A few things I noticed while visiting Iceland

Here are a few thoughts and things I noticed while visiting Reykjavik, Iceland in 2016. Some of these might serve as travel tips if you are thinking about visiting soon.

  • Hotdogs are absolutely epic. Someone on a tour mentioned they are actually a danish rip-off, but in Denmark they use red larger sausages apparently. I’ve seen similar variations in the north of Mexico, but also with larger sausages, and lots of hot sauce.
  • Most adults and younger people speak English fluently, but older people may not. Bus drivers (in my experience) didn’t speak or understand it very well. Taxi drivers, however, seemed well-versed.
  • Bus tickets are strange; I don’t mean the ones you get on the bus, but the small things you get in sets of 10 at candy/corner shops.
  • Late night candy shops are also a thing? I saw at least two, but no late-night alcohol places… Completely the opposite of Belgium (with its Nachtwinkels).
  • The architecture is rather bizarre. I wouldn’t call it pretty, except for the churches which are beautifully surreal. However, you don’t really come to Iceland for the architecture, you come for the nature, the tours, the volcanoes, the thousands of waterfalls, the geysers, and the people.
  • The beer isn’t epic, but it’s not bad. Licorice shots on the other hand…
  • Beer and wine are incredibly expensive… 8-10 EUR per pint, sometimes per bottle.
  • Taxis are expensive. I originally wrote “taxis are not expensive at all!”, but after doing the conversions, man… I got charged from 20-30 EUR for a distance of 4-5 KM. Try to take the bus instead.
  • There is a strange fashion going on, reminiscent of the 80s, where (mostly) girls have their jeans or leggings torn at the knees (and sometimes elbows)… haven’t seen this in other countries for ages.
  • My GPS seemed to think I was looking (pointing at) the wrong direction, like it was slightly confused. I wonder if it is due to the same drift problem that Australia suffers from (which requires GPS re-alignment every couple of years).
  • You won’t be able to understand or pronounce the names of places you are looking for. There are generally no translations for these names, so a person might be speaking fluent English and then out of nowhere blurt out a complicated place name, leaveing you bewildered.
  • If you are planning on going, take at least one tour, even a cheap one (70-80EUR) e.g.”Golden Circle”, various companies offer it. Also, don’t forget to go to the Geothermal pools, there are a few of them in Reykjavik, but it might be cooler to visit the blue lagoon (although you should reserve at least 2-3 days in advance!)
  • They have an app called “incest blocker“, apparently it is (and was even more so the previous century) a big problem, as a nation with a population of only 300K+. One of my tour guides mentioned this, and how it saved her from a potential disaster, quite hilarious.
  • No Uber? Come on!
  • Last, but most important: They accept credit/debit cards everywhere, even American Express!
    • Even on taxis and corner shops
    • Even at low-budget eateries
    • The default seems to be to pay by card; at most bars they would already have the device ready for me to pay before I could even take my bills out
    • They all use the same system, which leads me to believe this is an initiative by the government to facilitate tourism
    • Belgium… I’m looking at you!

Hopefully this post was useful if you are planning an upcoming trip.

The epic voyage of Stijn Van Loo, Matthias the Engineer, and Bruno the St. Bernard

New EP is out today! Available this week on Spotify, Apple Music, and most other popular streaming services. It’s a bit experimental so I don’t expect you too like it very much if you aren’t into both electro-funk and death metal.

The preparation & inspiration

  • Inspired by EDM, metal, psychedelic rock like Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Snarky Puppy
  • Took over half a year of fiddling around with ideas and then discarding them
  • The main part of the music ended up being written in less than 6 hours
  • Afterwards, about 4 weeks of work consisted of lyrics, mixing and post-production
  • Ended up discarding 6 songs, and using just 3 for this EP (2 intros and 1 main one)
  • There is no chorus, why would there be?

What is the story behind it?

Album CoverIt’s a story about an inter-dimensional space-time travel of an engineer (Matthias), ametalhead (Stijn Van Loo), and a St. Bernard named Bruno.

Stijn Van Loo happens to be one of the best captains in the airforce, Matthias has proved himself as one of the most creative aerospace engineers in the world, whilst Bruno is an exceptionally smart dog.

Over the course of several years several space agencies have detected a rift ocurring near a known black hole, very far away; they determine the happening is caused by an entity, and this being’s actions are causing a dramatic expansion of the blackhole. So a multinational effort is put into play to gather funds to create the best, fastest warship ever created. Stijn and Matthias are selected from a large pool of recruits; but Matthias declines to go without Bruno, who would keep them company during the long voyage.

