Category Archives: RemotePanda

Running A Marathon Is Like Running A Startup

Running A Marathon Is Like Running A Startup

Running a marathon, going the distance, taking up the gauntlet, in short accepting a challenge and following through with it. Many experiences in life need you to go the distance, to invest time in it and persevere in order to get results at the end. I decided to take up such a challenge, I decided to achieve it and was ready to see it to the end. I decided to run a marathon!

The first question that naturally pops into anyone’s head is this — WHY? Why does the CEO of a start-up, a busy man as it seems, working seven days a week would have to take up such a challenge? What rewards are a full time working entrepreneur looking for by committing to months of training, both physical and mental? On a superficial level, there may seem some benefits such as health advantages and overall emotional well-being. But now it’s time to scale the entire iceberg! Why run a marathon, read on to find out.

 

 

Beginning with the general physical benefits that a runner experiences include a full body workout along with the burning of a ton of calories, there is also emotional well-being that is felt throughout the training period. The training and the practice is the real marathon there is, and you will notice that the span of time really does transform you. From couch potato to an agile and lean runner, it is something you will start admiring about yourself and strive harder to stay that way all the time.

As said earlier, the journey, the process, all that lead up to the day of the marathon, is the real task. That is the real marathon you have to conquer. Getting up and training continuously for months is not an easy undertaking. But as the days progress and you notice yourself changing bit by bit, obviously for the better, it isn’t possible to stop training. You will want it more than ever and keep looking forward to it. It is a truly inspiring feeling of setting a goal for yourself and then going all guns blazing to achieve it. Investing in a set goal and following through with it tirelessly helps define your own character. It builds confidence in you that nothing is impossible. It gives you an incredible boost in all other domains of your life to just go and get it! You develop a kind of mental toughness that gives you enough energy to tackle any problem head-on.

 

Related: Power of finishing


I am a CEO myself and running a startup comes along with a large number of working hours that mostly span the entire seven days of the week. Cramming a training schedule along with it was a bit difficult, but it taught me to manage my time well and engage in effectively utilizing it. Like when you have to squeeze in time, you start prioritizing. You get a chance to remove things out from your schedule that doesn’t matter anymore.

Maintaining a passion or a hobby with your full-time work calendar is hard, but in a way, one complements the other. You follow your passion with all heart; you’ll see productivity increasing everywhere. After a few weeks, I started feeling like Batman — a billionaire businessman in daylight and a criminal thrashing vigilante at night.

And once you have gone all in to win at something, to succeed at your extra-curricular ventures, there will be a different you showing up at the office. One success is enough to raise your own bar in life. You ponder over the possibilities of achieving something even more significant in life, taking on even harder challenges. There is this insatiable hunger that you develop to go beyond all limits. You involuntarily take out all stops to get to your ultimate destination.

 

How running is related to startups

 

The journey develops you a lot, but the day of the race is something else altogether!

It is the ultimate test of your mental strength, more so than your physical one. It is time for you to showcase all your training. During the race, you realize that the human body is capable of much more than our preconceived notions. We are amazingly capable of recovering, enduring and progressing in almost any aspect. This is a realization only a marathon runner can fully realize and appreciate.

Once you finish the marathon, the euphoria, the high that you experience, nothing else can possibly provide. It’s the incredible satisfaction of finishing that not only motivates you to do it again but also makes you obsessed to always finish the task at hand and see it to its ultimate completion. I personally saw myself as a different person walking out of that marathon. Your self-respect soars, there’s a new identity that you now have, and now you basically become Batman! Nobody can touch you.

Although coming from the point of view of an entrepreneur, people from all walks of life need to experience the sheer joy of completing a marathon at least. With so much to learn about yourself and life in general, completing a marathon is truly attaining nirvana!

How Did I Land Up With 250+ CXO Meetings In Last 3 Months

How Did I Land Up With 250+ CXO Meetings In Last 3 Months

For the #makeremotework survey, our main differentiator was about having real data and not ending up just relying on the quick online surveys. We wanted to have a mix of online as well as offline channels. For the same, we visited 16 cities chosen from an email raffale

All through the campaign, we worked on getting in-person interviews. Our campaign was primarily built with LinkedIn and Email marketing and here is a quick summary of how we did it to be able to land up with 250+ CXO meetings.

