollar club when they first started out.

The 7 Step Journey (till Stage 2: Ten Million Dollar App…Series A)

Step 1: Figure out what you want to build

  1. Start with a big problem. Works best if you want to solve a problem for yourself
  2. Find a novel solution
  3. Make sure there’s a market to adopt it. Preferably a huge market if you want to “change the world”

Step 2: Build a great product that users love

  1. Name your app
    1. Don’t settle for an OK name. A great name is 10 times better than a good name. We are subject to the influence of first impressions and the name can have an influence on what people think about your app, before they’ve even tried it out.
    2. Important factors that you need to consider when coming up with a name
      1. Is your name short, catchy and memorable?
      2. Is your name distinctive?
      3. Is your name clever?
      4. Can your name become a verb?
    3. Some online services that can help solve your identity crisis –
      4. www.instantdomainsearch. Com
  1. Create a landing page/website
    1. You’ll need to announce to the world that you’re gonna conquer it.. or at least that you’ve arrived
    2. Use this to collect leads of people interested in your app by capturing their email address
  2. Creating the 1st version of the app, version 0.1, typically referred to as an mvp (minimum viable product)
    1. This is a bare bones version of your app. A version that will definitely make you cringe, but like Reid Hoffman says, “if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”. In this version you want to focus on the most basic set of features that will make your app useful and unique.
      1. George shares his example about the first version of Hailo, “Since we had limited time and resources we ignored everything else – there wasn’t a proper way to register an account, you couldn’t add your name, you couldn’t interact with the map, and you could see only the taxi’s number plate. It was bare bones. But it delivered a feature that no one else could offer!”
    2. Create wireframes and user journeys (a detailed blueprint of your app)
      1. This blueprint has two goals:
        1. To illustrate what each screen of your app looks like; and
        2. To explain how your app behaves. Since smartphones are small, intimate and all based on touch, there are lots of ways you can make your app behave.
      2. Tools to help you do this –
        6. (only mac)
        7. PowerPoint – create a slide-by-slide outline (using the shapes elements) for every screen in your app. Immediately, you will see the challenge of translating the idea of the app you have in your head to precisely how it’s going to look on a screen. It’s challenging!
      3. Don’t ignore (great) design
        1. Design matters because competition in the app world is heating up and because people can be fickle. (26% of users will open your app and never use it again). From the very first experience you need to be able to deliver value to the user. You need them to say, ‘Wow, this is really cool!’
        2. “Good Design is as little design as possible – less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.” – Dieter Rams
        3. FUNCTIONAL VERSUS BEAUTIFUL. There is a fine line between beautiful and functional design. The highest praise is reserved for apps that achieve both. But let’s be 100 per cent clear: functionality should be your number-one priority.
          1. WhatsApp is arguably a rather spartan app, and not super-pretty, but it’s damn intuitive, has great performance and always works. Similarly, Snapchat has a simple and uncluttered interface, and, despite requiring you to learn a new behaviour to view a snap (press and hold to view the content while the clock counts down), achieves that goal easily
        4. A great source of inspiration of screenshots is

Step 3: Acquiring your first set of users (early adopters)

  1. The objective at this step is not to focus on getting many many users to download your app at this point, but rather to a) get initial validation on your product and b) create a viable and realistic plan to drive downloads and regular usage by ensuring your users can find your app
  2. A break-down (fig 1) of how users find apps via each channel indicates the channels that you need to create and optimize (You’ll find a ton of resources on Google for ASO (App-Store Optimization) and SEO for website
Mobile App User Acquisition Channels

