First of all, I wanted to thank everyone ever involved in the project: contributors, community, developers, users and my teammates. It was an amazing life-changing journey. To be honest, I still wouldn’t believe it was 2 years that passed lightning fast, but it is time for me to move on.
But before that, it is always very important to draw conclusions, revise everything you’ve done, make work on the mistakes and revisit good decisions. It is critical not just to make sure those mistakes wouldn’t happen in the future, but also to become wiser and more efficient.
I wanted to make this post not to reflect on things, but as a reminder to myself and hopefully useful tips to others. There will be two parts: something that I call fun facts and a my personal summary.
Being drawn every day to so many different tasks and problems and opportunities, you quite often don’t even realize how many things are happening around.
- We’ve built more than 200 repositories on GitHub
- We’ve reached more than 500,000 users on the platform
- We’ve made 18 partnerships
- Lost 3 very promising partnerships
- We killed 20+ product hypothesis
- Haven’t validated 4+ hypothesis
- We had 20+ Friday night releases
- Hired 37 amazing people
- Spoke at 18 conferences
- Lost 4 pitch battles
- Had 60+ flights
- Missed 3 connecting flights
- Spent $20 on a blanket to not to freeze to death on a WOW air flight 1 time
- Hosted 1 Meetup in Palo Alto, Bay Area
- Didn’t book proper hotel dates 2 times
- Visited 10 new countries
- Worked from 8 different time zones
- Spoke directly to 100+ community members
- Spoke directly to 200+ users
- Spoke with 200+ investors
- Didn’t get follow up responses from 140+ investors
- Met 1 business fairy (she will know)
- Had 60+ 3 AM sync calls
- Missed 100+ lunches
- Was forced to lay off 12 amazing people
- Worked directly with 60+ amazing people
- Wrote 100+ product documents
- Had “Mozgovoy” spelled incorrectly 100+ times
- Published 9 articles
- Had 0 vacation days (and I don’t regret it)
A startup is never a boring place. Everyone heard that expression where it says that you have to wear many hats and never one in a startup. But it is more than that, it is also how you manage your time, your emotions even your family. I did my best to conclude everything here, but the sure thing I’ve missed something.
A bit more than 2 years ago I’ve shared an article about 22 life lessons that I learned. I try to revisit it from time to time, but there is one lesson that I wanted to add in there: Trust your team. I know that it feels like it’s easier to do everything on your own. That nobody can do it better than you. That’s wrong. The one-man army is such an extremely inefficient approach. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a case, and there are unique examples here and there, but if you want to build a great product, start with a team, and start with trust. You have to trust your teammates, you have to provide an opportunity for others to thrive and do their best, as only in this case your team as a whole will benefit.
Speaking about the team, I’ve met many people throughout my life, but in the past couple of years, I had an amazing opportunity to meet, assemble and work with the best team. Every one of them is the best professional in what they do. This helped to reorganize the hiring process:
- A first round is done with an HR manager, to ensure we speak the same language with the candidate.
- The second round is done directly with the hiring manager and is focused on the personality, vision, beliefs, and mission of a candidate.
- The third round is what I call technical. It is done with both the hiring manager and a lead person, would it be development, design or marketing.
- The final round is more of a round table with all department leads and it sort of repeats what happened during the second round. Except that now entire team, as well as the candidate, make a decision on whether we want to work together. It is always a dual-side decision.
Another thing I’ve learned is how important 1-on-1s and 360 reviews are. The bigger the team becomes the harder it becomes to get direct feedback. It means that you have to set the processes which will allow even with a rapid team scaling still get that essential feedback. I believe that small 15 minutes 1-on-1s should be done once every two weeks. It should be the time where you and your colleague can speak about anything that matters, it should be private and shouldn’t be interfered with any other duties. 360 reviews should be done once every month. It will allow everyone to reflect, make changes if necessary and endorse those that truly deserve it. It is also critical for management to listen to the team. I’ve also learned that one of the success factors is the level of team engagement. The higher it is, the more your team members are suggesting, proposing and dreaming the higher the chance of grasping a successful product, tech or any other hypothesis is.
It is also very interesting, but having 0 vacation days throughout this entire time I had an opportunity to see my family more often. Having a 7 hour time difference was definitely much harder to feel attached and belonging to my family. But with an opportunity to run a completely remote company, I’ve learned another important lesson: there is nothing more important than your family. Your company, your teammates, your goals and ambitions all of that is an important part of your life and your identity, but family matters the most. The moments you miss, and can never bring back; the people you miss, and can never bring back. Family matters the most, that’s it.
I’ve also had a chance to speak in front of the best audiences. Every keynote, roundtable or a panel is different. It is so hard to deliver truly interesting and valuable information to the audience when everyone is trying to market themselves. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing, but the best speakers I’ve seen and listened to always had amazingly well-balanced speeches. The structure, though, is somewhat the same:
- Define a problem.
- Make sure people realize why it matters, how big is it and why is it important to solve it.
- Provide an outlook of possible solutions .
- Define your own solution, and make sure people understand why you chose it.
- If your team, company or you have done it before — share results. That’s a perfect place to speak about your company and your achievements in the context of a problem.
Throughout this time, we’ve accumulated many amazing tech solutions. For instance, we were the first ones to release a hybrid blockchain in the production. When working on a complex infrastructure both with the blockchain part and what we call a conventional microservices part, I’ve had an opportunity to gain invaluable experience with the rapid scaling of the system, which I summarized here and here. I’ve also described an entire process of growing and maturing as a product here.
I can’t but mention an amazing opportunity that happened in 2018, when I was at the DisruptSF, where we were selected as a top pick in blockchain by TechCrunch. You can find my interview here, but the reason why I mentioned this thing in here is to remind myself that achievements like this one, are purely because of a teamwork.
But it wasn’t all related to tech. I had an opportunity to work closely with our brand and product design teams. I’ve learned a lot from them. I finally learned Figma, even though Sketch is still the best (to me at least). We killed many and many hours before finally composing our own approach to an atomic design approach. You can read more about it here. I’ve also had a chance to learn directly on the effect of a design on business, which I mentioned here.
I did some custdeving and supporting. I spent quite some time directly responding to the questions, problems, and requests of our users and potential customers, I absolutely can’t say that I mastered the art of interviewing. It is really the art of identifying a user’s problem and creating a solution that would solve the problem. But I definitely got closer in doing it more efficiently. Of course, everyone knows “The mom test” by Rob Fitzpatrick, but I also started tracking customer-obsessed companies like Intercom, for instance. They have incredibly grasp on how to build what people need. They have multiple guides on “how to”, one of my favorite ones is a guide on how to build a sales team. For a SaaS startup, that is an extremely accurate and new add-on to your reading collection. I wrote more on it here.
Last but not least, I wanted to mention the community support we and I were surrounded throughout the entire time. Thank you and till next times.