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Nirmal's Blog

Nirmal's Blog

Startup Weekend Kathmandu

What did I gain out of participating in Startup Weekend Kathmandu 2013?

Frankly, I got so much out of it. It’s hard to put it in words everything that I got out of the three day Startup Weekend but I will try to summarize it. The first Startup Weekend Kathmandu happened in early February 2013. I was very excited because it was the first time that Startup Weekend was coming into town. That edition of the event took place at SAP Falcha, Babarmahal. The event started on Friday afternoon with registration and networking culminating into final pitches to the judges on Sunday evening. I could feel so much raw energy at SAP Falcha. Everyone was excited to be there as I was. When I look back to the people I met then, they are doing amazing things in Nepal’s startup and business ecosystem now. I’m in touch with most of the people I met then. Besides the friendships and network I built, I was able to understand and consider various perspectives on building a business. It’s amazing what a team can do in a weekend when we are all working together.

It’s extremely tough to describe the details of the Startup Weekend Kathmandu. You have to participate in the event itself to get a feel of it. I highly recommend you to do so.

Personal narratives and life’s journey

We all have our personal narratives. When we go through life and experience the high’s, low’s and everything in the middle, we build experience and look at life from a certain lens. Our personal experiences, our personal and professional networks and what we see/hear/feel influence us to create our own personal narratives. Those personal narratives are powerful on how we go about each day and how we see the world around us.

A Psychology Today article states that if we can consistently empower students to tell stories about their lives in a more positive way, we can help them become resilient and motivated as they pursue their goals. Personal narratives are very powerful and it greatly impacts our successes and failures.

What story are you telling yourself?

Riding the wave

There will be times when the tide changes and things move in a certain direction. Sometimes you know when the wave is coming; other times we don’t know when the wave comes. Once in a while we see an established institution recognize the incoming changes, promptly address it, and adapt with it.

Kudos to NBC for getting on the wave that is now. All the best to Lilly Singh for her late-night talk show, “A Little Late with Lilly Singh.” Read more at NBC Taps Lilly Singh to Replace Carson Daly in Late Night.

This blogging stuff is boring!

Yes, blogging is boring.

Yes, blogging takes work.

Yes, blogging needs discipline.

Yes, the returns of blogging is long term.

If you do the boring stuff consistently over a period of time, you will become better, become stronger and reap its benefits.

More of us represented (Part 2)

In Silicon Alley, I’ve attended many business conferences and events. Many of these events used to lack diversity but are slowly seeing a growing number of diverse audience members and people on stage. Back in 2010, I attended several marketing conferences and met a handful of African American and Hispanic tech enthusiasts/entrepreneurs. I was invigorated and excited to hear their stories and perspectives.

Recently, I have been following Chamillionaire (Platinum & grammy award winning recording artist. EIR @ Upfront Ventures. Startup angel investor. Knowledge seeker. Boss.) On the many videos posted on YouTube, he has shared a lot of good insights and wisdom on early stage startups, diversity in the tech space, getting more minorities interested in tech and sharing his experiences/information with others.

Preparing for student/work life abroad

If you get the opportunity to study abroad or work abroad, it’s best to be prepared for that transition. Each transition brings with it excitement and anxiety. That’s part of the human experience.

Going from Nepal to somewhere abroad, there are many things an individual can do to be prepared and start with a solid foundation once reaching the destination. Here are a few things to pick up/hone/learn/experience while in Nepal (in no particular order) based on my experience and knowledge:

Language: One of the biggest things to adjust to when going abroad is the local language. One should be comfortable speaking in the local language to easily navigate around the area or go about his/her day. Taking even a basic level language course while in Nepal would prove to be extremely helpful later on.

Culture and traditions: From the web, one can easily find details on the local culture and traditions of the place you will be studying or working in. It’s important to understand and be aware of local cultural nuances and avoid chances of miscommunication, ignorance, or aloofness. Anyone going abroad from Nepal should research and learn the basics about the culture they are about to be a part of.

Driving: Although not as much a priority as other things when going abroad, having some driving experience can help you get a driver’s license or even a learner’s permit. As the person starts to settle in and become familiar with the environment abroad, he/she can look to get a car or a bike. Taking up driving classes once abroad can be expensive, time consuming or even a hassle. Getting some driving experience while in Nepal can be cheaper and easily manageable than abroad.

Cost of living: A major part to really understand and research is the cost of living of the area to which you are going to. Cost of living will directly impact your life on a daily basis so becoming familiar and prepared on how to manage it is critical. A little research on the web can make you ready for what’s about to come.

Internships/Jobs: An important topic to become familiar is the way to get a job/access to loans (if needed) while abroad. Again this is about researching what are the possibilities of finding an internship/part-time job/full time job, hours allowed to work per week and so forth. Understanding the details of job placement opportunities and working towards what is possible will make you a step ahead of other international students/expatriates. Plus, access to loans can be a bit tricky when abroad so learning about them beforehand will save you time, money and hassle later on.

More of us represented

There’s a growing feeling and need to see more of us to make it, to be represented, and to be empowered. This feeling is echoed from Kathmandu Valley to Silicon Valley.

