Starting from the finish line

Harsh Gupta
3 min readApr 18, 2021

This post was originally published on substack

This is an excerpt from my diary, where I am trying to come in terms with my own ambitions. When we were preparing for IIT JEE, there were these kids who you could feel were laughing at you for even thinking that you could crack JEE. I feel similar things happening now, when I talk about Neera, our idea and the aim, I can instantly feel them saying inside “That’s ridiculous”, I realized I wasn’t fully in terms with my ambitions either. I was shy expressing that I really think we can win the whole search domain. Not anymore.

What is the 10 year plan for Neera?

We want to dominate the whole search and discovery space, 100 Billion, I Trillion, whatever it is, whatever it will be, we will be the king. That’s the aim.

We have to start with something small, of course, there is no other way, but we don’t aim to remain there.

Why aim to be king of the whole hill?

Because we can. If anyone else in the world can do it, we can do it too.

It will be difficult for sure, there will be roadblocks, for sure. Can we overcome that, definitely.

If we are playing, we are playing to WIN!

Now lets work backwards from the finish line.

The most visible thing blocking our path is the giant named Google. We won’t meet it soon, but we will surely meet. There is no shying away from it. The purpose of the quest isn’t to defeat it. but we will if we have to. What does this mean?

First it means no hiding in smaller spaces like enterprise search or productivity app or some other niche search domain. Doing it as a strategic move is fine, but we won’t restrict our thoughts because you can’t imagine meeting the giant.

Take Command E for example, it’s a Mac desktop app to search things. They have a lot of funding and great team. Their magic is you press Command+E and you can find everything. But they won’t never gо beyond a desktop app, why? Because their name itself restricts them to be a desktop app.

It’s not about the name itself, it’s about the restriction in thought. The name tells you that they don’t envision gоing beyond their immediate forms.

Whereas Neera is water. It allows you to be in “flow”, it quenches your thirst for curiosity It takes whatever shape you want to give it. It will be like an ocean, vast and beyond!

The name is a manifestation of our ambition for Neera.

That is why a lot of general startup advice doesn’t sit well with me. A lot of it is about new unproven products. Things you don’t know if anybody ever wants them. So a lot of advice is about trying to figure out if anybody really wants those products or services.

In our case, it is a search engine, everybody wants a search engine, everyone uses a search engine. The question really is, “How do we make people use OUR search engine?” (* Usually the answer is “Add 10x value in new ways”, though that’s neither necessary, nor sufficient)

The quest to figure out the answer to this question is different from the quest to figure out “Does anybody want a search engine?”

A lot of the general startup advice does apply to us. You cannot build a product in isolation. You cannot hope that just because your product is “better”, people will use it. You have to iterate a lot.

But…, because people aren’t jumping on your product doesn’t mean your product is not right or you cannot move forward. It means that the particular path you are taking is probably not the right one and you should look for other trails around.

Most of the advice boils down to keeping your eyes and ears open. Really seeing what’s going on and then doing whatever is necessary.

Most of the time it’s listening to your customers and feeling what they are feeling. But it is also about listening to yourself, and being truthful about what you want.