Steli Efti is the co-founder and CEO of He also co-hosts the show The Startup Chat Podcast.
In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about online meetings & virtual events during COVID-19. One thing that has been on the rise during the COVID 19 crisis has been online conferences, and there are a number of factors that are causing this. One of those is that people ar3e working from home and have more time to attend these conferences. In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how the number of invitations to online events conferences has revved up rapidly, Hiten’s experience with online events, how people have more time for online events right now and much more. Time Stamped Show Notes: 00:00 About today’s topic. 00:40 Why this topic was chosen. 01:28 How the number of invitations to online events and conferences has revved up rapidly. 02:02 Hiten’s experience with online events. 03:39 How things might gradually shift. 04:23 Why this explosion of online events fascinates Hiten. 04:54 How people have more time for online events right now. 06:00 How people are starving for new connections. 06:40 How online events are much easier to attend. 07:22 One thing that’s always going to be true about online events. 3 Key Points: The amount of invitations to online events and conferences has revved up rapidly.There’s been a lot of exuberance for online events, more than I’ve ever seen in my life.This explosion is fascinating to me. [0:00:00] Steli Efti: Hey everybody this is [Steli Efti]. [0:00:03] Hiten Shah: This is [Hiten Shah]. [0:00:04] Steli Efti: Today on The Startup Chat we want to talk about online meetings, webinars, conferences during COVID-19, is it a good idea, is it a bad idea, is it going to, yeah what is happening in the world around the trying to bring physical events online, what are we experiencing, observing? We both felt like it’s an interesting thing that’s going on around the world, Zoom fatigue and other things pop to mind. We just wanted to chit chat and see what we’re observing, what we think will happen next, how to think about these things. Let me ask you first, I have just, the amount of invitations to online events and conferences for me has just ramped up drastically. Obviously because this is conference summer time I guess and a lot of conference organizers decided to try to do their events completely online but also just the amount of webinars that companies give, the amount of meetings that you, I mean we always because we were remote, always had a lot of Zoom meetings. It’s gotten even more because now I do Zoom meetings with friends, I do Zoom meetings, calls with family members. I just do a lot more of these virtual video conferencing calls. Yeah, I’m curious, are you also, I’ve done a few conferences, I’ve done a bunch of webinars and everything in between so far. I’m starting to try to figure out how I feel about all of this and if I want to do more or less and what’s going to happen in the market. What about you? What’s kind of been your experience of the last couple of weeks? [0:01:45] Hiten Shah: I think there’s been a lot of exuberance for online events like more than I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ll start that way because I still don’t know what to think because of what I just said, there’s been more than ever. For the moment, it feels like people are into it. Into it meaning there’s enough people that are still into it where if you throw some online something or other and have some way to promote it people will show up because it’s not that they don’t have anything better to do, it’s that they’re seeking connection. They’re seeking this. I led a few over the last two or three weeks. I wouldn’t say an insane amount but definitely more than I would’ve normally and I probably have a few more to lead in terms of like topics like product management or remote work or whatever in partnership with different folks. I’ve done that too. I think you’ve done probably more than me. Then even today, the today that we’re recording I have one that I’m going to that I’m actually attending not leading which is usually rare for me. I don’t go to a lot of these things. I don’t know, it’s in the air, what can I say? I’ve never seen anything like it. In terms of what happens next like you’ll probably just see a shift into, a shift or transformations of these events if we continue on the pace we are because I think people are going to get tired of it at some point it’s like hey, enough is enough, we don’t need more online events to go to on some regular cadence or whatever. Maybe the topics will dry up. That being said like I’m not sure because we’ve had online events for the longest time. These online summits and conference [inaudible], they were happening already. This sort of situation has definitely accelerated the amount of companies that are willing to do online events which is now basically 100% of them while in the past you’re talking like five or 10% were willing to do it. This explosion is fascinating to me. It still goes back to fundamentals though like you will get attendance to your online event if you have an audience or you’re able to promote your event to the point where like you get, you know you get people signing up for it and showing up to it. A lot of that has to do with the content and the topic and the people who are going to present if that’s how it works and all that kind of stuff. That stuff hasn’t changed. In fact, now that there’s more competition for people’s time with an online event, I think there’s a combination of things. There’s more competition clearly for people’s time and attention and they also have at least a little bit more time and attention. Even if you do have kids or you have like, obviously this is all like mostly around folks in tech and stuff like that, you still have a little more time. That is work time. You might go to some online event with that time. It’s interesting and some people have a lot more time especially if they don’t have kids or they’re living alone right now because they’re stuck at home. They can’t go out. What do they do on the weekend? What I’m surprised about is I’m wondering why there aren’t more online events on the weekend. [0:05:39] Steli Efti: I think it’s because a remarkable amount of people still will use the weekend to I don’t know, go on long walks or go to the park or … [0:05:52] Hiten Shah: That’s fair. [0:05:53] Steli Efti: Try to do something that’s kind of like not … [0:05:56] Hiten Shah: Normal. [0:05:56] Steli Efti: Sitting at home. [0:05:57] Hiten Shah: So to speak, yeah. [0:05:58] Steli Efti: Normal, kind of people still think in like work week and weekend. [0:06:02] Hiten Shah: True. [0:06:03] Steli Efti: The division is still there I think. It hasn’t been broken through. I agree also that there, it’s interesting on the one hand there’s a lot more noise because everybody is doing an online conference and webinar series and meet ups and online drinking get togethers and online coffee sharing thingy things and all that. [0:06:24] Hiten Shah: Yeah. [0:06:26] Steli Efti: But at the same time as you said people have more time. People also I think maybe starving a bit more for not just connection but also new connections, right. One beautiful thing that happened during this time for many people is that they were forced in one way or another to spend more time with a smaller circle of people, spend maybe more time with their family than they used to which brings a lot of value. It doesn’t remove the need or the beauty of connecting with new people, right. Maybe