I previously wrote about this meetup group when I attended it two weeks back (which was my first time there). Second times are more exciting at a meetup group than probably any other time. You now know a fair amount of people before you even get there and have a context to the object of the meet. You know what is going to happen and when and you can plan things to move ahead.
Second times are usually the most important time too. If someone attends a meet the second time, it is more likely that they would be more active members of the group and would also gel quicker with everyone else. The first impression has already been made and they now know that they want to stay there and learn and contribute to the meetup, not just attend. But enough rant. Lets get on ahead about yesterday’s meet.
As usual for me on Sundays, I had a lot more in my schedule than a typical weekday. I had an engagement (I want to say gig) early morning for which I started from home around 6:45 AM. I just wrapped it up around 8:30 AM and started for Madras Central, the venue for this meetup. I did not think I would be very late as, from previous experience, I thought the introductions would start around then. When I reached, however, I found everyone sitting around a series of tables with the last of the introductions. As the intros were one of the more interesting things in the last meetup, I was sorry to have missed them.
Anyway, we started with the set of topics for discussions. The topics were voted upon and the person who raised the problem would elaborate more. One difference this time was that there was an advance call for problems people might want to discuss right on the meetup’s page. Subsequently, people were already prepared for the topics to be discussed but also, a few of the problems were dropped as those who had raised them had not made it.
Before I start on the topics, I have a comment for the venue. While it was refreshing to see a South Indian restaurant with enough space and capability to host a group of about 35 people, it was an open restaurant and the noise from the outside road hardly allowed any conversation to be heard. It was a struggle to keep up with the topics and discussions from my seat at the very end. After the breakfast, over which we discussed two of the problems in the list, we moved to a conference room in Ahi’s spacious office nearby, and it was perfect.
At this time, Ahi also shared his ideas about the importance of food – which is his basis for the entire concept of bootstrapping over breakfast and also responsible for the lunch sponsored by his office for all the people working there. Like a family that eats together, stays together, a team that eats together, stays together.
We started with discussions on pricing in outsourcing services. As is evident, it is broadly grouped under hourly cost or fixed cost basis. While scoping documentation is important in both cases, it is especially so for a fixed cost project. Another related aspect is competing on prices and attracting clients. The concluding point here was that if dealing with a large customer, pricing is less of a concern if they are already talking to you.
The discussions turned to the next point – cashflow. How do you manage finances and cashflow for a product oriented company? Popular solutions are to either run a services component to your business that takes care of the product or get to market early with a minimum viable product and start generating cash early. The problem with the first method is that as the services component grows, it becomes more and more time consuming and you would not be able to focus on your product. The second method is popular citing several advantages:
- Quicker to market, and hence quicker to compete.
- Your first few customers become your testers providing early feedback in real-world scenarios.
- Early benefits to the founding customers would mean that they would stick with you.
Another point made here was if a product is viable, options for external funding should be considered. If it has to be bootstrapped, a minimum cash reserve of about 8-12 months must be available. On that note, points were made on when to bootstrap. Since bootstrapping is very difficult, the best time to do it when you have minimum responsibilities – like when you are still in college. Some of the social aspects were also discussed.
Then there were some discussions on exit as a working member of the company and remain a founder. Various angles and opinions were discussed and a popular question asked here was “Why would you leave your company when it is going well?”
The last discussion I stayed was about transparency to customers and what is the line for excessive transparency for a business. The problem here was that a business owner live blogged and tweeted each and every problem and solution faced by the company in growth and execution hoping to generate customer bonding. The consensus was to avoid excessive details or transparency in negative aspects as this generally lowers the customer’s confidence.
It was 10:40 AM at this time and I had an another engagement soon and it was time for me to leave. Yet again, I could not stay back to discuss and network more or get in the group photo. Hopefully, that will be covered the next time we meet two weeks later. For now, I am excited with the added knowledge and experience this discussion brought to me. The entire agenda is documented in the Facebook group and you can follow the meetup page or the Facebook group itself for updates.
You can find photos on the meetup’s page itself. Here are some of my photos: