Adelina Peltea is a Romanian entrepreneur, previously the founder of internshipin.ro and more recently – of splinter.me. It is exactly splinter.me that is the reason for us to republish a post from her blog. Last week, Peltea announced and explained her decision and motivations to move away from her own startup. We have selected seven of her lessons learned to share on inventures.eu.
1. Have a job aside.
In my first business, I had a job aside. I considered it wrong because I could not focus completely on the business and take it to the next level. So in this second business, I chose to dedicate to it completely. And there is nothing worse than looking back at one year of cash-drain while waiting for investors in shining armours – that did not lead to anything.
2. Don’t confuse business investment with personal investment.
My tech co-founder managed to get a small angel investment. We decided to use it mainly for paying him a small salary. What would I have done differently? If the investment doesn’t go in the business directly (hiring etc.), then what goes into founders’ salaries should be discounted from their individual equity.
So if you give x% equity to the investor for y money and that money goes to covering your co-founder’s salary, then the x% equity should only be taken from the co-founder’s equity, not the total. Then everyone will be happy.
3. Draw a very strict timeline and stick to it.
We got carried away with the trial and error period, with too much optimism, with too much ambition despite the conditions, with too much un-focus (let’s try this, and let’s try that, and we also need to do this).
I should have said: If in one month we don’t reach this, and in three months we don’t reach this, then x happens. This can be defined for the business, but it has more value, if it is defined for personal goals. As in how much can a co-founder hang on if expectations are not met. I believe that I stayed too long (a year) to draw this line. I could have done it earlier.
4. If possible, get three co-founders.
It is more human power and it is better for internal balancing. At internshipin.ro, we were three co-founders and it felt much better than here with two co-founders. We could do more things and we could temper potential arguments. When you are just one-to-one, lots of things can go wrong.
5. Get leaders and doers. Separately.
When you start a business, you want co-founders that are great leaders, have a shared vision, are well-connected and experienced or good at what they do. In practice, when running a startup in the first year, you need someone on the management side, and someone on the implementation side. It is difficult to have someone good at both. And you need to be aware of this.
On your team, you need people who can lead the business, and people who have the exact skills you need to implement it. If you cannot hire, make sure you choose the right co-founders to cover both areas (separately).
6. An accelerator can actually slow you down.
We went into an accelerator about a year after we started. Although this was an accelerator with more advanced startups, I could only see its value if we would have done it earlier in the startup’s life. Because you get lots of learning from mentors and peers, you get to question and redefine many aspects. And the sooner you do that, the better.
The moment we joined the accelerator we should have only focused on releasing the first version of the product and getting clients. And by being there, these got delayed.
7. Stop when you need to stop.
There is a difference between ambition and stubbornness. Make sure you don’t stop too late. And make sure you’ve learned from it. The next time will be much better.
I learned lots of things that will prove useful later on. I learned how to be data-driven and use Analytics to the max. I learned how to create content that goes viral. I learned about different markets. I learned how not to work with technical people. I learned a lot about the recruitment industry, about social media and about tech startups. I learned what hype is and what isn’t in the startup world.
I have become stronger and more experienced. In the end, we ourselves are startups. Startups that we can never leave.
Peltea’s original post can be viewed here.