Time for new challenges

For as long as I can remember I have been interested in startups and growing a sustainable business. I have finally decided to take the next step. I’m leaving Rackspace and moving back to Slovenia to start working on my own startup.

In this post I will provide some background and describe my motivation for doing that.

History and Background

The last couple of years were very exciting for me. In 2010 I joined the Y-Combinator startup Cloudkick. Later, when Cloudkick was acquired by Rackspace, I relocated to San Francisco to work for Rackspace in their new San Francisco office.

During that time I had a chance to work with some of the best people in the industry, acquired a lot of new knowledge and experienced a lot of things first-hand.

It’s impossible to list all the things I’ve learned and experienced, but just to name a few - I’ve experienced the startup culture, I’ve experienced the “Silicon Valley bubble”, I helped grow our San Francisco office from ~30 to ~80 people, I worked on Cloud Monitoring (successor to Cloudkick), I launched a product and I learned how things work at a relatively large company.

Cloudkick team in 2010 (missing Russel Haering)

Besides all of that, I also met a lot of great people and made a lot of great friends with whom I hope to stay in touch for years to come.

All of that helped me to become not just a better engineer but a better person overall.

Now you might ask, how does all this relate to running your own startup?

The answer is that I’ve always paid attention to startups, long before I joined Cloudkick.

I’ve been reading articles, books and news about startups for as long as I had internet connection (~12 years).

Because of that I always wanted to do my own startup. I’ve had a countless number of side projects, websites and ran many different online communities, but nothing on which I would focus full-time I would personally call a “real startup”.

At Cloudkick, I experienced first hand what it was like working with a small and tightly connected team, building a product which makes life easier for customers. The experience just made me want to do it even more.

Why my own startup?

I personally believe that best way to learn something new and retain the this knowledge is through first-hand experience. This doesn’t mean you should just recklessly dive into something without any background or theoretical knowledge. Quite the contrary, if a literature is available, I believe that having a solid theoretical understating of a problem is one of the pre-requisites to make “learn more through experience” process really effective.

The same thinking applies to starting my own startup. I’ve already learned a lot and experience some of that at Cloudkick, but I didn’t join in a really early phase and I wasn’t one of the founders.

This means I wasn’t involved as intimately as I would want from the beginning and I missed a lot of things I still want to learn and experience.

I had plenty of opportunities to join an existing early and not so early stage startup, but I believe that starting my own thing and being a founder will allow me to learn more than I otherwise could.

Rackspace San Francisco logo by Logan Welliver

Why now?

I believe now is the right time for me, because there are multiple things which will probably change over the years and make it harder for me to do a startup.

Most of the reasons listed bellow aren’t anything special and a lot of people would simple call those things “life”.

  • I’ve made a lot of friends and connections which I can ask for help and advice
  • I’m not settled down or too tied to a particular location yet
  • I don’t have a family yet
  • I’m still relatively young and don’t have a lot to lose, but I have plenty to gain (learn new things)
  • I believe I have the right co-founder. We’ve known each other for a long time, we both share the same core values, but we both have different background and skills and bring different perspective to the table. I think diversity is very important and all of that makes us a great team.
  • Most of the things I do well now I will still be able to to well couple of years in the future. In fact, I would argue that I will be able to do those things better because running my own startup will allow me to learn plenty of new things, obtain new experience and allow me to look at the problems from a different perspective. I believe that overall those things will also help make me a better person and engineer down the road.
The Zen of Python, emphasising "Now is better than never"

I want to add that none of the things listed above are real blockers for running a (successful) startup. Quite the contrary, I know people who fit in few of the “categories” described above who are still very successful at running a startup.

The fact is that those people are in a minority and running a startup by itself is already a hard thing. Looking at it from a pure engineering and common sense perspective it makes sense to eliminate other things which could make it even harder and reduce number of people you could unintentionally hurt (there are plenty of stories about damaged or broken relationships).

What are the next steps?

When I get back to Slovenia I will first focus on building an MVP and getting it out to users as soon as possible. There will obviously also be a lot of other non-product development effort related to starting and growing a startup (legal, incorporating, marketing, …) but in the end it will all boil down to to be continuous iteration of the Build-Measure-Learn process.

Lean Startup Cycle per Lean Startup Book

I will also try to do a better job with my blog. I will try to write more tech related articles and how my startup is evolving and what I have learned during this process.