that’s something people are starved for right now, is like meeting new people, hearing, interacting with new people. The other thing is that since it’s online, the decision of do I really want to travel you know to this city, whatever that day is very different from this conference is something I always wanted to go to but I never took the time for. Let me look at the speaker list, I’ll jump in for like 30 minute a session here and 30 minute a session there from my couch. It’s a very different kind of an ask. I’m also, I’m very much the wait and see game where I have not yet observed fatigue for this. I don’t see people complaining loudly enough in big enough numbers that this is something they don’t want anymore. I do still see it ramping up but I’m always also skeptical to some degree when everybody is doing the exact same thing I’m like, the one thing that’s always going to be true is if your content is better, if your audience or point of view or the type of people you bring together is more focused, you’re always going to find an audience. You’re always going to find people that will appreciate that, right. Conference does not equal conference. Zoom call does not equal Zoom call. The people that are in there, the things they’re talking about, the way they talk about it and the people that came to listen, all this makes for a unique experience. You can go to two different conferences and have a day and night experience in terms of how valuable and how enjoyable it was. Content is still king and you can still stand out by doing certain things better by selecting certain things a little differently. I am wondering if this is a novelty thing and if in two, three months we’re going to see some kind of backlash. I wonder if somebody out there was planning to do a virtual conference, a summit or something along those lines if you want to do that my best guess, might be wrong but my best guess right now is that you want to do it now. You might now want to wait or plan for it to happen in September and August or something like that. You might not want to plan for a super long time from now to do a big online conference but yeah, same thing with webinars. Webinars are kind of a smaller thing to put together but they’re, companies that always used to do webinars, there’s some of these companies that used to do like maybe a webinar a month or so. Now there’s one that stands in my mind where I’m like they’re doing multiple a day. What is going on? They’re just doing a lot. I had to unsubscribe from one or two email lists that I always like to be on because I’m like I can’t handle four emails a day about webinars. It’s just too much. It’s interesting. It’s also interesting kind of different formats I see [Hopin] pop up a lot more. I don’t know if you know that platform. [0:10:02] Hiten Shah: Yeah. [0:10:02] Steli Efti: There’s going to be multiple ones. I’ve been to like two conferences where they had this like whole thing where you join online but there’s like a backstage area as a speaker you can hear the current speaker and then you’re invited onstage and all of a sudden there’s another person popping up that’s basically introducing you and it’s trying to mirror more the real conference vibe and experience with the kind of poles and the way that they design the UI/UX which was surprisingly better than I thought the first time I joined it. It was also good content. It was just very focused audience, very good moderation and just the speaker before me and after me were people that I thought were compelling and I wanted to listen to so that makes a big difference as well. It’s going to be interesting. Are you thinking about this stuff? I don’t think you’ve ever done an in person conference. You’ve been invited to webinars quite a bit and conferences, physical conference … [0:11:02] Hiten Shah: We actually own the conference brand, Neil and I. [0:11:08] Steli Efti: Shut up, really? [0:11:08] Hiten Shah: A long time ago, yeah and did a bunch of them. I wasn’t day to day involved but definitely know way too much to be dangerous such as sponsors are what make you money, tickets are gravy, things like that. Yeah, I’m pretty dangerous when it comes to that stuff and you know, yeah I think like typically I’ve always been fascinated by the online version of these things. The main reason I’ve been fascinated by the online version is I think the amount of efficiency you can have and with all the, especially with Zoom and the tooling you can use, you can Hopin and there’s Livestorm. There’s a few different brands out there and products out there that actually make the process easier. I know that Zoom is probably going to try to get into that at some point and make that all easier. I don’t know, I find it like, I find it appealing but for me personally just from a, because you’re kind of going into the sort of marketing angle of it or sales and marketing angle of it, I feel like it’s like one of those things that’s like a shot in the arm and it’s like a one off, we got the shot in the arm and we’re going to do it. It causes some form of a spike for your business which is not by any means, it’s not bad. It’s just those kinds of things that I think are in my opinion and for my own tolerance level are sort of phase two, phase three for a brand unless that whole experience of an online event or something is like somehow core to the business. For our business content is core to our business, same with yours I would say at FYI content is core to our business. [inaudible] at Close I know you folks of have done tons and tons of content. You’ve done some of the video yourself, that’s different, that’s core, right. For other businesses and other [SaaS] companies or whatever, content might not even matter to them, right. A good example is Dropbox. They didn’t do any content. They didn’t grow because of content, right. They grew because of the really strong value proposition matched with a really great double referral program, right that they really popularized. I think like I’m always fascinated by events. I love leading them with partners and letting them manage all the logistics and stuff like that. I’ve done webinars here and there. We used to actually do at KISSmetrics one webinar a week really back in the day. I am entertaining getting back into that mode and doing things like that. It just seems to me like a later stage tactic or like later stage, not even stage tactic for most businesses. [0:13:58] Steli Efti: Fascinating. I think there’s a lot that is happening when it comes to online events, get togethers, conferences, contact exchange with bigger audiences, networking and all that, there’s a lot going on. [0:14:12] Hiten Shah: Absolutely. [0:14:12] Steli Efti: Yeah, I think that we all need to keep an eye on that. If you’re listening to us and you’re like I can’t believe these two don’t understand x, y, z which is happening right now, the big trend that’s going to happen next, please let us know. Just send us an email, please. Keep Hiten,,, let us in in the secret of what is happening next in the space. We’re definitely curious and eager to learn and I think that this space is one to watch because there’s going to be a lot of things happening there. I assume that there’s going to be opportunity there in terms of using those channels to grow your business and to build an audience. All right, I think this is it for us for today. We’ll hear you very soon. [0:15:03] Hiten Shah: Yeah. 