Lessons Learned

Below are the main lessons learned throughout my early entrepreneurial endeavours which have allowed me to continually improve and achieve great results.

2002 - Endeavor #1 - ThinkFreak

(Built first VoIP telecom provider in Brazil)

In 2002, I founded my first startup (ThinkFreak) and was responsible for building the tech behind the birth of the first two VoIP telecom companies in Brazil (1 year before Skype was founded). At that point I thought I was going to become a millionaire fast, but usually things don't go as planned. After almost 2 years, when the service started to get traction, our partner decided to change the rules of our partnership in an unfair way that ended up in a lawsuit that lasted 6 years (court ruled in our favor in the end) and bankrupted the company.

Lessons Learned:

  • Choose your Business Partners Carefully: Get to know them better and contact their previous partners whenever possible.
  • You and your Business Associate must have the same culture and mindset: Having the same culture and mindset is one of the most important foundations for building a business. It makes the journey and decisions faster and easier. Otherwise you will grow in a constant "tug of war" which is unproductive. That does not mean that you have to agree on everything, of course.

2008 - Endeavor #2 - Specta

(Software House, First Products)

We started with an idea for a product (Online Dashboard Builder), but Product Management as we know it today, with the Lean mindset, did not exist ("The Lean Startup" by Eric Ries was only launched in 2011). Concepts such as MVP, Problem/Solution Validation and Customer Discovery were not known to us. Building a complete product (with only a few interactions with prospects) was the only way we knew and that was a very expensive and time-consuming path.

We reached a point where investment was needed, but at that time, an investor market was not developed for Startups in Brazil. The only way we could get help (non-financial) was though university incubators (and we’d had a bad experience with them with my first endeavour). So we started taking on web projects to pay the bills and that was when the product died.

Lessons Learned:

  • Professional Service can not coexist with Product Development: A software house cannot coexist with product initiatives because building projects for others is requires a lot of time and dedication

1) If you don't help building a Backlog the client might end the project

2) Nothing has value for the client if it is under the hood, so we never stop building new features. Refactoring does not exist. Technical debt keeps building up until the maintenance consumes more time than product development (difficult for clients to understand)

3) Knowledge of the project is held in the hands of a few and training new hires gets more and more expensive with time (even more than a month sometimes). If you lose someone, your client won't pay for the time required to train a new hire.

  • Lean Mindset: the way to start something new without spending a lot of money;
  • Scrum: everyone (even clients) can understand the value os Scrum.
  • Manage People can be Fun: Involve your team by creating Cerimonies such as Scrum Cerimonies (Daily Meeting, Sprint Planning/Review) and Talent Building (Feedback)