Fig 1: User Acquisition Channels

Step 4: Measure metrics

  1. Reactions to the early versions of your app are key to your success, and you want to use real user feedback to tune the direction in which you’re heading
  2. Reality of (auto) feedback is you only hear the extremes, the great experiences and the very bad experiences
  3. Analytics is the answer. By including snippets of software in your app code, you can automatically track what every single user is doing on your app – what they are looking at, what they are clicking, how long they spend performing an action and at what point they open and close the app. Analytics tools gives you powerful visualization of all this information and more. How you interpret this information, i.e., what insight you can gleam from it, and what should do as a result – well, is an art.
  4. Some great analytics tools –
  5. Metrics to live and die for – There are five types of metrics to remember (AARRR):
    1. ACQUISITION: users downloading your app from a variety of channels;
    2. ACTIVATION: users enjoying their first ‘happy’ experience on your app;
    3. RETENTION: users coming back and using your app multiple times;
    4. REFERRAL: users loving your app so much they refer others to download it;
    5. REVENUE: users completing actions on your app that you’re able to monetise
  6. One thing to remember is that all your metrics should be valuable and actionable, and they shouldn’t just be vanity metrics. Valuable metrics are ones that drive decisions.
  7. It’s also essential to agree on the definition of each of the metrics from and get their buy in from different stakeholders. Examples from Hailo with respect to how they defined their AARRR metrics
    1. Acquisition isn’t just getting a download. It’s about acquiring a user – so you need to set the bar higher. A user should be someone who downloads your app, opens it and clicks at least one button, or has a session length of more than 10 seconds. Counting someone who abandons your app as an acquisition isn’t particularly useful (and nor is the channel that brought them to your app)
    2. This is about a minimum threshold of engagement – someone who has completed an action that might lead to potential revenue. At Hailo we counted a user who created an account as an ‘activation’. Alternatively, you could count someone who has clicked X times within your app, or someone who has a session time of more than 60 seconds
    3. Understanding and driving this metric is critical to success. If you can’t keep users coming back, then your app is doomed. At Hailo we measured this as how many times a user opened up the app per month, and how many times they opened the app and requested a taxi. You can also drill down to the level of measuring how many times per month a user opens or clicks on the emails that you send to them
    4. This can be a tricky metric to track, so it helps to build a product feature to encourage it. From Day One we built in the ability to input into the passenger app on Hailo ‘promotion codes’ that would give passengers £5, £10 or more off their next taxi ride. The system was flexible enough to track every single ‘referral code’ back to a user, a driver or a specific marketing promotion
    5. You should be aiming to make this work from the very beginning. We monitored not only spending per customer, but also any discounts, refunds and the actual gross margin we made per user. We also monitored how much people were tipping their drivers
  8. Avoid these rookie mistakes while measuring your metrics –
    1. Putting in analytics too late
    2. Relying on a single analytical solution
    3. Not attributing marketing or referral sources
    4. Not plugging in revenue metrics

Step 5: Find product-market fit

  1. Product-market fit means
    1. First, being in a good market
    2. Second, building a product that can satisfy what people in that market want. Without that you’re not going to experience explosive growth.
  2. How to find product-market fit
    1. By building the best possible product that appeals to the biggest number of users – the sweet spot where truly successful apps focus. This entails the following –
      1. Everyone in the team from the CEO down in your business being product-centric, that is, maniacally focussing on delivering the best user experience. (If, however, the product is not the primary focus of the CEO/Founders – perhaps they are more interested in developing partnerships, or raising money or focusing on profit margins, then you will have a hard time reaching product-market fit).
      2. Creating a data-driven process to build, test, measure and roll out product improvements. If the product improvement doesn’t work, it must be changed or killed.
        1. Testing your ideas: You need to figure out an effective way of communicating with your early users frequently – at least once a week – and getting their qualitative feedback. Try also to form a group of 20 to 30 power users whom you can email or call 24/7. These people should be frank and brutal and give you detailed feedback. Combined with your quantitative feedback – analytics – you should be in a pretty good position. You need to keep improving features, testing them and then releasing the new or improved features to all your users and measuring the results. You can try , a resources to get more users to try your product and give feedback.
      3. Saying ‘No’ to features to enable focus. Given the limited time, money and resources, maintaining focus is the only way to get to product-market fit.
  1. Signs that you have achieved product-market fit –
    1. Users are downloading your app in droves
    2. You can’t spin up servers fast enough to support demand
    3. iTunes and Google are depositing more and more money in your bank account
    4. Find it hard to hire support staff any faster
    5. Tired of talking to reporters
    6. According to Sean Ellis (founder of Growth Hacker), “In my experience, achieving product-market fit requires at least 40% of users saying they would be very disappointed without your product
  2. Signs that you have NOT quite achieved the point of product-market fit –
    1. Your users don’t seem to get the value of your app
    2. There doesn’t seem to be much word of mouth growth
    3. Usage isn’t growing that fast
    4. You’re receiving rather flat publicity
    5. You’re stuck in the limbo world of ‘me-too product’

