Startups and Venture Capital

September 29, 2022

Ask a CEO anything

with Ajay Prakash, CEO and Founder of EntryLevel

Transcript

Ayush

Awesome! 

Welcome, everybody, to another one of EntryLevel’s events on “Ask a CEO Anything”.

And today, we have with us Ajay Prakash who is the CEO and founder of EntryLevel. Before we dive deep into and ask a lot of questions with Ajay, I would love for everyone to put in the chat where they are joining from; which city, which country you're joining from, so we can see where everybody in the room is from.

I'll start with where I am from; I'm joining from Nairobi in Kenya. 

Cape Town in Germany—nice! You have folks from Singapore, Delhi, Hong Kong, Bangalore, Durban… Wow, nice! 

Ajay

It's a pretty big spread.

It's awesome! 

Ayush

Yeah, amazing.

All right, I would also encourage whoever can to turn on your videos because this is an interactive session. So, you don't need to keep your videos off, and if you'd like you can also ask questions. Well, you can request to unmute and you can ask questions.

 I'll allow that option soon once I… I'll start with the questions you guys submitted when signing up and then if you'd like, if we can have a conversation with Ajay. 

Now the next thing we're going to do is a small poll just to see two question polls which I'm going to launch now, which you will see pop up on your screen.

There's two questions;

“How are you feeling today?'' and “Have you done an EntryLevel course before?” 

So I just want to know who's a student and who's a prospective student.

Awesome, I see nine people have answered… everyone's answering. Amazing! Brilliant!

I'm glad no one's confused. There are some nervous people there. 

Ajay

Ayush, I think you're too intimidating.

Ayush

All right! 

Well as the majority are pumped and excited, yes, this is going to be an exciting event.

And I see almost 60% of people have done a course and some that haven't done a course with EntryLevel before. 

Wonderful

Ajay

That’s just our market research, so I appreciate you guys filling it up so we know.

Ayush

Awesome!

Thanks everyone for filling that poll. I'm gonna end that now. Brilliant!

Couple of err… Is it sharing the results?

Yeah I think so.

Cool, wonderful! 

So, to kickstart, just a couple of housekeeping rules—not many—just no spamming the chat, and that's it. And we all are here to learn and have a discussion so let's keep it civil, and if you have any questions regarding the program or any program that you've done, you are free to message us on the chat and we'll see if we can answer that today.

And for those who are new to EntryLevel, just um, Ajay is gonna give a better introduction of EntryLevel because, well, he founded the company. We're gonna start with his motivations for that, but for those who are new here, you probably are subscribed to newsletters and are receiving our updates.

We offer a bunch of… a lot of upskilling programs that give you an experience in the real field. We have programs in VC Analysts, Financial Analyst, Product Management, Data Analyst, and a couple of programs in Digital Marketing and Scrum Master. Our portfolio of programs is growing, our programs are free if you finish, so whoever finishes the program and submits the portfolio has a chance to get the refund back and actually build a portfolio through your course; so it's very experiential.

Now, I'm not gonna keep talking about EntryLevel and the programs because we want to know more about Ajay and more about what he does. So, I'm going to kickstart with a couple of questions but if any of you have any questions, feel free to put it in the chat or raise your hand. There's a raise-hand option right in… I think you just err… you'll see it. I can't see it because I'm the host but it's there in the participants field where you write in the chat. So, you can raise your hand and we will unmute you and you can ask a question there.

Ajay

Yeah, at the bottom of your screen there should be a reaction button with a smiley face and plus, you click that and then raise-hand.

Ayush

Perfect, Wonderful. 

So, Ajay let's… So we know you as the CEO and the founder of EntryLevel but we would like to know a little bit more about you. Can you give us a little bit of background about yourself? Just tell us a little bit about yourself; what you did in the past and what you are doing now.

Ajay

Yeah, for sure.

So, in the past, I guess, I started off as a theoretical physicist/manufacturing engineer, which has nothing to do with what I'm doing today. But that's where I started in the University. And then, I started a bunch of different companies, to be honest; I was just throwing dots. So, I did a beer company for a bit, tried Quantum Computing, and tried various different things.

I also started a non-profit in my second year university helping Engineers reskill. So we did that for free—it was called “Real Skills” in Sydney and we reskilled about 8,000 Engineers free of charge to, you know, find better jobs, essentially. Because in Australia there was this whole issue where, like people who were graduating from engineering degrees just had no job prospects and so we were trying to fix that.

So, my heart has always been in the education space and so, you know, after going through the trials and tribulations of starting a few companies, I did an international trade company in Singapore for a number of years and, you know, we raised a bunch of capital and we grew the team from zero to 120-130 people. 

So, I've gone through those different pitfalls but I've always come back to the education space and so in 2020, you know, COVID hit and it was like Prime Time for education. Transparently, it was just like a timing issue and like an opportunistic thing. So I've always wanted to start it but 2020 just seemed like the right time to start a new company, so that's quite frankly the reason why we started in that period of time.

Ayush

Awesome.

You've been following the entrepreneurial path for a while. What made you decide that you wanted to be the boss, you wanted to pursue this journey and not work for someone else? 

Ajay

Yeah, that's an interesting question. So, I started with the intention of becoming a professor—so I wanted to become a Physics Professor and sort of teach, but then I realised the real impact was being made, not in the laboratory in the University, but actually by entrepreneurs paving their own pathway.

And so, I did work for a couple of companies here and there but I was always doing something on the side and so I just realised that um… You know, and it sounds weird because we reskill people into jobs, but I felt that I wanted my work to be unbounded, so I didn't want there to be a bit of a cap to my work, right? 

Like, you get paid your salary and you do your work and I… there were often times I'd go above and beyond for my work and then go to go to my boss and sort of explain to them what they… what I did and they're like, “Okay, that's cool!” 

And then, like, there's no reaction, there's no reward for that, and I just sort of said, you know, it’s sort of just sad. That's not really what I want to do, like I want to do my own thing, but I also think there's ways to incorporate that into the employment experience, right?

For example, like at EntryLevel, as you know, like, everyone gets stock options and I try to make everyone feel like an owner in some capacity. And so, there's ways to do it like where you don't have to become an entrepreneur—and I'm not saying that that's the only pathway—but some of the advice I give to early entrepreneurs is, like, maybe join an early-stage company that's raised a bit more com capital and, like, has a bit more/less risk involved and where you can still get Equity, right? So you still get paid and you get equities.

