Rapid Decision Making in Start-up Environment
11/30/2013 working on Hype
This is not a post about travel and holiday. This is my reflection about decision making in highly stressful and competitive startup environment.
It is now 1.5 years I am in ‘tech’ startup world. 1 year working on other startups, 5 months on starting my own. I mentioned tech, because ‘tech’ startups tend to distinguish themselves from all other industries. You see, ‘tech’ startups are some kind of subculture where accelerators replaced universities, starting a company and creating jobs replaced getting a job and investing replaced retirement. Also, the younger you are the better. Think all education, experience, normal hierarchy we had for the past decades reversed. It is very interesting structure nevertheless.
Before getting into ‘tech’ subculture and learning all the codes - you know - VC, Angel, Lean, PPC, MVP, Convertible, Incubator, Delaware, Accelerator, Round, Overnight Success etc, I was in creative industries. The difference - there is no difference. Except you have different vocabulary, you have to be artistic (means very strong crazy or extraordinary personality) and there is no mentality to get 1 million to make your IDEA happen (think VC funding in presentation with no product).
So, let’s talk about speed.
Me and my co-founder Aleksandr are very different personalities. To make the story short, we disagree on almost everything and have our own point of view. As you can imagine decision making could be slow if we wouldn’t be clever around it.
We both love speed and hate wasting time.
This is the reason we use Emirates Airline in East London to make decisions very rapidly. No drawing boards, no meetings, no 2 hour discussions. The flight to get to O2 is 12 minutes, and we have to make a decision by then. End of story.
Also, this way we get inspiration. Doing work at the places where people don’t do work and at times people don’t work at all is the best way to come up with something new. It is the same like being out of your comfort zone. Everything you do, do the opposite.
I actually think long meetings, discussions and meeting rooms are a waste of time for a startup. I think about it as a luxury. If you are a company which is making millions in profit, you can afford luxury to spend hours in the meetings every day. Or if you have funding you can burn… I generally think burning money is wrong.
In creative industries, you always have limited budget or no budget. You learn to honour time and there is no culture of meetings. You do stuff. A lot of stuff.
In my opinion, one have to do decision making meetings where one have limited time, like at Emirate Lines, or outside where is cold or during lunch. Spend time on sales meetings only. Networking is a luxury. Do networking on your free time, during lunch, on Saturday, Sunday, in the tube etc. Avoid people who are middlemen. They usually explain simple things in complicated language and also waste your time. This is how they fulfil their day. I also call them consultants. I avoid them, all of them.
99% of the time should be spent on DOING. Posting, writing, coding, playing, experimenting, selling, marketing, testing, counting.
I will probably sound like Hitler here, but I hate lunch time in the co-working offices when everyone start this crazy relaxed chatting, which doesn’t stop for hours. 1 hour before lunch everyone starts preparing for lunch, then all start having lunch and then all start preparing to work again. What is it? Greek siesta in the modern form?
Why am I talking about this? We want to create a working culture at Hype (http://hypeapp.co). We want everyone to be free to do what they want, but to work very very hard. To make quick decisions. To not spend time at the meeting rooms. To not waste time. And to be creative. Work at places others don’t work, do stuff others don’t do and measure every single day.
Written by Gintare Zitkeviciute
So here we are with a new stream design and a few new features, such as ‘Call to Action’ buttons.
When we started working on first version we strongly believed that attractive visual information such as cool photos, bright colours, and strong character will be one of the key attributes of our app. We knew that current generation appreciates good quality visuals.
And apparently we were right. Everyone loves to see their favourite places, people and meals in high resolution pictures, preferably covered with some kind of melancholic filter and infused with artistic flare. We love looking at those sitting in the office or at home, or being far away on a business trip. It makes us feel like we are there, or maybe even encourages us to get up and go out and enjoy the moment.
So this is why in V2 we decided to emphasise our photos even more. We not only uncovered them as you can see in screenshots above, but trained our curators how to take better images in various situations. We will invest in special gear for taking mobile photos on the go, so our content will be even better. We are already loved by local businesses for going that extra mile to present them in good light. But from now on we will try to depict our areas even more precisely and beautifully.