Step 6: Get your growth engine on (Acquiring users)

  1. Your user-acquisition strategy is going to be focused on experimentation and validation. You need to go out there and
    1. find the most efficient channels to get users downloading your app, and at the same time
    2. you need to test what campaigns – messaging, wording, imagery, propositions – are going to get those channels to perform the actions you want.
  2. Get emotional with campaigns
    1. For users to love your app, you need to be able to actively make them feel something. Your goal is to get users to love – or even hate – your app. Death is when they don’t feel anything strong about you and you become someone stuck in the zone of indifference. Red Bull has achieved that well: it formulated its taste so that 50 per cent of people would more than like it: they would love it. And it actively didn’t care about the rest (the company is worth more than $7 billion).
    2. Start by making a few lists of the following things:
      1. The top five emotions you want your app to elicit
      2. The top fifty words that describe your app
      3. The top fifty words that describe your brand
      4. The top customer needs your app satisfies and benefits it delivers
      5. The top problems your app solves
      6. The top fifty words that describe your competitors’ apps
      7. The top fifty words that describe your competitors’ brands
  1. Basic user acquisition tactics
    1. Ensuring you have a responsive website with a clear call to download your app
    2. Core SEO (search-engine optimisation) elements in place on your website
    3. ASO (app-store optimisation) in place
    4. A basic understanding of PPD (pay-per-download) advertising
    5. Leveraging social features in your app, empowering people to more easily share your app and broadcast it to social-media channels.
    6. Publicity – one of the biggest low-cost channels you can pursue at this point. Reaching out to bloggers, app review sites and similar online channels
  2. Track attribution – sources your users are coming from and optimize your spend on users who are driving value in your app
    1. Mobile App Tracking
    2. Referral Tracking
  3. Mobile advertising
    1. Top 10 mobile advertising platforms – Google’s AdMob, Millennial Media, iAd (from Apple), Flurry, inMobi, Chartboost, MoPub, Amobee, HasOffers and Euclid Analytics

Step 7: Seducing Investors

  1. If you’re building a B-App, then at some point you will need to consider outside investment to help you grow faster. Investment will help you hire more people, spend more on advertising and get more people to use your app.
  2. Depending on the stage of your app, the sources investment will be from friends, families, fools and accelerators in seed stage, angel investors in early stage and VCs from series A onwards.

George Berkowski loosely breaks up the funding/investment and valuation in 5 lifecycle stages.

  1. Stage 1: The Million Dollar App – Building a founding team, validating your product and raising seed fund
  2. Stage 2: The 10 Million Dollar App – Achieving product-market fit and raising Series A funding
  3. Stage 3: The 100 Million Dollar App – Tuning your revenue engine, growing users and raising Series B funding
  4. Stage 4: The Five Hundred Million Dollar App – Scaling your business and raising Series C funding
  5. Stage 5: The Billion Dollar App – The promised land

Here’s a comparison summary for the 1st 2 stages –

Stage 1: The Million Dollar App Stage 2: The 10 Million Dollar App
Objective Through this first part of the journey it’s all about validating your idea, the market, your product, the basics of your business model – and putting together a plan of attack. You’re putting together an end-to-end plan for your business, and supporting it with research, data and innovative thinking.

