Himanshu Sahay of Snap: “Be very thoughtful about your inner circle”

Be very thoughtful about your inner circle — The 5 people you spend the most time interacting with, shape and influence who you are more than anyone else. While this number can be larger or smaller, the idea remains true. I am where I am because of friends with shared passions and interests, and we all push […]

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Be very thoughtful about your inner circle — The 5 people you spend the most time interacting with, shape and influence who you are more than anyone else. While this number can be larger or smaller, the idea remains true. I am where I am because of friends with shared passions and interests, and we all push each other and grow collectively. My inner circle of friends consists of people deeply ambitious and interested in crafting the future, and are executing on their goals consistently


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Himanshu Sahay.

Himanshu knows that tens of millions of people use products he has built on multiple large consumer Android apps, including Tinder, Bird and Kindle every single day. At Snap he builds for consumers and developers — leading Android development on the new Ad Kit SDK that enables third party developers to run Snap ads in their apps.


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’m fascinated by people and technology, and angel investing is a way to meet some of the most interesting, disruptive people trying to create the future. Ultimately, it’s a combination of my passion and purpose united. I’ve always been fundamentally curious about how things work, why makers make and how to connect people. It’s the basis of almost everything I’ve done in my life.

I’d also truly love to play, even a small role, in what the future holds for us in the tech ecosystem. I’ve always been interested in technology. I went to university for computer science and got into hot consumer tech companies (Tinder, Bird, Snapchat). I’ve had the privilege of building products used daily by tens of millions of users. Built my deal flow pipeline by reaching out to everyone in my network and taking several calls daily. I recently started advising companies using my engineering expertise. I had built a deal flow pipeline by reaching out to everyone in my network and taking several calls daily. Within a few weeks, I was able to turn this into angel investing.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I like to invest in founders who have proven they can make things happen. I like to invest in teams that are not just a bunch of random engineers who went to the same school together, but entrepreneurs who have built products or services before. I provide value to both companies and investors (VCs and angels) by sharing deal flow. Multiple companies have had subsequent investments from investors on my newsletter and consequently, multiple investors on my newsletter have met and then invested in companies they didn’t know of earlier. I’ve built a solid pipeline of companies that I’m talking to each week and I want to share some of the techniques that have worked well for me. I’ve done all this in less than three months which is truly exciting and tells me that I must be on to something that is needed.

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?

I started talking to companies about advising (before angel investing) and some people were wary of formalizing such an agreement since the incentives are not as clear. One of the company founders asked me why I don’t get into angel investing and I laughed it off.

After thinking about it more, I realized I was hesitant not because I didn’t know how to do it, but simply because it looked big and scary and I didn’t know where to get started. I was intimidated by the inertia of not having done it before

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?

My friend and mentor Anand Murthy has been a big influence on my journey. His angel investments have been the most successful exits this year (Coupang and Coinbase to name a few) and he has discussed my journey with me in depth and offered encouragement I needed to get started. He also made an introduction to a friend who connected me to another friend who got me into my first angel investing deal. It truly is all about the relationships and the most important thing I’ve learned about this is to be an intentional connector. We grow by those we surround ourselves with and I’m lucky to keep building this amazing network.

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?

I view disruption as progress. To get outsize returns from your time and efforts (smart work), you have to do things differently from what is collectively expected in society (because the collective expectation in society also assigns a level of reward to a level of effort). When you break through those chains and think freely and creatively, you can do things others don’t or can’t do, and can make significant progress in shorter periods of time, and really go for those outsize returns. I view my life and career today as an optimization of the 24 hours I have in my day in relation to my long term goals of helping create the future by being a successful investor, and every decision I make is in service of that goal.

Disruption can be negative when people cut corners in their work, viewing themselves as pioneers or disruptors, especially in the startup world, and end up crashing and burning, taking down the money and trust investors provided in them, along the way

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. Optimize for learning — If you want to get good at something, you need to become somewhat of an expert in it and be able to form your own independent opinions. You do this by optimizing for learning when starting something new and gathering as much information as quickly as possible
  2. Trust the process — Once I’ve decided my path in an endeavor, trust the process and don’t get disillusioned when you don’t see short term progress, have patience. Anything worth getting will usually take significant time and effort, and instead, optimize for learning so you can learn the process and be smarter about it. In today’s world of instant gratification via social media and accelerated returns in crypto investing and options trading, our generation has been losing it’s virtue of patience, this is an important skill to develop
  3. Be very thoughtful about your inner circle — The 5 people you spend the most time interacting with, shape and influence who you are more than anyone else. While this number can be larger or smaller, the idea remains true. I am where I am because of friends with shared passions and interests, and we all push each other and grow collectively. My inner circle of friends consists of people deeply ambitious and interested in crafting the future, and are executing on their goals consistently

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Not even close! My goal is to syndicate several deals and start a VC fund within the year. While it may seem like a lofty or aspirational goal, I’m already well on my way. I’ve built the infrastructure I need to move forward and have been extremely intentional with all of the decisions I’ve made leading up to this point.

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 call “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson, my bible. It teaches you to care very little about what others think for you, which resonates with my world view and to execute towards your goals and drown out the noise. It teaches you to prioritize and choose what is important to keep and keep that front and center in your headspace. In today’s world of excess information via social media, and seeing what everyone in up to all the time, I think this is an important skill.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Change is the only constant.

Just one year ago I was in a touch and go situation, having not been able to get my US visa to continue working in the US. I had to switch jobs because the previous company wasn’t doing well.

I had to embrace this mantra as I always have in life, and have had the best year of my life. I could have never imagined I would live in Tulum, Dubai and now, London. I helped launch our new product at Snap, jumped into angel investing and really accelerated my growth and influence in that world. The fruits of my labors are paying off, even getting offered to be a venture partner at a VC fund, and so much more. The feeling of measurably executing towards your goals is immensely satisfying, whatever your goals may be

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. 🙂

People are the biggest form of capital, and I have dedicated my life to bringing people together. I would like others to do the same, without an agenda and expecting nothing in return. The joy this has brought me, in every capacity — investing, socially or otherwise, is unmatched

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/himanshusahay/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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