I believe that every one of us on this planet has an obligation to have impact proportionate to our potential. There are three pillars I am personally passionate about that will help solve some of humanity’s biggest problems. These are education, healthcare and sustainability. For education, I believe we should provide equal access for everyone around the world. If everyone has equal access to opportunity and education, then we will be able to leverage all of humanity in a much more meaningful and effective way. The same applies to healthcare. If everyone has equal access to healthcare and could live a healthy life, we could do wonders. We also must ensure that we don’t compromise on sustainability when it comes to the resources we have on this planet (and any other planets we might settle one day in the future!). We must take into account how our actions contribute to things — like climate change, consumption of natural resources, waste disposal, etc. — that will potentially render the planet unusable and result in implications that could displace and harm large portions of our population. I believe that if enough people focus on each of these problems, we can create a meaningful impact.
I had the pleasure to interview serial entrepreneur Bhavin Turakhia. Bhavin is driven by a passion for problem-solving and maximizing efficiency through technology-driven innovations. In the last 22 years, he has built 5 successful businesses, all driven by his belief that “it is our moral obligation to make an impact that is proportionate to our potential”. At 17, he co-founded Resellerclub, Logicboxes and BigRock. He is presently heading Flock — a suite of productivity apps, Zeta– a digital payments platform, and Radix — a leading registry for top-level extensions.
Thank you so much for joining us Bhavin!Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was very fortunate to find my passion early on. I was born and raised in Mumbai, and my school installed its first computer room back in 1989 when I was 10 years old. This was before the internet or Windows or anything like that. I went to the lab every chance I got. Because my family didn’t have a computer at home, my teacher would leave me the keys so I could stay after school for two to three hours to teach myself how to code. To help, my father bought me over thirty programming books, and I’d practice all the various techniques.
I was always a voracious reader, and my father also bought my brother and I many other books to read around this time. Biographies were my favorite genre, and I read the stories of many successful entrepreneurs. This helped inspire me to build my own company. And, because of my love for computer science, I knew it needed to be in tech.
As teens, my brother and I did software consulting on the side after school. When I was 17, I co-founded my first company — Directi — with my younger brother, using a $375 loan from our father. We bought a server from a company called Alabanza, started selling web hosting and domain names, and grew the business from there.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Flock, one of three companies I currently own, started as an instant messenger for consumer end-users. We envisioned it competing with the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The initial product didn’t work out, but we discovered it really improved team collaboration through our own internal use and testing. We decided to pivot the company and relaunched as a workplace messenger to compete with Slack. We took an unsuccessful product and turned it into a platform that now has hundreds of thousands of users and includes a mini office suite for companies. The experience taught me that you must be adaptable as an entrepreneur and willing to let certain ideas go so you can invest in ones that will be successful. Essentially, you can’t force something that isn’t working, no matter how much you personally believe in its potential.
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?
All of my mistakes have been mainly related to product management and strategy. Over the years, I’ve created a lot of products and features that no one wanted to use, even though I had great conviction in my idea. I’ve invested more time and money into the wrong ideas than the good ones. This has taught me a valuable lesson — building stuff is easy but getting people to use it is not.
It’s very tempting as an engineer to build products and features based on assumptions without validating your hypothesis. I’ve learned that it’s a product manager’s job to discover the smallest investment or change in the product that results in the largest impact on acquisition, activation, retention or monetization. Everything product managers do should influence at least one of these four things. If it doesn’t, then they’re wasting time and resources. It’s super important to validate that your hypothesis improves one of these goals before you implement it.
Can you describe how your organization is making a significant social impact?
One of my primary drivers is the belief that each of us has a responsibility to make an impact proportionate to our potential. As an individual, I’ve been focused on improving productivity and efficiency in my own life and have developed different processes and methods to make every minute matter and get the maximum out of every moment of my day. Flock, in itself, is born out of this personal penchant for productivity.
Effective teams and companies can leverage software and technology to maximize efficiency and ensure everyone in the organization is on the same page. One of the biggest wastes in organizations is inefficient communication and collaboration.
