I Quit the Company I Cofounded

I recently quit working at Grapes ‘n’ Berries, the company I cofounded almost 2 years earlier.

I’ve always heard that quitting your own company is a very hard thing to do, and that was exactly right. My decision to quit though came from the realization that Grapes ‘n’ Berries has precisely turned into the company I never wanted to create, and that I have no control to change it.

I bet you’ve heard a million times that picking your partner(s) is the most important step of starting a company. I’ve unfortunately failed to do so. I found myself in a commitment with a partner that does not share any of the values I believe in, comes from a completely different background, and does not have the same vision of where the company should be heading.

If I had to give some advice to 2-years-ago me, my advice would be:

  1. Spend lots of time to know your partners very well, why they want to start the company you are starting and what’s their vision for it in the future.
  2. Non-full-time founders are a no-no. If someone wants to invest money in a startup but doesn’t want to risk quitting their full-time job, they should simply be investors, not cofounders, and certainly not CEOs.
  3. Before jumping in and starting to do any work, agree on (and document) the equity split, the amount of money each partner is putting in, if any, and what happens to a cofounder’s equity when they leave. I recommend a standard 4-year vesting period for the latter.
  4. If any of the cofounders is putting money into the company, make sure that this money will be available in the company’s bank account in its entirety from day one.
  5. Set up a board of directors with an odd number of members as early as you can. The odd number will prevent tie votes.
  6. Stay away from cofounders whose sole purpose of starting a company is to make money. Maybe recommend real estate to them.

While it makes me sad that I no longer get to work with the great team of developers I assembled since we started Grapes ‘n’ Berries, I was at a point where I could no longer stay in a partnership that’s not aligned with what I want to do.

Focus List

I’m heavy user of to-do apps, specially Wunderlist, but recently my to-do list started to be a place I dread looking at it. I have too many lists, overdue tasks, things that I need to work on today, things that I need to take care of a week from now, groceries shopping lists, and a plethora of other things.

Simply it was just too distracting for me. Just like the 1000+ unread messages in your inbox right now that makes it impossible to read a message without being distracted by all that noise.

My primitive solution to the problem was to grab a piece of paper everyday, write only the important tasks that I need to focus on today, and ignore the rest of my to-do list for the rest of the day. By the end of the day, I throw away that piece of paper and start the next day with a fresh set of tasks. That approach worked quite well for me, so naturally the next thing for me to do as a software engineer was to turn it into an app.

Focus List does just that. It’s a very minimal to-do list with only a place for tasks you need to focus on today. The list is wiped out clean by the end of the day so you always start with a clean slate next day in the morning (or whenever you tend to start your workday).

Even though Focus List is very simple, I’ve been working on it for quite some time now. Since my goal wasn’t just to ship it, but rather to do some experiments in both the UI and the code along the way, I’ve changed the UI a couple of times and rewritten the majority of the code every time.

FocusListIcon

Download from the App Store

Focus List is available on the App Store for free with no ads or in-app purchases. Go grab it now, and I hope it helps you be more productive.

Photos Cleaner 1.0

I have a ton of screenshots cluttering my iPhone Photos library. When I finally decided to clean it up, I downloaded a handful of apps that let you do that but I didn’t like any of them, so I decided to build my own (because that’s what programmers do, right?).

The result is Photos Cleaner. Created during a few spare hours on a weekend at a Starbucks, this is admittedly not the toughest app I have worked on, so I’m making it available for free.

PhotosCleanerIcon

Download from the App Store

Personal Core Values

Great companies define a set of core values that they live by. These core values help keep everyone aligned to what the company believes in and form a healthy culture.

A while ago, I went through the exercise of helping define core values for the company I worked at. It inspired me to come up with a similar list of personal core values to live by. This list has been very helpful to me day-to-day and especially helpful whenever I need to take a major life decision. I occasionally look at my list of core values and see if what I’m currently doing with my life, or that major decision I’m about to take matches with those values.

I’m constantly tweaking this set of core values to better reflect what I would like to do with my life. Here’s my current list:

  1. Passion is not optional. Being passionate about whatever you are doing is the most important thing. Everything else is secondary.
  2. Leave your comfort zone from time to time. Doing so is critical for the creative process to thrive.
  3. Embrace change. Don’t live in fear of the new. Embrace change. Embrace diversity of opinion and always be open to new experiences.
  4. Accept different people. Accept people who think in ways that are different from you, and people of different religions, cultures, and races.
  5. Embrace simplicity and minimalism. Avoid clutter in everything you do in your life. Live only by what you really need.
  6. Take risks. Don’t play your life safe and end up having regrets about the things you could have done.
  7. Have a beginners mind. Have an attitude of openness and eagerness to learn and a lack of preconceptions. Face life the way a small child does, full of curiosity, wonder and amazements.

I’m sharing this list in the hope of inspiring others to come up with their own list, or copying mine and tweaking it until it matches their personality and what they want to do with their lives.

Mobile Operators Spam Has to Stop

If you live in Egypt you have probably received numerous unsolicited commercial advertisements through SMS. This has got to be the worst form of advertising and it has to stop.

You might think that the phone numbers that receive these messages are picked randomly, or through curated lists of phone numbers like what happens with spam email, but it’s much more than that. This service is actually provided by mobile network operators in Egypt. They sell your information to advertisers to send you spam SMS based on your location, the value of you phone bills, your interests – which you are asked about when you open your online account – and other criteria. So advertisers are not only spamming you with unwanted messages, but they are also doing it through the mobile network operators, which you as a subscriber never gave them permission to sell your information or to send you unsolicited promotional SMS.

It’s not like mobile network operators are providing you a free service that they have to somehow cover its cost with an alternative source of revenue. You pay monthly subscription fees and service charges to the mobile network operator and you have the right to demand this to stop. This kind of messages should be opt-in, if they exist at all, and as far as I know there’s currently no way to opt-out of it.

In the United States, EU and Australia SMS spam is criminalised and violators may face substantial costs which has reached up to $175 in some cases for each spam SMS sent. Operators like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Spring in the US allow you to report any spam SMS you receive by forwarding it to a number. Reported spammers are then disconnected from the network and faced with legal charges.

I can’t see this being criminalised in Egypt anytime soon as the mobile network operators could easily lobby the government out of making such rules and regulations, but at least we should get a way to opt-out of it.

What are your thoughts on SMS spam. Does it really bother you? And what can we do about it? Leave a comment below.

Update

Turns out that on Vodafone you can call customer support and request to be unsubscribed from all the promotional messages and calls sent by Vodafone. This only solves a small part of the problem, but still worth doing.

Not sure if this is available on other networks or not.