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Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the Sales & Marketing Grind. This episode is inspired by a tweet from Hiten that pointed out how marketing is a grind, one that you need to get used to, as it requires you to do the same thing over and over again in order to be successful. In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about the tweet that inspired this episode, what prompted this tweet and why marketing is different from sales and much more. Time Stamped Show Notes: 00:00 About today’s topic 00:34 Why this topic was chosen. 01:05 The tweet that inspired this episode. 01:40 What prompted Hiten’s tweet. 03:02 How marketing and sales is a grind. 04:09 How marketing and sales are like working out. 05:03 What makes Steli stay consistently on the sale grind. 08:22 A mindset that salespeople need to develop. 10:10 Why marketing is different from sales. 11:34 How Hiten gets through the grind. 3 Key Points: The most difficult part of marketing and sales is getting used to the grind.Just do more of what ended up working.It’s the same thing over and over again. [0:00:01] Steli Efti: Hey, everybody. This is Steli Efti. [0:00:03] Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah, and today I’m going to start off the chat. Steli is prodding me to talk about a tweet, and this tweet was talking about how sales and marketing is a grind, and you have to do the same thing over and over and over again, and you might even quit before you hit gold. So what thoughts did it spur for you? [0:00:33] Steli Efti: Well, first let me actually read the tweet, right? [0:00:36] Hiten Shah: Yeah, go for it. I totally butchered it. [0:00:38] Steli Efti: So, “The most difficult part of sales and marketing is getting used to the grind, doing the same set of things over and over and over again, sometimes with such mediocre results that you think about giving up right before striking gold.” I like that tweet, because I think there’s a kernel of truth in there, but there are parts of me that instantly recognize the truth in this or my truth in this, but there’s also a part of me that wants to disagree, and then there is a immediate question that I have once in a while when you tweet, which is what prompted this? I literally go, “Huh, I wonder what prompted this? Probably something interesting. I have to remember to ask him next time I talk to him.” So let’s start the episode with that. I’ll tell you what I think about this, but first, what made you tweet this? What prompted this tweet, this thought? [0:01:34] Hiten Shah: Yeah, I think especially with sales and marketing, people look for the silver bullet, and the silver bullet is the one thing you can do and everything’s all taken care of. What I’ve noticed for sales and marketing, it’s not that. And so what prompted it, is nothing super in particular one event or anything like that, but I was just thinking why a lot of people have a hard time with sales and marketing, while let’s say with engineering or design or even product, they might not have as hard of a time. One conclusion I came to is you’re doing the same thing over and over again. When it comes to some of these other areas like engineering or product or design, the repetition is not the same. You’re not necessarily doing the same thing over and over again and likely seeing mediocre results. You have a tangible feeling of progress and momentum that can happen in those scenarios. While with sales and marketing, I don’t want to say it’s hit or miss, but especially earlier on when you’re trying to sell something or even marketing a product or service, the amount of grind is there. And then when something works, the next thing you have to do is just grind some more on the same thing. So even when it works, you’re just doing more of the same, it just happened to work that time, and you think you could make it work more. Whether it’s closing a deal because you changed your pitch all of a sudden, because you learned over many other conversations that you need to change your pitch, or with marketing where you do a lot of, usually you’re just doing a bunch of experiments early on to figure out what channels, what things work, and that’s like a grind in itself. But then when you actually figure something out that works, guess what? To do more of it, same grind. You just do more of whatever ended up working. And it’s not to say there’s no creativity to these things. It’s not to say any of that. It’s more about what feelings people go through and what motions they have to go through in order to be successful in those areas, and also feel like they’re successful and feel like they’re making progress. The whole thought on sales and marketing to me is it’s a grind. It’s the same thing over and over and over again, and you have to kind of get used to that and realize that you’re going to have a outcome and things are going to work, but if you stop, they won’t. [0:04:15] Steli Efti: Yeah. In that sense, it’s sort of like, maybe a good metaphor is working out, right? Going to the gym, working out. It’s not the type of thing that you can do for a while, reach mastery in and then can stop because now the results that you’ve accomplished are forever yours, where it’s just like your body’s always going to be super fit and super muscular for the rest of your life because you worked out for five years really hard. You have to do it your entire life if you want to maintain those results. So, let’s do this. I’ll share something about how I dealt with the grind in sales, because that’s kind of my world, and then maybe you on the marketing side. What made you, or what is making you able to stay on the grind, especially on the repetitive side of marketing for such a long time, where many people would have stopped at some point? And I’ll share the same thing on my end on sales. [0:05:23] Hiten Shah: Cool. You want to go first? Go ahead. [0:05:24] Steli Efti: Yeah. I think in sales, I think one of the biggest… So, some people that have been embracing the grind of selling for a long period of time, the reason why some people can succeed with that and sustain with it is that they love the chase. They love the feeling of chasing a deal and the feeling of direct accomplishment of closing the deal and acquiring a customer, convincing somebody to purchase something. That was never me, so that never worked. I also like it, but it’s not something that fuels me in a way that I could do this because I just love the chase. What fueled me, what allowed me to grind, and I’ve done, I don’t know, I’ve done an insane amount of selling in my life. The amount of cold calls I’ve made and the amount of cold emails and the amount of deals I’ve closed are astronomical. The reason why I was always able to do it, I mean, one is definitely that I was always passionate about what I was trying to accomplish, but I always thought about one thing differently than many other salespeople, which is that to most salespeople, the person that’s involved in the deal is secondary, right? They’re trying to get the deal. The deal is at the forefront. We’re trying to get corporation X to buy this a product and to sign this contract and to bring in this amount of revenue. That’s at the very forefront. And then we have maybe four people, Mary, Bob, James, and Joe, and they’re all decision makers in this, so I have to convince all these humans and collaborate with them and get them to make corporation X, Y, Z purchase. I always thought about these people and I was thinking, well, sales gives me this unique opportunity to influence people and hopefully create value in their life, but also to get to know them really well. And all I have to do is, when I’m