1.Preparation 

Preparation included setting up our team and an action plan. We planned to work primarily through Linkedin, which I have covered in detail later. During preparation, we worked on updating my Linkedin with profile details, posts, etc guided by the Linkedin best practices. We worked on building the clarity on my profile about what I do, past works, references, etc

About Ayush Jain

 

We also listed out around 100+ CXO profiles that we intended to meet.

2. Personalization-  

We totally agreed that no CXO would have time for us so we worked on personalization in 3 ways

1. Hearing their socials and figuring out if there is a chance that they would be open to such collaboration. This could be figured out if they had remote teams themselves or if they posted about global teams etc

2.Personalizing our emails with things that they have written or talked about

3. Pivoting our emails with ideas and wordings that struck a chord. Also, we used hyperlinking in emails to connect with more elaborated details on landing pages.

mail copy

 

3. Linkedin-

 

Linkedin was one of our major tools. We used Linkedin to find out our contacts as well as know our 2nd level and 3rd level contacts. Linkedin does a great job to provide enough info that can be used to start a conversation. We used primarily the common contacts, request for intros, something interesting from the bios, etc to strike the conversation

4.  Followups and lots of them

Trying to walk the thin line between over pushing and persistence we tried to be genuine in our efforts leaving the rest to interpretation. We used mail track and Linkedin inbuilt feature about reading and unread emails. We sent different follow-ups to people who had read our emails and the one who did not.

Primarily we did a max of 3 follow-ups to people With the 1st email as the intro and asking for interest If read- 2nd email was with more info and putting things in points format 3rd email- About a soft ask with final dates of visit and specification of the slot that is open 4th email- while I was in the city, asking if any last minute window that opened

Followups

 

5. The team

All of the above definitely required a team and I was lucky to have a few good fellas among us to deliver on the plan. In summary, I believe getting a good conversion rate was the result of having a team who were ready to hustle 24*7. But while doing so, we made sure that the process is enjoyable to everyone in the team. 
Regularly the strategy was discussed often with a friendly banter among passionate people. We always believed that if everyone in the team is on the same page we will be able to pull it off. We did a party of course post the campaign 

 

The Team

 

Today #Makeremotework survey is the most comprehensive report available on remote work,  coming out directly with inputs from the decision makers.

For access to the report, go here

Out of 19,000 US Cities, Which US Cities Were Chosen For Remote work Survey

Out of 19,000 US Cities, Which US Cities Were Chosen For Remote work Survey

out of 19000 us cities which us cities were chosen for remote work survey

When we decided to take a road trip to interview people for the #MakeRemoteWork survey the first question was where to go?

To choose what cities to cover, we started with a simple exercise.

We picked up all the silicon centers from a map like the one below and sent over a trench of 20 emails in each city mentioned

cities map

Since there was no way to find which city will have more people willing to participate in the survey, we thought to do experimental emails to get some stats.

Here is the copy of the email we sent out

email copy

And here is the order of responses received

Cities Visited Open Rates Positive Negative
Montreal 25% 4 1
Atlanta 30% 6 3
Charleston 35% 7 2
Raleigh- Durham 25% 3 1
Winston-Salem 15% 3 0
Charlotte 40% 8 1
San Antonio 15% 2 1
Austin 15% 2 1
Dallas 22% 9 1
Cities Visited Open Rates Positive Negative
New York 25% 2 3
Baltimore 25% 2 3
DC- Arlington/ Alexandria 30% 3 3
Denver/ Boulder/ Colorado Spring 25% 1 3

As you could see Charleston and Charlotte were some of the clear winners followed with Atlanta and Dallas. In fact, surprisingly New York and SF do not really score that high – The reason I could think of was that they get too many emails which create a lot of noise for the founders.

Anyways we had our list ready with the 10 cities that provided us a better response rate. Apart from the stats we checked out event dates in each shortlisted city and also tried to map a direction for the journey.

The journey had to be in one direction

North to south or south to north/ east to west or west to east

Another filter was using my startupgrind directors network.  SG has a chapter in most US cities and I reached out to the chapter directors for the inside scoops of each city.

