Part 1: Introductions!
It all started with a bit of misunderstanding.
I still remember it was around 2 pm in the afternoon, scorching heat outside, fans rotating slowly in our lecture theater. There I was sitting on one of the last benches, questioning my life and mindlessly scrolling through Twitter when I received a text from Aditi, asking me about the things I worked on at Uber and if I could share some learnings from the same.
It was slightly bewildering but also very exciting!
I first came to know about Aditi and Rishabh (the co-founders) through their previous workplace (where I had applied for an internship last winter). Since then had been following Locale.ai and the amazing problem they were trying to solve in the field of location and geospatial analysis.
With her text, we started interacting and slowly came to know about each other’s journey. I was already looking for an internship in an early-stage startup, to spend my summer, learning and working on awesome and challenging things. The idea was that the experience would help me in preparing myself for the last battle in college, the “PLACEMENTS”.
Aditi is always flowing with exuberance and is so committed to Locale that you will immediately become invested and feel like being a part of the team!
She narrated the entire story of Locale.ai — how it started with a personal problem and what their vision with this company was.
I had never met people who are so much in love with maps. I immediately felt like we could be the right fit for each other and applied for the Data Science position.
Part 2: Rejections!
I had never been an “acads” person because I knew there exists a huge gap between what we are being taught in classrooms and what real-world problem solving really is! The real-world is what fascinates me more and hence I was glad when I was given an exact business problem by them to work on.
The aim was to design a surge-price model for a Bangalore based cab sharing startup. The best part?
I thoroughly loved working on it, because the problem wasn’t limited to just implementing or writing python code, but success meant how well we interpreted the problem at hand, what our thought process was and how we communicated our analysis.
Coming up with a solution required thinking out-of-the-box because a lot of emphasis was given on situations when the solution might not work and being well aware of them.
Juggling between exams and so many other activities in college, I somehow managed to submit the work (obviously, way past the deadline :P). But to my dismay, I received a rejection mail saying they would not be moving forward with my candidature (disheartening, really).
Despite being so busy, the team actually took the time to give pointed feedback, give their perspective of what they liked about my solution, what they felt I lacked, and what would it take to be a part of their team.
This is really helpful for candidates like me to help me in introspecting and working on my loopholes.
I was impressed. They have worked diligently to set the bar really high. It was clear that even before writing a single line of code the founders had thought about their culture code.
Part 3: Uniting!
In spite of getting rejected, we stayed in touch and it was really amazing to see the team hustle hard and grow! Fast forward to October, I came across a LinkedIn post by Locale.ai which was about them hiring freelance content writers who could write content loosely connected with GIS and location intelligence.
Since I love research and wanted to learn more about geospatial data, the opportunity seemed to stand out for me. After all, I didn’t want to miss out on working with young 20-ish something guys who want to change how the world percieves “location” to be just another point on the map!
“Location is not a point on a map. It’s about movement, how things travel in space and time.”
I wanted to make sure that I leave no stone unturned this time and leave no room for mistakes. I worked really hard to finish my first article. In case you want to check it out, here it is:
I was ecstatic when I got a congratulatory mail from Aditi this time stating that they would love if I work closely with them on their content efforts. Henceforth, this marked the beginning of my journey with Locale.
Part 4: Why is Locale the place to be?
The past few months have been a roller coaster ride, to say the least. But, why did I still love my experience here?
1. Just Pure Learning. That’s it.
If you get to sharpen your skills and get your hands dirty working in an early-stage startup, you also understand how a company runs, how decisions are taken, how people come together to work on a mission— things difficult to learn from a book or an online course on in a lecture hall.
A couple of things that have become embedded in me since I started working with the team is the importance of “iteration”. The first draft doesn’t need to be perfect, but rather the aim should be on iterating and iterating fast.
“Moving fast and out executing is what our superpower as a startup is, anyway”, Aditi points out.
The second thing I learned from the team was the importance of asking questions, to anyone, anytime and asking them again and again. Asking, Why? Why not? How?
“Keep drilling down with questions until you find the truth”, Rishabh says.
2. Tech & Design First Culture
Rishabh and Aditi envision to build a tech-first culture with Locale. As a techie who loves to work with the latest technologies, the experience has been very fruitful.
The sheer fact that we work with large scale location data requires that we solve complex data engineering challenges in addition to solving varied operational business problems, geospatial analytics, and intuitive user experience!
“We can solve almost all the tech and design challenges that come our way if we center our product around extreme user empathy” — Musthaq conveys.
A lot of people talk about empathy. But, few designers have spent hours with their customers, doing user interviews and observing how they use the product as feedback to keep iterating. Musthaq is one such talented designer.
We soon plan on open-sourcing some of the tools we have built and giving back to the geospatial community. Stay tuned for more!
If you would like to know more about how we are building a tech-first culture, check this out:
3. A Real Problem with a Real Need
“Everything happens somewhere” — said every location data point ever!
All of us overlook this fact and the importance of location data in our daily lives and business. Our lives would be completely hollow without Google Maps. Swiggy uses location intelligence to better place its delivery executives, Airbnb uses location data to find their next partner hotel, Facebook uses it for better connectivity and researchers at Standford used night time satellite data to predict poverty level in some countries.
The list of use-cases of location intelligence is long and it itself is an indicator of the importance of the problem at hand.
Location is going to be the next-generation big thing in Data Science and Locale is here to solve for it.
To know about what we do, you can check this out:
4. Swimming in an Ocean Full of Uncertainties
Early-stage startups are not everyone’s cup of tea! It requires long hours, immense dedication and extreme optimism. No two days in a startup are the same. Each day you have a new set of challenges and surprises to face.
But, if one hand I have been pushed by Aditi to complete work on time (I’m a pro at procrastinating), discussing blog ideas at 1 am and sharing book recommendations with each other, on the other hand, I have come to realize that it’s worth it when you come together to celebrate those small wins.
When you can sleep peacefully at night knowing your effort made a difference. When you are surrounded by people who push themselves every single day as well.
Very few times in my life I have been outside the circumference of my comfort zone and the radius keeps increasing in size all the time!
5. A Big Part of the Pie.
Though I work remotely, I have never felt like an outsider. The team always made an effort to keep me in the loop — of the small wins and big success at their workplace in Koramangala.
At times when I felt stuck, no one ever shied away from mentoring and helping me. I vividly remember this moment when I made a mistake and Aditi helped me fix it.
“Don’t worry! We are a team”, she told me as I was apologizing.
6. Driven by Personal Agenda
You would often find someone from our engineering team staying back even after office hours to finish the deployment when it’s shipping time. Also, we sometimes end up working on weekends too. Yes, we do.
Being an early-stage startup we wouldn’t want to hide this reality to anyone who wants to join us! After all, raw hours actually make a big difference in the impact we make at present.
But, beware! The energy is highly infectious — Anubhav
If you are interested to learn about the culture, both the good and the bad, check out Dave's story as well:
Hi! I am a final year CS undergrad at KIIT University, passionate about data science, economics, gender studies, climate change and starting up. I love to read anything and everything I lay my eyes and cursor on! You can reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter.