Techstars London day 8: Mentor Madness

Right people, this day had to come at some point. Today was the first of 10 days of what at Techstars is called Mentor Madness. Essentially works like speed dating. You are given 20 minutes with each mentor where you can explain what you and your company do, ask relevant questions and just like when you are in speed dating; find out whether you like who you meet while at the same time making an impression so they can like you back. 

Each day is a back to back with 7 people. It’s a bit exhausting to be honest. But absolutely every meeting we had was great. We got good feedback, ideas and a few challenges. All you need to move forward.

The mentors are here! 
The mentors are here! 

Then we had a quick lunch break and I went straight into Technical Office Hours. During these sessions, experts from different technology providers will come down to speak about how awesome their technology is and how they can help you based on your architecture. 

Today it was Google’s turn and I have to say, I was impressed in what Google App Engine (and all the Google Cloud Platform ecosystem) offers. However, I am still not entirely convinced on how they make you manage your database. I guess it is just a question of getting in the mindset of not using a relational database and just developing your application with your data backend as a blackbox (architecture permitting that is). I admittedly say, I need to read on this, but that’s what I got from the meeting: take it as a blackbox where you dump data and you later retrieve it through the API. But the thing I like the most was the prospect of not having to worry about scaling the infrastructure yourself and just leave it to them. I know you can do this in AWS with ELB and AutoScaling, but with Google you just get it out of the box. Something to think about for sure.

So great feedback day and session with the Googlers, but (and yes there is a but, for the first time since we started the program), despite all this, I must admit I was not feeling well today. I barely had time to code and I felt we were a little bit all over the place due to so many meetings. But tomorrow will be another day and I am sure it will go well. So chin up. Always keep pushing and looking forward. 

Summary of the day:

Time I went to sleep last night: 00:52
Total hours of sleep: 5.23 (2.45 light sleep + 2.38 deep sleep)
Mood: slightly cranky and irritated (I think the lack of a good full night sleep is starting to creep up)
Soundtrack of the day: (for obvious reasons).

And that’s all folks! (Until tomorrow)

Techstars London day 7: Working on a Sunday

Nothing new about working on a Sunday. Whoever has worked on a startup before knows well that you are in working mode 24/7. This has been my life for the last year (and prior to that the early years at Mendeley). 

You do it because you love it. Because even though you are tired, you are broke, you don’t see your family/partner much, and you forget what the word ‘holiday’ means, it brings you a kind of satisfaction that it’s difficult to explain. People working in startups feel part of something. Something that starts small and gets big(*).

You feel like you belong. You feel your ideas matter. And they do: the success of a company is up to absolutely everyone involved in it. 

And when you feel you belong, you feel damn good. 

This was the case when I was an early employee at Mendeley and much more so now that I am a co-founder of Headliner. Being part of Techstars feels of belonging in a much bigger scale.

Today we went to the office. It was quiet and peaceful. A few other companies and hacksociates were there. You could feel it in the air, people were enjoying being there working and making things happen. Also, our new CFO joined us. Check out how cool he is:

Charlie Feathers, the new Chief Fluffy Officer. Photo credit: Stan.
Charlie Feathers, the new Chief Fluffy Officer. Photo credit: Stan.

Tomorrow mentor madness week starts, so we went through the list of people we will be meeting. Let me tell you, we will have *lots* of meetings. And I know this week is gonna be hard (will have very little time to code) – but our excitement just keeps growing.

We have plenty of ideas we can’t wait to implement! 

So today it was quiet. Tomorrow, I am sure it won’t be.

Summary of the day:

Time I went to bed last night: 2.21am (I’ll admittedly say, I was at a friend’s house party drinking Margaritas – good fun)
Hours of sleep: 8.27 (hooray!)
Hangover: slightly
Mood for the day: chilled but productive
Steps walked this week: 118645
Soundtrack for the weekend: (Also, TIL, John Talabot is Spanish!)

