What is it like running a Sri Lankan startup? Ha. While the real boss Shruthi Mathews is in America studying UX for two months, I (Indi Samarajiva, the baas) am managing YAMU alone. Here’s a typical day in the life.
This quote from Marc Andreessen pretty much sums it up.
In a startup it is very easy for the code to not get written, for the user interfaces to not get designed… for people to not come into work… and for the wastebaskets to not get emptied.
You as the founder have to put all of these systems and routines and habits in place and get everyone actually rowing — forget even about rowing in the right direction: just rowing at all is hard enough at the start.
And until you do, absolutely nothing happens.
Unless, of course, you do it yourself.
Have fun emptying those wastebaskets. (pmarchive)
So, this morning a nice lady (Hema?) from the clothing shop below us said that the police had come by. Jerome had put our garbage on the street and the environmental police (great idea btw) had complained. I came down and some animal had already ripped one bag open, which spewed someones really old lunch on the sidewalk. I got the plastic and cleaned it up with my hands and now I smell that horrid dying rice smell everywhere, like a stinky ghost. I feel like Lady Macbeth except with three day old curry on my hands instead of blood.
The rest of the morning was spent trying to procure drinking water. I bought a cooling unit last week but as soon as we plugged it in it emitted a foul smell and died. Bad smells seem to really be a major part of the job. There was apparently a warning on the power cable but nothing in the manual (which we read). Jerome got a top-loading water filter which we again struggled to assemble, but some sort of success this time. So we have water.
At the same time some guys came to install the air-conditioners we’d ordered from takas.lk (highly recommend). You would not believe how expensive A/C is (Rs. 166,000 for one inverter, and that’s getting a deal) but it’s an expense we simply had to bear. Today it’s cool, but on a regular day the YAMU HQ is bright, high in the sky and really hot. I find myself thinking of when the fan is going to rotate my way rather than work and I’m sure it’s the same for everyone else. We’re up five flights of stairs anyways and having the office be a sauna is just too much. So that’s happening. What it meant, in practice, was a lot of drilling and noise all day, like then Vice-President Underwood in House Of Cards.
So yeah. To reference Mr. Andreessen (of Netscape), you need to have fun emptying wastebaskets. People think YAMU is all about going around and eating and drinking but it’s growing into an actual business and there’s an awful lot of day to day. And I’m Chief Peon.
But none of this is to complain. We’ve got a great team, we’re shipping some cool stuff and we’re having fun. The pizza app is out and works, we’re working on a new website, and we have someone new on Admin to finally ensure that paperwork exists and the wheels don’t fall off.
We’re slowly evolving a new office culture and it’s a trip with thought we’d share with you, here. Lesson one – make friends with the CMC guy and have him take out the garbage.