Bobby Sharma, a Nepali immigrant to USA, posts this heartwarming letter dedicated to his daughter on her birthday.
As I look back Urvi, I find it absolutely astounding to realize over the last few years, that our exchanges never included American Girls, Cabbage patch dolls, gummy bears, fancy sneakers, One Direction numbers, Jessie and Liv & Maddy. Instead we spoke about BLM movement, Larry Nassar’s trial, Geoffrey Epstein’s suicide, MeToo crusade and what it means to live a life as a colored kid in a Southern state in Trump’s America.
We spoke of my life in Nepal, my struggle as an immigrant in America, the challenges we faced to raise you all by ourselves and how you should espouse maturity at an early age, save, invest, be frugal, understand how important gratitude is and how you must learn to introduce empathy, compassion, integrity and humility to yourself. We also spoke of importance of grades and getting into better college, toxic masculinity, belligerent feminists who cry foul at every male mistake but do little for their sorority, cute boys with only one intent, sullen old men with same intent, the pleasure of casual sex, the shock of unwanted pregnancy, debilitating heartbreaks, flailing careers, distressing anxieties and throes of defeats. But to rise up to those challenges and to address them correctly is what will define your success as a woman.
Very soon, you will be introduced to alcohol and cigarette, or worse yet – pot. There will be stupors of passion and episodes of depressions, someone at some point will always be smarter, richer and prettier than you; and honestly at one point it will seem everyone else is. To retreat is so human, to throw in the towel is so anticipated and so is swallowing a bar of Xanax. But great leaders voluntarily launch themselves out of their comfort zone, create their niche and shake things up as a part of their self-rescue plan and that is what I expect you to do. Remember, there is no growth in comfort and no comfort in growth. Also everyone makes bad decisions – poor girls end up with toothless Bubba, rich girls marry Kanye West. But to learn from other’s mistake is what makes you smart. Gone are the days when you learn from your own.
I hope you could get into Bowdoin or Dartmouth, but wouldn’t bat a sweat if you choose to enroll into Billy Bob’s trailer park community college if that’s what makes you happy. If you choose to be a mother Teresa, the world will remember you, but very few people wish to hang out with you. So instead, adopt the philosophies of Ellen, Oprah, Angela Merkel, Indira Gandhi, Indra Nooyi, Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg et al. Be a fighter, but with logic, smarts and prudence.
And as Lee Ann Womack aptly put it –
….when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…..I hope you dance!
Happy 16th Birthday Urvi Grace Sharma!
Broke To Billion: Setting The Priorities Right
This is a journal writing of KMAG Founder in an attempt to share his thoughts, ideas, learning and lessons, stories and experiences, during his journey towards the unknown. The introductory note on this journal writing project can be read HERE, where you can learn about what he is up to and why he is doing it. You are reading the third page from the journal. You can read the second page HERE.
When you are building a company, one of the most confusing part is setting the priorities right. Your head is constantly bombarded with lots of ideas and thoughts. Some of them are things you need to do and some of them are things you want to do and finding the right balance between “need” and “want” is the secret recipe to success. After all, business is all about connecting dots and those dots must be in order.
My weakness has been shooting randomly in infinite possibilities; wasting too much time over things or people of less importance, and I learned in the hard way that if I don’t set my priorities right, I am never going to accomplish anything in life. As Harry Lloyd right said, “Success is only another form of failure if we forget what our priorities are.” So, for this project, I have been trying to be very strict, very clear, and very focused over things I need to do according to the set priorities.
In business, there is no one thing after another. Everything must go parallelly or simultaneously. So I have been telling priorities and not priority. For now, my priorities are related to building the team, raising the fund, kickstarting the marketing, and product development, along staying in close communication with the IT Unit to supervise the app development progress. Rotating the 4 wheels and overviewing the fifth wheel strictly according to set target and deadline should be my utmost priority. For that, I needed to strictly set targets for myself and formulate right strategies according to the deadlines. Today, it’s March 11, 2022 and in two weeks, I needed to bring together all the pieces to successfully launch the app. Sitting in a newly-opened lounge, Copacabana, located at Gairdihara, which has been my recently-discovered favourite place for its ambiance and the feel I get with sunset views, I started brainstorming over what should be my targets, strategies to accomplish them, and deadlines to tame my otherwise shooting-star like mind.