It’s like the Best of Both Worlds in some cases. 

So, personally I just enjoyed the… playing the game right, like trying and building something really interesting and changing the world in some capacity and, you know, we make mistakes here and there… but we're trying our best, right? And I think people believe in what we're trying to do in the team and we're trying to make a difference and so, yeah, I enjoy that.

Ayush

Absolutely great answer. 

So, in your past, you ventured into spaces that are a bit different from education, like I think, FNB as well and Blockchain. So what are your thoughts on this “jack of all trades, master of none” applied in an entrepreneurial field? What do you think about that?

Ajay

Yeah, I think, so in Engineering, there’s this concept called robustness, right? Like, and robustness basically means that you can persevere and adapt to various different scenarios and different things that are happening, right? And if you take a material and put in a different environment it has to be robust.

And so, if you think about yourself in terms of the skill sets you have and you're not robust; where you could be put in a different environment or maybe the market conditions change and, you know,  like we saw from COVID—which is probably the most clear example where everything went online—and so people with more hospitality skill sets or in-person skill sets were sort of skilled out, right? And now we're seeing a different shift, right? Where the economy is sort of shifting the other way and now tech companies are doing layoffs and hospitality companies are struggling to get people through the door and so, the reason why I you know worked as a full stack developer, worked an operation manager, and did various different things, is because like I wanted to build my robustness; I wanted to build my growth skill set, I wanted to build my developer skill set, my operation skill set, and so on and so forth.

So, I think I've done a decent job of becoming robust and, you know, building robustness sometimes means you trade off in becoming a specialist. So, there are some people that are world class in one particular thing and build that particular skill set and other people who have like, sort of built various skill sets, so they're more defensible, right? 

But also in that defensibility there becomes this Venn diagram of skills that sort of overlap and you can become world-class.

For example, you know, you could be good at copywriting and you could be good at artificial intelligence and that Venn diagram; the sort of area between those two things means that you could be an amazing copywriter for artificial intelligence—which, you know, there's way less people doing. 

So, I think because of that, I've had the unique skill sets to build this particular company, right? Because of the experience and growth; the experience in building products and the education experience. So, that's why I feel like starting an Edtech company was, like, perfect for me personally. But it really depends on your journey and what you're doing.

Ayush

Right. So, when you get, like, ideas; entrepreneurial idea or sort of business, or even even EntryLevel; if you have ideas of side business or like something else we can do, how do you know if your idea is worth it and what do you do to validate these ideas?

Ajay

Yes, I think about it very experimentally, right? And so, I’ve invested in a couple of different entrepreneurs now; this year and last year, and so, you know, what I can say is that me personally, I also prefer entrepreneurs like this, that try many different things, right?

You fall in love with the problem that you're trying to solve and not this weird solution that you have and that you're trying different angles to solve that problem and throwing dots to see what works, right? 

So when we launched EntryLevel, we actually launched like nine other things at the same time. No one hears about it because it just sort of got swept under the rug. But, you know, we launched Feature Proof, we launched Virtual Coaching; we've launched all these different things, right? And, you know, it's just that EntryLevel worked out, right? We had 7,000 signups in the first week and we're like, “Okay, that's interesting. Let's dig into that.” But ultimately, the problem I was trying to solve was around education and recruitment, and so we're still working on the recruitment piece. We haven't got to that yet; we’re focused on the education side, still trying to fix various things there then we'll sort of build up the recruitment side of things.

But, yeah it was just opportunistic and and experimental and then we hit a point right where EntryLevel was working; we’re re-skilling people but we're doing it 100% for free and we said, “Oka, we don't have a business model, so we're gonna run out of money very soon”. And so, we just tried various different business models anywhere from sponsorships to companies coming in and helping out to, you know, this Commitment Bond thing that we tried, right? Which, when I pitched it to the team, they thought it was a stupid idea, you know? 

It didn’t seem like it at the time but then we did it and then we realised, “Okay, how do we then have an upsell loop at the end so we can keep some of the bonds at the end of it?”

And now, we've created a bit of a sustainable loop that makes sense.

So, it's all experimental and even now we're hitting issues, right? So we're trying different marketing tactics. I know in programs where testing things rapidly we, you know, we are re-hauling the scrum master program, right? Because like, you know, we got some feedback and we decided to re-haul it. So it's currently on the waiting list. If you go look at that, there's various things we're testing and trying and improving on.

Ayush

Oh, wonderful.

Yeah, like, on ideas, what you said was really resonating with me—falling in love with the problem as well—because I'm doing a course myself on the side here and and our focus right now is understanding the problem and it's like doing so much sensing and so much… so many interviews and using different tools to understand what the problem actually is and then coming up with a bunch of ideas…and for the person who asked this question, how do you validate ideas.

Check out our product management program because we have a whole module there on validation; on how you validate the problem that you have, how you validate if there's a demand for the solution that you're thinking and how to actually validate the ideas by using different methods. And at the end it's about experimenting.

Right there's a couple of… Rebel, yes we have noted that feedback; we received that feedback via email too and we are in the process of rehauling the scrum master program.

Thanks for…

Ajay

Yeah, we should let you know we definitely took your suggestion seriously. It's currently on the waitlist now so we're revamping the entire thing. So, I really appreciate that feedback and we definitely are listening.

It's just that sometimes we don’t get back to you and let you know that that's what we did and the actionables.

But yeah, don't worry, we're on it.

Ayush

Awesome.

Ash wants to ask a question, so I'm gonna let you unmute.

Ash

Hi, Ajay. Thank you so much for taking your time out. My name is Ash; I am working on… I know you like the background…

Ajay

Yeah…he knew exactly what I was gonna say.

Ash

Yeah, so I'm working on an education platform. It's called MadEd where, what we are doing is, we are tying up with colleges and universities in tr2 in India, right?

And then we're educating them all with three and game Peak.

So, we are creating the world's… what we call the First Community Management Program so I am not worried about the success of the thing. The idea is how efficiently we can get successful. So I have got everything sold out; we have Partnerships—more than 20 universities and colleges giving us access to 40,000 people—and this is just the first month. We're like in the first month and they've got 40,000 students that are already willing to onboard. And we have the companies who are willing to hire them if they go through a program on the way we do it.

