The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten on Smash Notes

The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten podcast.

Unfiltered insights and actionable advice straight from the trenches of startup and business life. The show hosts, Steli Efti and Hiten Shah, are both serial entrepreneurs who have founded multi-million dollar SaaS startups. Being busy CEOs of fast-growing companies, they know the value of your time and make sure you get the most out of each 22 minute episode. Tune in for new episodes every Tuesday and Friday.



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In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten discuss the topic of how to deal with your disadvantages as a founder. Your differences as a person, whether it be your age or ethnicity, is a characteristic about yourself that could be considered a disadvantage or an advantage—depending on your outlook. Steli and Hiten discuss the power of your MINDSET when it comes to embracing your differences and others’. Tune-in to learn how you can make your differences an advantage for you and why aiming to please everyone is a futile task.

Time Stamped Show Notes:


00:27 – Dealing with disadvantages as a founder is a topic that comes up a lot for both Steli and Hiten

00:58 – This is one topic that not all people talk about

01:13 – People may see Steli and Hiten as two successful founders with diverse backgrounds

01:56 – “Everything you think is a disadvantage is actually your advantage”


02:18 – Pitching American investors when English is not your native language is not a disadvantage

02:41 – Being surrounded by a lot of diversity is what will make your uniqueness shine

03:02 – Hiten’s example is Mathilde from Front, who is French

03:28 – Hiten got introduced to Mathilde because he meets foreign founders

04:01 – Use your disadvantages as advantages

04:53 – In South Africa, there’s a great pool of talented people that are 50% lower than the regular cost

05:28 – Being able to have lower costs is a clear advantage


06:09 – A better word to refer to disadvantage is difference

06:35 – “Being different depends entirely on how you play that or how you utilize that”

06:48 – Your level of awareness regarding one’s disadvantages is what matters

07:12 – The losing mentality is what makes you see more wrong in the world and is that’s going to debilitate you in your taking charge

07:46 – Your success in pitching with a foreign accent depends on many factors

08:01 – On the US coast, people care less if you have an accent

08:52 – There are ranges within foreign accents – in-person it might mean less, but if you’re cold-calling with a strong accent, it could be a disadvantage

10:28 – You need to be aware that the kind of accent you have can be interpreted differently by the person listening to you

11:26 – Elon Musk is originally from South Africa

12:24 – Go to the few people who will respond to you more positively

13:12 – Another disadvantage Steli usually comes across is the age issue (too young or too old to be a founder)

13:58 – For founders with an age issue, do the opposite of ‘act your age’

14:43 – Act as if the other person is not thinking about your age

15:15 – Hiten personally doesn’t bother to ask the ages of people he works with

16:01 – Act appropriately for what you’re doing

17:11 – Steli shares about a woman he read about in an article 10 years ago when he first came to the US


17:21 – It was about the Co-CEO of Pepsi, a woman born and raised in India, who is still wearing traditional Indian clothes to work


18:34 – Attitude and mindset matters a lot

19:05 – Highlight what makes you unique

20:05 – How do you respond to the negativity?

21:25 – A percentage of the time, the negativity is just in your head

21:48 – Don’t ever think people are biased

22:03 – If you feel the bias is real, you have a choice – change yourself in some way

22:52 – The way you handle bias is the way you handle sales objections


23:45 – Disqualify certain objections

24:20 – “Not everybody who has money should be my investor”

24:35 – Know who your target is

24:52 – Trying to convince everybody is NOT the right way

25:37 – “You can’t hide from reality, you can’t run from reality – you need to embrace reality”

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