I need at least, one million Nepalese rupees (excluding App development cost) to kickstart this project. As said in the earlier post, I only had two options to get the number – pre-sale and loan/borrowing. I had once a talk with Rohit Tiwar, CEO of Hamrobazar and renowned entrepreneur from the town regarding the pre-sale idea. He had cautiously advised me with his argument that it’s good to raise money through pre-orders but should also keep in mind that those people who would give you money in advance are your true believers and just in case, you fail to deliver the product on time, you are going to give a bad name to yourself which is not a good thing to do, especially on such ambitious and yet-to-be-tested product. He has learned through his own project that whatsoever, app development rarely goes per set timeline. He had warned me to touch the prospective subscribers only when I am 101% sure of delivering the product on time; otherwise, better don’t touch them for now. After that talk, he made me think about the earlier idea of raising funds through pre-sale.
With that, I am left with only one option and that is loan/borrowing. The thing with the loan is it really makes you think all the right questions because in the end, you are to return the money and you don’t want to borrow money without knowing what do you plan to do with the money. “What do I want to do with the money?” I asked myself. I need to set up an office, yes. I need to build the team, yes. I need to spend over marketing, yes. I need to produce/sponsor/purchase content, yes. But then, there is no limit to it. Even with the millions of subscribers, Netflix still needs money to set up new offices, for marketing, for content, for team building. This got me thinking, “how much do I actually need for now, to begin with?.” I opened the excel sheet and start putting my thoughts and ideas into realistic numbers to get the answers.
As I said above, what you want is one thing and what you need is another thing and the secret recipe to success is knowing to balance between wants and needs. I started searching for the answer by digging through where do I want to see 1 month from now and what do I need to get there. I want to see an office full of people doing amazing things to get 1000 subscribers for the month. So I need money for an office, for people, and for activities to get 1000 subscribers. My rough calculation says I will be needing at least 5 lakhs per month, to begin with. This cost is excluding IT Units since Cloudyfox takes care of that side of expenses. Thus, with one million, I can start the business at an ease. But to be on a safer side, I need at least 3 months’ backup. That means having 3 million will be good to go. I needed to figure out where do I get that money from. So, I started making a list of people that I can reach out to for the money.
If I am to have 30 lakhs in a month, I need to collect 1 lakh a day. That’s a hell of a target. I don’t know how I am going to do that until I don’t try. All I know is, raising funds should be my right priority to set.
To me, everything in this world is all about constant time value versus infinite numbers. Time is constant for all. Everyone gets the same number of hours each day and on average everyone has the same amount of years to work actively. However, some make fortune in life and some don’t because the former could play well with infinite numbers against the constant time value. The team is thus one of the factors in the equation of success. The bigger the efficient team, the bigger the possibilities to succeed. The dream starts with a person but reality happens with the right team. Team building is thus a very important aspect of any ambitious project.
There are basically two ways of building a team. Either find people who get sold to your idea to work for free, or find people who get sold out to your offer to work for salary. Both are right approaches, but in this project I am opting to take the latter path to begin with, and that’s because: First, I am not in the position to offer good pay to anyone to work for salary. Secondly, for project like this, it’s better to have lots of volunteers to work for your dream and cause that blends perfect energy and spirit to take the project to desire height through synergy, where everyone believes in you. I believe it’s very important to be surrounded by people who believe in you than be surrounded by people who are working for money and not for the vision and dream you have set. Last but not the least, volunteers are more open to spread out your thoughts and ideas and visions and dreams to larger audience than paid workers. Think like this, if you have a team of salaried individuals working on a project, there is a high chance, they will limit the project to themselves without going around to people talking about what they are up to, whereas volunteers will be loud and proud on what they are involved with because volunteers are very personal and emotional and passionate about the project – that’s why they are volunteering even when they could simply not work for free.
Saying that I didn’t mean I want to run the project forever with the volunteers. Sooner or later, I will be needing individuals with fat paycheck demand but before I myself reach to the state, I must take the project to a certain height where everyone is involved out of passion and shared beliefs.