The one thing that I'm worried about is how efficiently I can make it and the culture setting within the company, because I'm pretty young, right? I'm 26 and I've tried working with like more than 11 companies till now. I’ve succeeded at a lot of things and failed at a lot of things. So, I'm just very worried about how to actually set the culture in the company right where the values get aligned in the long term.

Ajay

Yeah, that makes sense. How big is the team now for you guys?

Ash

All right.

Now, we're just five people. It's not even been a month that we have actually started out. So we have just been very passionate, just going out putting, you know, meeting everybody in, like, in the sense of, you know, offline marketing  and everything. We go out and meet all the universities and colleges. We even go out and do free sessions so they can sort of get the taste of what we're trying to achieve with them. 

Yeah.

Ajay

Yeah, so the question is about building culture within the team of five people, right?

Ash

Yes

Ajay

Okay, yeah I think that's an interesting one we, you know, we're not that big either. I think we're closing in on 15 people, so we're only a few steps ahead and I don't actually like hiring more people because I like keeping the team as lean as possible and it also conserves our cash flow. It’s also very uncertain what's happening economically. So, you know,  I'm not gonna splurge on hiring too many people right now but, look, we learned very quickly that in a small team, it's pretty easy to set culture just because, like, it comes from the founder and it comes from, just like, having these one-on-one conversations. It's just that when you start growing the team, you can't have those one-on-one conversations as much, right? 

And there's the culture that has to be set; like from the way that you talk to each other, the way that team members interact with each other.

So, you know, we've done these culture setting sessions where we set out corporate values and we set our mission and vision. But ultimately, like I think there's more things that are more fundamentally important about things like, you know, “how do we work as a team?” like;

Are we doing goals? 

Are we doing okay hours? 

Like, are we doing these various structures for the team? I also found that like, people actually want more direction than they say they do, right? 

A lot of people like autonomy, right? They say they want autonomous structures and things like that but then you let them do their thing and you sort of step back for a bit, and then everyone's just confused on what's going on and so they actually like direction. They like being told, like, “These are the goals,” right? 

So I think one thing that I'll say is for the culture side of things, like I wouldn't worry too much about, you know, pushing a particular culture right the culture will form around the team and I think of five people. People will figure out exactly the right ways to work with each other, right? And you can codify some aspects of it, right?

And then the second thing I'll say is like the Autonomous-versus-Heavy-Direction problem; I think it is one of the biggest ones as you sort of scale the team up. I think where I've landed at is like; be very pushy on goals and like the okay hours and things like that and be ready like top down when it comes to goals, “This is exactly what I expect from you.”

But then, in terms of how they achieve those goals, you let your team have autonomy. 

Ash

Okay.

All right, that sounds good enough. 

Ajay

Yeah.

Is there anything specific around the culture stuff that you wanted me to answer?

Ash

No, no, no. 

So, the way we are going, I am pretty sure we're gonna do pretty well, so, you know, there are two ways you look for things that would work out.

I'm looking for things that might not work. I'm trying to just remove everything possible. So I'm very much worried about the efficiency of things rather than things failing. So, we have tried a lot of things, yeah?

I'm not scared of pivoting. I can, you know, pivot anything anytime… very flexible in that sense. I'm just sort of worried that if we go too fast, I don't want that to be the problem rather than anything else, right? So that's something that I'm very much worried about; that we go at the right pace.

Ajay

Yeah, that makes sense. It's very difficult to figure out all the things that could go wrong, right? And so, you know, you can plan for it but unfortunately like this, you know, everything can happen. 

So, it's just… yeah 

Ash

Yeah, so I'm happy this way.

It's just, you know, I'm gonna do my best. You know, the outcome is irrelevant as long as I'm putting the hundred percent. 

Of course, that's the idea.

Ajay

Awesome! Best of luck!

Sounds awesome 

Ash

Thanks! 

Thank you. 

Ayush

Just a second… a couple of messages in the chat.

If we have any plans to start a rust system programming course. 

Ajay

Wait, where did you…?

Is that high up?

Ayush

Yeah

Ajay

Okay.

So rust… I love Rust. I think Rust is awesome!

I think it's a very specific language, right? But it's a very nice language, right?

So I think it's something we want to do but unfortunately, as much as I want to do programs for things that I think are exciting, we just have to go where demand is and, like, not enough people have like said “We want a Rust course,” for us to go like, invest the resources and time and effort to build a Rust course. 

So, yeah! That's my unfortunate answer. I'd be very excited to do a Rust course and, to be honest, if the right mentor comes to us and like, will come work with us to do it in a very efficient way then, you know, we're not opposed to it.

Ayush

Yeah, I learned something new today. I didn't even know there was a programming language called Rust. 

Ajay

There's a lot of these like… I wouldn't say Rust is that niche, but they're very like… there's a lot of these niche languages that are out there that are cool in different ways. 

Ayush

Yeah.

All right we have to… I mean Jeffrey mentioned that he thinks we can still do virtual coaching within our programs where people can subscribe to coaching sessions and then…

Mark asked as well if we would consider launching a mentorship program because having a good performance for new people like for transitioning to new industries or like new in the industry; what are your thoughts on that?

Ajay

Yeah, so on the coaching thing we tried that. It didn't work as well as I would have hoped. Like we…

But the issue is like just the economics around running that, right? Like it's pricey to pay a mentor and then you gotta make sure that the people are willing to pay for it and unfortunately, people aren't as willing to pay for coaches as they are for things like fitness and things like that, so…

That was our initial launch, maybe, maybe we need to try it again but that we did that maybe a year ago it didn't pan out. 

On the mentoring thing, I think so. I think having mentors is super important. It's just like ADP List does this for free, right? So you know they're one of our partner companies, so if you're interested you can check out… Just a free promo for ADP list but, you know, they have free mentors accessible for you, so you can just go there and book a mentor anytime you want.

So there's no point in us rebuilding the wheel to be honest.

Ayush

Yeah, and this person… What challenges—like moving on to some questions from the ones which were submitted earlier—what challenges have you faced like in the first six to eight months of launching EntryLevel? 

Ajay

Challenges; six to eight months…

The first three months, I had no idea what we were building; like it was just Renee and Caleb and myself sitting in my mum's dining room just because I moved back home to conserve money because I didn't want to waste investor money. So, I just moved back home to like, until I was like… 

I set myself a goal I was like, I'm not going to move back out until I figure out exactly what I'm building. And so I decided to do that.

