My co-founder Varun and I actually started out at the age of 21 as entrepreneurs. We, at that point, founded a company called SocialCops which was a data-science-for-social-good company. This was in our final year at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore. Our mission was to solve world problems through data science. We said that there are problems like national-level healthcare and poverty alleviation programs. They don’t seem to be using data the way they should, and if they use data, the world is most likely going to be a better place. That is how we started the company.
When it comes to org building in general, here’s a top concern for me: I think companies don’t spend enough on training managers. I feel that getting well-trained, creative management is a huge issue. Companies need to get results while also exercising the creativity of people, and it can be really difficult for an org to get there.
If you are building a global SaaS company, you want to prevent the talent from going out. That is one big area which needs change. I would like to see people coming out of top colleges in India saying, “I want to start a company here in India or work for a company here in India.” That would be a key marker. If that’s not happening, then the talent is flowing elsewhere, or someone else is taking the value of that talent.
IN TERMS OF THE STRUCTURE AND PROCESSES OF AN ORGANIZATION, YOU SHOULD BE JUST A LITTLE BIT AHEAD.
– BHARAT GOENKA
I think the biggest mistake people tend to make is that they structure themselves too soon. You look at “successful” companies and you somehow feel that their structure has been the cause of their success, and you should adopt their structure. But it is actually the reverse. These companies built their structure as they grew; the structure was not the cause of their growth. In terms of the structure and processes of an organization, you should be just a little bit ahead. In fact, barely 6–12 months ahead of your planned capacity of people, you should not build structure and processes for a 50-person organization when you are ten people.
Getting into the org building mindset and the company building mindset, from an early-stage product and engineering mindset, requires a little bit of a phase shift. The only way to go through that phase shift is to do it. So doing that sooner than later is always helpful, but without compromising on the product and engineering mindset that is necessary in the early days to build “the world’s best product”. So, we would have tried to maybe accelerate that a little bit I think. That would have really helped. As a first-time founder, it’s hard to get the timing right. It’s also hard because you might not have the prior experience or skills that are required for the next phase of the company, so continuously making yourself a little uncomfortable, being ruthlessly objective about what is best for the users/customers and best for the company helps in getting a sense of that timing.
Enforcing structure and processes too early can cause friction to the process of growth so making it align with (and ideally amplify) the growth you’re naturally getting from your market and your customers are critical. So I like to think of this as building the world’s best product, establishing the earliest of GTM motions to validate that you have indeed built the world’s best product, and then starting org building once you know that the market is ready for you to start accelerating.
I LIKE TO THINK OF THIS AS BUILD THE WORLD’S BEST PRODUCT, ESTABLISH THE EARLIEST OF GTM MOTIONS TO VALIDATE THAT YOU HAVE INDEED BUILT THE WORLD’S BEST PRODUCT, AND THEN START ORG BUILDING ONCE YOU KNOW THAT THE MARKET IS READY FOR YOU TO START ACCELERATING.
— TANMAI GOPAL