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Which Hat Shall I Wear Today?

This week Yo-Da founders Benjamin Falk and Edoardo Paluan found themselves stretched in all directions whilst settling into life on Launch at Entrepreneur First and the GovStart programme at PUBLIC.

Sales, fund raising, hiring, front-end, back-end, web design, branding, market research, accounting... So many jobs, so little time; and everything is iterative! It is both overwhelming and underwhelming. 

Overwhelming because there is a seemingly endless amount of work to be done, and both Edoardo and I are learning new things every day. But it is underwhelming because progress in any given direction is small and incremental. You tend to not be very good at doing things you've never done before. 

It's important to remind ourselves that we are still learning a tremendous amount on aggregate, even if there have been no dramatic breakthroughs in any particular area. Learning curves are steep and slippery.

Choosing your Battles and Staying Focused

Given the time constraints, we need to prioritise. But there is no sense in prioritising problem solving in areas where we lack appropriate skills, the result will be spinning our wheels, frustration, and burnout. A common refrain in tech startups is "buy or build?" That is, do you buy component parts of your tech stack from existing vendors or do you rebuild what others have already done to customise? 

Answering that question requires experience and knowledge of the trade-offs, and we face the same problem with hiring; do you bring in someone full time to help out? Or do you source expertise on the fly through contacts, contracts and advisors to just solve imminent problems?

Talent will fuel this business and we need help across a range of areas including engineering, user experience, legal and compliance, sales and marketing, and data science. 

Once again, the value of our network, including the extended social networks provided by both EF and PUBLIC, are proving to be tremendously valuable. Not only are we finding plenty of people willing to help out where they can (for free!), but we have a deep bench of super technical people upon which we can draw when we need to call in more support.

The Fruits of Flexibility

Despite all the advantages we have thanks to the incredible support received from both EF and PUBLIC, we still struggle to find the help we need at a price we can afford. Such is the life of a startup founder! That means we need to be flexible; not just in how we work, but also in who we work with and where we work.

There are often multiple ways to implement a piece of technology; the same program can be written, for example, in either Python or Scala. We are trying to be flexible with the execution to make sure we don't rule out someone who might be a great fit for our business. If we insist on a particular language, such as Scala, the talent pool is much smaller and thus more expensive to recruit. 

However if we are platform agnostic, then a larger number of applicants might be suitable at this stage. So the lesson is, don't fall in love with your tech stack; it is just a means to an end.

Likewise, we are trying to be flexible in terms of working locations. My work week is spent in a combination of at least 4 different locations, with time spent at both EF and PUBLIC as well as Google Campus and my home office. 

As firm believers that the future of teamwork is digital and collaborative in cyber space rather than physical spaces, we are speaking to people from all over the world including continental Europe, the US, and India. 

Finally, we are giving young people a chance to learn and grow while building an amazing advisory board to provide juniors with high-level feedback where necessary. Given we are creating something that has never been built before, youth has advantages in a lack of dogma and an openness to alternative possibilities that more experienced hires might not maintain.

Step by Step

Although perhaps unimpressive from the outside, we are pleased with our progress over the last week. 

Our social media campaigns are getting started, and we will have more data to analyse in the coming weeks in terms of how our message is being received by our target audience. We have not made a sale yet, but we feel we are getting close and have an increasing number of corporate partners interested in working together. 

The architecture design is coming together nicely, thanks to some wonderful and timely outside advice. Attacking so many different angles at once is exhausting, but we are passionate about fixing this problem and nothing motivates us more than putting people back in control of all their personal data.

If that’s a mission you can get behind and you think you have relevant skills, send us your CV! We are always interested in speaking to talented people, and we will read and respond to every CV received.

Ben Falk, Founder of Yo-Da, was talking to David Savage

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