How I met my co-founders

 

Today marks the 2nd year anniversary from when I first met my co-founders, Stan and Maria. This is the story of how I remember it .

I have always admired people who wake up one day and decide to turn their life upside down; to stop everything they are doing and move on to doing what they really are passionate about. Like my dear friend and yoga teacher Tammy, who if I remember correctly, decided to quit her career in finance to pursue one as a yoga teacher, because yoga was what really made her happy. It takes a lot of courage to do something like this, since you need basically start from the bottom again and things may not go as one might think. It is a massive risk, but usually one that pays off, since, after all, you end up doing what really makes happy.

About 2 years ago, after a long time working at Mendeley and a few more working in tech, I found myself doubting whether computers really made me happy. For as long as I remember, computers had been part of my life and it was after all, what I chose as a career without any doubt a few years back. Not only that, tech is challenging(1) and it pays well. But I still found something was not right. I felt in a stalemate. I needed a change.

So one day, I woke up, fed up with feeling like I was not in charge any more and I decided that not only I wanted to move on from my job, but that I wanted to be one of those peoples I admired so much and decided to quit tech and computers all together.

I then decided to become a musician. Music has always been my real passion, but because of different circumstances I never really was able to pursue it. I started learning how to play the piano a few years ago, but nothing serious, just a few classes here and there after work. But at this point, I was so decided nobody could stop me. I was gonna do the crazy thing and pursue my passion!

The circumstances were great as well: Mendeley just got acquired and I got a little bit of money from it to bump my savings up a notch. Enough to live off work for a year and study hard. This was my moment!

Two weeks after my big revelation and countless attempts I kept ignoring from my boyfriend(2) to persuade me to not throw away my career just yet, he sent me a link to a job post that caught my attention…

This is (more or less) how the IRC conversation went…

  • Jesper: “I know that you have already made up your mind about what you want to do and are not actually looking for a job, but a friend just sent me this… <link to post>”
  • Me (before opening the link): “Nah.. I really don’t feel like going through the hassle of finding a new job, interviews, etc…”
  • Jesper: “At least look at it! It’s basically your entire CV written down in a job spec, for a music tech startup. They are looking for technical lead / CTO”
  • Me: “Hmm, interesting…” (3)
  • Jesper (after a few minutes of silence): “So, what do you think?”
  • Me: “This Bandwagon thing looks certainly interesting. Not sure about jumping into leading the development of an already created product though, it’s always tricky…”
  • Jesper: “What are you talking about?! That’s what you have been doing at Mendeley for the last few years!”
  • Me: “Yes, but… I took the lead at Mendeley after a year working there, I knew the codebase like the back of my hand. This would be jumping in the deep end…”
  • Jesper (starting to lose his patience): “You don’t know that! Plus, you are awesome at your job! Could you at least apply and find out more before making up your mind? It looks really good.”
  • Me: “Fine, but then you leave me alone!”

The job ad was post in workinstartups.com, pretty cool site to find jobs, but at the time it was really testing my patience. It was forcing me to sign up with my LinkedIn account, but then to apply for the job I had to manually enter my CV again…”wait what?! I just gave you my LinkedIn credentials! Why the hell aren’t you pulling the info from the API?!”

A few minutes later…

  • Me: “This site is not working! Screw it, I am not applying through here. It didn’t pull my data from linked and I can’t even upload a PDF version of my CV! I have to go through 1000s text boxes and enter it all manually… screw this.”
  • Jesper: “Seriously? Just copy and paste it! It will take you, what, 5 minutes?”
  • Me (annoyed): “It’s the principle of it Jesper! Why force SSO if then I need to do this all again? The whole point is to make it convenient, and instead it’s annoying me” (4)
  • Jesper: “Ok, how about you find an email address and just send them your CV?”
  • Me: “Pff, too much effort”
  • Jesper: “Seriously… Here’s the co-founder’s email address <maria’s bandwagon email>, took me 2 seconds to find it on Twitter”
  • Me: “Oh genius! I will send her an email straight away! Thank you babe”
  • Jesper: “¬_¬”
  • Me: “:*”

I wrote the best cover letter in my life. Three sentences. There was not much to add, as my CV was speaking for itself. At this point I was feeling confident and excited. I haven’t abandoned my musician career idea, but this could be an interesting opportunity and I certainly didn’t lose anything to find out more about the position. And I ticked all the boxes they were asking for.

But then…one day passed, and another, and another… and I didn’t get any reply from Maria. I started doing some due diligence (aka Googling) on who was behind this cool company called Bandwagon. And then I instantly thought that the power business genius woman behind it, didn’t like me.