I also founded a nonprofit called CodeChef with the primary goal of improving the coding skills of students as young as 10 years old all the way through employed professionals. With CodeChef, we built a community contest platform that hosts difficult algorithmic challenges, with hundreds of thousands of participants worldwide. We host hundreds of contests where users learn new skills and discuss solutions in the community. It enhances coding skills, and helps people get better jobs or become entrepreneurs that can build products to benefit society.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
As individuals, each of us has the amazing gift of life, and we have a duty to make every minute matter. As communities and countries, if we build policies that foster faster digital adoption, then we will ensure that companies are more efficient by leveraging technology better. This will allow companies to make a more meaningful impact.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Many people mistake leadership for managing, but it is much closer to coaching. The task of running a company is the same as running a successful sports team. In sports, you don’t have managers, you have coaches, and there’s a huge difference. Managers manage tasks. They have checklists and assign work to get done. Coaches, on the other hand, empower players to do their best.
For me, leadership is not about “directing people.” It’s about coaching your team to get the best out of themselves. As a leader I must remain conscious that my job isn’t about getting things done or directing others to get things done, but rather communicating the purpose, rallying the troops around that purpose, and letting them do their magic.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
These are the three that I think are most important.
1. Hire the best — I pride myself on the quality of the team we’ve created and the painstaking processes we put into place to ensure the bar is always high. Comparing this to sports, look at talent scouts that start tracking athletes five or six years before they’ll be drafted. How many of us can say we spend that much time trying to find the perfect individual for a position we have in our company? The amount of time people take to find, attract and sign athletes is unimaginable. As business people, we should take a play out of the sports handbook and apply some of that longer term strategy to hiring.
2. Focus on creating value and not valuation — I’ve always been concerned about how the media glamorizes lofty valuations and achieving unicorn status much more than value creation. Companies get caught up focusing on raising the next round of funding rather than the value they’re offering to customers.
Focusing on valuation is not the same as focusing on value creation. Valuation is driven by a lot of proxy metrics — GMV, eyeballs, users — as opposed to metrics for value creation such as NPS, customer satisfaction, revenue, and retention. In snowboarding, your board automatically takes you in the direction you look. So, when you look to your left, your body automatically swerves left. This “where you look, there you go” rule applies to business too. The metrics you focus on are the ones you improve. By focusing on valuation, important metrics that lead to true value creation get neglected.
3. You cannot improve something you don’t measure — If you look at sports again, they measure everything. They track stats about a player over their entire career — from how many points they scored, to what the weather was like at a particular game. What’s interesting is that these stats are shared publicly with everyone. It’s the same thing with the score during a game. Imagine telling players that the score isn’t going to be tracked during the game — it would be impossible to compete. If you don’t know the score at every single step, then you don’t know the next step to take and whether to be conservative or aggressive.
Applying this to business, there are sometimes months or years that go by without employees or business leaders knowing what the “score” is at their company. You must figure out what metrics you’re tracking and make it available to everyone at the organization in order to be successful.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be?
As I said before, I believe that every one of us on this planet has an obligation to have impact proportionate to our potential. There are three pillars I am personally passionate about that will help solve some of humanity’s biggest problems. These are education, healthcare and sustainability.
For education, I believe we should provide equal access for everyone around the world. If everyone has equal access to opportunity and education, then we will be able to leverage all of humanity in a much more meaningful and effective way. The same applies to healthcare. If everyone has equal access to healthcare and could live a healthy life, we could do wonders.
We also must ensure that we don’t compromise on sustainability when it comes to the resources we have on this planet (and any other planets we might settle one day in the future!). We must take into account how our actions contribute to things — like climate change, consumption of natural resources, waste disposal, etc. — that will potentially render the planet unusable and result in implications that could displace and harm large portions of our population.
I believe that if enough people focus on each of these problems, we can create a meaningful impact
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My father used to tell us, “You can achieve anything you set your mind to.” I strongly believe this, and it has inspired me to found four companies, all in different areas.
For example, my company Flock is competing against big players in the workplace communication industry, and Zeta is building a massive digital payment play. When I started these companies, I knew nothing about their respective spaces, but I believed that I could learn and achieve anything I set my mind to. This belief has been instrumental in my approach to entrepreneurship; identifying a problem and creating an organization or business to help solve it in an impactful way.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I’ve read tons of amazing biographies in my life and stood on the shoulders of giants. I’ve really learned a lot from entrepreneurs that have made an impact. If I had to choose one right now, it’d be Elon Musk. His biography is one of my favorites. There were many times that Tesla and SpaceX were on the brink of bankruptcy. Even now, Tesla is the most shorted stock and people question Musk’s judgement and abilities in many ways. I admire his sheer determination and that fact that he’s chosen massive goals to reach for. That level of ambition and drive is very admirable.