Syam Anupom is an experienced distributed systems engineer who previously worked at Netflix, Evernote, Disney and the MIT Media Lab. He co-founded TimeTackle that analyses the calendar data to match the team's time with company goals. TimeTackle got accepted in Silicon Valley's biggest start-up incubator Y Combinator.
Zubayer Wasit interviewed Syam Anupom to know more about TimeTackle, Y Combinator and his start-up journey.
Question (Q): Could you tell us a bit about yourself.
Answer (A): I have been an engineer for the last 15 years. I have studied computer science at North South University. Before completing graduation, I started working for a Silicon Valley company and ended up in the US. I've worked for companies like Netflix, Evernote, Disney and I have also completed my master's in computer science from the University of Illinois by this time.
Q: What was the problem you were trying to solve through TimeTackle?
A: I'd say there was no like magic moment. I figured that I had a lot of data on my calendar and at the end of the week, I had to look back and see what I have worked on. It took so much of my time; so I thought of building something of my own. It was more like a data exporter like you sync it with Google Sheets.
After the release, I wrote a blog post and people found it handy. I started talking to our customers and saw that there are so many people looking for a solution like this. Initially, I thought a very limited number of people will pay. But, as people started paying, I took customer interviews to find out what kind of solutions they needed. That is how I ended up here. Currently, we have users from more than a hundred countries; so it is already global.
Q: Why did you apply to Y Combinator?
A: I applied just to see what happens because I knew we were not ready at that time. I was doing a full-time job at Netflix, but I was thinking about quitting my job and starting something. Then I got an email "Today is the last day. Do you want to apply?" I read the application procedures. It took me five hours and I submitted it around the deadline. So, I wasn't expecting a call or something. But yes, they actually asked us to do interviews.
Q: How was the interview experience with the Y combinator?
A: I was doing a full-time job and they didn't want to say yes to someone who is not actually committed full time to the business. So, they asked me to connect back if I quit my job. Indeed I quit my job to proceed with YC. Then I came to know that I had to go through another round of interview which was on January 04. On the other hand, my last day at Netflix was on January 08. They called me right after the interview. So, I didn't even have enough time for getting prepared for YC. Then there was a three-day boot camp and the real journey began there.
Q: What made you quit such prestigious jobs at Netflix and other companies?
A: It is my customers who convinced me that there is a scope of business in this particular area. Also, I received a newsletter from YC and I took that chance with no expectations. But, it seems it was my fate, and finally I am here.
Q: What personal values you follow that you think adds to your success?
A: I consider myself a lifelong learner and everything I think or do adds to my learning. Going through Y combinator was a great learning experiment. Now doing this startup is another learning experiment. In short, it is all about curiosity and this eagerness to learn new things. To be honest, the only thing I think about is empathy. I feel a lot of empathy for people whenever I talk to my co-workers. I always try to see how they see things. I don't know how much it works, but I always think from the other person's point of view or at least try to do so.
Q: What common mistakes local start-ups make?
A: I think there are two different kinds of startups that can be built from Bangladesh. One is like hyper local components, and another is more like international or semi-international exit journal, targeting, say South Asia or elsewhere like the whole Asia, or emerging markets, or something like that. For local startups, I mean companies who are actually trying to solve problems for the local market, this is my point of view. I think it's all about understanding what is the right solution that they need to innovate with and then, becoming good at executing them.
Q: Any suggestions for local entrepreneurs?
A: Just get started. I mean, we are still very early, and we're ready to fail. However, having that mindset, to be honest, is really hard. But as long as you are passionate about solving a problem and learning things right, you are on course.
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