Category: startups

Weekly update 2: A tiny glimpse of work-learning-friends balance

My week was really long (which is why I’m late publishing this post), but it was quite fruitful and diverse in all that I did. 
First off, in my attempt to do things that make me uncomfortable, I went for two difficult yoga classes where I knew I would be worse off than everyone else. I wanted something more challenging, so I decided to go for some advanced classes. I was one of the worst in the class, but actually, it felt REALLY good to be in that position. I love being bad at things that are low stake and that I know I can get better at. It gives me something to work towards. It was a good kind of uncomfortable.
At my internship, I tried to ideate less and execute more. My natural inclination is to come up with 10s of ideas and then try to do all of them at once. But that doesn’t always get good results, so last week, I just worked with 2 or 3 ideas. Doing that was super effective! By the end of the week, I started seeing more results than I’d seen over the past few months!

One of our tweets this week! 

Work is even more fun when you have amazing colleagues and you get to go for a sushi lunch with them! 

For my startup project, I chatted with a few users of my app. They’re all SO amazing. I love how supportive they are and at the same time, they give some great suggestions on tweaks we can make to the app features. They’re also really inspirational in all the stuff they’re doing outside of the course. Some run their own businesses, others are trying to figure out what direction to take, while some are just constant learners who have an incredible drive to learn. I learn so much from talking to them, and I LOVE seeing them talk to each other. The conversations some of them have are incredible. They support each other in what each of them are doing, and the extent to which they’re willing to help each other is unbelievable. I’m beginning to treat this more and more like a project than a startup these days-at this point, I care way more about building a great product for my users than I do about things like competitive advantage, fundraising, incorporation, etc, even though I know those things are important.
I attended a Zell workshop and class this week. Zell is the entrepreneurship program (the ‘study’ part of my program) that I’m on. It was really nice to sit in a classroom and just absorb information. My Zell class was on networking and pitching, and the workshop was by a veteran entrepreneur who talked about his experiences as an entrepreneur. While I prefer to learn while working, I like having occasional classes like this where I can just listen and learn. It complements my on the job learning.

Zell entrepreneurship workshop by Shlomo Dovrat. He said some pretty insightful things. My favourite ones were-
1) Make a product that is addictive-something that users want to use 30 times a day. (He also mentioned that cell phones have been found to be more addictive than narcotics based on research, which I thought was pretty interesting). 
2) “I never invest in anyone who comes with a market research report. The fact that they have a market report probably means that they’re too late to enter the market”
3) 3 Ps of entrepreneurship-passion, people, professionalism
Zell class! 

We had some great couch surfers over this week again! It was really fun to hang out with them and learn more about their experiences. 
Jonathan from Switzerland got us Swiss wine! I had great conversations about art and economics with him! 
Arnold from Poland! He got us flavoured Vodka from Poland. Arnold is a serial couch surfer and hitchhiker. He inspired me to hitchhike the next time I take a trip! 
I also wrote and published this blog post about some amazing work habits that I noticed in my employers who I worked with in various startups. Its called 7 inspiring habits of my best startup employers! If you want to work for some amazing startup founders in India, Singapore or Israel, consider pinging these guys! I promise you won’t be disappointed. 
I had quite a chilled out weekend. I worked for a few hours on both days, but I kept it under control, partly because I was tired from the week and partly because I was able to be more efficient and get things done quickly. 

Chilling on Friday night 
Randomest mix of people and cultures, which made it even better! 

Something I tried to do this week is talk less about my work to people. I love my work, so I end up talking a lot about it with my friends, but I don’t want my personality to be just about work or startups. So I tried talking about other things. 
It felt strange to have this balance of creativity, execution, in class learning and non work conversations. I’m used to being on extreme ends where I have work intense periods, learning intense periods, travel intense periods, etc. This balance feels strange to me. But I think its better in the long run? I did feel less stressed last week, so I think I should make more of an effort to keep that balance. 

Weekly update 1: Couchsurfing, meetups, trying to be more organized

It feels like a month has passed by since last Monday. Its been exciting, tiring, amazing.

