Nov 25, 2021 · 13 min read · 2,934 views
Over the years, i met several people that left quite an impact on me and, in many cases, helped me along the way.
I tried to summarize one learning from each.
I split it into stages of my life. Growing up in Vienna; moving to London and Berlin, running my own companies, moving to SF to work on multiple companies there… etc.
A lot of the people i mention here overlapped in different phases of my life. E.g. the people i hired for our startup later also joined companies i worked at in San Francisco – i tried to put them into the buckets where i met them the first time or where we worked together the most.
Besides this attempt at structure, this list is in no particular order and misses about 1000000 people, most likely including you.
I grew up in Vienna, my family comes from the rural south of Austria (running this cottage in the mountains for the longest time)
I have a very confusing CV – and given that i grew up in Vienna, most of that confusing stuff happened here.
Next to university, i ran online communities, worked as a cheap freelancer, which i called "computer science prostitution" – decided to focus on facebook apps by starting an agency, ran a music magazine, organized club parties, tried helping overthrow the leadership in a political party as well as the national tv organization, was very active in helping to build the local startup scene, and launched my own startup.
But step by step…
Local startup scene
Vienna has a fantastic startup scene nowadays. When I started, there were less than 3 or 5 other startups (in the modern sense) around.
- Helge Fahrnberger - the power of social software, the possibilities of the internet and in general being my first mentor without him ever realizing
- Edward Hartwig (now leading USDS) - you can be a nerd about literally anything, even immigration law
- Frederik Debong (Founder of MySugar) - you can plug-in stuff into your body and hope you don't write bugs that kill you
- Moritz Plassnig (founder of CodeShip) - every business needs a hustler
- Lukas Fittl (Founder of PGAnalyze)- do things the right way
- Felix (Founder of Fastlane) - you can engineer your life
- Tosh (inofficial geek ambassador of Austria) - nerds. community. vision. that’s all we need.
- Juergen Hoebarth (excellent visionary) - you can predict the future by following the present‘s path
- Michi Ströck (investor) - ADHD is a super power
- Stephanie Cox (Startup scene cornerstone and later member of Parlament) - you can be an actor improving this world
- Csongor Bias (CEE startup leader) - help people to your fullest; no matter if you just met them or not
- Mimi (Editor in Chief of our magazine) - there is no task too overwhelming as long it’s on a to-do list
- Gilbert Wedam (Later Co-Founder of my Startup) - you are not finished, until you have thought it through completely
- Klaus Coufal (IT Teacher) - the goal of every job is to make sure you are not needed (automate or hire yourself out of your job)
Overclockers.at - my first community project
Before working as a freelancer, i helped getting an online community off the ground. Overclockers.at was, at it's peak, one of the most active forums worldwide (by member activity).
Nowadays, it's hard to explain how influential, active and tight this community was during this phase.
To give you an idea: At meetups, the admins had nametags reading: "One of the gods" and we had 100-200 people screaming chants.
- Reinhard Teischl (Founder) - dont build communities; build cults
- Stephan Blecher (absurdly efficient and pragmatic lead dev) – the output of the best engineers i not code, but effective product
die.socialisten - my first company
I worked as a mid-priced, sometimes cheap, "freelancer by the hour" for a long time. I called it computer-science prostituion as i would basically build anything for anyone who was ok to pay my (very low) hourly rate.
After learning about willingness to pay i realized that always somewhere someone made the money i didn't ask for. Which, to someone charging by the hour and taking pride in how fast i worked, was a world-shattering insight.
So i switched my strategy and focused on niches where i could be the #1 provider and charge for whole projects, not just implementation. I also started to speak of myself in plural, to pretend that i had a team.
The niche i picked was "social network software applications". (This was before Social Media was a common term)
My little "fake agency" quickly became a real agency when my co-founder joined. We built facebook apps, myspace apps, linkedin apps, twitter apps, anything where we could create exciting user engagement. Thanks to my co-founder, this agency exists to this day and runs one of the leading social media management tools.
- Michi Kamleitner (Co-Founder) - hard work and persistence is the only magic trick
- Jo Nagl (CTO) – never, never ever, lose your best people
Garmz.com - my first startup
At some point, i realized that all the ideas we pitched to clients could be standalone concepts.
I got frustrated coming up with ideas and then seeing the same ideas (as startup) on Techcrunch raising money.
Around the same time, by accident, i ran into my co-founders, and we decided to form a team to work on a big idea of ours. Reinventing the fashion industry. (Why start small?). I blogged about the experience in german
- Tamas Locher (Ex Co-Founder) - start with the best possible solution and – only then – work backward to reality
- Simone Ospelt (Fashion Production Manager, now running digital agencies) - you can apply your skills to any problems, even if unrelated to your experience
- Rafael Jimenez (Fashion Marketing Guru) - fashion is not clothing; fashion is art&culture applied to our life. And life is shallow without art and culture
- Rado (now CTO of Product Hunt) - being positive is a choice
- Ves (now CTO of AngelList) - have people around you who always expect the best from you and call your bullshit
- Petyo (now DoE Stream) - Nobody knows anything, don’t take yourself too seriously and do your best work
- Sitar (Investor) - passion is the most powerful energy source
- Reshma (Founder Seedcamp) - relationships are the only things that matters in the end
- Bruno Haid (Sparring partner, Founder of multiple companies) – quality of life is a mindset
At some point, we decided to downsize Garmz/Lookk a lot. I took myself off the payroll and moved to Berlin to tackle my burnout and come up with new ideas.
