Prahasith Veluvolu, Y Combinator alumni, Forbes “30 Under 30” inductee, and a Thiel Fellow, is CEO of Mimir. Mimir is a software company helping to grow the software engineering workforce. Through the company’s core product, Mimir Classroom, Prahasith and his team work with more than 70 universities across the nation to help scale and improve their computer science programs.
Prior to the founding of Mimir, Prahasith attended Purdue with his co-founders and computer science classmates Colton Voege, and Jacobi Petrucciani. Soon after Mimir got early traction, he dropped out of college to work on the company full time.
Prahasith lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. In his free time you can find him traveling with friends, exploring new restaurants, and attending various tech events.
Where did the idea for Mimir come from?
Back in 2014, Jacobi Petrucciani, Colton Voege, and I were all taking computer science classes together. We were learning, but we were pretty frustrated with how our projects and homework were handled. Every time we turned in our work it took weeks to get a grade back, often without any feedback. Being that we were engineers, the three of us set out to build a solution to automate the grading of our programming assignments.
We took our prototype and entered into a no-equity accelerator called The Boiler. They helped us realize that almost every college in the nation had the same issue with their computer science coursework. We spent almost a year working on Mimir while still attending school before we dropped out to go to Y Combinator in 2015.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Every day is different for me. I try to spend as little time managing as possible so that I can be available to support our various teams. I’m happy to jump in and do everything from lead generation to writing code. We are strongly against saying, “That’s not my job,” at Mimir. I divide my tasks into small atomic pieces to make getting things done more manageable.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have a strong bias for action. As soon as I have an idea I like to validate its plausibility as quickly as possible. Sometimes this involves pure research but other times it means building a crude prototype and getting raw feedback. There’s quite a bit about tech startups are counterintuitive. As long as it’s relatively low risk or cost, it doesn’t hurt to try it.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The increasing availability of computers and education. Capital and connections were needed to start a business 30 years ago. All you need today is a $100 chromebook, free wifi, and the will to learn.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Time blocking makes me highly productive. I try to allocate fixed amounts of time for various tasks at the start of my days. It helps me get things done instead of overthinking them.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If you need help or have a question, just ask for it. For a vast majority of cases, the worst that could happen is that someone says no.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe that K-12 professional development programs that teach instructors how to teach computer science are a huge waste of money. There is no way someone can master a subject well enough to teach others is just a few weeks.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Startups are a series of extreme highs and extreme lows. When you are in a high, take every opportunity to help those experiencing allow. You never know when you are the one that is going to need help.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Getting users involved in our product development cycle has helped us grow our business. We give our users access to an ideas portal where they can suggest new features and vote on their favorites. It really helps to build trust and also gives our users a stake in our product.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest failure as an entrepreneur is a product called HireOrbit. We built a product based on feedback from the wrong target market. When we launched, the early stage startups I got feedback from couldn’t afford it, while the bigger companies we were trying to sell to were looking for different features. I quickly learned from my mistakes and we shut down the product just weeks after launch. Since then, we have taken what we learned from HireOrbit and are nearing relaunching it as Mimir Interview.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Managed email deliverability. Most companies don’t set up their domain names to securely handle email. It is not super complicated but most people just don’t know how. It can do a lot to prevent your emails from hitting the spam folder.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A subscription to Grammarly. I’m pretty notorious for typos, but Grammarly helps me catch most of them.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Superhuman. It is hands down the best email client out there. I get hundreds of emails a week and Superhuman’s workflow is the only reason I’ve been able to keep my inbox managed.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Hard Thing About Hard Things“. Too many startup books focus on what went well or what founders did right. In this book, Ben Horowitz focuses on what when wrong and why. I believe you can learn a lot more from mistakes than success.
What is your favorite quote?
“If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough.” –Mario Andretti
- By dividing tasks into small atomic pieces, you can get more things done and manage them better.
- Take time to learn from failures.
- Get your users involved in your product development cycle. It will help grow your business.
- Read The Hard Thing About Hard Things to learn to focus on what goes wrong and why. This will help you learn more from your mistakes.