Here’s a blog post by one of the Startup Lifers, Hilla. Hilla is working for Granify which is a machine learning platform. Hilla is currently living and working in Toronto. After you’ve read Hilla’s post check out Granify.
So many events, both planned and unexpected, have taken me where I am now. I am in Toronto, sharing a desk with Jeff, the CEO and Co-Founder of Granify. Let me briefly explain how I ended up here. The story is worth hearing as it basically brings up the importance of random encounters, hard work, and open-minded attitude. It was the summer of 2011. The first class of technology entrepreneurship course at Stanford was about to start. There were already a handful of students in the classroom well before the actual class started. I remember making small talk with an Austrian guy who then invited more people to join the conversation. I remember this very organized Austrian guy, Stefan, saying: “Well now we have a group for our business venture project”. One of those guys was Jeff.
Now that I look back, I am happy we had our group formed on the first day of classes. We did not know each other yet. We were different: six different countries, six different majors, and six totally different, yet hilarious and lovable, personalities. Over the summer, we crashed VC BBQ parties, volunteered at the Cleantech Open, and spend hours brainstorming different ideas. Eventually, we ended up working on automatically optimized website content, which can be considered the seed for what Granify is today. A serial entrepreneur, Jeff would call the shots. He would emphasize the importance of getting customer feedback from the very beginning. He asked every team member to call at least ten potential customers for the project. I remember spending a couple of sunny afternoon hours in my dorm calling e-commerce sites and thinking: “Oh man, telemarketing and selling an idea is harder than what I thought! This is so not my thing.” I am happy I eventually stepped out of my comfort zone and tried, as that is what being entrepreneurial is all about.
By the end of the summer I knew I would like to continue my journey with what was to become Granify. As Jeff was the father of the whole idea of automatically optimized website content and as he was keen to start his third venture, he decided to start working full-time on developing it further. In January, five months after the Stanford summer school ended and six months ago, I wrote him a Facebook message saying: “I have started planning my summer. Do you happen to need a hard worker to help out with establishing your business in SV?”
Apparently he needed extra hands as here I am now, in Toronto. During the first three weeks, I have learned a lot simply by sharing a desk with him at the office. This is a total vantage point for learning how to lead a growing tech company. And leading a young tech company is not only about meeting potential investors. It is also very much about reaching out to potential customers by calling and sending out emails. That is what we learned at our Stanford dorms on those sunny afternoons.