10 cities meant around 50 days on the road at a stretch but then cuteness stuck 🙂

Well, I have a 2 and a half-year-old so leaving her for more than a month was not possible…

So we decided to do the road trip in 2 phases

The first in May covering- NYC (Well can’t ignore the Big Apple and we found Techday happening as well), Baltimore, DC, Denver and the second stage covering Montreal (where we attended the startup fest ), Atlanta, North and South Charlotte and Texas.

In the last 3 months, I got to interview 250+ CXOs for the #makeremotework survey

How all of it was possible is accounted here

#Makeremotework survey today is the most comprehensive report available on remote work, coming out directly with inputs from the decision makers. For access to the report, Go Here

Why StartupFest Montreal Is Poised To Grow?

Why StartupFest Montreal Is Poised To Grow?

Startupfest

Being at the StartupFest for the last 4 days have been no less than an exhilarating experience. I have been to many fests but there are some things that StartupFest did differently and that’s the reason Phil can be relied on with the promise he made – StartupFest is going to get bigger and better next year.

Here are 4 things that I appreciate the team for:

A. Seamlessness:

Having a fest with 500+ speakers and 8 stages running in parallel is not an easy task. Well, the fest not only adheres to timelines every time, the switch from one focus to another was really seamless.

B. Multiple tracks:

There was something for everyone – AI, Blockchain, Cannabis Tech, startups, anything that you could be thinking, there was a related stage. You had multiple accelerators, investor zone, 4 major startup pitch competition with the 100K prize won by InVivo AI.

C. Great Food:

No fest is complete without great food and drinks. Got to see great food trucks with varieties of all types. For 2 days of the fest, the drinks were on the house as well. The breakfast options were laid out well.

D. BrainDate:

One of the reasons to love the fest was BrainDate, a dedicated lounge area which could be accessed for meeting with fellow participants. BrainDate helped find the right people to meet one-on-one to share knowledge and learn from the right participants. You could share out topics of your interest and fellow interested participants could book a time with you.

 

All along, great fest with fun people. Love Montreal !!!

Denver to become top startup city

Denver to become top startup city

Why I count Denver to become one of the top startup cities in coming years

 

Denver to become top startup city

As I landed in Denver last week, I could not help but notice pet dogs all around on the roads (No surprise that on the flight from DC to Denver there were at least 2 women traveling with their dogs). I checked into my Airbnb house; I got to see a goat and a chicken as well in the backyard.


Well, I love the idea of animals in the house, it’s just that having lived in NYC or SF, you are not used to such luxuries. Welcome to Denver – A city amidst mountains and blessed with great sunshine.

Over the days I realized how Denver had blended burgeoning tech ecosystem with great quality of life (Think great outdoor activities, ski resorts, cheap housing, and great friendly folks)

Here are a few things that stood out for me and make me feel that Denver is a city to look up to:

 

  1. Easy to go around:
    Most of the companies in Denver are around the Downtown area and it is easily walkable or bikeable. I never witnessed any long jam and in fact, enjoyed my walks around parks.
  2. Friendly people:
    Something that stood out with most Coloradans was humility and simplicity. Whether I was speaking with Chris Franks or Josh Churlik (guys credited with building Denver Founders) or the meeting with founders such as Jim Turner, Nicholas Gardner, Brian Borg everyone gave me their time and attention.
  3. Events all around:
    I got a chance to present RemotePanda at 1MC (Courtesy Jef Reisig and Jessica Kinney), and at the Denver Founders Pitch (This is a 90 seconds pitch event). I also met the StartupGrind Denver Director- Doug Thorner and attended a workshop on negotiations.
  4. Incubators and WorkSpaces:
    Denver is brimming up with cool co-working spaces. Some notable mentions that I was able to visit are Spark, Industry, Galvanize. The Commons is a free space for startups backed by the government.
RemotePanda presenting at 1MC Denver
RemotePanda presenting at Denver Founders Pitch
RemotePanda at Spark co-working space

Conclusion

In all, it was a great week spent in Denver with plenty to take away. Many names do not get mentioned here but it is just due to lack of space and of course, no one would want to read through a cast list. I got to spent only an evening in Boulder due to limited time but I believe I should be back soon and be able to absorb more of Boulder next time I am in Colorado.