At the end of this section you’ll have real customer validation and metrics, and be confident that your basic app will become a business

Throughout this stage you’re going to need to be 100 per cent focused. The only thing you care about now is achieving strong product-market fit, ensuring users love your app so much they are willing to pay for it.
App Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that’s functional and ready for real user’s hands.

Your goal is to get it into user’s hands quickly so that you can get as much feedback as possible.

Your prototype app is impressing people and they’re using it. You have the beginnings of the ‘wow’ factor.
Team 3 key roles –

  • Someone must lead the product vision
  • Someone needs to build the technology
  • Someone needs to be focused on getting users and generating money
The founders are in place and the core team members you ear marked can now join full time because you have some funding.


You’re still a pretty small team, but all core functions are covered. As the product improves and traction picks up, you need to think about the next big hire you’ll probably be making to drive more users and revenue: the VP of marketing


But stay lean and mean, because getting to product-market fit can take a lot longer than expected

Users Apart from your mom, aim to get feedback from hundreds of real users, if not a thousand (if you’re a marketplace model, a couple of 100 will be good going) From a small user base in the hundreds, you’ll start to grow quickly into the thousands of users.


You’ll be developing a solid and reliable user-acquisition strategy. You’ll find out what the cost of acquiring a user is (and what needs to be done to make your business profitable)

Business Model Gone are the days of not having a business model on Day One. There are only 5 business models that power all billion-dollar apps – validate which one will power yours What was a basic business model will now evolve quickly. You need to make sure that it works in practice as well as in principle
Valuation Ideas are a penny a dozen. It’s execution that’s worth money. You’ll drive a solid valuation if you get the right team together to deliver a product that users love to use.


Do that and you’ll be worth $ 1 million. If you do that very well, you’ll be worth $4-5 million – the average valuation of a funded startup at this early stage.

$10 million valuation (on an average)
Investment You’re investing your own blood, sweat and tears at this point. If you nail your idea, team, prototype and some users, then someone will probably be happy to give you anywhere between $250,000 and $1 million in exchange for owning a percentage of your new app At this point things get serious. You’re going to move into the world of professional venture capital investors. That means long agreements and lots of legal paperwork.


But if you really want to ramp up your business, develop your app, build your team and spen on marketing, then this is the quickest and potentially smartest – way to raise around $2-3 million

Coming Soon (post Series A) – Part Deux: Summary of stages 3 to 5. In case you want to know more sooner then here’s – “How To Build A Billion Dollar App: Discover The Secrets Of The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Of Our Time”


A good day to start showing your true colours #MondayMorningWakeUpCall #HappiHoli


“I see your true colours and that’s why I love you” – Cindi Lauper


Hooray! Hooray! It’s a holi holi day
What a world of fun
For everyone
When you get a chance to show
Amidst bhang and glow
Your true colours, shining through
Your painted hue


Original thinkers ain’t so original

“Looking for an original idea? That can’t be too hard. The library must be full of them.” 
― Stephen Fry #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

3 points that I really liked –

  1. Being quick to start a project but slow to finish can boost one’s creativity
  2. By doubting your ideas instead of yourself you can motivate yourself to do better work
  3. Having (and trying) lots and lots of bad ideas is necessary to get a few good ones, ergo, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original

10 music albums that weren’t invited at the 2017 Grammys

But still worth repeat listening and dare I say, even buying the albums.

Here are albums that I was happy to spend money on from the few that I sampled last year with a pick of my favorite song from the album.

  1. La La Land (OST) – It’s impossible not to go La La over this jazz infused broadway style songs and music that alternate between high energy dance numbers and beautiful soulful songs, without missing a beat on depth of lyrics or timeless melody.