  • Me: “Pfff, why hasn’t she replied? I thought it was such a good email…”
  • Jesper: “She must be busy babe, don’t read too much into it”
  • Me: “I wouldn’t, but it’s been a few days now…”
  • Jesper: “You know, you could always apply through that site…”
  • Me (sarcastically): “Yeah sure! If she hasn’t read my email she surely will read my application through this great website – at least with the email the possibilities of being delivered are higher..”
  • Jesper (losing his patience for real now): “Seriously, just do it and find out”
  • Me: “Fine”

It took me less than 5 minutes to do it. I got a message from Stan 2 hours later (5).

  • Me: “Good news! They want to meet me!”
  • Jesper: “Oh! You see, in the end the site worked haha – I told you so”

We met 3 days later, on the 10th of February of 2014. It was a Monday afternoon. I was nervous. But also confident. I didn’t know what to wear. I just got my wrist tattoo 2 days earlier and didn’t know whether I should cover it or not. I wanted to make a good impression.

We were supposed to meet at Salvation Jane (what’s now Lantana) but I received an email from Stan telling me it was closed. So he was waiting at the Nero just on the opposite side of the street.

Maria, the business woman, wasn’t there (and repeating in my head, “she really doesn’t like me…”).

Stan and I hit it off straight away. Bandwagon sounded amazing, but there was a caveat…they were in the process of selling it…

wut

I wasn’t sure if I heard that right, I didn’t understand Stan’s accent at times…

  • Me: “Oh ok…”
  • Stan: “But now that we have talked about Bandwagon, we have another idea that we want to pursue…”
  • Me (puzzled, I thought this was all about BW): “Aha”
  • Stan: “And this time we want a third co-founder that can take on the technical side of things. When Maria and I got married, we had real trouble finding good entertainment for the wedding for our budget despite working in the music industry for a long time. Agencies are crazy expensive and I was stressing out with a pile of cash on my pocket on my wedding day… not the idea situation. So we thought we could build a system a la Airbnb for hiring musicians for private events. This will also help musicians to take control of their careers instead of having to rely on agents…”

He continued explaining all the problems with the current agency model and the different solutions they had in mind. All this sounded like music to my ears and all I could think was how I would go about implementing the system. And so I explained it to him.

I could see in his face he was happy with what I was saying. Just before departing, we talked about the next steps…

  • Stan: “I would like you to meet Maria, my co-founder. She’s amazing.”
  • Me (slightly intimidated by the thought of meeting THE business woman): “Absolutely! When?”

I met Maria a week after. And as soon as we said hello, I knew we would get on well (6). All the preconception I had about her being an intimidating person was all created by my mind and the need to have certain state of stress to perform well at the interview. Still a proper business woman, but so approachable and nice. I felt almost a bit embarrassed of having thought otherwise.

I arrived home super excited and told Jesper that it went well and they wanted me to be a co-founder.

It didn’t take me long to decide. I already made my mind up by the first meeting. And it made a lot of sense.

The circumstances didn’t change from when I wanted to move onto being a musician; there was only one difference, I already had the skills to do the job. I didn’t have to learn completely from scratch. Yes, there were another set of risks, but somehow it didn’t feel as risky. Though it was a massive risk.

To start with, I knew nothing about Stan and Maria, other than the couple of hours I had met them and what I could gather from the Internet. But my gut feeling was telling me “Just go for it, it will work. It’s a great opportunity.”.

And it did. And I am glad I listened to Jesper. And to my gut.

Because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met these two absolutely wonderful people. I wouldn’t have come to grips with computers and coding again. And I wouldn’t have a badass startup, where I am constantly learning, I am proud of what we have achieve so far and what’s to come.

This same day 2 years ago marked an inflexion point in my personal and professional life. And so, it’s special day.

Thanks for reading.

(1) Which is great and what keeps me going; though it needs to be the right kind of challenge. The ones I was dealing with at the time were not.

(2) Jesper while being super supportive in pretty much everything I do, he saw it would very difficult, considering the cost of living in London and that career changes like this take a hell of a lot of effort. But I didn’t want to listen 🙂

(3) My other option besides pursuing a career as a musician was to start my own company or agency, but all the ideas I had already existed or weren’t viable. Not that Rosario becoming a musician in 1 year was viable, but hey, one can dream right?

(4) I am incredibly stubborn, and when it comes to implementing things properly even more. It’s the engineering mind, can’t get past it. Please note, for the time I spent explaining why it annoyed me so much, I could have applied like 4 times. shrug

(5) I dug up the old emails and it was actually 3 days. But I like to exaggerate the story just to wind Maria up a little. She claims she never received the email. And I believe her 🙂

(6) And now we happen to be best friends.

