Startups for Realists #6 – with Sabba Keynejad, Co-Founder of Veed
In Startups for Realists, we talk to people in the world of startups about the realities of their day-to-day work – the good, the bad and everything in-between.
This week we spoke to Sabba Keynejad, co-founder of VEED, a simple online video editing platform allowing anyone to create great videos and grow their audience. Since starting in early 2018 Veed has grown to 40k monthly active users.
What does your typical day look like?
I would say that there isn’t a ‘typical’ day at VEED. If anything every day is completely different. The nature of running your own startup is that you have an unlimited list of atypical things to do at any given point in time. But here is a glimpse into how our day might look like
Every day must have a strict routine. That is: Get up, shower, get my steve jobs turtle neck look working in the mirror. Whack the Indie hackers podcast on and hop on my bike to the office.
I am in the office. Drink 3 black americanos and I am off to the races: catching up on email and start replying to customer support tickets.
We catch up with the team, take a look at trello and think about how we can deliver the most value to our users in the shortest amount of time possible.
9:30 am to 7 pm
Now this varies from day to day. At a startup you must wear a lot of different hats. If I was to summarise and bring it all together, my job is to figure out how we can build a better product for our customers. This means doing different things from meeting users to creating content, to setting up feedback sessions, meeting advisors or doing market research. I find all of it fascinating and I am constantly learning new things.
I head to the gym and work out pretty much… every day *Cough*. Some evenings I catch up with friends, go out for dinner or make food for friends at home to wind down. I am also a big fan of Friday night bowling…
What’s your office setup?
Right now we are working out of a co-working office in central London. But it was my kitchen table for a long time. My co-founder and I both work on MacBook Pros surrounded by empty coffee cups. Tim is a lot more methodical than me and always has a clean desktop that is perfectly organised. I, on the other hand, have organisation skills that are a little more… well, let’s just say.. creative.
This is an unpopular opinion but …
Failing is good for you! For example, recently we got rejected from Ycombinator. All in all, it was a great experience and we have learnt a lot from it. We now believe that if we are not failing on a regular basis, we are not improving quickly enough.
What’s your measure of success?
Our goal always is to build a product that our users love. For us, this means building the best online video editor on the internet. We spend a lot of time talking to customers to understand their needs. Frankly, it is almost an obsession right now. I mean we even take photos of us holding their names to say thank you for being pro users! It is great fun to do and helps us build relationships. When we speak to our users, we try and find out how they are using VEED. Right now our users are saying how much they love our subtitle video tool, therefore we put more work into making it even better.
Tell me about your most costly mistake?
Where do we start… we have made a lot of big mistakes along the way (Tim, literally, just sighed after seeing this question). But there are two that really stick out in my mind. The first big mistake was spending 6 months building a product that no one wanted. We ended up building another video editing product, won awards, got flown to Dubai to present it at a conference, received grant funding, everything was going amazing! The product seemed like a good idea. The BIG problem was all of the people who said we were doing great were not our customers. And when the time came to sell the product, we very quickly realised it was not going to work.
The second biggest mistake we have made was a technical one. Throughout our time in education and the professorial work environment, you are always told to do your best work. You must pay high attention to details, to write tests in your code to build for scale…
All the ideas above are valid and great, but not the sort of mentality you should adopt when building a startup. We now optimise for speed and delivering value quickly. Instead of spending days building our own automated email marketing tools, we use of-the-shelf products and services. We use tools that cost as little as $30 a month but have saved us many hours of development time. I think the difference is when you are building something for fun, technically learning new things takes precedence over speed. This change in mindset has really helped us to accelerate our productivity and growth.
What’s the worst advice anyone has ever given you?
This is, technically, not an advice but previously, I have always been scared to show off my work publicly or put my name to something. Maybe out of fear of rejection or maybe because I have always wanted to protect myself from negative comments and judgment. Either way, I believe it is a trait that many of us must learn over time and is dangerous not to do because it might be what might be holding you back in many respects.
More money, more time, or more energy?
Time, but this is obviously relative to everyone else and is the only constant from your list above. So if you are willing to break the laws of time for me, I would gladly accept!
If you enjoyed this reading, be sure to check out last weeks interview. We spoke with Jonny White, founder of Ticket Tailor, who talks about everything from the lessons he’s learnt hiring to whether or not you really need funding.