Julian Kabab, CEO of Flashgap, the time-delayed photo sharing app inspired The Hangover film, takes a look at his journey from university student to company CEO and why others should strive for the same.
The journey from university student to CEO of a company within a year has been a hugely rewarding and challenging one. While some people may accuse me of ‘skipping the queue’ and getting to the finish without paying my dues, my belief is that if you have an idea and are passionate and determined to make it work, then you deserve your reward. The best entrepreneurs are never afraid of failure and have probably endured a number of setbacks before building a successful company.
As with most good ideas, ours started merely as a bit of fun. We watched The Hangover together and the end credits features photos of the characters from their night out, of which they had no recollection! We thought to ourselves that we’d probably endured a few of those evenings together and so came up with the experiment of wearing GoPros on our nights out. We would all gather the next day and watch the footage on our TV screen and loved the experience so much that we knew we had to go bigger with the idea. The emotion and bonding we shared led us to believe others could experience the same, and that’s when I thought we may just have a winning idea for a business.
I’ll be honest in saying you have to be extremely sure of people before deciding to embark on a business venture with them, even more so if they are friends. Working in such close proximity to each other can put a lot of strain on friendships and it can also mean that conversation topics focus purely on work, which is not ideal for anyone on your time off! Things that you may say to colleagues, you can’t to friends, and there lies a problem. It is possible to work with your friends but lines and boundaries must be established from the beginning and adhered to throughout. The only advantage to working with your friends is that you know exactly what they are worth, how they think and what they are capable of.
Making the accelerated jump in to the business world at a young age certainly means you have to learn quickly. The biggest wake up call for me was learning the importance of hiring the right people for the right roles. You can spend millions of pounds on communication, branding, partnerships and the like, but if you don’t have the key personnel then you will not succeed and the money spent will be a complete waste. A company is just a word, what makes it real is the people that drive its growth.
My biggest piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs would be to hire people that are smarter, better and more efficient than you. These people should have different skillsets to yourself and the best thing you can do is let these people get on and flourish within their respective roles; micro-managing is seldom effective. At the end of the day the CEO and founders of a start-up should be less qualified and less effective than every other person in the company. Forget your ego, this isn’t a contest and don’t believe that people who are smarter than you won’t respect you, or support your decisions. On the contrary, they know if you are in your position, you’ve worked hard to get there. Hard work is the easiest way to gain respect in a company. The real job of the founders is to be the most informed – since they are the ones making the decisions, they need to know absolutely everything going on industry-wide, with clients, competitors and employees. We view Flashgap not as an app but as a group of 12 people that love what they do, and are great at doing it.