DSC_0363-4
Latest photo from our last founders retreat, a couple of days of intensive strategic work away from the office. Broadstairs, Feb 2016

Techstars London 2015: Demo Day

Hello dear reader. It has been a while. We’ve had been incredibly busy since my last Techstars related post and now it was time to write one last post (there might be more, depending how long this one turns out to be, I want to basically cover from where I left it off).

Checking my last post, it seems I did it just before the intensive pitching practice period began. And believe me, “intensive” is an understatement – if not ask Stan. For three weeks, every day at least once or twice a day, with some days up to 4 times – and this was just the “official” practices – I bet every single one of the CEO practiced on their own quite a lot. And did it pay off!

Every evening, during practice there would be one of the mentors or some other pitching eminence to give feedback on the content of the pitches. And let me tell you, it felt a bit like the Mentor Whiplash and the pitches ended up all being quite different from the original ones. But all worth it.

Demo Day arrived. The date: Tuesday 13th of October. The place: Royal Institute of Great Britain. The time: 6:45am. Yes, you read that right, 6:45am! All CEOs and the slides drivers(*) had to be there nice an early to do a dressed rehearsal just before the real thing. We did one last week as well – it was quite entertaining seeing the exercises that Stewart, the pitch coach, made the CEOs go through, so I didn’t mind much seeing it again. It surely brought the energy in the room up!

And then the very expected moment arrived. Flocks of people coming into the auditorium. Lots of known faces. Pressure rising. Max on stage introducing the managing directors of Techstars globally Mark Solon and David Brown. He later thanked all sponsors. And then the CEOs…

Mark from Hackajob opened up first, followed by Gideon from Ambie, Ales from TeskaLabs, Sofia from NomNom, Rodolfo from Weave.ai, Tom from PrintToPeer, our very own Stan from Headliner, Julie from Curious, Martin from Sorry as a Service, Kaili from Deekit and finally Rowan from Spero. Big shout out to all of you! You totally smashed it! So proud of you all!

Our man pitching:

Right after the pitches we had an hour where we could meet investors or have a chat with other people in the community. It was good to meet so many people interested in Headliner. It does make you feel good about all the hard work you have put over the last few months.

Demo day was the culmination of Techstars and we finished it in style. At around 6pm all the people in the cohort (and a few other special guests) gathered in the office for some pre-drinks before heading to Piano Works where the after-party was meant to happen.

It was an important time for us at Headliner, as one of our acts, The P.Y.T’s, was playing that night. It was our chance to show what our company is about. Nothing other than bringing the party and make the event unforgettable. We were overwhelmed with the positive feedback we got out of it – everyone had a blast (including ourselves!). So much I’ve still caught myself thinking about the night a week after!

The whole experience went by so quickly – I still can’t believe everything is over. Another post coming up with stats on sleeping patterns, several thank you’s and more about startup life after Techstars.

Until then, have a listen to our intro music for Demo Day…

(*) The person that clicks next on keynote as the CEO is speaking. An absolutely crucial job that requires a lot of finger stretching and practicing. Usually performed by the CTO or any other individual that doesn’t mind taking the responsibility of screwing up such important task.

Techstars London Day ???: The comeback!

Hey there!

I felt like it was time to come back to blogging. Apologies for neglecting it, but it was either getting work done and sleep or getting work done and write the blog. Since getting work done is not optional, it was down to sleep or write the blog. And since without sleep work doesn’t get properly done, the blog had to go for a bit.

A lot has happened since my last blog post. To start with, I totally lost count of what day we are in; all I know now is there are less than 40 days remaining to demo day 😁.

It has been 19 days(*) since my last post, where I was basically desperate to have some sleep. No, I haven’t been sleeping since then, and yes, we have been working like crazy, but damn it feels good! Lots of achievements. Let’s start…

The super-secret-project was finished and released on time and the adoption has been spectacular! Now, you guessed well, we are working on a new project, which for easy reference we’ll call super-secret-project-2!

So, super-secret-project-2 is coming along nicely and I am hoping to have it finished by the end of this week. And after that, there are some other secret projects in the pipeline. There’s no stopping us now! Woop woop!

When it comes to Techstars, they have basically got out of the way (fewer meetings since last month) so we can focus on building, building and yes, more building. Good, that’s what we like! We do continue to have our deep dives every week, though they are shorter now.

An intensive period of pitch practice has started as well. By demo day, CEOs will have had to pitch more than 100 times. Good fun! I am just glad I am not the one having to do it 🙂 Good thing we have Stan who is pretty awesome at the whole pitching thing. Winning!

And finally today,we had our first Headliner Sessions! Here’s a post with pictures (**) so you can guess what it is all about. Very exciting stuff!

That’s all for now my friends. I cannot promise there will be a blog post tomorrow, but I will try. Though it’s gonna be hard, since we will be working until late.

