How Sharath went from being a prolific maker to a startup operator by building in public

"I'm a maker, founder, product/design nerd, and recently joined Draftbit as a Product Evangelist. I love building products that provide value to the community. I love talking about startups, B2C products, community building, and life in general."

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ORIGIN STORY:

What was the origin story behind your new project Shoutout?

I've got to tell readers that the idea behind Shoutout was actually born from one of KP's tweets. He gave an awesome shoutout to me and a couple of friends and like always I saved it to my bookmarks (knowing that I will never revisit). At that moment ๐Ÿ’ก ย an idea popped into my head. Wouldn't it be amazingly cool to have a platform where I can save and showcase all the shoutouts I get on Twitter? In the next two days, I shipped a landing page and started working on it since then.

How would you describe Shoutout to folks who may have never heard about it?

Gathering social proof is not only important for companies or startups, but it is also equally important to people who create value to the communities.

Twitter for one reason is an amazing platform that allows people to give public shoutouts for your work and the social impact you made. With an infinite feed that is constantly updating every second, all of the love you get is getting buried under and itโ€™s hard to find it in the future.

Shoutout streamlines all that love in one place and helps you build a social brand. It is like a Pinterest board for your Twitter shoutouts.

Who did you share your early idea/thesis with for validation?

I immediately shared the light bulb moment with KP. We both got super excited and quickly came up with an initial product loop. We both subtly sensed that I'm on to something. It was not my first time experiencing something like this. I highly recommend everyone to share their ideas with their close friends or peers. The initial validation helps you move on to the next thing - be it taking the idea to the MVP stage or literally moving on to the next one.

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THOUGHTS ON BUILDING AN AUDIENCE:

Did you have an existing audience before Shoutout?

Yes. Thankfully, I have been actively building an audience(~ 3k followers) on Twitter for the last 2yrs by shipping multiple side projects and newsletters ๐Ÿ™

What specific moves have helped you build an audience for Shoutout?

I'm all about experiments that provide value to the community. Here is an example:

I recently ran an experiment asking people to share what they are working on and said I will personally give a positive testimonial aka a shoutout about their work. The thread went viral and I got more than 100 comments. Later I personally spent a solid time on each product/newsletter and gave a shoutout. One of the most rewarding days in recent times. To my surprise, Shoutout Twitter following went up and 40+ people joined the waitlist.

๐Ÿ’ก Takeaway: Make it more about them and less about you.

What specific tactics/strategies have helped you in growing your Twitter following?

There are many strategies that I learned from the best like Matthew Kobach, Jack Butcher, David Perell and by experimenting over time, I formed some on my own. Here are some I still follow and hopefully works for you:

  1. Add value to others - One of the best ways to provide value is to share lessons from your wins and losses. The only thing that attracts people's attention is value. I follow this pattern when I create content on Twitter: Make your content relevant, emotional, and original (in that order). I honestly believe quality content with consistency always wins. The non-negotiable rule is: give unconditionally and don't expect any results.
  2. Be consistent - No matter how good or bad my day goes, I always show up and be consistent on Twitter. Community building on Twitter is a long game to play. You own a piece of real estate in peopleโ€™s minds by showing up every single day.
  3. Be authentic - An open secret that is hard to implement. Many know it but no one owns it. Do things that make you happy and do not try to impress anyone. Being yourself is the best strategy you can use to build a community on Twitter.
  4. Tweet and engage with conviction - Engagement is key to community success. Interact and engage with polls, ask meaningful questions that bring people together to share their opinions, participate in interesting conversations by sharing your knowledge and wisdom.
  5. Build in public - Whatever you are doing, do it publicly. It helps others to know how you are doing, the methods you are using and the lessons you are learning. When you do things in public, you grow and let others grow with you.
  6. Be positive and kind - Show unconditional love towards the community. Share their work with others, give open feedback, encourage them to do more, guide them in the direction you are going, and inspire people to be their best possible selves.

