9 things nobody told me when I started a mini web startup

March 22, 2019

Hey fellow entrepreneurs, I’m Jaime Tatsubana - a School of Interactive Arts & Technology alumnus from Simon Fraser University.

I bootstrapped my company FootyStats back in late 2016. It’s a soccer data platform meant to be used by the broader public.

It’s been about 2 years and I couldn’t be more proud of how much it’s grown. We receive several million page views a month from users all over the world and have been featured all over the web as a go-to source of data for journalistic articles.

That being said, the road to getting here has been extremely challenging throughout, and I’ve fallen to pitfalls that I wish someone would’ve told me about. I’d like to list some of them off so that hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.

  1. Accounting and taxes are a lot of work

    I had no idea how time-consuming and costly accounting and taxes would be, especially since lawyers are sometimes involved.

    If you know a reliable family accountant, it’s best to just let them handle it and have some of the general aspects explained to you. There are also tax implications with payroll, receiving investments, stock exchanges, and the way that you incorporate (federal or provincial).

    Usually provincial incorporation is the way to go because it’s simpler. You can also use Stripe Atlas to incorporate a Delaware company which sets up many things for you nicely.

  2. Whether you succeed or fail, you’re guaranteed miserable moments

    This is quite ironic because I thought that if the platform does well, I’d have fewer things to worry about. I was very, very wrong!

    As an example, when we grew in user-base our servers could no longer handle the traffic. So the website went down while I was sleeping. We had a number of angry users tweeting at us until I woke up. While it’s technically a “good thing”, trying to read a wave of frustrated tweets and simultaneously attempting to fix a server you have no idea how to fix, isn’t fun.

    While it’s worth it in the end, you do have to go through these periods. It’s inherently unavoidable and all you can do is to brace for it.

    It’s weird to be talking about the negatives but I think making it clear to expect those bad moments may give you some comfort.

  3. It’s not as glamorous as it seems

    Most people think being a startup founder is like being in Suits. In reality, it’s more like being Bear Grylls in Man vs Wild.

    Remember that the default outcome of a startup is death. A lot of your early days will be spent fighting for every bit of traction possible, and that means you’ll spend your days and nights in a room coding. For the most part, you won’t be at parties talking about how great your startup is.

    I encourage you to love the ugliest parts of building a business - like sitting in a room all day and working on the product or cold calling for sales. Y Combinator’s president Sam Altman said it best - “Think about what makes a good Startup movie - do none of that, and instead start coding and talking to your customers”.

  4. Being an entrepreneur is a lot like being an athlete

    You’ll lose more often than you win. The will to keep moving is essential. Similar to an athlete, if you win, you celebrate for 10 minutes then you start preparing for the next game. If you lose, you cry for 10 minutes then you start preparing for the next game.

    You just have to keep on improving and not get bogged down mentally.


  5. You’ll do a lot of work that you don’t want to do

    I’m naturally a procrastinator, and I have a hard time doing things that I don’t like, such as accounting, making spreadsheets, Googling code issues, collecting logos on the internet, etc. It’s not how most people would describe their ‘dream job’,  but these are things that have to get done and you need the discipline to power through.

  6. Most people don’t know what they’re doing

    This includes your parents, professors, and advisors. Even if they have the best intentions, they don’t have the contextual understanding that you have. So just collect opinions like pieces of data, but ultimately come up with your own decisions and conclusions.

  7. Partnerships/Investments are often overrated

    This is contextual. But generally speaking, partnerships and investments do not yield as much positive outcome as many think it would. In fact, it’s often a lot of work to keep partners happy. Having investors also mean you’ll spend time writing reports, emails, and managing relationships. None of these things help improve your product.

  8. Be ok with having difficult conversations

    People have this innate desire to not to disappoint others. This is really harmful to the company because not being honest can hurt your team and your customers.Be ok with having hard conversations. Be the first to bring them up if nobody does. Everybody is already thinking it, so you’ll be surprised at how easy it is.

  9. It’s ok to be bad at it. But it’s not ok to not improve

    I’m going to quote Sam Altman again. He says “When judging entrepreneurs you should not judge them based on how good their skills are currently, but based on their rate of improvement.”

    When I started I barely could use PHP properly, and I was very scared to work with databases. Our servers went down every 30 minutes just handling data updates because my code was essentially spaghetti code. It’s surprising that FootyStats worked at all in the beginning.

    I improved my engineering skills gradually and scaled it to handle hundreds of thousands of users each month. The process took over a year.

    It doesn’t take a lot of skill to get started. But you do have to improve them or gain new ones as you go. I think many people get discouraged because as an entrepreneur they run into walls so often. But the key is to understand that it’s normal and that you should learn to overcome them.

Most people think being a startup founder is like being in Suits. In reality, it’s more like being Bear Grylls in Man vs Wild.

Pictured above: Joe Turner (left), and Jaime Tatsubana (right), Founder & CEO of Footystats

That concludes my list. But lastly - make use of every resource available to you to maximize your chance of success. SFU Venture Connection provided us with co-working space when we began getting new hires, and they’ve been very helpful throughout with PR and mentorship.

Good luck!