So we're just trying things and I think the first three months I had no idea what we were building and then I'd say month four, we figured out EntryLevel was the thing and then the second thing was like we had so much demand; we had like 30-40,000 people coming through our courses and we had no idea how to make money so we're just running these free programs. And so the second stress that was keeping up at night was like, we had… we didn't know how to make money.

So yeah, those are the two biggest issues. But ultimately, I look back at those times and those were like fun problems to solve and now the problems are a little bit more nuanced and, you know, not as interesting.

But they're interesting in different ways, I'll say like, I like the zero to one face; it's fun.

Ayush

Awesome, wonderful! 

Emmanuel asked err… maybe I can just quickly answer this.

Would you consider projects for newbies to enhance efficiency in the fields of… I mean, how the courses are designed is that you actually work on a project, but what we recommend is not to stop that because you can build on those projects and whether it's data analysts you can just find data online and work on your own and create your own projects. Same for UX design, VC and product management; you can just pick an existing company and revamp some of their website or app and show what you've done and why you did it.

So it's err… the courses include projects within them but then you can always pick up side projects yourself and enhance your skills.

Ajay

I think there's heaps of ways—just to add to that—I think there's heaps of ways to find projects like as you said; you can find stuff online to do, like you know, you just find your own data project and publish and talk about it.

I think writing about what you do is really important, so publish it on LinkedIn. 

Honestly, if you work on a project and publish on LinkedIn and tag me, I'll have a look at it and I'll share it, right? Like there's ways to get it out there and I always find it fascinating when people take the effort to go do things.

So I've seen projects where someone has redesigned a website that they thought was full and they went and did it for the EdUX portfolio and said like, “This is how I'd redesigned this anime website that I saw,” and I was like “That's really cool.” 

So there's ways to like, to go about it. I also saw someone who built a portfolio because they were applying for a job at Canva, so they did Canva as a project and they analysed different aspects of Canva—of this particular feature—and they used it as part of the application process.

So yeah, these things work. That's definitely something I’ve done in the past as well, so just, find these things and you can use existing companies and, as long as they're not monetizing it and you're just using it for your learning there's nothing wrong with like, using them as a little bit of a project for you to work off.

Ayush

Awesome.

More of a job search question; Rema asked that he's finished product management program; the level one and Scar-mastered as well, but it's still hard to find an entry-level job, so any tips on how to go ahead with that?

Ajay

Yeah, so that one's a tricky one. It's definitely a tough market out there and it's even harder for entry-level people because, you know, the courses aren't necessarily going to be the only thing helping you get that job.

One thing I found—and this is just my personal tip and whether it works for use is a different question—when I was getting jobs at an early stage and I didn't have any experience, what I did was, so I was going for a marketing position and so before I went for that interview, I knew I had no skills so I went and built them a marketing report.

So I went and did research on the company; I redesigned their web page and I did like a bunch of work and I printed it out and I showed them what I did in the interview. And then, he was so impressed he hired me the next day. 

So I think this way to showcase your experience in a different way when you don't have it, right? So, take the initiative where, like, you know, you build something for them or you analyse that feature and say, “Okay, this is where your conversion rate is low,” and try to do the job to de-risk the hire for them. 

Because ultimately, what you got to think about is that hiring is an exchange of value, right? They're paying you x-amount of dollars for some service, right? And if you think about that in the normal world when I pay for a service, I expect out of the box production, I expect you to do the service perfectly and I give you this much money. It's great.

When it comes to entry-level talent, there's a bit of a blurred line between, like, “Okay, I'm paying you x-amount but I also have the understanding that you kind of have to learn to like, figure out the skills and things like that and there might be some trade-off period before you provide that value,” and when it when it comes to these times where people are less certain about the economy and things like that—even last year was still tough but people are less interested in investing that time and effort—so the more that you can do to de-risk, the higher. 

So you prove that you can do the job, prove that you can provide some, like, benefit to the company in some way, the better you are, right? So, and then I say that knowing full well how hard that is to show; it is a very difficult thing to do but, you know, unfortunately it's a competitive world, so you've got to try and stand out in some way shape or form, and that's personally what's worked for me, pretty much. 

Ayush

Yep, I think that answers the second question as well which was similar to that.

It's like, how to start getting clients and work online in UX design.

Ajay

Well look, I think there's ways for UX design especially… It depends how willing you are, but I think doing things for, like, helping people out, helping friends out to build some experience and then getting to the stage where… I remember when I was doing some freelance work way back when, and I basically said, “Okay it's gonna cost you this much,” and I charge them a pretty low amount compared to the market and I also said, “If you're not happy with the work for any reason I will give you 100% of your money back. And I got three clients that way, right? And they were pretty happy with that—one of them wasn't fully happy and I just decided to give them the money back so I ended up keeping two of the clients work but…

And not everyone's in a position financially to be able to do things like that but if you're able to give guarantees to clients and de-risk it, like, it all comes into de-risking. I keep coming back to that principle but the easier you make it for the person to hire you, the easier you make it for the person to make the decision and make them feel comfortable with the work you're doing, the better it is.

Ayush

Yep, perfect! 

Great… just looking through other questions.

Ajay

So we have an ambassador program; kind of. We're building it out; it's called The Heroes Program, but if you're interested, definitely get in touch.

Ayush

About that, yep, why is python not a part of data two and three curriculum?

Ajay

Because we haven't gotten around to it. It's definitely… it’s in the pipeline and we've also tried to make them as accessible as possible. We're also trying to… we're working on separating the courses because I think what's happened is that we just have two diverse opinions; we have half the people saying that the courses are too hard and then half the people saying the courses are too easy and so we're now working on trying to separate the two so we're trying to make a fast track and a slow track.

The fast track will be a lot more intense with python and things like that which we're getting to, but ultimately, there's only so many things we can build, yeah? 

Ayush

On the same part, someone had also asked in the signups, like, “Why did you change the growth marketing course to digital marketing course?”

Ajay

Oh yeah it converted better that's all. We're also rebuilding that one too.

Ayush

Yeah, yeah. Awesome!

Jeffrey says there should be more collaboration aspects in the program so students can collaborate with each other and build something for themselves while waiting for job opportunities.

