FirstHive @ PNGrowth2016

‘Omwana ni wa bhone’ – a famous African proverb meaning: “ Regardless of a child’s biological parents, its upbringing belongs to the community”

A cold November morning, we drove down to Devanhalli on the outskirts of Bangalore, having blocked three days to be a part of PNGrowth2016. Reading about the previous version of PNGrowth & the regular updates  coming in from Avinash, we could not wait to be there. We were hungry to learn from the journeys of other Indian products that traversed the same path successfully.

We reached the venue around 9 am and it could not have been a better start – a cup of hot tea, networking with the other founders from across the sub continent and some french cricket to break the ice (more so when we won our match! :)). The formal sessions kicked off with Shankar / Aneesh / Pallav / Shekhar / Girish setting up the context and inspiring to see the passion from Sharad for achieving iSpirit’s vision. It was already clear what mammoth effort must have gone into bringing together such stellar leaders from the the Indian Product startup space in a single room. I realised that while our asses might get kicked in these three days by this group, we were definitely going back with actionable learnings to help us grow 10X!

FirstHive was part of the Global SMB cohort with 12 other founders. With Girish (FreshDesk) and Suresh (KissFlow) as our coaches, we could not have asked for anyone better! Shankar and Aneesh took us through this session by filling in the framework for their business with generous inputs from Girish. “Bullshit!” – this word resonated many a times in the conference room that first session in various cohorts but it was accompanied by sharp inputs & perspective by the respective cohort mentors! I loved this concept so much, we are using it @FirstHive in our meetings :-) (hopefully we will slowly not have to use it that often!).  The frameworks given to succinctly define our value prop stumped many of us, led to much introspection among most founders.

As we got past the critical “Who Am I?” question, Girish and Aneesh took to the stage and walked us through what does 10X scale look like. They challenged us to imagine and define this for our respective products. Metrics and mistakes shared with respect to their growth stories made this session very relatable and actionable. The insights on the Top of the Funnel drops (TOFU), Middle of Funnel leakages (MOFU), and closure challenges, including delving into sales challenges, team structures, compensation best practices were invaluable. For us at FirstHive, this session could not have come at a better time as our internal goal was to scale 3X in 2017!

Manav and Shekhar sessions following this on sizing your market was interesting, because it gave us two different ways to look at the market, product expansion, TAM and how success can be achieved. The impact of market size on the size of your business was a recurring lesson and the important of defensibility forced us to evaluate the ‘hard to replicate’ levers for our business. There was also the quintessential point on timing that Shekhar went into and how different companies dealt with this. The learnings from Aneesh on how he created his sales plan and achieved success in new markets with Capillary, Girish speaking of the challenges faced in scaling Freshdesk, and Suresh sharing the sales process that worked for him at KissFlow, Shekhar walking us through how a VC potentially looks at businesses or sectors, Pallav walking us through everything including factors that aid the result oriented culture at FusionCharts were invaluable.

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Nags (24/7) and Raghu (Taxi4Sure) walked us through their respective successes and a good glimpse into what rapid scaling could mean. Phani (RedBus) spoke to culture, defensibility of a low margin business, speaking of how and his team travelled in buses (to ensure they eat their own dog food at RedBus) and Sanjay Anandram’s story of passion to coming back to India to ignite the nascent startup industry and Sanjay Deshpande’s journey in deep tech were inspirational. Mohit’s story of how Carwale happened and culture was absolutely amazing and how important culture was to building an organisation from an idea. Pallav helped our cohort with his examples of product / market choices and culture and we found comfort in his point that sometimes good choices are retrospectively self-evident. But most founders were probably in a similar state as us – optimistic, a little confused but above all, very hungry to succeed that led to innovation & jugaad.

The whole event was wrapped up with each of the founders presenting a curated pitch to their respective cohorts which was followed by a peer review. Some of us including FirstHive were given the opportunity to  present in front of all the cohorts which helped us get some more feedback. But my note will be incomplete without a mention of the fantastic after event party where everyone hung out, loads of informal interaction & some collaboration opportunities were identified. It also would not have been easy for everyone to take three days off from their businesses & families to  spend time grooming potential future success stories like FirstHive and for this we shall remain indebted to them.

Growth Hacking after PNgrowth

We left the venue very very tired (less than 8 hours of sleep in 3 days) but our hearts were pounding & our minds were brimming with ideas – thanks to a wealth of new information, learnings that we had to internalise and apply to our business. We had to put together a 45 day GrowthHack plan for FirstHive incorporating as many ideas as we could from PNGrowth! So we set out three days of sessions with our leadership – our VP Engineering, VP Products and our VP Sales. We did similar exercises, used the frameworks, shouted out BullShit many times and eventually got to a plan for FirstHive! We are now pursuing a master list of 8 initiatives across the company: Our singular goal – get ready for 3X growth in 2017!

iSPIRT’s  mission is to transform India into a nation where the best of breed global products will germinate from and with PNGrowth they have truly provided us at FirstHive and all the others who were there, with the tools to go ahead & take “ pandas  in the global marketplace. We  hope to say our thanks by making FirstHive a leader in the B2C Cross Channel Marketing space. If there is one thing that was exceptional about PNGrowth, to me it was True learning – No halos, no facades, no bullshit! Honest dialogues with real examples from folks who traversed the same path which were are on today. The willingness of these founders to openly share their internal growth numbers and metrics that can help us benchmark our business, sharing with us mistakes made to ensure that we do not repeat those – this was truly ‘Omwana ni wa bhone’ in practice.

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