The battleship has the ability to create wormholes which enable bending of space-time which will allow them to reach their destination in less than a year.

They name the being Dr. Simmons, whom they presume to be an evil chemist mastermind from another race. Stijn, Matthias and Bruno shortly after set out on a voyage to destroy him and potentially collapse the blackhole by detonating fission bombs near the event horizon.

This album is dedicated to Bruno, may he rest in peace.

Listen to the album

Or watch the video for the main song

Note: The video has nothing to do with the story, and is basically just me and a good friend playing GTA V over the course of 2-3 hours. Intro scene filmed in Belgium under a bridge.

414749

After three months of work I’ve finally released #414749, my 12th album. The album is a jamboree of genres, albeit not intentionally so. I just let each song take it’s style and route based on how it felt, kind of like when writers let the story go on it’s way without trying to strictly determine the fate of it’s subjects.

The result is a bit strange obviously, I’ve received a few comments like “wow, this is cool, there’s a lot of styles in there”, to “wow, there’s a bit of distortion in there eh?”. Some people dislike the fact that I keep meddling with different genres.

So for my next couple of albums I will attempt to do something a bit more consistent.

I’m releasing this album for free, check it out on Soundcloud below:

You can also get the album here:

Thanks for your support, and don’t forget to share!

Cover art is an alteration of a photo by Mark Asthoff

Why I won’t be paying for Rdio… yet

Edit: Post no longer relevant, Rdio closed its doors in 2015.

After years of using Spotify I decided to give Rdio a chance, as a few friends at work use it and really recommended it. I’ve used the web app, mobile app, and desktop app for a few weeks now, so I thought I’d give a brief rundown on the pros and cons from my point of view.

The other purpose of this list is to function as a set of recommendations for Rdio from a hardcore Spotify user.

Cons of Rdio:

1. Songs take too long to start (sometimes 1 second between songs, it doesn’t do efficient pre-fetching like Spotify does). This happens both on mobile and on the desktop version, even with a good internet connection.

2. Genre stations play completely unrelated stuff (try “dubstep” genre for example).

3. Bad last.fm integration sometimes (too slow to Scrobble) – this is intermittent as sometimes it works great.

4. Lack of plugins (like the awesome “Sounddrop” plugin for Spotify) – Wow, Spotify killed plugins as well

5. Less content available on Rdio (but I suspect they will catch up eventually)

6. Frequent/strange UI glitches (due to flaky connection, etc.) Solution = better/longer local CSS cache:

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 14.00.31

7. As a musician I encountered a strange problem in Rdio. I use Distrokid to distribute my music to all popular music platforms; one of the songs in my latest single cuts off at 31 seconds, whilst on all other platforms it does not. Proof (Deezer vs Rdio):

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 22.23.54

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 22.24.52

8. The thing that really annoyed me the most is that they are too quick to pull the plug when a payment doesn’t go through. I changed banks recently and forgot to update my payment details on Rdio. The very moment the payment failed to go through they cut the cord and switched me to a free account. Popular services like Github, Google Apps, Spotify, and many others will give you a bit of leeway. Ultimately this is why I won’t be paying for Rdio, because it’s the small details like this that matter.

Pros of Rdio:

1. More control over playback quality.

2. Nicer/simpler UI.

3. AUTOPLAY… this is the biggest win I think. Similar to Pandora. Finished the album? It just looks for similar stuff and carries on playing music.

4. Artist-based stations are better than on Spotify; the find better related/similar stuff.

Problems that affect both services:

1. Small clicking/spacing between continuous songs. Add option to have continuous playback maybe? An example of this is Madeon’s latest album which have linked songs.

2. Lack of plugins/apps (SoundDrop was cool!)


Both services cost roughly the same. Spotify has content, plugins and speed, whilst Rdio has UI and awesome autoplay. If you are deciding between them I would choose Spotify for now; but I really hope Rdio catches up soon as it is a promising service.

S/Here/There

Hey everyone! I’ve finally decided to post my latest album here. It is a bit experimental (as usual) combining rock, metal, electronica, and new-age. Most of the comments I’ve heard are ‘this is too strange for me’, but I don’t mind 🙂

Check it out on Spotify: Lemiffe – S/Here/There/

Or listen to the first song on SoundCloud:

Enjoy!

Truncated Dreams

On the 9th of April 2014, I closed my business, packed my bags, and flew to Belgium, after struggling with my startup for roughly 2 years. This is a story about shortcomings, failures, and personal mistakes I made during those years.

