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Starting Off Scrappy with TetraNoodle’s Manuj Aggarwal

April 15, 2020

Technology Coaching, Consulting, and Training.

Manuj Aggarwal is the CEO and CTO of TetraNoodle.

TetraNoodle has been on the leading edge of technical innovation and implementation for several decades. Their extensive experience with different technologies allows TetraNoodle to suggest and develop sustainable positive changes tailored to the specific needs of any business.

Learn more about how TetraNoodle can help your business implement technology by listening to this episode of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur above and don’t forget to subscribe on   Apple Podcasts – Stitcher – Spotify –Google Play –Castbox – TuneIn – RSS.

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0:00
Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, where I'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.

And with us right now we've got Manuj Aggarwal. Manuj, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for having me. Excited. You are the CEO and CTO, you got a very technical background of a of a website tetranoodle.com. And again, just kind of explain real quick kind of, if you and I were in the elevator, how you would explain what TetraNoodle does.

0:59
Yeah, so we will Work with startup founders and mid to large scale companies who need help with their technology. And we help with coaching, consulting and training. So coaching for individual entrepreneurs or startup founders, consulting for getting things done with them or for them, and then training is to train their staff on the latest technologies.

1:21
So give me some examples. When you say that a startup that maybe has a learning curve, maybe it's just, you know, getting making better use of a tech the platforms that they're using, is that kind of Am I give me some use cases of what that might look like or a chance? I guess the what I'm interested in is the problem that someone may have and go, Oh, I better listen.

1:47
So what happens is, you know, a lot of people come up with brilliant ideas about starting a startup, right? And they say this is going to change the world. Let's start working build a product or service. And now comes the hard part of actually using it, you know, figuring out, okay, what is the next step, I take that idea from your head into something that is tangible that people can pay for you, there are a lot of steps that happen between, you know, between the idea coming to your head and then producing some revenue. And there are good ways of doing things, there are bad ways of bad ways of doing things. And over the 20 years, I've seen a lot of bad ways of doing things and some good ways of doing things. So what I do is, you know, help, help startup founders take their raw idea, and apply all the good practices and everything that I have learned, which is, you know, not not mine mentioned at all, but I just tried to compress it and make it more efficient, and take the idea from where they are to something that they can start earning revenue from. And so growing,

2:49
when you talk about, you know, overcoming, you know, maybe a technical hurdle or challenge or something. So this would probably be around a product or service that they want. To develop, but maybe they don't program themselves or they've never hired programmers before? Or maybe they have, but maybe not done so very efficiently. Is that where you come in?

3:11
Yeah, exactly. So even before we hire programmers, there's a process to validate that idea. Because, you know, as entrepreneurs, we get too excited about something that so it's more about, you know, validating it, not putting any money, just going talking to people, getting some feedback and refining that idea to make sure that whatever we produce is actually going to hit the mark and is actually going to be something that people pay for. And then you go to prototype stage where you still don't build the product, you just sort of, you know, build a shell of it, and then go back and get more feedback. And then you continuously go, you know, get more feedback until you're sure okay, this is something that people will pay for and now you start hiring. And that's the next step. Where Who do you hire? How do you evaluate people? How do you make sure that you know, these are the right people? How do you save money do you want to incorporate in outsourcing into this. So these are all the challenges, you know, all the decisions you have to make. So once you have hired the team now you need to figure out how you optimize their that investment and make sure that they are doing the right thing. Because again, you know, in this industry, you can do things in a way that that can actually really strangle your growth in the future. So let's say if you're building a house, and somebody recommends you, you know, build a house without any foundation. Yes, you can live in it for a few years. But when that earthquake happens, you know, your house will be the first to get demolished, right. So putting in those foundations strong enough so that the your technology, your marketing, everything grows, as your business grows, those are some of the things that you really need to have some prior experience and, and having done these things before to be able to say, Okay, this is the right direction. This is the wrong direction.

4:52
You know, Manuj, I love what you're talking about. In fact, I'll recount a conversation I had with a friend of mine, the other day and He was interested in so he's worked in the service, you know, as kind of a consultant, men, he sees a need in doing what he does to be able to have a software solution to do elements of what he does and provide that for his clients. And so we were talking and he's like, Well, look, I think this is going to be a good idea, have had some good feedback. So I'm going to go and hire some developers and get this thing built. And it's probably going to cost me about $25,000. And I said,

5:32
Oh,

5:34
timeout, timeout, timeout. All right, let's slow down their attacks. So I started asking him questions, and I you know, about validation. And, you know, it's just like, you know, the business model around this. And then number two, which you referred, you know, you talked about, I said, Listen, is it possible that you could come up with a phase one solution, where it's incredibly inefficient And it's based on all of your time, but at least you can begin this process of emulating what this end product is going to look like phase one, phase two is maybe identify an imperfect, off the shelf solution that that I've done this a lot in my company, you identify something like, well, it doesn't do exactly what we want, but we could make it work. And maybe we'll have to spend a little bit more manual time. But I can get a white label version of this software for $800 a year as opposed to $25,000. So maybe we do this until we generate some revenue with it. And then we give our audience our, you know, our grand vision, but maybe we don't do that for the first six months until we really prove this out. Tell me how I did.

