Money doesn’t follow money, money follows energy
The energy you put in creating value—and then, you exchange that value for money. But what is value?
I remember the first time I faced this question, it was the summer of ‘07 in Romania. I was sitting at a beautiful Rosewood conference table, sweating like a gypsy with a mortgage, when he asked me “Now tell me, why should I pay you so much? What’s wrong with my current website?”
Hold on, let’s take it 2 steps back!
After working full-time at Ubisoft for 3 years, and making websites in my spare time, in May 2007 I decided to quit and start my own company - a web design agency. All my clients were kinda friends and I was charging what I thought it’s a fair price, just enough to make the salary I had. Only the idea that I can earn the same while working for myself was already WOW!! Back then the average salary was 300€, go figure 🙂
On a Tuesday morning I receive a call from a friend, “go and meet this guy who wants a new website”. That was a time when you wouldn’t ask ‘follow-up’ questions like today, you would do it or not. Bam Bam Yes! So there I was, 2 hours later, in front of this guy’s office building, a 22-years old me with a made-up mind of asking 150€.
I entered like a winner! The receptionist told me to take the elevator to the last floor where I was welcomed by his assistant - I started to feel weird - the guy had an assistant?! She told me to wait a couple of minutes.
Little did I know that the ‘guy’ was an entrepreneur in the welding industry with a multi-million 💶 business.
My confidence started to drop, at the beginning slowly and then very very fast. As soon as I took the first step into his office, I started to realize that this is a real meeting. Like REAL!
I see the guy sitting at this big beautiful boardroom table making me a sign to sit down. Heartbeat? 134 BPM and going up 😰 He quickly looks at me and asks: “So how much is this thing going to cost me?”
By now I was feeling so intimidated that my first thought was ‘You know what, I’m going to make it for free but let’s just end this right now and let me go home. We’re good!’
On second thought tho: “should I go home or should I go big? Hmm..” Go BIG baby. Siempre! I answered: “1.500€”. He says: “Fine”
Wait, What?!! Is this guy nuts? I give him 10x my price and he says Fine? Pfff!!
Then he adds “Now tell me, why should I pay you so much? What’s wrong with my current website?” and he flipped his laptop on my side.
Ok, sh*t got real, I suddenly focused and explained what I would improve. After a couple of ideas, I just asked him “What’s your goal?” and this is how I learned my first lesson about value.
🏀 One can’t just decide their own value. You can measure the effort (output) but you can’t evaluate the impact (outcome) without talking to your customers. Because they’re the beneficiaries
See, for me it was just another website and in my naive thinking I was pricing it based on my effort and how much money I had in my pocket. For him it was an opportunity to introduce a new sales channel and, if done right, to increase the sales by 10%. Meaning 300k euros per year in new revenue. Even 10x more, my price was still peanuts
Luckily he understood that I’m inexperienced number-wise and gave me a chance to learn. And I learned fast.. after 3 months I knew what products we should sell online, why, where, who’s buying, and at what price. The welding industry is pretty fascinating, it’s a 20B one after all! Not only this, but he started to recommend me to his friends too. By the end of the year I was managing online sales for road signs, lift trucks, excavators, compactors, work equipment, you name it.
I made 60k that year, for reference - a decent 2-bedroom apartment in Bucharest was around 35k. Which made me learn the second lesson about value.
🏀 You increase value by adding new skills to the mix. Doing 10% better what you’re already doing is not going to move the needle
‘07 was a great year, I started ‘08 by flying high looking to scale, get a proper office and hire a team. I couldn’t deal alone with the workload anymore.
Then the Great Recession hit and everything crashed fast 💥 By the autumn of ‘08 I was broke, confused, tired, and with a baby on the way. What to do, what to do?