Earlier this week, Sharon and Prof Teo, directors of the program I’m on, came to Tel Aviv to check on us. We had a few meetings in which everyone presented on all that they’ve been learning on their internships. I learnt a lot from listening to the others talk about their internship experiences. One of my friends talked about his role as a community manager in the startup he’s working at, which really got me thinking about ways I can enhance the community element among eRated’s (the company I’m interning at in Israel) users. I still haven’t found a perfect answer yet so if anyone has suggestions ping me (payal@erated.co). Another thing that came up was how important it is to do something that makes you uncomfortable everyday. While this is something I try to live by, I think I needed a reminder. So I signed up for a few meetups on meetup.com. While I like meeting new people a lot, it does make me a bit uncomfortable still.

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I went to two meetups this week. One was something on content marketing. In the first three months of my internship, a large part of my role was producing content (like blog posts) that engaged our users and helped us get new ones. So I thought it might be interesting to learn ways to do it better. My two takeaways from that meetup were documenting content strategy (I hate documenting-I rarely do it) and thinking through the purpose of the post more clearly before writing and publishing it. Is it to create awareness? or to get customers to buy your product? All of that really affects the tone of your content and I realised I should be more conscious about it. The other meetup I went to was something called She Codes. It’s a weekly event organized at the Google Campus in Tel Aviv, where women go and learn to code or work on your own projects. I’d been wanting to play around with the user data my startup project’s app has been getting, so I went there to work on that. It was SO nice to be surrounded by women who were learning to code. I usually don’t like to go for gender specific events, but this one was really great. When I go to hackathons, I’m one of the few girls there and I feel judged for not being a genius coder. Here, I felt ok knowing however much I did and the mentality of people was more towards the growth mindset.

She Codes at Google Campus Tel Aviv

I hosted one couchsurfer this week. She’s a student from China starting her masters at Tel Aviv University soon. She was super cool and so independent. We didn’t get to hang out much, but I loved whatever little time I got with her. I spent the weekend couchsurfing with my flat mate and friend Aileen in a nearby city called Rehovot. Carmel, who we met through couchsurfing invited us over to her parent’s house in Rehovot for the weekend and we got to spend time with her siblings, parents, grandparents and aunts! It was really amazing to meet so many warm people at once and spend Shabbat (Jewish weekends) with them.

Our host Carmel with Aileen and me at the end of an amazing weekend

I tried to be more organized and in the moment this week. I’ve been told I’m quite messy and unstructured by a lot of people. Also, I tend to get distracted easily. My Singaporean friends here are the opposite, so I figured that it’s a good opportunity to learn from them. So I tried documenting more stuff, like meeting agendas, conversations with users for my own startup project (this one:smoocer.com), to do lists, strategies I was using to reach out to my startup project’s users. My brain still feels quite messy as it did before. I often come up with new ideas and then get distracted by them. So I have to force myself to not get distracted and just keep doing what I’m doing. Doing one thing at a time has been really great though. It’s much easier and less tiring than getting excited by 5 different things and trying to do them simultaneously. It’s also nice when I manage to force myself to really listen to my friends when they are talking. Sometimes, when they talk too long or about things I’m not interested in, I zone out and then the conversation pretty much ends. But that’s a terrible habit to have, so I forced myself to listen to everything people said to me this week, even if it was boring. It was quite nice actually. I had better conversations with people.

First Month in Tel Aviv, Israel

A few months ago, I applied to a program called NUS Overseas College (NOC) that places you in a startup in a startup hub of the world as an intern for 6 months. I got into the Israel chapter, which means I get to take 6 months off college to intern at a startup in Tel Aviv! I got here on 1st July and the first month has been amazing!

Tel Aviv is a tiny city. According to google its 50 square kms big, which is 1/14th the size of Singapore and 1/28th the size of Delhi. A large part of the city is accessible by foot, so I can walk to quite a few places.

I really like the city. Its a perfect combination of the two cities I’ve lived in. Its low rise, like Delhi. Its safe, like Singapore. The beach is nearby. Basic infrastructure like transportation is pretty good. For those of you who don’t know, its a fully developed country (no, there are no bombs on the streets). The people are a lot like Indians in some ways. They’re spiritual and energetic. Some people are religious. People in Tel Aviv are much more open minded than the people I’ve met in India though. They’re quite hippie, kind of like the people at Yale-NUS. Its a perfect combination for me!

