My Startup Turns Two: Lessons Learned On My Entrepreneurial Journey
Hello, fellow ‘treps! It’s been a while since I wrote a post, as things at Brndstr HQ have been a little hectic, to say the least. As a startup that just turned two, I wanted to take a look back at our business’ growth and let all you brave folks know what I picked up along the way. To start with, although the last couple of years have been hard, they have also been the best of my business career.
We have all been there, wondering if making the jump to captain our own ship is a good idea- and I can now confirm that sailing the startup seas and steering your own company forward is well worth the jump. There are, as you can imagine, some rough patches to deal with, but here are five key pieces of advice from my experiences to help you have as smooth an entrepreneurial journey as possible:
1. Go all in
When you are at that idea stage and believe you have something solid that can become a business, go for it, and go all out. When I started Brndstr, I knew I needed some serious investment to make it work the way I wanted it to. Having put the business plan together, I set out to raise close to $1m USD- people thought I was mad but 30+ meetings, many rejections and head banging against walls later, we did it. Money was raised, and partners were found. One key point to remember in this is to make sure the person you partner with is a good fit for your business- don’t just look at the dollars; the people you bring on need to get you and your vision. If you ask anyone who invests at the idea stage, they ultimately invest in you as the entrepreneur and not the idea- they believe in you. Remember failure is only feedback, and if you believe you can do it, you will.
2. Don’t be scared of change
When Brndstr was about seven months old, we had a team of five amazing engineers, a solid brand and our product was finally being shipped to the market. During a visit to a Google conference in Silicon Valley where I presented our shiny new product, it became clear we had missed a trick- we had been so focused on meeting deadlines and ‘getting to market’ that we had overlooked user experience and the problem we were actually trying solve. On my return, I sat down with the team and went back to the drawing board. This was the best thing that could have happened to Brndstr as we were able to ship a new, better version of our product offering two months later- that product has since become the backbone of our business, and it has been the springboard to the success we have achieved to date.
3. Hire wisely
This is possibly one of the hardest things to get right. In true startup mode with cash in the bank, you want to grow your team and ‘create that culture’ within the company. Hiring the right people at the right time is a very hard thing to judge. In the past couple of years, we have had a few people that joined Brndstr but were only with us for a short time, as it turned out the fit and timing was wrong. Before you go out and hire new people, sit down with the existing and see where help is needed and what positions would complement the rest of the team. When you are a startup, it is like a small family, and a new person in the company has a big impact- so make sure everybody is ready for a new family member. But in the end, if that person is not right for your business, don’t be scared to admit the mistake and let go.
4. Believe in your brand- be proud
The naming and branding of your new idea is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting parts in the beginning- choosing the colors, stationery and website seem so important. If you make a name up and go a little wild by removing the vowels –like we did- it can feel a little weird picking up the phone, and saying, “Hello it’s Simon from Brndstr.” One piece of advice I have in this matter is to be proud of your brand- print t-shirts, stickers, tell everyone about it and talk about it like you have been in business since the beginning of time. Imagine how people from Yahoo or Google felt in the early days -now they are household names- and you have to treat your own brand the same way as you see guys like this. I am super proud of the Brndstr brand and walk into every meeting like a kid at Christmas, giving out branded swag and happy to work for the company. This enthusiasm and excitement will be contagious, and your clients will too feel like the brand is great, and in turn, want to work with you.
5. Get advice
It’s your company; you know best, right? Sorry to break your bubble, but this is not always correct- yeah, I know, bummer. As the founder and the spearhead of your company, you have the vision and you know what you want to achieve. For me, our board meetings are one of the most important days of the month. These meetings give me the chance to sound ideas out and get direction or advice on the road map I propose on moving forward. When Brndstr was 18 months old, we extended our board of advisors to bring more experience to the table, and ultimately help Brndstr make the right decisions in order to achieve targets and goals that would help the business succeed. Don’t be afraid to get advice and ask people their thoughts on the directions you are planning as CEO and captain- sometimes, you just need a slight tweak to your plans in order to give them the best possible changes of working.
I feel extremely proud of what Brndstr has achieved, and celebrating a second birthday surrounded by a brilliant team of creative minds- knowing how much we have achieved in such a short period of time was a great feeling. For any of you who are approaching milestones such as birthdays, new offices, or large clients, make sure you celebrate the occasion. If you have the right team behind you, they will work hard and they will want to succeed as much as you do, and this effort deserves a reward.
Wherever you are in your roadmap, I hope these points help you and that you too have a super birthday party like we did at Brndstr. Best of luck in your mission, ‘treps, and see you soon for further updates on my startup journey.
Simon Hudson is the Founder of Cheeze, Inc., a company that aims to help people capture moments together via its mobile app called Privy. Prior to Cheeze, he was the founder and CEO of Brndstr, a social intelligent company established in 2013. Based in Dubai. Brndstr helped brands integrate social chat technologies into their company’s internal systems.
Before moving to Dubai in 2011, Simon was on the founding team of a London-based company Streetlife.com that sold to Nextdoor in 2017.
A passionate entrepreneur, Hudson was responsible for helping the early Dubai startup ecosystem evolve by taking global community Startup Grind to the city and mentoring other local entrepreneurs at Startup Weekend.