Ajay

Yeah, we're we're trying to figure out the right alumni balance in… yeah as you can see, the feature list is long and we're working through them but the alumni Community is something that we're super interested in, like, how do we keep people working together and collaborating over a long period of time; building their portfolio and things like that.

So, ideally once someone joins the EntryLevel course, like, they get part of the community lifetime access and they can work with people to build things up. 

We just need to figure out the right way to host that like on-platform; whether that be Discord or something else and then, also monitor that over the long period of time. 

Ayush

Thank you.

Now, one question that I have from before is, if you could start over what what's one thing you change 

Ajay

[Laughter] Damn, that's an interesting question.

I think that's a tough question because if I knew then what I know now, then obviously I would shortcut the entire thing and build exactly what we need right now. But, there's a lot of things we built that were wrong that we needed to fix, right? So that's a hard question; I think I'm gonna skip that purely because, like, hindsight 2020 I can just go back and if I was a rewrite EntryLevel from October 2020, then I think we would be right where we are right now in six months rather than two years, right? 

I think we're gonna shortcut the entire thing because I know exactly what to do.

Ayush

All right.

Okay let me ask another one because what… Like, someone asked what values have helped you strategically in making, like, some key decisions and maybe just, like, would love to hear a couple of mental models that follow the top ones that you'd like to share with others.

Ajay

Sorry, repeat that again. Let's read through the questions.

Ayush

“What values have helped you strategically?” 

And I would like, sort of, to reframe it as mental models; how you see the world, so like, maybe a couple of top mental models that you use to make key decisions.

Ajay

Yeah as you… as you know, I used to have my mental model stored in a little Notion Page for myself, which I haven't updated in a while; which I might… and at some point I do want to publish it. I have got a bunch of mental models just sitting in these, like, notion tables but I think the ones that, sort of, like, stick out to me the most are, like, I would say…

Let me scroll through this.

I'd say first principles like thinking about how to do things from first principles is always interesting. That's Elon Musk's mental model.

Okay, the “Explore vs Exploit” mental model, I think, is really interesting. So, a lot of people think about opportunities and exploiting everything that they can, and they jump too early into certain things, right? So they decide what they want to do at 17 or 18 but in actuality, like, if you think about it rationally, you need to spend a period of time exploring your options before exploiting the right options, right? And that Explore-Exploit comes from the gambling fallacy so like, you know, if you're trying to decide which machine gives you the best payout you're going to try all the machines first and then you find out this one gives you the best payout and you keep exploiting the one over and over again. 

So, I think about that from a career perspective that you should be exploring as much as possible and not committing to anything just yet and discovering what you like, and then, make that decision. So, that ratio is actually 37%.

So if you wanna, you know, if you want to get married by 40 and you have 10 years to get married, then you should spend 3.7 years, like, choosing and looking at different options before you commit. And so, the same thing with careers.

Yeah I think this is sort of the main one. I've got a small heap but, like, I'll save that. You know, you'll see it on the EntryLevel LevelUp Museum at some point; all the mental models.

Ayush

Yeah, what tips would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are figuring out if this spot is meant for them or not?

Ajay

Yeah, I think it's just experimenting as much as possible. Just try things and just don't wait, so… one of the things I—actually this is a mental model too; is called the one-hour validation. It's not really a thing, I just sort of made it up, but the idea is that you try to think about what action you could take in the next hour to make the needle move on your particular idea. So, if you pick an idea and you say, “What does success look like?” Success is maybe, make two thousand dollars from it, right? And then you think about, “Okay, how would I do that in one month?” And you write down the plan and then you decrease the time frame to one week, and then you decrease it to one day.

Then you say, “Okay, what can I do in the next hour to make this happen?” 

And honestly, every time I do a business, it always starts that way; just like “What can I do in the next hour?” and to be honest, now when we have more people in the team, it could be detrimental because the way I think, it's like “All right guys, what are we gonna do in the next hour to like grow the company?” and by the time it gets to the you know the 12th or 15th person in the team it's like, you know, you can't really do that as much but at the very beginning, that's one of the best things that I do.

Ayush

Nice, yeah.

That was a good technique.

The next one's a funny question; I mean, it's serious too because he's asked… Mike is asking “What's your general time commitment currently?” 

Because you manage a number of initiatives and with companies, do you live like Elon Musk?

Ajay

No, I only work… I only work Monday to Friday and I only work, I'd say like 40 hours. That's like excluding breaks so, you know, if you include the breaks then it's like 45-46. So it's not even that bad; it's actually pretty manageable.

In fact, my wife thinks I do absolutely nothing because I'm just in here the entire time on my computer, right? And then sometimes I'm like, doing phone calls as I used to notice while I'm walking. So like, I'll get my steps in and talk and things like that, so I don't subscribe to the mantra that you have to work 100 hours a week to make a company successful. 

I've done that in the past like with my previous companies. I definitely gave up everything and anything to make it successful, but now—and we have this as a value at EntryLevel—which is like you know not at all costs; we don't we don't want to succeed and like, struggle, like basically die in the process; like that's not what we want, so I don't want people achieving success in the team and, you know, working seven days like, you know, and really putting in the Long Haul and, like, suffering in the meantime. 

So that's also why things probably take a little bit longer, right? You'll probably take 20-30% longer because we're trying to do it in a sustainable way and make sure we don't burn out. And ultimately, like, you know, we don't, we don't have churn in the company. No one's quit yet which is, you know, touchwood. 

No one’s quit the company yet but I think we're doing an okay job in that way.

Ayush

Yeah, it's awesome! 

So the next one's more of a UX designer question, so… 

Mohit says some businesses want the designer… what the designer designs to be live as well; like for him to build it. But how can a designer overcome this problem if they're not familiar with coding but they could with design?

Ajay

So to build something, right?

Ayush

Yeah. Just like, go to the application or make it live.

Ajay

Yeah just use Webflow or Bubble. 

Like, there's so many no code tools out there that makes it so much easier. I think as a designer, webflow… I'm such a webflow fanboy. In fact, if I had to go work somewhere, like If EntryLevel closed down tomorrow and I had to find a job, I would beg webflow to hire me because I love that company; it's so good, and in fact I want to buy a stock at that company but I don't know how.

