When did you know you wanted to start your own company?
I was born in a very entrepreneurial home. My parents are doctors who always had side businesses, building ventures such as a shoe factory to real state and agriculture. I’ve seen them always getting informed and finding opportunities in everything since I was a little kid. They also encouraged me since young to do my own ventures, and I did: at age 8, me and brother would make and sell Saint Seya drawings and bead necklaces to our colleagues at school. That made me know I’d have my own business sooner or later, and that’s what happened.
What was your original idea for this company, and are you still doing that (or did you pivot, if so, what is the new focus & why)?
It all started because, studying the ecommerce space, we noticed that companies were struggling to produce content that explained their products well to consumers, who ended up insecure about buying a product or not. At the same time, there was a lot of consumer-generated content available that could help other consumers to choose the best product. We then decided to build a solution that would capture this information, clean, structure, and organize it to make it available to consumers. We showed that MVP to Samsung, who invited us to join their Startup Acceleration program, and during the program they helped us see that this content would be really useful to manufacturers, who wanted to learn more about their consumers from their feedback written online. That’s when we decided to use the same technology, but now building dashboard for brands to use.
How long did it take you to finally take the leap, and what was it that pushed you over the fence?
it depends on what we consider taking the leap. Besides my internships, my first job was at a startup at age 21. I joined the company when it had only about 30 people and I always worked with a mindset that I was one of the company owners – and after 10 years of work I finally became a partner. I also built 2 other startups while working there, as side jobs, and both are still running (I’m a board member in one of them, GVAngels). And finally, in 2018, I decided it was time to start Birdie. The decision came from a mix of feeling my work was done at my previous company (I wasn’t learning, I wasn’t being that impactful, I wanted to risk and test new things) and getting the support from my mentor and co-founder to do it.
Who inspired you to pursue your dream, and why do you think they believed in you?
A lot of people did, from my parents and spouse to my co-founders. I think they all saw that I had the energy, determination, and the heart to do it.
Who is your favorite mentor and why?
I think you need to have different mentors for different things and moments of your life. I have mentors that are also entrepreneurs, mentors that decided to pursue a corporate career, and even mentors that work in totally different fields than mine – like Psychology. I like having different mentors because that allows me to get different perspectives for the same problem and build a puzzle that is only mine, based on their points of view about me and the challenge that I’m facing.
What was the hardest thing about starting your company, and what did you do to make it through the first stage?
The hardest thing, to be honest, is starting. Before starting you always have a lot of fears, thoughts, concerns, and if you don’t just do it, these fears will keep growing and at some point they will be so big that you will give up. Staying where you are is always easier and more comfortable. Especially in my case, I had a great job, with colleagues I admired, a good salary, worked with something I knew and loved, so I had a lot to loose – and that’s how most people feel too. I was lucky that I could start Birdie almost as a natural transition and evolution process from where I was: my co-founders used to be my co-workers and my new company started as a project inside the previous company.
What has been the hardest lesson to learn?
That most of times what you think that is amazing and that everybody will fall in love with (your product) actually sucks and nobody cares.
What has been the most amazing thing you have experience while running this company?
I tell everyone that in the past 2 years I’ve learned more than in my previous 10 years of work. Running a startup is doing things in such a fast pace that one year look like 5 or 10, and having the opportunity to learn so much while also having fun with people you admire and building a product that people will use and benefit from is priceless.
What is the weirdest thing you have experienced while running this company, and how did you react to it?
Sometimes we have people we don’t know tagging us on social media saying they work for Birdie, or that Birdie did this or that – there are a few companies named Birdie out there. The weirdest one was a profile called BIRDIE general – he added him as our company manager and added all of our team members on Linkedin. I tried to reach out to him a few times asking him to change that but he never answered, so he still appears there as an employee til today. Internally, we started to joke that he is our mascot.
What is the best decision you’ve ever made while running this company?
Hiring people that are better than me and giving them space to work.
What is the biggest mistake you made while running this company, and why do you think it happened?
I did what a lot of entrepreneurs do: I fell in love with our product and stopped to really listen to our customers’ feedback. If somebody told me that our product was amazing but they never bought it I’d still believe them, instead of realizing they were just afraid to tell us what was wrong and hurt our feelings. It made me learn how to validate and revalidate anything we heard and to value actions much more than words.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your company?
We weren’t that affected by the pandemic, first because we were already a remote company, and second because we were at an early stage, acquiring our first customers. While some of the negotiations we had got slower, some other accelerated as companies were trying to understand what consumers expected in the new normal. It was also easier to book meetings (calls) with people.
What keeps you passionate about your company?
Having such a big opportunity of building a product that is solving a big problem and benefiting both our clients and their customers.
What daily routine have you developed to help you take care of your mind, body, and soul?
I wake up at around 4:45am and exercise until about 6:15am every day. I then use the next one and a half hour to study, read, write, and review and organize my day (while having a smoothie!) before my daily meetings with the Marketing, Sales, and People teams from 8am. My best friend for that is my calendar: I put 100% of my activities on it so I know what I have to do and how much time I will have left. My tip here is: you should block some hours every day so you have time to work in projects and last minute opportunities. I remember I didn’t do it in the past and I ended up having 15 meetings in a day and no buffer time to eat or work on outcomes/tasks from the meetings. Another tip: personal things are also important and you should put them in your calendar (that’s called unscheduling – this was created by Neil Fiore and published in his book, The Now Habit).
What one thing would you like people to take away from this interview?
That being an entrepreneur is one of the most amazing experiences a person can have to learn, build amazing things, and meet amazing people.