Did you know that you can navigate the posts by swiping left and right?

Backpropogation - 3 years in Singapore

09 Oct 2021 . category: report . Comments
#singapore #startup #journal #learnings

9th Oct 2021: Typing this flying somewhere over South India in SQ494, as i bid goodbye to Singapore after 3 years. i’ll be meeting Gyani in Dubai in about three hours, i haven’t seen this guy since our SriLanka trip and i’m excited. Flying sometimes gives me mortality chills, but i try to distract myself.

i haven’t really taken time off since the beginning of 2020, and i’d be lying if i said that i didn’t long for a break. This blog is supposed to be an exercise in backpropogation for myself - to document my state of mind before the short-term memory takes over. i’ll be pouring my heart here and will try to be as authentic as possible, talking about how i spent my time and what i learnt on my short stint in the city island.

Before i proceed further on my self-critical narrative, i want to mention my gratitude towards Lady Luck and everyone with whom i’ve interacted with in the last few years. i’ve tried coming to grips with the concept of ‘no free will’, and it makes me realize how fortunate i am to be in the situation i am in.

---------

Few general updates, to set some context:

  • I am moving back to Bengaluru to build Houseware along with fellow Bitsian, Divyansh.
  • We had to take the hard call of shutting down Radicali, the startup i was building in Singapore.

This blog has been in my head for the past month or so, and i noticed that the memory retrieval algorithm in my brain does not work correctly. Memories from times of flux in my life are much more vivid than memories of what i did in a set routine. i feel that uncertainty and certainty are both important to move forward, but memories are biased towards times of change.

i would have added images on this blog, but checking my Google Photos would send me into a different rabbit-hole that i dont have time for right now. That’s a blog for another time!

---------

In August of ‘18, i had joined Entrepreneur First(EF) with the goal of finding a co-founder and start up. i did so, and managed to raise a strong seed round by June of ‘19. We started out in the space of regulatory change management, trying to sell to banks initially. We built out an initial version of the product, while hiring a developer team in Bangalore. i used to fly back and forth in the second half of ‘19 quite a bit, getting the team aligned with our long-term goals.

It was a an exciting phase for me, as it was my first time leading tech teams, doing product strategy and building the backend all at the same time. We kept iterating on the product, and shifted our go-to-market strategies in ‘20, as we started to see some initial signals of product-market-fit. It is so fulfilling to see your code running on a user’s browser and them deriving value out of it, that was what kept us going.

We built add-ons to our product to explore the possibilities of introducing a no-code toolkit for compliance workflows amongst other experiments. However, the market is the market is the market - and this is something i started to realize in ‘21. i believe we had a great team and a solid product, but we couldn’t crack the puzzle of PMF completely, eventually deciding to move on.

People talk about impostor syndrome as if it’s something that happens to them once in a while. For me, it was an everyday experience. Having to learn everything on the job while keeping the team motivated and most importantly, maintain my own belief in our vision - i guess, that’s why they say it’s hard being a founder. At the same time, there’s nothing like it.

A few things i learnt about myself were how poorly i prioritize my tasks, and don’t have the capacity to shuttle between long-term planning and short-term execution. This harmed me early in the journey, as i got sub-optimal results on both fronts - however, i’m proud of having improved on them now. Since the last year or so, i’ve lived my weekdays and weekends by the clock - making things much easier as i have to live life like a robot letting the calendar dictate my actions.

---------

When i look back at my YouTube videos from Pilani and Bangalore, i see a different person looking into the camera. My mindset and attitude towards life has changed quite a bit, although at the core - i am still the same kid from college.

Now, i see adversities differently. i have read quite a bit of philosophy and history recently, and the stoic way of life suits my lifestyle the best. i tried to be as non-emotional about our wind-down as i was about our fundraise. Covid might have been a factor in this change in my mindset as well - i was shit-scared in Feb ‘20 listening to initial projections, but soon realized that life truly is a single-player game, somehow wrapped inside a no-free-will simulation.

i realized the importance of having people around me, and i think this has been a realization that our generation has collectively come to. i didn’t value normal life, family and friends as highly as i should, and now i make it a point to surround myself with high-energy people to maximize for life force.

---------

One thing that i’m extremely proud of myself is sticking to a decent fitness regiment through and through. i ran my first full marathon in November of ‘19, and continued on the 3 runs-a-week routine. i started doing JiuJitsu in Jan ‘21, and earned the third stripe on my white belt just last week! i tried to be consistent with lifting weights, but could’ve done better on this front. i value discipline in daily schedule very highly, and as Jocko Willink would say, i got some.

i added Joe Rogan and Lex Fridman in my circle of 5 closest friends, and used to have a conversation with them over dinner every night. Rogan has single-handedly improved the quality of my life by many folds, and i can’t thank these guys enough!

i got into a serious relationship, went through the highs and the lows, and recently came out of it as a better person. Dating in Singapore is quite a fun experience, i must say :)

Life is beautiful in general, but life in Singapore is convenient and beautiful. It took me a few months to get used to the culture, but soon enough i was talking Singlish la. i explored a bunch of new places, ate different cusines, and celebrated new festivals. Made a lot of new friends in my co-living space, in the startup accelerator, and over serendipitous meetups. On certain occassions, these friendships teach deep lessons about life.

---------

In August ‘21, i had a huge decision tree staring me in the face with all kinds of potential opportunities i could jump into. i talked to my seniors, and soon enough all advice started to cancel out. Thanks for the tip, Naval!

i quickly understood that this decision needed to be organic, not one that could be achieved by SWOT analyses. i threw myself into all kinds of projects and observed what stuck. Meanwhile, i tried to build a vision of how i want to be living my life 10-20 years down the line.

Financial independence is the first step to be achieved along that journey, and i need to be building on my specific knowledge to build maximum leverage in an increasingly differentiated economy. i see life as an optimization problem, and stochastic gradient descent as one of the algorithms to live life by. The current phase of life should be heavy on exploration and regret minimization.

A few realizations i also landed upon: i needed to laugh more, be at peace and not live life in daily anxiety. When under the constant accelerator, i spent days without laughing even once, constantly in the pursuit of that dopamine hit when i hit ‘deploy’. This needed to change, and the other extreme of living life in the Himalayas enjoying a simple village lifestyle started to fascinate me. However, i believe these are transient wishes and soon enough the human mind starts looking out for problems to solve.

In the last few weeks, i had a bunch of discussions with startup founders and friends, and i realized that i truly enjoy the process of building product. That’s what i’m meant to do.

---------

When i look at the products i use and love, almost all of them are SaaS businesses. i built SaaS for Compliance teams, and i’m intimately familiar with the process of building/selling in the B2B space. i’d been aware of Product-led growth in my side-vision for quite some time, and the market definitely shows a lot of promise. After spending enough time with Divyansh discussing our visions and goals, i committed to joining him at Houseware full-time as a co-founder.

i’m 25 years old right now, and believe that i’m not even close to my prime in my professional life. If there’s one thing that JiuJitsu has taught me, it’s that you have to always stay a student of the game and that’s what i intend to do. i move back to Bengaluru in about a week’s time after Dubai and Bombay, ready to kick some ass. We’re starting to look out for folks to bring onboard the Houseware rocketship, hit us up if you’re interested!

If you’re around, ping me and we shall meet. If you’re not, ping me and we shall chat!

Phew this backprop iteration took some time, the flight’s gonna land soon.


Me

Shubhankar is an awesome person. He's Co-Founder & CTO of Houseware, building the command center for modern revenue teams. In his spare time, he likes to go out on runs!