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On customers, product dev, and design (week 36)

Faizan Patankar on 10 March 2021

This post is part of the Building It series where I share my journey building a startup, Amygda. Published weekly and as transparent as our customers, investors, and partners would have us be (read: legally allowed).

As a founder, one thing I didn't consider is how much time operational and admin tasks take.

I don't enjoy dealing with lawyers, accountants, and HR-related folks. And yet, these are important folks in our journey with Amygda.

The past few weeks, whilst-in-motion, and just-post the pre-seed funding we raised, a lot of time has been spent on operational stuff. I have looked into how to deal with it, but most answers lead to one of two

a) delegate the right bits to the right people on the team
b) have someone deal with admin, VA, PA, etc

The challenge with a) is that we are a small team of 4, so most ops and admin sticks to me. And b) is that, well I am uneasy of spending pre-seed on this stuff (being honest).

Anyhow, sounds like an excuse doesn't it?

It sure does. And that's what I am going to blame my "not being able to publish this blog weekly" attitude on. There was just so much other stuff going on, that I struggled for time with this.

So, what's new with Amygda?

Everything is new it seems. As an early-stage startup whatever we have done is new.

New, as in we've not done it before. It's new to us.

And our experiences are new too!

For example, we set out to work with one customer. And over a period of discussions and trial, we both realised, this could be something bigger. Our customer could have a shift change.

And so, it became a larger commercial discussion. I had to start thinking 3-5 years ahead.

I know, you are thinking I should always think 5 years ahead. It's all good theoretical advice. But when it comes to doing things, it's a whole different ball game.

Just thinking 5 years ahead is easy. It's called forecasting or speculation.

But doing something now, putting it pn paper, and agreeing to it with a view that this is what's going to happen in Janurary 2026, that's a whole different ball game.

One, I wasn't prepared to play this early. Anyhow, you play the game market serves you. And so that's new.

I can't wait for this to be public sometime this year. This is going to be huge for us 🙌🏾

So, what else is new?

We are hiring, obviously. I didn't realise how hard this shit is.

Oh Faizan, just get a recruiter to do it for you.

Yeah, thanks for the advice. But do you know that recruiters are at about 17 - 22% of placement fees. This means if I hire someone for 50,000 recruiter fee on successful placement is (assuming 20%), 10,000.

As I said earlier, we are a pre-seed startup and have to budget sensibly. We just can't afford that fee structure.

Also, the first few hires are key. These will be technical folks, and ones that I want to be directly involved in sourcing and hiring.

I've worked for 10 years with some amazing software engineers. But I've also come across folks, who are boring and uncreative.

I now have a pretty good idea of who would fit our culture and who wouldn't.

Our HR policy at the moment is very simple, "We don't hire jerks".

How's the product development coming along?

Irrelevant question.

Let me expand.

We are an industrial AI startup, serving large enterprises. The product is deep-tech, and it takes time to build.

There are multiple aspects to it. Data acquisition, complex event processing system, making it comfortably deal with low-frequency and high-frequency data, and the workflow engine for rules, alerts, notifications etc.

This isn't going to be magically solved in 3 months. The product is never complete. In fact creativeness leads to more creativity.

The problem with the question around product development is, it completely lacks the point of value.

Nobody asks, "What value are you currently creating?" or "How's the pace or direction of value creation at Amygda?"

For our customers, we are creating value. Obviously.

But we are also experimenting and creating value that will bear fruits 18-24 months down the line. So when we reach customer 5, or 6, or 7 they can test the value hypothesis quicker. They don't have to wait for bandwidth, etc.

So whilst we are progressing with product development, I have come to realise it isn't the holy grail of finding customers. Value creation is much more important. And the first step in that is actually convincing the customer of value Amygda can provide.

On that front, we are doing well.

We've started to resonate quicker with one type of customer. And through that, we are finding ourselves too. The next step is to bring that narrative on paper.

That brings me to an underrated skill / role in a startup

Graphic design and UI mockup creator.

Good design has it's place. You can do a lot of things without good design. But when you experience a great visual design experience, it's hard not to be awed by it.

And going back to a poorer visual experience is hard to swallow.

For us, although hiring engineers is important, I do really want to have a graphics/design person on the team. Even if for a couple of days a week.

The step change in the output is incredible.

I was fortunate to work with one, Oliver, who is now the founder of Wildpoint. Oliver has a great eye for design. His design principles are classic. And everything he touches, he uplifts it.

Finding someone who can clearly uplift any content is incredibly hard.

The other benefit is to build mockups. It's important because it's cheaper than engineering to solver problems. Clarify at a mockup/design stage, and it can save you a whole host of rework during actually coding the product.

Something for me to figure out how to bring a person on board who can deliver the outcome.

What do you think is an underrated skill in a startup?

What do you think of this week? Let me know by messaging me on LinkedIn or tweet me @faizanpatankar. I love talking, just mention you read my blog.

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A month of clusterf*ck behind the scenes, but raised funding

Why do I openly share all our moves about building an industrial analytics startup?

Building Amygda and a note on VCs