[quote style=”boxed”]”As an engineer, I can solve small scale problems but properly attempting large problems requires a brilliant, diverse and dedicated team that truly wants to solve the problem.”[/quote]
Siddharth Batra is a graduate of the Computer Science Master’s program at Stanford University where he specialized in Artificial Intelligence. He’s a Lightspeed Fellow and has founded two startups: 1) Zunavision, a video advertising company and 2) Mine, a directory of people and their purchases. The Mine team has now joined Twitter, where Siddharth works in engineering on the revenue team.
What are you working on right now?
Until a few weeks ago, I was the co-founder and CTO of Mine, a directory of people and their purchases. Our team has joined Twitter and I’ll be working on the revenue team.
Where did the idea for Mine come from?
Everyone’s purchasing decisions are inspired by the purchases of people they know and admire. This happens daily in real life but doesn’t exist online. The idea of Mine is to put people’s purchase history online and, therefore, in their pockets.
How do you make money?
Mine takes your purchases and those of the people you’re connected with to create a highly customized product search experience. The long-term vision involves charging for sponsored product listings and enabling online retailers to customize a user’s shopping experience.
What does your typical day look like?
A typical day starts with a status update meeting with my co-founders, followed by clearing out my inbox, and the vast majority of the day is spent architecting, programming and coordinating the engineering team. Other days’ tasks include recruiting or investor meetings, user feedback sessions and social media management.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It depends on the scale of the problem. As an engineer, I can solve small scale problems but properly attempting large problems requires a brilliant, diverse and dedicated team that truly wants to solve the problem.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
More and more people are learning to program. It’ll be tremendously exciting to see what innovations that leads to and how it changes the US economy.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
My worst job was as a research assistant in the radiology department at Stanford University. The work wasn’t particularly unpleasant – maybe a little. It’s the only time I’ve ever taken a job for money and not because I loved the work. I’ve learned to never do that again.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Raise more money, hire more people and move really, really fast.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Constantly listen to your customers: explicitly through feedback and implicitly through their actions. Always listen qualitatively and beware of listening quantitatively too soon.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My first startup, Zunavision, created a phenomenal technology to insert realistic ads into the 3D space of video with a single click. Our vision was to create an unobtrusive video ad unit and become the Google Adwords for video. Sadly, it turns out advertisers are more concerned with the impact of their ad rather than improving the video viewing experience. The failure of my first startup was heartbreaking and I’ll never forget it. It’ll forever be a part of my life that makes me stronger and reminds me of my naivety.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A universal billing dashboard. I sign in to 30 different websites a month just to pay or review different bills. That’s 30 usernames and passwords I don’t want to remember, 30 emails reminding me of the bills, and 30 payment confirmations. I’d be willing to pay for a universal billing dashboard that shows the status of all my bills and can pay them with a single click.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would change immigration. Our fates are still decided by the city, state and country we are born in. Millions of children won’t sleep on a full stomach throughout their lives simply because they were born in the wrong country. A lot of the world’s desperate problems can be solved by making it borderless.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I enjoy cooking.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
GitHub: GitHub’s hosting is seamless and their open source friendly business model is revolutionary.
BitTorrent: It’s completely decentralized and one of the rare technologies that performs better when the system is under more stress.
DNSimple: Their domain purchasing and hosting service is orders of magnitude better than anyone else on the market.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Black Swan” is a life changing book. Nicholas N. Taleb presents a contrarian viewpoint towards life changing events and our inability to predict or be prepared for them in all walks of life.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- @nntaleb Nassim N. Taleb for his contrarian view on life
- @SeinfeldToday for consistently smart and humorous Seinfeld plots
- @BillGates for being Bill Gates
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Probably a few months ago when I was with my younger brother. It’s easy to forget the worries of life and be a kid with him.
Who is your hero, and why?
Bill Gates. His intelligence, relentless work ethic, humility combined with the desire to solve big problems makes him an inspiration and sets a bar that’ll be almost impossible to reach.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve done professionally?
Since 2008, I’ve initiated three startups – one right after the other. The lessons have been invaluable but they’ve come at a great cost to my personal life.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve done personally?
Training for a half marathon is the hardest thing I’ve done personally. The physical challenges can be overcome as the body adapts, but it’s a mental challenge to keep training until that point.