I’ve always been drawn towards startups, I love being a part of the creation of something new and I love feeling like your work genuinely matters. Some people avoid it like the plague, the idea of late nights, weekends and missed holidays seems like voluntary slavery but to me it’s exhilarating.
In terms of making the decision to quit my job and start a company – I had a eureka moment, I was unhappy in my job, I wanted to be part of something big and I looked around and realised that the role I was in just wasn’t scratching that itch.
I wanted to lead a team, I wanted to make something that mattered and work with people that cared about more than the money. I had skills that were in demand.
I decided it was time to cut out the middle man, to assume some risk and chase my own projects. I had savings, I had the drive, and I had little financial burden, no apartment or kids. I wrote up a little doc about my current job with 2 sections: positives and negatives. I had 4 positives and 15 negatives.
So I quit.
I found two very lucrative contracts right out of the gates.
Its always a difficult conversation and decision but the hardest person to convince is yourself. I found myself giving my story to my family and friends, and even pulling one poor soul from the Irish Tech Community out for a pint to reinforce my plan. I was the only engineer on my project and there was a strict deadline, so notice periods were strict and important.
I met my boss, we sat down and I gave him the news. Its important to be firm, once you’ve made the decision and vocalised it then it will always hang in the air between you. If you take a counter offer they’ll always know you as a flight risk and you’ll be lucky to see another promotion. So as I said, I gave the news and was firm, I didn’t want to negotiate or talk about my reasons, I wanted to spread my wings so to speak and that was all that needed to be said.
The plan initially was to work on a product I’d had in my head for awhile, I’d done mockups, I’d done MVPs, I’d gotten quotes from designers on screens. I decided I’d work off my savings for a few months and see if I could get this off the ground.
But by this time word had spread that I was available for work, a friend referred me to some people looking for help with their Android library. It’ll only be a few weeks I told myself.
Then another contract came along, it’ll only be 4 months I told myself.
Then the contract was extended, it’ll only be another 3 months I told myself.
And here I am, a few months later having somehow been sucked into the contracting game. Something has been becoming clearer and clearer to me: it takes money to make money. I’ve tried running startups before, and we’ve never had the funds to go full-time, we’ve always been applying for this grant or that, or applying for an accelerator here or there. What I needed was money, and what I need now is money. Cold. hard. cash. Squids, Blips, Bob.
Something else became clear after stepping away from the product for a little bit was that it wasn’t that great an idea really, and I hadn’t been thinking straight. I had clung to it like a life raft to justify my decision to start out.
I’m pleased to say that Mawla is going to be a Creative Development Studio. I, me, the Royal We, are making apps for clients. The longterm goal is to find an app or SaaS idea and bring it to life, and I can think of no better way to get that started than by gathering some like minded people and working together.
For this plan to pay off I need a new approach to prototyping. I’m going to take ideas, give them 1-2 months with a set number of features and be strict with myself and the team when deciding if the product is worth something or to just pop it on Github.
In terms of actually setting up I was lost. In the wild, without a guide or a hope. I realised I was going to need to spend money to get this done correctly. I came across a few accounting sites that help you set up as a private limited company or as part of an umbrella company.
I knew the company was something I wanted to grow, so I decided to go with a Private Limited company. After a pile of paper work and bringing a few forms for a walk – Mawla was born.*
So a big part of Incorporating was choosing a name, and a logo. This was dictated a lot by who I am. The name Mawla comes from the Irish word for Play-do or Plasticine – Mala, Maula or Marla (People feel very strongly about the spelling of this word). If I ever brought the company global I wanted something that would link it to its Irish heritage. This was partly influenced by Intercom’s head nod to the Primary School speaker system and Shuppa by the Collison brothers which is a play on Siopa (The Irish word for Shop).
Marla is essentially a tool that lets you build shapes and structures. It is a tool that enables creativity – like lego. I want to do the same thing with apps, provide an easy way to bring ideas and shapes out of heads and into the world.
Though Marla did usually wind up being rolled into a snake like shape and left to dry stuck to the carpet…
From the Lego analogy I drew the shape for the logo. I found that Marla itself is somewhat difficult to visualise and could easily be mistaken as a rainbow or a pride flag – I decided to follow the multicoloured approach of Marla but used a flat design and took on a Material palette to better suit the web.
I haven’t had a moment of doubt that this is the right thing to do, I feel validated and excited. I do feel like things have gone really well so far and I feel like I owe that to the great people I surround myself with, thank you all.
I’ll be releasing another blog post with some recommendations of what services/tools I used. It’ll get a bit nerdier so I’ve decided to break it up into a separate post.