A few years back I was working at Porsche, in Stuttgart, in the data science department and it was during my time there that I discovered that you couldn’t really connect to the deskless workforce or connect them to reporting systems and inform them of what’s going on. I decided I wanted to provide a way in which deskless workers and those with corporate devices could communicate more effectively via chats, newsfeeds, shift planning, timesheets and so on. Consequently, back in 2018, my Co-Founder Giaco and I created Flip to address this problem. Our mission was then and is now to empower every employee and give them a voice.
Founding a company is hard…People obviously tell you that, and of course you imagine it’ll be hard work, but honestly I could never have realised how hard it actually is until I started doing it. It takes so much more of you, more than I ever could have expected. I was used to working hard; I worked hard and long hours at Porsche, but running the company and owning the company is something completely different and I realised this quite early on. There’s this sudden awareness and understanding that, if this fails, it’s all on you. From the beginning, you’re the one presented with the opportunities to make things happen and so, if things aren’t happening, it’s on you and they are your mistakes.
After our first funding round we had a team event and it suddenly dawned on me that we had now built a team and how many people we had working for us - that was a crazy moment for me. I think it was about 25 people then and it was at that moment that I thought: “Ok, we really have to make Flip great and we can’t disappoint all of these people.”
Managing all these huge responsibilities started to become easier when I thought about it all as a journey; I’m on a journey as a Founder, Flip is on a journey as a business and I’m learning something new every day. As the business grows and improves, I have to do the same with myself as well. The idea that I myself am something that can be improved upon, and that I am improving as I grow with the business, is something that brings me comfort and a deeper belief that I will be capable of doing the things I have to do in order to make the business a success. I also understand that I have to constantly be learning and taking feedback - feedback is the best way to grow as a founder.
There are so many things you can do as a founder to support your own growth: having a good coach can help you gain perspective and allow you to continually work on yourself. There are also so many supporting resources out there (podcasts, advisors, mentors, other entrepreneurs) which can help you to constantly improve, learn and grow.
There are so many things I’m proud of that have happened since we founded Flip - of course I was very proud back in 2018 when we initially founded the company. Then we won our first customer who, after signing their contract, had to drop out because of some internal issues on their side. This was a difficult time, whilst we were waiting to win them back, as it was something that was completely out of our control. But after 6 months we did win them back, so that was a huge relief and also a good learning curve for us as founders.
One of our biggest successes is assembling such a great team - it may sound cliche but the team really is the most important thing. I feel so lucky, honestly like the luckiest person, to be surrounded by so many smart and brilliant people. Great companies only exist when they are built by a team of great people surrounding you. I think my no.1 job as a Founder is to assemble a team of the most brilliant people I can find and make sure I look after them every day. It’s also important to ensure that if you have something that is slowing down the business or slowing down the team that you are able to address it in the best way possible - that’s all part of being a Founder. Looking after your team is the most important job and is imperative to building a successful business.
One of the things that’s also surprised me the most about founding a business is how simple yet complex dealing with people is (it’s kind of the same as technology really, which is also simple yet so complex). In both cases, you need to understand when to deal with the complexities and when to just deal with things in the most simple and obvious way possible.
Another thing I hadn’t really anticipated before starting Flip is how much the business just becomes your life. Again, it’s one of those things that people say and you hear about, but you really don’t realise it until you start the business. I don’t have a life independent of Flip anymore, it’s non-existent. Work-life balance just doesn’t really exist for Founders; you become the company and the company becomes you.
Even more interestingly, you can begin to see your own personal traits within the company’s structures and how they are behaving. It can be quite uncomfortable because you can see all your bad traits playing out (and of course it’s less easy for you to be able to recognise all the good ones playing out!). There is a saying we have in Germany that ‘the fish rots from the head down’ and that’s really how it is - the success or failure of the business is down to you as a leader and leadership team - so you have to be able to recognise and manage both the successes and the failures that come from yourself as a leader.
Honestly, my key piece of advice I’d give to another entrepreneur looking to go down the VC path would be to work with Notion - we love you guys! Especially all the help and the proactiveness of the team; Notion has so many resources and you really do so much for us. Someone from Notion is constantly getting in touch and sharing something cool with us: an event, a piece of content, some advice, or an introduction. As a founder, there are so many things coming at you and so many things that you need to think about, that you can forget to ask for support on certain things. However, working with Notion means that we’re constantly being provided with really good input before we have even had to ask for it and always on the relevant subjects we need to be thinking about and the help comes from all different angles.
What’s even better, it’s not just our investing partner that we get support from and work with, but we get support from a whole team (and sometimes it feels like we really get support from the whole fund!). Notion is the only fund who has a platform team doing what you’re doing; there’s such professionalism and such scale. For example, with all the webinars you host, there hasn’t been a single one where the topic hasn’t been highly relevant for someone within Flip; I am always forwarding the invites on to someone in the company, as someone has always deeply needed support on that given topic. There is literally not a single one I can think of that hasn’t been relevant to either myself or the team (I’ve joined multiple of them myself) and they’ve all been great. I also like the proactiveness of Stephen along with the rest of the platform team, as it really feels like you are working with us as a part of Flip - the effort you put in is very valuable. As founders, it means a lot to us and it shows a real appreciation for your investments and for the people behind them.