There are plenty of articles about failed startups, describing postmortems in detail, so with this story I aim to take a more personal side, describing my feelings and thoughts during the time, and how I’ve learned to deal with failure.

My hope is that it will give you a perspective of one of the ways things can go if you start a company with no prior experience, with the intention that it could help prevent similar mistakes.

It’s a long read, but I hope you enjoy it!


 Preface

I am a 30-something year old software developer, an AI enthusiast, and a musician in my spare time. I have been programming since I was 10 years old. I started because I dreamt of making games, but sooner rather than later I ended up writing corporate software (admin and invoicing systems, ERPs, CRMs, etc.) and designing/developing websites as this was far more profitable, and easier to get into. From age 12 onward, whenever someone asked me what I wanted to do when I was older, I would always say “I’m going to be a programmer”. And a programmer is what I became.

My other dream was to own a business. When I was 13, I started my own company making simple games (and later on websites) with my best friend. Shortly after we had an amicable split due to creative differences, so I started freelancing in my spare time over the next couple of years – mostly small web design or graphic design gigs.

It wasn’t until I was 17 that I got my first real job, working for a factory developing their administration system. After a few years I realised I could maybe rewrite it, and start selling it; heck, maybe even run my own company again.

I didn’t realise bootstrapping an IT business is a nightmare, full of ups and downs.

Some people are lucky, some people are not, some people turn a side project into a million-dollar business, and others fade away unnoticed. Regardless, in most cases it will be a long bumpy ride.

This is the story of the crazy ride through my two-year startup endeavor.

Chapter 1: A lifelong dream

It all started while I was studying an MSc in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh in 2010.

I started planning my business and the product range over a year before returning to Mexico. My friends kept asking: “Why would you start this in Mexico? Why not open a company over there? You’ll make much more money!” But my reply was always the same: “The majority of Mexico’s GDP comes from SMBs, and technology is being adopted at an incredible pace right now. With so many new companies bubbling up, there is a growing demand for cheaper SAAS ERP/MRP/CRM solutions, websites, e-commerce sites, and other IT solutions“.

Technically speaking, my response was correct, but I hadn’t factored in an important obstacle: Micro and small businesses in Mexico are used to paying low prices for IT solutions. The market is not used to paying competitive prices for professional software programs, software consulting, or full-time development work (although this is changing in 2018+). Hence why a lot of websites and web systems in Mexico still look like from the 90s. I’ve seen too many half-baked ERP solutions riddled with bugs, even in medium-sized companies. Companies just don’t want to swallow the bullet and cough up what’s required for a professional job.

This also explains why quite a few of my developer friends in Mexico have moved to Redmond, San Fransisco, and Seattle in search for better-paid positions.

July 2012

I returned to Mexico on the 4th of July, 2012. Less than 3 months later I had three small clients looking for an administration system (including the factory I had worked for years ago).

After a few meetings with them I figured out my best bet was to rewrite my previous system, start a business, and work exclusively on it, while trying to find new potential customers. I also decided to treat it as a SAAS product, as it would facilitate deployment for the 3 customers.

A month later I started the process of relocating to a small office (instead of working at home). This was my first mistake. I didn’t need an office, I just wanted one. I contacted a couple of friends (who had their own startups), and decided to rent an office with them and split the rent. We had a bright, modern office space in the south of Monterrey. The future looked promising. I was earning a good amount of money, paying my bills on time, and acquiring computers, whiteboards, stationary (man, I love stationary!), and other office assets.

I dreamt of a beautifully decorated place, with a pool table and a large screen TV. I dreamt of people hacking around on Arduinos and Raspberry PIs in their spare time. I dreamt of small teams collaborating in great ways. I dreamt of a place that would be fun, engaging, inspiring and challenging.

computers

Instead, the workload started building up. I started making regular trips to Mexico City and Guadalajara, and I didn’t have enough time to finish the project in time, heck, I didn’t even have a full spec. Requirements kept pouring in, so I decided to hire a couple of people: a developer and a graphic designer. First I found a designer, recently graduated, willing to take a lower pay in exchange for real-world practice. I then published an ad in the newspaper, on university sites, and on LinkedIn, and a few weeks later I made my first development hire. We started out as a motivated team, we had goals (albeit short-term), and we believed in each other.

