Q&A with Sanjiv Sanghavi, Knotel’s VP of Product

In March, Sanjiv Sanghavi joined Knotel as the company’s first VP of Product.

Prior to Knotel, Sanjiv founded ClassPass, the leading health and wellness brand that has raised over $150 million, and Tulip, the consumer-friendly oral care brand that combines patented dental products with gourmet flavors.

We recently sat down with Sanjiv to learn a bit about his past experience in startups, pick his brain about the future, and find out what, specifically, drew him to Knotel.

1. You cofounded ClassPass in 2011. How has the world changed since then? What implications do those changes have on businesses?

People are protecting their ability to be creative more than ever. It’s awesome.

But at the same time, there was already a lot of noise in 2011. Since then, it’s gotten out of hand. For example, the number of apps in the App Store has gone from about 350,000 to over 2 million. And the opinion blogs have grown even faster.

The general feeling is that better access to products and information makes life more productive, and in many ways it does. At the same time, I’ve found that big things have gotten easier, but individual decisions have become annoyingly more difficult.

This has had meaningful and harmful consequences. Companies and people have less focus—something that I think can be the difference between failure and success. Why do one thing well when you can do so many things easily? (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

Distractions and focus will have a big impact on how productive we will be in the future, and thinking about that future is something that gets me really excited.

2. What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered while growing your startups?

I left ClassPass early in the growth phase. But generally, watching from inside and out, I learned that:

  • – Every decision is magnified.
  • – Operating a business gets more challenging over time. Things like real estate are incredibly time-consuming and take people away from the primary objective.
  • – Culture can be really important to the founding team but incredibly difficult to maintain during extreme growth.
  • – It’s hard to face the truth that you can’t make everyone happy.
  • – Hiring can become almost too easy. But you need the best people to win.
  • *– Not everyone appreciates staying scrappy. *

3. You’ve developed products across a variety of industries: fitness, oral care, and now commercial real estate. What similarities do you see in product development across industries? What differences do you see?

My general feeling on product management is that the what doesn’t matter as much as the why.

Spoiler alert: This is not my own motto; many product managers believe this.

To me, this is the most important similarity across all products. People have emotional and functional needs in every industry, and every product manager has to create products that meet those needs.

We don’t tie ourselves to a medium or product. We tie ourselves to the problem and dedicate ourselves to solving it. Nothing else matters.

Sounds simple, right?

I think many would say industry and customer don’t matter. This rule works in all spaces.

For the most part, I agree.

However, I value different perspectives in a room and think that having a specific industry or customer perspective elevates the work that product managers do.

4. Tell us about how you found out about Knotel and what made you decide to work here.

When I was working on Tulip, I worked out of a Knotel. The company was already on my radar.

I’ve known Amol since sometime around 2012. He communicates really well with his contact base. So, even though we went long periods of time without talking to each other, I knew I could reach out at anytime.

When a different job offer came my way, I felt his perspective would be a valuable one. So I reached out.

The decision was an easy one for several reasons:

  • – I really love the early ambiguous, chaotic, optimistic, and collaborative (I’d add more adjectives if I could) period in a startup when you’re trying to find the right solution to a problem you’ve been thinking about for days, months, and sometimes years.
  • – My wife has been a commercial real estate broker for over a decade, so I already knew a bunch about the industry and was interested in it.
  • – Over the past few years my wife and I have had many conversations about the future of work. It’s something I think about a lot. I was always struck by the lack of innovation in the space. I mostly complained about it, though. So, Knotel gives me an opportunity to put my money where my mouth is.

Plus, I’ve been in startups for almost a decade. I was ready to focus my efforts on what I love, which is building products and developing teams.

5. What inspires you? How do you hope to leverage those sources of inspiration to build the next generation of workplace products and experiences?

This is where I’ve grown the most.

Today, as a father, a husband, and a very fortunate professional, I find so many things inspiring.

Usually, it comes down to people. I want to spend every minute around inspiring people. Forget everything else. Inspired people will create the products we use in the future. I don’t need much else.

Also, no assholes.

6. What’s the most exciting thing about Knotel’s future?

The most exciting part is that it’s not here yet. The world is up for grabs. We have a north star, and it’s ambitious. I get giddy thinking about it.