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34 Lessons Learned From Starting And Selling My First Startup

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We launched Swayy as a public beta in September 2013. We were acquired by SimilarWeb in July 2015.

During these 22 months, I learned a lot about what a startup actually is, made a shit load of mistakes, and went through the biggest personal change of my entire life.

The following are my lessons learned (in no particular order) — about building a startup, the culture, partners and myself.

These were and are true for me — some or all of them may be completely untrue for someone else:

    1. You have to learn to work under pressure, and perform well. When your back is against the wall, use the wall as a backrest.
    2. #1 startup killer — not being able to distinguish between feedback and noise.
    3. Don’t ever lose focus.
    4. You’re going to experience financial insecurity for a long period of time — you’ll get used to it eventually.
    5. Time is your most expensive resource.
    6. Easily the best advice I have ever received: You meet people whether you want to or not. You have no idea what the person in front of you knows, or how they can help you — Ask questions.
    7. The term Future is what happens up to 6–12 months ahead. Don’t worry about what comes after.
    8. Answering “I don’t know” means you’ve discovered a new question you need to explore, and that’s a wonderful thing.
    9. Grow your company naturally, as your business grows, not because other people are growing theirs.
    10. Get ready for sleepless nights filled with all-consuming thoughts and concerns. Sometimes for weeks.
    11. I found the harder you work, the less you feel you’re working.
    12. Vision != Blindness. Think big, dream high — but don’t be blind or stubborn.
    13. Successes are momentary and feel good. Failures are memorable and painful.
    14. Enjoy the journey.
    15. Acquire the art of smiling when things are really shit.
    16. Actually, smile more regardless of the situation, people have a thing for smiling.
    17. Share with people what you are doing now, what you need and where you want to be.
    18. Be prepared with your three wishes, for when you’ll meet a Genie. You will.
    19. Do yourself a favor, and teach yourself to self-promote. I know how hard it is.
    20. Sometimes, all you have is a pair of headphones.
    21. Other times, all you need is a pair of headphones.
    22. Conferences are for people who have time for them.
    23. Office = Home.
    24. Co-founders = Family.
    25. Coffee shops are expensive, and will give you a caffeine problem.
    26. Don’t forget to invest in yourself — have hobbies and fields of interests thataren’t related to your startup or market.
    27. Luck only comes to those who try.
    28. Apathy is a gift; it’s easier if you are an apathetic person.
    29. Jeff Bezos said “Your margin is my opportunity” — Invest in growth.
    30. You don’t have to rest — you have to make sure you don’t get burned-out.
    31. You are so deep inside everything that happens with your startup. Every once in awhile stop to look at things from the outside — the bigger picture.
    32. Always know where you want your startup to be 3,6,12 months from now, and define what you need in order to get there.
    33. Measure your own work.
    34. DON’T NEGLECT YOUR SPOUSE.

I’m now learning my next 34 lessons.

Read more: Bizztor

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