Bringing new Ideas to Life :)

20 Oct

Our Team: The story and how it works

Our team has created AtYourService and Foody

AtYourService is an online Marketplace for Local Services like Photographers, Handymen, Tutors or Lawyers and was launched in November 2012.

Since then, over €10,000,000 in services have been requested and over 10,000 Companies and Professionals offer their Services on our platform.

Foody is a web and mobile app that helps you easily order food & drinks for delivery & takeaway

Foody was fully launched in October of 2015 and since then it has grown 4650% and has captured over 70% of the Market.. Our latest estimate is that in 2017, 15% of all food orders for Take away & Delivery in Cyprus will be done through foody.

In its short life our team has received many awards including but not limited the InBusiness award for Best new company in 2014(AtYourService) and the Youth Board of Cyprus – best entrepreneurial activity in 2016 (Foody)

As we always like to say, this is just the beginning. The vision of the Ideas2life team is to do exactly what the name says:

Explore a bunch of ideas, filter the best ones and bring them to life

To do that we believe we need just 2 ingredients. Great people and Resources.

Great People

At Ideas2life we have a passion for great people. Our team consists of hard working, Fast Learning, Dedicated team players who have a constant itch to “create”.

The Ideas2life team currently consists of 15 full time team members (who own or are on the road to own shares of the company) and 3 part time team members.

We are currently looking for great people to expand our team and be ready to launch our next global startup

That’s not as easy as it sounds though.

We are not looking for good people to do a specific job

We are looking for great people – the best actually, who have the skills that are required by our team that will join our team, learn from our culture and experience, and then become better than us at what they do.

One of the questions we are often asked is how do we “measure greatness” and the answer is quite simple.

We don’t really care about fancy university degrees (we don’t dismiss them either as we have more than enough in our team) or mouthwatering experience.

Instead we are looking for people that are fast learners, know how to roll their sleeves up and work and have a do-er attitude.

To see if people are a good fit with our team we try to work with them on a single project, or on a part time basis.  We also do a batch of internships every year that allow us to meet the best university graduates every year.

In general, we try to meet great people every day, learn from them and we believe that sooner or later we will have an opportunity to cooperate with them – that’s actually one of the advantages of the small ecosystem in Cyprus

Resources

Scarcity of resources (when we say resources we mostly mean money) is often cited as one of the biggest challenges in the Cypriot Startup ecosystem.

To get Ideas2life to today, an investment of about €500,000 has been made (about €70,000 from a European Innovation grant and the rest is cash invested by team members) which a decent starting capital.

 

Revenue as Seed Capital

Our goal with this initial investment is to create strong recurring sources of income that pay for the salaries of the team members and finance the operations of our projects.

In essence, we intend to use this income as seed capital to launch new Projects in the future.

For example our goal is in 2018 to be able to have 3 team members work independently on a new project with a seed capital of let’s say €100,000 for a few months.

If that project achieves Product Market fit and the best option is to take it global the team will try to secure “rocket fuel” i.e. additional investment to grow the project internationally.

The team might also focus on additional projects similar to AtYourService and Foody that focus in the Cypriot Market.

Ideally we`ll have enough revenue to continue supporting a great team, and make a few “seed investments” for Global or Local startups.

Our Culture

Having great people means nothing if you are not building a great culture that allows everyone to flourish in it. And we are doing our best to continue building such a culture based on the learnings and experiences of the team.

We have a lot of values that are “Key” to our culture:

Start with a Smile and you will have the Best Results

Yes Start with a smile is our first value. Not because we are “goddamn hippies” (not saying we aren’t) but because smiling and being happy as often as possible is the biggest Productivity Hack anyone can do.

Why do we say that? Well there is a lot of research that backs it up and a great entry point to the research can be found here

And that takes me to our next team Value

Whatever Works

This is probably the value our team is most associated with cos… well we like talking about it. You can find the full explanation here but in short we try very hard to make most of our decision based on hard data.

The data doesn’t have to be collected by us – we try to learn as much as possible from others (hence we follow the results of scientific meta reviews) but we always create theories and hypotheses based on observation and then test them out with real data.

Always use the 80-20 rule

In almost every area of the world, you can achieve 80% of the results with 20% of the effort. We realize this time and time again and I am sure you have your own experiences that point to this direction.

A lot of the tech startups have similar values, like for example the “Better done than perfect” of Facebook, and for good reason.

When things go Wrong you can either learn or assign Blame

We always choose to learn from things. This looks outright weird to our guests.

We often have major screw-ups, and we try to discuss them in the same way we discuss what ingredients we should add on our Pizza – and then we laugh.

