10 Commandments to Hack Your Health

On Your Marks!
I have been working on Internet & Mobile technologies for more than 17 years. That means I’m on my workstation 10-12 hours everyday. Human body is not designed to sit long hours, stare at screens of various sizes 72??? to 4“ and keep hitting the keyboard. Recently, when I showed off my workstation to my friends on Whatsapp one of them who is in the Armed Forces commented “I have No Workstation, However my work takes me to stations???. I believe that’s the kind of lifestyle Human Body is designed for.

Set!
By end of 2013, 15 years of abuse had started showing on my body, I was unhealthy and weighed 98 Kilos.

Then things changed and I Hacked my Health in 18 months. By August 2015 I ran My First Timed Half Marathon.

It’s almost a year now after my first timed Half Marathon (September 05, 2015), I weigh on an average 67- 69 Kg and have ran distances of 21 KM or more 34 times with my personal best of 1:53:46 for 21 Km.

I’m just a beginner in the world of distance running and have miles to go. This blog is a summary of how I got admission into the school of Health and Endurance. How I hacked my health.

Go!

1. It all Starts with a Challenge.
I was  living a happy life throwing my weight around everyone/ everything (literally). Parking assistants and security guards never messed up with me- I thought, they think I was a mini Hulk!
And then it happened, on a vacation in December 2013, my wife Shweta @Shwetalakhimpur (who had been practicing yoga for 6 months) challenged me to Supta Vajrasana (Reclined Thunderbolt Pose). I could never get into the asana and ended up feeling Dizzy! That is the moment I realized I was no Hulk, I was Bulk.
Lot has been said about Body Shaming lately, however, I believe, If you care for someone it’s your moral obligation to challenge.


2. You are what you Eat.
Until 2013 my meal plan was simple. Big Breakfast ( 3 Alu/ Paneer Parathas), Bigger Indian Lunch and Biggest Indian Dinner. I felt starved if I did not have 3 whiskeys, Tandoori Platter, Dal Makhani and 2 Rotis Friday evening.
Changing food habit was  not simple. In the first few months I added Maggi Masala to salads and fruits to make it taste like ‘food’. However, the hack worked, I stayed the course.
Today my staple is salad. Thanks to stores and startups like Natures Basket, Green Tokri,  Olive Plato it is much easier to eat healthy.


3. You are your Sleep.
Since I started competitive education (read Class 7) the goal was to put in long hours at desk or staring at the idoit box. By the time I started working I was sleeping on an average 4 hours a day.
Today I sleep 7 Hours on average, have clocked 10 hours+ and we have not had cable TV at home for 3 years.

4. Know your Path.
It is super important to know your path.  For example “ 5KG weight loss in 1 month??? or “join a Running Group” does not work for me. These are super awesome ways however, not for me. For 2 reasons-
I have never believed in “Instant”, apart from “Maggi”
My work week is full of meeting  people and working with teams, I want My Time.
For me the inspirations to hack my health has been the Internet and people who do not want to meet me. There’s tons of information, inspiration available. Seek and you shall get! For me Darth Vader, Yoda and Buddha are all heroes, You decide your path.


5. Get the right Gear
Indians are “Jugaadu??? and our priorities are misplaced when it come to health. For example, typical  Indian male would have 3-5 shoes for office however, one shoe for Walking, Running, Gym, Cycling, hiking and every other sport. We pay for health insurance but do not spend on health. I was no different. However,  after 2013 I have made serious investments on my health that includes:

  • Trek 4300 with 2 sets of tyres for Road and Mountain.
  • Thule Bike Carrier
  • Fitbit Flex and Fitbit Surge
  • Hiking Boots
  • Inov8 Shoes
  • ++

Talking Of Inov8, I recently retired a pair. Here’s my Thank you to my partner.

Next on my list is Garmin Fenix 2 Performance Bundle. However, currently it is over budget. I’m accepting donation, inbox me, if you are interested 🙂
6. Track your Progress and Reward yourself.
For my profession I live by data and applied the same to Health. I tracked every Yoga session, Cycling Trip and Run. Looked at fat burn in each workout and over a period developed a plan for myself. A plan that works.
I have also developed a reward program for myself. Here’s 2 hack you may want try
Weighfies– When my weight reach south of 90s I was very happy and clicked a photo of the weighing scale to remember the date, after that day I clicked photo of the weighing scale every time I lost a kilo. So now I have a collection on my Google Photos called Weighfies!
BOLT– It’s tough on your body to cycle for 6 hours or run for 3 hours so you have to have a system to Reward yourself. Gatorade is my Reward! In India you get 3 flavors of Gatorade (Orange, Yellow and Blue- called BOLT). At the end of the exercise I give Reward myself BOLT if I achieve the target, if I miss the target it’s Yellow and if I’m way off it’s Orange. That’s my order of taste preference and also makes me feel like Usain Bolt for a few Hours 🙂