But basically, the reason why like Webflow is they designed it in a very similar way to how HTML looks, right? So, you know when you drag across an element, it's like Divs and Containers and things like that; very similar to how you would make a web page. So I think as a UX/UI designer, you can design anything you want and all the stuff you want to make on Webflow. 

And it actually makes it so much easier for you to communicate with developers when you want something built too. In fact I would love to do a Webflow course at some point, but there's so many courses we want to do, but like, it’s all really constrained. 

Ayush

If you're new to Webflow, like Webflow University is quite amazing as well because the courses have, like, very funny instructors and it's fun doing them as well.

Ajay

Yeah, it's a very good code that's also why we don't do it because like Webflow University is a really good resource as well. So, yeah I would learn that and become really good at it and to be honest, you can start servicing clients that way too. You can build websites for them.

Ayush

Yeah, amazing.

And also, I think on Webflow, when you create a website it allows you to download the code as well if you purchase one of the plans. So, like if you need the actual code as well, you can get that as well from the webflow website and download the Live Code.

DT says the python… yeah, I mean that's a good tip .

DT’s like, it's like having a data Python program focused on data analytics and for EntryLevel people which can be helpful for us because there's certain courses out there. 

Thank you. 

Lillian's asking for any tips for making our CV better and more appealing. I would recommend Lillian to, I mean if you haven't already, we had a workshop on resume building; resume/CV a couple of weeks ago and the video is up on YouTube, I believe.

You can email us and we can send you the link because that has a lot of tips on job search and how to build a perfect resume.

Ajay

I think, like, high level thoughts of mind are just like; make it stand out. Because, like, you'd be surprised how little time people spend on CVs; like, they just scan it real quickly and they look for keywords and they move on to the next one, especially if it's someone—I'm not gonna help myself actually—but hey imagine a small company that gives a bunch of applications and there's only so much time in the day to look at all those applications; a scan-reading for a lot of things, right? So they're looking for something interesting, so you know, I like to have a career summary at the top where it's like, “These are the three things you need to know about me, these are three coolest things I've done” and I could read that and be like, “Cool I'm gonna either pass this guy or like, you know, put them into the next round.” 

So I think that's how I would think about it.

Ayush

Yeah, awesome.

Someone's asking how he can get in touch with you in the future. 

Ajay

Yeah, LinkedIn is probably the best way. Just leave a note because otherwise it just all blends in, so just leave a note, you know. You attended this session you want to connect and, you know, that's probably the easiest way.

Ayush

Okay, is Webflow better than WordPress for SEO and SEM? 

Ajay

They're about the same like SEO and SEM just comes down to… The technical side of SEO and SEM is purely like, you know, metadata and things like that which you can do on both. Like, there's no issues around that and the rest just comes down to how well you do your content, right? So it doesn't matter.

The reason why we use Webflows; our website’s on Webflows because the user experience is a lot better, like you can do a lot more interesting things and I think the design aspect of things makes it really clean. Like, when someone gives me a FIgma design, it's very easy to implement on webflow because you can think like a developer and put it together.

Ayush

Are we planning any Web3 related courses anytime soon?

Ajay

We did a blockchain… we did it web 3 course actually, at the very beginning. We did a blockchain one, but yeah, it didn't have as much interest. Although we still have the course; we could… if there's people interested, we'll relaunch it. 

Just make some noise and if there's enough noise then I just should be forced to do it because he's the one in charge of programs.

Ayush

Yep!

Comment everywhere and then, the social media team will alert us.

There's another question. I think I missed your previous question; what are some basic problems you faced when you started your companies?

Like yeah.

Ajay

Basic problems, I think, at the very beginning it was, you know, just figuring out which things like, actually worked and which kinda worked, right?

So, you know, we would launch an experiment and we did virtual coaching, for example. We had one purchase, right? Someone purchased it the day that we launched and I said, “Oh cool, that's awesome. Someone purchased it.” And then a week went by and no one else purchased it, so like, okay is this actually successful or is it like a fail? 

And like there's like the weird limbo point and then we did this thing called future proof and that made like a thousand or two thousand dollars on a weekend, so we launched it on Friday and we made that much money, we're like “Okay, is this it?” 

And then, we launched EntryLevel and it blew up and we got 30,000 signs like, “Okay, that's actually the one,” right? 

So it was deciding between what was kinda successful and what was actually successful. That was like the problem that I had which is not… I guess might be a unique problem and maybe not things that other people face but that's what I was personally struggling with.

Ayush

Wonderful.

We have an offer for an intern. Precious is asking if she can intern on our team.

Ajay

[Laughs] Precious when we are hiring interns we'll let you know. But at the moment, we are not taking any interns.

We just hired two people, but I think we're not gonna hire anymore, but keep in touch. We may hire interns in the future, especially 2023.

Ayush

But kudos for asking. 

You should always ask.

Ajay

Yeah, if you don't ask, it's not going to happen.

Ayush

Right.

The discussion on like some… this person leads err… co-leads a product management team and they have paid training and mentorship sessions that they launched via their websites. They have a couple of users that have onboarded so that want to ask and get more tips on how we upscale towards getting more subscribers.

How to…

Ajay

Yeah, so I think to be honest, I wouldn't…

Like the first question to ask is like, “Do you have 50 to 100 die hard fans and I think like, you can grind those sign ups pretty easily. You don't need to growth-hack that, you just post in groups. Like, if you go back to some of these product management groups you'll see a post from me in 2020 like, hey guys I'm doing a product management course and like I'm spamming every single group.

You'll see my name there if you scroll back so, you know, it's pretty easy to get your first 50 to 100 if you literally sit there and just post in every single Facebook group, every single WhatsApp group. You'll get there, right? And then if they really enjoy what you're doing then they'll scale.

You can figure out the scaling strategies from there but I think the main thing is finding those, like. die hard fans that are really excited about what you're doing.

Ayush

Yep.

We already answered the second internship question and thanks Casa for sharing the resume workshop link. If anyone's interested you can click on that link and watch it after the session.

Ajay

Yeah in terms of remote, most of our team is remote. I think we have two in Nigeria at the moment. Ayush is usually based in India but he's in Kenya at the moment and then one in Canada. So, we're all over the place at the moment so yeah, definitely open to remote stuff.

Ayush

Yep.

Can EntryLevel Data Analyst certificates get you a proper job without a degree? 