doing all these cold calls, when I’m closing all these deals, is to pick winners, to pick people that I’m like, wow, this person is actually really cool. I’m really connecting with this person. I think this person is very smart. I think this person is going to go far and do really interesting things in life, and then I’ve found a new person to invest in, to build a relationship with, that could serve me for the next 30 years, right? So then even if what I’m doing is repetitive in the sense that I’m just working on deals, cold calling, cold calling, trying to close, there’s a secondary program that is running for me, which is, this is a great opportunity for me to get to know people in a really unique environment and then to build friendships and relationships that are everlasting, and that will pay lots and lots of dividends. This person might purchase from me for the next 20 years. As they progress in their career, I’m always going to have them quote, unquote, in my Rolodex. I’m always going to be able to present them new products, new features, have them buy, maybe they’ll come and offer me opportunity, give me referrals. So thinking that way allowed me to not feel like the moment that my quarter is over and I closed the deal, that work is wiped off and it’s worthless, because what was still there were the people that I’ve met and the relationship that I built with him, and that was compounding. And that helped me a tremendous amount, and then the other one is I think in way we’re similar, just, I don’t know, there’s a certain discipline to know that you need to be willing to do some unpleasant things if you want great results. And eventually, you fall in love with that feeling. With the feeling of quote, unquote, the grind. There’s a bittersweet pain. It’s just at the gym, when you do a great workout, it usually pushes you to a certain point of exhaustion or discomfort, and in the beginning, and for most people I assume, that discomfort is a signal to stop and it’s just negative. But once you fall in love with it, that discomfort is a positive signal. It’s something you get addicted to. It’s something you know this means growth, and it feels great and very fulfilling. And it’s the same thing, or it has been the same thing for me on the sales side of things, especially with the more repetitive things. [0:09:52] Hiten Shah: Yeah. When it comes to marketing, it’s like the majority of it is really about the success you find and knowing that you will find success if you just keep experimenting and keep going, and having that sort of belief. The reason I say that is because the difference with I think sales and marketing is this. You do sales and it feels like you have to focus on the inputs and the number of inputs that you’re doing, number of cold calls, number of emails sent, et cetera. And then obviously there’s replies to them and the next step, a number of next steps, you close. With marketing, it’s a little bit different. You have the ability to see some kind of data or information, usually at a faster pace, usually, not always, than sales. There’s only so many calls you can make in a day. That’s a little bit different with marketing, where there’s, I mean, depending on what channel, what tactic you’re using, there’s a lot more to the grind where you do get some kind of measurable results a little bit faster, potentially. Where it’s like, oh, you post somewhere and you get some traffic to your website, for example. Okay, you got some traffic. That’s actually not a bad thing. Maybe nobody bought, but now you know something that can help you do the next step in a day, for example. Well, with sales, I don’t think you can know anything in a day just because you sent a bunch of emails or did a bunch of cold calls. Maybe you’ll know whether that first email got any responses or not and stuff like. So there is some learnings there, but I think with marketing, you can figure it much faster whether you move on or there’s something there to continue with. To me, the way I get through it on marketing is just remembering and looking at what I do know, and what output I’ve gotten from what I’ve done. I think in sales, you could do the same, but again, with marketing, I think it’s quite a bit easier, because you can measure things, and these are typically more, there’s more volume to those things that you measure. Then the way I get through the grind on both areas actually is by basically focusing on iteration and improvement, and taking whatever I learned and applying it to whatever I do next. For both of these areas of a business, I think it is the copy, the writing, the creative side of it, imagery in the case of marketing a lot of the time. It’s all those types of things that I get excited about tweaking or changing, even the same with a sales email and trying to figure out the best way to say it and send the email and see what happens. And then if nothing happens, great, something was wrong, or not wrong, there’s a better way, and then trying to figure out that better way. So a lot of the motivation for me comes from the fact that I can improve it or I can change it, and treating everything that’s happening as a learning. Like I said, I think in marketing, it might be a little bit easier. [0:13:34] Steli Efti: I love that. Whenever I think about the grind, I have to think about wrestling, and there are these great wrestlers that make the transition into MMA and become mixed martial artists and compete. And some of these guys, one of the big difference between if the background is wrestling versus if the background is boxing or kickboxing or any other kind of martial art, one of the distinct differences is that wrestlers are just better at embracing the grind. They’re just much tougher, and oftentimes they can break their opponents just by the will or how far they’re willing to go in terms of how hard they make a fight or how uncomfortable they make it for both. And so whenever I hear the grind, I see kind of wrestling practice rooms, where people are shouting to each other to embrace the grind. These are just tougher people, so they make other very tough people break. I don’t know, I think it’s an interesting topic. I think that obviously it’s just like everything else in life. I think you can overplay it in both directions. There are people that probably advocate too much and embraced too much just the repetitive, hard work, more hours, just push through everything with sheer will and force. Then there’s the kind of movement that’s also extreme that’s like, no, you never need force, you never need will. You never need to push, you never need to grind. All you need to do is to be smarter than everybody else and find the shortcut and relax and be peaceful, and magically everything great will come to you because you did it in this soft, smart way. Both of them are two one dimensional approaches that are overly idealistic, might work for some people, but for most they won’t. The truth oftentimes is somewhere in the messy middle of both. So, fascinating topic. I love that we got to talk a little bit about the grind on The Startup Chat. All right, I think this is it for us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon. [0:15:41] Hiten Shah: Keep grinding. 