In Kathmandu, I’ve attended many business conferences and events. Far too many events lack diversity. There’s a lack of diversity on the panels and speakers at the events. As an audience member, I would love to see more women, more new faces, more people from various backgrounds to be represented on stage. By having more diversity on the conferences and events, it would attract more people to attend these events and/or make them feel proud that “someone” like them is represented on the stage. It’s also the right thing to do. More to come…

Appreciation

Appreciation is best when it is authentic, unexpected, and heartfelt.

When someone does good work, we should acknowledge their efforts and results. That acknowledgement can mean more to the person than anything else. A lot of times we are all craving to be noticed, to be seen and be heard. Just as it’s important to point out to our team members when they did not do something right, it’s equally important to point out to them when they did something right. Acknowledging their effort(s) means the team members feel that they are being trusted upon to deliver, are accountable for it, and recognized as important contributors to the goal.

Does the brand make you or you make the brand?

A question that is up for debate.

A established company has been in the market for a long time. It has a name. It has a proven business model. It has been around.

A startup has been in the market for a short time. It is building its name. It’s business model is not proven yet. It is emerging.

When the company is a startup (new), the founder(s)/CEO is the face of the company. They represent the brand, make it what it is and what it will become. In essence, the founder(s)/CEO make the brand when the company is emerging and not established in the market. On the other hand, when the company is established and already has a recognized name in the market, the brand makes the person. The machine is already built and the person gets their recognition and reputation being associated with it.

Proverbs and their meanings

Recently, I’ve come to love this proverb:

“If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.”

The proverb is said to be an African proverb. The meaning of the proverb is pretty straightforward. There is some discussion online whether the proverb is actually from Africa, what part of Africa is it from, and the meaning/context of the proverb itself.

An article on NPR titled “It Takes A Village To Determine The Origins Of An African Proverb” dives a bit deeper into this conversation. In the end as the article states ” What we found is that it takes a lot of phone calls to track down the origins of a proverb. And in the end, the answer might be: We just don’t know. “

What does success look like to you?

A simple and powerful question to get answered before working on a project, major task, or organizing an event is to ask the client/supervisor/customer: what does success look like to you once this project/task/event is completed ?

Getting the above question answered is very important. I’m realizing that more these days. The project owner usually has an idea of how the project should turn out to be. He or she has a certain vision in mind. If we don’t take the time to understand that vision, then we are setting up ourselves to under deliver or even failure. If the expectations and outcome are not clear from the onset, then no matter how many hours or changes we make over the course of the project, we will still not meet the project owner’s expectations.

Once we understand what success would like when we work with a client/supervisor or customer on various projects, we can both be on the same page and deliver excellent results from our side.

Accepting responsibility

The reality is that we all make mistakes. Even when we have the best intentions, best plans, and best execution, something falls through. You shake your head and say how did it happen, what could have been better, what could I have changed and so on.

By accepting responsibility, we feel less of the weight on our shoulders and less guilty. By denying responsibility, we shift the blame to others, circumstances or something beyond our control. The energy and time taken to prove someone else or some external factor was responsible for the outcome is draining even if that was the case. The better move would be to accept responsibility, work on improving next time, and just move on. When we accept responsibility, we also become self aware, transparent, and relatable .

Making good habits stick

Most of us desire to build good habits and stick with them. However, it’s so much easier said than done. From the research done on habits and my own experience, I can attest that there are very simple ways to make good habits stick.

First and foremost, start ridiculously small. It is extremely easy and rewarding to do the smallest thing possible to get started on the new project, new diet, new workout, a new blog or a new podcast. Then once you do that smallest part, you feel you can do more and it keeps you motivated. This is one of my favorite tools to make good habits stick: start small. As Lao Tzu said A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Other ways to make good habits stick are to celebrate small victories, design your environment according to the habits you want to enforce/act upon, surround yourself with supporters. Read more at How to Make Good Habits Stick: 7 Secrets From Research

Convoz

It’s refreshing and inspiring to learn about Convoz.

Convoz is an app for creating public collaborative conversation through video, which is what we call a convo. Users can create a convo to share their opinions and receive video responses from others. A convo allows individuals to communicate face-2-face sharing their thoughts and feelings as if they were speaking in the same room. – Convoz.com

Founder and CEO Chamillionaire talks passionately about Convoz. Confident, classy, and a cool presentation.

Life skills: From school to the workplace and beyond

Besides science, math, business, philosophy, arts and others, we need to teach valuable life skills to our students. Students will need more than domain knowledge to survive and thrive in today’s world. Some of the life skills to teach in schools are:

Personal financial management – Students and young professionals need to be aware and smart on managing money. What better place to teach them about money than school? A solid personal financial management course will prepare students for the long term.

Cooking – Students and young professionals can be more healthy and live independently if they know how to cook. There can be a lot of eatery options if you live in a city area than being in a rural area. However, knowing how to cook a few dishes can mean a more healthy lifestyle, more savings, and more personal satisfaction.

Travel – Students and young professionals can learn so much from travelling. Besides visiting a new place and learning about its history/geography, travelling allows us to realize a bigger world, know more about ourselves, and appreciate others’ culture.