Helpchat CEO: Ankur Singla’s trip down the memory lane
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” — Steve Jobs
We had the Helpchat team retreat last weekend at Elim Resorts located on the Kanakpura Road. It was a two day affair where Helpchat employees from 3 different offices came to Bangalore for a weekend to chill and interact with other teams. While the fancy resort, the endless drinking sessions, or the opportunity to interact with other teams was certainly fun, the thing that everyone ended up loving the most was the Open House. To give context: Open house is a monthly event where Ankur, Helpchat CEO and founder shares the way forward for the company and how we did in the previous month against various goals.
This Open House was slightly different than the monthly event as here in addition to talking about Helpchat’s phenomenal progress in last couple of months, Ankur also shared some interesting stories and anecdotes from the early days of the Helpchat journey.
It all started small with a 2BHK house in Kalkaji, Delhi. From there to the first office — basement of a bank in Kalkaji. It seemed like such a big upgrade in those days!
This is what the office looked like before we moved in. It was infested with rats and cockroaches but that didn’t deter the enthusiasm of the team.
Ankur also shared stories of how once he put his own picture on the landing pages of the website so that conversions improve. Like Reid Hoffman said: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
One instance which I found particularly inspiring was when Vishal, our CTO had come to visit our basement office. At that time, the office looked like this:
We were a bootstrapped company then and Vishal had already sold a startup in the Valley for which he had raised $3M earlier. When he saw the office, he said: “Are, itna bariya office hai!” ( English: Wow, it is such an awesome office!). He was really excited to see how our office truly reflected a frugal startup atmosphere and according to him it was the perfect setup for working at the scale we were. So these simple words, made it clear to everyone that great startups are not about fancy offices but amazing teams.
Here’s what our next office looked like:
From those early beginnings, over time, the company built a bigger team, found better product market fits and ultimately built an office like this in the heart of Bangalore:
Ankur also talked about how we tried a lot of experiments to increase traction and how a lot of them failed. But, failure is a big part of success and the wrong experiments motivated him and the team to figure out the right way.
This quote by Jack Ma sums up our journey beautifully: “Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine”.
The session left all of us super-pumped up: here’s the entire jubilant Helpchat team after the 2 hour long session.
This is the note Ankur ended with:
“Never forget where we came from, keep having fun, and make the most of your time. Life’s short. We always figure shit out. We’ll keep changing. We’re survivors. We’ll win.”