Why I Went Back To Work/”Office”

Those of you who know me know I stopped “working at a job” a long time ago — I went to Yahoo! India last in 2005, did a mobile search startup — Ziva — upto 2009 and since then have been running Linger. I have been dabbling in some formal/informal/paid/unpaid consulting assignments for startups right through — mostly related to product strategy and thinking — but never went back to a job.

Because after a bit, I realized I’m NSFW. Not Suitable For Work.

I can honestly not stand cubicles, appointment calendars, long documents for everything, meetings which drag on and on without a clear point, ego and turn battles, insecurities and pretence — stuff you lose touch with as an entrepreneur. Scratch that — stuff you lose touch with as a bootstrapper.

And then, earlier this year, I went back to a “job”. I joined Reverie Language Tech as VP of Products. Pretty much out of the blue.

Obviously, “Why?” “What happens to Linger?” “WTF, dude?”

I’ve been helping Reverie, or rather Arvind, for a while now. Informally for a long time, and more recently, a little formally, helping think through product direction in whatever way I could. And more recently, was helping find someone to tactically lead product direction and strategy — that’s a skill not very easy to find for a company building around a deep tech stack in a nascent but potentially massive market. So Arvind joked about it making sense for me to get on board myself instead.

Around the same time I was in the midst of realizing that I was the bottleneck at Linger, and starting to create a team — who all started doing a better job of all the bits immediately! That both made things smoother operationally, and freed me up to think, plan ahead, restrategize.

It also freed up time, and I actually took Arvind’s joke seriously. I was also thinking about getting funding for Linger, and the cash-flow would help not worry about that and avoid “market” pressure on something I truly want to grow right for the right reasons! So it was a very nice win-win.

And the best part, it’s not been a “job” at all.

Reverie’s a place that’s growing, and creating both tech, and almost a market itself. There’s enough and more evidence that reach to large markets is a function of speaking their language, and that’s bound to happen digitally as well (Well, it already might be!).

And Reverie’s furiously building a ton of stuff for that. From the basics of beautiful, usable, readable fonts, practical keyboards across languages, APIs for localization, to R&D on TTS, OCR, understanding context, concepts in many languages, and seamlessly across languages (and creating tools around these), to even understanding the ideas, and even the sets of users that exist behind these languages that may be coming on board to the internet for the first time ever. Collectively, these are some of the toughest unsolved problem in computing.

But that’s not just why this is worth doing, or fun.

It’s a startup that’s won phase-I, and phase-II is both exciting and scary. It’s a place where there’s possibilities, and an open-minded approach to meeting those possibilities. It’s a startup — unlike so many others I know and hear about — not driven by the desire for a quick flip and valuation games, but by the passion around the problems, the desire to scale themselves and the solutions up to solve them, and to make it a truly equal internet and digital world for the users of Indic and other native languages, the tools for whom lag English massively.

Crazily enough, even the investors are on board with that thought an vision!

It helps that I have a lot of freedom in deciding where this is all headed, and that the team’s starting to think and act big, independent and ambitiously. And also calling out what we think is not going to work, or gets in the way. It’s what startup culture should be about.

I’m not a founder here, but this is as much about entrepreneurship as Linger is. And truth be told, the energy is infectious and discussions a lot of fuel for thought after a long time of being solopreneur.

So yes, I’m “back in office” :)

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