Giacomo ‘Peldi’ Guilizzoni @ Business of Software. How CEOs can embrace their worry.

Do Worry… Be Happy!

One thing they don’t tell you about quitting your job to become a startup CEO is how much you’re going to worry about things. From “Should I really quit my cushy job?” and “What if someone steals my idea?” to “How can I keep a global team working as a unit?” and “How long before people notice that I really don’t know what I’m doing?” – the list is long and ever-changing. I’ll share some stories and tricks that I’ve used to overcome my fears, and how I’ve learned to welcome these feelings as a sign of imminent personal growth.

Bio – Giacomo ‘Peldi’ Guilizzoni is the founder and CEO of Balsamiq, makers of Balsamiq Mockups, a fun little wireframing tool for programmers, UX experts and yes, even business types. Balsamiq has been a bit of a poster child for a new wave of tiny but ambitious bootstrapped tech startups, netting over $1.6M in sales in the first 18 months of operation and gathering rave reviews. Peldi is a champion of the “radical transparency” trend that’s sweeping the Internet, through his posts on the popular Balsamiq Blog. You can read Peldi’s story in this blog post, or get to know him more through these interviews and his LinkedIn profile.

Peldi Guillzzoni at BOS2010

Peldi Guillzzoni at BOS2010

The first thing you need to know about Peldi is he is totally and utterly barking mad. Madder than a ripe Pecorino in fact. Turns out that mad is OK in this room as I am the only person in the room that doesn’t actually use Balsamiq’s software. And having listened to him speak , I want to join the tribe. Peldi is also keenly aware that most of his heores are sitting in this room.

Lots of Peldi's heroes are sitting in the room at Business of Software

Lots of Peldi's heroes are sitting in the room at Business of Software

So he is worried about lots of things. Things NOT to worry about.

  • Asking customers for money – it is normal to pay for things.
  • Pirates
  • Lack of time

Things to worry about before you start a startup

  • Making the jump into a startup. Read, ‘You need to be a little crazy. The truth about starting and growing your business.’ If you are still up for it, you will have learned some good things.
  • Writing a business plan. Even an ugly one. It doesn’t need to a be a classic business plan but it will help you to focus, articulate your value, think about the important things. The plan is for you, not necessarily others.
Balsamiq Business Plan in full

Balsamiq Business Plan in full

  • Read like crazy – especially before you start, you won’t get time when you start your startup.
  • Finding advisors and co-founders. There is no formal way for Peldi
  • Raising funds. Not always the answer. Maybe you should find a smaller problem that doesn’t require investment
  • Do the time. 10,00o hours to become an expert.

Balsamiq is a success:

Balsamiq Growth

Balsamiq Growth

But put that into the context of Peldi’s progress in life…

Balsamiq success in context - do the time

Balsamiq success in context - Do the Time!

  • Work life balance.
    • Key. Peldi works when his family sleeps so they don’t know he is ignoring them.
  • Picking too small of a niche is not silly. The smaller the niche, the easier it is to lead, market to, lead.
  • Competition! Someone stealing your idea. Clones.
    • Embrace it. Better to be at the market than in the desert.
    • Make sure you are working on something that matters to you more than money
    • Create more value than you capture
  • Pick your battles and deliver
    • Usability and customer service are what Balsamiq chooses to compete on
  • Building the wrong product
    • Fall in love with the problem, not the solution you picked to solve it
  • Feedback.
    • Feedback is far better to you than money. Balsamiq gave software to bloggers and said, ‘we don’t want a good review, we want honest feedback’.
  • Not getting noticed. Big issue, stuff popping up everywhere.
    • Be so good people can’t ignore you.
    • Be remarkable and let your values shine through. People love Balsamiq in all areas of the blogosphere
    • “The Balsamiq story is quite addictive. I want to buy the aplication despite having no solid need for it and a yearly income below his daily income”
  • Incorporating. Accountants. Lawyers. Payroll people. POs. Invoices. EULAs. Cash vs Accrual. Duns #. NAICS + ECNN Codes. Hungry Partners. First VC Call.
    • You need GIGA Balls, not mega balls, GIGA balls.
    • You need to learn to fake it. Fake it until you make it. Grow into your brand.
  • Hiring People
    • Don’t do it too early, do it when you are going to die unless you do.
  • Getting too much attention. Nice problem to have but still a problem.
    • Attention, growth, revenue, employees, attention and quality all have to grow in synch.
  • Fear of Confrontation
    • You need to have a system to deal with it.
    • Think! What Would Obama Do?
    • Listen carefully, don’t get emotional
    • Thank people
    • Apologise
    • Wear their shoes for a minute
    • Answer, stand your ground

      Face up to Conflict. What Would Obama Do?

      Face up to Conflict. What Would Obama Do?

  • Juggling too many things
    • Write stuff down. Stress comes from thinking, ‘I hope I don’t forget this.’
    • Blog about stuff. It helps you think things through. When you publish it, people see you are human and send you advice. this then becomes cool marketing in itself.

Current set of worries for Peldi

  • Speaking at BOS 2010 – been a life goal
  • Managing a Global Team. Use Skype, DropBox, Yammer relentlessly
  • Feeling like a fraud. Get help! Share the ups and downs with the team. Have some trusted advisers. Ask people you know – they will help.
  • Needs of market vs Initial vision
  • How long will this last?

Fear is a good sign. Peldi’s tip to help you sleep.

  • Drink and pills are not so useful
  • Go and look at ‘How its Made’

Here is one of Peldi’s favourites to get you going.

3 responses to “Giacomo ‘Peldi’ Guilizzoni @ Business of Software. How CEOs can embrace their worry.”

  1. Dan Frydman says:

    Great post. One down side. Why isn’t there a .bmml file download with the notes to accompany it? Spot the Balsamiq fan…

    • Great question – probably because I am not very technical but Peldi did say he gave Balsamiq away to bloggers… I reckon that if I could work out how to use the mock up tool, it would be proof that there is a much bigger market for the tools than the developer community! Would happily be a guinea pig.

  2. Priya Reddy says:

    Just stumbled on this post. Below statements from your post are very good.

    The plan is for you, not necessarily others.

    Stress comes from thinking.

    Listen carefully, don’t get emotional.

    Fake it until you make it.

    Fantastic post!!!