(*)  Or at least has the potential to become big, if not, what the hell are you doing?!

PS: Yesterday I decided not to blog because, well, I took part of the day off – Remember when I said I could not feel the tiredness? Well, I definitely could yesterday morning. 

Techstars London day 5: Getting out of the building

I can’t believe it’s already Friday. Where has this week gone?! A good sign, considering that time flies when you are having fun.

One thing that has surprised me this week, is the lack of tiredness I am experiencing. Or maybe I am just on a constant high. I mean, I have been sleeping an average of 5 hours per night for the last week and I am used to crack at least 7/8 hours per night, plus the sporadic siestas (I am Spanish after all) – AND all this without a single drop of caffeine (drinking coffee gives me terrible migraines). I am sure this will take its toll sooner rather than later though, it’s not a question of if, but when.

Moving on, today was incredibly productive for us. In the morning Stan had the CEO meeting, which I think  went quite well – at least for me, considering my ears weren’t burning (*). in the meantime I started on a little piece of work that’s gonna help us refine our search functionality greatly – little steps with great impact. 

In the afternoon we decided to get out of the building as suggested by Steve Blank in his brilliant “How to build a startup” course. We headed down to a new venue that opened recently in Clerkenwell, the Piano Works (amazing btw) to talk to the manager about a possible partnership and find out how they work and source their entertainment. And when I say we, I mean my lovely co-founders Stan and Maria, I stayed coding in the office 🙂

Cool detail from Piano works. People at the bar can request songs to be played on stage by writing them in a napkin. The piano in the photo is actually mine.
Cool detail from Piano works. People at the bar can request songs to be played on stage by writing them in a napkin. The piano in the photo is actually mine.

And before I knew it, it was already beer o’clock! The only problem was… no ping pong! There were people still working in the kitchen area so the table was not deployed, and oh the disappointment! I was looking forward to (try to) kick a few asses there and then. But I guess it will have to wait until next week…

Finished the day with a lovely team dinner in Exmouth Market and then a nice walk back home (**).

So first week has gone by quickly – I have to say, I am loving all the people in this cohort and the deep dive was amazing – I almost wished it was longer than 2 hours.

Now this weekend to catch up on some sleep and get ready for mentor madness next week…

Btw, I have not decided yet whether I will be posting during the weekend or not. I’ll see how I feel about it tomorrow, until then…

Summary of the day:

Time I went to sleep last night: 1.30am

Total hours of sleep: 5.13

Mood for the day: Relaxed and productive

Steps count for the week (From Monday ’til today 23.41): 80354 (I am leading walky legs!)

Soundtrack for the day: (when in doubt, always listen to Todd Terje)

Happy Friday night!

(*) Remember in my post from Wednesday that I mentioned what the purpose of the CEO meeting was about 😉

(**) Walking is seriously therapeutic…

Techstars London day 4: Still standing

This will be a short post. I just arrived home after a lovely walk home (after a few drinks) with an unexpected (but wonderful) companion.

Today I would say it was a good day. I got to code some more (yes!) finishing off a few tasks on my list that were getting in the way. So today I could move onto a more interesting task! Hooray!

No meetings today for us other than the all hands meeting which involves all the companies in the cohort and the hacksociates together. During this meeting, everyone gets together and we share what was the best during the week, if there was something that went incredibly wrong and if there’s anything we want to ask for. Since it is just our first week, there was not much to report.

Also, some companies presented to the rest of us what they are building and I have to say, pretty impressed with what I have seen!

We also had a visit from founders from a couple of companies that went through Techstars in previous cohorts – this is known as founder stories, which bring more insights into what it means to be part of Techstars. So far they all agree: it has been one of the best experiences, and so far I can agree with that.

After that, we headed to the pub where we were invited to have some drinks and food and mingle with fellow companies. Also, the Ambie guys got to show us what they are all about and delighted us with a sample playlist and some shots at the end (which i didn’t partake in because my body simply can’t handle shots and I needed to take the picture!).