As part of the team building, I also need to identify key partners to complete the workflow.
Marketing should start way before the product is launched. I read that somewhere. KMAG APP is to be launched in a month’s time, but marketing has to be started right away so that it builds the needed ground and buzz to position the product in the market. However, I don’t want to be too loud yet not too cliche. While writing this, I have not really thought about how, but I guess, marketing runs on my nerves. Moreover, for now, my targeted audience is niche and someone I have read and observed for so long, that I assume I somehow know how to spark and tickle the minds to prepare for the product in the line. But then, knowing is not power, implementation is.
For that, I need to sit down and pen down everything so meticulously, tactically and strategically that in a month’s time, everything will orchestrate to create a perfect symphony for the world to dance along with. This means it has to start RIGHT NOW making it equally of high priority.
As said in the earlier post, Our product is content, creator, and creation. So while the container is under development, with a deadline to be ready in a month’s time, I need to start working simultaneously on developing the product that includes content from the in-house team and independent content creators. I also need to onboard content creators that people will be willing to pay for that including educators and experts, and need to discover creations that people will be willing to buy. There is so much to do in this regard, and to be honest, I have not started anything but for a strange reason, I am confident that I will somehow pull it through. After all content, creator, and creation is the forever part of this business, but saying that I can’t just fold hands and that builds the pressure in me to buckle up and start working on.
In short, getting the fund, building the team, planning the marketing and developing the product are the 4 wheels for me to immediately work on that if I delay is going to delay the project and its success itself. So on March 11, 2022, I marked them as my top priorities. But then, all that means shit. Execution is the game.”
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Broke To Billion: First Step
This is a journal writing of KMAG Founder in an attempt to share his thoughts, ideas, learning and lessons, stories and experiences, during his journey towards the unknown. The introductory note on this journal writing project can be read HERE, where you can learn about what he is up to and why he is doing it.
What I shared earlier on KMAG is just an idea. App itself is not a product. It’s a technology to deliver the idea. Netflix started as a DVD-distribution company, later evolved into a web and app-based streaming company. NYT has been there for centuries, been doing the same thing, just that they are now more heavy on web and app, but their app itself is not the product. Likewise, KMAG App itself isn’t a product but a technology used to pursue our business idea. Tomorrow, as the world evolves into more complex technology, we will have something else accordingly – maybe multiverse KMAG or blockchain-based; devices being hand watch or wall or robots.
What I have learned over time is, an idea should be as such that it needs to exhibit the ability to evolve to any form and direction without losing its core vision, to be called a “scalable” or “long-lasting” business idea. If the idea is only to solve or address or touch present reality and in itself is destined to die in the absence of the problem or trend, then to me it’s not a scalable or lasting business idea. I have always been very clear that KMAG stands for addressing the fundamental human needs of the quest to know, the quest to learn. However, I was confused about who would be paying for it – people themselves or the advertisers? And I finally settled with “people.” Thus, KMAG as an idea is about selling content, opportunity, and creation. Today, it happens through the web and app, tomorrow it may be multiverse over VR and what, not all (or if the world turns dystopian, we may go back to paper and slates. Nevertheless, doing the same things.) But then, it’s just an idea.
Business is 1% idea and 99% execution. That’s what Gary Vaynerchuk, an internet personality and entrepreneur, famously said “Ideas are shit. Execution is the game.” Everyone has an idea, and that makes me 1 amongst billions. Once the app is out, I will be narrowing myself down to millions, maybe!!. Still nothing extraordinary though. I needed to get execution right and before all that, I should be having a solid base to formulate my execution plan, a clear theoretical framework, and a defined roadmap according to which I am to start my journey to thousand miles. So, my first step was to build the base.
The thing about being a start-up is, when you have a dream to build a billion-dollar company, you need to think like a corporate but work as a shopkeeper. Thinking like a corporate, the first thing I needed was a Board of Directors. On March 5th, 2022, we officially formed a Board of Directors with me, Sambriddha, and Subhash being the seating members. The plan is to onboard a few more people to make it a board of 12 members.
