Austin Kleon at the HOW design conference

I see a lot of presentations in my profession. I give a lot of them too… so I’m hard to please. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed Austin’s keynote presentation at the HOW design conference. He’s a terrific speaker and storyteller and I love good storytellers. He walked us through these 10 rules for creative people and a lot of them rang true for me as a product manager:

  1. Steal like an artist. (from the best and many at a time)
  2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started. – you are never going to have it all figured out.
  3. Write the book you want to read.
  4. Use your hands.
  5. Side projects and hobbies are important.
  6. The secret: do good work and share it with people.
  7. Geography is no longer our master.
  8. Be nice. (The world is a small town.)
  9. Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)
  10. Creativity is subtraction.

What I loved hearing was:

Steal from the best, surround yourself with the best. If you are the best person in the room, change the room. So.. as a product manager, unless you are working with smarter people, you are are not going to get any better at what you do. I guess this works for all disciplines and careers and not just product management. This made me wonder if I’m learning new things in my discipline or not. I don’t think I am. I have to make my career more exciting for me and seek new mentors.

Here’s more about Austin. He’s awesome and his story about Winston Smith and how it all came around many years later is beautiful. Everyone should be so lucky. Here’s the story:


Crowdfunding Students – Interesting concept

I heard the economist article on crowdfunding students this week and was inspired to write this post.

While government owned public colleges are still relatively cheap, education in India is getting really expensive. When I graduated in 2000, I paid INR 32000/year, which was USD 7,20/year for my engineering education. A similar private collage today costs around INR 500,000/year, which is around USD 8,800/year.

This is expensive and out of reach of most middle income Indian families. Medical colleges are even more expensive. Add to this the “capitation fee” or the backdoor admission “fees” and suddenly an average student in India, born to an middle income family earning INR 120,000/year (USD 2100) cannot pursue a professional course in India. Capitation fees or backdoor admission fees are normally paid in cash can be as high as USD 30,000 for good private colleges.

Compare this to in-state tuition in US universities and you may find that it a fair comparison.

All the companies mentioned in the article, Upstart and Pave seem to have the same idea. Get well paid and well connected individuals to fund education for upstarts/students. Since these individuals are personally invested in the career of the student, they help introduce this individual to promising opportunities. Its funny how a selfish interest is driving socially desirable goals.

Lumni seems more focussed on getting social welfare funds’ money instead of individuals’ or maybe they create a fund from money raised form individuals.

Cost of capital

Not sure how this works but students pay back 7-10% of their yearly income for the next 10 years to investors. Say you make 60,000 out of college and can get a 4% raise every year. Then this amounts to a payment of between $50,000-$72,000 over a 10 year period. I’m sure that a 3-4 year undergraduate course in the US will cost more that $100,000. So…really the play is if you, as an investor, can help make your “upstart” more successful than the cohort, then you can get a much better return on your money.. say around 7% or more.

So.. if you, as a student, expect to be successful irrespective of help from the individual investor, it might be cheaper for you to get money from the bank since the interest rates are so low in the US. Interesting conundrum as perhaps you may make even more money because of the guidance from the investor…

Use this calculator to see which loan turns out to be cheaper for you in the long run:


Lean Analytics book review


Lean* is on a roll. I read lean analytics on a plane last week and was able to get through about half of it and I liked it. I’ve recommended it to product owners on my team so that they can get a quick summary of the best practices for analytics. They have laid out the book as an “Analytics for Dummies” book.

I think the first half of the book is useful to get grounded but here are the things I did not like:

  • Focuses only on web analytics
  • Does not really discuss measuring feature use even for a web app

Here are the things I liked

What to measure

You can track many metrics, its important to collect as few metrics as you can and only the ones that you can control. For example – many product managers are not in charge of pricing or marketing or the GTM. So… should you measure customer acquisition metrics? 

Picking the right metric is more important than almost anything else.

Trust your gut

Eventually product mangers and entrepreneurs get paid for their judgement and not just for doing what people are telling them to do today. This is the only skill to hone and then measure results and course correct.


TINYpulse & company culture

I wanted to pass along this cool product that helps small companies track and build a strong company culture.

The monthly price commitment ensures that you pay attention to this important aspect of your business regularly.