Our reviews, recommendations and process of how we decide what to put into our stream and when, is changing significantly as well. We learn from our users and curators as they are becoming more and more proficient in this new thing called ‘hyping’. From now on you will see more locally relevant news posts on Hype. As one of our users told us, it is the place for his entertainment, food and news. This is exactly what we aim to be for people interested in the area.
By introducing ‘Call to Action’ buttons we will give our users ability to dig deeper into content they are interested in. We will send them to full articles, ticket booking sites, videos etc. It will help us study our users behaviours and learn what is most relevant for them.
With this design route in place we now are ready fore bigger changes and more functionality, so stay tuned.
Exciting times ahead!
Get it on app store!
Some Hype! beauty :]
It has been super intense few weeks for me and Gintare as Hype! has been selected to participate in Seedcamp Week London 2013. That was very unexpected, because we many times proved to be more of anti-institutional material. Well anyway we always take opportunities seriously. So we prepared our pitch and headed to meet bunch of top VC’s, mentors and other big shots from tech industry.
Standing on the stage with a microphone, blinded by bright lights and feeling thousand eyeballs drilling you is something a standup comedian would enjoy and take advantage of, but it was hard for us. We are more of product and vision people. Gintare and I love passionate discussions about our work, we love challenging questions and can persuade almost everyone. Inspire by being inspiring.
But on the stage you have three minutes. Well some say it is more than enough, some say they can explain everything in one minute. We had to switch to totally different mentality. No one cares about bolts and pieces of your work, at least not on the stage. At that point they more care how you talk, how you stand and how believable you are. And we knew that it is how it goes, we saw thousands of presentations and pitches. It has to be impactful, short and clear. Everyone gets it. But it is crazy hard to strip everything to bare minimum when you have been neck deep in work for past few… well as long as you remember! You are buried in code, ideas, product and suddenly you have to look from different perspective. It’s like putting your baby on stage totally naked and trying to explain how big it will grow, based on initial physique it has. That’s how we felt. Weird. At least in the beginning.
We have this habit to push ourselves out of comfort zone as soon as we feel comfortable enough to notice it. Thats why we changed our pitch, which we practiced for a week, just night before big stage. And this is why we both went on stage and there were no compromises, we just had to do it together.
Probably feeling uncomfortable is addictive for us, and what keeps us fighting, and gives us strength.
We have taken first official startup path. But our team have lived and worked under lean/startup mentality through out most of projects. And there were plenty of them. So we learn by doing and we know that doing sometimes involves humiliation, or even epic fails. But at the same time we crave to learn everything. Thats why Hype! team washed their dirty hands and sweaty foreheads and embraced the opportunity Seedcamp offered to us on public stage.
And again it proved to be a good choice. We met a lot of great people, who did get us. Of course more of them did not, but it would be more disappointing if everyone understands what you are up to. What is the point in doing something if everyone already gets it from the beginning. They will get it when one day it hits them unexpectedly. This will be our triumph!
So back to Seedcamp and taking opportunities seriously. This is probably more of a beginners advice, but take every chance, don’t stay in your comfort zone for a minute. As soon as you feel comfortable in this crazy world it means either you are giving up or you are just lazy.
We are glad we went on that stage and pushed our selves to do what is necessary. We learned a lot, and got a lot of attention and inspiration which is essential for us at this stage. Now back to work!
P.S. nailed it, we are part of Seedcamp 2013 batch. Now let’s do more!
More than one week has passed since the “Hype!” launch. And it has been a true hurricane of real time content updates, tweeting, chatting and figuring out what the hell have we summoned after all?!
Well first of all user feedback is more than encouraging!
Of course too early to talk about other metrics, but we can be proud of steady app downloads, growing amount of followers on Twitter, increased page visits, content previews on the page etc. All in all everything is going upwards! Nothing crazy, but we haven’t spent a dime on advertising or reached out to the media yet. So fingers crossed so far.
Most important thing to us is our community. We aim to be hyper local, 24/7 trusted and loved area experts. We want people to recognise us and our staff in the street, have a good chat. We want venue owners, organisers and street performers to realise that we are not just another “app” placing stickers on their windows to exploit them for our own good. Thats why we engage in discussions, we listen and instantly reply. Not tomorrow, not in the morning but now.