Ajay

So I think with data jobs, the reason why data analyst costs are very popular is because data analysts, like, you don't need a degree to get that job. You just have to be really good at handling data. 

So I think by the time you've done level one, level two, level three, and you've actually done some projects, then that's good enough to show off; then you can get those jobs.

So then, to be honest some of the portfolios I see on LinkedIn from EntryLevel students are actually very good and I was talking to Amelia about about this because she's the one who does that for our company. She does that data analysis in the company and some of the portfolio is actually very good; like, very similar to what Amelia does in her day-to-day job. So, you know, if—Emilia's not going anywhere but if she—wasn't there I think I would hire one of these guys that, you know, published their portfolios.

So, you know, having a really cool Tableau data visualisation; these things are very good skill sets and in data analysis in general, I think every knowledge worker today has to be really good at taking data, analysing it, and making informed decisions because that's what you do all the time, right?

Ayush does that for programs as well, right? He's looking at the data, he's looking at the feedback and then making informed decisions about what to do next. So, whether it be programs team, marketing team, operations team, like Albert's still looking at, you know, support tickets and how we're doing. So it's all data, right?

So I think data analysis will help you in any sort of job you're doing.

Ayush

Exactly!

And then this also… answered.

There was another question on data analytics course or getting a remote job after doing my data analyst course, so I hope this answers your question as well.

There’s someone asking, “will the VC analyst have a level two as well, liked data analysts. You can tell them the good news.

Ajay

So you're getting an answer, yeah.

Yeah, Caleb is working on that right now so if you have feedback or thoughts around what you want for Venture Capital Analyst Level 2, let us know because that would be very helpful for us to build it out.

What we are thinking right now is to dive more into the financial side of things around analysis so, you know, valuations; things like that and really do like deep-dive on finances because Venture Capital (VC) Analyst level one is very much about pitching and pitch decks and sourcing deals and things like that. But like, we want to go a little deeper into analysis which we're currently working with some awesome mentors on as well.

Ayush

How do you select individuals to build a team that will believe in your vision and mission?

Ajay

Yeah, man…

These are good questions; the hard-hitting questions.

I think it comes down to motivation as well, right? So, like a skill set is one thing that we look for but we look for motivation and like, you know, interest in that particular field as well. So, I've noticed my best hires generally like fairly early in the career, like maybe they don't have the right skill sets but are building towards it and have demonstrated quick learning. So, I won't say who specifically, but we've had team members who like, you know, had a decent background, did a couple of courses in web dev and various things and I said, “Look I'll give you a month. If you can build this thing—and I'll pay you for the month as a contractor—you're hired and if you don't build it then you know you get paid for that month and we'll see how it goes,” and they ended up building a really awesome platform basically, right? Like for some of the stuff we wanted to do.

We didn't end up using it but I just wanted to see if they could achieve that in the month and so that was a really good way for us to hire. 

And the reason why I gave them the chance is because they were really interested in what we did, they knew exactly what… like, what we were doing and like what we were trying to achieve and it was very mission-aligned, so… 

We do tests for that; I think that's a very important thing. And you can kind of tell after someone gets hired in the first month or two if they're in it for the wrong reasons. 

We're a roller coaster startup like, things don't work all the time; things go wrong, we have… yeah, things go haywire sometimes and, you know, we get customer complaints or we have a bad day or sales are down and we're trying to figure out how to improve sales and… you know, if you're expecting like a smooth-sailing ship, definitely not going to happen.

And you also have these scenarios where even with Ayush, I'll tell him one thing—to work on something to speak and then next week, we're doing something else and , you know. We've got to Pivot and yeah the mission is more important than all these other things. So as long as people are aligned they will forgive you for the… you know. 

Sometimes poor management or sometimes, you know, things are rough in the startup and things like that, so yeah.

Ayush

Faheed is asking, “Have we done any of the courses offered by EntryLevel and if yes, he asked which ones?”

I can answer that first. I mean, I've actually like almost built half of the Wiss Product, Financial Analyst, Scrum, and UX. I worked with the mentors to create those courses so I sort of know those courses by heart; most of them, the modules.

But then, I started doing the… I’ve done all the other courses too really quickly but I haven't followed the tasks and like doing the tasks as well but I watched also videos and read the content but I am planning to do the VC analyst course and the UX design course because I'm not good at design and I want to build that as a side skill set. 

And we see analysts as well just to understand more about what to look for in companies so those two programs, I'm gonna sign up for them.

Ajay

Yeah I've done—obviously done the growth one because I wrote it—but I've done the financial analyst one. I did not know what a pivot table was… oh I knew what a pivot table was but I didn't know how to use them until I did the course and I was like, “Holy sh**, this is… it has changed my life.” And now I use pivot tables all the time.

I feel like with these courses if you're not doing it for the sake of getting a job, for example there'll probably be like two or three golden nuggets you take away. They'll change your life and the rest of this stuff sort of like filler. But, you know, that, I took away and it was really interesting.

I did the blockchain one when we had it and I've done the product management—one the OG one as well.

Ayush

Awesome.

I'm gonna just go through the last couple of questions, but I wanted to say that we're gonna be almost wrapping up in a few minutes, so if you have any last questions, do send them through.

Jeffrey shared the link of the future recommendations.

When will Product Management 2 be released and will we be notified when applications for internships open?

Ajay

Yeah, this is I mean you can answer this, Ayush, but every day we see how social media is just being flooded with like when, “When product management too when is it coming out?” and then Jennifer's just like sending in a slack about how everyone wants product management too, which is Ayush’s project. 

So yeah, I guess you can update them.

Ayush

It should be available by the end of the year or, well, we're working with David who's our lead mentor and he's really keen on doing the product management too. 

And so, yeah we should be open for enrollments in November, I hope.

Ajay

Yeah, there's a lot of program changes coming so… and don't worry if you bought a course with us, all of these changes will be done retroactively, so if we update a course or significantly change your course and you've already purchased it, you'll get access to it anyway.

So yeah, we're trying to improve the content, trying to keep up to date with trends, and we listen to the feedback and we look at the feedback.

And so, yeah.

Ayush

Right, and yes you will be notified if and whenever intend to have interns.

And err… the data analyst course question on again including web analysis and data querying.

Yeah, again for now we're just, like, restructuring some of those programs so in the future you may see some of those, but for the next few months data courses will stay as they are.

