“Change is the Only Constant” The 5 Lessons I Learned Being a 20-Something Founder
I had the pleasure of interviewing Antonio Manueco, Managing Partner/Software Engineer of blubeta.
Jean: What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?
My story begins as a young kid that wanted to buy everything from sticker albums for the World Cup, to Legos and video games. I was aware that money couldn’t be “printed” (at least not in the way I thought about it) so I got started early in my life by selling drawings of what was then a very popular Japanese Anime, “Dragon Ball Z.” This gave me the vehicle I needed in order to autonomously purchase things in exchange for my efforts. I had a knack for it and my peers seemed to like it.
During these times I also began developing web pages with GIF’s on Geocities, marking the start of my “developer” career, which later turned into a music CD burning endeavor in my teenage years, followed by building computers, gaming rigs, and providing tech support. The inert passion and drive to give myself the opportunity to get things without having to depend on anyone else was what ultimately led me to open blubeta in the summer of 2010.
In my first year as an industrial engineer student at the University of Miami (UM), I realized that I needed something more stable if I wanted to indulge myself in the delicacies of cup noodles and Chef Boyardee. I ended up working at Apple for 8 months, where I experienced the launch of the iPhone and started understanding the importance of developing emotional intelligence.
After leaving Apple, I decided to take an internship in the telecommunications department at UM, which worked perfectly since I no longer had to drive to work as my entire life and commute was on campus.
I spent the following six years as a network engineer at UM. During this time, I realized the void that Miami was experiencing between software development and tech stack growth. Most developers I knew at that moment were not aware of the underlying mechanism and the parts that went into launching an app or a service to the rest of the world. I became aware of this gap, and it fueled the drive to start a company of my own, taking advantage of all the knowledge and skill sets I had been acquiring. I didn’t know exactly how or what it entailed to build something amazing as I envisioned it, but I was betting on myself and my ability to adapt to constant, unforgiving, change.
Today I look at the great team and unique environment I was able to create, with an inclusive and special culture, and people willing to push hard with me, and it fills me with gratitude and satisfaction that we are on the right path to continue building great things together.
Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Mediocrity is an epidemic that plagues many companies and individuals. I think what makes our company stand out is the culture of excellence and constant change we share, believing in the power of self-empowerment and relentless thirst for knowledge. This is why we are unique. We are a family bound together by the unified drive to improve ourselves every day. If you step out of our day-to-day responsibilities, you will not find position and title barriers, engineering and marketing barriers, or technical and non-technical barriers. As one, we look to feed off of each other in order to become great. We are strong believers that teamwork is what makes dreams work and we are accomplishing our dreams together. Spend a day in our environment and you will begin to understand what we have achieved collectively as a team.
Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
What makes a project exciting depends on an individual’s perspective of how it breaks down. When we look at the anatomy of a project, there are pieces that will be more exciting than others. As we’ve continued to evolve and scale, we’ve been able to piece together a team that collectively finds excitement at different time intervals during the length of each project.
However, you could say that blockchain and decentralization are at the top of our collective excitement. We are currently working with a healthcare startup who is bringing preventative healthcare to the 21st century leveraging a blockchain platform in order to digitize and secure your medical records. We believe provenance is a major issue (or opportunity depending on what angle), we are co-building a cannabis e-comm platform that tracks from “seed-to-sale” of a flower. This is a new next generation platform with immense potential that will change the farming, agriculture and fishing industry landscape.
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
One of the first books that started my path into understanding how to manage people was “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson. It talks about constant change and how to deal with it. When I first learned about this book I was dealing with a lot of grief from my past. My father had died a few years prior, my grandfather had just passed away, and my grandmother was very ill. Not only did this book help me see things from a fresh perspective but it also helped me understand what it is to be internally accountable with the decisions we wrestle with as we maneuver this game of life.
Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twenty something Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1 - The earlier you fail, the earlier you’ll succeed.
Failing is the greatest teacher of all. I consider myself an intellectual and smart individual but I was never a 4.0 GPA student. On the contrary, my first year as an industrial engineer student I lost all my scholarships and grants at University of Miami. It took me many failed attempts until I found success, and it was worth it.
2 - Change is the only constant.
If you don’t adapt to change, change will level you. Every day is an opportunity to become a better version of yourself. If you don’t work on this, it is like going backwards, since everyone around you will keep evolving for the better. Always compete against yourself and no one else.
3 - To lead you don’t need to be the smartest, but you need to be the most emotionally intelligent.
Managers are people who supervise and give out tasks to their employees, while true leaders of consequence will inspire their teams through their empathy and will therefore provide them with a higher sense of inclusion and ownership on everything they do.
4 - Don’t focus on 100,000 users, focus on your first customer.
One of the major mistakes I’ve seen dozens of founders and co-founders make is focusing on building an app, a platform, or a product on how to scale to 100,000. This fails every time. You need to initially focus on how to get your first paying customer, then second, then third and so on.
5 - We overestimate the power of technology in the short term, and underestimate it in the long term.
During the .com boom, investors wanted to put money on all sorts of “online businesses.” After six years of the “.com bubble” the largest companies today began to establish an almost eternal footprint at the global scale. When you look at cryptocurrencies, starting from the mainstream adoption in 2017, the world went wild and invested all the income they had (and didn’t have) into cryptos. Cryptos are currently being regarded as a “bubble” that finally popped. How long will it take for many of these companies to become the next generation of global unicorns?
Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Tom Peters. He is labeled as “an American writer on business management practices, best known for In Search of Excellence.” I saw his talk about 12 years ago on a DVD player before his content was online and it changed my life. He has an inept ability to direct our attention towards the real issues, and what is plaguing our society (some as relevant today as 12 years ago). I’d like to ask him what he has learned from that video that changed my life until today, and why has a message like his, that is so clear and pragmatic, has still been unable to penetrate and change our mindsets in the business world. I’d like to ask him where he believes education is failing, and what is to become of the traditional brick and mortar educational institutions in the future.
— Published on June 27, 2018