June 11, 2021

Working at big corporations VS working at startups with less than 20 employees, by Mayank Sanganeria

Working at big corporations VS working at startups with less than 20 employees, by Mayank Sanganeria

Mayank Sanganeria, software engineer at Instagram talks about his experience at Instagram and at smaller startups. We discussed how can an early stage startup attract a veteran software engineer like Mayank without going broke and how they should reach out. Mayank also talked about some of the best practices he sees being used at Instagram and some of the great practices he used at smaller startups.


Mayank's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/e7mac/ 

Book that Mayank recommended: The hard thing about hard things.

Mayank's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/e7mac/?hl=en

 

Transcript

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Started oh, hold up a 2nd wait.

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All right, and today's guest speaker will have my young son area software engineer at and this episode we'll talk about this, how it feels to be like, how it feels to be like, jeepers need to.

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Well, all right. Let's let's try it out once again. Pronounce your name, right?

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Yeah, that's great. All right. Perfect. Well, let's try once again.

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And today's guest speaker, we have my young secondary software engineer at Instagram and in this episode, we'll talk about how it feels like to be a software engineer at how my young is being involved in the start universe.

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How he's experience being disturbed, compared to his experience. At what are the pros and cons of working at small star versus big startups such as no 1 really? Calls start being more but some people still do.

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So we'll do these comparison. And at the end, we'll talk about how you.

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Listeners mostly founders can reach out to self engineers, like my young and tried to get them on board on your start as advisors who are actually as engineers. So, my young, we got a ton of stuff to discuss, but let's kick it off by.

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You giving us some background on yourself and on your position.

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Thanks Constantine. Yeah so I'm my own. I'm an engineer right now. I work on the PR side of things so if you and much time on Instagram, you'll definitely see lots of.

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Filters, um, filters that will.

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Give you bunny years, or it will give you stars on your on your cheeks and all sorts of fun stuff like that. And I'm basically on the team that enables all these fun features for for our users.

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Nice, I'm not the person who uses those fillers, but I think quite a few so there were a banker or keep it up. So let's start off by talking a little more about your background and specifically your background in startups.

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So you've worked at multiple different, small startups being with real, real small, like, 3 to 12 people in the team, and you ended up at Instagram. So, can you tell us a little bit more about that transition?

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What are the major differences between the small service with 3 to 12 people teams versus with? I don't remember how many people you have there, but we're.

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Multiple 1000 straight at least even I'm not sure if this number. Exactly. But, yeah, so I've actually worked that.

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All different stages of startups so my 1st job was.

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Added a really small startup, which while I was there varied from 3 to 12 people, and in that particular startup, we were trying to find product market fit.

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After that I worked at Huber, which, as you mentioned.

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People call call this startup at that point, but it wasn't really a start up.

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Um, but I would say that that's a very late late stage startup. It was Pre.

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After that I worked at a midstates startup, so a company that was around Series C.

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And so essentially was in the growth phase.

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And finally ended up at Instagram last year.

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So, in terms of major differences, the experience of working.

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At different stages can be incredibly different so.

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Just, as a very, very clear example in my 1st job, uh, where we were about 5 people, uh, we didn't really have a product manager. So it was a role that was filled by.

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Kind of everyone, like, everyone would pitch in with product ideas with testing them out. And then.

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Deciding what kind of product we're trying to build and.

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When I switched over to that was 1 of the big differences that I experienced suddenly, instead of that, being.

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Something that I was involved in now, there was a whole department.

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That was responsible particular function and.

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Initially, it kind of threw me off because, um, it was only my 2nd job and I didn't know how.

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How how separated the concerns are in a big company so.

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The way I kind of think about it is product thinks about.

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What you're trying to build and engineering thinks about how to build it.

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When you are a company, which is just about 5 or 10 people.

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Everyone's thinking about what to build there's.

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There's no 1 who people wouldn't kind of take the opinion on because.

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That's the core group that's building the company. And so everyone's opinion is valuable.

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At a larger company, the thing is obviously a little bit more distributed so.

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You could still give product ideas, but there was a very clear ownership that.

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The product manager, and the product team in general gets to decide what you're building and of course, they do it with a lot of input, but they're the clear decision makers. And so.

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Yeah, I think the separation of concerns and just a high degree of specialization that you see in larger companies.

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Is definitely 1 of the biggest differences that.

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Working at each of these different stages gets, you.

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And the further along the journey, you are the more specialized, your rule ends up being.

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Nice. That's definitely cool. That's going on my Twitter.

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So people,

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if you're not full,

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man,

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by the way,

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do so moving on to the next question about to know the bad part and good parts about working and starts besides extremely low salary in general,

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what do you think is the worst part about working in really small startups.