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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about starting a Startup during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the COVID pandemic, there’s going to be a lot of people thinking about starting a new Startup. However, whether now is a good time or now to start is a question that needs to be answered. In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about if this is the right time to start a Startup, why there’s never a good or bad time to start, what to consider if you’re starting something right now and much more. Time Stamped Show Notes: 00:00 About the topic of today’s episode 00:23 Why this topic was chosen. 01:37 If this is the right time to start a Startup. 02:22 Why there’s never a good or bad time to start. 02:34 How the world is very different right now. 04:38 Why this is a good time to start. 07:44 What to do differently if you started now. 09:05 Why cash flow is more important right now. 10:16 Why “nice to haves” are off the table. 11:57 What to consider if you’re starting something right now. 3 Key Points: I don’t think there’s ever a good or bad time to start a Startup.The world is different.There’s more access to information right now than in 2008. [0:00:00] Steli Efti: Hey everybody. This is Steli Efti. [0:00:03] Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. [0:00:05] Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about starting a startup during COVID-19. Basically the idea, if we have to start a new company or a startup right now, no co-founders yet, no money, no product. Would we do it? Would we think that, with what we know about entrepreneurship, would we think that this is a good time or would we want to wait until whenever the economy’s better? And if we thought that now is a good time to start something, how would we go about it? How would we think about it? Is there anything different about starting a startup right now during this kind of special time in history around the world? Would we approach in any way differently than we usually would? I thought that it’d be a fun topic to talk about. It probably is going to have a few golden nuggets for people. So let’s get the first question out of the way because I think that’s going to be an easy one. You never know, especially with when you talk to Hiten Shah, but is this a good time to start a startup or a bad time to start a startup? What’s your reaction to that if I asked you, “Hiten, I have entrepreneurial ambitions, but I wonder if this is the right time for me to start something.” [0:01:16] Hiten Shah: Yeah, great question. It’s just a great question because the circumstances, like this has happened before, right? So there’s like the 2000s, and this is particularly in tech, so there’s the 2000s and there’s like the 2008 kind of housing bubble thing. And then I think the next one was right now. And these are all times when people are like, “Should I start something? Should I not?” People start talking about it. The one thing that like fascinating to me with this question as I think about it right now is, first I don’t think there’s ever a good time or a bad time. So I think it’s false to think it’s good or bad. But for some reason it comes to people’s minds when the world is going to shit and they’re like, “Oh, is this a good time?” It’s never a good time. Is this a bad time? Well, it’s never a bad time. I think it’s like whatever time works for you. Meaning whatever it comes to mind or whatever circumstances dictate that you have to find other options in whatever you were doing, like you’re laid off. So that’s where I’ll start. But I think there’s a big thing that I haven’t thought about till now that really hit me right now, which is, the world is different. Every one of those times, the world was different. You’re talking about like 2000, then eight years later, and now 12 years later, and we’re like 20 years from 2000, which many of us weren’t actually working at the time. I was in college at the time. I was definitely working, but I was in college, I wasn’t in the market, so to speak. And it’s something that I feel like there’s more access today to information than in 2008. Definitely than in 2000. There’s more information. There’s more people on the internet. There’s all these factors that were different every one of those three times. And this time in particular, anyone who wants to start something, especially in the last five years, I would have just told them, “Yeah, just do it.” You want to do it, just do it, give it a shot. Your chances are better than ever. So I don’t really believe there’s a good time or a bad time.At the same time more people on the internet, more access to information, more communities that are online that can help you. More than more communities, there’s like a ton of things that you can do to help you get started if you want. And quite frankly, like the gig economy and freelancing and side gigs and hustles and this and that, it’s a thing now. We didn’t talk about that in 2008, we didn’t have those things. Now we do. And so there’s a lot more systematic sort of ways or structures in place actually support you if you’re starting now versus ever before in the past. So why not? [0:04:44] Steli Efti: Yeah. I’ll come out and I’ll say, of course, like for anybody that’s been a long time listener of The Startup Chat.] You know that one of our core mantras is, it fucking depends. I mean, it depends, but I’ll come out and say this is as good as a time as it’s ever been. Number one, I think that the world is changing and change is, I think, better for the new that can adapt or that can serve the change or help with the change, than for the old. For the old change is always a threat, and for the new it’s an opportunity. Secondly, I think opportunity cost is going to be lower for many, not everybody of course, because if you are healthy and if you are ambitious, and you have a couple of skills and you want to accomplish something, the amount of stable, secure jobs that are going to be out there right now for you, where you know I’m going to go and work there and I’m going to have a great career and there’s no chance they’re going to lay me off and there’s plenty of high paying salary gigs that I can choose from. I guess, my best guess is that, that is going to be less available in the world in the next two years than it was in the past two years. So if there’s less stable corporate career paths available, then the entrepreneurial path is less of an opportunity risk. It’s less risky in general because the corporate job is not as stable in an unstable world as it is in a stable world. So I think that this is probably a particularly good time. And for all the other reasons as well, there’s just more information, more money online to be made. You can find a it’s small audience and make a good living much easier today than you could in 2008. Finding a niche audience in 2008 was still quite hard versus going for serving kind of a broader mass that was already online and comfortable with paying for services and content and whatever. