For fun and exploration

Since I put out the news about working on Fliptrazon, some of my friends and acquaintances have been a little underwhelmed by my ‘startup’. The general comment is like –

“I thought you were going to do something impactful”

This always gets me thinking. And sometimes worried. Life is short. Am I making the best use of my time here? So let me try and make a case for doing something that may not look impactful (tl;dr – for fun).

Some background

The year 2015 was stressful for me, both on the personal and professional front. On the professional front I struggled with finding purpose in what we were doing. Perhaps I needed a break. Perhaps we were losing the essence of what it meant to be a startup in the race for metrics, and chasing growth. I don’t mean to undermine the efforts of our team, and sound cynical, but the valuation game that is being played is very real, and distracting. It can be exciting for a bit, but after a while, it is barely satisfying.

Needless to say, it was no longer fun for me, which has usually been the most important factor in doing something. And I was lucky to find myself in a dispensible position, which was often not the case in the past. So, I made a move out, knowing that it will take me some time to figure out what to do next. As simple as that. No glorious ideas about what I would do next, no chasing unicorns, just a blank canvas.

The anticlimactic post quitting realization

I figured I would be able to come up with something impactful to do in a few months. Yet, here I am, almost 5 months after quitting the last business, and still having little clue. In fact, Fliptrazon started as a side project, and I still haven’t figured out where this is going. Is this a

  • small business (order of $1-10M valuation)
  • medium / large business (order of $10-100M valuation)
  • unicorn business (yeah baby!)


        |\   |  or
       _| \-/ic
      /    un
    //    ~ + \
   //         |
  //    \      \
 |||     | .  .|
///     / \___/            look, a text unicorn!

The case for fun

I wouldn’t say I am in unfamiliar territory though. About 6 years back when we were winding up from iTasveer, I had some free time and started making IndiaBookStore (IBS) to solve a personal pain. It turned out to be such a fulfilling product, both from the point of view of solving a simple problem, as well as earning some secondary income :)

Making IBS taught me important lessons about working smart, minimizing the foot-print of the product, automating all kinds of stuff so that I would not have to spend more than a couple of hours a week on it, and obsessively worrying about making it so good, that people come back to use it again.

Some startup purists argue that small businesses are not worth the time, but I don’t see anything wrong with working on small businesses, purely because of the ideas you get to learn from them can be applied with much larger consequences elsewhere. They serve as a good ground for experimentation and exploration. Ironically enough, when one is working to meet valuation targets, the fear of failure and exploration is daunting. Products tend to become more complex, rather than more simple. Saying no feels like we’re not doing enough. Very few organizations are able to strike this balance.

Enter, doing things for fun. The creative boundaries are expanded. Exploration is often the goal, and getting an interesting product/market fit almost comes as a side-effect. Even if it does not, it is the process that I like to imbibe. For eg. this time I intend to throw all I have at writing. It is a skill I have always wanted to develop, but rarely find the time to practice. I intend to get even sharper and quicker at finding a product/market fit. I also intend to learn how to break the clutter of marketing, to reach out to a large number of customers, hopefully doing it much faster than the previous time. Sounds like fun? Well it is! I can also name it something stupid for bonus..

So that’s roughly what Fliptrazon is right now. A fun project, that is highly likely be a small business. And in the next 6 months, I intend to find out what kind of wheels I can put on it, to make it a much larger business.

To conclude, here’s a graph that I made with impact on Y axis and fun on the X axis. If I would have had a 3D simulator, I would have added a Z axis for $$ too:

Impact vs Fun. (click image for a larger image)

Fun exercise : Do tell me where you would like to place startups (your own or otherwise) on this graph.

Update: I just made an email list. Subscribe here if you want to follow my writing. I’m hoping to create some social pressure so that I keep up.

Update 2: A swing and a miss

14 thoughts on “For fun and exploration”

  1. What ever you have done and whatever you will Bhai ; it will be impactful … Its about you as a person … You are a unicorn on your own … Hehe … Between you write good … Try writing a book ? What say ? May be spend time with strugglers like us … Between our startup is definitely not a unicorn .. should lie somewhere in 1st Quadrant …

    1. Thanks for the generous comments Siddharth. Let’s just try and get along with a blog post or two every month I’d say. I can barely read a book end to end these days, always end up leaving them half read!

  2. Sounds like fun; especially is the fun projects can be systemize to work on automation to produce a secondary passive income.
    I m curious though, what do you mean by high impact projects? Is it the social impact, reach, must have factor or is it a personal definition of high impact.

    1. Ideally, high impact in both intensity and scale (both are relative terms though). The impact itself could be social, technological, scientific etc. Also certain businesses create a very direct impact on people’s lives and are lower down the stream. Some are up the stream, probably not noticed directly by the larger population (for instance b2b businesses / products).

      Also, I agree, it does come down to personal definition as well.

      For instance, personally I would put a high value on innovation. Which means, I wouldn’t find making a(nother) delivery business impactful (given the current market, competitors etc), but so many entrepreneurs and investors still do. I feel there’s already too many people, and too much money gone into it.

      Another example, I am not very enthusiastic about building a business which scales with people. While those can be very high impact businesses like Infosys, Wipro etc., it is not what I would personally enjoy doing.

  3. Animesh….I found a systematic and clear flow of your thoughts (partially of self satisfaction and of desire to achieve some fruitful in terms of the society) in your writing….In all of your efforts you always focused on affiliate markets why you don’t put your energy to create a unique your own product…..or service………I feel you are approaching to the million people to provide the best price of a product….so I can see it in terms of the service of society…….you just hold to launch any service with this business model and rethink because one day you will be saturated from this model and you will try to do something for which you have taken rest……..there are three things one is commitment for himself 2. second is for the family and third is for society…….your commitment purpose is to provide the best facilities to the society in terms of the service or product…….second……good education to the million people by using the latest technology …or committed to provide good houses, food and water to million people……. these are three areas in which all the same minded people are working……..
    I have seen now in your articles have a feeling of direct communication when one reads……
    you have your own business model……
    you remain focus till now on education related materials (books,) and now articles……so your one area of interests you have to see out of these…….and that will be where you gave more times to anyone of these either by reading the books, picking the best books, or writing the books….in coming days……………. or you have to provide good education to million people by using the technology……. because you have a good team of technical people…..

    OK …by the way all these written in flow of minds may be I wrong at any or many points about your point of view….because i just read your articles……

    My best wishes always

    1. Hi Sushil, appreciate the feedback. I agree with many of your thoughts. The search for something more meaningful continues (with Fliptrazon or not).

  4. Life is too short to make everyone happy. Life is too short to seek validation from others.
    I used Fliptrazon last month to book tickets on MMT. I was in and out with a coupon under 60 seconds and I think that’s pretty cool. I’d rather use a minimalist tool than waste time finding the Rajas and Ranis of the Dunia.

    1. haha.. glad you liked it :) Will let you in on the android app for some early feedback before we launch. We’re making a simple widget to make it slightly easier to use on mobile.

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