Nine years ago, I joined a scrappy software startup in the suburbs of Philly. The office was on a run-down street atop of a noisy locksmith space and across from a car detailing garage. But what it lacked in glamor it made up for in basic business sense and the opportunity it presented to build something real. And while the company didn’t rapidly recruit specialists across every discipline, it had a sustainably growing stable of super bright generalists willing to roll up their sleeves, think about the business holistically, and solve whatever problems needed to be solved. This was my vibe. These were my entrepreneurial people.
About nine out of ten startups go bust early in their lifecycles. It’s a brutal fact. But 50 employees, two product versions, a thousand customers, and millions of dollars of gross profit per year later, and it’s safe to say WizeHive has been the exception. I like to think it’s because the fundamentals - relentless focus on solving real-world problems, spending customer aquisition dollars wisely, and treating people right, just to name a few - are key. But I also can’t stress enough the importance of good timing and a healthy dose of luck.
In any event, WizeHive is no longer a startup. It’s a growth-stage company. There is still a strong focus on the fundamentals, but the company is no longer desperately trying to figure out who its customers are, if they will pay, and what should be built for them.
The challenges never subside, but they do change. Once a startup transitions to a growth-stage company, days previously spent engaging in foundational build-outs of ideas and processes give way to initiatives that aim to iteratively improve existing ones. And when this happens, specialization takes over. Fact is, both the startup and growth phases are tough. But if you thrive when specializing, then the growth phase will find you more engaged, effective, and desirable than ever before. And if you’re a generalist, you’re in the opposite place. For you, this new phase means you need to decide where you fit. Do you reinvent yourself or do you revisit and amplify your original strengths in a new setting?
WizeHive is everything a growing company should be. But it’s no longer for me. As of the end of 2019, I am resigning as CTO, immensely grateful for the trust placed in me by colleagues and investors over the years, the ride I’ve been able to share with them, and the lessons I’ve been able to internalize along the way.
As I look forward to 2020, I am equal parts excited and terrified. It won’t be easy to start over. In recognition of that fact, for the first time in my career, I’m going to just take a short bit of time off to recharge before I go all-in. But I believe there will be a lot of upside in getting back to my roots with the full force of my professional passion behind me. In the meantime, feel free to reach out. I’m looking forward to connecting with folks over the coming months. :)