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Frame from the video “The Love” by the Black Eyed Peas and Jennifer Hudson

After a morning of back to back zoom calls, I needed a brain break. I checked LinkedIn for some light reading, but instead found a video. I’m a Black Eyed Peas fan, and a Jennifer Hudson fan, so I checked it out.

And then I wept.

As Good As It Gets

I wept uncontrollably.

I had to get up from my desk, leave our apartment, and go for a walk. …

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Photo by Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Clubbing in Cape Town

It was just past midnight, and Antonio and I were headed to a new club in Cape Town. We were trying to get there in time for a set by a local DJ we’d seen perform the week prior. That DJ played the kind of House music we roamed all over LA for, where we’d both been living for a few years before I left for South Africa. Antonio had often talked about wanting to get in touch with his roots, so it didn’t take much to convince him to come visit, and here we were.

We were joking and laughing loudly as we walked, and barely heard the shouting behind us. The shouting got louder and angrier so we eventually turned around to see a policeman, about 10 meters behind us, yelling and pointing and walking hurriedly towards us. If we had been back in downtown LA, we might have been worried about our safety. But this was downtown Cape Town, post Apartheid, and we were more amused than afraid. …

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Most of what I aspire to, on my best days, I’ve learned from my mom. The lessons I learned from her have guided me throughout my life, as a son, student, friend, partner, parent, teammate and CEO. Here are 5 of those lessons, complements of my mom (a.k.a Amma).

1. Be the first in, last out

After my dad died, things were tough for a few years. My mom quit her job working for the government as her salary wasn’t sufficient to raise my brother and me in the way she wanted. She took over my dad’s small business, which at that time was in debt and in trouble, and for the next several years, she worked her butt off. She would wake up before 5am to prepare for work, and make breakfast and lunch for my brother and I to take to school before we woke up. She would also often work past midnight, as I later found out, to get caught up as she scrambled to turn around a business she was unfamiliar with. …

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Photo by Lechon Kirb on Unsplash

Hungry Judges

I’m still in COVID-19 panic mode, feeling like every day is too short to get through the long list of stuff that just keeps getting longer. I know better, and I believe all the research on the negative effects of working too many hours, but I just couldn’t stop. That is, until I found myself going back to Jeff Sutherland’s oldie-but-goodie, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. I hadn’t read the book in a while, and a section title Working Too Hard Makes More Work was just what I needed.

Sutherland discusses the findings of a paper published in 2011, Extraneous Factors in Judicial Decisions. A group of researchers looked at over a thousand judicial rulings by eight Israeli judges, and found that a prisoner’s chance of parole depended on when the judge last took a break. As judges tire and get hungry, they slip towards the easy option of denying parole. …

Photo by Melanie Wasser
Photo by Melanie Wasser
Photo by Melanie Wasser

You Killed My Mushrooms

We did a top-to-bottom house cleaning today as a family. It was nice to be able to do something that was in our control and feel a tiny sense of accomplishment together. While clearing some stuff off a mantle, I accidentally knocked down a plastic cup filled with water and what looked like some twigs and a couple dried mushrooms. My daughter immediately burst into tears which caught me by surprise, as she would usually get mad not sad when I messed up her stuff.

I sat by her and held her as she cried uncontrollably, clearly devastated by what had just happened. Eventually, she told me that she had found those mushrooms while walking in the park and had been taking care of them, hoping to bring them back to life with water and love. I still didn’t understand why she had such an uncharacteristically intense reaction, but I apologized profusely and we hugged for a long time. …

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Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash

You no longer have 30 seconds for your elevator pitch, you only have 6. Here’s how you can make the most of it.

Elevators and pitches

As I stepped into the elevator to go up to the 27th Floor, I couldn’t believe my luck. I was on my way to an event on AI, hoping to connect with a couple of folks on the agenda, and right there, walking into the elevator with me, was one of the speakers!

30 second elevator pitch, here we go!

I introduced myself. “I’m looking forward to your session…”. 26 seconds to go.

I launched into my pitch. “I’m one of the founders of…, we’re on a mission to…”. 20 seconds to go. I’m about to get to the “pitch” which I know he’s going to be intrigued by, a service to validate the accuracy of ML models! …

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Image by Rajesh Anandan

What you can learn from the wisdom of a seven year old and the tragedy of an eleven year old about making mistakes

Wisdom of a Seven Year Old

My daughter is seven. She’s the center of my universe, and I would do anything for her. One of the hardest things to experience as a parent is to see your child hurt or unhappy, and one of the hardest things to do as a parent is to not try and protect your child from all the disappointments and hardships they’ll encounter.

My daughter is delightfully curious and is at an age where learning about a bird’s cloaca* is as much fun for her as playing basketball or dressing up her dolls. She’s also at an age where she finds it incredibly frustrating when she tries something new and is not immediately “good” at it, and in those moments, she can be hard on herself for what she sees as “mistakes” (with mistake meaning not achieving the good outcome she had imagined). …

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Psychological safety is not about pretending to be nice but rather about being honest.

Civil Wars Suck.

I grew up in Sri Lanka in the 1970s and 80s, in the midst of a civil war between the Sinhala and Tamil communities. I didn’t belong to either side because I had a Tamil dad and a Sinhala mom, so in the South of the country, I had the wrong last name, and in the North of the country, I spoke the wrong language. I went to a school where the language of instruction was Sinhala so most of the friends I grew up with were from the Sinhala community, and on the surface, I was as Sinhala as they were. My friends of course knew I was of mixed ethnicity, and they didn’t care. …

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Investing in mental health is mission critical for startups.

Ultranauts Inc. just closed our Series A financing. The first investment we’re making is in our team’s mental health. Here’s why.

Ultranauts Inc (formerly Ultra Testing) is six years old, growing fast, and accelerating. In Q4 ’18, we grew over 70% YOY, and in Q1 ’19 we grew over 100% YOY. We just closed our Series A financing, and we’re ready to scale. I’ve been waiting for this day impatiently, and am beyond excited to get to work with my fellow Ultranauts and kickstart the next phase of our journey.

But before we ramp up sales and marketing to accelerate growth, or overhaul training and development to upskill our team, the very first investment we’re making is in something that will have a far greater impact on the company’s future — our team’s mental health. …


Rajesh Anandan

Impact entrepreneur & growth architect, CEO of Ultranauts Inc, Founder of Unicef Ventures

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