One of them is overlooked by most founders.

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Let it grow. Illustration: Ariane Frida Sofie

Your role as an entrepreneur is one of an architect. You plan and design. You balance physics with art. You strive to create a beautiful building, but also one that’s sturdy and built to last. You ponder over function as much as over aesthetics. Your best tool is a sharp mind with good taste.

Your role as an entrepreneur is one of a builder. You carry weight. You put in the muscle. …

Problems create entrepreneurial opportunities, and 2020 is not lacking in problems

An illustration of a unicorn emerging from fiery ashes in the shape of a phoenix.
An illustration of a unicorn emerging from fiery ashes in the shape of a phoenix.
The year 2020: Unicorns rising from the ashes. Illustration: Ariane Frida Sofie

I started my digital marketing company in 2009 against the backdrop of a global financial crisis. Most people thought a young university graduate — like I was at that time — should play it safe and wait for the business climate to get better before starting a company. I’ll never forget the middle-aged business owner who approached me at a trade show and suggested I was “very courageous” to start a company in “the crisis,” and wished me well as if I were taking a trip to some dangerous place from which I would never return.

My youthful ignorance turned out to be a blessing, although the first two years of bootstrapping were painfully humbling. My business card read “CEO,” but in reality, I was sleeping on an airbed under my desk. Two years later, armed with the proof of concept for our business model and bolstered by the tailwind of the improving economy, I raised my first round of financing. Eventually, I assembled a fantastic team of hundreds of people and later sold the majority of the company to a media conglomerate. It was a great ride, and I now believe that starting my company during a recession was the best move I could have made. …

Your job isn’t about finding the best option anymore — it’s about finding the option that is least bad

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Illustration: Ariane Frida Sofie

Dear startup CEOs: It’s time to shift your mindset.

Last week might have been about growth and funky new initiatives. It could have been about hiring employees and closing that new financing round and launching that new product. Last week was about shiny things. Growth was your religion, and your North Star was closing deals and booking revenues. Amen.

But we woke up in a different world, a world where part of the population is shielded from normal social life (or will be soon) due to the spread of coronavirus. …

There’s a much better term you can use

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Illustration: handmade with ❤ by Ariane Frida Sofie

In the early years of my company, we did not extend an employee’s one-year-long contract because their performance was okay, but not outstanding. Also, we were in the middle of a financing round and had to save on cash. It was a perfectly rational decision. However, since it was the first instance that we had let go of somebody under such circumstances, the rest of the team was confused. I had been calling our companies’ culture “family-like” many times before. That didn’t help at all in the situation.

“How could those monsters in management cold-heartedly fire a family member?” was the question written over the faces of the staff. The mood of the team was down for weeks, and we probably lost more cash on unproductive time than we saved on the employee’s salary. …

There might be ways to keep them happy without breaking the bank.

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Illustrations handmade with ❤ by Ariane Frida Sofie

Welcome to the beginning of the year. It’s a beautiful time when the snow is falling, new year’s resolutions are not yet broken dreams, and employees suddenly demand a steep salary increase in your chronically underfinanced start-up. …

Here’s what serial entrepreneurs change about their next business

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Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

The sun was setting and starting to melt into a creamy orange color over the beautiful fields of Mallorca’s nature. Our group of 15 entrepreneurs had gathered on the island to learn from each other. One of my core beliefs is that if you surround yourself with extraordinary people, good things happen, and you’ll learn a lot. That’s why I host Digital Founders Camps to share my own entrepreneurial experiences with the next generation as well as to learn from them.

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Illustration: Ariane Frida Sofie

Our special guest for the evening was Jordi Ber, a local entrepreneur from Mallorca. It turned out that Ber and I had a pretty similar history. We both founded startup companies around 10 years ago. Both companies shared the mission to help small and medium businesses online. Ber ran Habitissimo, a marketplace for tradespeople, and I founded RegioHelden, a marketing agency for local businesses. We both had employed hundreds of employees and sold our companies in deals that made us financially independent. …

How a little nudge from a book made one employee do the unthinkable

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Image: Ariane Frida Sofie

When Tilman walked into my office, he was smiling from ear to ear. He was the head of web design at my digital marketing company, and by his smile, I could tell that something had happened.

Tilman is a designer through and through. He sports a big bushy beard around his boyish smile and his uniform is bright, colorful hoodies. He likes colors, playing games, and stimulating the development of his employees. …

Creative genius needs structure to “get things done”

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Illustrations handmade with ❤ by Ariane Frida Sofie

Orchestras and jazz bands

If IBM was an imposing symphony orchestra, your start-up would be a jamming jazz band. A handful of talented, yet probably inexperienced musicians meet in a dimly lit, underfurnished backyard rehearsal room to create beautiful melodies on the fly. Most of the music is improvised. Maybe the instruments aren’t even tuned to each other. Dave the drummer doesn’t show up — which he’s prone to do — but you start your session anyway.

While the IBM behemoth of an orchestra is perfectly structured and organized to the bones, your jazz band is refreshingly chaotic and the music excitingly unpredictable. With the orchestra, you’ll get what you expect. …

The one list you should be aware of as a first-time founder

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Illustrations by: Ariane Frida Sofie

When the weather outside is beautiful, I like to take walks while coaching entrepreneurs. On this particular, cool summer evening, I found myself strolling through an industrial area with a talented first-time founder of an enterprise software company. It was almost nightfall and the streetlamps switched on as we were starting another stroll around the block. Our topic of conversation was the ‘basics of management’ since his young start-up had recently grown from a handful of people to a staff of 18.

The leap from under ten to over ten employees and growing from there can be a challenge. Your job as a founder shifts from only building a product to building a product and an organisation at the same time. On top of that, first-time founders have to learn how to do both of these things concurrently, since they usually haven’t ever done them before. …

What I learned from spending seven days in silence and interviewing 15 founders who did the same

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Illustrations by Ariane Frida Sofie

Waking up at 5 a.m. is not so bad when your mattress feels as soft as a block of wood. Neither is showering in a shared bathroom with 1,000 ants because you’re not allowed to speak and complain. When I put on my simple white linen uniform, I get a glimpse of how a monk’s life must feel. I exit my barely furnished chamber to carefully walk up the dark path to the meditation hall. Equipped with a flashlight and inhaling the cold, humid air of the sleeping jungle I quietly ask myself…“What on earth am I doing here?!”.

I’ve put myself into a peaceful prison for the mind and haven’t spoken one word the entire week. Using a cell phone is forbidden. The same goes for reading and writing. Twenty strangers and I chose a Buddhist temple in Northern Thailand to spend time with nothing else but our minds. Monks float around the premises in small groups, sporting red robes, bald heads, and radiating peacefulness. …

About

Feliks Eyser

Tech founder & angel investor 🇩🇪 sharing experiences for first-time founders💡🛠🚀

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