7. When the going Gets tough, forget your goal, think of the next milestone.
I started this journey I had set the weight target of 80Kgs- 18 Kg weight loss in 12 months. Losing first few Kgs was simple- essentially water in you body/ fat. However, the journey from 95- 90 was arduous and never ending.  It took me 4 months to shred next 2 kgs. The math did not seem to work, at that rate I needed 2 years to get to 80.
I went back to my learnings from my profession- The Lean Startup Methodology. I reset my goals. Now my goal was Lose 3 KG in the next 4 months- Or 25% better result than than last sprint.

8. You will be Embarrassed, do not give up, find solution.
After my first 2 15KM runs my Fluorescent Yellow T- Shirt was all red.  I realized my Nipple was bleeding. Now anything to do with their own nipple is embarrassing for men. I had almost decided to give up running and go back to cycling.
I did not want to go to a doctor with this problem so I put soframycin on my nipples and spent the weekend search the web. Turns out it is a very common problem with runners and could happen is warm or cold climate. It is called Runners Nipple. Primary reason- your T- Shirt rubbing against the nipple. Solution- wear fitting singlets ( I was wearing XL shirts from Bulk days when my frame was M) and applying Vaseline before the run. Ordered 2 medium running Singlets and a large box of Vaseline. Problem solved.
Pro Tip: Wear only Black Singlets! You never Know 🙂 

9. Listen to your body
In my opinion fitness is about your personal best and not competing with others. Non- runners have this notion that running is about reaching the finish line  before others. That is not what health and endurance is about, specially if you are above 30.  It is about improving “personal best”– podium finish will happen some day. Listen to you body and feel the rhythm.

10. Do not believe your body.
This is corollary to 9. You should listen to your body, however, you body has this trick to cheat you and conserve energy. Push your body and it will do more.
In my cycling trips and runs there are days when my body tricks me and I’m left with a lot of energy after the finish line. I feel horrible on those days and keep thinking I could have gone further or faster.
“If life is a walk from womb to tomb your handicap out of womb and bruises at tomb do not matter. Do your best and Hack your Health” Closing Remarks from Rio 2016 :))

 

Template for the perfect 5 minute Pitch

I have been working with/ mentoring some very interesting startups at ET Power of Ideas, helping them with their pitch and also working on raising funds for my startup.

Pitching is a magic, more than anything else, you have 3-5 minutes to convince  investors. Here’s the template for 3-5 minute pitch. You may want to use it, if that helps. 


Please note- team slide (the last one) has details of exec team- founders, advisors, investors. I usually begin the pitch with my/ my cofounders introduction.

  • Slide 1 (Pain/ Pleasure- Causes )
  • Slide 2 (Need/ Gap)
  • Slide 3 (Solution)
  • Slide 4 (Secret Sauce)
  • Slide 5 (Competition)
  • Slide 6 (Current User Traction)
  • Slide 7 (Success Stories/ Press)
  • Slide 8 (Business Model)
  • Slide 9 (Unit Economics)
  • Slide 10 (Revenue Traction)
  • Slide 11 (Market Sizing)
  • Slide 12 (Product/ Revenue Road Map)
  • Slide 13 (Fund Needed)
  • Slide 14 (Fund Deployment)
  • Slide 15 (Team)
Happy Pitching and All the best!!

Managing App Churn with Segmentation and Notification

App Churn is the number or percentage of users that that stop using an app in a time period, in other words app users attrition.

For example, consider your app had 100,000 users end of April and you added 20,000 installs/ users in May and had 113,000 users end of May. The simple back of envelope calculation suggests that the churn rate is 7%.

Flurry’s research shows that apps usually retain 4% users after a year, that is approx. 8% churn per month. So the big question you would have – “Is 7% churn good or bad???? One would tend to think Yes! 7% churn is better than 8% however, there is more to the story. Here are a few questions that you should ask-

  1. What % churn was users acquired this month? Is the churn rate for new users going up or down?

  2. What is the engagement churn rate? Is it going up or down?

  3. What is the revenue churn rate? Is it going up or down?

Analyzing cohorts will get you insights into user behavior and the reason for churn. I will write about Cohort and detailed Churn analysis in a separate blog. In this blog I want to talk about one of the reasons for Churn and a strategy that has worked for me to fight churn.

