It’s a good thing that Faqden Labs’ latest iPad application is designed to help groups of employees manage and collaborate on projects in Basecamp. After all, the 18-person company is distributed across the globe, from Seattle to Silicon Valley to India.
Co-founder and CTO Sridhar Nallani, who is based in the Seattle area, thinks that geographic distribution actually is a benefit rather than a curse.
“Being in different locations helps us evangelize our products and network with more entrepreneur and technical communities,” says Nallani, who co-founded the mobile app development company last year with Irfan Mohammed and Vandana Telikacharla.
We chatted with the 32-year-old Nallani for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “ We make mobile apps that are easy to use and make your life simpler. We’d never make an app that we wouldn’t use it ourselves.”
Inspiration hit us when: “We noticed time and again how app makers didn’t understand the central tenets of user experience design and how hard it was to use most of the mobile apps. The traditional application developers’ DNA is often hard-wired to turn anything into an engineering project, as opposed to a simple and dumb couple of screens that get the job done and don’t suck.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We are bootstrapped currently. We wanted to prove ourselves first as a founding team before asking anyone to bet on us. We also like our freedom of making decisions and would like to have it for as long as possible. But we acknowledge that at some point in the future, investors would be the right choice to get to the next level and we will surely consider it when we get there.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “ Complementary capabilities. Our team right now is the coolest combination of people that feed off of each other’s positive energy and challenge each other to hurl ourselves into the next orbit of performance. I say to myself each day that one should be lucky to lead and be part of a team like this. Secondly, we try to identify the best idea of all the ideas, and it doesn’t matter whose idea it is but as a team we always stand behind the best idea. And one last thing is that we are not afraid to wake up each day and re-strategize and improvise in our startup.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “A clear responsibility definition between the team members and consciously keeping our noses out of each other’s business. This is often easier said than done in startups. But this helps in executing strategy at a very quick pace, which is the very important for a startup’s survival. We recognized early on that democracy is best suited for governments but not so much for startups, so we decided that we each take ownership of certain business areas and lead it to success without becoming a bottleneck to others.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “It may sound corny, but really all I can think of regretting is why we couldn’t come together years ago and have done something awesome by now. But beyond that, we believe in risk-taking and we don’t shy away from making mistakes, if they help us learn new ways of doing things.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “ Jobs or Gates are visionaries and creators and expert businessmen, but I somehow I don’t connect with their style. Bezos is again a great CEO, but I don’t agree with some things he does. I would love to have Zuckerberg in my corner. I admire the way he turned down big bucks for Synapse. I don’t care what they say about him, but he is alright in my book.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “ We have an internal definition of a “critical mass” and it will start when we reach that.”
Rivals should fear us because: “First, our apps such as Intellivocab and Trailhead are great brand value today and they open up opportunities for us everywhere. And secondly, we seem to have figured out how to make it work with a team that is widely distributed across the globe. Despite our timezone differences and language barriers, we are quite effective. This is a powerful key in my opinion, because this allows us to scale without limits and still execute effectively.”
We are truly unique because: “We bring a user experience lead design approach in all our apps. We always tilt the scale in favor of usability.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: For us, the long distance team member relationship was the biggest challenge. At first we were very concerned and we have been told by everyone that it never works. One thing we do often in our company is to challenge the e-myths out there. We talked through it and planned it out. The digital citizens that we are, it not only works but actually lets us be more effective.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Heart and courage are the two things you cannot do without. Entrepreneurship is risky. It’s never easy to give up your safety net, but I don’t think anyone would ever make it big playing safe. The rest you will figure out on your own.”