Umar is asking… He's suggesting that we should link people who finish the courses to sister companies who can offer internships, so more on the recruitment side.

Ajay

Yeah, we want to help promote internships and things like that but one thing we've been wary of is not promoting unpaid internships, or trying not to promote that. Because there's a tricky… and we… 

It's also hard to verify those internships too, right? And we don't know if they have the best intentions and for us to go through and verify every single internship provider that is out there and make sure that they're a legitimate company. 

Yeah, we also need to be… if they're startups we need to make sure they're legitimate startups and they're not going to take the students on for a wild ride. 

So, we've been actually more afraid to release it purely for the… just making sure that students are not going to be taking for that ride, which is why we haven't done it but we're looking into it. Like doing a job sport and things like that.

Ayush

Isaac is asking, can he get good jobs with just the PM1 program? 

I would say to that you can get a job with PM1, but there are some things that are not included in PM1 because we are… like, we waited to include that more advanced stuff in PM Level 2; which is analytics, wireframing, and those skills so you can definitely get a job with PM1. Maybe more focused on the user Research and Discovery side, but I would recommend you wait a little bit more till we launch PM Level 2. It’ll have Analytics and Wireframing and Roadmapping so you can do well in the interviews.

And lastly, Precious… 

You wanted to add something, Ajay?

Ajay

I was just gonna say like, I've looked at the portfolios right and for Product Management Level 1, there are some portfolios that are world class and you think, “Oh wow,” like, they could definitely go out and apply for jobs. And there are some that are sort of like, even the five stars is a huge discrepancy between the levels of the portfolio, so I think it just depends on what you create with that portfolio, right? Like, you can either create something amazing and blow someone's… you know, knock someone's socks off and like get them really excited about it or it's just kind of interesting.

So, and I know that's not the right answer like because hopefully like the course trains you up to that point where you can just get a job, but you know, because we're not a general assembly or we're not a company that, you know, charges ten thousand dollars for a boot camp and like hand-holds you the entire way, a lot of it unfortunately is on you guys, right? So we try to provide the rails and we try to provide the support but ultimately where you take it is up to you.

Ayush

Last couple of questions; 

Can people still access the course after the program and are we having… Do we plan to have an app anytime soon so people can access their courses there?

Ajay

Yeah, on the access stuff, if you guys have opted in for the premium perks you should have access. So, if you're having issues with that, get in touch with support because they can sort that out for you, but if you requested the refund then we remove access after two weeks because ultimately, we have to monetize some way so, you know, we… That's the condition.

So, you can come in and get your refund and study for free, but then we take away the access to content after two weeks. 

So, yeah.

What do you look out for resumes, experience of portfolios and then a question about Discord.

With the Discord stuff, please email us support@entrylevel.net. They will definitely help you out with that stuff.

I guess the final question, Ayush, will be the portfolio stuff. So, I mean, so resume stuff.

I would say I actually care more about portfolios than experience because, you know, on the converse side of things you have people with 10-15 years experience that actually don't know how to do anything. Like, I've been trying to hire, like, a Head of Growth for a while and I just haven't found anyone that good if I'm being completely frank.

Like, I have a lot of people that apply with a lot of experience but then they're almost too high level where they're working with like 500 people, so they're not used to actually doing growth themselves and getting their hands dirty. And we're such a small team that I need someone like that, so sometimes experience can be detrimental.

So I actually like to see someone's work and how they do it rather than experience but different employees could be different, so with the bigger employment companies, obviously, with the thousands of people, you know, experience is definitely one of the things they look for, so it can be tricky. But when it comes to smaller companies, you can definitely show off your skill sets in other ways through your portfolio, so…

And I do recommend adding links to your portfolio in your resume, yes, or just submitting your portfolio.

Ayush

Awesome!

For all the 50 of you present here thank you so much for joining but before we wrap up, I would like to hear probably on streaming for one word to describe how you're feeling and put that in the chat now so we can see how everyone's doing and we can do a see-off.

Ajay

Yeah, thanks everyone.

I really appreciate everyone's time sticking around for the entire, like, over an hour. There's definitely a lot more people than I thought that would be and I'm surprised that the questions kept going for an hour—that was awesome. 

Thanks a lot.

Ayush

Awesome!

And yes, the recording will be emailed to you via email and you can also find it on YouTube on our Channel.

I see a lot of people are excited and feeling great so that's great! Mission Successful!

Cool, I'm gonna stop the recording now.

More career tips on our YouTube
Register now to attend

Ajay is a Forbes U30 serial entrepreneur that has raised over $50M in capital from large-scale venture funds and companies. He's launched over 50 products and started 8 companies across F&B, deep tech, blockchain, education and recruitment. Ajay previously ran a marketing agency that worked with several companies and organisations with his clients getting 100,000s in sign-ups, millions in revenue and even working with ministers of parliament.

In this event, we chatted with Ajay about your burning questions, including:

  • Advice for landing a job
  • Advice for entrepreneurs and startup founders
  • The story of EntryLevel
  • How to set the team culture as a founder

and much more.

What is an Office Hour?

Office Hour is an exclusive opportunity to talk to the EntryLevel team and ask all of your questions about our programs, and process and get insights from the speaker.

Resources shared during the session

Subscribe to our newsletter for more job search tips: https://levelup.beehiiv.com/p/top-4-tips-connect-anyone-linkedin

Start reskilling into your tech career: https://www.entrylevel.net/

FAQs: https://help.entrylevel.net/help

Contact: support@entrylevel.net

Check out our other events: https://entrylevel.net/events

https://webflow.com/

https://bubble.io/

Follow us for more tech tips + resources

Instagram

LinkedIn

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

TikTok

Presenters

Ajay Prakash

Founder & CEO at EntryLevel

Ajay is a Forbes Top 30 Under 30 serial entrepreneur that has raised over $50M in capital from large-scale venture funds and companies. He has launched over 50 products and started 8 companies across F&B, deep tech, blockchain, education and recruitment.

Ajay previously ran a marketing agency that worked with several companies and organisations with his clients getting 100,000s in sign-ups, millions in revenue, and even working with ministers of parliament.

Related events

What is EntryLevel?
EntryLevel helps you learn and get experience so you can get hired in tech. Beginner-friendly 6 week programs guide you to create a portfolio you can show off to employers.
Browse tech programs