Vision & Goals
Being the founder, I was to set the vision and goals and it has been always clear between us that our vision is to create an informed and joyful society with shared values and beliefs and our goal for now as soon as the app is launched is to get 1000 subscribers or revenue of min 3 lakhs and max 20 lakhs. Theoretically speaking, the board is to set the vision, goals, roadmaps, and funnel resources based on which company to function under the leadership of the CEO. We didn’t follow any hard and fast rule because the whole understanding between me, Samriddha, and Subash has been that Cloudyfox takes care of all the expenses related to IT and everything else is on me.
The set vision and goals were agreed upon by three of us, technically the board. The next thing to do would be to get the resource and build an execution team accordingly. Or, plan the execution team right and get the resource accordingly. You can start a business with either philosophy. It all depends on your risk appetite. End of the day, what matters is succeeding to achieve the set goals. I chose to go with the latter. There comes the organogram.
There are various modalities in practice when it comes to organizational structure. I didn’t want to be obsessed with any specific modality and rather think of a model that would suit me, that would suit my organizational goal, and would fit into the envisioned company that I am working on to build, and above all that, I needed a framework that would match with my reality. For that, I needed a great deal of thinking and analyzing everything from all pros and cons aspects. I often search for the answer by going for a long walk. After walking for 2 hours thinking about every possible structure, I settled with a self-invented modality according to which KMAG will have 4 Units that will function as an independent wheel rotating the KMAG Wheel. Those 4 units are:
- Business Unit under which falls Marketing Department, Sales Department, Branding Department, PR & Communication Department, Business Development Department, Research Department, and Creative Department. This unit will be led by Chief of Business Unit.
- Management Unit, under which falls HR Department, Admin Department, Account/Finance Department, and Compliance Department. This unit will be led by Chief of Management Unit.
- Production Unit, under which falls Content Department, Creator Department, and Creation Department. This unit will be led by Chief of Production Unit.
- IT Unit, under which falls everything related to IT. This unit will be led by Chief of IT Unit.
In this modality, all four units hold equal significance and hold the same hierarchy with each unit having its own chief, and CEO being chief of all chiefs.
So with that, our organogram was done based on which we needed to build a team.
When it came to team building according to the set units, at this initial stage, we didn’t have much to do for IT Units since the unit is led by Cloudyfox itself, Subash being Chief of IT Unit. It’s my role to build and lead the remaining 3 units as a founder of the company starting from the position for CEO. Considering our resources and status of the company, I filled all the roles, from CEO to Chief of the business unit, management unit, production unit, and as well needed to play the roles of heads from each Unit until I don’t find the right candidates to take the job.
At this point, it felt like being a Prime Minister keeping all the ministerial portfolios with yourself until the cabinet is fully formed.
Thus, on the paper, the team building is also done for now. But for actual team building, I need to ensure good enough seed-funding to meet the needs and expectations of soon-to-be-hired team members, until we don’t generate enough revenue to self-sustain.
Money to business is like fuel, without which no matter how promising and clear vision you have, you won’t be reaching to the destination. Of course, you don’t need to be full-tank to begin your journey but you need to have a plan and precise calculation regarding each stop and station to refill the tank.
There are only 4 legitimate ways of getting money:
I had made a rough calculation on how much funds would I need to run a fully-functioning KMAG as per the vision and goals, and it came out to be 50 to 60 lakhs per month. I know that’s a hell lot of money but I don’t need that much money right away to begin with. I, for now, need money to build a small team focusing on launching the app and acquiring 1000 subscribers, which according to my calculation would cost me around 3 lakhs per month. Since I was broke, I needed to manage the fund to help me sustain for 3 months at that estimated cost of 3 lakhs, which is like 1 million Nepalese rupees.
I was not in the mood to raise investment for now as I didn’t want to dilute equity at this stage. I can’t take donations because I am not NGO/INGO and being a for-profit/private limited company, I find it ethically wrong to seek donations or gifts to fund your for-profit company. So, I was left with two options. Either borrow/take a loan or sell something. Or, try both. I chose to try out both options – bootstrapping from friends and family/relatives and also, start taking orders from prospective clients and customers.
