16. July 2018
Interview: Finding a suitable partner is key to a successful business
Some investors prefer startups run by only one founder. Others like to work with companies run by two or more people because they motivate each other, provide each other with feedback and divide labor based on their strengths. "We are like yin and yang," says Luboš Němeček, as Štěpán Gregor laughs. An interview with founders of Hunter Games about a company that creates escape games and believes that having two (or more) founders is always better than one.
In an interview with Alena Nekovářová, we talked about investors prefering to invest in startups with one owner. What do you think about it?
Štěpán: I have recently read an interesting statistic about startup struggles and successes. Among other things, they wrote that 80% of all successful start-ups have more than one founder. Ideally, there should be two or three founders, one of which should be in charge of business, the second of which should take care of finances and internal affairs, and the third should handle IT development. Founders are often passionate and share a vision, while employees may lose it over time.
Luboš: I also think that it is better if a company does not rest on one person's shoulders alone because they will lose the zest and energy. Our advantage is that, in case I cannot work anymore, Štěpán will work instead of me and vice versa. Notwithstanding the fact that it is important to talk about things with someone else and divide the burden of work based on who is good at something and who enjoys it.
So, you think that running a company with two people is an advantage?
Štěpán: Yes, unambiguously. However, you absolutely need to find a suitable partner with whom you are a fit.
Luboš: This is alpha omega. Before that, I had four projects myself that I sold because after some time they became routine. I stopped having fun and I could not push myself forward anymore. In pairs, you can manage a company in a completely different way.
Where can you find such a suitable person?
Štěpán: We have known each other for twelve years. We traveled together, for example, in Mexico. It's interesting how you think you know someone, but you only know the person as a friend. When you suddenly start talking business, you learn a lot of things about the person you did not know before.
Luboš: It was a great coincidence that we put together this startup. Štěpán was the catalyst that translated my dreams into reality. While I am impulsive and I have one hundred thoughts running in my head, Štěpán can concentrate on one thing.
Štěpán: I'm glad to have one thought in my mind. When there's more there, I'm lost. (laughter)
Luboš: We complement each other. While Štěpán is a perfectionist, I come up with plenty of ideas. I think it is not in the power of one person to have both qualities. In case one has both of these, they cannot do both of them at 100%.
Štěpán: When you have a startup, you are basically working all the time. If you had to manage it all alone, you would need a psychiatrist.
Luboš: More importantly, if you make a decision worth of hundreds of thousands or millions of crowns and you have no feedback from another person, it can end up very badly. By having two completely different viewpoints, we can talk about things openly and prioritize them.
Do you sometimes have hard moments?
Štěpán and Luboš with one voice: All the time, all the time. (laughter)
Štěpán: At the beginning, when Hunter Games was born, it was more dynamic. We both tended to deal with one and the same thing, we had more fights. UP21 has helped us a lot, because they advised us not to try and solve the same thing, but instead work on what we are best at. Even if quarrels sometimes occur, if you share the same goal of finishing your startup, you have to swallow your bitterness when the other person gets angry and keep going.
Luboš: I have to say that I find quarrels constructive, because if there are none, I would take it as a signal that there is something wrong. Either someone is flattering me or they are not interested in the project. As you try to defend your opinion, you are looking for arguments as to what it should be and de facto it may happen that you change your mind because the other person has stronger arguments. Today, our quarrels are not so impulsive and we can prepare them for them. There is nothing personal about them. The leadership of our company with two people had its own development and we had to go through it. But we got to where we are now.
Is there anything else besides quarrels that can complicate the development of your business?
Štěpán: I can’t think of anything now.
Luboš: Sometimes we can get stuck because we have a completely different point of view. For example, when we want to bring another person to the team, one of us wants a perfectionist and the other one wants a creative person. But you can always make a deal and compromise. Anyway, compromise is better for me than if only one of us decided.
How do you do negotiations with two founders?
Štěpán: We do not go to meetings together because it would be a waste of time. One appointment takes at least two hours including travel time. It would be useless, if two of us went.
Luboš: Štěpán solves operational matters like finance, subsidies, and preparing documents while I go to meetings and present products and services. I am looking for places where we have something to offer the client. Together we discuss what comes out of it.
How do you motivate each other?
Štěpán: We communicate our achievements. First of all, this makes us happy and motivates both of us towards even more success.
Luboš: From time to time, we like to surprise each other. When someone achieves something, we let the other one know. These successes take us forward.
And finally, guys, how are you doing?
Luboš: Bringing the product to the market, where you just explain to customers that they need to have it, is rather hard. Our startup brings something new. Some people do not even know what an outdoor escape and geolocation game is.
Štěpán: That's right. You're fighting for every customer. People are able to call you at half past five that they want to play the game or call you when you’ve just started showering. It's a battle, but I believe we will win.