And it pays off! Apparently people love when you show them your humanity. If you are not afraid to show that there is a person behind Twitter handle they will respond. Person behind our Twitter handle cares about the area, and knows enough to engage in a conversation. Asks honest questions and replies to answers.
I think because of that we are getting great and sincere reviews on app store, Facebook, and Twitter. As an early startup we have a luxury of responding to everyone, so we are using it.
When we launched our app, we tried to stream all our content inside the app, and by doing so we of course alienated users who do not use iPhones… Deep down we knew that it is not very good, but we wanted our users to use our bellowed app! Well it took one user comment to reconsider and remember once more that content is the king. So we quickly fixed our mistake by adding a preview ability on the website. Some users were very happy because of our quick action. And we sleep better now knowing that our content is more open and visible to wider audience. Stats show many Android and desktop users previewing events.
We will be launching Android app as soon as we get our workflow in place. People already asking for it as well as different London areas, which adds pressure, but at the same time feels right! Local meet-ups in Soho and Camden are already drafted in our super secret notebook. And people are waiting to meet us.
And last but not least, our “cartoony” character is getting more recognition too! With help of our friend Viktorija Eziukas, who is brilliant illustrator, we are issuing a comic series to emphasise our “buddy” even more. When we decided to go with this unconventional look of the app, some had doubts about it’s strong direction. But we stood strong on it and now people are starting to get it. In one review someone referred to our character as a “cartoon fella who tells you whats on in Shoreditch each day”. This is exactly what we were trying to do!
As you see brand awareness is very important to us, how users relate to our brand is essential. Are we just another utility trying to please only our investors and look good on the entrepreneurial pedestal or are we on the same level as our users trying to solve problems and improve and maybe even disrupt current behaviours. I think it is obvious we are more of the latter. After all sensible and experienced investors recognise and value these traits in a startup, don’t they?
So here it is. Our app "Hype!" was just approved on Apple app store! Yay, but there is no time to sit back and watch technology saving the day. Our actual job just begins.
Today was the first live day for us. We tried different content patterns and messaging strategies. And it felt so right!
But just to bring you to the same page, I will shortly explain one of the points why “Hype!” is so different and odd in this tech industry. (other points will be covered in other posts)
When we began our work on “Hype!” we strongly believed (still do) that technology by it self is just a utility. It has to help people communicate, solve problems. And by no means replace most essential and powerful human ability to create and express and pretend to understand. Thats why we decided that we need curators. Curators are people and they curate/create for people. You can read more about our ideology on “Hype!” in previous post by Gintare.
So prior to releasing app, we started to gather like minded creative people, who are passionate about blogging, social media, photography, events industry etc. For that we have set up Creativity Kiosk, which is a social network built for creatives to get in touch with us and what we do. And get to know each other based on their interests and field of expression. We were overwhelmed by the interest. Even without knowing exactly what it is for, artists, photographers, DJs, Mimes and many more flocked to Creativity Kiosk. At this time we have nearly 1k young (mostly Y-gen) individuals expressing their interest in what we do.
We love to drive communities, this is all we did most of our lives. So we organised our first meet up in Shoreditch as this is our first area for “Hype!”.
We invited around 40 people from different backgrounds to come and meet us. And they did! We introduced what we are doing, and why. And sent them to explore Shoreditch like never before, like they were doing this for someone else. We gave them one hour. Instantly Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Facebook started to fill up with different views from same area. But all of it was unique, as everyone saw it differently and decided to share it with someone else. It was truly amazing to watch undiscovered boutiques to be revealed, festivals to be covered, random street artists to be featured and local venue owners to be interviewed.
We saw in reality what we only imagined when we talked about what “Hype!” should portray. True vibrancy of Shoreditch was bustling in our social media feeds like never before. Then we became convinced even more, that it is not enough to just aggregate “user generated” content and display it neatly stacked in shelves. There had to be direction, purpose. Because content is not equal, content without context is worthless.
So there it was, Shoreditch in real time through other peoples eyes in our palms. As poetic as it sounds, this is what we imagine future to be.