A big Thank you to all the guys in Denver who took out time to meet me and act as ambassadors of the city’s thriving startup ecosystem. You guys are doing amazing.

Birth of RemotePanda — What made me invest my time in this idea

Birth of RemotePanda — What made me invest my time in this idea

Once upon a time, a newbie called Jon decided to start his own company. He had an innovative idea, some hard earned cash and blind faith in hiring market. He was so naive, when someone told him, platforms like Upwork, Freelancers is the easiest and the best way to find people who can help him develop his idea, he just fell for it. He didn’t know what to look, how to look, what to ask, whom to ask. Well, basically “he knew nothing”. All he “supposedly” knew was that these platforms would connect him to the right people. So, he decided to use their service by putting all his money and faith in the hands of some strangers. One doesn’t need to be an expert in the field to guess what would have happened next, right?

Now, let me tell you another story- the story of Robb.

Robb in this story was an experienced guy and yes, he knew everything. For his startup endeavor, he wanted to hire some talented guys. As it was a startup, he had limited resources at hand to spend so he decided to look for remote talent. Now, please note that he knew what to look, how to look, what to ask, whom to ask. He followed traditional remote hiring process and found a “great team” called Team Bolton. He decided to partner up with Bolton, and the journey started. Days passed by, everything was going well until they faced some technical challenge. Bolton’s are supposed to be expert to address such type of challenges so, Robb asked them to take care of it. But, they backed out and told him that it’s not part of the contract and can’t work on the issue within the current budget. Well, what could have gone wrong here!? I mean, for this type of challenges Robb decided to hire them in the first place, they were the experts, they knew Robb has a limited budget but still, they decided to accompany Robb in his journey and when the hard time came they stabbed him through the heart. Sad ending, isn’t it?

Well, Jon and Robb are not the only ones here. There are lots of Jons and Robbs who are out there looking for talented people but not able to find the right one.

 

What could be the reason?

Some may say it’s Service providers fault, some may say it’s employer’s fault and some may say it’s the marketplace that needs to improve their vetting process. In my opinion, if one has to play blame game then everyone is at fault here but if you really try to understand the real issue then you will realize that the traditional remote hiring process is the real culprit and we need to fix it.

 

Why not me?

Before we started building RemotePanda, I met more than 150 startup CEOs from 10 different cities such as SF, Boston, Houston etc. I discussed with them what I had in my mind, understood their point of view, collected their feedback and the conclusion I drew was simple, ‘They Demanded Quality’.

And that’s exactly what we are offering. What I realized from my interaction with all those startup founders is that if we tweak the traditional process a bit then maybe we can solve challenges like quality plus we can improve success rate multi-fold.

 

How are we doing it?

1.Have a captain in place:

Rather than just being someone who just introduces (in that case you could have just found people from Upwork/Linkedin) we remain part of the contract throughout the lifetime of the project and be invested in the project. We want to free employer/project owner from the headache of managing people.

2.Quality Watch Dogs:

We want to maintain quality, transparency and seamless experience for everyone. We make sure that expectations are set from each side from the beginning by quantifying the deliverable.

3.Friend, guide and helping hand in need:

We assign a dedicated personal assistant for employer/ project owner who will be their guide at every stage helping them with setting goals, timelines, etc. He/she is the one who basically makes things happen and acts as the bridge between stakeholders.

4.Learning and Education:

We invest part of fees that employer/ project owner pay to us into skill development of talent they hire.

5.Team visit:

We sponsor a visit between employer/ project owner and their remote team every six months.

6.Escrow Billing:

We support Escrow billing and release the money to the service provider only after quality work is delivered.

We are powered by Startup Grind Pune and all the freelancers, agencies, remote teams are associated with us are close network connections. In order to give personalized experience, we have kept our talent pool limited to Pune ecosystem.

We are currently in closed beta and testing our model with selected few employer/ project owners. We have made good progress so far and all the current users have positive feedback about RemotePanda service.

I’m not claiming that this model is gonna solve all the problems but at least address the 3 main challenges in remote work viz. expectations, communication, and feedback. I believe if we are able to implement things the right way, we’ll definitely able to fix the broken process to some extent. 

Let’s hope for the best. Fingers crossed.