The initial ride is not the struggle


When you imagine yourself building a tech company from the ground up, you might think of it as an exciting experience working inside an incredible environment, with an awesome team and a beautiful product that your customers love. Seems pretty straightforward. Well, it is not.


To clarify my point, it is relevant to share my +1 year experience as the Peru Country Manager of Tandem (www.gotandem.co),  a Mexican tech company with a B2B solution for office spaces; looking to accelerate order placing, while increasing control, visibility and compliance company wide. In our first year, we’ve become the go-to platform for office and coworking spaces, with a steady 30% MoM growth. From all prime coworking SQMs in Lima, +85% run in Tandem.

While launching and building the operation in Lima, I experienced two important processes: the initial ride and the struggle.

Initial Ride:

It looks like a very traditional process, but when you try to get a lot of things done  fast, you might lose track of what really matters.

  1. Assessing the opportunity to join the company, I felt really driven and pushed myself to the limit to deliver during the entire selection process. A few weeks before starting, there was a lot of anxiety and uncertainty: after three years at Endeavor I was jumping to the other side of the table to join an early-stage startup from Mexico – with just one laptop in Peru. The three main variables that convinced me to join were: a) the experienced team behind (who started as Aliada in Mexico and later pivoted into Tandem), b) the regional opportunity and growth potential, and c) the upside the first two could provide.
  2. Setting-up as a tech company is tricky. To do it correctly and start acquiring customers/revenue, you must work with a legal office that understand your size and needs. Specially if your plan is to hit the ground running.
  3. Hiring is definitely the hardest. When you are looking for your first key hire, take your time to find someone that truly inspires you. Finding this position only by sharing a job description across hiring platforms is not going to do the job. You need to actively prospect, and find the person that will fill that box.
  4. Selling might seem really hard, but at the begging it is not. You have a solution, know your market, and use your connections to get things off the ground.
  5. Building proper processes is really (really!) hard. In my case, technology was not on our plate since the tech team is in CDMX; building and gathering insights as we scale. By processes I mean an efficient way to have everyone in sync, and everything available at all times (and in order!). With such a small team and limited resources, you don’t want to spend time searching for information.
  6. Measuring everything is impossible, focus on a few things that are really important to keep an eye on. Plus, you might want to be generally ok than perfectly wrong… so don’t spend ridiculous time on things like budgeting or projecting.
  7. Managing a small team is hard, specially when things never go as planned. You are trying to be the best possible leader while making a lot of mistakes in the way – and changing your mind very often. You need to be transparent about it and trust your team to find the right answers.
  8. Communicating when you have little time is hard (and holding everyone accountable on what they said is impossible!), so we tried to find a place where things can be communicated properly and focus our time on things with an important/urgent tag on it.
  9. Reporting to our HQs in Mexico and to investors depends entirely on how good is your team when paying attention to detail, and how you as a manager provided the information platform needed to get every input  together— on time and accurately (this is where we most suffer!).

The Struggle:

The initial ride is over now, so you join a new one that is even harder and could be a tipping point for your company.

There is a part of the journey when you lose something really important; a team member left, a product release went wrong, or a loyal customer churned. Welcome to “The Struggle”. This part of the startup process is constantly challenging you as a leader, and it requires a new set of skills that I somehow identify and learned to incorporate into my team and myself.

I will quote a chapter from Ben Horowitz book (which I strongly recommend!), “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”, and from where I got the name for this section.

The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.

The Struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right.

The Struggle is when food loses its taste.

The Struggle is when you don’t believe you should be CEO of your company.

The Struggle is when you are having a conversation with someone and you can’t hear a word that they are saying because all you can hear is the Struggle.

The Struggle is when you go on vacation to feel better and you feel worse.

The Struggle is not failure, but it causes failure. Especially if you are weak. Always if you are weak.

Most people are not strong enough.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz

It might be early for me to reflect on this subject as our struggle just began (that is also why I quoted it!). But this means you need to start evolving as a leader and feel comfortable when facing new difficult times. Trust your team and remember all what you’ve been through to be in this position; it is not a matter of who is tougher… it is about not taking it personal and fighting back when it is most needed.

3 thoughts on “The initial ride is not the struggle”

  1. Great post Elias! Fantastic lines and great thoughts, proud to see you grow as professional! Un abrazo desde Madrid 😉

  2. El artículo tiene un error básico: divide el journey de un emprendedor en dos etapas: “The initial ride” y “The struggle”.

    En lo que definen como “Initial Ride” hay frases como:

    Hiring is definitely the hardest.
    Building proper processes is really (really!) hard.
    Measuring everything is impossible, focus on a few things that are really important to keep an eye on.
    Managing a small team is hard.
    Things never go as planned.
    You are trying to be the best possible leader while making a lot of mistakes in the way – and changing your mind very often.
    You need to be transparent about it and trust your team to find the right answers
    Communicating when you have little time is hard (and holding everyone accountable on what they said is impossible!)

    The initial ride is over now, so you join a new one that is even harder and could be a tipping point for your company.

    El error está en que todos estos puntos no terminan en una etapa sino se hacen cada vez mas grandes y más complejos.

    Lo que se define como “Initial ride” en realidad es el “ride” constante (no una etapa) de un emprendedor, no va a terminar.

    El concepto que tienen de “initial ride” no tiene un fin y el concepto de “The struggle” no tiene un inicio, ambos son constantes y simultáneos durante el journey y no etapas.

    También hay una frase terrible, sobretodo para emprendedores en etapas tempranas:

    Selling might seem really hard, but at the begging it is not. You have a solution, know your market, and use your connections to get things off the ground. – Entiendo este punto porque viene de una empresa con product mkt fit validado, en etapa de expansión y con experiencia en en el ecosistema, distinto es cuando uno realmente empieza algo desde cero y tiene que salir a venderlo sin conexiones y en el proceso de entender al mercado.

    Espero te sirva de feedback.

    1. Hola Fernando! Buenísimo tu comentario y gracias por hacerlo por aquí… comparto lo que dices, pero igual te dejo un par de notas sobre los dos puntos que tocaste:

      Como lo digo al inicio del artículo, esta es mi experiencia como country manager en Tandem (no como emprendedor exactamente), y el reto que tuve es otro. Llegamos al país con un cliente importante y capital ya levantado en México para ejecutar rápido. Si bien fue duro, creo que la etapa que viene será más dura todavía.

      Sobre el proceso de venta, si bien hay market fit… mi opinión es que al inicio no es tan complicado porque estás buscando pasar de 0-1, a 20-30 en un mercado bastante grande. No es un gran reto. El reto está en lo que viene, en llevarlo a 10,000 empresas y más.

      Abrazo.

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