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity today to start something, and I also think the opportunity cost of starting something is low because there’s just not that many stable jobs in companies that you would think there’s no way this corporation is going to go out of business or be in trouble or lay off people in the next two years. There’s just less of that available. So I think it’s a particularly good time. Now let’s ask the question, if you and I, individually, started a startup today with what we know, would we do anything different? We’ve given a million and one piece of advice on how to start a startup, how to get your first 10 customers, how to get your first a hundred customers, how to do marketing, how to do product development, MVP, everything. Like whatever question a listener has that’s kind of new to the world of entrepreneurship, you just type into Google and then that word, and you’ll find an episode where we talk about it or give advice. But I think the interesting question is, would you do anything differently if you started a new startup today than you would have done over the past five or 10 years? Is there anything that you would be like, because the world is changing, I would approach it slightly differently? Or I would be paying more attention to X, Y, or Z, or thinking about it differently in some way? [0:08:19] Hiten Shah: Yeah. That it depends thing comes up, because it really depends on your own circumstance and your availability. Right now it’s interesting. I think the difference right now from the past couple of times that everything’s gone to shit, there’s more uncertainty this time than the last two. [0:08:49] Steli Efti: Yeah. [0:08:50] Hiten Shah: And that, I think, would make me want to be a lot more conservative about spending my own money if I have any to spend. That’s probably the number one thing that comes to mind for me, which is like, you’re your own sort of savings, typically you dip into your savings in order to do something on your own, whether it’s for living expenses or even actual expenses for the thing you’re starting. I think I’d narrow my options more so that the amount of my savings I dipped into right now, where it was a lot more limited than in the past. And the only caveat I’d give is, if you somehow have an ability to make sort of money by getting a job really quickly, because for some reason that’s just a available to you right now, maybe I’d think differently about that advice. But otherwise I think being more conservative with your own savings might be a good idea right now. [0:09:48] Steli Efti: Yeah. I would totally agree. I think that if I started something right now, I would care a lot more about cashflow, doing something that can generate revenue fast. And I’m already, I think we’re both already, on the cashflow always, but even more so now than ever before. I wouldn’t want to build anything that would take like a year of building up to start monetizing or anything like that. In general, I would try to start something very small that can get on the road very quickly, iterate, generate little bit of money and then build on that versus building anything that’s more complicated, more resource intense, anything that I know will have to a need venture funding or other funding. During this time, I think the clarifying thing right now is that anything that’s a playful nice to have is just off the table. Whenever there’s like an economic downturn, whenever there’s like really, really hard times or really high uncertainty in the market, I think it wipes the slate clean from products and services that are nice to haves where when there’s great wealth, maybe there are niches for people to play around with new things and to be a bit, quote unquote, a bit wasteful. But when it’s hard times, people will set a much higher bar to the question, do I really want to spend money right now for this? How valuable is it to me? And so I think that this would be even more so the time to ask yourself, is this an absolute painkiller that I’m trying to build? Are there people willing to pay for this today? Not when the world gets better, not when budgets are unfrozen. Are their budgets in the world, are there people in the world that are willing and need to buy the type of thing I’m thinking about building today? Right now, with this uncertainty? But I think cash is king would be even more important. Scrappy. I agree, I wouldn’t want to say I’m going to live off my savings for a year, and by then, hopefully, this new venture of mine is making money. But I’d rather probably think about the what can I do that is pointing to the direction of what I want to build that could generate some cashflow right away in the first month, in the second month? And then build on that. And maybe once it has enough momentum and proof, I go all in on this. But cashflow, I think, would be a huge one. And then being certain that this is something, and I think cashflow is a good indicator for that. If you wanted to build something today and you did customer development and everybody was telling you, “You know what? Six months ago I would have bought this. This is absolutely fantastic idea. It’s just that right now, we wouldn’t want to buy this. But once the market relaxes and budgets get opened again, then I would be interested in this.” I don’t know if I would … I mean, I would always be skeptical about this type of feedback, but today even more so. I’d be like, “All right, this is worthless then.” There’s no sense in building this if people aren’t willing and ready to buy it today and not just in some imaginary future where everything is like it used to be. Because we don’t know when that’s going to be or if it’s ever going to be. So I think that those would definitely be kind of my hard constraints to start something right now. [0:13:35] Hiten Shah: Yeah. Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. [0:13:38] Steli Efti: Well, if you’re listening to us and you’re just starting something right now, we actually want to hear from you. We’re interested. What are you building? Why are you starting it right now? What is your plan to start making money? What is the question you have for us? We’re here to help. We want to support you. Send us an email,, If you appreciate this episode, if you’re a fan of The Startup Chat, lots of you are and tell us that and we really appreciate you. Make sure if you haven’t done this, take just one minute if you really like the podcast, go to iTunes, give us a review, give us five stars. We appreciate that. And until next time, we’ll hear you very soon. [0:14:15] Hiten Shah: Thank you. [0:14:15] The post 511: Starting a Startup During COVID-19? appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.
In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to get good at taking critical feedback. Sometimes we need other people’s feedback or opinion on something that we are working on, this is perfectly normal and can help you improve what you’re working on. However, some people are not good at taking other people’s feedback and this can lead to negative reactions from that person or worse. In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about why you shouldn’t take anything personally when it comes to feedback, how to get better at taking feedback, how to give feedback to someone so that they don’t take it personally and much more. Time Stamped Show Notes: 00:00 About today’s topic. 00:33 Why this topic was chosen. 01:04 Something Steli is very sensitive about. 02:01 An example of someone who doesn’t take feedback well. 03:23 Why you shouldn’t take anything personally when it comes to feedback. 04:05 What makes people good at taking feedback. 05:06 How to get better at taking feedback. 05:21 How to give feedback to someone so that they don’t take it personally. 06:04 What to think about when you give feedback. 08:07 Why it might be better to ask for someone’s opinion instead of feedback. 