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I think other than salary.

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You're just taking on a lot of risk and so.

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Work life balance is easier to give up.

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Because, you know that every hour that you spend.

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Significantly affects the chances of success, whereas when you work at a company like Uber or Facebook or Instagram, you don't quite have that pressure.

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So no way I have a funny story about this, so when I joined and.

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I was put on the on call rotation initially. I felt a lot of pressure. I'm like, wait supposed.

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To be available for bugs that all at all hours of the day.

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But then I realized that at the start up, I was basically on call 24, 7.

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And that I wasn't on call, so.

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But it's something that, while you're working in the start up, you don't really think about because.

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Those aren't privileges you get.

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So, I think it's, it can be a good thing or a bad thing because.

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It doesn't allow you to feel.

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More in control and drive your career. Um, but if you are trying to find.

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Work life balance, I think working at a startup, makes it harder to do that.

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100% yeah, I mean, when you're in the startup, you're always working basically like, sometimes things go south. I have to E, mail founders, like really like, around 11.

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Pm and then they respond within 5 minutes. I'm like, come on, he should be in that house. I was meant to be an email for tomorrow morning for you to work on so yeah, definitely definitely.

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A thing that every single start failure goes through, or at least the majority of them so yeah, definitely. On the same page here.

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Let's talk about the good stuff about working on bigger companies, Google, Facebook, Amazon, all those top tier companies, especially for engineers. What do you think is the best part about working there besides having a really smoked salary?

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Yeah, so I think.

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The kinds of scaling challenges that you face at Google or Facebook is obviously unique.

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And so, especially if you get to work on something that.

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On on certain technical problems and challenges that.

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Are only available at that scale.

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Then those do become unique opportunities. So just as an example running machine learning algorithms is.

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Pretty expensive and you need a lot of data if you are trying to do this at a smaller company.

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And you make an error in your model, you could lose, like, 50 to 100,000 dollars like.

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Over the course of 1 night and.

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Doing that at a small company ends up being really, really hard.

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And expensive for the company, but at the scale of Facebook.

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Something like, that wouldn't be too much of a big deal, because that's just the level you're operating at. So.

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Um, yeah, the kind of challenges that you face.

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Not everyone gets to work on the coolest problems, but some of the coolest problems are definitely.

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Very unique to some of these big companies.

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And I think the other thing that really.

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That I think big companies can offer is.

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A much more like is a much bigger community so if you're working at a small company.

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On the plus side, you're going to get to know those people really, really well. Um, but it's definitely not like a college experience where.

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There's lots of departments, lots of people at different stages of their careers with different interests.

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But if you're working at a company like Facebook or Google or over.

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You just find all these groups that are.

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That are interested in various things and.

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You can get support that really, really, really easily.

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Um, yeah, so that's like, some of the things that I think are cool about working at a big company.

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100% yeah, that's totally agree. I mean, I can judge really from my personal experience, because I've never worked as any big companies, but my brother does workforce Facebook so he does tell me quite a few stories about this stuff.

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So let's let's talk about the future plans. Basically, that's the question that a lot of.

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Specifically,

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engineers of those bigger companies have is do I really want to go back to a small company,

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you know,

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risky more pressure more time you have to put into this stuff less I mean,

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far lower salary at least for the 1st years.

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What's your plan? What do you think, how do you think this thinking, bro goes and who is more likely to join an early stage?

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Start like a very fresh engineer who just recently joined Facebook or Google or Amazon versus an engineer who has been there for, like, 10 plus years.

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Yes, I think at different stages of your career there.

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Different pros and cons that you can get. So as an example, if you join a startup really early on in your career, you get to see.

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You get to basically where a lot of different hats.

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And get to learn often without mentorship. So, starting joining a start up at the beginning of your career is kind of like.

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Jumping in the deep end of a pool, not knowing how to swim and that could be the right growth.

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Environment for you, because then all these challenges are things that you sort of rise to, and you get much much faster growth.

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Um, but as we discussed, the risk is that if the startup doesn't go anywhere, you end up with a lot of.

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A lot of trash, so a lot of things that you did, that end up, not giving you long term value.

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I think for me personally.

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I would be willing to join a startup.

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But I think now my standards for what I would join are a lot higher and it's less to do with money. It's more to do with.

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The particular mission that the startup has. So, I think at the beginning of my career, I was open to.

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Joining companies, because I wanted to learn about that industry specifically, and I think.

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Now, I'm a lot more picky about the particular things that I want to work on because that was on. You get.

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You realize how little time you have and.

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Time is sort of your most valuable resource, so you don't actually want to spend it on something. You don't care about.