One hour later, we met with our new friends again and had some drinks served with chats and laughs. It was interesting to hear their stories, how they felt, what they discovered. And most of them loved the experience of going around the area with sense of purpose, and courage to do something they would never do otherwise. Like asking random strangers about their favourite spots in Shoreditch, or starting a conversation with son and father duo street artists.
Having so many totally different strangers in one place could be challenging, but it was not the case, because when you get together creative people from different backgrounds, they still find a way to communicate. The local bar owner loved us so much that he even started to share free shots for everyone. That was another win for our mission. To bring together local owners with our community.
Hopefully we will be hiring some of those folks, as they were exactly what we expected. And as I was saying, true work begins now. And only with help of the community we can achieve best results for everyone.
So maybe one day every unique and vibrant area will have “Hype!” to illuminate it’s beauty as it happens. For us all to enjoy it.
P.S. Some stuff from the meetup.
New Project & Importance of Contextual and Real Time Data
Our team was quite busy (yes, I know, as always!) recently, working on our client piece of work and developing new exciting idea, which soon will be ready for your testing, comments and feedback.
We are launching new mobile app with an ambitious goal to provide users information on demand - contextual information or as we call it real time info.
One of the great writers Irene Ng emphasizes interesting facts in her book. We currently have 6 billion mobile phones around the world and 68% of their users claim they sleep with them by their heads. And yes, since I got my first smartphone, I also sleep with it by my head. This is really amusing, but also very important fact. Ben Hammersley from Wired makes fun of us and says that smartphones took away 20% of our brain and even made us a little bit retarded.
This small device incredibly changed our behaviour in recent years. First, it gave us opportunity to play - take pictures, edit videos, write posts, check in or measure our blood pressure on the go. And yes, we loved it! We loved it so much that Big Data became one of the biggest buzzwords around. Marketers love it, tech entrepreneurs love it, researchers hate it, saying that it is impossible to make sense in this huge noise of meaningless numbers, locations, words and vague facts.
But we always know, that when humans get problem, they love finding solution. So, we saw how smart folks used this mess of data for practises such as predicting flu outbreak following Google Trends, managing earthquakes using social media or even predicting election results looking at viral videos. Not to mention, recent trend in using sensors and tapping into many more ways to make our life easier when we need it.
Our team wants to be a part of this data curating and problem solving as well. We believe that in a few years it will be ancient to find out the current venue atmosphere by physically going there and checking it out. We believe that standing in a queue might sometimes be fun, but usually it is not and you should be able to find out about the queue itself before you are in the place.
We dream that one day we will be able to see how venue looks like NOW live. And that we will be able to explore all places real time on our phones.
We also believe in micro localised content. It is incredible feeling to imagine how many things are going on at the same time in the same area. You might think that venues are the same every day, but just look - that coffeeshop just got new cake, and this small venue is running a free workshop and your favourite market has a brand new stall you will love. We all know this extraordinary feeling when you unexpectedly notice graffiti artist drawing live or when you rush after work and stop for a cigarette just because this street musician caught your ear. Places, areas and people change every day and exploring them is such a great experience!
We decided to use available data, gather data ourselves, write algorithms and partnership with others to let everyone know what is going on around them in real time.
Moreover, we strive to make this experience contextual. We won’t recommend you a rooftop bar on a rainy day and we will definitely encourage you to go out and have a picnic in a local park when it is sunny! Technology should be smart and we believe that best solutions come from technology being in partnership with humans.
To make this story short, we started from Shoreditch area. We went out ourselves, we explore, record, hear what others say, we talk and sometimes we just enjoy exploring local real time.
We also spent so many hours trying to find real time information locally. We downloaded around 200 mobile applications, we constantly check Facebook and Twitter and we check venue websites every day. So we know what you feel when it is Friday 9pm and you are in the area and you want something and the only one available option is ‘just go, be spontaneous and try everything you see in front of you, maybe you will find something’. None of us like spending 30 minutes browsing and trying to find info on the go. Neither, we like to find out that all pubs we tried are completely full! We also hate to miss best events nearby especially when we are in the area and we get jealous when our friends discover something amazing we’ve just missed!
