What am I doing in Silicon Valley?

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I’ve been here in Palo Alto since October, and I’ve been getting this question a lot, “What are you doing there?”, “Are you coming back?”. My hope is that this post will clear all of this up.

Let me tell you the story, from the beginning.

The Beginning

Mid May - 2016, we had just finished building an early prototype of what we concluded should be the future of my startup Katha.

The apps we built with Katha gave us a lot of data. And after running some experiments, and looking at what our competition was doing then. We realized what the audio/podcasting space was lacking: user generated content. Everyone (including us) was going about the usual way of rehashing podcasts, and this was bringing in users who were already familiar with creating podcasts, radio folk etc. Pretty much people who were already comfortable podcasting.

This wasn’t what we wanted, and nor was it what we set out to do. We wanted audio to appeal to everyone, in the way a platform like Instagram does for photos. Because Instagram isn’t about photographers taking and sharing photos, it’s about normal people like you and I, sharing slices from their lives.

We wanted the same for Podcasting & audio content.

How do we make audio content creation simple and appeal to everyone?

The answer is conversations.

Conversation is food for the soul.

Conversations are said to be food for the soul. But today most conversations, and discussions happen via text - they happen on Facebook. It’s meaningless. For everyone to spew their opinions at each other, for that delicious riposte, with no change in stance or mindset possible. Instead of learning, and changing our viewpoints, all this accomplishes is the strengthening of any belief we might already (wrong or right) have. It’s already quite hard to change someone’s or your own mind. This makes it impossible.

This is the result of stripping all emotion and tone from our discussions, debates and conversions, that comes with text. This is dangerous. This gets Trump elected.

ShortKast is Born!

With all of this in mind, we created ShortKast. ShortKast would enable real conversations. Real discussions and debates about the things we’re passionate about. Users would converse via audio, and turn parts of their conversations into short Podcasts, if they wish to. Simple.

We started using the prototype we built, and recruited a few beta users to check out what we had built. They loved it.

Meanwhile, we also approached a few Founder/CEOs of a few large companies in Colombo for feedback. All of them seemed to tell us the same thing: “This is a great product, but for this to really work, you’d need to go where the market is. Take this to the US, and we can help you get there”.

And so we did.

The Experience

It took a few months, but after a lot of back and forth, we raised a bridge round of funding, and I headed here to Palo Alto with the goal of raising more funding for ShortKast.


The breadth and depth of experience, from the startup ecosystem to the people has been so wide, that it would take another entire post to write it all down (Which I will do in my next post).

During the past few months, I’ve made a lot of friends, connections, met up with investors, pitched at countless events. And I’ve got a few more final meetings which will determine how things will move forward for ShortKast. The experience so far has been exhilarating. This is perhaps the best place to be in as an entrepreneur/founder, and it has definitely made me a better one.

What’s Next?

I don’t want to be one to count my chickens before they’ve hatched, so I don’t want to comment too much on our plans.
But for now, we’re quite slowly and steadily rolling out ShortKast to our waitlist. Which you should go join, at the ShortKast Site.

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2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Mahen has read 7 books toward his goal of 40 books.
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