Streakoid loses a team member.
Streakoid gaining another team member was short lived. We lasted about two days.
I could have hidden the fact that someone joined Streakoid for two days and then bailed. But building a start means dealing with failure.
I wrote before how having to juggle the web, mobile and back-end development got too much for me.
In typical diva fashion I said enough was enough after a bug in the registration flow. I needed another team member.
I gathered up all the courage cards I had left and sent four voice messages to four people I would like to work with.
One said no.
Two said maybe.
One said yes.
The yes was a shock to the system. I was standing in the kitchen with my sister, when the message came through.
It all became so real. It was time to put my big boy shoes on.
What do I want from Streakoid?
I quit my job as a software engineer in a successful startup to start Streakoid. Hoping to one day become the weird love child of Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday and Peter Levels.
Imagining myself living wherever I wanted. Not having to listen to terrible product managers or building bad software because “the business wants this”.
But I’m not sure what I want.
One part of me wants to do this by myself so I can have the freedom to do whatever I want. Have creative control over the project and not have to give into pressures from other people.
But the other part of me wants to go to YCombinator. YCombinator is the “Harvard for startups“ it’s an accelerator that Dropbox and Airbnb went through.
Over the summer I did the Startup School an online course designed to prepare people to get into YCombinator and became part of the YCombinator Cult.
YCombinator didn’t accept my application. I’ve spent the last few months trying to fix that before the next round of applications.
The problem is, these two ideas don’t go hand in hand.
The nomad life
The first one describes more of a nomad character like Levels.io.
Someone who can earn a lot from a project they create by themselves and have complete control of their life. Live where they want and build up an impressive monthly revenue.
This is my kind of life. This suits me to a tee. A wacky life for a wacky dude.
I don’t believe money is a big motivator to me, but I’ve never had a lot, so it’s hard to tell how I’ll react.
Sell your soul to a startup
But a startup is the opposite of this. You sell your soul for four to ten years.
Building a team chasing growth. Trying to expand the team, get more users, and get massive. The reward a stupid big payout. You’re set for life.
It’s the tech equivalent of being a gladiator.
I tried being a nomad
I wanted to get into YCombinator and I followed their advice. But I also wanted to live life on my own terms.
In that time I released a web and mobile app that had two paying customers.
In the last month I’ve started to feel more pressure to make a profit. My bank account hit zero again and I had to withdraw more money from savings. Money I had saved up for over the last year.
I realised it was a premature optimisation to be a nomad and try to build a startup.
I needed to get customers.
Commiting to YCombinator
I committed to getting to YCombinator which meant I had to face my fear of building a team. No more messing about trying to design my life. I needed to work.
YCombinator prefers cofounders but for the last few months I’ve taken this as a challenge to prove them wrong. My ego has wanted me to prove that I can do what two people can. But I can’t.
I share all the business logic and state between the front end and mobile app, and I have an SDK that connects the API to the clients.
I’ve built it to make it easy for me to do everything.
But there’s just a lot of features that need built.
Then there’s dealing with the randomness where the database goes down or AWS blows up.
A team mate could would help
Bringing someone on helped my YCombinator application and would mean I could offload some work on them.
If I’m honest besides getting into YCombinator to gain exposure to a great community, I’m not to sure why else I want to go.
But sitting alone in Ireland with two customers, it’s tough sometimes to keep pushing forward.
I spend a lot of time in my head. Worrying about competition or people stealing my ideas.
I struggle to imagine a world where it’s possible for Streakoid to pay my bills. (Which is a problem). But each day I gain a little more hope because of small wins.
I imagine YCombinator as a Utopia. But I know that will not be the case. But I recognise that the learning opportunities would be huge. Which is why I want to go.
With my new team mate on board this was a big step in the right direction.
We agreed to speak the next day after we went to sleep.
The first call with the new team member
I woke up with a sense of dread.
Fearing that I was about to take months from his life that he would never get back.
But we jumped on a call and I felt good afterwards.
He is a strong programmer. There would be some initial onboarding, but after that he would be fine.
We spent a couple hours on a Google call walking through the code base.
We even moved to Slack. (The moment a startup becomes real)
After getting access to all the repos, I had a small task for him to get used to the API and how I handle tests.
He’s an Android developer by trade so the back-end stuff was new to him.
There is a lot of code, so this must have been overwhelming. I threw information at him left, right and centre.
I walked him through how to change the code in one place and then I left it up to him.
Streakoid was no longer just mine.
It was fun for a few hours.
Getting the founding team right seems to be crucial
But then I started to remember videos from YCombinator.
Saying how most companies fail because of founder disagreements.
Then I thought of Kevin Hales talk about how intense the relationship is.
I wanted to move into a flat together to just as Paul Graham says to do before YCombinator.
This meant putting serious money into Streakoid. This put way more pressure on Streakoid than me living with my parents.
It all became quite a lot.
But these thoughts died as I continued to work.
I messed up
But the next day I realised I had messed up by not discussing equity in our first chat.
I didn’t discuss it because I don’t have a clue what I should offer.
I’ve read in a bunch of places that this equity conversation never gets easier so it’s best to get it over with.
Deciding on the equity split
This was tricky. Because I wanted him to come on and get a good slice for the sacrifices he was making to join.
I wanted to make sure that he would get to YCombinator with me which meant at least 10% of the company.
YCombinator says your equity split should be as close to 50% as possible.
Startups are tough you need motivated team mates.
I’ve been doing this for less than three months’ full time and I now understand what they mean by tough.
But 50% made me uncomfortable because I have worked on Streakoid in some form for over a year now. Missing out on a lot of sleep and social activities because of it. My brain doesn’t like the thought of me giving up so much.
But I understood their argument that startups are for 4-10 years so the first year doesn’t matter. Streakoid only makes about £7 a month at the moment, so it’s not like he’s joining the gold rush.
I was aiming to give between 20%-30% depending on how much he wanted to commit.
Maybe this was me trying to eat all my birthday cake. But I didn’t want to believe that I had to give up 50%.
My thinking was that YCombinator would need need 6% and then other investors would need a percentage, and then the first ten employees will most likely need a chunk.
Which would mean I’d lose control of the company.
I want to remain in control because one of my motivators is not having to work for someone else. I have a clear vision for Streakoid and I want to execute it the way it deserves to be built.
We never got round to discussing equity
We never got round to this conversation. I sent a slack message saying to think about equities and roles and responsibilities.
He got back to me saying he was second guessing it.
Opening this message *Here I go again on my own* played in my head.
But a few minutes later I realised this is a good thing.
I don’t think I’m ready to release control of Streakoid yet.
Maybe this is just my ego, smiling that I get to keep saying, “Look what I built by myself!”
But I haven’t got round to marketing it or selling it to people. I’ve had friends and family test it. And some love it. Some forget about it. But some people want it.
So now I need to give other people the opportunity to buy it.
Streakoids now ready for me to sell it to people out side of my friends and family.
The MVP phase is over.
The team will grow when it needs to
I would like a team but I want to match the growth to the team to the demand.
Until I can change the demand, I need not grow the team. The aim is just to survive and make it profitable.
It seems like the opposite of everyone else but if Streakoid covered my rent for my place, gave me enough to build up some investments and let me live life on my terms. I’d sleep like a baby.
Yes some days are hectic. But I can do it. I’ll just sure to get enough sleep and eat well.
For now I’ll be staying in my parents’ house in Ireland working on this alone for another while. I’ll keep trying to figure out where I need to go.