In my experience “Notification Spamming??? is one of biggest reasons why people uninstall/ stop using apps. No one like their home screen full of deals that they do not care about.

Here’s the typical flow for app users. They discover your app from one of the app download campaigns you are running- the ad. has a context (media, content, creative) and the user builds an expectation “ Looks like this app will help me do that???. However, the experience is to the contrary. There is no onboarding, no personalization instead 2 hours after app install user starts receiving app rating/ sharing notifications e.g. “You downloaded our app, please rate us or share with your friends???.

No! this is not user lifecycle management and no wonder users uninstall apps on the first day.

Here’s what has worked for us in bringing down the churn rate-

  1. Smart “automagical??? onboarding- get to know your user asking no or few questions.

  2. Segment the app users- demographic, behavior, likings etc.

  3. Send personalized notifications and follow a user lifecycle management plan.

26 Tools for Growth Hackers who do not code.

For me Growth Hacking is all about finding the “unfair advantage” in customer acquisition- that one killer thing which lets you get customers, faster and disrupt the market.

Customer Growth is a 4 step process

1. Attracting Traffic- or Getting more people see your product/ website
2. Acquiring Customers- or converting visitors to users by getting them to the “Aha moment”
3. Retaining Customers- i.e. making sure users get the”Core Product Value” as early and as often as possible.
4. Reaping your customer’s network for Viral reach.

Here are 26 Tools Growth Hackers who do not code could use the become a “Growth Ninja

Tools for Attract Audience / Traffic
Colibri.io – Discover where your customers are and engage.
List Builder– Collect email address from site visitors.
Nerdy Data– Search Engine for Source Code.
Email Extractor– Email address Extraction software.
Pay with a Tweet – Get viral traffic from visitors
Mailchimp– Email Marketing

Tools for User Activation/ Acquisition
Bounce Exchange– Acquire abandoning customers
Google Analytics– Traffic insight
KISSmetrics– Deep customer insight and analytics.
Mixpanel– Action Based Analytics for Web and Mobile.
CrazyEgg– Visitor engagementAnalytics
Unbounce– Landing Page builder and A/B testing
Optimizely– A/B Testing
Visual Website Optimizer– A/B testing

Tools for User Curation/Retention
Nimble– Very light CRM for startups.
Rapportive– Contact/ People research inside your inbox.
Zapier– Cross platform automation.
IFTTT– Cross channel connections and actions.
Qualaroo– Website visitor surveys.
Polldaddy– Create surveys and polls
Vero– Lead curation through behavioral emails.

Tools for Virality
Twilighter– Easy content sharing.
Pay with a Tweet – Get viral traffic from visitors
IFTTT– Cross channel promotion
Share This– Social sharing widget.
Pay with a Tweet – Get viral traffic from visitors

Hiring for Startups- Cash vs. Equity Compensation

I help startups with growth- and my job revolves around product, customer acquisition, creating and automating marketing process. The job is challenging, exciting and stimulating.

Over the last couple of years I have started seeing a pattern in the startup madness.  Startup founders have similar challenges and question and the opportunities and answers also have a pattern.  In the last 15 years of my startup life I have been asked same question multiple times by different entrepreneurs. These days, at times it feels like Deja-vu.

However, every once in a while founders pitch a question that puts me on back foot. Last week, in a routine growth strategy meeting, one of my advisee founders hurled one such question. This startup is addressing the urban commute problem in India.  They have raised the seed round and are preparing for Series- A. It is a 2 founder startup with a 20 people operations and they are now looking to hire a Head of Operations- a person who will be No. 3 in the organization matrix.  The question was- How much equity and cash compensation should be offered to the head of  operation they are planning to hire.

Hiring for startups is different as startups pay less than the market and compensate with non-listed (non-liquid) equity with a lock in period. I have hired for my startups in the past. However, to be honest, I have not figured out the formula to compensation structure, most of the times the compensation structure was based on ‘hunch’.

In this article I have tried to put a template for the cash vs equity decision. The numbers you arrive at with this formula are guidelines and subject the stage of the startup.

Let’s  assume you are trying to hire a person who is drawing  $ 40,000 per annum however, she is due for increments and her market value is $ 50,000 per Annum. You want to lock in  the new employee for 3 years and can pay $30,000 per Annum in year 1 with a 15{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} increment every year.

Step 1: Calculate the potential loss of  earnings:

(Here I’m assuming star performers get a 25{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} hike Year on Year in India.)

