Hi Anish, tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m 23 years old, born and brought up in India. I got my Bachelor at Northwestern University and then got a Master from Stanford University. I’m currently working on MochaMeet in Palo Alto, California, which I started up as my own business.
What is your business about?
MochaMeet is a service that helps organize meet-ups with your friends when you are traveling. It shows you which cities your friends are in on an interactive world map and then it helps you coordinate meet-ups with them. This is a great tool for frequent travelers who want a frictionless way to find and connect with their old friends.
How did you come up with the idea?
College was an amazing experience where I learned a tremendous amount and had the privilege of interacting with some of the brightest minds in the world. After graduation, I wanted to keep in touch with a lot of people, but I had no way to track which cities everyone would end up in. For instance, I had met several people who were going to New York, but I could only recall maybe 5 people off the top of my head. After not being able to find a suitable solution, I decided to build my own and I started MochaMeet. With the app, I now know that I have about 25 friends based out of New York and a very simple way to meet them when I visit.
What were the very first challenges you had to deal with when you started?
In terms of the concept, social planning is a huge space and there are a lot of variables at play. So, rather than building the app, the primary challenge was figuring out what to build in the absence of data. We had to get to know our user extremely well and understand all the different features that were required. After that, how the features came together to tell a compelling story in the form of a simple app took a lot of work. We have had to do several iterations and pivots to get to where we are today.
What do you like the most about this adventure?
Seeing your vision come to life is a truly humbling experience, especially when you are working on a complicated problem that a lot of people, including yourself, have. It is also fascinating to see how different the actual path is compared to what you had imagined. For instance, we are an engineering team, but we have had to tap heavily into psychology and sociology to understand how people think and interact in groups. Each step of the process has been tremendously insightful, which has directly shaped the app.
What do you think you need to be able to be successful in what you do?
If you are an entrepreneur, to be successful you need a very heavy focus on the problem that you are trying to solve. The paradox is that, entrepreneurs who start companies primarily to become wealthy seldom end up doing so. The reason is that the entrepreneurial process is filled with ups and downs and if you are not fanatical about the problem you are trying to solve, it will be extremely hard to get the mental stamina to remain focused and keep going through all the obstacles you encounter.
What is the thing you are most proud of regarding your business?
The mobile app is not released yet, but when I look at it on my phone, for the first time after all the different evolutions and revisions, I have the feeling of – “Yes, this solves the problem that I had set out to solve about 3 years ago!” This is by far, the best feeling ever.
If you look back 10 years, are you doing what you thought you would be doing at your age?
I had always wanted to build something or do something on my own, but I did not know I’d be plunged into it in my early 20s. I guess you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do!
Any tip for someone who would want to start his/her own business?
Starting a business is an emotional roller-coaster ride. The highs are really high and the lows are really low. You do encounter a lot of failure and things not going your way, but you need to think of failure as a learning process. The best entrepreneurs learn from their failures and become more experienced that way. If you do something and it doesn’t work out, do something else. It is never straightforward, which I guess in its own way is good, since that is what keeps it challenging and fun.
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