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Learnings in Life - Year 2020 Week 4

Balkrishna Agarwal 11 min read

Friends, I document all my learnings from the week, whether by reading or otherwise every week here. This is so I can reflect back to these in future & at the same time curate a list for others. I am building a mobile app startup to help digitise the SMEs & become their default communication platform. I would really really appreciate if you can get me in touch with the most talented people you know that I should hire. Lets have a drink together, Its Gujarat afterall ;-). If you would like me to do a detailed summary of a book, you can gift me a book here.

On with the list

  1. This is an awesome channel. I have often gone into these thought paradigms, who knew theres value in this :) There’s something to learn everywhere. Do we overthink everything? or do we know nothing?

  2. From the above post where we try to unnecessary complicate things. Often the obvious is the best option, valid even for UI & UX. [Read about here.]

  3. This is great post by intercom team on how do develop & manage a product team at scale & how to define responsibilities.

  4. How LBB has developed a intuitive ratings system, in the absence of any ratings like hearts, emojis, etc…

  5. This awesome positive article on how foreigners are opening startups in India. Its great the talent from across the world is finding its home in India. Lets also work on making to stem the brain drain from the country.

  6. Contrast the above with this scenario in India, where the pull for a government job is ruining lifes, like literally. Sad!

  7. Damn! This one hits hard. Common sense is un-common. Can you continue to feel miserable to grow?

  8. These blogs are so simple & so profound. Simplicity can never be over-rated. Chip Conley & Seth Godin share their lessons & experiences on how to cultivate & harvest wisdom.

  9. Here’s a sneak peak into the future? We will outgrow our apps? We actually don’t need an app to book a cab.

  10. In the startup world, having a Investor bet you can make the difference between life & death. Investors take more of a bet on the founder & the team, rather than the Idea/Biz. They look for cues & signals & patterns from all around to aid their decision making. One of the biggest signals is how the founder/team handle the social capital in the start-up world. Anybody who is able to manage this efficiently is giving out strong signals about their competence. [Here is the awesome post on Social Capital in Silicon Valley]

  11. Should you let your customers invest in your company? -What if they get bossy & want to direct the company towards their own goals? -What if the competitors are scared about the privacy of data?

  12. Steve jobs called the idea of a smart phone, the dumbest idea in this world. I don’t know what to make of it.

  13. Bookmark this post & share with everybody who is graduating soon & looking to start a career soon. Also share it with anyone who is confused about career direction. They will thank you profusely. Do this good deed today.

  14. I zombied out for 2 hours after reading this post & the one after this. I think this guy has a time machine or something. While you are at read the pt7 from Week 2 on the bet of Sam Altman & his predictions.

  15. Read this awesomely curated post called SlipStream from ThePodium. What are you waiting for? Subscribe now! It talks about death & mankinds attempt to challenge it, also about a useful gadget, book recommendations, what to binge, etc… I love this chart below, I would like to add one more item in this, “I teach to learn”.

  16. Wish everybody could learn about second, third & further order effects. Its crazy that we elect people who don’t understand this. Mostly I’m the one not understanding. The Nutgraf’s weekly on Second & Third order storms.

  17. I wrote this post on Incumbents Vs Upstarts here. See this awesome post about how Elon Musk’s experience about working for a Bank & why he thinks that bankers are just Rich & Dumb. Reminds me of Warren Buffets statement “We like to own businesses which can be run by idiots because at some point an Idiot would run it.” Just see this post from a user & his frustration with Bank’s online platform. This is what is giving rise what we call as Neo Bank’s today.

  18. Mind blown! Tech is not the disruptor, Business Model is. Tech is just a tool. A question for me. Am I disrupting the Business Model rather than just adding a technology layer to existing Business.


I wrote these posts

  1. Tools Vs Machines - Fair Vs Unfair - Incumbents Vs Upstarts. - A interesting conversation I had with somebody.

  2. Panel discussion on Building the Winning Team. - Notes of a panel discussion I attended on the topic.

Want to learn coding? Here are some awesome & free resources.

  1. www.freecodecamp.org -For grownups

  2. www.code.org - For kids


Had an awesome conversation with Vikrant Shah & Pooja, among other things, also about how Human Memory would be downloadable by 2050. I was thinking about the Stars-Wars Force spirit way & Vikrant said it would mostly be in the Harry Potter’s Memory Vial/Bowl way.

The thing is that we have been working on downloading the human memory, just getting better with time. The path has been Teaching Carving - Oral - Written - Photos - Videos - AR/VR (today) - Dream recording(Future) - Human Memory Download(2050). Wow!

Listened to Podcast of Sanjay Rao on rebuilding his startup after shutdown.

