"One of my advisors gave me this brilliant analogy from a scene from The Dark Knight Rises where Christian Bale is trying to escape the pit.. He is unable to make the leap until the blind prisoner reminds him that he truly needs to fear death. The third time, he lets go of the rope, and he has no choice but to succeed. His fear is reignited as his strength, and he successfully makes the leap. I think there's a lesson here for entrepreneurs that fear will be there, but you need to learn to control it, and channelize it, and not be able to let it control you. Not that it will define you, but it doesn't have to confine you. I think that's what's something that you have to overcome and become brave about." - Aditya Mehta
Aditya Mehta is the Founder CEO of Art&Found™ — a curated marketplace for South Asian artists making art accessible to global buyers and brands like WeWork, Levi's and Starbucks: www.artandfound.co Prior to Art&Found, Aditya worked as a Senior Art Director at Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai driving creative and social impact campaigns for Mondelez International (Cadbury), Castrol Asia-Pac and Cancer Patients Aid Association. If this solo founder gets any time off work, it goes into CrossFit, graphic novels, memoirs, mountains, films, craft beer.
Hey, Aditya. Good to have you on the show.
Aditya Mehta (00:02):Great to have you, man. Thank you so much for having me.
Well, I'm really excited because you bring this interesting blend of startup and art together into Art&Found, and so I'm really excited to get into what you're seeing and facing. First of all, for people who don't know you yet, how would you describe yourself?
Aditya Mehta (00:22):My name is Aditya, and I'm the founder, CEO of Art&Found. Art&Found is a curated marketplace for South Asian artists to sell digital art to global buyers and brands, like WeWork, Levi's, and Starbucks.
Awesome. I got to ask the question, right? You started out in life. Why art? Why do you want to tackle this problem called art? I ask this question and acknowledge that you've been doing art for a while. I'm just saying, but why art as a industry and problem?
Aditya Mehta (00:58):
Sure. I started Art&Found as a side project while I was a senior art director at Ogilvy Mumbai office, and I was surrounded by this incredible talent of artists, illustrators, designers, photographers as one would be in the creative industry. Back then, they were putting up their work online on social media. Of course, Facebook was big, but Instagram was very new, and there were portfolio websites, like Behance, and Tumblr, and so on, but it was always in the form of likes, comments, and shares. I wanted to build a platform to help monetize their work and also for millennials like myself to be able to own this amazing digital art that was out there.
I basically started building Art&Found as an idea evolving to the platform and just started putting an MVP out, working nights, weekends alongside my full-time job. The idea was to give these artists access to global millennials and Gen Zs and be able to truly discover this amazing art that millennials could own. Yeah, that's pretty much how it started. About October 2016 is when I went full- time founder, CEO with Art&Found.
Amazing. Well, we're going to go deep into the startup itself and approach, but I got to ask your fascination of art, you kind of hinted at it, started way earlier, right? Because in undergrad, you were already doing mass communication and media studies. Your first job out from there was being an art director. So it started early, maybe even earlier than that, right? When did this fascination with art start?
Aditya Mehta (03:03):
Yeah, it definitely started early. It's not like I went to an art school, but I think it was in the larger sphere of advertising and then narrowing down to art direction, creative direction. I guess that side of advertising just fascinated me. Then when you're right in the middle of the problem you're trying to solve for larger creative community and for yourself, as in a marketplace you're solving for two sides, I think it just naturally transitioned to wanting to build something that I had an affinity towards.
The interesting thing is that I don't see myself that skilled in terms of the craft of the actual illustration work or the design work. I figured that out very early on where I may not have that skill set, but I have a larger overview in terms of aesthetics, creative direction, and so on. I always knew I wanted to do something for sure about this space.
It's similar to one of my favorite books actually, the Shoe Dog Phil Knight history. He was a sprinter in college, and his aim was to become an athlete, but he knew he wasn't as fast to be able to get to that level. He always knew he wanted to do something in sports, and that led him to come up with Nike to be just surrounded by these athletes, and be part of that ecosystem, and to be able to contribute to that. In a small way, I see that, yes, I'm still being able to do something about this.
Jeremy (05:03):Wow. That's amazing. Let's go even earlier. Were you artistic as a kid? Did your parents see something in you that you love art or you've got a goal earlier, right?