We were earning a decent amount of money developing our administration system, so we started taking up other work like designing custom websites and tools. I didn’t think about offering stock to my first employees, nor did I look for investors. I didn’t want to give up any part of the company, as I blindly thought that I could lead it by myself. This was my second mistake. Don’t be selfish, working with partners can be difficult sometimes, but bright minds (and a bit more money) go a long way. It’s all about choosing the right partners, and incentivising your first employees by offering at least a small percentage of the company, specially when you don’t have any initial investment.

December 2012

By the end of the year, I was nowhere near finished with our administration system, and on top of that we had taken up another major project (an ERP system for an entirely different business sector). Our first 3 clients were getting annoyed, we were making progress but not as fast as we could have worked. Did I need a designer for a product we didn’t have enough time to develop? I should have doubled down on development and left design til the end.

We started falling further behind schedule, money wasn’t coming in as fast because we hadn’t finished what we promised, and our newly-finished side project (a file-based CMS system) wasn’t selling. I couldn’t hire salespeople as I barely had enough money to pay my employees. We started rushing around, trying to finish our previous commitments, but it was too late, the damage was done.

I’m not saying it is bad to think big, and to be optimistic about the future. I think the biggest lesson I learned during this period is that you must always focus on your priorities, and only develop those non-paying risky ideas in your spare time. We shouldn’t have taken on web design work, nor embark on a side project to build a better/faster CMS, and we definitely should not have signed up to develop another ERP, regardless of the money.

If we had concentrated on our paying customers at the time, we would have probably finished our work sooner, and we would have been able to look for more clients, which would have brought more money in, which in turn would have allowed us to start fiddling around with other ideas.

But I let my long-term goals blind me. If you play around instead of studying, you will probably fail the exam. Likewise, if you get side-tracked developing what you think will be the next million-dollar app, while your actual customers sit around waiting for their products, your business will definitely fold.

Chapter 2: Serial mismanagement

March 2013

We were approaching the end of our first year in business.

At the time, we were about 65% done with our ERP system, we had a CMS system on the market, and we had still had income from our ERP clients.

We had around 6-7 web design / e-commerce projects, which we were trying to wrap up, to give us a greater short-term cash flow and allow us to eventually hire another developer to help us out with client work.

New work came through collaborative efforts

We started collaborating on projects with the other two start-ups in the office space. One of them was a design and branding studio, and the other one was a digital marketing agency. It was a natural fit for the requirements of many of our customers.

One start-up would do the branding and design, then we would do the web design and website, and finally the other start-up would create FB/AdWords campaigns.

The problem is that, these short-term projects grew in scope, stagnated, went very slowly, or had a bunch of unexpected challenges, thus leading them to take much longer than expected to be finished.

I sat at my desk one day looking at one of my whiteboards which had a list of customers/projects and their statuses. We had a ton projects, most of them half-done. How could I let this happen?

I was in a scenario where I would visit clients every day or so, we would have a ton of meetings, while my designer and developer tried to get most of the work done for our short-term customers, while our long-term customers grew more and more impatient.

You are either a product-oriented company, or an agency, never both

Eventually we finished most of our short-term projects, but money was running dry, and our large customers weren’t paying regularly as they paid based on results. Thus I started borrowing money to pay for my employee’s salaries. This is probably the worst decision I have ever made.

The rational decision would have been to finish up on anything we could, notify our customers, deliver all our source code and set up local machines, and close the business.

But I believed in my business. I believed in success. I knew it would come to us, but it would probably take many years more than I thought.

I started worrying all the time; I didn’t look calm, I didn’t look like I had everything under control, and my employees noticed this. I couldn’t focus anymore, I was constantly re-arranging our processes, trying to find a way to keep moving forward and return to better financial days.

I could see the worry in the face of my developer as well, he didn’t look calm anymore, he was evidently worried if I’d be able to pay his next check, so he decided to leave. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind stating for another week, to finish as much as possible and document the latest modules he had developed. He agreed to this, finished up, and I paid him for his last week at the office.

No hard feelings, I had it coming.

But now I had two problems

Design work for my ERP system had been finished, and we were no longer working on smaller web projects for customers, thus, I didn’t need a designer in the short-term, but I didn’t want to fire her either, as I envisioned a day where she would take care of the design/UX of our mobile apps, advertisements, etc.

Additionally, I no longer had a developer, so I would have to communicate with clients, do our accounting and invoicing, cash cheques, develop, test and deploy the ERP, do the project management, find work for my designer to do, among other responsibilities.

I felt like a mess. But I would keep pushing things forward, for the sake of the business, for the sake of my future.

Chapter 3: The fold

During the summer of 2013 I completely burned out.