6:51
Absolutely, absolutely. You know, you you hit the nail on the head. So the sad fact is, you know, and this happened in industry but but particularly with the startup tech startup world, you know, the media has glamorized it. So, you know, every every entrepreneur thinks, from the eyes of job, Steve Jobs or, you know, Mark Zuckerberg, because, you know, that's all they hear about the that's all they know about. But the real entrepreneurship is much, much less sexy. You know, it's the, it's the grind, it's, you know, figuring out what, what needs to be done with limited resources. So, you're absolutely right me if we need to scale it back, we need to look at scrappy way of doing things and we need to like, you know, really get to know the customer and get in their head and, and basically not spend money or time on things which are not very important. Like, yes, if we become Apple someday we can spend all the money we want. Initially, yeah, I mean, scrappy is the way to go. Even if it's not perfect. If it's solving a real problem. People have a lot of tolerance for imperfection.

7:57
Yeah, you know, and another thing I knew is you Speaking of like, you know, financing something like this now my friend is, you know, that I talked with him he's doing he's got he's got great money, I mean, and so he was gonna bootstrap all of this. And so I'm thankful that hopefully I persuaded him to, you know, maybe say, set aside some of his budget and maybe do this a little bit more thoughtfully. But I think of other people who are saying, I got this great idea. I'm going to go out and find investors who are going to bankroll my great idea that's completely untested. I think they're going to get met with a lot of crossed arms.

8:32
Yeah, yeah. Well, for sure. See, the thing is, that is that is the whole point about how the media is turning this industry, right. They only talk about how much money people have raised. No, I mean, Never have I seen any news item which says, Oh, this startup became profitable, they won or not, you know, they grew their revenue, like the real real focus of what a business should be right? We never hear about that. So People just think, Okay, I have an idea, the next step is raising money. And the unfortunate fact is that even if you succeed in raising money, you're just trading your old job from working for your boss to working for your investors. Right? So because because with the wrong idea, they're going to take pretty much, you know, the whole lot of equity in your company, and they're going to be dictating to you how you run your company. So it's better to you know, take a little bit of time, think about this problem, spend some resources validated, build a prototype, get to some revenue, you know, even if it's like, $100, you have proven that people will pay for it. And then, you know, scale it up from there and maybe even think about raising money at that time. Not before that.

9:43
I love this. So the person who's listening to this conversation right now, my news, I think is this is if there's one episode that you share of a podcast that you listen to this week, I think this could really save a lot of people. A lot of heartache I would imagine, Manuj, in your experience, you have come across some, some pretty, pretty sad stories of companies that did this wrong. Like they put all their money in. They didn't even manage it right or they miss hired a. And as a result, you know, ended up either having to go out of business or really setting themselves back. Yeah, yeah.

10:26
Well, yeah, there are a number a number of stories. I can share a few if you want.

10:33
Ah, yeah. without naming names. Feel to we don't want to throw their wounds. But

10:39
yeah, there was this good, you know, promising company started by one of my dear friends and basically it was a good idea. There was no competition in the market. They, they managed to raise some money, they even managed to simply sell the solution to their customers. That's how good the idea But as they raise money, they invested most of their money in branding. They hired professional actresses I shot some videos. I was like really sexy, right? But under the covers the product had pretty much nothing going on. They spent so much time and money in building something together like putting something together, they hired the wrong team. The product didn't work investors were really, you know, sort of breathing down their neck like what the heck is going on? Right? Yeah. And and so you know, they ended up spending money on the videos or the branding, which looks sexy, but didn't really serve anything. So now they you know, they are in a tight spot money is running out. So I looked at that and then you know, basically I I put together a small team very, very quickly, salvage whatever was what was salvageable launch three products and within nine months and turn the company around, right like focusing on focusing on the revenue focusing on what the customer I was looking for not Yeah, not the sexiness not the you know, those are things which can come later. Yeah,

12:05
yeah, yeah, absolutely. Listen, you know, and I can speak as a consumer expert or consumer advocate and consumer leader. You can't really get away with that today. Like it just, I'm sorry, but it is way too easy for your clients to communicate their authentic experience in a way that's going to be way more powerful than your ads and videos. People today. We're all consumers. And if you're a business owner, you are going to do your due diligence before you engage with anybody or anything. I know I do. And I know that my clients do as well, which is why, you know, when we if we can't deliver the goods for somebody, you know, we really bend over backwards to make sure that we do whatever we can to make it right or We do not go to market with a product. And we've launched products where it's like, you know, that didn't work as well as we had hoped it would. So we still have to make that right. And you don't go back to the drawing or go back to the, you know, go back with seeds. Let's go back to the drawing board. Yeah. And find out how we can improve that. But, man, thank goodness, you know, we didn't, here's, here's something you'd mentioned apple. I see this a lot. That is, we all think that we're far more brilliant than we are right? We're like, I've got the greatest say and listen, I no doubt you know, it can positively impact the world. But we don't know what the market needs before they do. That's just really really rare. And and that's a really risky business proposition. Would you agree Tell me more about like validation.

