Dharmesh Shah

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How To Help Startup Ecosystems: Be An Early Adopter

By Dharmesh Shah on November 27, 2012

The following is a guest post by Sravish Sridhar. Sravish is the Founder and CEO of Kinvey, a Backend as a Service platform that makes it easy for developers to setup and operate backends for mobile, tablet and web apps. He is a believer in mentor-backed entrepreneurship and you can follow Sravish on Twitter - @sravishsridhar.

I just finished reading Brad Feld’s new book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in your City. In it, Brad states that sustainable entrepreneurial communities must have:

  • Active entrepreneurs who will be the leaders to drive the community forward,
  • A long-term view and commitment to build the community,
  • A continual set of activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack, and
  • An inherent view of inclusiveness that ensures that anyone is welcome to participate -- not just entrepreneurs.describe the image

On a similar theme, Mark Suster, in a guest post in TechCrunch, adds that a successful startup community must also have a strong pool of tech founders, capital, well-attended events, great local universities, vocal champions, vibrant local press, etc.

Despite embodying all the traits that Brad and Mark have outlined, I’ve repeatedly seen Boston, my current hometown, suffer from the burden of constantly justifying itself to the world as a thriving startup community. I’ve concluded that there is one more essential ingredient Boston needs to be a successful startup community – Boston needs early adopter DNA, especially to try early-stage, Boston-built, startup products.

If we could successfully mutate the startup gene of the Boston startup community to introduce early adopter DNA, we would create a huge advantage for startups that are built here. Their launches will be “buzzier,” their products will get traction faster, and most importantly, the companies will enjoy informed feedback from key members of its own community. Feedback and buzz from early adoption is an invaluable asset for any startup, and we can give them that.

For Boston (or any startup community) to have early adopter DNA, it needs its startup leaders and the extended community that supports the ecosystem to do three things –

1. Be Curious: We need to collectively spend more time seeking out new startups and learning about their products. Follow key Boston startup community leaders on Twitter like Dharmesh ShahMatt LauzonKatie RaeJennifer LumDavid CancelFred DestinRich MinerAntonio RodriguezRob GoDavid SkokJeff Bussgang, etc.  Read Scott Kirsner in the Boston Globe, BostInnoXconomy and the Boston Business Journal.  Learn, learn and learn!

I could go on and on. In Cambridge alone, there are hundreds of startups in a one-mile radius. And Boston has hundreds more. Ask yourself, how many of their products have you used?

2. Be Adventurous: When you read or hear about a new Boston startup, don’t hesitate - sign up and try its product. There are startups in Boston that cater to your every need -
describe the image

describe the image

3. Be TalkativeTrying a startup’s product is only the beginning. To truly become a vibrant entrepreneurial scene, we also need to support fellow startups with word of mouth. Tell your friends about your favorite local products, tweet and share your experience on Facebook. Better yet, blog about it.

Help your following become Curious and Adventurous. And don’t forget to share your product feedback with the startups behind the product. I can assure you that every startup wants to hear about your experience with their product, it’s how we will improve.

If we seek out innovation, are willing to kick the tires of early stage products, and be vocal about our experiences, Boston will become a stronger startup community. The ripples from this early adopter DNA being put into practice will encourage more people from the broader community to do the same, and I assure you, we will all be stronger for it.

Topics: guest
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Sorry, No Calls

By Dharmesh Shah on November 20, 2012

For convenient access to this article, you can get to it by visiting: SorryNoCalls.com.

Dear Friend,

I know you've asked to setup a "quick call" to chat.  Could be just an introductory "get to know you" call, or maybe we were recently introduced by a mutual connection.  Or maybe you just want to "pick my brain".  Or talk about your project/company/conference/.  

Sorry, but I don't take phone calls. I hate them. My aversion borders on the pathological.

You will find this surprising and abnormal (because it is), but in a given year, I'll usually have < 15 non-personal phone calls. I often go weeks or months without a single call (joy! bliss!) When I do have them, I have to emotionally prepare myself. And, just so you know, I have a tough time with personal calls too, much to the disappointment of my parents.

Hence, this article, which you can find at SorryNoCalls.com (domain setup to make it easy to reference. I might even print it on my business cards some day).

