Luis Sanz is Co-Founder of NYC-based Olapic, a visual commerce platform for collecting, curating, showcasing and measuring crowd sourced photos and videos.
Work on something that really excites you, as you are going to spend a lot of time working on that, and most likely your company will change drastically in several ways (the product, the market, the size). Working on a problem that really motivates you is the way to stay fully engaged through all these phases.
I’m sure that a lot of people are already doing this, but I’d say that something that helped us a lot at the beginning was doing manually a lot of things that could be automated. If eventually your product changes and you don’t need to do them anymore, you didn’t waste time automating them, and the insights you’ll get doing some things manually (customizing things for clients, contacting users, etc.) will pay off for all the time invested on that. Nevertheless, I comes a point where you’ll have to automate all these processes if you want to scale.
I worked for Ericsson deploying mobile networks across the world, then I got an MBA at Columbia Business School and we got the company started there.
We got Great Oaks VC to lead our seed round ($1M), that we filled up with friends, family and a few other angels. Our series A ($5M) was co-lead by Fung Capital USA and Longworth Venture Partners. The key lesson here is that it doesn’t matter how good your numbers are (revenue, users, whatever you use to measure traction) or how much interest investors are showing, everything always takes longer than expected, so plan for that accordingly!
We just put our product out there as soon as possible, so we could start collecting feedback from our users. We didn’t officially “launch” (and I’d say that if you wait till your product is completely polished to launch, you’re doing it too late!)
Most brands have an enormous amount of content (on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) that their customers are creating organically but showing them how that can have a quantifiable effect in their e-commerce business and in building brand awareness has been incredibly fruitful for the company.
Deciding who joins the team is the most important decision that we face. We focus on hiring self-starters, people that after identifying a problem will immediately focus on finding a solution for it, even if that isn’t part of their job. That also requires that you need to empower your team to make decisions that fix these problems. A good definition of the office environment is that we work hard and we play hard.
Every single tool we use is a SaaS product (like us!): AWS, Google apps, Asana, Salesforce… everything is in the cloud so we can all collaborate no matter where we are.
The advice, guidance and insights provided by many members of NYC startup community has helped us to move forward in different situations and almost in every front (product, business development, funding, etc.) I highly encourage tapping into your trusted peers for advice and support inside your community and beyond those walls for alternate perspective.
For me, the coolest thing by far is when you get someone else (who could be working for any other company) to believe in what you’re doing and join the company you started. Nothing trumps that feeling of accomplishment.