Aditya Mehta (05:15):
Yeah. I mean who wasn't doodling and sketching all over their notebooks back when you were in school and class? Yeah, of course, I've had a lot of those influences growing up, playing videos games, and reading comic books fully emersed into that. There's a lot of those influences. I've sketched a lot of cartoon characters and stuff. Yes, it does go way back, and I think there's a lot of that video game, and growing up '80s, '90s, and just bringing a lot of that influence. Somewhere there's this blend of what you're bringing, your influence, and then how you're putting that into the mix of what you're doing right now.
Wow. That's amazing. Well, were you just every other kid? I mean I feel like the suspicion is in that you really love comics more than other people. Was there anything that your parents saw in you, and they were like, "Oh, it makes total sense that you're going to become an art director for the next 12 years of your life?" Was there anything that your parents saw that made them suspect that you're going to become something involved in art?
Aditya Mehta (06:34):
No, I think it was just something that I liked in the sense of how art or design could be used as a medium for advertising in general and just how it helps drive creativity and the business for brands. I think that's what led me towards it. You go to so many of these award shows and books, and you develop an understanding of the craft. As I mentioned, you see so much of this amazing work and sort of have this complex that, man, I can't maybe do this, but I got to be part of it in some way.
Jeremy (07:20): Wow.
Aditya Mehta (07:23):Yeah, I guess it may have transitioned accidentally as to how it led to entrepreneurship and art in that sense. I guess with entrepreneurship, you know how it is. You sort of get into it accidentally.
When you think about going from point A to point B, which was you were at Saatchi, M&C Saatchi. You were L&K Saatchi. It sounds like that's where you discovered your love for being art director, being part of it. What was it like working there? Because it feels like this heaven, right? This verified place, where people of great taste come together, and everyone dresses well and has good facial hair and a good haircut versus us normal consultants or business folks who are building normal plebeian, mainstream businesses.
Aditya Mehta (08:21):
Well, I'd say it's the other way. I mean with the dressing well, and great hair, and stuff, that's more consultant world, right? I mean in advertising world, you're in shorts or these t-shirts. Yeah, I guess working in that environment, especially in advertising, it teaches you a multitude of skills. I was also fortunate enough to have a great mentor who taught me the nuances of craft and design. I think that really helped me develop a taste and aesthetic, which I know how important is to what I'm building right now today. You have to be proactive.
Just because you're an art director, you're not going to only do that. I mean I did everything. I wrote lines. I directed films, whatever I could grab my hands on, whatever came to me. You sort of have to create opportunities beyond what you already are getting, which really helps in your startup because you're essentially doing everything. I think, yes, there's huge contribution that it makes going into what you're doing.
We're starting get to there, which is you go from Saatchi, and then you basically go to Ogilvy & Mather, which where you are senior art director. You're working a solid six years there. Was there a moment where you were like, "This makes sense?" Was it brainstorming or where did that seed of the idea really come about?
Aditya Mehta (09:58):
Yeah, I think there were two parts to it. One was that I knew I wanted to do something beyond the job that I had. I knew that there was potential in me to do something bigger and be able to make an impact as we say when you want to do something new. The second part of it was just seeing this opportunity that's there to be able to build something for a larger community. In this case, it was artists.
I think it was just both of those together, and then, obviously, it takes time. It's not like, "All right, I'm jumping into this now. Let's do it." It takes a lot of talking to people around you, and that's what I did. I practically went everywhere and spoke to everyone. I went to these conventions of art, and design, and entrepreneurship and just testing the idea by talking with people. Even then, very early on, Art&Found was just thought of as an idea more for an on-ground, where it could just be artists coming in together, and showcasing their work, and have exhibition format, and stuff. There were already a few of these happening around, kind of like the YBA, Young British Artists. That started way back in London.
I noticed that it was a great environment, but for me, it had to be act scale. For that, I knew at some point that if I were to do this, I'm going to do this online. It had to be maybe e-commerce and everything that I could do to be able to make this at a global level. That's when I started tinkering with the idea entirely about marketplaces and e-commerce and dived into it from there.
Wow. That sounds really interesting. Thanks for sharing the push and pull of the actual founding, which I think a lot of magazines make it sound super simple. I think there's a push where you wanted to do something new and be impacted, and there's a pull with the idea itself. When you were busy out starting it out, you shared that you were doing it as a side hustle, right? What was it like? You were working X number hours a week, and then you were working on weekends. What was it like to be building something on the side?
