Youssef turned out to be right: there’s always a next episode.
If last episode was the cliffhanger where everything looks completely fucked up, this was the follow-up where random events save the day. Think Empire strikes back vs Return of the Jedi. (We all know Empire was much more interesting, so I’ll try to keep it short)
I honestly don’t believe I’ve ever cycled through as many different levels of confidence as in the past few weeks. By the time Youssef published our last blog I was convinced we were complete idiots and since then I’ve switched from ‘we’re brilliant’ to ‘we’re idiots’ on a daily basis.
Regardless of how stressful the past weeks were, I can’t express how grateful I am for the experience. We were forced to think deeply about the systems we need to set up to make this thing work, which led us to some new insights.
Those systems brought us some good results as well. Apparently, when it rains it pours. Here’s what we learned:
Personal = Professional
The moment you become independent and work on your own ideas, your personal life and professional life blend into one. Throw in some high expectations, money problems and past trauma to deal with, and you’ve created a nice cocktail of mental fuckup.
It’s very hard to enjoy traveling to a new country if you’re completely stressed out. It’s hard being creative if you’re worrying about whether being away is messing up your business. You’d think ultimate freedom feels better than that, but freedom without constraints just makes an existential crisis more likely.
I learned a lot about how to manage this, and I came to the conclusion that this connection is also beautiful: you can only improve your business by improving on yourself. If you’re not in a good place, the results change immediately. You have to accept that all aspects of your life contribute to doing your best work.
I realised it’s probably better not to shake up too many things at the same time, so I will head back to Amsterdam in July for the rest of the year to keep things stable while we build up the business to be more predictable.
I’ll stop stressing out when…
When looking for new income streams, I constantly had this idea in my head that when I just land this one job, or when we finish this project, I could take a minute off and stop worrying.
Now that we’re safe, I still constantly feel like we just need that one thing to happen to be comfortable. I also realise that when that one thing is over, I’ll be comfortable for about 5 minutes before a new thing will pop up.
Tough break, but we’ll never be that comfortable. That’s all part of it. I figured this guy is probably just an entrepreneur in his natural habitat:
Even though personally remote has been tough at times, working together remotely has been effortless. All the usual complaints about not being able to meet face to face and collaborating have been total non-issues for us.
If you work remotely with anyone, the only ingredient you’ll need is trust. There’s days that pass where I have no idea what Youssef is doing and vice versa, but I couldn’t care less because I know we’re fully committed to the same mission.
We set goals once a month and commit to a simple set of tasks every week. We don’t care how, when and where it happens. I can go surfing, Youssef can make music until 2AM. Pretty sweet if you ask me.
We call almost every day and we have just as many brainstorms and crazy ideas as we had back home. We probably spend less time dreaming about the future, but for us, that’s a feature, not a bug.
The only small drawback I’ve personally experienced is talking with customers. Meeting people in person can be really helpful to understand people better, as you pick up on all sorts of non-verbal signals. Especially when designing a new product or service, it can be a blessing to actually see people use it.
That doesn’t have to happen all year, so we’ll definitely experiment with this way of working for a while.
Being our own client
Having all the time in the world and no clients, we were faced with setting priorities between doing sales or making progress on Pody.
Why not both? We figured it’d be much better to reach out to people with a good example of how we work. So we decided to be our own client and challenged ourselves to build a good product in 2 weeks.
This forced us to take out all the unnecessary parts and test our process for building things together. We ended up with a very simple app which does exactly what it needs to do. We just invited our first pilot users and we already see them automating some of their tasks with it.
I can’t describe the feeling that comes with people using something that you designed, built and launched yourself. It reminds me of why we started in the first place. Once I figure out how to make good videos, we’ll publish a case study on how we broke it down.
Hopefully that will be enough proof for people to work with us.
We noticed a lot of agency business is influenced by serendipity. Simply said, serendipity is described as unexpected good luck. It’s those moments where you know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy and somehow that’s exactly the person you need to work with. In hindsight you’re just amazed at how lucky you were for that introduction.
Because we‘re starting from scratch, we’re no ones’ guy. We’re not going to find work just by being lucky. So we asked ourselves how we could become a little luckier, realising full well how stupid that sounds.
I was reading this book called Smartcuts, where the writer explores how successful people often ride ‘waves’ that are already happening and compares it to surfing:
Sometimes the biggest waves form out of seemingly nowhere. A superwave can show up on a regular surf day when random smaller waves align. When that happens, the only people who can possibly ride it are the ones who actually went to the beach that day. The ones who actually got in the water.
This made us realise: we needed a wave to lead us to the next step, but we weren’t even in the water for it to happen to us.
To tackle this, we developed a simple habit for both Minimum and Podium: every day, we both reach out to people for at least an hour. This can be anything from doing sales to getting to know important people in the startup space or music industry.
It doesn’t matter what the outcome is because we do it every day. If it works, it has a massive benefit. If it doesn’t; we have other things to do. There’s no target or expectation: we’re just making sure we’re in the water for when the big wave arrives.
So it's been another educational month. Those insights led to:
I know, weird flex, but we're really happy with those results. Now let's see how we can make ourselves uncomfortable again.
P.S. Needless to say, we're currently taking on jobs for Minimum. Know anyone building a digital product? we can help break it down. It's the least we can do ;)
As an entrepreneur, you want to make sure you're testing your assumptions constantly and keep your mind open to all possible outcomes. You basically want to assume you're wrong about a lot of things and fix those down the road. When interviewing users, you want to be completely open to the possibility that they would like to see something different.
When you're staring at a blank canvas to design something, that mindset doesn't really help. If you question every step you take, you don't get into a creative flow. You simply need to make assumptions here and there to get anything done and you need to feel good about what you're making to get to the better ideas.
When bootstrapping, you're both the entrepreneur and the designer. One half of you should question everything you make and validate it with real users, but the other one should be coming up with creative solutions and producing good work. I found it hard to balance this, until I stumbled upon some variant of "Design like you're right, experiment like you're wrong " in a blog.
Since then it's been an easy decision: whenever we start designing, we simply assume we're 100% right and think of great ways to solve problems. That brings out the most confidence and gets the crazy ideas going. Afterwards, we set up experiments that assume we're 100% wrong to see if people see the value. We don't mix them and it makes both approaches much more satisfying.