Phew. It’s been a year now since Stefan and I launched partiql. Of course we started a lot earlier on working on it, but it’s been a year since we went public. In this year, I’ve learned quite a lot. I would like to tell you how it feels to be 25 and have no regular income :).
After I worked in a bit chaotic-not-so-startup-like-anymore company called Bitflux and a bit later in a company-that-grew-out-of-baby-pants called Liip and then again later in a very professionally launched startup called Memonic, I had quite a few things in mind when we started off.
The first few weeks, I somewhat asked myself: do we need a business plan? Well, that’s quite a tricky one. In my opinion: no. I would rather spend that time developing and thinking about new ideas than crunching numbers. It would be very boring to quote Moltke (“No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”) Sure they do. Just keep it simple, stupid. I’m not really a big fan of “one line quotes to explain the world”. This is all a bit deeper than some guy saying what you think anyway. So the idea is this: we have a plan, we just don’t have a business plan. But don’t think of this as a straight line that you have to follow (and change every time you hit a rock..) but think of it as a tree, with many many branches – and hopefully not so many leaves. And there is no need to write it all down, you are a moving organism. And you’d better make use of that.
So, clearly this wasn’t something I wanted to do. And I didn’t. And so far, it worked quite well. However, in order to structure this a bit better, here are two lists.
A few things that worked out like planed:
1) No hiring. At least no full-time position. You have so much to do in the first year anyway, there really is no need to have someone you always have to look after. And we never needed to. Of course we could have, but I’d rather do another nightshift until then.
2) No Investors. Be it angels or VCs. Why? Ethics, I think. I would rather not eat for a week than begging someone for money in clothes I don’t usually wear. I think this is because of my age, but right now, I’m quite comfortable with that one.
3) Fuck off. I really don’t give a damn about being polite when I don’t want to. I really really don’t. I am like I am, and I think I’m alright that way. And boy do I think this world would be a better place if people would be honest.
4) Rock on. What does it mean? Have a big fucking party. This is not going to be another job. This company is 50% me. This is my life, my “soul”. There has never been a day I thought “oh my, I don’t wanna go to work” – of course there were, but not because of the job but because of the night before.
5) Partner. Ok, I didn’t plan this one, I just hoped that Stefan would be the guy that he turned out to be. I think working with someone you can trust 100% and be honest 100% is just as awesome as working on stuff you like. (Which doesn’t mean we never argue. The great thing is, that we both always think “it’s for partiql” and we would never quit).
But this was also a big awakening call. There are always things that don’t work as you might expect.
1) No clients. After Liip, I really was done with clients. I had seen so many things going south because there was some ridiculous nuthead on the client side, killing a generally good idea point blank. However, even in Switzerland, money doesn’t grow on trees. However, I think we should call us very lucky with the clients we had the chance to work with. We were also quite picky, maybe that helped a lot. (So, be picky, if we all educate the stupids, maybe they will learn one day.)
2) Work/Life balance. Oh my, was I wrong. I thought it would be possible to maintain a normal life while still giving all it needs at work. It sure wasn’t for me. I work 6 days a week, usually from 9am to 1am. Of course I take days and evenings off etc, but generally, this is how my weeks look. When you are working, head down, you are not getting out, no way. You’ll ditch friends, family and your girlfriend – to some extent. I haven’t seen my closest friends for 3 months, haven’t made it to bed at the same time with my then girlfriend for months, haven’t made it home for dinner, even almost missed my own birthday. Clearly something I underestimated.
3) Money. Money runs out quicker than you think :) Ok, I made the “mistake” of using a lot while I was working for a startup before we launched partiql, which cost me a lot of what I had saved before. But a bit more wouldn’t have hurt anyone. Anyway, if I would do this again, I would make sure I had more money to start with. (Or get less picky, see above.)
4) Chaos. This is a double sided one. We are both absolutely chaotic. And quite frankly, we like it. However, this world is not really made that way. And if the world would be foam, then Switzerland would be a solid block of concrete in that matter. There is no way in hell you could just sit in your garage and launch a small business. No, you’ll do tons of insurance, taxes, health care and what do I know sort of stuff. And it’s annoying and so not productive. At the moment, I think I would be better of by breaking my neck, money wise. But I’m actually not that sure for how long etc. and if they would actually pay. Next time I launch a startup, I think I wouldn’t necessarily do it in Switzerland. (However, I don’t know if it’s better somewhere else, but certainly cheaper, I guess).
So, this was a short essay into what you might expect if you are naive and launch your own company. However, I survived, I survived quite well and I learned a lot. I’d say: shut the old guys up, however keep them in mind to get a good laugh when something worked out in a way they would have never thought it would. This is your run, and you are free to go barefoot until you realize that you need running shoes to run better. At least by that time you know why you need them and what kind you need.