Things I learned while building my first startup
It’s been the most interesting time of my life. For what it’s worth, here’s what I think I learned in a year of building a venture-backed startup with 15 amazing people and a product used by companies all over the world.
Asking for startup advice is a skill. You can teach yourself how to do it and you can improve with practice. I was very lucky to have had great mentors and advisors by my side when we started Workable. The most useful thing they taught me was how to ask for help, how to make it count, and how to give back. Learning this skill is a gift that keeps on giving.
This post is from my - previously anonymous - blog "The Drachma Startup" where we chronicled the crazy journey of building a startup during the darkest hours of the Greek financial crisis. The drachma startup is now a growing company with dozens employees, hundreds of enterprise customers and millions in venture capital funding. Yes, the drachma startup is Workable.
This is my favourite post from back then. Almost a year later, still in the beginning of our new business and with a hard fight ahead of us, I still stand by every single word in it.
One of the best lessons about fundraising, I learned through a hobby of mine: photography. You see, amateur photographers, like all hobbyists, tend to spend a lot of time obsessing about cameras, lenses, tripods and other pieces of gear. The latest and greatest and how to get it. They stuff their bags with the best gear money can buy and they frequent forums talking about it.
But the best gear in the world, doesn't guarantee you any good shots. Spending your time taking photos does. Waking up at 5am for that morning light. Walking up a hill for the better view. Picking the best gear can often worsen your chances to get good photos. Time spent in forums and shops is time not spent taking photos.
A good non-technical co-founder is not just a "business guy" or "salesman". He is the person who helps create an operationally and commercially viable company around the product. Doing this well can be equally important to have a good product, or, to put it better, the product would take twice as much to develop and end up worth less if someone wasn't taking care of all the rest. These are not mere administrativia I'm talking about. It's parts of execution that some folks can do remarkably better than others and can make the difference between a simple tech project and a successful technology company.