Aditya Mehta (12:33):
Oh, yeah, super hectic, but structured in that sense where wake up early, start working on your thing, go to work, do the thing at work, wrap up around six, go home, and start working late into the night, repeat. Then do it on the weekends as well. You sort of have to put a structure if you're building a side project while working at a full-time job. With that sort of a discipline is when you'll actually get to milestones because then you're just like your side project is never going to take off. That's pretty much how I went about it.
Then you sort of have that timeline where you want to launch the MVP. That's the toughest part, right? What version of the MVP do you launch? Do you launch early, but your product isn't quite there yet, or do you take its time, but not too late? Because you get that one impression, right? That first impression is what counts. Of course, on top of that, you can start building, but your first MVP that you put out for your public launch is what's going to make that brand positioning very clear.
You got to have that sweet spot where it's not too early and not too late, but just enough where you know, "Okay. Yeah, I'm confident. I'm going to put this out, and it's going to be a very clear positioning for all stakeholders involved." Here, in this case, it was artists and a whole new set of collectors.
Oh, wow. When you were thinking about that launch, was it weird to feel like you had to launch something that was imperfect? Because as a senior art director, you must have been the kind of the guy who was like, "Let's launch this when this is as close to perfect as possible," versus as a founder, it's like... You know?
Aditya Mehta (14:28):
Yeah. Absolutely, yeah, because that's the thing. It's really tricky, but I guess you have certain parameters in place that you definitely want to hit that. For me, it was that it had to look great because I mean you're putting this product out for designers and artists. The UI, UX, the look of it was something that I knew that had to be different and had to look like a global international product, so I took my time with that. Yeah, the second part is that you want to sort of build on the existing pain points of what's already out there. I think, at least for me, these two were the key factors to keep in mind before putting it out.
When you launched that page because you knew that it had looked good and blah, blah, blah, how were you feeling? Were you scared? Were you excited? Were you just done with it? You just want to squeeze it out. How did you feel? Do you remember? Where were you? Were you at home? Where were you? Do you remember when you went live?
Aditya Mehta (15:48):
Yeah, I was at Ogilvy when I pushed it out live. I mean everyone pretty much knew, at least on my floor, and my team knew that, hey, I'm working on something. They'll be like, "And this guy's working on this thing. He's going to launch any moment." Yeah, I remember I was at Ogilvy when I pushed it live, and then you just wait. What can you do?
I was watching The Social Network last night, and when Mark Zuckerberg builds the first version of the Facebook, and he just puts it out, and he waits. Then half an hour into it, it crashes the Harvard system. That's not what happened to me, but what I'm saying is you don't know what's going to happen. You just have to wait and see. When you're putting it out for a niche community, you're just hoping that it catches onto it and has the network effect.
Jeremy (17:00):Yeah, exactly. Spot on. I think the truth of the movie was, yeah, you have to wait. Now, not everybody
gets to crash the server anymore, unfortunately. I wish we had that level of success.
Aditya Mehta (17:12): Exactly, yeah.
Jeremy (17:13):I know. Yeah, exactly. It was like-
Aditya Mehta (17:14):That would be a great metric, right?
Jeremy (17:15):... yeah, we hosted it in on GeoCities in 2021, and it crashed the servers.
Aditya Mehta (17:21): Yeah. It...
Jeremy (17:21): Yeah.
Aditya Mehta (17:21):
Yeah. It's interesting. You just sort of do your best to put something out, and then you see where it goes, and the idea is that they then send it to others. That's what creates the real network effect, right? You have this list, and that's what I had. I had a list of like 500 artists on my Excel sheet, like a CRM. Then you shortlist it to 200 and then further shortlist it to like 100. You send it out to those 100, and then you wait. It's like they got to send it out too. That's the way. That's how it takes off.
Wow. That's one hell of a journey there just getting it launched. I think what I really empathize is the anti-climatic nature of your launch, and then you're so excited, and then you wait, right? It's a tough thing. How long did you wait? I mean some people wait a long time because they have to iterate a few times before it actually starts taking off. Some people crash the servers at Harvard, I guess. Where was it at for you?
Aditya Mehta (18:38):
Yeah, interesting question because when you're building a marketplace, it's a chicken and egg situation. You need the product online for buyers to actually browse and buy. I gave it about six months during the beta launch, and beta launch was basically just populating the platform with artists and artworks. It's an invite-only platform, so artists need to have an invite code to be able to use that and put up their work. About six months into it, it looked good enough to put it out public. That's what I did.