To survive, i did a lot of consulting – especially on product and metrics
- Pmoe (Investor) - there is only startup network worldwide and people who create the local uplinks
- Giesbert (Interior Designer) - every object in this world around you has a story
- Riva (Mad Scientist) - genius, creativity, and craziness are the same things from different sides; embrace it
- Peter Henssen (Founder of multiple companies) - you can always reinvent yourself without ever needing to change yourself
- Yanislav Malakhov (Founder of Aeternity) - freaks will lead us into the future
- Christian & Margaux - trying to show me how to adult - i didn’t learn anything though.
One of the "new startup" prototypes became (as MVP) a chrome extension for Product Hunt. This was how i got to know Ryan Hoover. While barely knowing me, he offered to help me with my new startup ideas.
Fate, and general incompetence when it comes to administration, led to the fact that i all of a sudden had a large tax payment ahead of me.
This put my own projects on hold. At the same time Ryan's "Product Hunt" side-project started to take off. He asked if i'd freelance for him, we agreed that i'd be too expensive, but i offered to help for whatever he could pay and work for other clients meanwhile.
After two weeks working at Product Hunt, Ryan told me that he can raise money for it. Which was good! Because, due to how much there was to do, i didn't really look for any other clients – and i was broke as hell. This led to me joining officially as Founding Team and CTO.
Product Hunt was a tight-knit family with several people staying from beginning to exit.
- Jacq (Coworker) - friends are family
- Erik Torenberg (Coworker, now CEO of On Deck) - you get far by just asking the right questions
- Mike (Coworker) - i mention a lot about discipline and routine, but i mainly learned from him how to be a good brother.
- Ryan (Ex Boss) - the core of communites are authentic people who give opportunities to random people (like me)
- Nick Abouzeid (best marketing and ops person i know, funny because he is lawyer) - you can be good at everything if you want to
I also managed to convince multiple of the friends listed further above to join as well! For example Lukas, Ves and Rado joined (among many other friends).
AngelList & SF network
Product Hunt was a global remote team, but we decided to get several people, who made product decisions, to SF. So several people of my team, my future wife, and me moved to SF without barely planning this through.
To make a very long story short, we got acquired by AngelList.
I learned from some of the best people in our industry.
- Naval (Ex Boss and global first-name celebrity) - teach people how you think about topics instead of only what you think about them
- Audrey Kim (Community hyper connector) - creativity is a source of energy
- Onno (Founder of Rarebase) - you always have agency
- Graham (Best manager i ever had) - do the shit work, make your team look good
- Alexis Ohanian (Investor who signed my visa applications) - you can help a lot of people without ever meeting them
- Roy Bahat (Bloomberg Beta) - always create space for inclusion
- Paul Davidson (ex Boss; now Founder of Clubhouse) - being passionate and positive will shape the world around you.
- Pomp & Polina - personal brands are media brands and nobody can ever take them from you
- Garry Tan Investor - actually giving a f^&k and being kind is a competitive advantage in our industry
- Marvin Liao - supporting people worldwide is possible
My Fund - Remote First Capital
While working as "Head of Remote" at AngelList, i started to be more and more frustrated that i couldn't get remote teams to be taken serious. I introduced friends to investors who saw "global work" as a small niche in "Future of Work" and always passed.
For me, there was no future in which we all wouldn't work more globally, digitally, or internationally. In classic - screw this; i will do this myself attitude – I decided to raise my own little fund to invest in opportunities of this changing landscape.
One year later covid came – all of a sudden remote work saved everyone's company. I was lucky to invest in (and with) many of the people who led the way here.
- Johnny Boufarhat (CEO of Hopin) - the fastest growing companies of the future will all be remote
- Marcelo Leub (CTO of Remote) - there are differnt kinds of complexity, the ones you can plan and build for, and the ones you need to first expierence before you build
- Job (CEO of Remote) - there is no company too complex, no challenge too hard, no problem too big, that it couldn’t be broken down and handed over to Marcelo to be solved
- Joel (CEO of Buffer) - stay by your values even if the world around you constantly changes
- Alex Torrenegra (CEO of Torre) - honor your grandparents with your work
- Sten (CEO of Estonia… or should be) - make bets on people
- David Booth (Current Boss) - there is no limit to professional growth
- Placeholder for people i work with now. - coming back here in 1-2 years ✌️
Honorary mentions: People i never met
I usually only read Sci-Fi books and struggle to read non-fiction. But i wanted to mention a few authors here.
- Dale Carnegie (author) - for teaching me how humans operate; who would have known…
- Arthur C. Clarke (author) - that you can predict the future through extrapolation
In the end, everything comes down to friends and family. I mentioned plenty of friends, and i want to mention learnings from my family too.
- Annemarie (my mother) - there is always a solution
- Wolfgang (my father) - you can create your own world with entrepreneurship
- Nico (my cousin) - family comes first
- Jazmin (my cousin's wife) - life needs fire, love and passion
- Susanne Knoll (my wife) - from whom i learned literally everything else i know ❤️
Writing this i realize that this list has two common themes:
- how i learned everything from other people during my life
- how i shared experiences with them throughout multiple stages.
The designer of the music magazine, later became my Co-founder in my startup. The developers in this startup, later joined Product Hunt and later become CTOs in AngelList and Product Hunt respectively. The Coworkers of Product Hunt later started On Deck where i invested in with my fund and joined as CTO.
People don't just go in and out of your life – they share large parts of it with you. For me it's most notably with my wife, with whom i share 15+ years of life. She helped me selling ads for the music-magazine, found our first office of the startup, and later helped me file our visas for the US.
I don't know what your big takeaway here is – maybe it's surround yourself with amazing people, and everything else will happen because of them – maybe it's something else. But in any case i appreciate you taking the time to read this.