Diary of a start-up: Looking back on our first year

Columnist David Sheridan reflects back on a tough but rewarding first year running a tech start-up and shares the key lessons he's learnt along the way...

After sharing how not to fall out with your co-founders, David Sheridan, co-founder and commercial Onedox.com, a virtual dashboard for all your household bills, shares the other tough lessons he’s learnt across the last 12 months in his latest diary instalment…

Whoever coined the platitude “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” must have been referring to a love of not working. The phrase certainly doesn’t hold true for start-up businesses, at least.

Over the past year it feels like me and my co-founders Rick and Hugh have worked practically every day – whether actively or else thinking about Onedox in what should be our spare time.

That’s not to say we haven’t enjoyed the experience. In actual fact, it’s the unique challenges and lack of a safety net that make it such an exhilarating ride; making the small successes along the way feel so rewarding.

Over the last year we’ve taken what was an untested concept of using technology to revolutionise managing household admin and turned it into a product that’s getting a lot of exposure and proving very popular. We’ve still got a long way to go to build the product we ultimately know it can be and to reach the scale we need for it to become a profitable business. However, these challenges haven’t come as a surprise. If it was easy there wouldn’t be an opportunity and we feel we’re in great shape to flourish in our second year of trading.

I thought it may be of interest to look back at some of my experiences over the last year and consider some key reflections, in case they may be of interest to anyone else in a similar situation:

Perseverance

Perhaps it’s the challenges of attracting readership that mean a lot of online commentary I see written about start-up businesses is binary in nature. It assigns them to one of two fates: hyper-successful “unicorn” in the making or else lacking hockey-stick growth potential and therefore doomed to failure.

The truth is typically much less sensational. Like businesses in any other sector, technology start-ups require more perspiration than inspiration in order to be successful. They also require positivity and the ability to see the upside in the challenges that a young business inevitably experiences.

Collaboration

Open and honest collaboration with colleagues, customers and anyone else who is prepared to help are invaluable to get feedback, insight and new ideas. Time is a very rare commodity and it’s easy to feel your time is best utilised working on what you assume to be correct, rather than being open to having different conversations that run the risk of being time badly used.

Of course, not every conversation will contribute towards making your business a success, however most conversations will contribute positively to growing your business in some shape or form. You also get to meet lots of nice, new people.

Enjoyment

There are lots of aspects to running a start-up that could be cause for worry rather than enjoyment. There’s the hours, the financial risks, the unknowns of whether it will work out and the potential stigma of perceived failure. However, there are massive benefits that make it extremely rewarding and it’s important to have them in mind when the going feels tough.

There aren’t many opportunities in life to choose who you work with on something you truly believe in, to see the real benefits people are getting from a service you’ve been a vital part of, and as your own boss, to have the flexibility to combine that with spending time with your family.

All things considered, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than this.

Plans for year two

As we commence our second year, we’ve been reviewing our traction so far and using it as the basis for informing a business plan we can take to potential external investors. Evaluating funding options for the business will be a priority for me in the coming months and as with everything else we do, will no doubt provide lots of useful experiences that I hope to share in the near future.

For future content about Onedox’s journey (and previous columnists), check out our Diary of a start-up channel.

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