Why I Dislike Phone Calls So Much

Here are the reasons why I hate phone calls so much. The images shown below are from an absolutely fantastic comic titled “10 Reasons To Avoid Talking On The Phone” by Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal

1. I don't like synchronous communications.

A phone calls is a synchronous conversation. It breaks up my day and interrupts my flow. That's why I much prefer email, which I can “batch up” and do all at once, at my leisure and on my schedule. Handling things asynchronously also allows me to be more thoughtful about my response and match my degree of response to the importance of the situation. On a phone call, it seems rude to go into a long, detailed diatribe (even though the situation seemingly warrants it), because the other party doesn't have an easy way to “fast forward” (or skip). With email, I can write up my thoughts, get into detail if I want, with the knowledge that if the other person's not as interested as I thought, they can just move on.

2. I hate making small talk. 


no calls small talk

Even when it's in person, small talk is difficult. On the phone, it's even harder.

Now, some of you will argue:  "It's OK -- you don't have to make small talk, most people are just fine if you jump right into it."  Yes, it probably IS OK -- for you.  But, I seem psychologically incapable of this level of emotional confidence.

I'm an introvert. Not somewhat of an introvert. A complete introvert. And from what I've heard, it's not uncommon for introverts to not like small talk. I'm not sure exactly why that is for other introverts, but for me it's because it feels fake and I can't figure out what the right level of small talk is to be polite. I constantly feel awkward when I'm engaging in small talk, because I'm constantly trying to figure out in the back of my head, when it's OK to move into the “real” conversation.

3. I have a really hard time saying “no”.


no calls cant say no

I have a serious problem.  I'm pathologically non-confrontational.  I have a really, really hard time pushing back and saying "no".  And for reasons I don't fully understand, it's at its worst when I'm on the phone.  Maybe it's because of the expectation of immediate answers and I have a deep fear of those awkward moments of silence on the phone.  I don't know.  Whatever it is, I know I have a problem.

4. I'm pathologically polite, and just can't get the timing right.


no calls disjointed

When on a phone call, it feels like I'm always doing this delicate dance between trying to make sure there's not the dreaded period of silence that lasts too long — and the equally dreadful experience of inadvertently interrupting someone. I do this particular dance very poorly, know I do it poorly, and as such am self-conscious about it, and so end up doing it even more poorly. Vicious cycle.

5. I'm absolutely terrible at ending a call. 

no calls goodbye 

So, to summarize my "sorry no calls". It's not you — it's me. I know you're probably not trying to sell me something. You're probably really good at having a normal phone conversation (like most people), so you think I'm exaggerating how I feel. Trust me, I'm not.

Please accept my apologies for having this strange eccentricity. 

And, a word of thanks to my friends, family and colleagues.  They've learned to accept this weakness of mine and don't take it to heart.  I'm also thankful for the modest success I've had so far whereby I can design my life and circumstances around my pecularities.  

Tips if you're like me:

1. I find it much less troublesome to schedule a call than just randomly answer the phone. 

2. Setup a separate phone number (using something like Google Voice) which you only give out to folks you've scheduled a call with.  You can program Google Voice to show the dialed number as caller ID (instead of the person calling).

3. To avoid the awkwardness around small-talk, try to outline what the topic of the conversation is going to be.  It makes you feel less guilty for transitioning into the purpose of the call.

4. Use email to get your high-level thoughts communicated first, and then use a phone call to add a personal touch or to have a higher bandwidth conversation.

5. Make it a firm policy to never say yes to something on the call.  Always give yourself some time to think about it.  I will often tell people that I never make an important decision on the phone -- and that they should follow-up and ask me over email.  

6. Change the outgoing message on your voicemail letting people know that the preferred way to reach you is by email.  Thankfully, this stops many telemarketers.

7. Remember that it's your life and you get to decide some things.  If your work or personal life requires phone calls, that's cool.  But, I think over 90% of the calls you'd normally take you are not obligated to take.  We use the phone out of habit and because we think we have to.

So, what about you?  Do you share my aversion for phone calls?  Or, are you a smilin' dialin' phone callin' machine?  What's your take?

Topics: personal
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