I think everyone would agree: taking on the task of designing an entirely new type of water heater and disrupting a century-old status quo (without any training or background in that field) is pure foolishness and bravery. And yet, that is exactly what Siva Akasam and I did when we set out to create Intellihot. And look at how far we’ve come.
How did we get here? By following a simple motto: “How hard can it be?”
This has been my motto from a very early age. When my father got his first car, I figured out how to jump start it. He was shocked that a child could do that. One day in seventh grade, unbeknownst to my father, I took the car and drove it around. I got a sound thrashing for that! After this, I didn’t drive a car again until I got to the U.S.—but I knew exactly how a car worked. So, when I got to the States, I thought: how hard can it be? This might sound like fiction, but when I got my first car in the States, I jumped right in and drove away.
My parents’ (especially my mother’s) consistent and unequivocal support when I was a child instilled a positive, can-do attitude in me. It made me believe that I could do anything I set my mind to. My mother would often say to me, “Son, you are smart. You are intelligent. You are going to do something big for the world.” This gave me immense self-confidence and allowed me to keep going. No matter what. Without that self-confidence, Intellihot would never have come into being.
Confidence is the secret ingredient. If you think you can’t do something, guess what: you are right—you can’t do it. If you think you can do something, guess what: you are also right—you can do it.
When it came to figuring out the water heater, I didn’t have any training or background in anything directly related to water heaters. I just had a friend by my side—and that would turn out to be enough. Together, we brainstormed, experimented and tested multiple prototypes until we found the solution. Every step of the way, regardless of the hurdle we faced, Siva and I would say to each other, “How hard can it be?” And we would keep going. To this day, Siva often quotes this motto back to me, saying, “How hard can it be?’ It can’t be that hard. Let’s just try it.”
When we had to figure out how to design and build our own igniter because nobody agreed to sell us one, we said, “How hard can it be?”
When we left our secure, well-paying jobs at Caterpillar to devote ourselves to Intellihot full-time, we said, “How hard can it be?”
When we set out to develop a marketable product with only $250,000—when most companies spend millions of dollars to do this—we said, “How hard can it be?”
When, over and over, we had to move rapidly to pivot and reinvent ourselves, we said, “How hard can it be?”
Looking back, there was so much we didn’t know. But as I often tell people, you don’t actually need to know everything. All you need is a high dose of self-confidence, and you can do just about anything. That’s the only thing that made it all possible: the immense self-confidence I had—not arrogance, just an unshakeable and unquestioning belief that it could be done, that we could figure it out. After all, how hard can it be?