But before that…a few stats…

Time I went to sleep last night: 00:12
Total hours of sleep: 5:30 (not much change here…)
Mood: Super positive and energised!
Soundtrack of the day: The Heavy – Same Ol’ (my latest musical obsession… there’s something about this song…)
Coffees: 1 (I have decided to cut down on them since I started getting some scary palpitations the other day…)

(*) or 2 weeks and 5 days; or 456 hours, or 27,360 minutes; or 1,641,600 seconds – It feels much longer than that. The time warping sensation hasn’t gone away…

(**) Also like and share the page with your peers! I bet someone is getting married or having a party, and need some cool music to get the party started!

Techstars London day 44: What you should know about weekends

During this program, weekends are for sleeping. Period.

Last weekend was awesome in so many ways (special blog post on it coming I promise!), but I didn’t realise just how much the extra sleep I was getting during the weekends was helping me keeping focus during the week until there was a weekend where I didn’t get that much sleep.

Today there was a CTO meeting at 8.30am. The first one I was not able to go. You might wonder why; let me tell you: I was not able to get out of bed today. The alarm just kept going and my body was simply not responding. And it kept going for an hour. I basically woke up at 8am, which compared to the average during this program (6.30am) is incredibly late.

I was so tired today that my morning felt like a slow motion film. Even my walk to work was powerless. Arrived at 10am /o\

Had breakfast with the lovely Maria and then back to full speed on super-secret-project. Coming along nicely. Elsa, the designer also passed me some nice wireframes today that I will be implementing tomorrow. However, I reckon I might need a couple more days to finish it all. It all depends how productive I am tomorrow. And I reckon i just need to sleep a bit more. So I am gonna head to bed. Tomorrow more!

And remember, always always, during the Techstars program, make sure that if you don’t sleep much during the week, sleep as much as you can during the weekends!

Summary of the day:

Time I went to sleep last night: 00:18
Total hours of sleep: 7:40 (still not enough…)
Mood: Still tired
Soundtrack of the day: Awesome recommendation by Ben (genius curator at Ambie) today!

Techstars London day 43: More long hours = more progress = more tiredness

Today it was a good day. I decided to take the anger I was feeling yesterday and focus it on being more determined at work.

I am absolutely exhausted, so I apologise for the short posts lately. I didn’t get much sleep during last weekend and I realised those extra hours of sleep on weekends were crucial at keeping me afloat on week days.

Super-secret-project continues to get in shape so I am happy. But the last two days I have been in the office until late and now I just need to pass out in bed.

sleepy-cat
Today at about 2.17pm in front of the computer. Needed that 3rd coffee…

Tomorrow more. Good night!

Summary of the day:

Time I went to sleep last night: 00:33
Total hours of sleep: 6:22
Mood: So exhausted now, that I look like a living zombie.
Coffees: 3
Soundtrack of the day: https://open.spotify.com/track/0ux2EioEe5Fw07rXYRUSTz (I discovered this song today and it’s been on repeat since then!)

Techstars London day 42: Long day, short post

Sorry guys, another day that you won’t get to know how awesome my weekend at the Techstars retreat was, but I just arrived home (23:42) from the office and I need to get some sleep.

A few updates though: Super-secret-project is coming along nicely and I got my new developer working with me today. It feels good to have a dev team!

Also, I found out something today that I am not happy about. And so, the song(s) tonight are dedicated to that. Those guys. Sleazy bastards.

angry-brannigan

And now, I am gonna code some more. See ya.

Summary of the day:

Time I went to sleep last night: 23:50
Total hours of sleep: 7.38
Mood: I went from tired, to happy, to angry, to totally determined. Deal with it.
Special soundtrack for those guys: 
https://open.spotify.com/track/5st5644IlBmKiiRE73UsoZ
oh yes, and this:
https://open.spotify.com/track/1zneM1cLjM6w8BFmukl2Lr
a
aaaand this:
https://open.spotify.com/track/3FUS56gKr9mVBmzvlnodlh

Because there’s always a song to express your feelings! Long live music! 

Techstars London days 39, 40 & 41: It’s coming…

So…no blog post on Friday. Reason being we went on a retreat!

I started a blog post about it to publish tonight, but there’s tons of things I want to write about and I am truly knackered. So expect a few specials in the next couple of days!

I can still give you some summaries though (I know you all love them!):

Total hours slept this weekend (cumulative Friday to Sunday): 15 hours and 16 minutes
Mood: Pretty awesome. The weekend couldn’t have been any better! But God, I have to sleep 9hence the short post today).
Soundtrack of the weekend: Only Barbara, Julie, Elsa, Tom and Tak will understand the following 😉 (yes, that’s an inside joke, and I will not explain!)

Good night folks!