13:59
Yeah, yeah. I mean, see that that's the thing like, the sad part is I have read Steve Jobs autobiography. And a lot of startup founders read that. And it says, you know, Steve's his philosophy while your customer does not know what they want you do, right? Yeah. But they fail to fail to understand. It took Steve Jobs, 30 years losing billions of dollars failed products and whatnot to get to that point. Yeah. And if they need to take it in context, so yes, you may become so good at your art. You may know what people want. But reality is like nobody predicted Donald Trump to win. Nobody predicted Brexit will happen. So we really don't know. You know, only if we talk to people we validate the ideas and we always second guess ourselves. I mean, not second guess but always take our own opinions with a grain of salt. Yes. That's when you know, you start to refine the idea and really dial down Okay, you know, this is what people want.

14:59
Yeah. You know, and and I know I can't do this. I don't think anybody can really do this. Like, if you've spent six months writing a book, of course, you think it's the greatest thing that's ever been written. I mean, if you spent, you know, six months, and you know, $60,000 developing a product, yeah, you better feel pretty optimistic about it. But at the end of the day, the market will tell you and you have you it's I feel silly saying trust the market. The market is the market. I mean, yes, that's all we have to work with. And the market will tell you you know, whether or not your idea is good or not, this doesn't matter what you think it's will people give you money. And you know, you can even ask, like some people I think they make this mistake of, they'll just ask people out on Facebook. Hey, if I did this, would you you know, is this sound like a good idea? on Facebook, man, all your friends thinking back? Yeah, go do it. Yeah, you should start a food truck. That sounds amazing. Follow your dreams. Yeah. Do not listen to those people, they're your friends. They're not gonna give you money at the end of the day. How could How could we do that better?

16:11
Yeah, well, so you're absolutely right. First of all, don't don't talk to your friends because their friends or family, they're going to be nice to you. If you're going to talk to them, ask for some investment or ask them are you going to pay for this? Because, you know, the moment you bring in money, money question, that's when they will really tell you the truth. Right? So it's a it's a simple way, you know, okay, you like that idea? Well, you put $100 into this venture, you know, it doesn't have to be a lot, but at least now you you have that, you know, qualifying question there. And then and then there are so many other area places where you can go and get objective feedback. There is a usertesting.com there are websites dedicated to, you know, getting objective feedback from people. You have to spend a little bit of money, but you can do that. Or you can spend a little bit of time and go, you know, go to the mall, go to networking events, go to you know, people where they don't know you, and they will be brutally honest with you. And that's exactly what you need, you know, they'll say to your face, this is a stupid idea. Don't do it. Or they'll say, there are 10 other competitors out there, you know, do you know about them? So it's better to take that humilation save your time and money and not get into something which is not going to work than to, you know, beat your own sort of horn and then keep going with it. Drinking your own Kool Aid, only to realize that, you know, this was a wasted effort.

17:41
I'm going to ask you a question. We've only got a couple minutes to answer it and it deserves about 20 minutes. But how do we hire great technical talent to produce a product?

17:56
Yeah, well, I mean, experiences number one, you know Actually when I hire I look at attitude, because I can understand their experience, but if somebody is hiring for their team experience on a on a similar project or something that they have done proven result is very important. And then the attitude because you know, startups are kind of really chaotic environment. So, you need to be adaptable, you need to have like, you know, a good grounded way of looking at things and and then basically just common sense basically, you know, not not coming in your own way, because most of the time we fail because we come in our own way that is that is the, that is the reality. Like, you know, we don't take responsibility for our own actions. So if we start to realize whatever we are doing is sabotaging ourselves or, you know, trying to do things based on our ego based on our past experience. A lot of problems get solved right there.

18:53
You know, my news are so many other questions. I wish we had more time to talk about But I want to make sure that people know where they can find you. And that's of course your main website is tetranoodle.com. But you also give away a six part video series. Can you share just a little bit about that? Because this is completely pro bono?

19:15
Yeah, yeah. So I focused on the mindset they said, you know, entrepreneurial mindset is very important, which I realized after going through my own troubles so if somebody wants to get these three videos go to innerget.com, I N N E, I N N E R G E T dot com. And then there is a technology video series as well, where I show them how to manage their technology and grow it so you can get that@tech.com or you go to my website, there's right there on the homepage. You can click on both these video series and

19:49
oh, okay, great. And again, that website is tetranoodle.com, which is a pretty memorable name, which I was commenting how much I love that the other website by the way is innerget.com. I just want to make sure that people didn't miss that. So, so, Manuj, thank you so much, Manuj Aggarwal, you are the CEO and CTO, you got wear two hats of tetranoodle.com. And, and Gosh, we didn't even really talk a whole lot about your, your business itself and how you've been able to grow and scale that and kind of some of the success that you've had. But needless to say, you've been doing very, very good business for a lot of great companies, a lot of great startups. So. So Manuj, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.

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