Yeah, you sort of have to have that timeline, again that milestone that, hey, I'm going to give it three months, six months max for beta. Then I'm going to put it out to public because, yeah, then there's going to be stuff to brose and buy.
Let's talk about that chicken and egg because every marketplace has that issue, and so many founders are doing that. How did you go about solving the chicken and egg problem, especially in the early days? One of it was you had a list of 500 folks, and then you manually seeded, and I guess called each one of them to join the site. Is that a fair approach of how you did it?
Aditya Mehta (19:56):
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, calling, emailing, following up again because that's where it's really tough to build the supply side on the marketplace, and getting artists to literally put up their work, and put in the details, and all of that. Just made sure that it was super easy for them to be able to do that, which it was. The UI, UX was self-explanatory and allowed them to be able to put up their work in a very easy manner. Yeah, that's basically how we solved the first part of the problem. Then as I mentioned, once you have a considerable amount of products that you're happy to present to your users, that's when you go for your public launch.
The supply side makes sense because you just acquire them, and you call them, and you beg them. They're buddies, and you promise them a lunch or meal. You go through that list and get a supply side. Then now you got to do the demand side, right? How did it happen? Were you running ads? Were you just emailing all your friends? Because now you need to drive transactions on the demand side, so how did you go about doing that in the early days?
Aditya Mehta (21:23):
Yeah, I didn't do any advertising or marketing. I didn't have any money for that. I just put it out, and the interesting part about building a product through building a community is that the community helps spread the word. These artists helped spread the word further, right? That's how it got popular, and, yeah, start building the Instagram page on the side. Today, thankfully, we're one of the top five art platforms to follow on Instagram. It's taken a lot of work to get there. I went on to build it organically, and I knew that we put something out that's different and that's going to attract the audience that I wanted to tap into, the millennials and Gen Z. Yeah, you sort of just let it go as far as it can organically.
Yeah, I mean, okay, obviously, a happy buyer refers other folks to the platform. What's interesting about what you said is that artists are bringing their own audiences to the platform as well. Why is that? Is it because that's to only way to buy their art and know they can go direct to the artist in some weird way, right? Why does an artist say, "Hey, let me recommend this link, artandfound.com, and slash my artist name?" Why would they share that with their audience from your perspective? Yeah.
Aditya Mehta (23:03):
It's because one of the key pain points that you're solving for was to take care of the printing, framing, packaging, shipping for artists. While they were creating this amazing art, we were solving for how do we get it to buyers. The print-on-demand model approach is what drove our business model and got artists to actually publish their work to potential buyers. That's the key reason as to why they saw this as a platform where it helped them push their work out and for buyers to be able to purchase it very easily.
Right. These value-added features basically made the process much more trustworthy and straightforward for them, and so they rather everyone just use your service, kind of like a Shopify in that sense to just help power their art transaction.
Aditya Mehta (23:51): Absolutely.
So I think it makes a lot of sense for suppliers. I recently bought an art piece through Artfinder because they're talking to me on... now, I feel bad a little bit confessing that I bought using someone else's art marketplace and definitely had a...
Aditya Mehta (24:25):You have more though. I can see blank wall behind you, so you can fill it up from Art&Found.
Jeremy (24:29):Yeah, exactly. I actually just bought a 100 x 50 CM piece for that one.
Aditya Mehta (24:36): Nice.
Obviously, I think what's interesting for you, of course, is that you're not only doing just the normal pieces for the transaction, but you're also targeting a global audience on the demand side, and then secondarily, you also target corporates and individuals, right? Let's talk about the global audience piece. Was it something that you organically thought of from day one? Because wouldn't the most obvious one just be Indian people buying Indian art or was it something that you just saw? You started out targeting Indian people as the audience, and then you ended up targeting the diaspora globally.
Aditya Mehta (25:17):
Yeah. I know from day zero, I always wanted to position Art&Found as a global platform. Even the kind of art that's on the platform isn't necessarily Indian, Indian art. It appeals to that global audience. When you're running an e-commerce platform, it's online. You got to capitalize on that. You're absolutely right. The Indian diaspora beyond obviously the local market has an emotional connect to this kind of art because they're seeing a startup back home curating this kind of art that's not been out there before. That's one part.
