We've got three-man start-up Highlight working in the Reason office at the moment. Three chaps from design, project management and engineering backgrounds at some of the world's most recognisable disruptive companies, who decided to step out of their comfort zones to change the way we find and consume video based training on the web. We crowdsourced some questions from the team to learn what they are up to.
How did you find out you all wanted to do a similar thing?
Siadhal: Well, the first thing we found out was that we all wanted to do something together. We all worked together at a startup called Osper, which is where we caught the startup bug. After each of us going our separate ways from that company, we stayed in touch and it eventually became clear (we hope) that the three of us had a real chance of making a success of our own company.
After that, there were a few core principles that we articulated that united us:
- We wanted the company we built to be a net-positive for the world
- We wanted the company we built to be a consumer product
- We were all passionate about helping people progress, so it would be great to focus our ideas around that.
Siadhal was living in Amsterdam at the time we decided to work towards starting up together. As such, our process of generating and sharing ideas was optimised for being remote. Basically, we’d jump on a video conference every couple of weeks to talk through certain themes of interest and in-between those sessions we’d fill in a doc with any new ideas. The doc was a template that asked questions such as: “What’s the problem you’re trying to solve with this idea?”, “Why now?”, “Why us?” and a load of others. This was always a good tool for sense-checking the viability of an idea or problem-space as not only did it force us to ask ourselves the right questions, but you could tell how excited the rest of the team were by how much they commented on the doc or proposed complimentary ideas. It was pretty organic which ideas stuck with us based on our inherent combined attraction.
What’s the best thing about being in a startup?
Siadhal: We’re early days, but the best thing for me so far is the feeling that this is truly on us. There can be no excuses if things don’t go well, no bosses to blame or office-politics to deride… it’s all on us. It’s a scary, exciting feeling. Also, it’s super interesting the breadth of topics we have to clue ourselves up on both from a product-building and company-building perspective. We’re learning lots everyday.
Shahriar: For me, I’m actually enjoying the fact that so much is unknown. In fact, it’s the unknown unknowns that make this so exciting.
Jonny: I agree with all the above, but I’m also really happy to be meeting loads of people who want to help. It's amazing how much of a network of interested, smart and helpful people you build – pretty much everyone we've talked to over coffee or Skype has given us a new tidbit, introduced us to a friend or passed on valuable advice. My tip is to always take the meeting and be a sponge!
Is culture something you’ve started to think about as you build highlight.app
Siadhal: All three of us are very hot on the importance of company culture. Probably the main thing we’ve done to control for it at the moment is talking up front about the type of company we want to build, but we haven’t canonised this in to any deck or agreed any final language. We should do soon though.
The types of things we agreed before starting this together were that we wanted this to be a mature, thoughtful start-up. This means we’re of course going to work hard, but we’re also putting a lot of emphasis on working smart in order to be efficient. Having worked in startups and scale-ups for the last 4 years it is incredible to see the amount of effort that is wasted, which places a burden on personal lives as well. We are determined to avoid this.
We also all want to have fun. Have fun, and make an impact. Not just one of the two :)