Roey Brecher is co-founder and CTO of pricing intelligence startup WisePricer.
As I’m writing this post, I’m sitting in an apartment that our business development guy is renting in Oakland. I’m practically homeless at the moment but I couldn’t care less.
If there’s anything the past year had taught me, is that owning less stuff keeps me happy. I (partly) own one big ‘thing’ that I’m most proud of, and that is WisePricer. The clothes I wear are either startup t-shirts (x3 @olark, so thanks @ben) or Uniqlo whites. I take next to nothing from the business account but I’m positive better days will come. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.
We launched WisePricer in 3 months.
It was a dirty alpha version with core functionality missing, but we got a few paying customers right off the bat. There was (and is) a real need for what we came up with, even in its barely functional state. That proved to be the first lesson which is something most entrepreneurs know these days but as I came from the corporate world, I had no clue.
Moving forward and getting early traction while trying to raise seed money was another eye opener. It wasn’t before long that we realized that our product was suffering from the time we spent talking to investors. We did raise a small amount but made a mental note to focus on generating revenue. It worked.
Scaling efficiently was our next big challenge. We learned not to solve any problem before it was real and actually hurting us. You only begin to understand your true power to persevere when your server crashes 40 minutes before an important demo. If you can keep yourself from tending to tasks that are fun but you are not entirely sure will be fruitful (like developing that awesome feature your team considers really cool), pat yourself on the back, that’s how it’s done.
Spending money is another big thing. As we soon decided that we would try to minimize our dilution by growing slowly through earnings rather than investments, we started to take our cash flow seriously. We spent December’s holidays in a cheaper country (rent, food, booze and whatnot). We relied on some good friends and set up office in their conference room (they have kicked us out since, all on good terms).
I won’t tell you how three of us shared a two-bedroom apartment … but let’s just say my co founder knows my snoring pattern pretty damn well.
We were also hustling. When attending demo days or conferences, asking for discounted admission tickets is nothing to be ashamed of. Paying for a booth? Not in our budget. You will be amazed how many people you can meet when you are actually waiting around a conference hall premises and engaging in conversations.
There’s another truth I learned: Always ask for discounts. And if you are getting something for free, ask for an extension (Yuval from our team will say, ask for two). In one five minute phone call my cofounder saved us $12,000 in hosting fees.
Are we making enough money to live long and prosper? We soon had to face that question when we wanted to bring more people on board. More people means more expenses, but our time was devoted to onboarding new customers. And the B2B world is different in that you need to have a solid sales funnel.
We went back to Israel only to realize we needed to be in Mountain View two weeks later for a YCombinator interview. That interview didn’t go as expected (unless you are expecting to not get picked which I can honestly say we didn’t). It did however gave us the push we needed to pivot into the enterprise world. Think big and you shall receive.
I learned some things about working while spending your spare time with your co-workers. In a normal world, you rarely see your co workers outside of work. Heck, you rarely think about work outside of work. In a startup world, you are spending so much time with your team you sometime want to drive a fork through their hearts and twist it, but you don’t, because that’s illegal, and you need them.
Jokes aside, it can be most stressful. Learning to push aside differences and keeping non-work issues where they belong (outside of work) is how you grow.
It all comes down to Ego. The more you have of it, the less you will be willing to compromise.