Loss of Pay year 1:  $20,000
Add
Loss of Pay year 2:  1.25 * 50,000 – 1.15 *  30,000 = $ 28,000
Add
Loss of Pay year 3:  1.25 * 62,500 – 1.15 *  34,500 = $43,625
Total Loss of Earnings: $91,625

Step 2: Calculate the cost of raising  capital  (equivalent to total loss of earnings) .

What percentage equity did you part with for $91,625 in the previous fund raising round. Say you are valued at $4 million in the previous ( angel) round, then $91,625 is equivalent to  3.05{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c}

Step 3: Compensate for the risk the employee is taking.

I do not have a foolproof formula for calculating the risk. However, you could try the probability of  raising next round method. Try to answer the question – what is the likelihood  of  you raising the next round before you burn the cash reserves. If you think it is 60{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} ( you are in advanced discussions with 3-4 VCs) then the risk is 40{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c}
Step 4: Compensate for complementary skill the new employee brings to the team.

This is another judgement. Try to answer the question-  what is the likelihood  of  you raising the next round without the new employee. If the answer is 30{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} then the compensation for complementary skill is 70{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c}.

Step 5: Calculate the Equity.

In this case- 3.05{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} + 20{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} (3.05{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c}) + 70{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} (3.05{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c}) = 5.79{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c}

The above formula is just a guideline. The key to startup hiring is “Great Teams makes Great  Products and Great companies.

Hacking Growth through Customer Experience

It is difficult, if not impossible, to fill a bucket that has holes. One could argue the bucket will fill if the input rate is greater than output rate  however at what cost?

Lean startups should try and address the problem of losing customers before they accelerate customer acquisition because a happy customer tells about service/ brand to 4 friends while an unhappy customer shares with 10 prospects.  The typical hole in the bucket symptom for startups include low repeat usage, plateaued Monthly Active Users (MAU), negative sentiment on social etc.

Customer Experience study helps identify the holes in the bucket and convert first time product users to brand ambassadors. There are 2 key elements to Customer Experience Study:

  1. Analyzing the recorded customer behavior.
  2. Analyzing the reported customer response.

Recorded Customer Behavior is the behavior reported by analytics and includes site/ product usage, revenue growth, social  buzz sentiment, customer channel preference. Essentially, all intelligence gathered by analytics or otherwise on how customers are using the product.

For instance, a startup in urban transportation ( dispatch service, taxi companies, cab aggregators) should start  looking at the following Customer Experience Matrices:

  1. Ratio of New Users to Total users:
  2. Source of New Customer: Ads/ Marketing Campaigns/ Channels/ Referral
  3. Average use Frequency of top 20% users
  4. Revenue per MAU:
  5. Ratio of Trips Services and Trips Booked:
  6. Ratio of Complaints and MAU:
  7. Ratio of Positive Feedback and MAU:
  8. Ratio of Complaints and Positive Feedback:

Reported Customer Response is the response to Customer Experience surveys and questionnaires. These surveys should be conducted at the time/ point of use of product. Here are the 4 most important Customer Experience measurements summed up in 4 Questions ( for the questions I am continuing with the example of urban transportation startup- The Smiles Cab):

1. Overall Satisfaction
Question: How satisfied are you with “The  Smiles Cab

Measuring Social Media ROI

Love it, hate it, you can’t ignore it. Social Media is here to stay. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, G+ are the primary channels for traffic and growth for most  online businesses today.

Startups and businesses get attracted by the large and fancy numbers that are floating around (  e.g. 1.26 billion users500 Million Tweets per day)

and start projecting their hockey stick growth based on these numbers. To add to the the pain most online marketers over commit and under deliver.

According to BusinessInsider “Many brands are moving away from metrics that purport to measure ROI on social media.

They’ve realized that social media isn’t a transactional engine or sales machine, so they’re dropping half-baked indicators that gauge secondary effects, such as financial return.???

Large brands and advertisers look at monetization over long term and tangible and intangible goals. They measure ROI of social media strategies in terms of audience-building, brand awareness, and customer relations.

I work with startups and startups are a different beast. They need to run quick experiments, decide what works for them and ROI is a simple arithmetic:

ROI = (All Returns- All Costs)/ All Costs.

I feel responsible for every $ that startups trust me with to hack growth  and hate BS-ing when it comes to program performance. I want to evaluate programs in real time and make quick decisions. I use the following spreadsheet to measure the ROI of the programs built around the simple arithmetic definition of ROI.

Download BhaskarThakur-Social-Media-ROI   (Right click and save)

Give it a spin and let me know if  it works. Big Brands you may also want to try this simple tool.

My 5 Favorite Gmail Plugins and Tricks for Growth Hacks.

