2013: the lessons of the past year

The end of the year: the time for Christmas, some rest, books, all things undone because of too muck work, seeing the people you don’t see because of too muck work, to eat, to sleep, to drink… Apparently, too many things to do and too little time… again.

It is just the time of the year to stop for a second and to think of the things that happened to you during the past months. It is the time for some resolutions in order not to miss the important lessons you’ve probably learned. It’s not that bad to do it at least once per year.

This is what I am going to do; and to search for some lessons learned; to remember some great moments. 2013 gave me a lot of them!

It was my first year of doing a startup as my main occupation. It turned out that doing a startup is not a job, but lifestyle. When it all depends on you, you simply change your whole life in order to get it growing. It takes some time to understand it.

1. January lesson

eventyard-team-with-viki-mastilo

You have friends to help you. You just have to ask them. 

It’s not a bad thing to ask your friends to help you to take off. If you cannot make your closest people to believe in what you do and to support you, it would be even harder to do it with people who don’t know you. And we started that way: Eventyard was launched in January and more than 50 Bulgarian bands (like Mastilo, the first one!), DJs, musicians and artists joined our campaign “I Use Eventyard” to support us.  Today, we have more than 150 of them along with some bars and clubs who liked what we’ve created. They are getting more and everyone is welcome to be part of this.

2. February lesson

Eventyard-startup-of-2012-BAIT

When you do your best and work hard people will see it eventually.

If you don’t give 110% of yourself in your work, it is hard to get the best of the others in return. The more you do the more people will start seeing the result of your efforts. But it takes time and you need to be persistent. We’ve done a lot in 2012 to earn the award for “Startup of 2012” by BAIT. Now, we have to work harder to get better!

3. March lesson

air-berlin-doing-it-right

Pitching at competitions and startup events is not every startup’s road.

When we joined Eleven Accelerator Venture Fund, we became part of a community that we didn’t know before. One of the things that startups do nowadays is to pitch a lot in order to get higher exposure; to meet potential investors and partners. This is perfectly okay, because is a great way to do a lot of networking and people to get to know you.

However, pitching at every startup event is not the right strategy for every startup. We felt like we need to be everywhere possible and especially abroad, because coming from Bulgaria puts you in a lower position than the startups from countries like Germany, UK etc. So, we started looking for events to pitch and in March we went to Berlin. Then we realised that’s not the way for us. There are startups that can impress the investors with very innovative technology and geeky product; or extremely experienced founders with tons of connections and knowledge. We didn’t have that. We couldn’t impress anyone and going to too many events like these, would only waste our precious time…

4. April lesson

bar-flipflop-opening-sofia

When you run out of money, find another way. Don’t give up.

When you travel to pitch here and there, you waste a lot of money. And when your initial investment is over, but you still have goals to achieve, you get stuck. Lesson learned: there is always another way to save the day!

This is when the power of a great team shows its best! Eventyard team opened a bar. Yes, that is what happened and it saved the day. With total bootstrapping, we created a small miracle from scratch. It was an opportunity that Eventyard founders Kiril and Oleg grabbed and it turned out to work very well. A small local bar is a startup which doesn’t need big investment and the ROI point comes quite soon. It is easy to monetise, but it takes a lot of daily efforts.

However, creativity in doing it with less money repays: in order to make it cozy, we covered the ceiling with comic books; called the bar FlipFlop and created hand-made menus placed on flip-flops; we made foursquare specials and prepared some cocktails you cannot find in many other bars in Sofia; but most importantly, welcomed everyone with a smile. We loved doing it!

5. May lesson

do-your-job

Do your job, don’t wait for anyone else to do it.

When you have so many things to do, you easily get distracted. At some point you need to rely on other people to do their job and until they do it, you’re stuck. That’s the worst part of working in a team. That’s why it is so important to do the things that depend on you on time and not to delay your daily tasks. Never leave today’s work for tomorrow! It is awful to have double amount of tasks just because you were lazy yesterday.

6. June lesson

protests-in-bulgaria

Common belief is the most powerful thing in the World. Is it though? 

What is stronger: a crowd joining forces to hate something, or a crowed joined forces to love and believe in something? The result is different, but which one creates things? The second one. The first one only destroys.

June was full of lessons. The ridiculous Government managed to get more than 30,000 people on the streets to protest against the way the manage the country. It was amazing to see this happening in time when Bulgarians are getting more and more unbelieving in their good future.