How do you maintain a tight feedback loop with your audience?

One of the things I do is to encourage people to DM me. I do a weekly AMA session every Saturday. I answer questions about B2C products, newsletters, maker mindset, and startups in general. I also do virtual 1-1s with a lot of people.

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THOUGHTS ON JOINING A STARTUP:

You recently landed a "product evangelist" job at Draftbit. How did that come about?

It's a long story that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Here's how it happened:

Somewhere around June, I had a serious intention to join an early-stage startup. I have a habit called 5min manifestation where I journal first thing every morning. I literally wrote in my journal for many days that "I will join a startup soon, work with the best people, and create an impact in the world." The universe plots with you I guess, my manifestation started taking action.

I run a weekly newsletter called Productivize which goes out every Monday. I don't remember which Monday but after shipping the edition for some reason I went to Hacker News to share my latest newsletter issue. For some reason I went to the jobs tab in the menu, for some reason I searched for product jobs, for some reason I found that Draftbit is hiring, for some reason I stopped everything and searched who is the CEO to DM him about the role, for some reason Brian Luerssen and half of Drafbit team were already following me on Twitter, for some reason he replied, we connected and the interview process started.

After multiple rounds of interviews, on Aug 18th Brian offered me the role of Product Evangelist over a Twitter DM (I'm literally getting goosebumps writing this) I heard a lot of stories about people getting opportunities on Twitter but never imagined it will happen to me. It was a surreal experience. I'm planning to write a detailed thread on Twitter so stay tuned.

In short, I tasted the power of manifestation, intention, and action. That's the formula I believe anybody can use in their own lives to get anything they want.

Why did you decide to join a startup? And why Draftbit?

I gained some leverage by shipping products and building an audience on the Internet. But in order to be a founder, I felt I needed to learn how a startup works as a true insider, hence I wanted to be a startup operator. Also, I felt it's the right time to take the next big step in my life.

Draftbit is a perfect match for me for many reasons. It is a no-code tool, the role is 50% product 50% community building, they sponsor my work visa, they are an early-stage startup which went to YC, I will be their 10th hire and more importantly I love the vision and is aligned to the values I carry.

What are you most excited about in this new job? What are your goals?

The most exciting thing is I'm now a startup operator. It was one of those dreams I had when I came to the US 7yrs ago. I'm grateful that I'm living it today.

My goals are very clear: learn how startups operate, execute new ideas/experiments and share the lessons along the way. Build leverage as an insider, make a lot of worthy connections and pay it forward.

What is a piece of advice you'd give to someone who's looking for a job in an ambitious startup?

  1. If you want to get a job at a startup, you need to have leverage. One of the best ways to create leverage is to build a community while you build products for them. I advise people to start building leverage as it plays the single most important role.
  2. Be active on Twitter and share whatever you are doing aka #buildinpublic
  3. Follow the formula - start manifesting what you want, form a firm intention to provide value to others, take action by doing micro-actions, don't expect results, and have extreme fun.

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THOUGHTS ON BUILDING IN PUBLIC:

When and where did you first discover the superpower of building in public?

It was Pieter Levels who introduced build in public around 2017. I used to be a lurker when he actively preached the movement. Back then, I never understood and felt why is that so important until I started working on and shipping side projects. I believe knowledge without execution is just information. I truly tasted the power of building in public when I became a maker. It is the best strategy there is to interact with the community.

What makes it effective/special in your view?

Being open and transparent is what makes building in public special. If you think deeply, itโ€™s a win-win situation. You win because you get a chance to serve people, add value to them, learn lessons, be better at doing what you love, build credibility, and accountability. Community wins because their lives are getting better because of the value you are providing, they are learning with you, you are making them part of your success, they will get the credit.

What was the 1st project/initiative you have built in public?