‘Agility’ is one word that is core to the idea of Growth Hacking. While classic Marketers rely on long term data and user behavior for decisions, Growth Hackers often work with smaller sample size and act in ‘real time’ to convert visitors to customers.

In my experience, email is one of the most powerful tools for converting visitors to customers. For example we improve conversions for an edutech startup by almost 100{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} within weeks, through an email campaign.

However, for email ninjas- life is inboxed. They live, eat, breathe emails. I use Plugins, Tools and simple tricks to help me manage my inbox. Here’s 5 favorite Gmail Plugins and tricks for Growth Hacking.

Gmail Tabs and Inbox Zero:
The New tabs help to focus on what matters and reduces my inbox size by ~30{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} -50{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} . I let Google’s technology take care of the spams, social updates and promotions and focus on emails that really matter.

GMail- Tabs

Further, I Live by Inbox Zero, which means I either Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer or Act on the emails in my Inbox. Thanks! Merlin Mann.

Google Alerts and Labels
I use a combination of Google Alerts and email filtering + labels extensively. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on one’s interest. If you are following 50-100 keywords on Google be sure Alerts will swamp your inbox. I have configures email filtering rules and labels to keep the clutter off my inbox.

Rappotive
Rappotive shows you everything about your contacts right inside your inbox- what people look like, where they’re based, and what they do. It also helps grow one’s network on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook without leaving the inbox. Rappotive is more like a mini CRM married to LinkedIn.

Rappotive

Yesware
If you rely on emails for growth you want to know who opens your email and clicks on your link and Yesware does exactly that. It also let’s users track prospects and has some ready to use email templates.

Yesware

Boomerang Calendar
Boomerang Calendar helps schedule meetings from within the emails. It highlights the date and time in email ( both absolute and relative i.e 5PM 10/18 or 5PM Tomorrow) to make scheduling meetings a breeze.

Go on Startup Ninjas install your arsenals and win the Growth Hacking war.

Startup Elevator Pitch

Over the last 10 days a couple of startups I’m working with and a bunch of students I mentor have asked for help with Elevator Pitch.

Here goes a simple 1 Slide Elevator Pitch Template:

Startup Name : Name of your Startup

Team : Include the Founding Team’s photos, Twitter Bios and photos.

1 Line Pitch: Short , Compelling message to convert  casual visitors to suspects.

High Level Concept: X for Y analogy for example Zappos is  Amazon for Shoes.

Customer Segments: List of Customer Segments.

Problem Statement: 2-3 problems you are trying to solve, of the format:

____<Customer Segment>_________ needs  ____<benefit>__ because | however ____________________

Existing Options: list how the problems are solved today.

Solution: outline your solution

Key Matrices: status of the startup as on date e.g. Product Alpha, 3 Beta Customers onboard.

Defensibility: something difficult to build or  buy.

Channels: How do you reach customers.

Cost Structure: Fixed and Variable.

Revenue: Sources of revenue.

 

 

Running Startup Experiments

One of the critical success factors for Startups is ability of the founding team to run quick experiments. The more adept a team is in running experiments the faster they are in iterating.

Experiments could be for Product Features or Markets. However, the goal of all experiments is to help define the problem statement. The following is a simple template to Plan, Run, Record and Manage experiments in a startup.

1. Start with a guess or  a hypothesis which is of the format: ____<Potential User>_________ needs  ____<benefit>__ because | however _____________________________________

For example,

1.1. HR Managers need qualified resumes because it saves them time and cost.
or
1.2.Single moms need a hyper local social network to help them manage their job and families.

2. The next step should be to reach out to Potential Users and bounce the idea off them. Let the discussion be unstructured however record what the potential users have to say. Make a note of their wishes and needs and record any deviation form your assumption.

There is a trade-off between the number of users you reach out to and time. One approach I have seen working is setting up targets and time frame. Set the targets based on the opportunity cost of the decision.

3.  Next step is to articulate the opportunities using the template from Step 1:

____<Potential User>_________ needs  ____<benefit>__ because | however _____________________________________

For example,

3.1. HR Managers need qualified resumes because it saves them time and cost however they are willing to pay only when they are successful in hiring a candidate.
or
3.2.Single moms need a hyper local social network however Facebook does a decent job.

4. Once you have the opportunities articulated, the next step is drafting the Problem Statement from these opportunities. Some factors to consider  at this stage include market size, time to implement, is the feature ‘nice to have’ or is the customer willing to pay (additional) for the feature? and A/B Testing.

A startup is defined by the experiments it makes and I hope this framework and template brings agility to the experiments.

Credit: This post is inspired by The Lean Startup: