I heard good founders should write blog posts with all their best insights, it helps the SEO of your website, it is great content marketing and it allows you to engage with your users. Here I am trying this too. Unfortunately, I don’t have big tips on blockchain or AI but I do have a story to tell. This is the story of me crying in front of a salmon shelf or not believing in my product and still thinking that this is really ok… I am not sure if this story would be interesting for anyone, but I wished I could read something similar when I started this journey (from someone more “human” than a super successful serial entrepreneur author of “The hard thing about hard things”, still a great book!). I will give you 4 tips, it would not be a good blog post otherwise.
So, let’s start from the beginning. One year ago, I have decided to quit my job in Munich, well paid and comfortable enough, in a city where I couldn’t (still can’t) proper master the language. Walking around Silicon Valley, you may meet people telling you how their genius business idea hit them on the face on a sunny day with rainbows and unicorns. Well, it didn’t go like this for me at all. I needed so much push from someone — definitely a mentor, without him probably not many things would have been possible. I have quit without having a clue of what to do. I have just fixed a deadline to come up with something to work for what has been now, almost, a year. I had some ideas written on my notes, where I have been adding things for years and I started investigating which may have been the best one. Doing this period I was working in different cafes or at home, desperately trying to find a routine. And it was really hard (kind of still is). Indeed it seems incredible how being surrounded by people doesn’t really mean that you don’t feel alone. I did, I felt extremely lonely. And here comes the first tip:
It will more or less kill you or it will do so to your motivation. I tried different ways to overcome this before having a sort of a team: I found spaces, communities or coworking. I love working in different places, being every day different from the previous one, it is hard to find a location that suits them all. I wanted the flexibility to drop in different venues, meet different people in each of those and feel welcome or better to belong… I really needed Twostay (the name of my company, if you were not aware of it or if you are not among those people I bother often with it). And if there is no solution to your problem, well you need to build one. Here was my rainbow!
In my different “offices”, I talked to people a lot. You will be surprised by how helpful they usually are. For a month, I forced myself to speak to a new person every day — what I got from it was so valuable. I talked about Twostay and sometimes just about the grey German weather or how hot the tea from Starbucks always is. I also tried to find inspiration in people doing things really differently from what I do and get their perspective. Peter, my 70 years old yoga teacher that lives his life with the spirit of a 30s-year-old man, dances until the morning lights and spends 6 months in India every year, was one of those inspiration pills. I desperately try to get a piece of all of them to make it a little bit mine, to add on my perspective and just to see things from another angle for a minute or two.
Some of the people you meet will ask you this big question “ how are you doing”, which I learned to be the toughest one to answer. There are many ways to answer such a question: “All good and you?!” is probably the easiest. However, you won’t receive a lot back when you are not able to give out anything. But, if you…
you will be surprised how many people will open up themselves and share their own experience as well. Indeed, many times the answer to that question is that it sucks and it really does. Probably more than the ones when it doesn’t suck. You will also shock people a bit when you are answering honestly this question. They are probably used to “fake until you make it” approach, they hear just success stories and they think everyone is having a pinky life with their great startup. This is definitely bullshit. There are days in which the answer to that question is that it doesn’t go well at all. You will do so much better when you manage to say this aloud.
I was extremely lucky to have awesome parents who support me and they are ready to help me when it sucks a lot but I simply decided to tell this, not only to them, but to many more people. I am not sure who started this trend of business without emotions, but this is just not the reality: there are bad days when having bad emotions is completely fine and good ones where you need show how great those days are and how happy you can be. Being an Italian girl doesn’t really help me with this emotion suppression topic. I need to express emotions, the bad ones, and the good ones as well, this is something that doesn’t change also in my professional life. Not long ago, in one of those shitty days, I went to the supermarket and I had a huge breakdown in front of the salmon shelf. The automatic refrigerator door just didn’t open and I took it a bit too serious. I just wanted my salmon. I started crying and I felt really ashamed of it until I decided not to be anymore. I had a bad day (probably a couple of bad days) and that’s is how I cope with it. There are days in which I want to give up 3 times in one single hour and many others were I don’t believe at all in what I am building. And those days are hard. So here comes point number 3.
Indeed, sometimes I start questioning myself if what I am building is useful. In those days, I try to go outside and look for someone giving me a more positive answer than the one I can give myself.
For a while, I didn’t have a co-founder, I did pretty much all on my own. This was just not fun. Then Dorothea joined me. She used to be my startup consultant in an incubator where I was enrolled, she believed in the product a lot and in me, so she asked me to join. And then it started, when I don’t believe in Twostay, she does.
So if you are lucky enough to have a cofounder that is not having a bad day too, he/she will tell you how cool your product is, if not, go outside and ask your customers. So many times my day turned around with a sentence like: “ I really love Twostay, I think it is great”. Thus, those are the people that have to make you believe in your product and your product needs to be built on what they believe your product needs to be.
So until now, I just talked how much all this is not worth it. That’s really not true. The reality is that those bad moments are so bad that makes you appreciate the good ones 100 times more than in a normal setting. It is really like a roller coaster journey where, if you manage to hold your breath until the top, the way down is so much fun and doesn’t really matter how long it will last. One second of that “I made it” feeling is enough. When this happens, I try to make a memory picture, note it somewhere how it felt, where I was and etc.. it helps when things are like I have described in point 2. I love doing what I am doing and I could not really imagine doing anything else. I am sure the endpoint of all of this, the success, the money and the fame of a great exit could be amazing, but this is not what wakes me up every day. I enjoy the way to get there. These ups and downs I complained about all this text are something I could hardly imagine to have to give up. Someone described this way better than what I did, if you didn’t, go read “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”, it will change the way you do many things.
Here is the end (good job if you made it), it could be you have read all these things somewhere else already or you may find them granted, but I think they just come from someone who didn’t’ make it (yet) and therefore, a little easier to believe them.
Whatever you are creating, whatever you are waking up for every day, if you found it or not yet, I hope you will have the honesty to share it with others for better or for worse, but most importantly, that you are enjoying YOUR ride.