Our annual tradition, this time as not just flatmates but as Flatmate Founders.
Our annual tradition of End of the Year reflection events (aka Homie Days) started in December 2016 (way before Spotify's wrapped campaigns were a thing). In a recent call, a user described December as the Friday of the Year! (this hit home because our Fridays are reflection days at Wonderpath HQ)
On Homie Days(TM), we find a spot in the city to eat and reflect on the highlights and lowlights for each month that year. Being flatmates and friends first, this is our time to relive some happy moments, be grateful for all the learnings, and appreciate all things we experience day-to-day.
Here's an organized summary of our reflections from 2021—the year we officially became full-time co-founders.
Things to Celebrate
Not only was is this a huge milestone, but also the fact that we became so much more comfortable talking about our journey publically is a huge achievement for us. We realized that getting started is all about shifting mindset.
We embraced the fact that the journey of building anything is not a sprint, it's a marathon. Now we share our failures and learnings and celebrate wins on Twitter.
The fact that we set up payroll for Wonderpath this year is an admin milestone that deserves a special mention. This year has been nothing short of incredible for Wonderpath. Our team grew beyond just us: Lianet, a go-getter self-taught developer joined our mission this year. We got to watch over 50 global individuals use the product and give us so much feedback and love. And the best part is that we're only getting started!
Met with Fantastic humans
The biggest advantage of being a founder is that you can choose the kind of people you want to work with. The global movement towards remote work made it easier for us to connect with people located anywhere in the world! Access to remote tools and people's willingness to create meaningful connections without meeting in real life was at a peak. Both of us joined - in different cohorts - the Transcend Network this year and that was the hub to meet fantastic humans. Funny story, after having worked with and known Alberto for over a year, we met him for the first time in Berlin where the only new thing we learned about him was that he's mega tall, and the only new thing he found out was the 3D layout of WonderpathHQ (aka our apartment) — so yes, you can for real build meaningful connections and work with people globally now.
At the beginning of our full-time founding journey, we did an exercise on our values. What drives us to build what we’re building. A common theme that came up for us was to have fun and learn while building.
Some new skills we added to our portfolio include, learning website design on Webflow, how to write cold messages that convert to calls, making friends on the internet, building an audience on social platforms, and lots of resilience (Dafni wrote about this some time ago, here).
To be honest, we realized that most people in the world are winging it at their jobs. And so embracing that meant deciding to optimize for maximum learnings in our own style of winging it in the unknown territory of business building. Of course, we've had the incredible support of our mentors and investors along the way.
Build your circle of trust
Building a close group of trusted advisors is important. Once upon a time, we took advice from anyone with great credentials. What changed in 2021, was that we now talk to and network with almost everyone (Tanya wrote more about networking in this post) but we only pick things apart and take strategic decisions after consulting a consistent group of trusted advisors. We don’t have to give them new context every time, they know what drives us, and they are invested in our business and our growth path. Some have known us for an entire year as founders and some as humans for many years: they are our circle of trust!
Things to improve
Make time for ourselves
This was a constant struggle with all the tasks we had to juggle. Looking back at the year, not only did we start building a business full time, dealing with paperwork (in German), but we also danced at our friends' wedding in Italy, raised an angel round to keep Wonderpath afloat, and had the chance to visit family and give masked hugs. We learned that as founders we can always do more to reach the next milestone we've set for ourselves. The reality though is, nothing goes as per plan. This is why making time to focus on what you care about personally is important. We're now experimenting with habits and routines (thanks to Make Time resources) and pledge to be better starting now!
Prioritize thinking time
Execution is important. It is also our strength. A lot of times we found ourselves jumping into ideas and just hitting them off the ground instantly. As a result, we were doing a lot but it didn’t feel like anything was moving the needle. This wasn’t because we didn’t have OKRs, this was because we didn’t spend enough thinking time BEFORE hitting play. Last month, we had Mats (a friend, and a very talented PM) moderate a product workshop and map assumptions for an opportunity with us. This dramatically changed the way we prioritize thinking time, and focus on experimentation and collecting results with laser focus.
Experiment to build confidence
John Danner's approach to business building aka experimenting your way to product-market fit changed our mindset towards discovering our magic. We pledge to do at least 3-5 experiments weekly to validate or disprove assumptions. We focus on only moving one metric at a time.
Don’t just build a startup, build a movement
One of the best sessions at the Transcend Fellowship is about building a movement with your start-up. There's a lot of advice on how to not sell your solution but focus on the problem you're solving. This twist of building a movement involves telling the world your angle of looking at the problem, and defining the world you'll create if your solution came to life.
Here are our "Spiky Points of View":
Individuals have an inherent need to feel that they are learning and improving their skills.
People that intentionally think about their own growth are more productive.
Boundaries between "professional" skills and personal skills will blur.
It's powerful to leverage anyone you work with to build self-awareness.
More and more people will have side-gigs along with their full-time jobs.
We are building Wonderpath because we believe individuals want to take charge of their own growth beyond the boundaries of a company they work for.
We want to take this approach with us! We are building a movement around self-improvement and individuals owning their growth, no matter what the solution looks like today or tomorrow.
Things to remember
Stay in constant touch with the users
We went through periods of self-doubt. We realized that going heads own on building-mode led to us losing touch with our users. Now we've set a rule to talk to 10 users 1-1 weekly. Our confidence and product improvements are fueled by these interactions.
We'll take our ultimate learning to be: deliver value first, no matter what it takes.
Diversify: Build a portfolio of happiness
Sahil Lavingia's (Founder, Gumroad) approach to life hit home. He advocates for building a portfolio of happiness.
"You’ll have multiple roles and that will become very common (I’m a founder, investor, author, says Sahil). That’s healthy for multiple reasons: First, your work identity is a specific percentage of your whole identity. Second, you don’t put all your hopes and dreams in one basket and call it THE thing. Diversifying your portfolio of happiness means if things don’t go your way (which likely they won't) only a certain percentage of your identity was invested. And this reduces the pressure off of you significantly.”
Know that everything takes time
Media, news, and other sources of information highlight grand successes. We see lots of large funding rounds on Twitter and it's natural to sometimes get inspired and sometimes get frustrated to see success stories. Believe that there are no shortcuts or finish lines, but building something valuable takes time.
It's important to know that whatever we do it will pay off in some way. There are no guarantees or accurate predictions to assure founders about what’s going to happen. Commitment and patience will give you skills, things to reflect on, learnings, and the idea of “purpose”.
Writing is a life hack
Writing almost turned out to be a secret life hack. Both of us started writing as an exercise to process thoughts, keep track of ideas, reflect on learnings, or just build a ritual. The Flatmate founders blog was also born as a writing experiment to document our journey as co-founders. We'll continue sharpening this skill and investing in it because we've experienced a fantastic ROI so far!
We may not have reached our Goodreads annual target of books to read, or checked off some experiences from the bucket list this year. But looking back on the learnings and experiences we've collected we are proud of how we've become so much better at being founders.
We hope that you are also taking the time to reflect on your wins, and patting yourselves on the back for all that you’ve learned, achieved, and dodged this year. Here's wishing all readers, supporters, friends, family, and their loved ones a very happy and healthy annual Friday!
PS: Our core job is building Wonderpath, but once in a while we’ll write here and share our learnings with you. If you’d like us to cover other topics in the ecosystem of co-founding write to us!