The second part is, yes, the evolution from buyers to brands was a very interesting one where brands wanted to leverage art and design for their business objectives. Essentially, getting into the business of creativity. This has been popular out in the West, almost the artist X brand collaboration, and we started doing these very early on with brands like Levi's. We did the art for WeWork in India.
Last year, we did a collaboration with PepsiCo where we curated about the top 20 digital artists in India whose work was raised online. We raised about $9,000 USD for Smile Foundation during COVID. We're doing a collaboration with Starbucks right now. That's been such an interesting space, and I love that because you're helping artists just scale their work beyond individual buyers. That's been amazing to work with.
Wow. That must have been amazing for some artists because they're like, "Wow, I started selling to my audience. I started selling to new audience with domestically and globally. Now, I'm suddenly selling my art to Starbucks." I mean that's a mind-blowing experience for artists who are able to do that, right?
Aditya Mehta (27:31):
Exactly. It's huge. I just love this side of the business. We've done these collaborations that have been the first for India, for a brand or for Southeast Asia, Middle East, North Africa market. That's been incredibly exciting to drive that movement.
Yeah. Well, that's amazing. When you see that transformation for people as they tackle larger and larger audiences, what do you think are the things that you're most excited to build in the upcoming year from your perspective?
Aditya Mehta (28:12):
Oh, well, we're working on something very exciting right now, which is the whole digital art, NFTs space, which I'm sure you've heard about. It aligns with everything, the purpose of why I started Art&Found. Our mission has been to make art accessible and to increase the value of art. With NFTs, it's creating enormous opportunities for artists in a way that's never been done before. It's a hugely transformational shift for artists to be able to really, truly own their work.
The added benefit here is that even creators can be able to monetize from the work that they can collect from the assets that they can collect. This is a really interesting space for an art entrepreneur, and what impact it can create for the artist community, and to be able to drive that mission that we started to do this for in the first place.
Jeremy (29:31):Awesome. That's really exciting because I totally understand why the NFT works and how that helps monetize work that the artist may not necessarily be able to do so before, but I got to be aware that the audience may not necessarily know what a NFT is and how it actually does that transformative work for monetizing the art. So could you, in your own words, explain what a NFT is and how exactly it's different from signing a physical piece of work?
Aditya Mehta (30:03):
Absolutely. Yeah, right. The NFT stands for non-fungible tokens, and it's not as complicated as it sounds. It's basically claim on ownership of a digital asset that's on the blockchain. This could be anything from a virtual item, like a music file or digital art, to even claim on ownership of physical items like sneakers or access to concerts.
Right. The way I think about it is like in the past, if I make one piece of art, I could sign it and say it is the one piece of art. If I had a workshop of artists that would clone my art, at least I know this one piece of art is the original. This is the way to do that for digital assets and that you build digitally, and you say, "This is the one piece that was there." I think there's an interesting value to be able to market out as this is the original. This is the piece.
Of course, I think the problem is the valuations seem to have created a lot of hype, and I think the mainstream person's kind of like, "Oh, I see the hype, and so I think it's dumb." But I actually think there's a deeper economic, real reality to it, which is a lot more mundane, a lot more transformative than the super high prices for X or Y, right?
Aditya Mehta (31:30):
Yeah, yeah. You got it. NFTs are basically solving for the three missing ingredients, which is scarcity, authenticity, and ownership for artists. Blockchain allows you to track the distribution of your artwork on the blockchain. When you're an artist today, and you're minting your artwork, and you're attributing the number of editions, whether it's single or limited edition of 10, there can only be those many available now in the blockchain. Allowing them to control the scarcity of their work, and that's a huge feature here.
From the authenticity aspect, it's knowing that I own this true, original piece that's signed and verified on a publicly accessible blockchain. I guess with ownership, it's about cracking the provenance, the story of the piece, of the asset. Who created it? Who owns it? Who owned it, and then who will own it? This is all automated on the blockchain, and I think this is what it's solving for.
The bigger narrative here is the shift in ownership from platforms to the creators. When you're a creator today, and you're uploading your work, you're sort of in a sense giving up the ownership of your artwork or creation, what it may be. You don't even monetize from it. The platform does any way they seem to see fit. I think here you're flipping it where you're putting ownership back in the hands of creators. When you do that, you can see the whole value shift that's happening here impacting not just creators, but collectors given the built-in secondary market of NFTs.
