Back in January I announced on this blog that after 5 amazing years I would be leaving SoundCloud. It took me a long time to write that post, but I'm glad I did and should say a big thank you to everyone who gave me positive feedback about it. It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make, but a few months in it still feels like the right one.
One of the biggest things holding me back in making the decision was the question of 'what should I do next?'. How on earth would I follow what was five of the best years of my professional life? I guess I had a niggling 'difficult second album' fear that was unconsciously troubling me and I knew there wouldn't be an obvious answer.
Having two kids and a mortgage to pay, I couldn't take a long hiatus to figure it out. But I didn't want to just jump into an obvious role based on my work at SoundCloud and run the risk of settling into a safe but unrewarding job. The only things I did know was that I wanted to be:
- back in a small, fast-moving team
- working on problems outside of the music industry
- opening myself up to new opportunities
- finding new inspirations and stretching myself to learn new things
There was always one person I thought of whenever I felt in need of inspiration. That was Stef Lewandowski, more prolifically know on the internet as @stef. I first met Stef through @dubber, just as I was joining SoundCloud, and always made sure to keep in touch. He and two other co-founders had formed a new company called Makeshift and after assembling a team of great hackers and designers had spent a year making a lot of things on the Internet.
In these first twelve months, Makeshift prototyped, built and launched 12 products into the world. Those that failed were allowed to die quickly and new ideas were brought to the table. As you can imagine this period was quite chaotic, but very productive. Meanwhile the company was also busy engaging with the London startup community, putting on events and doing a lot of great writing. This sounded exciting, so when Stef told me they were looking for someone to join their team to help grow a couple of their products and focus more on the business/revenue side of Makeshift, it felt like a unique opportunity.
So that's it in a nutshell. My new role is business development at Makeshift (side-note: it's funny how job titles seem irrelevant at startups but essential as you start to grow beyond 20+). We're a startup studio and right now we're focused on building tools for other startups like ourselves. Head over to the new-look Makeshift.io site for a closer look at the current main products.
- Attending - the simplest way to create a beautiful and social event page
- HireMyFriend - helping the best talent get headhunted by amazing startups
- Linkydink - simple link-sharing for groups
- Wrangler - helping small teams work well with their data
Sounds interesting, but what the f*ck is a startup studio, I hear you asking yourself? Well I'm still trying to figure that out but am getting closer to an answer (if there is one) and I'll leave that for another post. In essence, what it means is that we are working on multiple startups at any one time. Working in small cross-discipline teams to rapidly prototype and bring to market new ideas. Our focus right now is on growing the ideas that have the clearest product/market fit, and hopefully the conditions will be right to focus on some more new ideas soon.
So, I asked to get back on the startup rollercoaster and that's certainly what I've got. In fact, right now it feels like I'm riding several rollercoasters simultaneously and without much of a safety harness. Every week throws us around a new corner and up some steep track to come hurtling down the other side. We've definitely hit a couple of unfortunate bumps as the company transitions its focus from hacks to products.
Right now I'm still getting used to looking at metrics that are measured in 100's or 1000's instead of millions and fractions of billions. I'm having to learn a lot about new industries, meeting new people and adjusting to a different culture and new ways of doing things. However, I'm still enjoying being able to look meaningfully through a list of users who joined one of our products each day. And I'm also remembering the joy of getting back to someone to tell them that we just shipped the feature they requested the day before. When you're working on one startup, you take the rough with the smooth. Ambiguity is both a good and bad thing. Speed is essential, but sets a demanding pace. When you're working on three startups at once, multiply it. It's quite an experience.
How will all this work out? What's going to happen in the next five months, let alone the next five years? Frankly, I have no idea. But it feels pretty awesome to be making a shift.
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