AbstractOps Interview Series: Bhavesh “BK” Kakadiya

by Adam Spector in May 19th, 2020
person sitting in front bookshelf

Even before he knew what the word meant, Bhavesh Kakadiya has always been an engineer. At the age of five, in Krankach, a rural village in India, BK remembers adding a spring to his toy car to improve the suspension. In high school, he read and understood Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. The theory was fascinating, but, ever the tinkerer, BK wanted to build something, too. So, he did: his very own Einstein Refrigerator. Soon after, BK became known by the nickname “Einstein” at his high school for gifted rural students. He graduated with the highest scores in the school’s history and secured a spot at the most prestigious engineering college in India.

BK arrived in California in 2014, two years after graduating college. He started at Airseed, and then, in 2015, took the leap and joined Rahul Vohra, Conrad Irwin, and Vivek Sodera as the first hire at Superhuman. Five years later, the ultra-efficient email service is valued at $263 million. Last month, BK left Superhuman and took another leap to build AbstractOps from the ground up.

AbstractOps: When did you first discover your passion for writing code?

BK: I grew up in rural India where technology was very scarce and issues were abundant. That’s what made me appreciate all the problems we could solve using technology. And I had this innate curiosity around how things worked.

Computers were considered very expensive back in the day. The only place I had access to one was at school. I learned my first programming language, MSWLogo, in 6th Grade. Then I learned BASIC in 7th grade. The idea that you could speak the language of the machines felt very fascinating and powerful at that time.

AbstractOps: What made you leave India and come to the United States?

BK: In college, I built a remote-controlled aircraft with an internal combustion engine. I loved mechanical engineering, but I also had to be pragmatic. I understood that I’d have a better chance to make money in computer science, so I pivoted my focus. Luckily, as the year went on, I fell back in love with computers.

I’d done a six-month internship with Zynga in 2011 when I was 19. When I graduated, I had an offer from Microsoft, but decided to take a job with Zynga instead. I was one of their youngest software engineers. Just 20 years old.

Two years later, at 22, I moved to the United States. I had a dream to build technology companies here in Silicon Valley. If you are in the software field, there is no better place than this.

AbstractOps: And how did you get connected with the guys at Superhuman? What drew you to their idea?

BK: One of the first people I met when I came to the US was Vivek Sodera. At the time, he was running Airseed. I was brought on as the Lead Software Engineer there. A year in, the company ran out of money and we started figuring out next steps. Soon after, in May 2015, I was hired by Vivek and his two co-founders, Conrad and Rahul, as the first employee at Superhuman.

I was instantly drawn to the idea at Superhuman. I care about efficiency a lot, and productivity is just a form of efficiency on your individual output. The original elevator pitch of Superhuman was that “it makes people brilliant at what they do.” Who wouldn’t want to be brilliant at what they do?

AbstractOps: What was it like to be at a company during a meteoric rise? How did the work change as Superhuman grew?

BK: I noticed a change every week I was at Superhuman. But that is the only way to move forward if you want to succeed as a startup. Keeping iteration speed high is super important; you have to constantly be assessing what is working and what is not. 

In 2015 and 2016, we were an extremely small team focused on building out products. So, we really spent our days just writing code. As the product matured and the team and company grew, our responsibilities started to fragment a bit: in addition to building new things, we spent time maintaining existing software and systems, documenting, collaborating with expanded teams, recruiting into existing and new teams, and ramping up new hires. When I left last month, after 5 years, the team had grown to around 50 folks.

AbstractOps: What is a takeaway from the Superhuman story that can be valuable to every startup?

BK: There is a lot to learn from Superhuman, but the biggest takeaway is this: teams who care about the problem deeply will succeed.

AbstractOps: What excited you about AbstractOps?

BK: I think every company has had operational nightmares. Most of the time, it’s no one’s fault; it’s a complex set of entities linked by complex workflows. Having personally felt the pain of things falling through the cracks, the problem that AbstractOps was setting out to fix really resonated with me. 

I used to have this text file on my laptop called “ideas.txt,” where I’d write down my startup ideas. At some point, I renamed that file “issues.txt” and the fundamental reason I did was this: whenever you face a problem or pain point, it is an opportunity of sorts. It’s a problem you feel, so there are most likely other folks feeling it too. If you have a solution, then you could scale that solution up to offer that to other folks, and if you don’t, someone else is probably working on one. Things falling through the cracks was one of the pain points on my “issues.txt” list; AbstractOps was building the solution for it.

AbstactOpsWhat is your vision for AbstractOps?

BK: Imagine it’s 2030 and you, a CEO of a multi-billion-dollar company, walk into the office, look at the AbstractOps dashboard, spend 5 minutes understanding how your company is doing operationally, maybe click “Approve” on a few things, and that’s it. Imagine having the time to spend the rest of your day working on tackling that product launch, or setting up new factories, or figuring out a strategy for the next decade. The fact that AbstractOps can take care of all things operations means you can focus on the things that actually matter to your business’s bottom line. Founders start companies because they want to build new things to fix problems; my vision for AbstractOps is that it will give them more time to get back to the important work of innovating.

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