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So 1 of the advantages of a company, like Facebook is, it's sort of has its finger in every pie. So if you want to work on.

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Like,

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social network,

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music,

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streaming API and I'm sure there's a bunch of stuff I don't even know about,

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but if I was interested in it,

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I would sort of start exploring within the company to see what kind of opportunities exist that are aligned with the kinds of things I'm interested in.

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And so, I think for me, basically to join a startup later in my career, I would want.

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The mission to be something I'm really passionate about and.

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Again, I'm super passionate about music, so.

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If I am to join a startup in the future, it's most likely going to be.

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Something to do with music. Nice. That's really cool. So let's let's talk about that, you know, jumping into something specifically mission driven.

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That's the advice that I've heard from multiple other software engineers that those bigger companies, both Google and Facebook and they see, literally the same exact thing.

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You know, if I'm passionate about this problem that they're solving, if I'm passionate about, if I see that the mission that that's behind the company, then I'm like, 99% more likely to join that startup. How can startup founders figure out?

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Who is a good fit and not having to go through every single employee I'll Facebook or Google, and going through. There are linked and their Facebook and their Twitter, you know, all this stuff.

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Is there any way they can figure out who is a good fit for them? Specifically?

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Yes, I think this problem kind of.

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Can fold into also finding the right sort of users and early beta testers. So.

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11 option for finding groups of people that are really passionate about something.

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Is essentially finding communities around that so.

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Uh, it could be, like, read it forums it could be meet up groups.

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So essentially finding people.

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So, when you when you search for people through LinkedIn, it's pretty much.

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You know, that it's kind of coming through your work profile.

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So that's obviously the 1 way that the 1 and common way people do it, but I think.

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If people were to find me and approach me.

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In a way that was more in which our connection came through more than just LinkedIn. I think that makes it a lot more likely. So I think just kind of embedding yourself in communities.

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Where the sort of skills you're looking for are.

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Likely to be found it it, it's good advice for finding users as well as, um, people who might join and help you.

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100, those groups is always a start, I mean, meet ups group, based on some interesting music discussion, whatever it is any group that has over 10 people, the chances are, you're gonna find someone who you like, and who's going to make further introductions.

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And that's how networking works people so definitely go check out the.

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Meet up, I would recommend even at this point, even when everything is still online definitely check out meet up. They have still have some decent online events, try to join a few of those and get a taste of how it works.

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And hopefully that's going to lead to some other opportunities just like my.

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My young said, I'm sorry what's your name here? My bad moving onto the next question is about your personal involvement at the moment with the early stage start. So, do you do any angel investments or advisory?

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For those early stage starts? Yes. So, I haven't been involved in angel investments so far, but in terms of advice.

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Um, I do connect with a lot of startups that are in the music space, so.

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How often these connections come through the Stanford community? So I did my.

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Grad studies and music technology at Stanford and so.

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People that are sort of tangentially connected to that community will often reach out to that group for help and.

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Uh, as I mentioned, music is a passion of mine, so I often find.

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Start ups and ideas that I, that I find fascinating and so I'll often hop on a call and figure out.

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Ways in, which I can help them, and it could be sort of.

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Brainstorming product strategy, it could be connecting them to other people. It could be like, helping them make a part of it. So.

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Uh, yeah, so my personal involvement is often through.

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The Stanford music tech group. Nice. Yeah, I mean, that's that's another benefit of getting a degree at some talk to your university. I've seen it from multiple other founders. You know, when you graduate from a really cool University.

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99% of your initial especial initial network comes from that university. So people, if you are going to additional University, if you've been to a decent University, check it out, they have.

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Tons and tons of resources there, so yeah, definitely. Check it out. If you need some help with network, go through your college. 1st all right. Moving on to the next questions founders, reaching out to software engineers.

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So let's pretend that the founder already identified that you are interested in music maybe someone's listening to this right now and they're like, oh, I'm doing a music startup. Maybe my youngest going to be interested in this stuff.

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How should they reach out to you was the best way is it's Twitter. Linkedin is it's figuring down your email and just bless all the emails that seem like yours would be your recommendation care.

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I think for me, email works best LinkedIn also works, but.

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I just checked that a lot less often so if somebody reaches out on LinkedIn, I'll probably connect with them, but it'll take a little bit longer. Email is the best form. And 1 of the things that I've noticed is.

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It's difficult, but the more you can personalize the email that you send to somebody, the more likely they end up being.

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Uh, the more likely they are to respond.

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The funny thing is, there's this 1 company.

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I think that's, I think they're no longer operational, but they were called and what they would do is essentially somehow magically figure out.

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From your social media, LinkedIn, et cetera profile all the things that.

