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©2018 BY THE HUMAN CONSULTANCY

“I always suggest to a founder to focus and try to do something useful for another human being and then, if they use the product, to work out how to turn it into a business”.

Takeaways from Ed Andrew talking to Srin Madipalli.

Srin Madipalli is a former UK Big Law lawyer, successful entrepreneur, technologist and co-founder of Accomable, the accessible travel site he recently sold to Airbnb.  What makes Srin's journey journey through life and in business even more remarkable is that he suffers from spinal muscular atrophy which leaves him with only partial movement of a couple of fingers on each hand as the full extent of his mobility, and he is supported by two full time carers.  His vitality and energy, constant good humour add to his raw intellect and make this podcast episode a very special and memorable one for me.

We talk about his early years at university studying genetics in London, his foray into law and how he was constantly amazed and grateful for how both his university and employer adapted quickly to his physical needs. Why he left law to pursue a more creative and entrepreneurial career, how he learned to code at Said Business School while studying for an MBA and how this was invaluable in creating Accomable. He shares his insights into ideation, technology, founding a business, raising capital and negotiating with Airbnb to acquire Accomable when less than two years old. He moves to San Francisco in January 2018 with his girlfriend to lead Airbnb's accessible travel product development and strategy. 

 

Quotes “

  • Accomable was founded in 2015 and acquired by Airbnb on Nov 16 2017.

 

  • On electric cars - he has not yet seen an adapted electric vehicle 

 

  • Srin was born with spinal muscular atrophy which has left him with movement only in a couple of fingers on both hands.  He has two full time carers.

 

  • On attending Kings College, London and studying genetics. He could not study medicine as he needs to be psychically able and being an academic medic did not interest him.

 

  • In 2017 the FDA in US approved the first drug to help mitigate the development of SMA.

 

  • On choosing law as it had deep intellectual grounding with a commercial edge, and on choosing Herbert Smith and how they both adapted to work with his condition.

 

  • There are many more outreach programs and a better understanding of employing people with disability.

  • On joining Airbnb which despite its financial size is still a growing and reasonably young business, they have equally to adjust to his needs.

 

  • On aligned values as Accomable was Airbnb for accessible travel.

 

  • On his career as a lawyer at HSF, he wanted to be more creative and entrepreneurial - to work in a way that was as not as structured as a typical law firm.

 

  • On leaving law to study for an MBA at Oxford University's Said Business school.

 

  • On Oxford University's The Foundry “It is a great initiative and great things will come of it”

 

  • On learning to code, Ruby on Rails, and realising it was the best way to get an idea up and running was to be able to build it. 

 

  • It is much easier to recruit an engineer if you have some understanding of what you need and what they can do.

 

  • Raising capital and finding investors, the lead investor came to us through using the site as his son is a wheelchair user.

 

  • On ideation and how Accomable was founded in 2015.

 

  • Limited typing is still more efficient than current tech for voice activation software.

 

  • Rolling Accomable into Airbnb, ensuring the team and community were looked after.

 

  • The back story - did a seed round for £300,000 in summer 2016, looking to scale and partner with a travel site, on getting an introduction to Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky through their investors.  Finding alignment in vision and ideals.

 

  • On leading the negotiations with Airbnb- one of the most interesting learning curves of my life.

 

  • Being incredibly grateful to the NHS for its amazing care and simplicity compared to the complex US medical system. 

Memorable Quotes.

“how commendable it is that the company (Airbnb) is looking to do this at such an early stage of its lifecycle, integrate it into the company's DNA in such an early stage of the company’s existence”

“I wished I had learned to code years and years earlier”

 

“A page of computer code is not that different to a legal contract, very granular, lawyers can make great coders”

"if you have a high level of tech as a concept it is still really difficult to tell what an engineer is actually doing"

 

“a founder needs to understand the principles of their basic product and learn it”

“for any good founder network building should be a significant part of the role” 

 

"finding the right investor aligned on the vision and don't worry so much about control etc, a good VC wants founders to be motivated and empowered to create a great return" 

 

“as a founder you have to evaluate what capital gives you what you want”

Books

Srin is currently reading 'Shoe Dog' by Phil Knight founder of Nike

To contact Srin please click on the links below.

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