My 2012 Annual Letter for Vittana

Thanks to you, Vittana grew 4X, expanded in Africa, reached 8,000 students in 12 countries & had our first $1 million month!

Even this past week has been incredible!

  • We fully deployed our $500,0000 Vittana/MCE Education Opportunity Fund in the Philippines, helping more than 1,340 youth escape poverty.
  • We announced Vinod Khosla and Rich Barton, two of technology’s biggest names, joined as lead donors on Vittana’s League of Extraordinary Tech Superheroes”.
  • My blog post, “Why I Walked Away from $1 Million”, became a viral hit: 1,000+ likes & tweets, Huffington Post, Nick Kristof, Vinod Khosla, Tim O’Reilly & others.
  • To cap it all off, last Thursday we celebrated with Seattle (nearly 1,000 people!) at the GeekWire Gala, raising $32,000+ to fight youth poverty!
  • And just yesterday, Google’s employees raised $102,541 $120,000+ (one day!) for Vittana’s fight against youth poverty!

Hard-Fought Growth

Vittana's impact against youth poverty through 2013As each of you know, creating a meaningful, scalable organization is hard. We’ve had a year of profound growth, for both Vittana and me.

We’ve discovered who we are as an organization (and man, as I turn 30 next month), who we want to be when we grow up — one that blends business’ top minds and philanthropy’s strongest hearts, one that will someday create trillion-dollar change.

Everything we’ve already achieved is because of you: your time, your faith, your thought partnership, your financial support. Thank you. Many of you stepped forward when we needed you most. Thank you for being part of our Vittana family: youth, staff, champions, donors.

You Can Make An Enormous Difference

How will you make an impact this year? Inspire your holiday giving with hope and help. A major gift to Vittana could be one of the most powerful ways to make a difference this year.

Looking forward to 2013, we face a unique problem. After years of sustained exponential growth, we have more lenders and more youth than the infrastructure to bring them together.

We need to raise $500,000 this month for Vittana to meet our next goal. This alone will unlock more than $5 million in loans for youth in 2013 — more than 6,800 youth. With your help, we can help 33,000 youth escape poverty next year.

Please make a donation today. You can use our 1-click page. If you’d like to have a bigger conversation, I’d love to follow up personally.

Janice Macalisang — a Vittana student in the PhilippinesI’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite students, Janice, a girl who dreamed of being a teacher.

Her story broke my heart, both what she’s had to endure but also how little money she needed to empower herself.

Thank you for being part of the Vittana family. Thank you for being part of a movement to end youth poverty — Vittana wouldn’t be possible without you.

Thank you, truly. Yours,


Kushal Chakrabarti
Founder & CEO, Vittana

The 10% Rule — How Hard Work & Compound Interest Are Related

Grasshopper: “What’s the secret?”

Master: “The secret is that there is no secret — you just have to work harder than everyone else.”

In college, I had an incredible mentor, Lior Pachter, who taught me how to think about interesting problems: always redefine the rules; voraciously consume data, then just go play; cherish, pursue moments of discomfort. It was breathtaking.

But, the #1 thing I learned from Lior? The 10% rule.

Meet the 10% Rule

It’s actually very simple.

If you do 10% more hard work every day, how far ahead are you at the end of the year? Hint: It’s not 10%.

If you do 10% more work every day, you’re not ahead by just 1.1x after one year — you’re actually ahead by 1.1365 = 1,283,305,580,313,390x. That’s a big, big number.

1,283,305,580,313,390 vs. 1 — the 10% rule
1,283,305,580,313,390 vs. 1 — The 10% Rule

In short, hard work compounds on itself. It’s the magic of compound interest. Just like money builds off money, hard work builds off hard work.

That extra feature you launched, email you sent, insight you had today? It builds off yesterday’s extra feature, email, insight.

Now, obviously, it doesn’t quite work perfectly. In your sleep-deprived stupor, say you start confusing Os for 0s and break the production system — you just wiped out your past month’s gains. But the idea still essentially holds.


The 10% rule is also the secret to why startups can beat the big guys.

Normal, clear-thinking people (i.e. not you, me — we’re entrepreneurs at heart) look at the numbers and bet on Google, Microsoft, Facebook. So how did Google beat Yahoo in the first place? Why did Mark Zuckerberg pay $1 billion for Instagram?

Because if you’re out busting your ass for own startup, writing code 16 hours a day, using your dog as a four-paw focus group, dreaming (literally) about product/market fit every night, the 10% rule kicks in.

And every seasoned founder, CEO knows that: it’s tough to beat talent + passion (hard work). In a year, you’ve got enough product equity to beat the 9-to-5 lifers by an order of magnitude. If you can survive long enough to catch up, they’re done for.

I’ve been clocking 100-hour weeks for awhile. I’m not special — every founder has done the same. Startups are a race against time and hard work + the 10% rule is your time-warping, 1.21-gigawatt DeLorean to win.

Time-warping, 1.21-gigawatt DeLoreans don't have to look pretty though — Back to the Future
Time-warping, 1.21-gigawatt DeLoreans don’t have to look pretty — Back to the Future