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Nirmal's Blog

Nirmal's Blog

Trying to become the next Steve Jobs

I’m going to be the next Steve Jobs. That’s what I was thinking to myself.

I had a business idea that I believed was going to change the world. It was an idea I had been pondering about for the last few months.

Upon researching start up events, I found out that the first ever Startup Weekend was coming to town on February 2013 in Nepal’s capital-Kathmandu. This would be a great place to test out my business idea, so I registered to attend this event.

The day before the event, I looked at myself in the mirror and asked one question repeatedly:

What are the consequences of publicly sharing my idea at the Startup Weekend Kathmandu?

I weighed the pros and cons of sharing that idea at the Startup Weekend Kathmandu. I was thrilled to be participating in the competition and wanted to fully utilize my time in it. However, the above question kept coming back to me and I couldn’t decide what would be the best course of action.

After much contemplation of various scenarios, I decided to share the idea because the benefits of sharing outweighed not sharing it. By sharing my idea to an audience, I would know if the idea could become a business. Holding on to an idea that could not become a business would not be useful to me.

On that Friday evening at the Startup Weekend, I stood behind 10 individuals waiting for my turn to pitch the idea on stage. Behind me, there were about 30 more aspiring entrepreneurs equally excited to share their ideas. Waiting in that line had my nerves excited and my heart beating faster. The abundant energy in that hall invigorated me and I couldn’t wait to get on that stage to pitch my idea in 1 minute. 1 minute was all I had to explain my idea that could change everything.

When my turn came, I went on the stage and pitched my idea of a mobile/web app that allowed users to download books from Nepali writers and read them through the app anywhere in the world.

Over the course of the three day Startup Weekend Kathmandu, we created a team and built the idea. After working and iterating the idea for more than 50 hours, we had a prototype ready to be presented to the judges on the final day. The three judges actively listened, looked at our prototype, and asked us questions. At the end of the event, the results were announced and we had earned the 1st runner up position in the startup competition. Our team was ecstatic and we were congratulated by many attendees that night. That was a special evening for our team and in the ensuing days, we were featured on tech blogs and national newspapers.

If I had not participated in that event, the idea of a mobile/web app for book lovers would have stayed in my head forever. Additionally, I would have never received such amount of valuable feedback in a short period of time and validated if the idea made business sense. There are moments in our lives when we are presented with an opportunity and we have to strike it when it’s hot. That moment for me came in the form of Startup Weekend Kathmandu. I also realized that you can make a difference in the world if we shared our ideas rather than holding on to them.

After the Startup Weekend Kathmandu, I didn’t become the next Steve Jobs, but I became a much better Nirmal Thapa.

Perspectives on life

I’m always curious to hear about different perspectives on life. Perspectives are windows to how people see the world. Two people can be looking at the same thing and have two different perspectives.

Here’s a perspective that I really enjoyed listening to: Harvard Business School AASU Conference: Kasseem Dean Keynote

Some thoughts shared by Kasseem that I really liked were:

No matter what you do in life, you should always be a student. You can be a boss and a student at the same time. You can be a leader and a student at the same time because I feel that when you stop being a student you cut off all of your areas for learning.

We need to invest in ourselves more. We can tell the world about what everybody else is doing but when was the last time we looked in the mirror and made a better us.

My saying is sky is not the limit, it’s just your view.

My leadership style was transition…… transition is the most critical thing in your business because it can be the result of you making a lot of money or losing a lot of money.

The best advice always been do whatever you feel. Do whatever your heart tells you to do. Follow your passion. Follow your goals. Follow your dreams.

Our town is going to make jeans again

I love this story.

From Hiut Denim Co.’s website:

Cardigan is a small town of 4,000 good people. 400 of them used to make jeans. They made 35,000 pairs a week. For three decades.

Then one day the factory closed. It left town. But all that skill and knowhow remained. Without any way of showing the world what they could do.

That’s why we have started The Hiut Denim Company. To bring manufacturing back home. To use all that skill on our doorstep. And to breathe new life into our town.

As one of the Grand Masters said to me when I was interviewing: “This is what I know how to do. This is what I do best.” I just sat there thinking I have to make this work.

So yes, our town is going to make jeans again.

Here goes.

The billion dollar idea (in your head)

Ideas are great. A lot of times that big startup idea might just be in your head. You feel that your idea will change everything. It could be the next big thing out there. The temptation is to hold on to the idea and not tell it to everyone because then they might go and execute it. It’s your idea and you hold on to it tightly.

I was in a similar situation many years ago and had one of those “ideas.” I debated within myself whether sharing that idea in a startup competition would be good or bad. After a while, I decided that the benefits of sharing the idea and “get it tested” was far more important than just holding on to it.