Sanjay Rao started a breakfast-delivery-for-kids startup called Monkey-Box. Unfortunately he had to shut operations, as Investors perceived the category as too risky, even when the team managed flaw-less operations & insane growth, traction & customer-love. 10,000 orders a day. Phew!

  1. Its not just enough to get traction, revnues, etc… The biggest thing to manage is perception. How does the market (Customers, investors, etc…) perceive this. I think Bitcoin is fighting that battle presently.

  2. One dialogue/lesson in there really pained me a lot - “There is a thin line between Success & Fraud.” I believe when Monkey-Box had to shut operations, the company owed its creditors dues & that’s what prompted this. It’s really sad the kind of pain an entrepreneur has to undergo.

  3. The war for the entrepreneur doesn’t end even after shutters are down. One big lesson is to not delay/default any regulatory dues (Taxes, etc…). The government doesn’t take it lightly & they won’t even let you shut down until the dues are cleared. Though vendors will understand if you communicate with them consistently.

  4. Always make all creditors on-time. Not doing so inflates your runway artificially & wavers discipline.

  5. He talks about the mistake being focus on funding & not really profitable growth or unit metrics.

  6. But then he also says, its better to shutdown, rather than compromise on quality & values.

  7. Its really a glad to know that when Sanjay decided to make a comeback, all of his old team wanted to join him & they did too. What is the secret sauce there? Apparently, the bar is too low everywhere else. When other companies don’t care about its employees, Sanjay did. Whether it be Rooms/Quarters or humane working hours.

  8. The most interesting thing was that Monkey-Box added chefs to the whatsapp groups & encouraged them to talk to the parents. This brought in high levels of personal ownership into the team. Everywhere else, the chef never sees anybody outside kitchen.

  9. Sanjay burned hands in omni-channel retail almost a decade back. Its the buzz-word today & before that he tried Big-data based sports betting. He is a guy from the future probably. Timing! & talking about Monkey-Box had to shut in 2018 & food-tech was the hot sector in 2019. :|

  10. In todays world the product, the tech & the user communication has to come together seamlessly. The importance on “communication” is interesting. Communicate with users if there is going to be a delay, if the food has been delivered to the class, etc… Understanding the users anxiety & address it. Be honest.

  11. Always take care of your physical health, it gives you strength to cope with the mental issues. Never take health for granted.

  12. The great news is Sanjay Rao is launching Monkey-Box again in a new avatar. God speed to you :)


Listened to Podcast of Lakshmi Pratury on her lessons from TED & INK talks in building communities. Initially I wasn’t intrested in the topic, but classic case of don’t judge the book by its cover. Here’s a summary

  1. Lakshmi talks extensively about how her father shaped her world-view & culture. The influence that our parents & our surroundings have on us, as we are growing-up can’t be overstated. This has taken my thoughts on 2 different journeys. One being, me trying to understand what are the factors that influenced me, somehow Im still unaware of it. The second and the bigger one is what kind of legacy am I going to leave behind for my nephews, neice & my daughter. My actions are going to shape their world-view, its a very big responsibility

  2. After completing her studies, she went to US, to work with her idols. Also how living in US developed her world-view.

  3. She talks about curating everything that touches you & the importance to detail. To build a outlasting experience, you just can’t be happy with curating just the speakers or the topic, you have to curate the all-round experience of the audience, why you have to curate your audience too. Your initial audience is your friends/network. So start by curating your network.

  4. She also talks about how network is built by meeting & connecting with people with no agenda in mind. Network is built by meeting people for just the pleasure of meeting & knowing them. Its a deliberate act, one has to overcome inertia to meet new people without any agenda.

  5. Its often the things that you can see & only feel which make an experience wholesome. Things like good seats, AC, pleasant attitude is what makes one really happy. The invisible is what makes the brand.(Rings with Steve Jobs thoughts here)

  6. Its only when the people involved in creating a event feel great can they pass it on to the guests/audience. So everybody, the speakers, the team, the fellows even the waiters have to feel great about the event, so that they pass it on.

  7. One Moment, One Person & One Action - is her motto. Every guest should have one moment that they felt happy about & remembers for long. They should meet at-least one person that they would like to network with after the event & they should go back learning at-least one thing/action that would improve their lives in some way.

  8. People in India have to become more quality & detail oriented. That is what will take India to the next level.


So I completed the book “Who” by Geoff Smart & Randy Street. I have literally highlighted the whole book. Everybody, no matter their hierarchy in the organisation needs to read the book. If you learn what the recruiters want from you, you can always Ace it.

Here are the notes, not sorry about being too long.