Doing, without Learning

Recently a guy, say Mr. B. applied for a job in our company as an android app developer. As soon as he arrived in for the interview, his phone started ringing, and I allowed him to receive the calls. He received several phone calls during the interview session. After every next phone call, he’d tell me that some other company is calling him to join them. After he repeated the same thing twice, I decided to see what this guy has that I might have overlooked. I had made my initial judgment from his answers to a few of my questions related to android app development.

Several applicants visit our office every week. As of now, my company does not have any standard interview or any filtering mechanism. Whoever calls us, we invite them over. After talking for a few minutes about their interests and past experiences, I ask about their expectations. I also ask about their plans in the near future. Their answers, combined with a little bit of behavioral analysis help me decide whether they are a good fit for our company. I give a take-home task to interesting people. For others, my usual response includes a suggestion to go read about the platform, or the technology or the developer documentation for whatever post they applied for.

We hardly ever receive applications from experienced developers. That’s mainly because we are based outside the Kathmandu valley, and because we are a startup, working on in-house projects using the latest tech available at the moment. Experienced developers find it harder to switch their roles; let alone work in a small product at a small startup using the tools they rarely hear about. That’s perfectly fine for us, because we are still experimenting a lot of new ideas, and mostly learning while building everything from scratch. Since we have this culture of learning by doing, I usually judged the applicants form what kind of projects they chose to start, and how far they went with it. I believed that if someone has built something (s)he must be knowledgeable in the tools/technology they used to build it. But Mr. B. changed my belief entirely.

He had built some kind of reminder app, that he had previously phrased as a prescription management app. The app that he described helped people to keep track of their prescriptions and medicine intake. But actually what he made was a reminder that showed a notification when it was time to take a new medicine. It did not keep a record of whether or not they took the medicine. The app could easily be replaced with the stock Alarm app. Setting up a few repeating alarms with custom notes would do everything he wanted his app to do. Well, he had built an app anyway. I started asking simple questions like how he fetched the data from the internet, and which library he used to display the images.

He was quick to answer a couple of questions; then his answers started falling apart. I asked about a file that had lots of comments; writing that amount of well-written comments is unusual for a beginner. He told that his teacher (“sir” in his words) gave it to him. That lead to a series of questions, and what I heard totally shook up my belief. He told me that whenever he had a problem, he’d go to his teacher and ask how to solve the problem. The teacher would guide him, and sometimes give him the source code. When I asked why he didn’t search on the internet instead, he didn’t have a reply.

Is there a market for your idea?

Bulb on Grass

Your, product, service, or website has zero customers on the launch day. You wait until the end of the day, and the end of the week. People don’t seem interested in what you are offering. You have heard about people who had several hundred sales in the first week; they reached the height of success in their first shot. Here you are, still wondering why nobody is paying you for the project that seems like a brilliant idea. You anticipated this one would bring you a fortune. Well, not this time.

Startups are easy to start and hardly ever become successful. Most of the startups fail to continue as a business after existing for a short period. For a founder, being successful in growing a startup into a sustainable business is the ultimate goal. Failure is when you realize it is not worth investing your energy, time, and money on that venture anymore. That situation could arise when you need to keep working hard to keep the ship afloat, or the business is losing more money than it is making despite any effort. It is usual for a startup to lose money while the product is still under development, but after the product is launched, marketed and people have started to use your product, you should expect to see some paying customers.

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What percent you are sure about its success, and why? You are always unsure about it. But yeah, that’s what happens in every startup. Neither of those fortunate multi billion dollar companies had a clear view of today. They started small; they stayed small but they were different. They succeeded not because they needed success and struggled for it. It is because the world needed them; the market needed their products. They had built something that people urgently needed for solving their problem. Though very small niche of customers, they had permabent ones.

Gradually the niche spread out, and their 1000$ startup turned out to be multi B$ company.

What about you? Have you ever thought of a startup idea that would solve real world problems? Or you are just working on a ‘brilliant’ idea that came into your mind while you were taking a shit at a friend’s house last weekend? That doesn’t even matter!


You could have been a total NO – NO about sharing your private info publicly.

But why are you sharing those on social networks?

You had never thought you would stalk big people with a hope of learning about and from them. That would even sound crazy! But you have followed 100s, if not 1000s of people in twitter.

Got something? You’d better!

Don’t you be an idiot and spend hours of your precious time on bullshit idea.

Good luck with your new startup. Stay updated, stay smart.