It’s not that we don’t take screw-ups seriously – if we did we wouldn’t be here today, it’s that we realize that the screw-up is already been done and the best thing we can do is to learn as much as possible by it so we don’t do it again.

What’s the best way to learn? Have everyone be extremely open about what happened (including what they did wrong). And the only way to do that is if every member of the team knows that we the whole team is not looking to assign blame – but to learn from the situation

Decide when to decide, and don’t question your choices when it’s not decision time.

In the life of a startup each team member and the team as a whole faces a lot of decisions every day.

Sometimes we have to be decisive and give an answer right away, sometimes we must research the topic a lot more before we are ready to make a decision, and sometimes we must understand that now is the optimal time to make this decision.

This sounds simple – but it really isn’t. It’s usually very difficult to do this effectively, without crossing the line and becoming a procrastinator.

Another reason this is very difficult, is that it means that there are open topics left on the table (or in Asana) and in our heads. If we allow them to continue running around in our heads they will wreak havoc, but that’s exactly what most people do.

They say ok I will decide next month on the 12th because then I will have more data, BUT in the meantime the dilemma remains in their head and drives them crazy – which is definitely not fun.

How can you do it correctly? That’s a topic for another time – for now remember the Decide when to decide value.

Work Smart and Hard. There is no substitute for Hard Work

As I wrote above we are looking for Hard Working, Fast Learning (the work smart is in here) do-ers. We believe that these are the basic ingredients for the recipe of success

Always take the Straight and Honest Way

This value is almost always put at the end of the list because if you start a conversation with “Always take the straight road” people will (correctly I guess) assume you are a bullshitter.

We hold this value because:

Short Version: We believe it’s in our best interest to do so

Long Version: You can read it here

Enjoy every day

There has been a lot of research proving that startups are not the best way if you want to make a lot of money, or have a strong career etc.

Starting up is all dirty work. It’s probably the toughest road you can take, and that makes sense, as if it was fast and easy everyone would be doing it.

Then why the hell do you people do and enjoy it?

Well for 2 reasons.

As I said at the beginning, all our team members have an “unscratchable itch” to create and also know how to enjoy every day. The small wins and the goofy stuff.

If you can’t enjoy them, then joining a startup ain’t for you, as you will only see the mountains that you have to climb :)

If you are “naïve” enough to be able to enjoy the small wins, and also get a sense of happiness and fulfillment when you see something that you have created come to life, then maybe you`ll be a great fit with our team.

Great resources & stuff we love

As a team we are very motivated to see our Projects become a great success and we believe that success is the outcome of Smart and Hard Work.

As a guide in our quest, we very often use the Lean Startup Methodology. While we might not follow eeeeeverything in the methodology, we believe that it has a lot of Value and we generally use it as a guide.

At Ideas2Life we also realize that as Humans we often act in very weird ways. Thinking Fast and Slow is a great book that helps us understand our actions.I know it looks boring but really.. read it :)

Other stuff we like:

– Where good ideas come from
– How to be productive

 

Btw, if you came to this article through any of the Job Openings we have well done. We really appreciate you taking the time to read more about our team and so if you decide to send us your CV include the phrase “Achievement unlocked” in your email to let us know that you read this :)

 

Communication

Good Communication is one of the most important factors for well… any team :)

 

The most essential elements for communication are:

  • To create and use the right communication channels for each topic
  • To develop a strong communication culture.

 

Communication culture

In order to have good communication the whole group must speak the same language. Below you will find some very important points that are used by our team, and they really do help communication a lot. These points are relevant for both written and oral, as well as formal and informal communication

Positives First

In a conversation, and when disagreeing or criticizing an idea, always start from the positives. That will make your team mate feel respected and will help him listen – nobody listens when they are in defensive mode :)

If you can’t find a positive thing to say… then what does that say about you working with this team? :)

The Butler Did it

A good novel almost always follows the same structure. The writer begins by creating a rich back-story, he introduces the characters one by one, events start to happen, the plot thickens, and then we have an unexpected twist in the plot.

In older novels, this was the point that we learned that the “Butler was the killer – The Butler did it”
Business Writing is very different than novel writing. In all Business Communication you should start by the punchline – i.e. start with the Butler did it.
The correct structure for all Business Communication is the following:

  • Start with the Punchline
  • Write a Brief Summary below the Punchline explaining why you have arrived at that point (usually a few lines – or less than 1 minute talk)
  • Link to more information for anyone who wants to read more.

 

Exploratory Conversation

Most conversations usually go like this.

The first person tells his opinion about an issue, and the second person holds his breath until it’s his turn to tell his opinion.

As soon as the first person finishes (or usually before that as person 1 keeps talking if not interrupted) person 2 starts telling his own opinion and person 3 holds his breath until…. You see where this is going right?

