Tech City Life: 10 things I learnt from launching my first tech start-up (part 1)

Back for his second blog, our insider shares five lessons he’s learnt from running his own business, from needing a thick skin to making tough decisions

Ex-googler Rich Pleeth is co-founder of Sup, the free mobile app that helps you see your friends more. Based in Shoreditch, Pleeth has taken over the baton from former Insider Bertie Stephens and will be sharing his frank insights on life as a tech start-up founder over the coming months. In his first blog, Pleeth discussed why start-ups are hard but awesome, and here he shares some key lessons he’s learnt since launching the business last year…

It’s exactly a year since I resigned from my ‘real’ job and started Sup – and I couldn’t have had a more exciting time during the past 12 months.

As I shared in my first blog, the idea for Sup app came about after I was travelling lots in my previous role as chief marketing officer at GetTaxi. I would always check in on Facebook when I was in a new city or a new airport hoping a friend would message me and tell me they were nearby. While it would happen a lot it usually wouldn’t be till two hours or two days later – and with Sup we set out to change that.

I’ve learnt a tremendous amount through the ups and downs, and I’ve written them down in the hope that this will help other founders and entrepreneurs in their endeavours.

It’s fairly straightforward but if you have any questions tweet me (@richpleeth) and I’ll get back to you.

And watch out for part two (and five more lessons) in my next column!

1. You have to go all in

Your start-up becomes your baby, you work on it all day, talk about it all evening and dream about it all night. At weekends your friends become your focus groups, giving you semi-outsiders perspectives. You don’t have time for another job, all your focus needs to be on your start-up.

You’re 100% in, it’s ride or die and for us; failure just isn’t an option, it’s not on the table, not something we discuss, we’re fully focused on making this the next social platform and we have a ton of ideas to get it there.

2. You’ll need a thick skin and strong belief in your offering

I totally appreciate that no one apart from maybe Alex (my co-founder) will ever be as enthusiastic or believe in Sup as much as I do. Some investors and people we meet just don’t get it, they don’t see the potential and just as all founders have had, I’ve had emails and messages telling me they are passing or that they don’t see the audience.

Just as investors told Brian Chesky of Airbnb that they were passing as they didn’t see the opportunity, we’ve all been there and received the e-mails or accidently been cc’d in. You have to have a thick skin, pull yourself together and move on to the next meeting.

3. You should get yourself a lawyer

Unfortunate but true, you need to get a good lawyer to ensure that the company is set up correctly, you own the IP, you have employment contracts, shareholder agreements, articles of association, all of that stuff is so, so, important, just in case you have a dispute with anyone in the future.

Get this sorted at the start when you’re on good terms with everyone and leave no questions unanswered.

4. You’ll always be switched on to your business

Sometimes investors want to meet me at the weekend, or we have a server crash at 2am and it needs to be sorted. I try and reply to all emails in around five minutes and only don’t when I am asleep or with an investor.

I have barely got any time to date as I’d rather hang out with my friends and relax. One of my best friends is Alex so even when we’re out of the office or at a party we’re still coming up with ideas and excited about the week ahead. It’s tiring but it’s worth it.

5. You’ve got to be decisive

Sometimes, decisions leave you feeling terrible but you know that it’s the best decision for the success of the company. They are tough but you have to keep your eyes on the vision and the long term future. The road bumps along the way are for you to learn and if something isn’t working it’s a founder’s job to make it right.

You may need to replace a team member if they aren’t giving 100% or aren’t a cultural fit which is incredibly important for small start-ups. It’s tough when that happens and no one enjoys it but it’s important for the future success of the company.


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