A Day in the Life of a Tech Startup Founder

By Alasdair Lumsden on 7 Apr 2014

It was back in 2006 that I started EveryCity with my cousin Duncan, and whilst a great deal has changed with my daily routine, it’s surprising what also hasn’t changed! In this blog post I’ll go over some hopefully interesting differences between a day in my life of then vs now…

Location

Office in 2007

EveryCity initially started out in the front room at my mother’s house in Greenwich, where Duncan and I brainstormed the concept, designed the initial product offering, put together the sales literature and won our first few clients. With the concept validated, we immediately moved into spacious offices at Studio 18 Bluelion Place at London Bridge, taking the 1st floor with space for 8 desks.

Amazingly, we’re still here 8 years later, having expanded to take the 2nd and 3rd floors. This office has served us well – it’s conveniently located given most of us live in the South East, and has allowed us to grow to fill the building. But times have changed, and it’s impossible to ignore the draw of Tech City, the area between Silicon Roundabout and Shoreditch. So in the not too distant future, we may ultimately end up moving there too! Watch this space.

Personal Computer

Old Computers

I’ve always been fairly technology agnostic. My journey begins with the Commodore 64, followed by the Amiga 1200, then my trusty Apple Mac IIcx.

Then one summer my father came across Championship Manager, a football management game, and immediately insisted we get a PC. So began the dark age of Windows 95 on a Packard Bell bought from PC World on a whim. A PC?! Oh the shame!

Packard Bell P120

However it was hard to ignore its versatility. We quickly upgraded it with a 33.6kbps Modem, and knowledge of the outside world poured in. I discovered Linux, and a Slackware CD arrived in the post soon after. So began a fleeting romance with the world of UNIX systems. But with just a 1GB harddrive it was a struggle, and with my keen interest in games, I spent most of my time in Windows, staying there right up to the birth of EveryCity.

My first work PC consisted of a homebuild Windows XP box with a Dell 30" monitor. Amazingly, I’m writing this blog post on that same monitor all these years later, and it still looks every bit as good as it did back then.

Why not Linux, Solaris, or some other UNIX-y operating system? Office. Being Managing Director, I had to spend a significant proportion of my time working spreadsheets and building presentations. Mac OS X had Office, but Mac Pro desktops and laptops were overpriced and underpowered. My focus was on the business, and I didn’t have time for evangelical sacrifices in productivity. If I needed a UNIX/Linux box, I’d connect remotely via SSH to one.

Then in 2010, my Windows days were up – with the launch of OpenIndiana, the OpenSolaris UNIX-like operating system I helped create, I had to switch. I had to eat my own dog food. I gave VirtualBox a spin, and after a RAM upgrade, I found Microsoft Office surprisingly usable from my trusty Windows 7 Virtual Machine.

MacBook Pro Retina

Ultimately though, with Apple’s transition to Intel CPUs, and laptops getting ever more powerful, it wasn’t long until I could no longer resist the temptation of the glowing white Apple. After resigning from the OpenIndiana project due to a lack of time, I gave up my desktop PC for my trusty MacBook Pro, plugging it in to my massive monitor each day.

Desk 2013

I do love Mac OS X. It just works. It has UNIX under the hood. The hardware is slick. Yes, it’s expensive, but I’m very happy with it, and it’s great having a single system I use at work and at home.

Working Hours

Stopclock

When starting a business, you have to put in a lot of hours. I mean a LOT of hours. Duncan and I would wake up, get into work, and be there until late at night. With so much to do, and so many distractions during the day, I found I often got the most productive work completed between the hours of 10pm and 4am – ideal hours for coding and hacking. This would lead to me often getting into work at 10:30am or worse.

As a small business with a close knit team, getting in late was no problem, and my night time creations were greeted with enthusiasm. However my role has changed significantly as the company has grown, and most of my time now is spent managing rather than executing. Gone are my night time hackfests, replaced with early morning management meetings. Today I got in to the office at 8am, and my bedtime these days is 10:30pm. Quite a shift!

Silicon Drinkabout

Do I still work long hours? Not so many, but my days are definitely more focused. Late night hackfests have been replaced with after-work networking events, such as Silicon Drinkabout.

Work-Life balance is important, and I’m glad to have reached what I consider a very happy and productive equilibrium… I’m certain my girlfriend wouldn’t have stayed around long on the old schedule.

Work Tasks

In the early days, Duncan focused on the sales & marketing side, and I focused on the implementation and technical side. We had a product and a platform to build. Much of my time was spent in terminal windows and at the datacenter, evaluating products and writing code, helping with sales pitches, and doing customer support. I was also 24x7x365 out of hours on-call support, tending to our farm of screaming babies, waking up every few hours to solve some problem or another. Yikes!

But with the growth of the business, and taking on staff, it wasn’t long until my role started to shift. With additional support and development staff, my time began to move away from those areas, towards platform & business development. I switched from being the only on-call engineer to being part of a rota. Whilst I was still very hands on, more of my time started to be spent in meetings.

Pointy-Haired Boss

However now the company has grown even larger, I’ve finally graduated into that dreaded role: The Pointy-Haired-Boss. Most of my time is now taken up with management and strategy meetings, client meetings, sales meetings, marketing meetings. Meetings meetings meetings. I’m no longer in the on-call rota, and platform work is largely handled by our senior engineering team.

How do I feel about this? Actually, I love it! Instead of being limited in what I can do by the hours in the day, I now have an excellent team working with me who love what they do. Things happen faster than ever, and it’s rewarding seeing the business grow so quickly.

Things I can’t let go of

Tidy Rack

There are however some things I can’t let go of. Despite the fact we have a solid engineering team, my OCD won’t let me give up the design, layout and cabling of our Racks in the datacenter. I can’t bear the thought of an untidy mess underpinning our infrastructure. Perhaps if we hire someone with worse OCD than me I’ll finally let this one go :-)

Concluding Remarks

It’s been quite a journey getting here, and I’ve sprouted plenty of grey hairs along the way. But it has been worth it. I love my job, and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What are the biggest differences in your daily routine over the past 6 years?