Last 4 years of my entreprenuerial journey is a decade of learning put together and I feel I am just getting started.
Building Products. Scaling Business. Growing Teams. Building Learner Journeys.Delighting Learners.Finding Product <> Market Fit.Raising Funds.Letting People Go.Growing Again.Finding New Customers.So here we go...
I am the co-founder at GreyAtom, a path breaking Technology education company and DataGiri, India’s #1 Data Science meetup community.I run the GreyAtom business with full learner centricity, since past 4 years.
In this time, I have built 7 products from scratch that have brought revenues of $2.5M , built large global enterprise partnerships and international bootcamp partnerships, enabled career pivots for more than 1000 of our learners , forged strategic partnerships with international bootcamps, built hiring partnerships with more 350 companies in India.
All this was possible with the A+ core team I built – comprising of Phds, Data Scientists, corporate leaders, subject matter experts.
I am a problem solver – constantly implementing out of the box solutions for various problems we have encountered in our journey – Optimizing Program development costs, Building blended learning delivery models – to bring best of online + offline ,getting first learner hired to building aggregator partnerships for hiring GA learners. I find most answers in innovation and process streamlining.
My career goal is to Impact learners across the globe, enabling access to right technology education and setting them up on a career growth trajectory. Rest of my goals would be accomplished by them 🙂
This is how my personal story unfolds
Story from 2005 until 2016
I was leading transformation initiatives and large global engagements in MNCs and I’ve learnt a great deal. Growing teams, expanding businesses, bringing in new clients, managing the IT landscape across geographies, flying around the world 24 hours for a 2 hour meeting, being part of 3 different org structures in 1 year, getting locked up in a war room for 48 hours before an important deal; the anecdotes are many, each one with its own set of learnings. Been there, had fun! Admittedly, I was drawing a fat paycheck, had no EMIs and life was not bad at all!
I finally reached a point in my corporate career, where I felt I was wanted to make even larger impact and build on top of my own vision. My dad was a successful 1st gen entrepreneur and I cannot deny that I started having pangs about starting my own entrepreneurial journey ! Maybe it does run in the blood as they say. So when my now co-founders (Mitul & Mayuresh) approached me to join them in building a revolutionary platform for Technology education, I jumped at the idea. Mitul has been a close friend for more than 17 years, but working together was going to be different. I met Mayuresh for the 1st time in 2016. We decided to crawl before walking, walk before running! I continued with my job at Nielsen while we started working over the weekends and late evenings to give a shape and form to our ideas.
Three months later, we came to the conclusion that we had passed the compatibility test and it was time to take that leap of faith! In retrospect, here is a prioritized checklist (in that order) of qualities to look out for in a co-founder
Strong “itch” to solve the problem
Strong Moral Compass
Ability to say ‘I screwed up — I will fix it’
Basic sincerity toward the product
Shared vision for success
We started working, out of my home, a team of 9 people. In next 11 months we built a product that’s driving learning outcomes for people learning data science, solving real business problems, onboarded 150+ students, UK’s largest investment bank as our customer, closed $1 Million funding from Pravega Ventures and grew to a team of 29!
Back to the beginning. Jan 2017. Naive and new to the startup game, I thought I will give this thing one year and by then surely, I’ll know if it’s the right thing for me or not.
My weekdays and weekends merged into one big blob of work. My family has been extremely supporting as they are endured this craziness that had entered my life. But the upsides were insanely high!
Empowerment — Not just that you want to, but you HAVE to explore new areas of the business that you never had to deal with before. Defining learning outcomes for students, building content first hand, setting up client contracts, making the wireframe of your website, ideating over the logo, setting up your business function from scratch, defining the price of your product …the list doesn’t end. There are no rules to stick to, no tone to comply with, no sign-off to get. You take decisions, see them fail, have the courage to say it backfired and you try again!!
Personal Development — To be honest, I had just begun my journey in learning data science, but over the last year, having built and curated some high quality content, devouring more than 500 hours of videos, spoken at so many meetups, interacted with some of the best minds in this field, including Dr DJ Patil. I have a sharpened knowledge about the subject today. What to learn, in what sequence and how to apply it in real life is something I am able to guide aspirants on!
My ability to absorb stress increased multifold. During this stint, I have realised that I am blessed with the ‘horse sense’. The subtleties that I am able to pick up, the subliminal messages that I can radar in, has added to the quality and speed of our overall decision making!
Fun — I can’t even begin to write stories about the most interesting people we have met along the way in the past 4 years. These are people I wouldn’t have met in a lifetime in my corporate job!
Satisfaction — We have kept the student and their learning at the very top of our priority- while building the product, the content and industry projects. Seeing them get kickass high paying jobs, post the program gives a satisfaction unparalleled to anything else! When we were awaiting the offer for our very 1st student, I was more anxious than I was when I got my first job! It’s a win for us when our students come back and say they love our team’s dedication to make them successful! Eventually it does bottle down to the lives touched and the transformation made.
Start-up asks for a lot of blood, sweat and tears. First, being a founder is hard. Period. Man or woman. You have to be willing to take some pretty big personal risks. It comes with the courage to get on a never ending rollercoaster and keep calm on days when everything is upside down! You need to learn to rewire and work with limited resources. You need to get comfortable with chaos, be ready to build the tracks just before the train is going to arrive.
My blueprint is a useful framework for anyone who is working with me,to understand my professional working style and a belief framework
- I’m in a phase of constant learning – At any given point in time, I will be hooked on to learning something new- whether its discovering new digital products and how best to use them internally , reading and learning from some popular newsletters or taking up an online course
- Experimentation beats debating – We may debate as much as we’d like on zoom calls and conference rooms, take the product to the customer and experiment rigorously is the best way to quickly test out the hypothesis
- Look at the $ value of decisions going wrong – When my team comes to me for guidance and resolution to things I believe they can solve themselves – I just tell them – Look at the downside $ value of your decision not going right – if not huge , just go for it.
- I like giving big picture – to an intern as well – The “purpose” of why we are doing, what we are doing is the most important thing for me. I pass this on to every single team member whenever we start a new project.
- I used to be a perfectionist but then I took feedback from my mentees – These days , I am comfortable with 85% perfection , given we are moving at speed in the right direction. I now prioritize speed over perfection in most cases. George S. Patton’s famous quote often applies: A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite time in the future.
- Relationships are extremely important to me – Since I started my career in 2005, I have thrived on building and maintaining relationships and friendships with my customers, my team, my bosses and my mentors. I believe one of the most important things we can do in life is to find our tribe. I recently started building a learning community – we called it G-Tribe 🙂 For me it’s always been a cup of coffee rather than a zoom call, nevertheless in this critical period – have been able to forge strong relationships over calls too.