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If somebody told you that they knew about you, that would make you more responsive to them.

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So, for instance, if people mentioned some of the things in my past that I'm really proud of.

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I think that makes me a lot more likely to.

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Respond because I feel like we have a much better connection as opposed to.

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Emails, which are just very generic, which are, like, oh, I think the projects you've done at Instagram are really cool. It's like, okay, that, that basically could be anyone. So, the more personalized, the more likely it is.

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That I think people reply to that. All right I just searched, found them on Angeles and their website is not loading. So I assume they're not operational. Unfortunately, they each software. It looks really cool though. I like the idea behind it.

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Definitely trouble, I'm going to make some research on that stuff and if I'm going to find something similar to our sorcerers, we'll definitely include the link in description at this episode. Thank you Mike for that idea.

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So, people check it out if you want to use something like that.

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Probably chances are there are still chances that I found something cool. And it's gonna be in the description of this episode.

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So moving on to the last 2 question of today's episodes alertings, as you said, you know, working at an early stage, start.

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He's like jumping into the deep end of the pool and.

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Now, you either learn a lot, or you drown I guess so tell us a little bit more about what you'll learn at those early stage start specifically.

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I think 1 of the major learnings I've had, which which I wish I knew when I, when I started.

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But I think it kind of took me working on all these different stages to realize is that there's no silver bullet in business. So when you're trying to build a product, there's no 1 true way to do things.

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And unfortunately, I think a lot of the.

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A lot of the literature around.

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Like, that successful people write about their journeys.

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Ends up having a little bit of a.

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Of a bias where it kind of starts to seem like.

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The success was inevitable, but.

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Um, I think the book that I personally like, the most that gives the most accurate.

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Description of the past, I think is Ben Horowitz is the hard thing about hard things. I think that's 1 where the author really, really honestly.

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Docks about how difficult the journey of the startup is and how.

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In so many cases, you think that there is no way out and.

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So, when I was working at my 1st startup.

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It often felt like companies like Uber and Instagram and Facebook. They just, like, knew the answer and.

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It kind of felt like there was something missing, which you needed to know such that you could go there as well. But what I found was.

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So, for instance, when I moved to over, I learned that over would just be running so many experiments all the time, uh, which kind of gave me an understanding that even doesn't really know.

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All is doing is setting up a system, such that.

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The chance of success increases, because they're able to try out more things. And if any of those work, then you can really, really.

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Double down and push your resources in that direction and.

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Um, even that Instagram, for instance, over the last.

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4 or 5 years a tick Docs obviously gotten really popular.

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And, like from the outside, you would assume that the cause Instagram has this really large user base.

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And just this large group of talented people who have been working in the same industry that they would be able to predict what is the next thing that's coming that's going to be.

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That's going to really be hot in the world.

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And honestly, I don't think people know, like, it's just you try things out certain things work.

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You try to learn from it, but assuming that just because you were successful in the past.

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You now know exactly what it takes to be successful in the future.

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I think that's a fallacy. And I think the main takeaway from that is.

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To firstly not be discouraged if you haven't found the answer, because.

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It is really hard and the, the key component in eventually finding the answer is to always keep going and.

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That doesn't mean that you don't take breaks. That means you do whatever it takes.

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Do realize that it's a marathon and.

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Take care of yourself as you need to so that you maximize your chance of success.

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100%, that's very true. I've seen way too many failures who are bragging about how they're working for 1416 hours per day or weeks. I'm like, come on snagging.

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The last says, just don't do this yourself as it going to be real said add so definitely on the same page with you my on here. Definitely. Good advice and.

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Yeah, I mean, no, 1 really knows what's going to happen. So just keep trying stuff move fail repeat fail repeat 1 day maybe. Is it going to work out so on this very, very, very optimistic note.

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We're moving on to the very last question of today's up as a, which is a call to action. So my, what do you want to do? As soon as the episode is over.

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I invite people to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Instagram. My Instagram is 7. M. A. C. E7 Mac.

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Um, yeah, feel free to connect me connect with me. Honest on.

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Linkedin or email me for any music related projects for sure. But happy to help out in whatever way I can.

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Nice perfect. I'm going to make sure to leave that link to your answer in the description. This episode E7 Mac people check it out. I'll also leave link to your LinkedIn and the descriptions episode and yeah, that's going to be my call to action. People.

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Check it out the description is always going to have quite a few things, including the book from interesting hardware. It's the hard thing value hard things and.

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A bunch of other stuff so yeah, go check it out. Connect with my young. You never know when you're gonna jump into the musical industry and you're going to need help. So connect early, get in touch and.

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Then leverage the connection, and as usually people have a good date.