For the first time I saw many friends of mine to be so active, awake and inspiring.

6 months later the lessons from #ДАНСwithme are even more: every cause gives energy for limited amount of time; if you are persistent (like the Government) and don’t give up easily, you manage to do your thing; if you are not that aggressive and are creative and positive in your demands, you can’t win against insolent people (like the Bulgarian Government). This is the world we live in.

7. July lesson

eventyard-in-london-code-first-girls

Escaping for awhile is good for your mental health.

July was the start of a brand new experience for me. I got selected in a programme called “Code First Girls” in London and used the opportunity to open a door for Eventyard. We gave away our amazing rented flat in Sofia; packed our stuff and took the plane. 2 months in London was a completely new thing for us and was quite an experience!

I believe that everyone needs to live somewhere else for some time of their lives. I totally agree with Rachel Rae why living abroad is so important and I came to the point to desire it very strongly. Doing it for a short time is better than not doing it at all.

The whole experience was a blast: we met a lot of new people; I levelled up my character to Coding: Level 1 and that was the start of improving my hard skills in a longer term. We also pitched a lot Eventyard – to random people, to investors, to mentors, to other entrepreneurs… We even went to Munich for 2 days to pitch at ProSiebenSat1 Accelerator. It was crazy and the speed of our work increased more than 10 times!

8. August lesson

code-first-girls-2013

There is a lot going on around. You need to focus.

The end of the programme was a start of another one. We came to the point to decide weather is valuable to join another accelerator based in Portugal, where Eventyard made it to the top 74 teams selected to participate. With two months away from our team, me and my co-founder Oleg were really worried how that would affect the rest of the crew. We knew that if we want to get international, we have to do things like that and such opportunities should not be missed.

Lisbon Challenge was a great match: no equity taken, no investment; simply focus on growth and opportunity to travel more and get some cash prices. Not to mention the contacts, workshops and the new mentors. And we focused. And we said: “Yes, we will do it!”

9. September lesson

lisbon-portugal

Things look different when some time passes. Do not underrate things and stick to your first impressions.

When we arrived, I hated Lisbon. It looked so dirty to me and there were hills everywhere. I needed to climb just to get down the hill 5 minutes later; and get to more stairs again; and get down the hill! It was so hot; and I didn’t know Portuguese.

Two weeks later I started to understand the city. Two months later I was totally in love with Lisbon and I have a dream: to have a small apartment and a bar there when retire. :D Later, probably a hostel… Who knows?!

10. October lesson

lisbon-challengers-in-le-petit-paris

The time you spend on travelling, working on projects and meeting new friends is priceless.

Do you see these guys? They were super awesome! We met the amazing people behind projects like DEbranded, Revstr, Eventya, Stuffle. We became friends and helped each other. Something like that would never happen if you stay at home, or at your office. You need to search for new opportunities and they come when your hard working meets the right moment and the right people. We got our next amazing mentor there and that is more valuable than any money spent on going and living there.

11. November lesson

lisbon-from-the-plane

It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

Lesson old as world. We made it to the top 25 teams (something like level 2) in Lisbon Challenge and pitched at the Investors day. But we didn’t make it to the top 10 to fly to New York, Sao Paolo and London next. But that’s ok. What we’ve learned on the way to the final stage of the competition was all new for us and we left Lisbon as different people (at least a bit different). These 4 months in very intensive programmes changed they way we work, think and plan our roadmap. Not talking only about Eventyard. Talking about everything we do; I am sure we now do everything better.

12. December lesson 

alex-at-tedxmladostwomen-2013

You should never stop. You should take care of yourself though.

It was an epic ending of a stressful year: super ambitious task-list for our team; and super-ambitious task-list for myself. Somehow we made it and using every single minute in doing something was the way to manage all of the tasks on time.

But I couldn’t beat a flu for more than 20 days. I got cold and didn’t stop working because I couldn’t afford to. Your body and mind say that you’re exhausted and need to stop for a while, but your will doesn’t let you to. That’s not healthy and if you don’t take care of your self first, you wouldn’t be able to take care of anything else at all. Do not forget that health is super important. Just because you’re young and strong, doesn’t mean you are immortal.

Live actively and do a lot of things to enjoy life full of exciting events. Happy new 2014!

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