Tel Aviv is very diverse. You see all kinds of people from all sorts of places. Some are from the middle east region, others from Europe. Its not rare to see people from Africa and Latin America either. So just based on someone’s appearance, you can’t tell whether they’re locals or foreigner, except perhaps for Asians who tend to stand out a bit more here. As one local said to me, “Anyone can be from Tel Aviv!”. In general, people are quite friendly here. They’re easy to talk to and they like foreigners. One of my favourite things about the people here is just how smart they are. They take intelligence to a completely new level. But that might just be the people I’ve interacted with so far.

A street party in Tel Aviv on the French Bastille day. There was music, street performances and people drinking and dancing to French music in the streets.
Another street performance in Tel Aviv. Its not rare to come across people singing in the streets. Based on what I’ve seen so far, they sometimes do it for money and other times for a social cause. 

A popular dish called Shakshuka. It’s tomato sauce with eggs and other veggies. Its typically eaten with bread. I learnt to cook it this week! 
Hummus with meat, one of the local dishes in Israel. The Hummus here is so different from the kind I’ve eaten before. It has a different flavour altogether, probably because of the spices they use to make it. The meals here in general are pretty big. I usually can’t finish dishes I order at restaurants in one go. Each of them are usually 1.5 or 2 meals for me.

The startup I’m working at is called eRated. It combines the online identity of online sellers who sell on websites like eBay/Amazon. Its been fascinating to learn that different e-commerce sellers actually operate on multiple platforms, but the reviews and ratings they have are scattered across all the platforms they operate on. So eRated pulls out information from the different marketplaces they operate on and aggregates reviews, facebook/linkedin profiles, etc to give buyers more information about the sellers. I’m doing marketing and social media at eRated. Working with the team at eRated has been amazing. They’re super smart people and they’re really fun. I’m learning a lot! Working with them motivates me to work harder at my own startup project. One of the best parts is that my work timings are 10.30 am to 8 pm, so it suits my body clock perfectly.

The eRated family! We had a fun day recently where we went for massages, drinks and Barbeque. Missing Matt, Jake and Yoav in the picture. 
Photo credits: Boaz Cohen

A timelapse of a day at the office.
Video credits: Dor Kelman 

I live in an apartment with three others from Singapore. I’ve learnt a lot living in an apartment, since this is my first time doing it without my parents. I’m learning to take better care of myself. In college, I never need to cook since food is provided. Here, I need to cook because food outside is pretty expensive ($15 a meal on average/ 750 Rs). I’m trying to learn to cook one new thing every week-preferably from different cultures! I actually prefer living in an apartment to college dorms. This way, I get to have more control over my meals, timings, etc. However, I miss being able to walk over to my friends rooms and knock on their doors to say hello!

The living room cum dining area of our apartment. The apartment turned out to be much bigger and nicer than the expectations we had for ourselves based on the photos we’d seen of it.  
A photo taken in the Old Jaffa area of Tel Aviv. We stayed at a hostel there the first few days before moving into our apartment. Its a beautiful area. It used to be a port at some time in history. Also, it has some biblical associations.

A view of Jaffa port. This photo was taken on our first day when we were walking along the beach to see the sunset.

In the old Jaffa area, there are several little cafes on the streets where people just chat and drink. These cafes would be filled with people on weekday nights and weekends. These kind of outdoor cafes are also prominent in several other parts of Tel Aviv.

A weekend visit to Nazareth, a town about 1.5 hours away from Tel Aviv. Its known for being the birth place of Jesus and is dominated by Arabs. Getting out of Tel Aviv and seeing the landscape on the highway and in Nazareth was amazing. Its one of the only places I’ve visited that’s more beautiful than portrayed in pictures. 
Tel Aviv Port: I don’t know if its a functional port, but it has a lot of nice restaurants around it. My flat mates and I went there one night and it was really nice walking along the port.