[quote style=”boxed”]In your early stages, invest your time in interacting one-on-one with users, as much as you can.[/quote]
Rachna is the founder of Hachi. The entrepreneurial bug bit her the day she was named, as Rachna means “creation” in Sanskrit. She started her first venture when she was 10 and her second one when she was 13. She made just enough money to buy herself some luxuries and to lend some to her siblings. A few years later, she again had a blast as a startup team member of an e-learning venture. Then she moved to Silicon Valley and worked for corporations (both large and small), set up new business units, launched software products, scaled operations and carried out business development activities. It was here that the startup bug bit her again and she launched her latest venture, Hachi, which started off by solving a business need she had.
What are you working on right now?
Hachi–it’s the roadmap for your connections graph. Today, our connections are spread across multiple social and professional networks, our smartphone address books, our emails, our IMs, etc. So, if you have to reach out to someone new, how do you go about it?
- Drop a cold mail, even though we all know that unless you are a celebrity or a top management person, your chances of getting a response are fairly low?
- Look for that person on your many different social and professional networks?
- Email a few friends to see if they happen to know this person?
- Ask around and check with your co-workers, buddies, etc.?
Even if you happen to find few mutual acquaintances who can connect you with the person you want to meet, which one of those acquaintances do you ask for an introduction? And how do you know who knows that person well enough? Favors are currency, and you need to use them discreetly and wisely.
Hachi helps you get successful introductions to the people you want to meet–for business, social and personal reasons. The company searches through your connections (which are spread across various social and professional networks) and finds the best person in your entire network (based on ranking algorithms) to ask for an introduction. Hachi also facilitates the introduction (using behavioral cues).
Where did the idea for Hachi come from?
I spent a decade working in sales and business development, where I was constantly searching for ways to get a foot in the door at prospective companies. I used to seek out good introductions via mutual acquaintances. This involved constantly sifting through my contacts, which were peppered across different social and professional networks, my Gmail and Outlook address books, and my smartphone. I also searched through my company’s Salesforce contacts database. That’s when the need for a roadmap for my connections graph came up.
What does your typical day look like?
On most days, I wake up around 8:30 a.m. to check my emails and respond to the urgent ones right away. I spend two hours every day interacting with our users by emailing them, chatting with them, or talking to them on the phone or via Skype calls. (At an early stage in business, I believe that one-on-one contact with users provides the kind of insights that survey forms and analytics just cannot.) Then a lot of time goes into product and feature conceptualization and analyzing user feedback. These days we are in expansion mode, so hiring activities consume time as well. I am generally up until about 2:00 a.m.
How do you bring ideas to life?
At a high level, you must have a strong sense of conviction in regards to the idea. This must be followed by a persistence to see it through peaks and troughs, and a will to turn it into reality. A dash of irrational optimism helps! On a day-to-day level, ideas have a certain sense of vagueness surrounding them in the beginning, so you’ve got to pen them down and give a sort of structure to them so that brainstorming can happen and the idea can be further shaped, evolved and executed upon.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I absolutely love the emphasis on behavioral factors in today’s applications. After all, technology is an enabler. It’s more about translating our offline behaviors into online experiences. One key reason Instagram became a huge success is because they help us capture and share moments the way we experience them in our minds. Their filters help convey those experiences.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Hire more intelligently. If I were to start again, I would give a lot more thought to attitude, fit, and a shared sense of values. Early stage startup teams are on a mission, and when you’re on a mission, you want to be with folks you connect with and respect. You also want to be with those who share a similar value system (to an extent). Of course, you do need to look at their skills as well.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
In your early stages, invest your time in interacting one-on-one with users, as much as you can.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As an entrepreneur trying to make something happen against all kinds of odds, you’ll come across a million problems. Every time I hit a road block, I look at it this way: the very reason my startup came into existence is because of innovative thinking around solving a problem. This approach is what helps me make it through all kinds of problems that come along the way. Many times, solutions are not linear, so you’ve gotta calm yourself down and think differently and from a broader perspective.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I hate carrying multiple bank cards, credit cards, loyalty cards, ID cards, etc. I have always wanted there to be a way for me to have a single, secure card that has a chip with information about all my cards. I know it’s not an easy problem to solve, but whoever solves it will be taking so much weight off the rest of us–and quite literally so (my wallet really becomes bloated and heavy with all those cards).
Tell us about something interesting that you like to do.
I enjoy hanging out with folks who have no connection to social networks, social media, and all the associated buzz. It’s fascinating to observe how life is all fine and cool for those who never experience Twitter and Facebook! And no, I am not referring to my parents’ generation, but folks from our generation.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Two instantly come to mind: Google mail and Google docs. I love them for their sheer simplicity and ease of use.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I don’t remember why I laughed the last time, but I laugh quite often and they say it’s loud.
Who is your hero?
I admire a lot of people, but I don’t have any one hero per se. I am usually inspired by regular, everyday folks doing awesome things during the courses of their days.
Rachna Singh on LinkedIn:
Rachna Singh on Twitter: @rachnaspace
Hachi on Twitter: @hachilabs
Hachi’s website: www.gohachi.com