🏀 Value is a moving target, the wise thing to do is to recalibrate often
I recalibrated my compass and I found a job, a job that was great until it wasn’t, that company went bankrupt 6 months later 🤦♂️ (watch your runway!). So.. you recalibrate again - it was there where I met my soon-to-be technical co-founder for the next 5 years and 2 companies. We stepped together in this amazing journey called startup life and launched our first product later that year, the world’s first captcha advertising network. And here’s where the story begins to get really crazy - I will leave it for a future weekly. Hit that SUBSCRIBE button 🔔
Startups call this ‘finding product/market fit’, it’s a fancy name for an exciting adventure to understand the market you’re in, what’s valuable for your customers, and execute on it.
As long as you keep the energy flowing and continue creating value, everything is going to be alright. Money follows energy!
👩🏽💻 Github makes GitHub Copilot generally available to all developers for $10/month or $100/year. Copilot is an AI pair programmer that suggests code in your editor.
This product should print money! If I would be a developer and this thing would save me a couple of hours each month, it’s just a no-brainer. But I’m not and I noticed something interesting during the years regarding the developer tools market: most devs don’t want to pay for other devs’ apps.
I relate this to our dear friend value, in this case the ‘perceived value’ where the benefit doesn’t seem to justify the cost. In other words “if I can build it, I’m not going to pay for it” - which misses the entire point of saving time - time that can be used to create more value.
At the company level, this debate is called ’Build vs Buy’ and triggers a lot of sleepless nights for the product marketers and sales folks in charge of signing new customers. I’m watching this one closely 👀
📱 Joey Banks shares this year’s iOS 16 UI Kit for Figma, a library with hundreds of components, templates, demos, and everything else needed to help you start designing for the new iOS 16 coming this autumn.
⚡️ Cloudflare, in collaboration with Google and Shopify, introduces Early Hints, a product that allows browsers preload linked assets before they see a 200 OK or other final response from the origin. You can find all the technical details in their blog post.
It’s a known fact that better performance improves UX and increases conversion rate, how much tho? Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare, says around 7%
🙋♀️ Reid Hoffman, Linkedin’s founder, talks about the ‘I’ or how Kobe Bryant likes to put it, there’s a ‘ME’ in a team.
The self-made person may be a myth, but the old saying “There is no I in team” is wrong, too. There is an “I” in team. A team is made up of individuals with different strengths and abilities. So “I” versus “We” is a false choice. Both the individual and the team matter. Your career success depends on both your personal capabilities and your network’s ability to magnify them. These are inseparable.
⭐️ Several friends reached out this week to talk about layoffs and how to secure their positions. I’m not going to focus on recession, I already wrote about it here in April.
We can’t control the economic cycle, but we can control our own impact in the team, company and market by changing a few small things. Here are some ideas:
Be a 2x person starting today
- Identify the direct beneficiaries of your output and ask them what pain points they have and what can you do to make their life easier
- Every Monday morning check your beneficiaries’ calendars for meetings. If they need something from you to be successful in those meetings, make sure you handoff 1 day earlier
- Stop having a passive-aggressive behavior
- Complain by doing
- Make someone’s day better by telling them about an improvement you noticed they achieved lately
- Say “Happy birthday”, every company has an HR platform. Be the birthday person 🎈
- Say “Good morning”
- Pay close attention in the TownHall meetings on what’s important for the company. Usually, the CEO will reiterate the quarterly goals, relate those goals to your own agenda, contribute
- Have new ideas, important ones! This one is so important
- Be reliable, show up
🗓 Maze announces Disco Conf on 25 & 26 Oct ‘22 - their first virtual conference - a journey into discovery, design, and research. Love seeing this coming from a European company.
🗓 Jamstack announces Jamstack Conf on 7 & 8 Nov ‘22 in San Francisco and online. There will be 2 days dedicated to building modern web projects.
🦄 Shopify goes soul-searching. Can Shopify exploit the mojo of a platform without adopting the questionable tactics of Big Tech’s Bond-villain leaders? Interesting take by Wired and Tobias Lütke, CEO of Shopify, ways of thinking.
🌶 A startup attracted 7500 applicants for their jobs using TikTok videos. Chili Piper posted videos of real employees acting like real people, often with a trending song in the background and a few well-placed captions. Makers gonna make
Thanks for reading and please let me know in the comments if I should continue writing my personal stories. See you again next Tuesday!