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Matt Kurleto - Farewell, 2017, my dear friend


Matt Kurleto

January 2 · Issue #4 · View online
I'm sharing my lessons learned, updates from projects I'm involved in and insights on a global startup ecosystem. I'm a serial entrepreneur, the founder of Neoteric, one of the fastest-growing software companies in the CEE region. My current focus is Startup Hansa, the idea of integrating major business and technology hubs into a sustainable startup ecosystem. I'm always happy to hear from you!

Last year I said “fuck you 2016” this time I say “farewell, dear friend, 2017”. We did a tremendous job at Neoteric. Focusing on getting our back-office in order rather than the growth we still grew by 100%. Our startups did better than ever before starting to generate revenue (SkillHunt, SaaSManager) and growing 2355% in revenue (Appointly).

From solo-entrepreneur to CEO
It actually started at the end of 2016 when I read “Hard thing about hard things” finding out that I’m not the only one getting nauseous when facing risks that could really hurt our business. We have dropped from 5,6M PLN in revenue in 2015 to 2,5M in 2016 and for the first time, we had a smaller team than a year before.
I also found out that being a great CEO is a completely different job than being the solo-entrepreneur. I had a hard time learning to delegate requirements management, system design, and project management a few years ago. When I finally realized my team is better than me at making software and trusted them, we sped up. I thought I learned the lesson yet in 2016 I found out I’m missing that again.
When we grew over 30 people all the back-office stuff we didn’t care about started to matter. From having enough toilet paper to monitoring contract expirations to managing holidays we needed some rules and people who keep things running. There were too many things to manage and I made some seriously wrong decisions losing the focus, hiring poorly and putting too much burden on my team.
There’s a huge difference between delegating responsibility and dropping the subject. I found out I was doing the latter. I knew I realized I became a bottleneck for our growth making too many decisions, lacking the skills and losing the focus.
2017 Learning by doing
2017 started tough. I had some health issues and couldn’t work as much as I used to. For the second time leaving Neoteric in hands of my awesome partners - Mateusz Paprocki, Grzegorz Gwozdz, Anna Kurleto and Lukasz Nowacki - they all did an amazing job. Being forced to let go I had no other option than to trust them and… that was the best thing that happened to me.
That was a huge kick to start delegating responsibility, defining our roles in the team and finding focus. The results came fast and stunning. Empowering people and guiding them in the right direction is important, but trusting them, letting make decisions let me look into the future.
What has changed
We have started implementing OKRs to help us focus on things that add up to our long-term goals. It’s hard to keep your eyes at the end of the year when you constantly need to run daily operations. OKRs helped us define the milestones and revisit key activities every week.
Today each functional team at Neoteric has their own OKRs constantly improving the focus and delivering better results.
We have started to plan our cash flow 3 months ahead and when we realized how important financial management was, we hired a CFO advisor. I neither have skills nor heart for finance. Having people doing what they are best at is what I found to be the key.
I have also stopped to relying on “market standards” when projecting sales. Back in 2015 I have decided we need to pivot from building software for polish SMEs to building software products and deploying highly skilled teams for foreign customers. As great as this decision was I did it all wrong.
I set targets I calculated by (this-is-what-I-need X these-conversions-are-doable). Because I never make the same wrong decision twice but 5 or 6 times just to make sure I invested over $30k in building a sales and marketing agency. With no experience, skills or time for it. HINT: don’t do that. I’ve dropped our key activities instead of delegating. Again.
Today we update our sales projections weekly both for the current quarter (based on closed deals) and for the next quarter (based on customer’s declarations for contract extensions and deals that are in the pipeline). Extending our cooperation with the key partner, having content marketing generating valuable leads and focusing on delivering great to our customers we ended up 25% above the goal we found very ambitious.
Welcome, my new friend, 2018
I’ve never entered new year as well prepared than today. The biggest lesson of all is to get focused, empower my team and learn faster. 
My commitments for this year:
I will send this newsletter at least four times.
I will recommend you three books that I have learned most from in each issue.
I will start a vlog on building software, digital transformation, and startups.
Three books I wish I read years ago
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It...and Why the Rest Don't by Verne Harnish
Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential by Greg Crabtree
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