So, we are Shoreditch Hype and we will give you real time information in Shoreditch. We soon might come to other areas or even start using real time information for solving bigger problems. But currently, we are coding, discussing and finishing our first app which we really believe is great.
If you would like to contribute in any way, please get in touch email@example.com
Follow us on Twitter or like our Facebook Page.
Art Pit Ltd
Hello all! We have been terribly busy recently! As always, we’ve been working on so many things, trying to create great products, meet amazing people and learn new things!
As most of you know Art Pit started from small team of creative enthusiasts in Lithuania. We transformed spaces, organised events, encouraged young people and inspired a lot of new ideas. Social media and new technologies helped us to reach our goals and create passionate community of creatives. Two years ago we decided that local projects and initiatives are not enough and part of our team moved to London, UK.
London was and still is teaching our team new things every day. We always experiment - we tried various commercial projects, extra night shifts, we visited squats and local communities.
But to make long story short, we are finally officially set up as a company! Art Pit will be run by Those Two, but as always you will see a lot of young creative talent join us on one or another project.
Currently, we are working on three exciting projects, merging tech and creative thought! Very soon we will publish more info about them here.
We are also very happy about new passionate people who very recently joined us for our two internal projects! Thank you Aidas, Barbara and Linas!
Hopefully, our journey will be successful and we will surprise you all with new amazing projects and initiatives!
Art Pit works with everything creative! We are passionate about digital & innovative. We believe that passion and creative approach should be built in in every project we do.
Those Two are excited about 2013 and all the new projects, ideas and people we are going to meet and work with this year! What could be the better way to start 2nd day of New Year than tasting perfect coffee in our favoured Timberyard and going through great ideas and books of Seth Godin, one of the most inspiring writer and thinker of ours!
Today Timberyard in Old Street hosted it’s first meet up event in 2013 and invited visitors to Icarus Session. The Icarus Sessions are a challenging new way to bring your art forward. Not to make a sales pitch, not to get customers or patrons, but to find the courage to stand up and say, ‘here, I made this’. A presentation at an Icarus Session is 140 seconds long. You can go shorter, but not a second longer.
Those two were happy to hear about diverse projects which involved mentoring, children education, open source movement, project in 30 days and many other stories, encouraging to do what you love.
So amazing that Seth Godin created such a strong community. Even without him in the room, on 2nd on January we had around 40 people quoting his books, telling stories about suddenly changed careers, and encouraging others to network and do something together!
Happy 2013! We are inspired to move forward and create many more amazing projects! Who knows maybe one will change the world?
Creating new markets in the digital economy
Recently, me, Gintare spotted a tweet about new book by Irene Cl Ng ‘Value & Worth: Creating new markets in the digital economy’. Thanks to ‘buy with one click’ I got it and started to explore straight away. In this post you will find highlighted ideas which I found interesting and worth consideration so far. Thanks for Festive season I got time to read more! Enjoy!
Value is an elusive concept. As a term, it has been so overused and abused that any attempt to define it seems to encounter disagreement from every quarter.
Businesses and governments today may not necessarily think of value as ‘goodness’, but there is actually a historical basis for doing so. Yes, of course for the past 300-400 years, this understanding has worked well, and much of economic growth in the 19th and 20th century is attributed to it. But something is changing. The way we are ‘buying’ is slowly changing.
For example, parcel delivery companies are using customer location data to link up with petrol stations, gyms and even pubs to deliver parcels to people on the way.
Music is now not just for listening pleasure, but is a resource for socialisation.
First, allowing value to be defined only by worth does not sufficiently examine the drivers to that worth. The creation of new markets and innovations must reach further back to why some things are worth a lot while others are not, and why value may not be as consistent as we thought, because its creation rests in the experience, rather than the ownership or essence, of an item or service.
Only by focusing on context can we begin to understand how to design future products and technologies to play a role in value creation, and how new offerings could serve contexts better, resulting in new markets.
True value is the goodness created from our experience and interactions with objects and other people. Worth, as a measure of that goodness, is a shadow, but one that has been given form, language, structure and made to believe that it is the reality. I propose that it is not. It is not entirely false either, as a shadow is some vision of reality, but it is a shadow nonetheless.
Happy upcoming 2013!