Such nice gang, wow
Such nice gang, wow

To finish the night, I got to walk home with Tak who I run into on my way home and convinced him that waiting for the bus was a bad idea considering the tube strike. And I am glad he accepted my invitation to walk together, cause we had a very deep but beautiful and helpful conversation. So, thanks Tak for not thinking I am just completely mad – or if you think so, just thanks for coping up with me 😉

And now, time to sleep, but before a quick summary of the day…

Time I went to sleep last night: 1.39am

Total hours of sleep: 5.18

Mood for the day: happy

Gin & Tonics: around 4 (Singles – might explain the mood)

Shots: 0 (Thank God)

Level of tiredness: actually not too bad

Hugs given: at least 4

High fives from Ben Southworth: 1 (and it *was* a proper one) 

Soundtrack for the day (contrary to what Stan may think, this is a good tune!):

The pressure timer...
The pressure timer…

Techstars London day 3: Already feeling the benefits

Today was a long day. I woke up early (6.30am), jumped in the shower and got on the run.

I walk everyday from our lovely flat in Haggerston down to Clerkenwell. It takes me about 45 minutes to get to the office and it is good exercise. I am not a morning person – actually, let me correct that: I am not an (insanely early) morning person and walking helps me a lot to wake up and be more alert.

I arrived at 8am with a bit of buffer time to get changed and head to the CTO meeting. Our first. The meeting was led by Tak and to my (great) surprise Dom Davis was the guest this week. Yes! The same Dom Davis that inspired me to start blogging my experience at Techstars! THE Dom Davis in the flesh! (Sorry got a bit carried away there..)

The CTO meeting is presented during the induction as a “forum where you can b*tch about your CEOs” the same way that the CEO meeting is an “opportunity to b*tch about the CTOs” – but in reality, and as Dom already pointed out in his book, it was actually a very helpful chat about things that are concerning us in our position.

Some of us have experience managing teams but some others don’t. Or some are more confident about the technologies they are using, and some need some help with this or that. But there we were, a room full of incredible talent, and as Dom put it, among all of us, we are sure to cover most expertise areas in computing, which makes the group incredibly powerful. If you have a question you just ask. It felt great to be able to be open about our worries. It’s also good to see that, it is ok to not have everything figured it out but knowing in the end it will be ok. 

Right after the CTO meeting we went onto our first deep dive as a company. The first rule of the deep dives is…you don’t talk about the deep dives. But I will say this: it was a brilliant conversation with Max, Jon and Ben and that I finally got to show that I am not as quiet as it seems at times! (*)

After that, I spent the rest of the day coding. There’s one thing that I am not sure all developers would agree on, but even though I can be quite productive and get great insights in meetings and all, there’s no better metric for productivity than the number of commits or lines of code(**) that you write in a day. So for me, to have finished off (almost!) some work that has been dragging for a while felt great.

Another good thing of Techstars so far is having an office. Especially an office where, not only there are other great companies in your cohort, but there’s also great companies where you have a bunch of your closest friends, who you can ask for help and they won’t hesitate to give you a hand after a long day at work (thanks Nickrw!).

Ended up grabbing dinner at 9pm at Byron. Naughty, I know, but hey! I just had a salad for lunch and I totally skipped the pastries at the CTO meeting – can’t promise I’ll always have this will power though.

And final highlight of the day, our screens arrived! And they are massive! Not sure what it is about them, but I just get 10x more productive when I am working on 27” than 13”. It must be (again) a developers’ thing, since Stan’s and Maria’s reaction was “I am not sure I need this big ass screen” – but I assure them they will love it!

My final setup :D
My final setup 😀

To finish off, while chatting to Dom, he gave me a few ideas to include in the posts, which I absolutely loved and for the sake of science I will implement: provide numbers on how much I sleep every night, when I wake up, when I go to bed and what my mood for the day was, etc – then I will analyse it and see if there’s any correlation. I have also noted down my weight and will see by the end of the program just how much more I have put on – I have been hearing it is bound to happen, so might as well embrace it but trying to keep healthy. 

