It’s been about a year since Nils and I started talking about HowDo, there has barely been a day since, when it hasn’t felt like we should and could be doing things faster and smarter. Whether that’s talking to more people, building faster, communicating more, reading, measuring, speaking, pitching, learning smarter, iterating faster, testing, hiring, researching more, experimenting wider. Somebody will always be telling you that there is other things you should be doing. Pacing oneself towards an unknown end point can be hard. As Drew Hudson of Dropbox puts it neatly, ‘everything you’re doing is something you’re barely qualified for, or not qualified for, it’s like jumping off a cliff and building a parachute’. Stack that on top of the very typical first time founder syndrome of having no money, the pressures of long hours, the stress of pitching and building a team with-out really knowing how, and the steep learning curve is hard. But it can and should be the most fun too. These are a few and in no way comprehensive thoughts to other fledging founders that I’ve learnt in this first year or more often gleaned from the smart people around us.
1. Is this the most important thing in your life right now? Setting up ‘kill’ or ‘love’ switches helped us asses the project every few weeks in the first months. But checking in with oneself can be equally valuable. Saving you from wasting energy on the ideas that are not really important to you. Is this the most important thing going on right now?
2. No one changes the wold alone. Find your co-founder. They are the other half of your idea, the person who is going to help your thinking to be twice as good. Then stick like glue until you understand which bits of the other you complete. Nils and I lived pretty intensely for many months, shared practically everything and began to learn how to look after each other. How are you going to tackle the wold as a kick-ass team? Creating a company is not just learning to work together, but playing, learning and growing together as a team. If you’re really lucky a co-founder is someone who can make you laugh when you would otherwise be in tears.
3. Narrate your project in a public space. Tell interesting people what you are doing. Be honest with them, let your enthusiasm for what you’re creating bubble over. Keep telling enough people until they start to listen. I don’t think there is an offer we didn’t accept to go and show and talk about HowDo, and at each one we found interesting people that listened to our honesty, making it easier for us to just get excited with them. Ane we found our community.
4. Share this journey with your friends, for as long as possible. There was a time when this project took over my life, right now I’m not sure if people come out the other side of that! The longer you can bring your friends on this journey, the more likely they are to be marginally happier about your constant distraction and absence. There are people that can balance life and work as two separate things. Unfortunately I’m not one of them.
5. Throw lots of things away. Edit everything, life will always give you more.
6. How does your system work? Everything, absolutely everything, sits within a system. If you think about your idea in terms of loops and ecosystems, and who else is in that ecosystem with you? What’s the interplay between your idea and the bigger cultural, technological or economic happenings? It’s never too early to ask this. We can’t afford to create products and services in isolation.
7. How can I get closer to our community? In the first weeks of HowDo we regularly had the early community in Nils’ living room where we worked from. It was invaluable – we ran workshops, drank beer, worked late nights together, attended events, we even shared an apartment in New York with Filippa, a brilliant early adopter. These are happy times, learning rather than working. It’s a question I try to ask myself now that the community is growing so much faster and wider.
8. Leave egos – and insecurities – at the door. I don’t remember who told me this but it’s golden. It’s personally one of the hardest advices to follow wholly to its end. Everyone, with no exception has already proved their right to be in the room. Enough said, move on and change the world.
9. Find your support network. Broad and far ranging was out tactic until we figured out what it was we really needed. HowDo had great support, from personal mentors who had done it before to designers who understood systems and process really well and many in between. We asked people to be advisors as soon as we thought we could get away with it. We looked upon investment as an extension of that support network. And are now incredibly lucky to have some great and experienced people on our shoulders
10. Study your ass off. I think of studying entrepreneurship like puppy training for startups. At the time when you are so super excited by the prospect of the world with your idea in it – all you want to do is run fast and chase things, learn by doing and screwing up. But in those first 6 months both Nils and I studied hard. Alongside our respective degrees we were part of Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship’s White Label programme and sat in Karl Wennberg’s awesome Execution class. It aligned our minds with what was expected and I think taught us that we needed to learn our own game to go beyond that.
HowDo began in Stockholm and is now based in Berlin creating an easy way to capture tips, tricks and guides. We were picked up early, listed by people like The Guardian and Gizmodo as a top pick but have since found our niche in the Maker and DIY movement. You can download the app for free to try it out and I’d be happy to hear your thoughts. You can reach me on twitter @erm___ or on mail email@example.com