Hey Wallet, remember the good times?
It’s been a crazy few weeks with Availo. We have our Beta release out in the wild — which is going great, we have a steady stream of users waiting to be on boarded, and the quality of freelancers we are bringing onto the platform is simply astounding.
As three founders we’ve been getting on great, it’s been busy but we’ve been productive around the clock and weekends. We seem to be laughing in the face of fallouts… I feel our experience and diversity is really showing through at this stage and we are only getting stronger as a team.
The Painful Part
Now for the painful part… we’re going to be talking about salaries! This is something that personally I thought I had a fair grasp of but in reality it’s the subject not really spoken about in the very early days as your product is the key focus.
Like many startup founders of an older age I was happy to take the path away from my industry career to make Availo a reality. What we didn’t realise is just how tight financial positions would become as we built our MVP to first release and tried to secure larger funding… it appears the gap between the expectations of investors and mature founders are a little wider than first perceived. This is also something we’ve also lost out on funding to — hence the post… this wasn’t a mistake on our parts, more a realisation of how things are done.
As a freelance app developer I have been able to enjoy job security in the freelance market for a number of years now, keeping to market rates and enjoying the flexibility freelance work gives me. Stepping into the startup world, my own personal expectations seem to have fallen quite short of the financial marks. Don’t get me wrong, I had expected to take a large cut to market rates — somewhere along the 50% range. As a co-founder I’ve quickly realised this is quite far from the realisation of the current investors. Will this have an effect on my financial roadmap including mortgage applications — sure it will… but these are the kind of decisions founders need to consider.
Now for the painful part… we’re going to be talking about salaries!
My experience in “startup world” is fairly limited in comparison to our foreign counterparts. Having worked more in the digital media industry for the last 10 years and having only worked in one startup previously.
At that startup I was bought in as lead mobile dev before the founder’s financial situations ended our experience sharply following 6–8 weeks of work.
When it comes down to your own personal startup as founder or co-founder it is not the percentage at which you are prepared to take a pay cut but merely how little can you survive on and how much runway can you show to your investors – it doesn’t matter if where you are in life. The longevity of your company should be one of your main goals at this early stage. It also promotes your commitment to the company – no one is going to invest if you’re taking expensive holidays and partying every weekend – luckily none of these applied to us.
If you’re in this for the money – get out… get out now!
To show how this can vary between companies, within our current co-working space, we have co-founders ranging from recent graduates to industry veterans — those with small financial commitments to those with a nice and well earned cushion. In perspective — unfortunately me and one of the other co-founders fall well into the middle of this — London rents and mortgages to pay without 15 house mates to split the bills between and lives to live without being too much of a financial burden on our partners and living in the financial situation of our 18-year-old selves.
Did we do this at the wrong time — maybe… but trying to launch products in these times, expectation from users is so high that it inevitably takes time. In a market where there is competition this only leads to the amount of development time required to get to market. We have clear differentiations to our perceived competitors but this doesn’t mean we get an easy ride. As a team we have set the bar high for Availo, in turn pushing the limits of our financial balance.
Co-Founders Are Not Early Team Members
Friends at US startups are always telling me how well they are being paid and how the equity options are just a bonus to their package. This is obviously different between co-founders and early hires and a far cry from startup culture in London. A simple search on Quora will show you the real life situations of members in their VC backed startups. On salaries to survive and working as many hours as possible to get to release in a suitable fashion. This is pretty true — if you’re in this for the money — get out… get out now!
This is what startups are about – creating and growing amazing product.
As the main developer at Availo I find myself either sat at the desk, testing the app in real life on my commute to the office or improving features on the sofa. As a co-founder this is what drives you — seeking ways to push your product and create something not only different but something that will create a buzz and people will talk about. I’m finding myself looking less at my bank balance and more concentrated on making Availo meet my expectations, the team’s expectations and the expectations of our growing user base. This is what startups are about — creating and growing amazing product.
So where are we now? At present we have just landed the next piece of funding and extended the runway for Availo which will see us build out the next round of core features. Our user count is growing and through some great communication channels we are having daily conversations with users in an open context — through our advisors we are learning some great skills that I would never learn if I had stayed on my path.