Ship fast and iterate. We constantly released new/different versions of Undock until we landed on the product we have in market today. We would have never landed on this version without rapid iteration.
Learn how to talk about your business. The main thing that changed from the bootstrapping phase to the fundraising phase was positioning what we built in a compelling manner for investors. This same skill at storytelling also applies to communication with consumers.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nash Ahmed, Founder and CEO of Undock.
Nash Ahmed is a serial telecom executive and the Founder and CEO of Undock, an artificial intelligence-enabled meeting platform built for the future of work. Nash and his team graduated from Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA) in May 2020 and raised a 1.6M dollars seed from Lightship Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Lerer Hippeau.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I fell in love with computers and digital creation very early. Those interests soon blended with the aspirational idea of being a “businessman” and hence my professional pursuits. After getting a degree in Computer Science and Business Management, I ended up in the telecommunications industry running a business that started providing telephony solutions to enterprise clients and evolved into a full suite of technology services. This path led to my interest in communication tools and particularly video. My decision to pursue Undock (AI-enabled meeting platform) came as a result of running 3 different small businesses concurrently. I knew intimately the challenges of managing my availability, finding time to meet with colleagues, and streamlining my calendar. Undock scheduling, our first product, solves all three of those pain points.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
The methodology that we’ve devised to determine and share mutual availability while protecting users’ privacy is the key to our disruption. Undock Scheduling optimizes for our users’ preference to coordinate meetings with speed and efficiency while not unduly exposing the details of their calendars. We’re removing the administrative burden of scheduling so that users have more time to make work happen.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Our funniest mistake at the inception of the business was thinking that Undock could replace Gmail, Slack, Zoom, and Trello in its first release. The biggest lesson learned was to build product in sequence instead of parallel.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Brian Brackeen of Lightship Capital and Jon Axelrod of ERA were tremendously helpful in navigating the fundraising waters. Raising venture capital was not something I’d done before, and their counsel proved invaluable. Both gave insightful advice at critical inflection points in the fundraising process. The wrong choices at these junctures could have led to a completely different outcome in terms of both money raised and time spent to close our round.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Disrupting is always good, full stop. However, the results of the disruption may have unintended consequences or not always be good. Standing the test of time is a tribute to the original solution, not an indication that disruption would be negative. Always, always, always challenge the status quo. Nothing is forever solved. An example of a system that has withstood the test of time is email. It usurped traditional mail, courier services, and fax machines as a means of transmitting written communications due to its greater speed and privacy. While email has been in broad use since the early 1990s, it still has room for disruption, as we’ve seen with the emergence of communication platforms like Slack. Undock Scheduling also enhances email through greater integration of calendar systems to find mutual availability.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Ship fast and iterate. We constantly released new/different versions of Undock until we landed on the product we have in market today. We would have never landed on this version without rapid iteration.
- Learn how to talk about your business. The main thing that changed from the bootstrapping phase to the fundraising phase was positioning what we built in a compelling manner for investors. This same skill at storytelling also applies to communication with consumers.
- Hire Slow — Fire Fast. Each hiring mistake is compounded the longer it takes you to rectify the decision and make the tough call of firing someone. Being able to pivot from a slow evaluation process (hiring) to a fast assessment of contributions to the team (firing) is critical. The key is to not look at any of your hires (individually or as a collective) as being reflective of your ability to hire. It will cloud your judgment on both ends.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Undock is going to completely redefine what a calendar is and how people interact with theirs on a daily basis. We believe the calendar graph is the most powerful and untapped network in existence.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
I recommend the book Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions. Framing life’s everyday challenges as classic computer science and game theory problems is an interesting exercise. For me, it’s been deeply impactful in creating my solution sets. For instance, Undock’s entire scheduling apparatus is based on finding Pareto Optimality, a concept that advocates for the most efficient distribution of resources.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The first rule of any game is to know you’re in one” — Sandy Lerner, Cisco Co-Founder.
I probably first heard this quote a decade ago, and before that I was a bit naive and thought that everyone had the best intentions. It prompted me to go back and read The Art of War, The Prince by Machiavelli, 48 Laws of Power, etc. In all of history, any ascension to power, money, or success has been a sequence of events that parallels game play. I have always been enthralled by game theory and realized that a lot of things in life are a game. Once you recognize that, you can start playing the pieces. You have to learn to look out for yourself first, and that’s why Undock exists. Undock helps people make time for what’s important by incorporating their availability, preferences, and behavior.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My 6th grade teacher gave an assignment for each student to come up with a charity idea. An iteration on the non-profit concept that I conceived back then is still an organization that I would love to come to fruition today. The proposed names were Centback then later Magnificently. The thought is to get businesses to charge an additional 1 cent per transaction on consumer purchases. Each of the penny contributions would be held in escrow, and Magnificently would crowdsource recommendations for which community groups should receive the proceeds. A critical aspect of the charity administration would be a public ledger where all non-profit financials are trackable. For Undock specifically, I would love to eventually have a philanthropic arm where the proceeds go to entities solving access to clean water around the globe.
How can our readers follow you online?
@nashtheory (founder) on all platforms
@undockhq (company) on all platforms
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!