Wow. What's interesting is that most people thinking about NFTs as something that's going to benefit the rich, the fads, right? What's interesting here is that you want to use it to help benefit South Asian artists who may not even necessarily understand what an NFT is right now. So it's kind of interesting. How are you selling NFTs to your artist base to be like, "This is another way to monetize your work?" Or is it they are already banging on the door saying, "We love it?" I mean what is it like?
Aditya Mehta (34:20):
Yeah. I mean there's obviously excitement around it, and the people... 69 million sale or the NBA Top Shot Lebron James sale or even Nyan Cat meme. It's all exciting. It's going to create media frenzy. It's going to get into the WhatsApp followers and create awareness, which is all great. There is obviously a huge educational build-up here for artists and for collectors.
There's so much happening right now in the space, be it podcasts. I'm glad we're talking about it. There's podcast like Zima Red, and there's Clubhouse sessions. A16z is doing podcasts around this. So I think there's so much conversation going around this, and that's where you go beyond and deeper into understanding the value beyond the speculative trading value right now, what may seem like it. Yes, there is going to be a education curve, but you can see the long-term implications of this.
Coming back to value, yes, one of the key features with NFTs is that it puts all art on a level playing field. You no longer need a curator or a critic to be able to put value on your work. The value lies in the transaction, right? Today, Jeremy could buy an unknown artist's work and put a certain value to it. That's the ultimate value. That's publicly available now. I think that's a huge game-changer.
We've seen stories of a 16, 17-year-old kid named FEWOCiOUS who is creating art during COVID, and now, he's shot in the limelight with his digital art NFTs just putting out incredible work, but also doing amazing sneaker drop collaborations with Artefact, which is this brand that's been doing amazing NFT collaborations. I think it's a game-changer. What it's done even in Philippines for artists who have been able to monetize their NFTs and helping them fund the devastation that the typhoon has caused, so I think there's huge gains here in the long term.
Amazing. As you do this, there must have been some tough times along the way, right? It's like you had this founding, which was you're waiting, and chilling, and side-hustling. Then, now, you're so excited, and growing fast, and NFTs. Along the way, were there a few moments where you had to be brave?
Aditya Mehta (37:16):
Absolutely. I think I'm going through that right now. This is why I love the name of your podcast. I think we connected at the right time. Of course, COVID has made it difficult for entrepreneurs and startups in general, but I think it really tests you on the qualities that you need as an entrepreneur. Two of which I truly believe are important is... One is resilience, and the other is empathy.
One of my advisors gave me this brilliant analogy from a scene from The Dark Knight Rises where Christian Bale is trying to escape the pit. He keeps attempting to do so with the rope around him so that he doesn't fall to his death. He is unable to make the leap until the blind prisoner reminds him that he truly needs to fear death because how can he make the leap without the impulse of the spirit, the fear of death itself? Bruce has been too arrogant to think that's... It's only about becoming stronger and strength, whereas it's about the spirit more.
The third time, he lets go of the rope, and he has no choice but to succeed. His fear is reignited as his strength, and he successfully makes the leap. I think there's a lesson here for entrepreneurs that fear will be there, but you need to learn to control it, and channelize it, and not be able to let it control you. Not that it will define you, but it doesn't have to confine you. I think that's what's something that you have to overcome and become brave about.
Wow. That was really deep, and I did not expect that from a Batman movie reference. I watched the same movie, and I thought it was a very cool action sequence, but I guess you're right. I never thought about it at the deeper, symbolic level. I guess maybe I was watching it, and I wasn't paying attention-
Aditya Mehta (39:32): You know-
Jeremy (39:50):... or I was eating too much popcorn.
Aditya Mehta (39:54):It's not the greatest one in the trilogy. It's not my favorite one, but this scene really stands out. I'm going
to send you the clip.
Jeremy (40:03):Oh, yeah. I feel like I got to put it in the show description and transcript and link it so that people know
what this is because-
Aditya Mehta (40:10): Yes, do it.
Jeremy (40:11):... they may not have watched this Nolan movie. Yeah. No, I totally agree with you because the pit sucks,
right? I mean the fear sucks. Everyone's counting on you. Things go sideways. It sucks.
Aditya Mehta (40:11):Yeah, it's just the journey, and, yeah, you got to be brave. Yeah.
