Nico du Plessis

Things I Learned From My First Startup

Back in 2008 I sort of stumbled into my first startup, Glucode. Apple had released the first public iPhone SDK to developers earlier that year and iPhone apps were fast becoming the popular thing to do. At that stage I was not familiar with Cocoa or Objective-C, I did not even own an iOS device.

A friend of mine called me up one day and wanted to know whether I could do an iPhone app for one of his clients. I had no idea how to, so naturally we said yes, and all of a sudden we had a business. It wasn’t a well planned thing, we didn’t have a business plan or investors, and to be honest, we had no idea how to run a business. Some of the things we took on we completely screwed up, others we knocked out of the park, but along the way I learned a couple of things.

Other stuff will take a lot of your time

When you’re involved in starting a new business, other stuff will take a lot of your time. You won’t just be building your product or service offering, you won’t be able to code 8 hours a day, some days you won’t even get to code at all. Plan accordingly.

Do it right from the start

When you start a business, chances are that you’re probably going to be doing it with limited resources. Your time, finances and human capital will be really tight. This will inevitably make you cheap, and rightly so, you have to make the most of what you have. That being said, there are some places where you’ll probably want to save money, but you’d be really ill-advised to do so.

Do things right from the start. Get competent lawyers to set up employment contracts and whatever agreements you might need. You might be small and insignificant in the beginning, but a year or two down the line, there will be unscrupulous people who’ll want to take advantage of you.

Legal agreements, especially those concerning IP, profit sharing and human resources are really dangerous areas, tread lightly here. One mistake can completely destroy everything you and your team have worked so hard for. Approach experts to help you out with accounting, HR and legal matters. The cost might make you think twice in the early stages, but you’ll never regret it.

Take time off

There’s no doubt that starting a business is probably one of the most difficult tasks you’ll take on in your lifetime. You’re going to be working long nights and weekends. Everyone needs time to rest, you don’t have infinite energy. It’s only once you actually take time off that you’ll notice how tired you’ve become.

All of the above might seem rather obvious, but it’s usually not until you take five minutes to actually think about it that it becomes a formal and recognised thought.