Ashutosh Garg talks and thinks remarkably fast. He understands complexity with ease and his drive to create is unstoppable. I had the pleasure of meeting Ashutosh when I interviewed to be the first Head of Marketing for Bloomreach – one of two unicorns Ashutosh has founded (Eightfold.ai, where he is the CEO, is the second one). He and his co-founder, Raj DeDatta, were meticulous about nurturing the culture of Bloomreach and maintaining high standards for hiring. They spent over a year seeking to fill my role and I was honored to partner with them. Ashutosh and I come from completely different pedagogical orientations – he’s a data scientist to whom engineers clamor to collaborate. I’m an MBA with a penchant for group psychology and how to recognize, nurture and capture energy to drive companies and people forward. Ashutosh drew upon data to share with me his founder insights. We share a deep respect for each other and Ashutosh’s unique, clear view of what a successful founder must do was unexpectedly unique and compelling. I hope you enjoy Ashutosh’s four insights.
Founder Insight 1:
Be patient when hiring initial talent – optimize for great DNA for the company
Per Ashutosh, not having enough patience when it comes to hiring initial talent can be a huge mistake for any founder. When it comes to building a successful startup, there are a lot of things that need to fall into place. However, one of the most important things is having the right team in place. This can be a challenge, especially for founders who are moving quickly to bring their vision to market.
One of the biggest mistakes that Ashutosh sees founders make is that they try to hire too quickly. They see a problem that needs to be solved and they want to solve it immediately. However, this often leads to them hiring the wrong people.
Instead of rushing into hiring, he recommends you take the time to think about the type of people you need on your team. What kind of skills do they need to have? What kind of personality do you want them to have? Once you have a good understanding of the type of people you need, you can start to slowly build your team.
It may take a little longer to get things off the ground this way, but it will be worth it in the long run. Hiring the right people is critical, but so is building the right culture.
Founder Insight 2:
Do whatever job is most important at the time
As a startup founder, you will likely wear many hats during the early days of your company. You may be responsible for sales, marketing, product development, customer support, and a whole host of other things.
This can be tough for many people, especially those who are used to having a more specialized role. However, it’s important to be comfortable doing whatever job is required to succeed at the time.
The reality is that, in the early days of a startup, the most important thing is to get things off the ground. This means that you need to be willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
So, if you need to spend a few months doing sales or customer support, do it. If you need to spend a year working on product development, do it. The most important thing is that you get the company off the ground and to a point where it can start to scale.
Founder Insight 3:
Appearances can be deceiving – in both directions
Remember – the outside view looks rosier than it is. The inside view looks worse than it is.
One of the things that Ashutosh learned from his experience as a startup founder is that appearances can be deceiving. This is true in both directions.
From the outside, it can often look like a startup is doing much better than it is. This is because people only see the successes and they don’t see all of the failures that happen behind the scenes.
However, it’s also important to remember that the inside view often looks worse than it is. This is because founders are much closer to the business and they see all of the problems that need to be fixed.
It’s important to keep this in mind when you are comparing your startup to others. Just because a startup looks like it is doing well from the outside, doesn’t mean that it is. Likewise, just because your startup doesn’t look like it is doing well from the inside, doesn’t mean that it isn’t.
The most important thing is to focus on your own business, progress to the milestones that matter to your growth and learn from the inevitable setbacks that will occur.
Founder Insight 4:
Focus on continuously increasing your total available market (TAM)
As a startup founder, it’s important to focus on continuously increasing your total available market (TAM). This is the number of potential customers that you have for your product or service.
It’s the key to sustaining long-term growth.
Identify the buyer – that’s a function of what you start with – be focused and precise in the definition of that customer profile.
Understand every dollar your motivated, target buyer spends and identify which dollars you can compete for – maximizing the wallet share of your company.
To do this, you need to have a good understanding of your product or service and what problem it solves. You also need to understand your target market and what motivates them. Additionally, you need to be always looking for new ways to reach more potential customers and expand your penetration within existing ones.
These four insights do not guarantee the success of your venture. A good idea in a large market developed by the right team with healthy doses of luck and grit increases the odds of that success.