So here’s the summary for the day:

Wake up time: 6.30am

Hours of sleep: 5.48

Mood for day: Positive and happy due to productivity during the day

Levels of tiredness (as of 00:47): extreme 

And to finish off, since I am a music passionate and I started this blog not long ago to blog about music but didn’t get to much of it, I will also add the soundtrack for the day: 

Now, off I go to sleep, tomorrow more…

(*) The first real conversation I had with Tak he mentioned I seemed like the quiet type. To his surprise, now he can’t shut me up! 

(**) Sometimes (generally) less code is better in terms of design, but you still need to write code 🙂

Techstars London day 2: A quick one

So, I just wrote a very nice post that it is lost because Squarespace doesn’t have autosave (waaa?).

So in a nutshell, great day, a bit of induction on mentor madness which is scheduled for next week, a couple of meetings with Hacksociates to touch base about a few things we want to help with and generally getting used to the fact that I am back in an office environment (with tons of people) (*). 

Also, I was planning to work a bit more tonight before heading to bed, but fear not, I left my laptop charger in the office and vagrant (virtualbox) it is not nice to battery life. (**) and (***).

On the plus side, the nice ladies that run Warner Yard, Linda and Emma gave me a chest of drawers for my desk, so epic win! 

So early night for me  to be ready for CTO meeting early morning and deep dive…

Night night, and thanks for reading.

(*) Time to get a new good pair of headphones

(**) /giphy facepalm


(***) /giphy fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu

Hello again: Day 1 of Techstars London

Many reasons for the radio silence – last post was from more than a year ago and a lot has happened since then! Today though, I felt it was a good day for a come back (and beware, I might come back with a vengeance!).

Where to start…

A year ago I left Mendeley (the company I worked for about 5 years) to start my own venture, Headliner, with my two co-founders and friends Maria and Stan

We’ve been working very hard for the last year to make it all happen. Last April we launched to the public and it’s been awesome, unbelievably busy and slightly frenetic at times since then. Even though it has been hard (working from home, though flexible and convenient, it can get lonely and  make you a hermit), it has been a great ride and I would do it again without hesitation.

Today is a good day to come back, because today we started our journey as a Techstars company and we can finally announce we are part of the Fall 2015 cohort. Needless to say I (we) am (are) incredibly excited.

Left to right Headliner's co-founders: Stan, Maria and myself. Slight look of fear I am pulling, but I promise you this is just down to the fact that I might be the most anti-photogenic person. I am actually super excited! Also, I need a haircut.
Left to right Headliner’s co-founders: Stan, Maria and myself. Slight look of fear I am pulling, but I promise you this is just down to the fact that I might be the most anti-photogenic person. I am actually super excited! Also, I need a haircut.

Aware there are tough times ahead – 3 months of intensive work, non-stop meetings, KPIs, deep dives, mentor madness… still, I get the feeling it is gonna be good fun and well worth it and really gonna help us grow. 

Inspired by Dom Davis’ 100 days of TechStars, I have decided to document my experience – mainly so I can reflect on everything that happens and analyse how I feel as the program progresses. And just before I forget, I am incredibly thankful to have Jesper, who is the most supportive boyfriend in the world(*). 

Today has been a great day(**) and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring. I think we are definitely onto a good start. And with this thought, it’s time for me to hit the sack.

Welcome back to my little corner on the Internet…


(*) First thing they told us to do was to thank our family for their support, since they will see very little of us during the next three months. Hopefully, i’ll still get to see him almost every night (will report on this later)…

(**) Check out the picture we took at an unexpected stop during our surprise activity…

From left to right: Martin from Sorry as a Service, myself and my co-founder Maria
From left to right: Martin from Sorry as a Service, myself and my co-founder Maria