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A startup for the parents of smart children

Person holding a smartphone

This article is about an opportunity to start a company that teaches older people how to use technology to improve their lives. It is essential to tell older people how all the cool new technologies work, and how they can stay safe online. Older people are as vulnerable to cyber attacks as teenagers. It’s time we think about the troubles an entire generation is facing.

Solving a problem for yourself, or people you know about is probably the best way to start a company. Today I discovered a problem faced by a group of people in Nepal: parents of smart children. The youngsters of middle to upper-class families in their teens or twenties were lucky enough to get their hands into the latest and greatest technologies. They are used to actively using gadgets and online services. They book a movie ticket online, order food at home, shop, and hop into a cab back home, all using their smartphone. Back at home, their parents struggle to close a pop-up advertisement displayed by an app in the smartphone gifted by their children. These parents spent the last decade working hard for their children, and never thought they would be left so behind.

Wouldn’t they want to leverage the power of technology that they are holding on their hands? Wouldn’t they want to explore more of the internet, in a more creative, lively, and fun way? I am curious about how they would use technology. Would they use technology the same way we used it? Would they discover that there is an app for almost anything? When would they learn that their bank would never ask for their pin code and expiry dates of their debit card? How would they react to the singles who are eager to meet them tonight? Would they also install a toolbar on their browser while trying to open an email attachment as we did? Would they also make a new email friend who wants them to remit him a small sum of money to help him? Would they ever notice that a dialog box inside a webpage showing a pending antivirus update is different from the actual software update notification on their smartphone?

The internet has always been a bundle of joy and surprises for people like me. The bookmarks, subscriptions, saved posts, answers, and comments from forums are my treasures. The influencers from around the globe have changed the way I look at the world and myself. I have talked about my darkest secrets with a random person. I have almost sent a month’s earnings to some spammer; have almost typed my password in a phishing webpage; had dozens of comment wars with strangers in random forums.

I have hopped from one messaging app to another, one social network to another. I have sometimes written a blog or two here and there, have created a profile on several freelance job portals. Once I even tried to change the world by sharing a link to a signature collection campaign. Once I signed myself up as a counselor on a website and helped dozens of depressed and worried people from all around the world. Sometimes I used to feel so powerful, and sometimes so worthless.

What if we could teach those parents how to use the tools they have at stake? I think it’s time we teach them the basics of online presence, and share a bit of our knowledge about security and privacy. I want to see how a literacy campaign for parents turns out to be. Would more mommies start sharing their favorite recipes with her friends? Would they order a watch online for their husbands on for their birthday? Would more daddies play multiplayer games with their school friends instead of suffering from a mid-life crisis? I believe they would. Would a mom be earning off her recipe videos, or a dad off of his self-help course?

Ideally, an entire generation would become curious once again in their lives. The happiness in their eyes would be priceless when they open up a parcel they ordered from China, or when they receive a payout for their last month’s commission. Life would once again be fun and games for the grey-haired people. Swiping up-and-up all day watching 15-seconds clips, sharing a selfie with the aunty next door, playing ludo and other fun games with spouse – why should the kids have all the fun? Subscribing to other fun-loving old couples from the other corner of the world, and getting a notification when they post yet another video of them dancing would be a miracle.

Unfortunately, they look at the technology like an 8th grader would look at first order differential equations. Some people never tried, some have tried and failed, and some people have discovered that they only need to know a few rules to solve them. For the majority of people, the internet is making their lives easier because their kids now pay the utility and telephone bills through their mobile wallets. They can video-call their daughter living in Australia while making a ginger-garlic paste in the kitchen. Apart from that, the internet is a mystery hidden inside a little box connected to a cable in the corner of their house.

I have tried to introduce my parents to technology as much as I would do to my kids. My dad never used a computer, but now knows how to read an email. He plays the games that we make and tells us when he discovers a problem. He can differentiate advertisements from notifications and knows better than clicking the button highlighted with dark patterns. He sometimes broadcasts live from any family gatherings for relatives who didn’t attend. My mom is happier with the 15-second videos with lip-sync than with fake news and political arguments. Mom sometimes takes selfies with people she likes and adds them as a friend in her social media. They know how to add a new contact, how to delete a long video to save on space, and how to add more people to group video chats. For people who spent all their lives struggling to keep the bills paid, and who never had a smartphone, that’s an achievement. They have become happier and more social in general.

creating an email/facebook account

installing new apps / software

about online privacy and security-

monitoring their children’s activities

PS: I am trying to find time to do this.