Since my first project(Tools for Makers), unknowingly I picked the build in public route. Almost all of my projects are built in public. The Angel Philosopher, Really Good Questions, Request for Startup and now Shoutout.

What were some surprising lessons for you from that experience?

  1. When you allow yourself to be open and transparent, the community sort of shows interest in the work you do.
  2. There is a high difference between practicing what you are good at in closed indoors vs trying openly in public. You learn a lot when you put your work outside.
  3. I learned how to be open to criticism. By listening to the feedback I understood what people want and how to not be too attached to what I want to do. And I feel thatโ€™s the best way to learn.
  4. I learned how to ask and get answers. Most of my projects were shipped based on the answers people gave. I give total credit for my success to the community.
  5. IMO build in public helps lower your ego. There is no way you can be egoistic when everything you are doing is in public. You will fail in public, learn in public, and succeed in public.

Who are some of your favorite builders in public?

Jack Butcher, Matthew Kobach, KP, Dan Rowden are a few prolific makers. Also my crew at Zero to One they all are rockstar makers ๐Ÿ”ฅ

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THOUGHTS ON DOWNSIDE:

If you were to argue for the downside of building in public, what would it be?

The only downside I faced while building in public is getting distracted and falling into results-driven thinking. When you openly share your moves in public you get some level of attention and it is not granted. Some days it feels like nobody is giving a damn about you. No matter what we as makers should focus on our doing, our intention to provide value and most importantly have extreme fun.

A potential risk lot of founders and creators run into when they build in public is people copying/cloning their work? How do you handle that? What are some ways to go about it?

I take that as a validation when someone copies my work. And they may copy ideas but they can't copy the execution. I'm always bullish on consistency and people who take shortcuts can't be consistent. Also if someone copies what you love then it will be WORK for them and they're likely to give up easily while it is PLAY for me. One other way I treat these types of people is to detach from them and I will move on by focusing on how can I be better at providing value to others.

How do you stay on top of all the notifications/DMs/emails when you have a public persona?

I don't care about likes, retweets but I pay a lot of attention to comments, DMs. One of the lessons I learned from building a community is people sense care. And I always keep that in mind.

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THOUGHTS ON FUTURE:

What goals do you have for the future?

The timing of this question is impeccable. Inspired by Elon Musk's Master Plan for Tesla, I wrote a secret master plan for myself (please don't share it with anyone ๐Ÿ˜œ)

Be a maker - Build leverage by shipping products and building a community

Be a startup operator - Use the above leverage and get into an early-stage startup. Start gaining leverage as an insider, learn how things work, perform at a peak level.

Be a founder - Using lessons from the experience of working at a startup, become a founder. Solve a problem that people want, hire amazing people, raise capital and go to Y-Combinator.

Be an investor - With all the leverage and connections made, start a fund, learn how LPs, GPs work, how to raise capital for the fund, form or be part of a visionary team where I can pick and bet on futuristic products/companies/people. As an investor, my ultimate goal is to pay it forward to people like me who have bigger dreams and higher ambitions.

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THOUGHTS ON DECISIONS:

What's the most important decision you've taken in the last 18 months?

There are many decisions that shaped my last 18months. Here are some:

  1. Become a platform maker
  2. Started my newsletter Productivize with an intention to build audience for myself.
  3. Took a firm decision to join an early-stage startup.

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CLOSING THOUGHTS:

Do you have an ask for the Build In Public community?

Want to give a permanent home to the Twitter shoutouts you get? Join the waitlist here.

If you are into startups and want to sharpen your product mind, subscribe to Productivize a weekly newsletter featuring three product champions, resources, interesting products.

How can people reach you on the Internet?

Twitter is the best place to reach me out and if you want to learn from me, watch where I go in the future, give me a follow. Visit my website to see what I did so far: 5harath.com

Who should we invite next to Build In Public?

Mckay Wrigley. He is a great guy who shares his lessons on Twitter and is a champion in Build in Public.

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