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We’re F*cked. It’s Over.

Let me tell you a story about my hardest lesson learned in my career so far. A startup founder or CEO will eventually come to the “We’re fucked, it’s over” moment. The good thing is: All the successful companies has been there too.

The hard things

The title of this article comes from a great book The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. I mentioned the book earlier on this blog and I will mention it again. I believe it is by far thebest book on managing startups.

Ben Horowitz, author of this book, is a successful venture capitalist. He started as a startup CEO in the 2000 dot-com boom era. He tells his life story. To my surprise, it’s not about success, but mostly failure and struggle.

Everyone wants to quit eventually

As CEO, there will be many times when you feel like quitting.

This was said by Ben Horowitz, but not just him. I heard it dozens of time listening to talks and reading stories about great CEOs. I always thought it is just a cliché.

My partner at Andreessen Horowitz, Scott Weiss, relayed that it’s so common that there is an acronym for it, WFIO, which stands for “We’re Fucked, It’s Over”.  As he describes it, every company goes through at least two and up to five of these episodes

This is one of my favorite quotes of the book.

Why didn’t anybody tell me that?

“I am not stupid. The market is there. The product is almost ready. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be profitable within our first year.” Yes, I did say that to myself 2.5 years ago when I left the corporation and joined a startup project as a CEO.

The truth is, it is much harder than that. Everything takes much longer and costs much more money than expected. The growth is not coming. You receive angry customer calls, feel the constant pressure from investors. You fear about how to pay the people in your team every month. The growth is still not coming. One day, I said “We’re fucked, it’s over.” I wanted to quit. That was one of my several WFIO moments.

Amazing thing happened

Luckily, I was lucky enough to have mentors who have been through that. They helped me stay and persist. One month, after my WFIO moments, things started to look way better. This is our organic traffic from a period of 3 months last year:

 

our organic traffic growth. We're not f*cked anymore. It is not over.
Weekly organic traffic. (The rise was not caused by seasonality.)

This is how I learned that persistence is the key: You cannot stop in front of the wall. You should run and break it with our head. Yes, it hurts. But it works.

There is a great story on similar topic that I love. How quitting my corporate job for my startup dream f*cked up my life

It is not the end

Our company is now growing fast. It will still take some time before we can open the bottles of Champagne and call it a success. There might be even more WFIO moments coming. In the meantime, I keep this quote in mind:

Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

John Lennon

I wish you all that you successfully survive your WFIO moments. If you are curious about what happens next in my story, sign up for my monthly e-mail. I will summarize all best things I learned, read and wrote in a short message.

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My typical day at a startup as a CEO in Prague

A typical day at a startup company: Does it even exist?  I am a CEO of eHotel.cz, a growing online booking company. Our goal to change how people travel within the Czech Republic. We grew to a team of 15 people. Most of the team works in sales and customer service. Everyday we work together to make eHotel.cz better. This is my typical day running the company:

Morning routine

I wake up at 8am, usually without setting the alarm clock. Then I have a coffee and a breakfast, read a book or news for a while and start working around 9am at home. I start with my top 3 tasks. These are the difficult and important tasks that I need to acomplish that day to move the company forward.

Tip: Check morning routine of inspirational people at www.mymorningroutine.com

My typical morning “Top 3” Tasks:

  • Preparing investor update, project review or pitch
  • Drafting ideas for new product design
  • Analyze our Finance, site performance and other KPIs to understand what is going on
  • Preparing for meetings, both internal and external

I usually switch my phone to the “do not disturb” mode and call back in the afternoon. (I keep investors and other important people on the whitelist, though.) That helps me achieve much more without sacrificing a lot of responsiveness. I wrote a story about it (Offline is the new luxury)

I prefer to work from home in the mornings. I like the silence and the fact that I do not have to spend my morning travelling in the morning rush. It might not be a typical day at a startup for a lot of people, but it works for me.

Lunch: Informal meets or a quick bite

Typical lunch options:

  • Networking lunch with friends, colleagues or business partners
  • Lunch with the team
  • Have a quick bite at home or at the office. Sometimes I drink Mana, the local Soylent competition. It is a nutritionally perfect food alternative (links to a Czech article).

I do my e-mail on my iPhone on my way to work, using public transit. I developed an effective e-mail “triage” method. It helps me react fairly quickly without interruptions. I love trams here in Prague (or Uber), because I can sit and do e-mail or read a book the whole way, without losing time.