Jeremy (40:33):Yeah. Wow. You got to be brave and fear death, right? You just got to go for it sometimes.
Aditya Mehta (40:38): That's it. That's it.
Jeremy (40:38):I mean it's kind of curious. Could you share with us maybe a specific moment where you faced that fear
years ago? Was it when you were starting out, when you were launching or-
Aditya Mehta (40:49): I think-
Jeremy (40:49):... customer support went down?
Aditya Mehta (40:52):
Oh, yeah. I mean there's a lot of moments, but those are small ones, right? I think when you're actually starting out, there isn't so much of that fear. There's a lot of excitement and rush. You're naïve. You're excited. There's a lot of those sort of emotions. You want to make an impact, move fast, and make things. You know those cliches, but I think when you're facing adversity and as we are with COVID, you have to go into, let's say, changing the metric, be it from conversion to engagement.
You got to think of the long term. You got to keep reminding yourself of, hey, why you started in the first place. What can you capitalize on if you're being hit in one area and so on? How can you still keep creating jobs and commissioning work for artists and so on? I think it's just when you want to scale, you want to grow further, but there's still that fear of... That's when you sort of have to make that leap in that sense.
Wow. That's a lot deeper than I think most people will understand, but you're totally right, which is that I think when it's still a side hustle, there's a lot of excitement, and there's nothing to lose. It's only from your perspective everything to gain because you hate your job, right?
Aditya Mehta (42:30):
That's it. Yeah, it's the idea of fundamental asymmetry, and Nicholas Nassim Taleb talks about this in his book, Antifragile. It's the idea that the upside is much bigger than the apparent short-term downside. If you try and understand that from that viewpoint in context to your startup or what you're trying to build, you'd have your eye on the longer vision and the long term.
Right. That's the awesome part about starting something new. I love what you said, which is that the big difference is that once you're one year, two years into your business, and then now there's something to lose, right? Now, you got to make those bets.
Aditya Mehta (43:24):You got to take the leap, man. Let go of the rope.
Jeremy (43:27):It's like all these founders are super excited, and then over next two years, they build their own pit of
Aditya Mehta (43:42):Yeah, yeah. That's it. We all need the blind prisoner to tell us, "Hey, really fear the death. Let go of the
Jeremy (43:44):Well, I guess now, Aditya, you're kind of like the blind prisoner telling everybody on the show that they must-
Aditya Mehta (43:53):
Hey, Jeremy, I think you should become the blind prisoner.
Jeremy (43:56):The blind prisoner. No, I'm-
Aditya Mehta (43:57):I mean you're talking to hundreds more-
Jeremy (43:58):I'm the cameraman here just filming.
Aditya Mehta (44:03): Yeah.
Yeah. Awesome. Well, we're coming up on time here, Aditya. Aditya, thank you so much for sharing, I think, the three parts of it. I think the first part, of course, sharing about how you found inspiration in art, not really in your childhood even though we suspected as much, which was disqualified and disproven, but more in your professional career just working alongside creatives and appreciating that. It was just interesting to hear that creative art director journey where you were just working as that collaborator and leader of getting stuff done in the art and creative world.
Second, I think that was really interesting that I enjoyed was also how you got about building that side hustle at work and the actual reality of founding from a side hustle while at work, which is during corporate work time, you launched the site. Then you waited and twiddled your thumbs a little bit, but also the real reality of building the two-sided marketplace, the manual nature of getting supply and demand. Lots of super solid tips for people transitioning or exploring to become a founder.
Then, of course, I love the last bit about the pit of doom here about bravery in the context of fear. Basically, I think what you're saying here is fear isn't that bad if it's fueling you to do something better and braver, which I really love.
Aditya Mehta (45:39):Yes, it's like a fire in your belly, and controlled, it warms you and keeps you alive. Unleashed, it burns
and destroys you.
Jeremy (45:47): So more-
Aditya Mehta (45:47): Scary.
Jeremy (45:47): Scary.
Aditya Mehta (45:47):
Jeremy (45:54):Wow. Awesome. Well, I guess the moral of the story is watch more Batman, I think.
Aditya Mehta (46:02):Yeah, let's do it. Jeremy, let's just do that. You get the popcorn. I'll get the film.
Jeremy (46:07):Awesome. Well, it's been a pleasure having you on our show, Aditya.
Aditya Mehta (46:11):This is great, man. This is fun. Look forward to another one.