Airwallex’s Launch Lessons podcast gives advice from people who have been there, done that, and gotten the company’s branded t-shirt to entrepreneurs who are trying to find their way on the dangerous path to success.
In each episode, a company founder is interviewed about the good, bad, and ugly lessons they learned while starting their businesses.
Here are the most important things we found out.
Connections may propel you forward, but only if your offering is worthwhile.
Larry Gadea made Envoy, a platform for scheduling office visitors, at the height of the epidemic.
Larry used his connections to get his product into 15,000 workplaces, including Slack, Pinterest, and Hulu. Larry was an engineer at both Google and Twitter in the past. With a value of $1.4 billion, the company became a unicorn in January 2022.
I guess you can meet a lot of people if you work at Google and Twitter, says Larry. When I needed them, I went up to them and said, “Hey guys, look at this.” They said, “Oh, this is very nice.” We have way too many offices now because of that cycle.
Larry points out right away that having a network of people who work in Silicon Valley is helpful, but it can only get you so far. If your product isn’t well-done, your friends won’t tell their bosses about it.
Larry was very concerned about user experience (UX). He even started to hang out at the offices of his clients to see how customers used his product.
If someone asks, just say I’m there for an interview and waiting for my turn or something else, he says. The receptionist and I would agree on that. Since software is just software, “you almost have to be a fanatic to make sure you’re doing the best thing possible.”
Listen to the full podcast episode here: Reaching Unicorn Status During a Pandemic, with Larry Gadea, Founder and CEO, Envoy
Even if you fail, your journey doesn’t come to an end.
Kevin Spain began an online business right before the dot-com crash.
Right after he graduated from business school, he started a company called Addison. It offered online tools to help small businesses plan and carry out advertising campaigns.
“Unfortunately, by the time we got it up and running, the whole market was going down,” Kevin says. “And many of our clients started cutting back on marketing. This made less people want what we were making at the time, which made it harder to get money. Our business failed because of this.
When Kevin’s business failed, he worried that he had lost his identity and that he had failed. Eventually, though, he got back up, thought about what he had learned, and moved on to his next project. Since then, he has held important positions at EA and Microsoft, and he is now a General Partner at Emergence Capital. This venture capital firm focuses on early-stage software companies.
Kevin says that a founder’s identity is tied to the business they start. Do you understand that I won’t say failure doesn’t matter? It’s important because I think you can learn a lot from it, but it’s not important because it doesn’t make you who you are. Do you realise you’re not a failure? There is a lot to look forward to in your life. And I always tell people to think about their mistakes. What did they get out of it?”
Listen to the full podcast episode here: The Venture Capital Perspective with Kevin Spain, General Partner, Emergence Capital
Be honest about the challenges in your startup during early-stage recruitment
During the first two years of ThoughtSpot’s growth, Ajeet had countless coffees with potential employees at a Starbucks near his office. During those meetings, Ajeet was careful not to do a sales pitch. He didn’t just want to recruit people that would help him achieve his goals, he wanted to recruit people that would get the most out of working for his company.
“I spend a lot of time just learning about people. What drives them, what motivates them, and not everybody’s a fit for a startup because it comes with a certain risk, reward, commitment, etcetera,” says Ajeet. “You have to make sure that you are recruiting the right people who will thrive in that environment.”
Ajeet is honest with the people he interviews, he tells them about the challenges they will face if they join his company. His aim is to find employees whose life goals fit with the opportunities he can give them.
“I do my best to make sure that people are not feeling that, oh, ‘I made a mistake. I want them to know the good, bad, and ugly. I want to tell them about all the problems we have because we have problems. And that’s why we are recruiting direct people,” says Ajeet.
Listen to the full podcast episode here: Differentiating on Culture with Ajeet Singh, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, ThoughtSpot
A good mentor is important.
Brett Allred is the Chief Product Officer of MX. He is a software engineer and business owner.
Before Brett started working at MX, he met Brandon Dewitt for the first time. Brandon was CTO and one of the founders of MX. Brett was shocked by how smart he was and how much he knew about computer science when they first met. He realised right away that he wanted to work with him.
Brett says, “I think you’re about the same as the five people you hang out with the most.”
You’ll level up if you hang out with good people and are flexible and open. That’s a strong and effective way to improve your skills.
Before Brett lost Brandon to illness in 2021, they were friends and teachers for a long time. Brett says that working with Brandon made him a better leader.
Brett adds, “I could praise Brandon for the rest of my life and all the things I learned from him, but he just had this really deep ability to look at a person and see the next three versions of that person, and then show that person the next three versions of themselves.
Listen to the full podcast episode here: The Founder’s Legacy with Brett Allred, Chief Product Officer, MX
You can listen to all episodes of the Launch Lessons podcast on Spotify.