It’s an old saying, that proper tech startup owns only two kinds of hardware: laptops and coffe maker. Everything else must be in the cloud. Cloud is great, because you do not need capital investment nor people messing with the servers. And better yet, cloud providers will compete to get your business. They’ll drown you in cloud services credit. It’s not uncommon, that you can get a hundred thousand dollars worth. That’s a lot of money saved, which is handy, especially at the beginning.
But of course, it’s not as simple as that. Cloud providers are presenting their model as “only pay for what you use”. Quite often it’s however “pay for what you forgot to turn off”. Even worse, when the cloud services are free, nobody is much bothered, that you have a unused ten-node Elasticsearch cluster for playing around with and the daily backups, which were supposed to be deleted after a month, are not in fact deleted and are stored forever. Cloud services are not cheap. The amazing flexibility you are getting costs something.
The problem obviously surfaces, when the credit runs out. Suddenly you go from zero to thousands of dollars cloud bill. In the best case scenario, you calculated with it in your projections presented to investors. Even then, you will probably need to adjust your roadmap and postpone business projects, because you need to clean up and optimize. In the not so best scenario, you did not calculate with it. And you are in trouble, because the runway you thought you had, which was supposed to get you to break-even, is suddenly too short and you have to raise some money quickly, otherwise you run out of cash. You don’t want to do that.
To avoid a situation like this, consider the credit as another source of capital. Put it on your balance sheet, alongside the money you raised or put into the company yourself. Post the cloud bill in your P&L statement and watch it closely, same as other cost. And clean up regularly.
I’ve noticed that certain young start-up founders are developing a bad habit. There are only a few of them, but some individuals get caught up in promoting themselves as part of marketing their company. Now, I know this is hard to resist, especially at a younger age: There is the constant stream of profiles that focus on new start-up stars; self-proclaimed experts flood the market with their latest motivational handbooks; Forbes is also full of it; and not a week goes by without some sort of conference with the opportunity to give a talk or record a podcast. Social networks are full of pulp wisdom and you’re admired by throngs of followers that inundate you with likes despite being wannabes themselves. I understand it all, I really do. But let’s be real here: Reading the biographies of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs and being slapped on the back by your high school buddies doesn’t make you a global innovator. Not by itself anyway.
Now it’s not my place to criticize what someone does in their free time, but when that sort of self-promotion is presented as an investment for the company, it’s a bit worrying. Those are usually the types that haven’t achieved all that much, but they’re able to endlessly discuss the right way to build a start-up at three conferences each month all while mentoring others, organizing conferences, writing books, and adding to an ever-expanding list of other accomplishments. “It’s good for the company. It’s great PR,” we often hear. But is that true? The boundary between corporate communication and massaging one’s own ego is paper-thin and submitting to the latter can be oh-so tempting. Yes, educating oneself and representing the company at events is important, but it shouldn’t be something that becomes a burden for your marketing team. And it certainly must not become something that’s the butt of jokes.
The chief disadvantage to this approach is the clear and direct comparison to people who keep working with their eyes on the prize; building a great product while motivating the people in the team. That’s the type that isn’t thinking about posting a motivational status to their profile and waiting to see how many likes it gets; it’s the type that supresses his/her own ego in favour of building the brand.
When I see that sort of behaviour, I have to stop and wonder what would happen to the company if the energy put into promoting the individual went into the team. What if instead of networking at a conference where everyone knows him, he’d take his team out for a fantastic dinner? It’s an example of poorly allocated energy.
I had two bosses in my life and I can’t recall either of them speaking at conferences, much less organizing them. They gave all their time to their companies and led by example. Neither of them wanted us to spend time presenting ourselves. I can’t imagine taking them seriously if they criticised me for my effort while they just came back from the printers where they posted the first copy of their new book to Instagram. Could I really respect someone like that? An entrepreneur needs to be a true leader and not just a face that spends a third of his/her time representing himself or the company to the outside world.
Work hard and let your results speak for themselves. Once you make it, then you’ll be a star in your own right without having to force it.
This article was originally published at Michal’s blog.
At Reflex, we are using Samepage as our central communication tool. We send an occasional e-mail here and there, but most of our Powerteam agenda is covered by Samepage these days. But that was not always the case.
In the past, apart from in-person meetings, we used an e-mail group and it was, for the lack of better terms, madness. The issues we discuss are fairly complex. An e-mail might spark three separate topics for discussion. An answer to one question could raise two new. After few rounds of e-mails, we usually gave up and postponed the discussion to our next team meeting.
It’s not just about chatting, as a lot of the communication involves documents of some sort or other. We discuss pitch decks, P&L statements and patent applications.
Samepage is a team collaboration application, which combines team chat, voice and video calls with tools for collaborative work on documents. You can imagine it as a combination of Slack and Google docs. It’s closest competitor is actually Microsoft Teams, which provides similar all-in-one suite. However, for usage of Teams in a company you need the Office 365 license, which can be hefty. Not to talk about the complexity of running 365 in the first place.
Samepage is also a Reflex Capital portfolio company, so I have the privilege to know the team and work with them. It might surprise you, but the development of this world-class app happens in Pilsen, Czech republic, though the team is international with offices both in US and CZ.
Most functionality of Samepage revolves around Pages. These are shared documents, which can contain not only text, images and videos, which is pretty standard, but also things like embedded files, tasks, meetings and more. And you can of course chat and make video and audio conferences around the Page. This is a little different concept from Slack, which puts the chat room as the center piece and the documents and files you have to handle on the side.
We usually create a page for every company we are interested in, gather all the documentation in this page and chat about it within the team. We sometimes also create a special page with questions towards the founders of said company and invite the founders to participate in this page. This is also one of the nice features of Samepage: You can grant access to external people to specific pages and the great thing about it is, you do not have to pay for these guest users.
And speaking of free stuff: Samepage has made their chat feature completely free recently. I know that Slack also has a free tier, but it’s very limited and most importantly, will allow you to retain only limited number of messages.
If you haven’t yet, give Samepage a try, you might find it refreshingly useful, as did we.