I was talking the other day to some friends about the journey it has been creating a company. For a lot of reasons it drew a smile in my face, but I also remembered a couple of tear-inducing ones. What I’m trying to say is that most of the reasons create mixed feelings. For example:
Sharing a room
I’ve talked before about how we got to into our last office. We currently have our own place —which I can’t even begin to describe how cool it is — but it wasn’t like this from the start.
Adapttech’s fist office wasn’t picked out of many possible offices. It came for “free”. We won second place at iUP25k entrepreneurship contest and the prize was that they were going to give us a place to conduct our business free of charge. For half a year. In the basement. Next to the building’s servers. Shared with some other companies. I guess you could argue that it was better than a garage. . . maybe.
Amazingly, what was actually the best part was the sharing the room with other companies. Most startups, regardless of their business area, go through the same pains. You all need to grow, you all are in the hunting for investors (or if you have them, you are now dealing with them) and you all are trying to get to the next stage of whatever you are doing.
All startups need suppliers and service providers: from accountants to lawyers, from cleaning services to cloud storage. Do not underestimate the power of having people struggling the same way as you: you learn a lot with your brothers in arms.
Food for entrepreneurs
It’s no secret that while you are getting your company off the ground you have long nights and countless hours of work. It also comes with few hours of sleep and short lunches —well, short everything: breakfasts, lunches, dinners, breaks . . .
You are always on the hurry and the first casualties of this are your eating hours. We managed to survive during these times with vending machines that were located nearby. We also gained like 20 kilos. By no means I’m saying that this is the way to go. The complete opposite! Do not neglect your health by eating crap.
It’s better to create and maintain healthy eating habits than trying to correct them afterwards. Trust me on this one: your physical and mental health are of paramount importance if you want to keep your business and yourself running smoothly.
As I mentioned before, we started with a shared room in the basement. When we finally decided to move out —that is, when the free period was over—, we had a major issue: How were we going to pay rent if we didn’t have investment yet? Fred and I decided to go into our savings accounts. There wasn’t much money between us, but the little we had helped us pay for the bare minimum: rent (which included utilities and Internet) and, of course, the dreaded taxes —by far our most expensive item on the list.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s almost impossible to go on your journey without having to risk some of your own personal money at some point. And for us that moment came just as we started. It could have been at any other stage, but we believed in ourselves before anyone else believes in you. And when that happens you need to place your money when you need it the most.
So we decided to create a minimum viable product to show to potential investors. Makes sense, right? How do you do that medical hardware? How do you start developing hardware when tools, equipment and components are so expensive? Well, our answer was, in the words of Joe Cocker, “with a little help of my friends”.
We needed to check some electronic signals. That requires an expensive scope. We asked for 10 minutes of one from our friends next door. They allowed us. Total cost: a cup of “thank you” coffee.
And that is how you go full circle: the guys that you were “stuck with” are the ones lending you tools. Your payment was a coffee from the marvellous vending machine nearby, and you thank goodness you can afford the rent so you can be close to your peers. . . and that’s why the first appliance we got ourselves in our office was a coffee machine: so we could thank all our friends for their help.