  1. Cleopatra (Lumineer) – Worthy for a queen

  1. Beautiful Lies (Birdy) – And beautiful songs from a bird(y)


  1. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (OST) – Ya ya.. Bollywood music is way too cool to even want to grace the Grammies, especillaiy the likes of Pritam, lest originality is questioned! But cant deny the fact that not loving the songs from ADHM is mighty mushkil

  1. Wildfire (Rachel Platten) – The Fight Song caught on like Wildfire and has definitely taken Rachel Platten to a ‘Better Place’

  1. Remember Us To Life (Regina Spektor) – Might not remember this album for life but I’ll keep coming back to this off and on whenever I feel like listening to some easy relaxing songs.

  1. This House Is For Sale (Bon Jovi) – “This house is not for sale, this house was built on higher ground.” I think so is this band that’s standing the test of time and entering their 4th decade of belting out great albums that definitely rock

  1. Here (Alicia Keys) – Powerful blend of personal and political songs

  1. Long Live The Angels (Emeli Sande) – And long live her songs and voice

  1. Sing Street (OST) – This is an ode to 80s music.. and it’s gonna make me smile till I’m 80

So what else got missed. Share some artists/albums that rocked you last year and you feel they deserve to get noticed.

10 truths of habit forming products

“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits” – Mark Twain #MondayMorningWakeUpCall


Businesses that create customer habits gain a significant competitive advantage. Habit-forming products change user behavior and create unprompted user engagement. The aim is to influence customers to use your product on their own, again and again, without relying on overt call to action such as ads or promotions. Case to point – Facebook, Instagram, Slack, Google, Amazon and a whole slew of new and emerging high tech companies

Here are 10 truths about habit-forming products mined from Nir Eyal’s Hooked for entrepreneurs building products to reform other people’s habits –

  1. A habit is when not doing an action causes a bit of pain (a kind of itch, a feeling that manifests within the mind and causes discomfort until it is satisfied). The habit-forming products we use are simply there to provide some sort of relief. Using a technology or product to scratch the itch provides faster satisfaction than ignoring it. Once we come to depend on a tool, nothing else will do.
  2. User habits are a competitive advantage. Products that change customer routines are less susceptible to attacks from other companies
  3. Products with higher user engagement also have the potential to grow faster than their rivals
  4. New behaviors have a short half-life, as our minds tend to revert to our old ways of thinking and doing
  5. John Gourville, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, claims that for new entrants to stand a chance, they can’t just be better, they must be nine times better. Why such a high bar? Because old habits die hard and new products or services need to offer dramatic improvements to shake users out of old routines.
  6. For new behaviors to really take hold, they must occur often. Frequent engagement with a product-especially over a short period of time-increases the likelihood of forming new routines
  7. How frequent is frequent enough?
    1. The answer is likely specific to each business and behavior… although higher the frequency, better it is
    2. A 2010 study found that some habits can be formed in a matter of weeks while others can take more than five months. The researchers also found that the complexity of the behavior and how important the habit was to the person greatly affected how quickly the routine was formed.
  8. Sometimes a behavior does not occur as frequently as flossing or Googling, but it still becomes a habit. For an infrequent action to become a habit, the user must perceive a high degree of utility, either from gaining pleasure or avoiding pain, the 2 key motivators in all species
  9. A company can begin to determine its product’s habit-forming potential by plotting two factors: frequency (how often the behavior occurs) and perceived utility (how useful and rewarding the behavior is in the user’s mind over alternative solutions)
    1. If either of these factors fall short and the behavior lies below the threshold, it is less likely that the desired behavior will become a habit
  10. Habit forming products often start as nice-to-haves, but once the habit is formed, they become must-haves

Habits keep users loyal. Gourville writes that products that require a high degree of behavior change are doomed to fail even if the benefits of using the new products are clear and substantial.

But all hope is not lost for entrepreneurs building products that have direct or dotted line relationships with habits!

The Hook Model created by Nir Eyal describes an experience designed to connect to the user’s problem to a solution frequently enough to form a habit. A summary on the model coming soon.