3 Key Points: I’m very sensitive to people that ask for feedback but can’t take it.When it comes to feedback, don’t take anything personally.Start learning how to ask for feedback. [0:00:00] Steli: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti. [0:00:04] Hiten: And this is Hiten [Shah 00:00:04]. [0:00:05] Steli: And today on the Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about how to learn to take critical feedback well. And to learn from critical or even sometimes negative feedback. Here’s why I wanted to talk about this Hiten, where do I start? I think one of the things that I have very little patience for, I’ve gotten better at this in life, but I’m not great at it, is people that have a difficult time. That are asking for feedback but can’t take it. It’s something I’m very sensitive to. I instantly, very quickly I shut down on this. So one second… The thing that I have a difficult time with is people asking for critical feedback. But then when I’m telling them very direct feedback, they don’t want to hear it. They get defensive or they explain or excuse or push back or try to convince me and I’ve gotten a little better. But in general, I’m running out of patience very quickly with that and I instantly disengage. I am very judgmental of this, because in my mind I think you asked me for feedback. I didn’t ask you to convince me that your idea is brilliant. And when I told you what I think of your idea, instead of being curious and asking for more of my thinking, and then you can decide what the fuck you want to do with it. Instead of doing that, you’re now spending all this time trying to convince me of something I don’t want to be convinced and I didn’t even ask for. So I get really annoyed and irritated. And I just recently had a case where a good friend of mine, over long periods of time, multiple times had told me, “Dude, I know you don’t want to give… I know that most people can’t take critical feedback, but I really want you to always be brutally honest. You have to be really direct with me.” And then couple of times after he told me that he wants me to be more honest, more direct with him. Anytime I was direct with him, he spent all this time defending his position and I was really annoyed, until I recently brought it up. So that made me think that, the truth is most people I know are not good at taking critical feedback. I know you’re really excellent at this. I think I’m pretty okay at this. I mean nobody’s perfect, but I think I’m pretty good at this. And when people give me critical feedback, you’ll never hear me argue or excuse or explain. I usually shut the fuck up and I just ask for more. And then I’ll go and I’ll ponder it and I’ll figure out what to do with that feedback. But I wonder why are some people good at this and some people don’t. What do you have to learn to be good at taking feedback? And maybe you have a completely different point of view, which often you do. And you give a lot of people critical feedback as well. Or people ask you for your honest feedback on things. How do you think about this? Asking for critical feedback and honest feedback and then how you deal with it. How do you respond to it in the best possible way? What’s your thinking about that? [0:03:15] Hiten: So, I think when it comes to feedback, if you’re the giver, I think the framework I use, it’s basically the idea that is outside of just feedback. But I think a very good idea in general is, don’t take anything personally. And id you take that, this is something I’m learning more about every day. If you just take that approach, and you assume that whatever someone else is saying is not personal or whatever else someone else is doing, or whatever else is happening. It usually has something to do with your interpersonal relationships and the idea that, if you have a reaction, you’re taking it personally. And it doesn’t really matter if the other person aimed it at you to be personal or not. There’s no reason for you to take anything personally. So I think the people I know that are best at feedback, both sides of it, don’t take anything personally. And so when it comes to taking the feedback from somebody or asking for it, if you’re the one that wants it, I think the only way to get better at it is, start learning how to ask for it. Most people don’t ask for feedback. That’s why they don’t know how to take it. It would be like my thesis, because if you’re not able to ask for it, then well how can you take it? Because if you’re asking for it, you’re inviting it. So then when you get it and you’re not inviting it, you’re kind of used to it, because you want it. And the thing is feedback is almost everything in terms of your ability to improve requires feedback. Now, you can give yourself feedback and that’s fine, that approach. I probably do that more than I ask other people for feedback. I personally could get better at that. When it comes to giving feedback, it’s a very similar framework to me, which is, how can I say this, so there’s the least amount of chance that that other person doesn’t take it personally? There’s a least amount of chance that they take it personally. So that means they don’t take it personally, regardless of whether they believe in not taking things personally or not. And a lot of that has to do with either not saying it or waiting for the right moment in the conversation to say the feedback. Or, and this is annoying and I don’t like it, but it does work. You just tell somebody, “Hey, can I give you some feedback?” And you open up the conversation to that. Nobody really says no. The problem I don’t like it is because, when you ask someone that, you’re almost forcing them to say yes, and then you give your feedback. But that still doesn’t mean it lands right. So I think a lot about the landing of my feedback, whether it’s a rough landing or a smooth landing. And I try to find the opportunity to make it as smooth as I possibly can, for one simple reason, which is if I give feedback and it’s smooth, they’re going to listen to it. Not even very likely. They’re just going to listen to it. If it’s rough, they’re likely not going to listen to it. Think about just freaking out during a rough landing on a plane, you just got to do it. It’s just not what you want. You don’t want to do that again. You don’t want that to happen again. I’m not trying to do that to people, I’d rather them want to hear my feedback whenever they think they need it, instead of know what I’m going to say. Or think they know what I’m going to say because of my approach to it. I mean there are people that I’ve talked to about this to give me feedback about a year ago I would say. When [inaudible] stop, I had gone really far on feedback. Which other people, specifically a few people. Can I ask my friend, what’s up dude? Like you keep coming back to me for feedback and you kind of knew me from, I don’t know, maybe like eight, 10 years ago. But I think kind of, was not very good at giving it, in terms of the landing. And he’s like look, and this really got me and it just totally blew my mind. He’s like, “Look I wouldn’t not want your feedback, so I don’t care how it lands.” I’m like, crap! I’m doing a crappy job here. Because the landings are rough, but yeah, he values the feedback. Well, what if the landings were smooth then he valued the feedback. Wouldn’t that just be a better experience for everybody? So I think on that side of it, I put the onus on myself. I’m the one giving the feedback, to make a smooth landing on it. On something that usually can be very rough because nobody really wants to hear feedback, I truly believe that. Because, I don’t even like the word feedback. I think I might have ranted on this about talking to customers. Don’t ask them for feedback, ask them for their opinion. Everyone’s willing to share their opinion. So I think one other thing that comes to mind is, if you can frame it as, here’s my opinion, that could be helpful. If you can ask for people’s opinions, that can be helpful instead of asking for their feedback. Because I think on