I started going into the office late (at around 10:00 AM) feeling pretty apathetic. I no longer saw each day as a myriad of opportunities waiting to be taken. I no longer saw myself as a young entrepreneur with big dreams for success, I simply saw in me a person trying to not get squashed by the pressure, being defensive instead of proactive.

As far as I can remember I’ve always had a path I would follow. I would plan things and always follow through with them. I had diverged drastically from where I thought I would be by that age.

Every time I made a decision (like going to Scotland to study an MSC or opening my own business), my family members praised me for always following through. But I kept judging myself for all the things that went wrong instead of feeling good about the fact that I was trying my best, or what I thought was my best back then.

I also didn’t believe I was depressed, I didn’t even think about it. I thought it was just a rough period I was going through. I didn’t feel sad, nor did I feel happy, I simply didn’t care. That should have been a clue.

I started wondering about my life, what I was doing, where I was going. I realised I was stagnant. My coding style was becoming obsolete, my developer friends were moving to newer and better things (Rails, Angular, Backbone, Ember, MVC3), and I was stuck using the same languages I had used for years.

Fast-forward to Christmas, 2013: I had a talk with one of my uncles during dinner, who was also an early backer of my ERP project. He gave me some valuable insight after I tried to explain what I was going through:

“You have talent, but you have no structure. I’ve met so many people in life who had talent but turned out to be failures, not because they lacked ability or passion, but because they thought of themselves as such. I recommend you go to work for a larger company, where you can learn a lot, and then in the future, if you still have the same amount of passion, try setting up shop again.”

At that moment I didn’t understand what he meant with “you lack structure”. What kind of structure? How can I lack structure if I plan everything so meticulously.

It’s not about planning, it’s about constant and honest execution, it’s about being proactive and constantly communicating the status of each project to your customers, it’s about arriving early at work, living healthily, not taking up too much work which you know you won’t deliver, and being proactive.

After talking with a few friends about this, they acknowledged that I did lack structure. So I decided to put some effort into the interviews I’d be having in January. I realised they were right, I was just too inexperienced, and I was trying to do everything myself, without the capacity to do so.

February 2014

During January and February I talked with recruiters at Google and Amazon. I went through the initial tests, but given my inexperience, and the state I was in, I failed both of them.

The experience was a good one though: Google and Amazon aren’t the only ones out there! I had no plans of going to work at Microsoft, but I’d give it a shot at other hip companies in the valley.

I applied at Github, LinkedIn, Heroku, Rackspace, and about 30 other companies. For my Heroku application I even deployed a Heroku-branded website to Heroku with a video-song explaining why I wanted to join Heroku. Incredibly cheesy, but I thought it would get me noticed.

I received about 3 replies that week, all of them stating ‘not at the moment’. Heroku didn’t even reply. I removed the website shortly thereafter.

One day I was talking with one of my best friends, who lives in Belgium. I was telling him how I felt and how I wasn’t really happy with my life at the moment. He suggested I go to Belgium to live and work; he would help me find a job, and I could stay at his house for a couple of months while I settled down.

Five minutes later I made my decision. Belgium would be my next step. To make it even more interesting, I decided to go without a job secured. I’d analyse my options after arriving, and if I didn’t find anything in the IT sector, I could always do something else.

Some of my clients and family members said I was crazy. One of them even said “you are 27, you can’t go doing stupid things like that anymore. It is too risky, why don’t you just find a company over here, work hard, earn money, and then try again in 3-4 years?”.

My reply was simple: I’m not only trying to make a statement that I need to change my life drastically, but I also want to learn a new language, seek professional growth, get to know new people, travel a bit (I hadn’t taken a holiday in almost two years), and live in a smaller city (Monterrey has 4M+ inhabitants, you can almost smell the chaos and stress of people living there).

Don’t get me wrong, Monterrey is a beautiful city, but sitting an hour in traffic to get to a meeting under 40ºc heat is not really my thing.

Then again, my closest family members and friends supported my decision. I had even gone to a few sessions with a therapist, and he blatantly told me: “You’d be stupid not to do this. So many people would love to do the same, but can’t due to not having the right nationality or skill set, or being tied down by family or work reasons. You have this opportunity right now, so just take it.”