Weekly status

As we have a lot of part-timers and home office work, daily stand-ups are infeasible for us. A weekly update has been efficient so far. We meet for 1 hour around lunchtime. Our investors from Usertech and Chenen often join in person.  We have a standing agenda:

  • Our performance last week: KPI review, comparison to target. We quickly potential reasons for successes or fails and what we should do with it.
  • Our target for next week, what are we going to do to reach it.
  • Every team membersreports its work in a simple format. It is taken from daily scrum:
    • 3 top things assigned from last week and if they were finished or not
    • 3 top things they are going to work on next week
    • What obstacles are impeding my progress?

A typical day at a startup - eHotel.cz

Afternoon: Meeting time

I usually spend the afternoon meeting individual team members to:

  • Discuss the progress with their work, help with issues
  • Deal with difficult client situations
  • Train and develop our people
  • Approve designs and/or new features before release

I also often meet other people, such as clients, investors, our vendors, partners. I do not plan much for the afternoon. I am rather ready to help my team members to maximize the progress.

Evening: Dinner, “Family time”

I go home around 6pm. Our investor often calls me on his drive home, so we review our progress and strategy frequently. This requires me to be ready to answer any question on strategy, numbers and progress. I always need to be on top of things, which is good.

Evenings are usually dinner and “family time”

8pm+: Sport, work or relax

After 8 pm, I usually do sports, spend more time with my fiancé, hang out with friends. Or I jump back to do some more work, usually some easy admin stuff and e-mail. I try to turn off the computer at 9pm, but it is not always the case.

A typical day at a startup: Does it even exist?

Not everyday is like this, of course. Sometimes I work 16 hours in ecstatic flow, sometimes I hardly accomplish anything. Some days I run, do yoga, spend time outside and play. Some days I just stress, drink gallons of coffee and just stay unhealthy.

My biggest productivity hacks are sleep and splitting the strategic and the admin tasks. Also, you have to love what you do to be productive. If I wake up rested, work on cool stuff and have some time to play and socialize, then I consider the day perfect.

How does your day look like?

The reason I wrote this article is to open a discussion. How does your typical day at a startup look like? On what activities do you spend the most of your time? Please comment bellow.

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Project I work on, books I read right now

Projects I work on

Moving eHotel.cz to a new investment round, building with online training courses, preparing for wedding. A lot of thing is going on. This is a short review of projects I work on.

I really like Austin Kleon’s “Show your Work” book (Czech translation here). In the first part of the book, Austin Kleon encourages people working freelance to share what are they working on. Lot of bloggers, authors and other creative people do that. See the project list of Austin Kleon, Derek Silvers (founder of CD Baby) or thriller author J.F.Penn.

This year is going great so far. eHotel.cz is reaching last years peak season numbers in march already (!) My online courses at Vimvic.cz are bestsellers. Evička and me are getting ready for New York City spring Vacation and of course, our wedding in August.

See the details of all my work and non-work projects on my new page www.jiribenedikt.com/now/ with all the details.

Books I read.

I set myself a goal to read 20 books in 2016 (I read 16 in 2015). So far so good:

Books finished in 2016

  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel
  • Stalker by Lars Kepler
  • Malostranské povídky (Prague Lesser town tales) by Jan Neruda
  • The Second Machine Age by Andrew McAfee
  • Mindset by Carol Dweck
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Reading wishlist

  • Elon Musk biography
  • How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie
  • I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
  • The Machine Stops by E.M.Forster (recommended by Elon Musk)

Be my friend on goodreads to see my full reading list or see my www.jiribenedikt.com/now/ page for details.

 

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GDP goes down when you use Skype or Netflix

Did you know that watching Netflix or using iMessage can decrease our GDP? And I don’t mean that people spend more time playing instead of working. This Idea comes from the book “The second machine age.” I just finished reading it yesterday and I can’t stop thinking about it.

The GDP idea

The basic idea is like this: We often switch to new services that are often free or cheap, but make our lives better. As the revenue pre user is usually much lower, the total revenue in the system goes down.

Just a few examples:

  • Switching from paid SMS to iMessage
  • Using Skype instead of Cellular or landline network
  • Watching Netflix instead of visiting DVD rental store
  • Using Wikipedia instead of books and libraries

It forks for companies too. At my current biggest project, ehotel.cz, we use Trello and Podio to organize everything. It is free, but it helps us work smarter. In the past, we would have to use robust and expensive software tools for this. But this decreases the GDP.

The effect of the rise of social networks, information age and shared economy on GDP is just the sum of the companies’ revenue? Our wellbeing is better than ever, we work smarter than ever but the GDP goes down?

Ok, the GDP is wrong, what now?

That seems wrong. I read before that GDP is not a good KPI for our world anymore, but this? Sure, you can spend the money you save on other products and services. The GDP will not decrease, but your wellbeing will be even higher. I am not an economist. I am not even sure that these thoughts are right, but we should use different metric for our happiness.