When I shared my idea at the startup competition, many people got excited about it. It gave me confidence that the idea itself was good. However, there were so many things to consider for the idea to be executed properly. I would not have been able to see the idea from different angles had I not shared it at the competition. Also we won 2nd place in that first ever Startup Weekend Competition 2013 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Book summary of The Sixth Man: A Memoir

I had put the book The Sixth Man: A Memoir by Andre Iguodala of the NBA champions Golden State Warriors on my book bucket list last year. I’m thrilled to have just finished reading it.

The Sixth Man is a beautifully written memoir. The book chronicles Andre’s upbringing in Springfield, Illinois, his high school and college basketball careers and eventually his journey in the NBA. Having always been interested in the stories of ball players and the NBA for a long time, the memoir gave me a glimpse into the life of one of the game’s smartest players. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in Andre, NBA, professional black athletes, Golden State Warriors, or just love to read a great story. Enjoy.

The Vision

Vision is a powerful thing.

A big and meaningful vision has a gravitational pull. It attracts people and can motivate them at a deeper level. In this blog, Why You Need to Create Visions (Not Just Goals) it states that Vision is your why. Vision gives something direction. It’s your desired future. 

Although words like vision, goals, and purpose are commonly used these days, having a vision and following through it can work wonders. When you write down your vision in a notebook (I prefer notebooks over notepads), it becomes real, motivating and reinforcing.

What’s your vision?

Some good podcasts…

I love podcasts.

There are thousands of podcasts out there covering every topic that one can imagine. Some of the good podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis are:

Akimbo – https://www.akimbo.link

The Tim Ferriss Show – https://tim.blog/podcast/

The Knowledge Project – https://fs.blog/the-knowledge-project/

If you’re looking for a wider selection of podcasts, here are more:

The 50 Best Podcasts to Listen to Right Now
34 of the best podcasts in tech, culture, politics and more
The Best Podcasts Of The Year (So Far)

Learning about money

I was born in Nepal and grew up in the Nepalese culture. Growing up, most of our conversations about money focused on saving money and keeping some money aside for those “rainy” days. We didn’t talk much about investing, assets, credit, debt, credit cards etc. Schools and colleges didn’t teach us about money management either. In educational institutions, we learned about business, how to make money, how to get a good job among other things but learning about money itself was left to ourselves.

Looking back, I believe we should talk about money around the dinner table, in the classrooms and around the workplace. As an individual, learning about money should come before we get credit and debit cards. We should know how credit cards work, how to build an excellent credit score and why it’s important to build a credit history. Similarly, a credit course or even a non-credit course on personal financial management in schools and colleges will make students more smarter on managing their money. The sooner we learn about money, how to earn money, and manage money, the better for everyone.

Getting back to the human experience

There’s a stat that I recently came across: Over 60 billion online messages are sent on digital platforms every day, With the volume and frequency we are communicating these days, whether this leading us to become closer or farther is a separate conversation.

The precious moments in today’s context are being present in the conversation (not being on the phone/laptop when someone is talking/around you), being empathetic (not just sharing emojis and icons on a smart device), being alive and actually living (not measuring our worth through likes/comments/other notifications). Times have changed- yet the most valuable and precious moments are shared and lived when we are just being humans.

Making a small difference

The vision needs to be big. However, the start and continuous progress needs to be small.

To achieve anything monumental, having a big vision is crucial. If it’s not challenging enough or interesting enough, we’ll probably get bored quickly or lose interest easily. That grand vision alone will not mean anything if the action is not there. Taking small steps towards that vision will help build momentum, keep us on track, and most probably lead to a better result.

What’s the smallest possible unit that you can work on towards the vision today?

What’s guaranteed after college?

Nothing.

Nothing is guaranteed after college. For current college students, preparing for the chapter after college is crucial and the planning should start as early as possible. The job market is dynamic and keeping abreast to the demands of various industries/job openings is important.

To prepare for the job market, college students should start early to look for internships and jobs. Internships will help you get your foot in the door as well as keep you ahead of other job applicants. It’s also helpful to have mentor(s) who can guide you over the course of your college career and beyond.

Is the bike worth it?

Getting a bike (or any vehicle or any big purchase) has two sides. The benefits are easier mobility from point A to point B, saved time and money over a long period of time. The costs are its regular maintenance, fuel, insurance and tax.

For any big purchase, the benefits comes with the costs. An important thing to consider is the opportunity cost. What’s the opportunity cost to having or not having a bike? Are you investing in an asset? If the bike can save you lots of time, create other income generating opportunities from it and give you a better quality of life, why not get the bike?