And welcome the blog – at least the second version of it. New enthusiasm, new communication competencies, therefore also a new and reborn blog!
My name is Patrick, and I’m one of the co-founders of Graduateland. Going forward I’ll be publishing blog posts across a variety of topics, mostly related to our company, but also sharing thoughts about trends, public policies, and general opinions and advice that we find fit for our audience. Other team members will also contribute across their fields of expertise and passion. The ambition of the Graduateland Blog is for it to become our channel of communication, and hopefully somewhere that people, who find Graduateland interesting, can keep themselves updated.
Enough intro – let’s dive into the first topic; Why big things are happing at Graduateland!
Startup companies go through phases
The main transitions are often when the company simply morphs from startup (as the inherent meaning of the word refers to the fact that the organisation ‘just started up’) to a somewhat established business.
This doesn’t have much to do with whether the company performs better, nor the size of the company. In my opinion it refers to the company’s perception of itself. Is the company still trying to find its place in the world? Or has the company figured out what to do, how to do it, and is successfully doing it? These are things that indicate that you’re not ‘starting up’ anymore.
The durations it take for companies to outgrow the startup phase vary, and some companies may never leave the startup phase – if you can consider Apple a startup the definition is impressively broad.
It may not be attractive to lose the label, since the startup ecosystem is perceived sexy, trendy, and fast-moving, much to the contrary of the bland SME segment.
The first phases
The first phases startups go through are the ones that relate to the fundamentals of starting, building a team, identifying the product/market fit and so on. Thus a lot of explorative phases. At at time you’ll reach a point where the company ‘operates’, meaning that it has found a viable business model, generates revenue, and like a hamster in its wheel starts treading its way forward.
Unfortunately, in a hamster wheel you are never really questioning the direction you are currently headed. You are just working, working, working.
This is a phase that a visionary company can only occupy for so long. You can get consumed by the operation mode, forgetting to question status quo, and consequently risk losing the innovative advantage that qualified you for a spot in the market in the first place.
Graduateland has been through these phases over the last 5 years. We have learned the hard way how to build a killer team, having been forced to make some hard staff-related decisions along the way. We have learned how to foresee when to hire, and have become much better at hiring the right people for the job.
Our perception of our place in the market has also varied over time since the company was founded. We have always known that we wanted to build a great solution for students and graduates, but the way to expand geographically, in order to reach a truly global audience, was previously constrained.
It took some time to realize this, partly because our business was actually going pretty well. Why would you question whether what you’re doing is not ideal if you’re not facing obstacles? If it ain’t broken…?
As we learned that we could improve key elements of our expansion strategy a number of new focus areas were introduced. This is the phase that Graduateland as a company is in currently.
Another dimension that to which phases can be applied is related to the mentality of the founders. Do these people thrive at starting businesses or do they want to take a venture all the way (to an exit, to an IPO, or to a stable business that ultimately (hopefully) becomes a profitable cash cow)?
Perhaps the time spent in the industry reveal new and exciting business opportunities that also makes sense to explore?
In Graduateland we experienced a bit of everything. We were initially five founders, and naturally after five years of working tirelessly building Graduateland we realized that we perceived the years ahead slightly different.
Having started an exciting side project one year ago (Ontame.io), and realizing that we could actually build a potentially successful business here, we were forced to challenge some of the fundamentals, which had previously been left unquestioned. For the core founding team, could we actually end up doing something else than Graduateland?
It was of course a luxury problem – having two race horses, which both had the chance to accomplish something great. What to do?
To make a long story short – we have now decided to divide and conquer. Graduateland co-founder and initial CEO, Jens, is taking the role as CEO of Ontame, and I have taken over the role as CEO of Graduateland.
The decision actually makes a lot of sense. Jens has nurtured Ontame together with another Graduateland co-founder, Morten. And both of these ambitious entrepreneurs thrive at taking a company through the explorative phases of a startup, whereas I can’t imagine anything more exciting than taking a health and stable company, with a killer team in place, to new heights.
I’m imagining a football team that has learned to play brilliantly together. Now we’re heading towards the Champions League final. This is when it gets truly exciting!
Graduateland is entering an insanely thrilling period now. We have matured during the last years, have built the fundamentals of a highly complex platform, and are now extremely enthusiastic to keep building a great online experience. And ultimately kick-start even more great careers.