My decision to leave wasn’t rash, blunt or precipitated

Some people might say “how and why would you make such a life-changing decision so fast?” I studied my reasons and noted three main positive points for leaving:

  • I wanted to join a company where I could earn enough money to repay my debts.
  • I wanted to join a well-positioned start-up with at least 25 people, multiple developers and established frameworks, where I could learn new technologies, and acquire more “structure”.
  • I wanted to learn a new language and experience a different culture. Change is always a mind opener, and I had stagnated for too long.
  • I believed it might help me get out of my depression, and destroy my comfort zone.

I marked April 9th on my calendar as the date I’d travel to Belgium and finally put some order and excitement into my life.

Chapter 4: Restart

I spent the last few months selling everything I owned. I sold my computers, monitors, audio equipment and instruments on Facebook ‘buy-sell’ groups, and used the profits to buy my plane ticket.

After all the expenses I had a little over 1,800 euros to survive a couple of months in Belgium, including trip expenses! I didn’t remember how expensive it is over here, but this is something I’d find out further down the road.

Around this time I began to make new plans for my future. I decided maybe I wanted to stop being a developer for a while and dedicate myself to something that requires a completely different skill-set. Something more social.

April 2014: Belgium

I flew to Belgium on the 9th of April and met my friend at the train station.

I settled down at his small 3rd floor studio and started looking for a job. I was motivated to try something new, so I was looking around for different types of companies, but most of them required Dutch. I thought about applying at a restaurant or a bar; but I was scared of trying something new and I couldn’t admit it.

After a couple of weeks I got an interview at a software company. I had an inkling that this is where I belonged even before the interview. I had an upcoming holiday, so I mentioned this during the interview.

This can be a pretty tricky thing to say when you’re not even employed at the time. We reached a consensus: I’d start for a three-week trial period, then go on holiday, and hopefully return to a full-time job if I was a good fit.

The trial period was great, I got to know my coworkers and really enjoyed the vibe. A few days before leaving on holiday with my friends I was told I was accepted. I packed my bags and left with a 3 friends to Australia for a camper-van west-coast trip to Australia, and a couple of days in China.

Yes, I know what you are thinking: Wait, you are indebted, you don’t have a place, you barely just secured a job, and now you are going on holiday? Fortunately it was a cheap holiday, we found a great bargain for the flights, and we all chipped in equally for the rent of the camper van. And, well, I got paid for three-week trial period, so I thought it would be a great moment to relax and finally get over the failure of my startup.

china

The trip was awesome, cumbersome, interesting, tiring, scenic, problematic, and everything else you’d expect a trip of such magnitude to be.

January 2015

After working at this company for more than half a year, things really started to change. I was finally getting out of debt, hanging out more with friends, learning a bunch of new things from colleagues at work, and finally feeling like I was getting over failure.

My passion for AI was re-kindled as a result of having long talks with one of my friends, I started attending conferences and meet-ups. Meeting like-minded individuals makes a huge difference. People also appreciated my talks and presentations at work, which motivated me to start giving more.

I think a big factor was also the ability to experiment with new technologies and frameworks, being asked to do R&D, and being trusted to do my job. This makes a massive difference.

When you are in a good place, and you enjoy what you are doing, happiness starts to creep up on you, and you start cutting back on most auto-destructive activities.


Recap

If you feel the inkling to start your own company, go for it, it is a valuable experience! But if things don’t turn out as you expect them to, know when to pull out. Know when to take a step back, and use metrics, data, or input from everyone you can find, and reach a conclusion: carry on, or drop it. If you already have your own business and things are looking grim, take a few days off, talk with people, crunch the numbers, you’ll work it out.

Here are my key takeaway points if you are planning or running a startup:

  • Be prepared, constantly reassess yourself and your position (not just your startup’s)
  • Keep metrics! the more, the better!
  • Know that some day you might have to change direction (either pivot, downscale, or close up), but don’t let this demotivate you, try harder while things are still on course!
  • Do one thing, but do it as best as possible! This is absolutely critical!
  • You are either a product company, or an agency, not both. Never make custom apps!
  • Name your startup after your product (in the case of software startups). If it is successful and it grows, then make changes further ahead; right now your product is the only thing that matters
  • If you are going for multiple products (e.g. the cosmetics industry), keep your product line small and simple, experiment with new ideas, and kill off what doesn’t work (a la Google)
  • Make a nice, simple, well-designed website, with catchy but straight-to-the-point copy, and make it as simple as possible to purchase and pay for your product
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses, not just the company’s. This will help you with the next point:
  • Know when to make big changes in your life that are affecting your ability to lead progressively
  • Know when to step back, but only if the drive & motivation that led you to start your business have gone. Otherwise, you might find that success is right around the corner, so try harder!

Good luck!