Opinions



My Week At A Bootstrapped, SaaS Company

 by Mohan Ramkumar  on   01 Jun 2012

It actually has been over two weeks since I joined Tenmiles, but this makes for a catchy title, doesn’t it? The idea to write such an article was conceived the day I took the job, but I took sometime before I could talk frankly, on the record.

To give a bit of a backstory, I was self employed for the past three years. Thanks to a dynamite exchange rate, life was good. I worked for about 50 hours a month and spent the rest of time day dreaming about my startup(s), reading way too many blogs, indulging in family politics and watching TV show marathons. As I said, life was good.

And then for what could be one of the silliest reasons in life, I had to take up a fulltime job. Now, finding a job is too much of work in itself. From dusting of CVs to lying through the teeth about my team player skills, there was just so much unpleasant stuff to do. Thankfully, all my stars aligned at the right moment and Shalin hired me as a Product Evangelist.

It has been an exciting journey so far and thought I would share my experiences with you.

I Don’t Hate Mondays Anymore

I read somewhere that you are in a great job if you don’t dread going to the office every Monday. To say I look forward to going to work everyday would be a gross understatement. Gone are the days when I contemplated shooting myself rather than going to work. A trusting, flexible and fun filled learning environment is the sole reason I decided to flush my fancy Microsoft certifications and switch my career.

There’re Smart People All Around

Only now, I totally understand the benefit of surrounding myself with smart people. I practically lived with apps these past three years and for me working at Tenmiles is like working in a chocolate factory with not one, but fourteen Willy Wonkas. Everyday, I sneak behind developers when they’re coding and get goosebumps seeing actual apps being built.

My colleagues are nice, sweet people and they don’t mind answering my dumb questions about design and coding practices. Concepts and jargon about Rails, Django and iOS development are thrown around every second or so and I imagine myself as the super secret NSA satellite that grabs all the knowledge that’s floating around.

I’ve been employed elsewhere and have seen a lot of hardworking individuals, but this is the first time I have got the chance to work with a passionate founder. Usually, I learn how not to run businesses from my tenure at various establishments, but for a change, I’m learning how to run a business the right way. That too a profitable, bootstrapped one.

There are No Walls

Even after eleven years, Tenmiles has a startup culture. Doors to the CEO’s cabin are always open and to my surprise even the interns get to work with him everyday. I usually barge in whenever I have an idea or thought for blogpost and chat up with him. I treat all my interactions with him like they are extended interviews for a magazine or a blog.

All my probing, ridiculously daisy chained questions (from bootstrapping to hypothetical SaaS doomsday scenarios) get polite and insightful answers. Never in my life have I seen a person so excited about software and the cloud. His layered vision for the company and the pace at which decisions are taken amaze to no end.

I’m sure he will be reading this and it might look like downright flattery. But, I gotta say what I gotta say and I’m glad that I got the opportunity to do that.

And…

I hope you noticed that there was no mention of salary as a factor throughout the article. That’s because this was the only interview I took in my life with the intention of joining the company no matter what package they offered. I badly wanted to be in a place that’s working on tomorrow’s technologies today and not to be a corporate drone (to the curious, I got a darn sweet deal!).

My sense of creativity blows, but if you would like for me to paint a word picture, I feel like an angel baby, swaddled in a cocoon of cloud candy! Good Times!

P.S.: We’re hiring and there is so much more cloud candy to go around!



Bootstrapping a business without shortcuts

 by Shalin Jain  on   20 Jul 2011

It is not hard to Bootstrap a company. Many people think bootstrapping is all about thinking short-term. Generate money for the company today. I think otherwise.

Bootstrapping successfully needs a long-term vision. Doing services to bootstrap a product company is short-term. Building minimum viable product, selling as soon as you have a prototype is long-term.

Bootstrapped entrepreneurs are not in business because they see a gap in the market. They start companies because of their ideas and ideology. Sticking to long-term vision is the shortest path to remain viable.



The day we fired the system admin

 by Shalin Jain  on   18 Jul 2011

I recently received a call from my cousin, he runs a small brick-mortar business and works really hard. His question on a sunday evening was:

“What anti-virus should I be using?”

My reply was with another question: “Do you want to have the same call again 6-months later?” He obviously replied with a No.

So, I answered him: “Then, get a Mac!”.

Now, probably the #1 reason someone wouldn’t move to Mac in India is a software called Tally. Tally (windows-only) is unarguably the most popular accounting package in India. But then you could simply run windows using parallels or bootcamp and deal with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you cannot run Windows virus-free and don’t really have to re-install-the-OS-every-6-months. But it’s quite hard without good IT support. You just don’t need an anti-virus, but probably also need a firewall and a malware blocker, and a more secure browser. Keep all of it updated (using their own unique update process) all the time. I know it’s not that hard, but most people don’t want to do this.

At Tenmiles, we started with Dell desktops running Windows. A server running Windows Server 2000. We mastered it all to ensure there is zero-downtime but as we hired more and more people we realized we had to make them familiar with all those little things that make the difference. From knowing what service pack they are using to understanding how an array of tools help us stay safe. Nevertheless, many of them called me or one of the know-all guys for help. We loved the adventure of fixing stuff. Then, one-day, I bought a Mac. Used it at work.

The first few weeks, the signals I got from my co-workers was, he has made a lot of money – so he is buying expensive designer stuff and soon will fall flat when he gets troubled by compatibility with the majority of us (and the software). A few months later, few folks at office decided to buy their own Macs at their own expense as their primary work machine. I was soon forgetting all the Win-OS expertise I had learnt over the years.

Instead of hiring a system admin, I actually fired the system-admin role in me and my colleague. We started buying Macs for everyone.



Founder’s role in setting up a great team

 by Shalin Jain  on   05 Jul 2011

What is the founders most important role for the Startup?

If, an idea is the reason to start, setting up a great team is fundamentally the most important role of a Founder.

I have hired numerous people in the last 8 years. Some stay really long while some leave rather quickly. One thing sure works: spend quality time with each new hire as if it was just you & him/her making a startup possible. If this phase goes well, you are counting on a great team member.

This is true irrespective of their role in the company. Fairly practical during the early stages of the startup. And it sure works.



What defines a Startup ?

 by vinay  on   29 Jul 2010

Someone asked me what I do and I had to decide whether to say “I work for a small product development company” or “I work for a web based startup company”. Invariably, the former received “ho hum” replies and the latter received “aah ooh” replies. The kick of “aah ooh” replies not withstanding, the question is still very real in my head. Are we still a startup?

The way I see it, there are two definitions for startups. The term startup company according to Wikipedia :

“A startup company or startup is a company with a limited operating history. These companies, generally newly created, are in a phase of development and research for markets.

This is the strict definition based on certain statistics about the company that many people consider as correct. Lets check its validity.

Take Google Apps for example, it was in beta (‘phase of development’) until July 2009. Does that mean it was a startup until then? The fact is that software these days is continuously under development. So that cannot be part of the criteria determining the definition of startups. Nor can age or size of the company because well, Steve Jobs described Apple as the “Biggest Startup on the Planet” at the D8 conference this year. Some say that once a startup becomes profitable, it becomes a company. Twitter has been ‘in operation’ since 2006, still has not figured out a business model and has a user base thats probably second only to Facebook. Now where does that leave Twitter? Lets face it. Definitions based on turnover, size and age just don’t work anymore.

The expression startup company now evokes an emotion that goes beyond numbers and figures.

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