both sides, feedback is just a loaded word. Feedback essentially means, I need to take it. Feedback essentially means that the person giving it in that scenario, thinks that they’re right. That just imply all the loaded things. Well, opinion, hey, it’s just my opinion. It’s just my opinion, it’s okay. It’s just my opinion. Here you go. So that’s a way to almost mask feedback in a soft landing, that kind of works every time. But, the better approach is just finding the right opportunity to give that person your opinion, to share your feedback and just think about if it’s going to be a smooth landing or not. And that’s what people don’t do typically when they’re giving feedback or sharing their opinion. [0:09:25] Steli: I agree with that. I actually think that in most cases, not always of course, but in most cases, I’m very concerned with thinking through, what is the channel I need to, what is a way to communicate the ideas I have around this, in a way that the person can receive? Because if not, what’s the point? I do want to be smooth in the way that it’s received so that our exchange is valuable for both. So I’m not really super harsh to everybody. I’m very rarely harsh. But I think, when I ask somebody for their opinion, I can have one of two motives. One can be that I want confirmation, want to be right, and I want to hear it from others to be confident, that I’m right. The other is, I’m actually curious to learn. I want to learn what am I not considering? What else could be good about this? What could be bad? What do other people respond to this? Either I’m curious and I want to learn or I’m, insecure and I want confirmation. And I think that for people asking for others for feedback or for their opinion or for their input on your ideas, your strategies, your challenges, whatever, you need to approach it, with a, I’m here to learn, not I’m here to be right. Because that’s, I think the thing that really rubs me the wrong way. Because if you come and want to have a conversation with me and I want to give you my time to be helpful, but then I realize, oh no, I’m not even present in this conversation. It doesn’t really matter what I say. This person just wants to be right. And so, they’re not curious about my thoughts. They’re not curious about my experience, they’re not really curious about what I have to say or value what I have to say. They just wanted to hear that what they presented to me is great. And since I didn’t give them that outright, now they’re arguing with me. Now they’re working really hard to convince me- [0:11:45] Hiten: So, I don’t even entertain that approach. So basically if I smell that so to speak, I just stop giving feedback to the person. [0:11:55] Steli: Yeah. It’s exactly. [0:11:56] Hiten: I don’t want to validate that. I don’t want to validate somebody who just wants to hear that and like oftentimes, I’ll even just call them on it. Because I’ll notice, and I’m like, okay, you’re just looking for confirmation or validation that whatever you’re doing is right. I’m not the person that you should come to. You can go to your mom or somebody else will just be like, yeah, you’re doing a good job. Because, I assume if you come to me, you actually want to know what I think. Not just validating what you think, we’re not in that. I don’t even do that for my friend. You know what I mean? [0:12:35] Steli: Yeah. I have some family members that I try to avoid, but once in a while, I step into the trap and I do this. But this is the type of thing that I think, it seems like we’re both on the same page where it’s like I have zero patience for that. Like if you’re just here to convince me, but you’re masking it in a, I’m here to ask for your advice or get your input on things. Then it feels like, A, a waste of my life and time and B, a not an honest exchange. We’re here exchanging ideas, trying to learn from each other. But you’re here with an agenda to convince me, but you’re not saying that, you’re pretending you’re here to hear my thoughts and I have- [0:13:17] Hiten: There’s a way to do that. There’s a way that a feedback seeker can do that. They can say, “Hey look, I’m pretty convinced about this. Here’s what I’m thinking. But I really do want to hear what you to say about it.” You can lay it out like, hey, I’m really into this. If you want feedback and you’re kind of… I mean, if you’re talking to someone and you know that you kind of don’t want their feedback, you can approach it in a way where it’s like, you’re coming and going out. Or coming out there and saying, look, I’m pretty convinced about this. Here’s what I’m thinking, but I really do want to hear what you think. I might not do it. I might not listen to it because I’m so convinced. There is a way that you can just be honest about it. I’ve seen that a few times, not enough, but I’ve seen that a few times. I think a lot of times to give people a little bit of credit. They just don’t know that they’re that bias. [0:14:14] Steli: Yeah. They don’t know. But it still annoys me. I don’t care to some degree. [0:14:21] Hiten: Of course, yes. Sure. [0:14:22] Steli: But yeah, I think most people don’t know. I think that the majority of people when they… And this is the thing that I want to highlight as a mistake to avoid or how to get better at this. And how also to make people that might be able to offer a lot to you, and are under no obligation to do so. How do you make them want to do this and continue to want to spend time with you, and hear your ideas and collaborate and brainstorm around solutions and challenges. Is by being a really good listener and by being able to take even… The best feedback is going to be in most cases at least uncomfortable in one way or another. Because it points you in a direction that you don’t want to organically go anyway. So being good at getting feedback or input or listening to people’s opinions, can be a great tool to build great relationships and get a lot of value and learnings. The way to do this wrong, which is a lot of people are making this mistake, is not to be aware that when you’re seeking out “feedback”, you are secretly wanting to be right. You’re not willing to have this person truly criticize you or criticize the idea. Or highlight weaknesses or bring up other options that you might not want to entertain. And I think it’s that awareness, that can then help people to push themselves to go, no, I’m going to put my ego to the side. This is not personal, just like you said. And my main focus is going to be, I want to learn as much as possible. Curiosity should be my main emotion here, and I should speak less. Just ask the question, let the other person speak versus being the person that asks one question. The person gives me a little bit of feedback and then I spent 30 minutes trying to defend my original idea or whatever my original point was. So if you learn to do this better, I think that, you’re just going to be able to learn a lot more. And not just when you ask advisors or investors or whoever, even within your team, your coworkers, people that work for you. Being able to listen to unpleasant, uncomfortable, critical feedback with curiosity is your main response, versus defensiveness can be a massive game changer. [0:16:50] Hiten: Couldn’t agree more. [0:16:51] Steli: There you go. There you have it. That’s it from us for this episode. Stay safe and sane and we’ll hear you very soon. [0:16:57]The post 510: How to Get Good at Taking Critical Feedback appeared first on The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten.
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