Few years ago I read the book “The Happiness manifesto”. The author Nic Marks proposes an Idea of new growth metric. It should measure how happy we are divided how much resources we use for that.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on what is visible to the eye. And the GDP.

I would say, not just the eye, but to the GDP as well.

The book

There are more great ideas in The Second Machine age book (it has a Czech translation). Andrew McAfee wrote the book. His TED talk “How the work would look like in the future” works well as the books trailer. I can recommend the book. Read it and let me know what you think.

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16 years ago, I made a prediction about smart homes. How did I go?

[Reading time: 4 minutes]

16 years ago, I predicted the future of the Internet. I published an article on my blog about how internet and consumer technology will be like in 10 to 20 years. Now is the right time to check what how successful I was. Long story short: Yes, Elon musk does read my blog!

I wrote the post in fall of 2000. Google was only 2 years old then. My blog was already 4 years old. Back then, nobody called it a blog yet because the word “blog” was not invented yet. So let’s see what I got right.

The home of the future

* Black text is 2000 Jiri.
* Red text is 2016 Jiri’s comments .
* Read the original article in Czech here

Everything gets connected

Lot of news came out about the home appliances recently New fridges and other appliances that are “more intelligent” than their older counterparts. These new appliances use Internet and other computer technology. How will ehome look like in 10 to 20 years?
The essential part of the technology will be a local area network (LAN). The same one as used in companies or other institutions for sharing data and devices.

Oops, it seems like I missed Wifi completely. However, even more computers or devices connected to a network was hi-tech back then.

I believe that it will be not just computers, but all appliances at home. Microwaves, washing machines, irons or TVs will have not just a microprocessor, but also a network adapter. Your car will be connected as well, of course. There will be a wireless connection to your network wherever you go.

We do have smart TVs, but we are still waiting for smart irons 😉

The core of this network will be a home server. A classic server as we know if from computer networks and the internet. This server will perform all the e-home communication. This server will be connected to the Internet.

Yes! But now we call it “a smartphone”

I believe that a permanent home connection to the Internet will be a standard. I can’t guess its speed at all, though.

No more dial-up. 1 000 x faster connection. And not just at home.

Not just appliances will be connected, but obviously computers as well. There will be the same number of household members as computers. Everyone will need a computer for their work in few years, including kids.

The purpose of the home network.

What will be the purpose of it all? The network will offer basic functionality as we know it today, such as shared access to the Internet. Then you can use Internet from any computer or device, including your car.I also believe that there will not be any dedicated phone cable network. but everything will go through the Internet. We know this already from our operators, as they offer “Internet call”. You can also call within your home, something like an internal phone network.

Why would anyone need an internal phone network if you can just use Whatsapp? 😉

You can check all your devices and appliances at home. You can use how many lights are on and if a sensor shows that nobody is in the room, you can turn the light off. You can find the temperature outside, in each room, in your oven, bathtub or inside your computer. Simply wherever you place thermometers connected to “the home web”, you get the data.

Good one. Saying hello to Phillips Hue and Angee.

If you believe that your car does not have a good enough performance or fuel economy, you just download a new version of your car’s operating system.

Yes! Elon Musk does read my blog! Tesla, you are welcome!

Or, you can download new software to your bathroom that will measure your water consumption and can check and optimize its usage. It will absolutely be possible to play your MP3 files in the bathroom. These files can be stored in your computer or in your car.
Do you want to watch TV on your cellphone? No problem, you can do it with its 1600x1200p screen resolution. TV coverage is not a problem either, as the television is distributed solely through the internet. Your cell phone, or let’s say “mobile internet browser” will be obviously connected too.

Ok, I did predict the smartphone 🙂

Our lifestyle will not be so much different
the Internet was the first big step to an universal global connection. E-home will be the next step. It is easy to reach information from anywhere in the world now. Getting information about your home will be just as easy. You will just need a phone.
Despite the advent of all that technology, I believe that our lifestyle will not be so much diffeerent. People will go to work in the morning. 99% of them will be white collar workers, physical work will be done by just 1% of people, using machines. People will buy most of the things in brick-and-mortar shops, will go to restaurants, schools and churches and visit their friends.

There are still definitely more than 1% of blue collar workers. However, the “new machine age” is coming. Tesla is building highly robotized gigafactory and industry 4.0. is the new buzzword.
We do have smartphones and interconnected devices. Our life got a bit easier and better. But the thing that I am the most grateful for is that we still meet each other in person and enjoy the real life.

Article editor: Vojtěch Benedikt 😉 (thanks)