But How? That’s the hardest part. Breaking down the project, raising funds in itself is a project where “bootstrapping from F&F” is an idea, which is just 1% of work. Execution is the key. Also, it’s much easier to decide about team structure, team culture, values and missions, and so on but it’s a very very hard decision to make on anything that involves money from a third person. You want money but not at the cost of your own brand and integrity and finding the balanced approach is very important. So, it’s always wise to listen to people who had previously worked on funding and pre-orders.
The next task for me would be to find the answers on what could be a balanced approach, and find the people who could be part of things I outlined in “First Step.”
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KMAG App: A solution to a modern problem
Incorporating years of knowledge and understanding on content consumption behaviour of modern human world and the challenges that came along with, we are launching a web and mobile app. This article tells you everything that you should know.
What is the biggest threat to humanity in modern times? Would say, climate change comes the first, second being disinformation and ignorance, which is threatening the fundamental pillars of humanity, tearing apart the social fabrics, and the toxic and highly polarized world created by social media and other user-generated content platforms. Every country, every society, every community has been deeply feeling the same. How did we reach here? What went so terribly wrong that the information ecosystem is choking humanity out of toxicity and distrust?
Shared values, collective consciousness, a civilized form of debates and discussions, basic scientific disciplines on information dissemination, and accountability and responsibility from all the stakeholders in the ecosystem are the building blocks of a peaceful, tolerant, cooperative, and coexisting human world.
As Yuval Noah Harari said, humans live in stories and the only way to unite and coordinate with millions of humans without ever meeting them in person is by encircling them around the same story. Or in other words, setting a common goal, based on shared values and philosophies, that everyone would cooperate to march towards. That’s how religion could survive for so long connecting millions over the same narratives and morales. Religion is faith-based stories, historically protected by state and community. Science is evidence/experiment-based stories that come to the public only after passing through peer review – the reason why, in the modern world, it’s taken more seriously and is widely trusted. Nonetheless, both are stories. Just like religion and science, conspiracies as well are a form of stories; disinformation and propaganda are also a form of stories with the same ability to connect and unite humans without ever meeting them in person. Social media and content distribution platforms became fertile land for them to weed out because there was no guard as editor or moderator to keep the check.
Historically speaking, the spreading of stories, ideas and concepts were controlled and moderated by those in power. With the rise of liberalism and freedom of expression, power was bestowed to publishers and editors. Then came the internet and social media, which empowered every single individual to be a storyteller. Initially, it was all good. Voiceless got platforms to voice. Alternative thoughts and ideas got space to connect with alternative minds. The general public could challenge media narratives and news. Blogs, vlogs, audio/visual storytelling, pictures, memes, became a new reality. It was all good. But as time passed by, there came the monetization opportunity. The content economy became a new form of livelihood; as engaging over the internet and social media became a new form of human behavior, it opened a door for politics to use it as a political tool. That’s when things started getting scary and ugly.
Just 20 years back, it would not be easy for an individual to spread opinions like Covid is a hoax or the earth is flat and influence many thousands because such kind of misinformation would not pass through editor boards or guards of information flow. This is what went wrong with the modern world. It is not the platform or internet itself but the way it works. We live in a world where any information can reach to millions without a check and validation from a moderator or editor or expert. To make things worse, a guy with zero credibility can manage to get millions of followers just by paying money to the platform for likes and subscriptions, and then can spew whatever he wants to and guess what? He can even boost to reach millions. WOW!! What a mockery of the human world we let to happen. How easy has it become to confuse and misinform or seed values and concepts that would tear apart social fabrics and fundamentals of the modern world just by throwing a few bucks to those platforms? And who is given the job to decide good guys from bad guys? Right information from wrong? A freaking AI and bots. A judgment power that only humans can make is given to strings of codes . What do you expect?
All this happened because of their ad-based business model. The problem with the ad-based business model is, you can earn more money only by reaching out to more people. So, the whole business logic is always based on how to reach more people, get more views, hook more people to your platform, bombard them with content that has the potential to grab more attention, more clicks, more engagements. Amidst, learn about users precisely to learn about their interests to push them right ads, and so on to make more money from advertisers. Likewise, monetization policy is also not based on the usefulness of content but views it can succeed to get, giving birth to clickbait and sensational headlines. Also, monetization policy naturally programs content creators to think more from “how to get more views” instead of thinking from “how to be useful.” If people are likely to click news related to “number of deaths from Covid,” why will a content creator write about an informative or educational article that actually holds more usefulness and impact. Because of such a carrot-and-stick policy, content creators are forced to think from what matters to algorithms than what matters to people.
