Startup Life


On the back off a 80+ hour work week - which is small increase over the regular work rhythm over the past months - I keep having to answer a few questions from friends and family, namely stuff like :

  • Do you get paid extra for it?
  • Do you get extra vacation days?
  • Is it worth it?

Nobody asks me why I actually do it and get rather dismayed when I say "no" to the top two questions, some actually go over the point of dismay and express strong feelings towards how wrong it all is, how I am actually perpetuating the wrongness of over work, so despite my own feelings - expressed in actions - I'm put in a place where I have to prove myself and there's simply no way to do it as quickly as a simple "yes, they pay extra and I get a million days off" - which is generally accepted as the only thing you're supposed to take out of work, money and absence of work.

A bit of history

Data wise, my profile should tell quite a bit of the tale, but points in lists don't help add the emotional dimension, so I'll fill the gaps here.

My first job was a summer job, before joining college and then again the following summer. For two summers I worked shifts collecting highway toll, I paid college, my internet and phone bills at home and kept generally independent of my parents money, which meant a lot for me - and I know perfectly well took some load from my parents.

College wasn't exactly stellar, and definitely not what I was looking for - as I would much prefer to have control over what I wanted to learn at a much granular level than the broad "Computer Engineering" , and learn stuff in more practical and contextual forms - so after perhaps three semesters, I started to work part time in a government department, doing grunt work. I was working in a freelance kind of way - why would the Government ever want to have proper contracts, they know how much that costs, right? - and in June 2001 me and two college colleagues started BlackOrange .

After a while I moved to a more IT'ish position in said department, and I was hired through my own company, so that was the formal beginning of my entrepreneurship life - not the glamorous ways of startuping fame, but it suited my way of thinking.

Time passes, you're in a dark room

In political economics, entrepreneurship is the process of identifying and starting a new business venture and sourcing and organizing the required resources while taking both the risks and rewards associated with the venture.

Fast forward a few years, I had left my Government job, I left the office we had in center Lisbon, I got married and my company changed a bit, we tried to take a small leap for man but a giant leap for a company who was merely breaking even and we fell into the Dark Ages and the risks section of owning your own business.

This took a lot out of me, and it still does to this day, I was exposed to a lot of depressing topics and real life situations that I would rather avoid, and it took a lot of effort to come out the other side with some energy and sanity. Part of this required me changing scenery and I joined the enterprise world.

The largest startup I ever worked, Sapo

I loved the years I passed there, it played a large role in pulling out of the Dark Ages, it exposed me to an (obviously) much bigger organisation than I was - at that point - used to working, but I was still lucky enough to have enough room to grow and take responsibility to make my own choices, fight my own wars and get to work on projects that I held dear to me. I made friends, met people who are brilliant and that I could look up to - which I still do - but I also learned the ways of big corporations, the petty fighting between departments and especially the work that goes to waste without even getting a second though.

It was an amazing time and despite the size, I felt I could approach it like I did with my companies, it was mine, I was self-dependent and I could give it my all, like I had done before, but I also knew the risk/reward dimension was completely eroded, so while I could explore the technical side with some latitude, the business part was a couple of levels above me and you don't push that amount of weight with that amount of acceleration.

Enter Startup - part II

So in the Summer of 2012, amongst the usual scorching heat, Ireland was put in my line of sight. A 6 month old company needed one more developer, and I was given a chance - and a choice - to move to a different culture, to help bootstrap a business where there was none and to work with a different set of technology in an international team.

Long discussions, headaches - the Dark Ages had left a mark that isn't quite healed - and leaps of faith later, me, the wife the kids were in a plane.

So at this stage of my life I had:

  • seen first hand businesses be sustainable but not profitable
  • seen first hand businesses fail
  • seen big established companies that had grown from nothing

So what I'm missing here is witnessing and being part of of taking a company from nothing to success, and if ever I felt the conditions were right, this was it.

As far as startups go, we have all the right components, founders with previous experience of running their own businesses, funding, extremely strong commercial and technical teams and a gigantic business just waiting to be disrupted and a no-bullshit culture that knows that hard work is the only way to get things done - instead of appearances, kissing up to clients or business suits.

If I ever saw a business primed for success, this was it, and if ever I'll learn what makes a company grow, this will be it.

So, why do I do it?

The biggest thing I always took away from owning a company is that it's extremely clear that things don't happen by themselves, that problems aren't to be solved by someone else, that not a single good thing falls on your lap by magic, that if you do nothing, your company simply dies.

It also teaches you that there's external elements that you don't control, that sometimes, regardless of how much you do, bad things will still happen and that you can't simply say "tough luck" and carry on, because there might not be something to carry on with.

I reckon I've always been this way and the past 10 years have done nothing but reenforce this, so why I do it is extremely simple.

I will not risk this, I will be part of a success story and I will do it the only way I know how, by throwing everything I have at it. My reward is playing a part in a success story and learning what it took to do it and my risk is putting my family through a very large life change for nothing.

And I'm not alone because 80+ hours are just my bit, I was never alone in the office or remotely, everyone piches in in more ways than one and that is absolutely priceless and if funding gives your a fighting change, hard work drives it home and the next few months will prove this.

... then again, there's always the change that I'm wrong and that I could be taking a lot more out of life by doing less, but I would be in the wrong country considering I lived 20m away from the ocean and gorgeous beaches and this would have been a terrible mistake and I'm willing to actively refuse to accept that :)

Anyway, here's to live, may it be interesting rather than boring.