Archive for December, 2011
Togunà Interactive is dead, definitely deleted from the business register of Como.
An insignificant -1 for the statistics of closed companies e 5 people gone one’s separate ways.
Three years ago I celebrated its birth, full of hopes for the future.
The idea was good, someone said, but an idea is nothing without an execution just as good, as anyone who started a hi-tech company knows very well.
I committed myself full-time in this adventure and I certainly did mistakes, starting from the choice of the partners with which to establish the company.
And it’s right on this matter that I’d like to share some suggestions based on my experience, hoping they could be useful to other startuppers.
I read a lot of decalogues about the different aspects of the life of a startup, from establishment to financial issues.
This one is then focused on the relations with partners:
- The “chemistry”: be sure it’s present between you and your adventure companions. It’s that feeling coming from the positive thrill of a handshake, making you feel at ease in company of another person. In my case I didn’t feel it with two of my four partners since the beginning, with the proper negative consequences.
- Money psychology: money is an important tool, to be managed consciously and without prejudices. Talking about it since the beginning with potential partners can be useful to catch signals such as an excessive fear of falling into debt, or the will to do it all without spending a dime. These are signals of a incorrect approach to the use of the money needed to start a company, typically a very limited amount for a software startup. I underestimated these signals from the partner who, on paper, had the best skills on the matter.
- Penalties in agreements: it may seem annoying, but if you have to sign agreements binding partners to dedicate their time to the startup, it’s better quantify and set up penalties, also involving money, if the agreements are not met. We didn’t do that, making the agreements actually useless.
- Complementary skills: I believed that having partners with different skills was a good thing and we pointed that out on our website and in team presentations. It does, indeed, but not so much when skills are neatly different, without a little overlapping. In my case none of my four partners used smartphones or PDAs and thus relied on me even for the most trivial technical issues.
- Remote work: you can do great things even if you work without physical contact, sure, but in my experience I believe that the best things come out when such contact has already been established and consolidated in the past. Something that in our case we didn’t get (or wanted to) even when we rented an office that would have allowed it.
- Haughtiness: you have to stay humble in a startup, and haughtiness is the opposite attitude. After we created a product that people liked, when I was discussing about competitors’ solutions, snooty phrases and attitudes prevailed in partner’s comments. In the meantime competitors sold their products and we just looked.
- Looking at the back of everything: having “experts” at looking at the back of everything in the management board is a really bad thing and it annihilates the spirit of initiative. In a startup, scenerios should be made only in the future, not in the past, maybe by remarking past mistakes due to personal hate or sadism.
- Meetings: they’re effective when brief and planned at the beginning of the work week. We had long meetings on Thursday evening or on Friday, the only time allowed by the working routine of my partners. The week was actually over and the weekend was coming, during which no one obviously preferred to be disturbed. I recall that an expert consultant I had the chance to talk to about the way we did meetings, ironically named it as the “bridge club”.
- Siena’s Palio syndrome: an italian journalist who follows the startup scene defined it in this way. It’s a sickness that takes place when the objective become “loosing is ok, the important is that you don’t win”, in confrontations among partners for example. There’s no cure for this virus. Probably it comes from a negative jealousy feeling (since there’s also a positive one that drives you to make better).
- Mentor: being able to count on a mentor, an experienced person, above the parts and respected by all partners, is among the most important things for a startup. It’s also one of the most difficult to find, so keep your “antennas” active to find him since the beginning among the people you know or encounter. I found a mentor too late, when things already went awry, but he has been important nonetheless.
I hope these can be useful recommendations. As for my particular case, maybe it would take a book to be able to tell the whole tale that made me elaborate them.
If you’re in doubt about the choice of partners, rather than risking that mediocrity could take its place in the management board, my recommendation is: start alone and devote yourself to your project.
JUST MAKE, and since talent attracts talent, you’ll certainly find better partners along the way.