To put it in a perspective, think like this. A business idea to send a magazine to millions of people every week for free. You don’t need to care if the content in it is useful and helpful or not. Just make sure it has all the elements for people to give a look at, at least once. And you go to advertisers and tell them that you have millions of subscribers and earn money from advertisers. The sole purpose of such a business idea is, not to educate and inform people, but to distribute the copy to as many as possible so that could earn more from ads. Facebook, YouTube, or Tiktok or even Google is fundamentally similar business idea. Just that, unlike paper magazine, it collects content from users and wrapt it under their brand and take to millions.
To sum up, the mother of all our misinformation and toxicity is:
- User-generated content with power to influence millions regardless of credibility. These users can create their own page, channel; pay the platform to buy followers, boost to get more reach. Basically, Social media and Internet has made it possible for anyone to pass their opinion on any issue or topic without holding any knowledge or expertise on the subject, yet influence millions by framing their arguments in a deceiving way. Or, a state or agency pretending to be true and spread propaganda and vested interest.
- Zero human involvement as editor or moderator before those content get to people. Until and unless serious flagging and mass reporting, in the eyes of social media and search engine, everyone is talking sense. It itself holds no responsiblity and accountability of what spreads through their platform.
- Ad-based business model, that is driven by more views, more clicks, more sharing, more engagement, and more data trading to ensure more ad revenue. Thus, all their investment, thinking, team mobilization is somehow guided by how to hook people to their platform, how to get them engaged, how to analyze all their moves and interests and feed them ads accordingly.
- Content creators earning are solely dependent on views that their content can get and not the importance or usefulness of their content, making every content creator focused over being viewable and clickable than being impactful and useful.
Thus, the KMAG App is born, which is here to fix the aforementioned issues and problems that modern humans are facing and struggling to tackle. Since we have rightly identified the problems, causes behind them, we believe we have found the perfect solution to those problems.
To understand, what KMAG App will be all about, you first need to know what we are not.
A. We don’t sell ads.
B. Since we are not ad-based business, we are naturally not designed to be addictive. We are not here to hook you forever and not watch every move of yours to sell data to advertisers.
C. We are not social media to connect you with thousands of people to socialize and engage.
D. We are not a user-generated content distribution platform.
E. We are not AI and bots governed product.
A. We sell subscriptions and the marketplace for digital content and activities.
B. We only feed content and digital activities to its subscribers that should matter to them, which comes through experts and trusted content creators under direct supervision and involvement of our editors and team.
C. We are more like a library or say a digital world to learn and listen from fellow humans with an ability to guide and mentor or entertain in a healthy and useful way.
D. We buy or produce content just like Neflix and the hand-picked content are distributed to our subscribers according to their interests and needs.
E. We are by-humans-for-humans tech platforms where tech is involved only for better user-experience purposes.
To put it simply, we are a pocket library and club that you visit when you want to, not to kill time but to learn and listen from the right source and individuals, so that the little time invested would help you to grow personally and professionally; help you learn and understand things that should matter to you; where you don’t need to be feared to be treated like a product, exploited and used. It covers: Read, Watch, Scroll, Talk, Learn, Shop, and Event. Imagine of an app, that you log in to before going to bed, and you read through articles that matter to you, watch videos, go through quick notes and images; can involve in discussions on topics that matter to you; meet people who hold the ability to teach you, guide, mentor you. A quiet and serene place where no one is watching you; no toxicity, no show-off but only knowledge and information sharing; arts and creativity in display. You spend an hour over and you log out to sleep peacefully with extra learned, extra informed, extra better you.
That’s what KMAG will be. The app is under development for now. We plan to launch the app in April among the limited number of individuals before we become publically available for all. If you want to be among those first groups of individuals, please fill out the sign-up form below.