This is not really a conversation – it’s just everyone sharing their ideas, with a group that doesn’t really listens :)

Instead, in our team we try to have exploratory conversations. In these conversations, we try to enter without having a strong opinion and always start from the facts. Even if we do have a strong opinion we treat the conversation (at least the first part) as an opportunity to see if we can form a different opinion.

I know what you’re thinking. If we do that, then the other guy will just tell his opinion and influence the whole group. So what should you do if another team member starts outlining his opinion and you have a different one?

It’s simple! Play along. Try (truly try) to see the benefits of his opinion and try to see how that could work. Give the opinion of the other team Member a chance. If you believe that your Team mates are smart and capable individuals then they might have a correct opinion once in a while right?

Only once you see all the benefits you should start playing devil’s advocate and examine why the idea will not work. But be truly committed in trying to see the benefits of the idea of your team mate.

Oh and I am guessing that you will ask me about your initial opinion – what should you do with that?

Well… after the conversation completes a full cycle and if your initial opinion is still valid and relevant, then you can say something along the lines “Hey guys, I thought the issue from a different perspective and here it is.”

Now let’s take a minute to think about it, what do you have to lose using this approach?

Will your team member convince the team if you do not rush to invalidate his point? If yes… then you`re not such a great team :)

Will you change your mind if he speaks first? If that’s the case then he’s probably right and you `re probably wrong or the issue is not important enough.

Or are you doing it to save time? Because as we all know disagreements in meetings are solved very quickly and easily :)

 

Communication Channels

When we are in the same Office as our Teammates, Our natural inclination is to just say it when we have a random question/idea/thought (hey we’re sitting next to each other) but that’s usually a very bad option as it:

– Distracts other people, hence reducing their productivity
– Since other people are absorbed in their tasks they don’t give enough attention to the point

So before communication we should think “what is the best way to ask this question/tell this idea” .

Some Communication Channels are better for some forms of Communication

In our Team we use the Following Communication Channels:

  1. Email (Almost never used. Used only for One to Many FYI and Reporting)
  2. Slack (Instant Messaging and Group async Conversation)
  3. Daily Meetings (All non-urgent topics that require group conversation)
  4. Ad-Hoc Chats (All urgent or bottleneck topics that require group conversation)
  5. Asana for Task Management

Initially the above might seem a bit complex, but you `ll get the hang of it soon.

My first piece of advice is write down all your thoughts, and organize them as you move through the day. Most of them will be answered within the day, and if not you can bring the Urgent ones in ad-hoc chats, and the non-urgent ones in the scheduled daily Meeting

Examples of when each communication channel is best:

Email
Emails are the best form of communication when we want to share a lengthy exchange we had with one or more team members. In general, we rarely use emails as for everything that needs to get done we create tasks in Asana.

Asana
Asana is a Project management software and it’s very good for managing tasks in Groups. The rule is simple. Something you have to do? Write in Asana. Want someone else to do something? Write it in Asana and assign it to them.

Slack
Our team uses Slack for its internal communications. Slack is good for topics that require ideas and input from a lot of Members. Use this for e-brainstorming, or for things that you want people to know about, but not take any action with the information – i.e. not for tasks.

Slack communication can get out of hand easily and become quite distracting, so if something requires interaction and discussion we bring it to the daily meeting

The Daily meeting

Every day at 12:00 o clock we have a 20 minute meeting. Here, we bring all topics that need to be announced to most team members, or need brief input from all team members.

This is a speed meeting and each person must respect the time of his team mates and can only spend 1 minute talking about each topic.

 

This is getting too long

I don’t really know the purpose of writing this as of yet. A lot of the things taken here are either from previous blog posts or from our internal wiki which is used to help onboard new team members.

As we are looking to add new members in our team in the past couple of months I often talked about these issues and from the reactions I get I gather that they are useful to people who are looking to our team – and the startup world – from the outside.

There are lots of other things i`d like to write (maybe in a future update of this blog) but this is already too long.

 

However there is one more question I`d like to address:

You guys think you have it all figured out, aren’t you a bit arrogant?

Let me answer this question with a brief story.

I have lot of regular tasks that are built on work I did in the past. Quite often, I touch on work I did two months or so ago and I really can’t believe what I see.

The work is very often bad, and appears stupid by the standards I have today. I mean did I really not now that there are a 100 better ways to do this?

The answer happily is yes – I had no clue that this could be done in a better way and the only way I know that now is because I have learned so much over the last couple of months.

This experience happens to me and all of our team members every week and that’s a sign that we are all learning a lot of shit very fast.

This experience has a very fortunate side effect – it helps realize how many things we still don’t know keep us humble, focused and dedicated to learning and creating great things

Argyris

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