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What is it like to be the CEO of a fast-growing startup in 2020?

Today we share a blog from our community member: Mateusz Sójka CEO of Podigee. 

Mateusz Podigee

2020 is a tough year, no question. For many people, it has been a huge struggle, be it because of health reasons, job insecurity, or the uncertain future of the economy.

I feel so privileged to be leading Podigee – Podcast Hosting & Analytics, the project that I co-founded with Ben Zimmer 7 years ago, that later on became a business and a key piece of the podcast ecosystem in Germany, on our path to international expansion. Despite the situation around, the uncertainty and the difficult times, we are growing at a pace unimaginable to me even a couple of years ago.

6 (!) new colleagues recently signed their contracts and will join us all at once in January.

To put it into perspective: by the end of 2019, Podigee had a headcount of 6 people. Next year we are aiming at 80 employees. Important: we are bootstrapped, so far.

So what is the secret of growing a company into such a fast-moving machine?

My colleague and CRO at Podigee Sander Bohlen always say that a CEO has 3 tasks he or she needs to do extremely well:

1. Make sure that everyone at the company understands the vision and where we are going – this is the CEO’s superpower. The only way to move together as a group is to make every single person understand where we are going, and why. It sounds much easier than it is, since the vision itself is worthless if people do not believe it is feasible.

2. Make sure that we hire the best people we can get – hiring the best people is, against common belief, not a matter of money. It is a matter of culture – a culture of top performers. “A” players want to work with “A” players (as long as pay and working conditions are fair, of course). They want to know that the company provides enough autonomy and space while valuing top performance and results. On the flip side, it also means making tough decisions and knowing when to let go for the common good.

3. Make sure that there is enough money on the bank – someone needs to pay the bills and make sure that the company vision goes together with the reality of the market. In our case it is a mix of the right revenue model, a great product with the proven market fit, focus on the right customer groups, growth of customer base, efficient processes. But there is also the added, calculated risk, of growing as fast as you can, yet always within a reasonable financial framework.

In addition to that, there is a number 4: I am directly involved in product vision and focus on providing my expertise and knowledge about #podcasts and #podcasting, so that we can keep building a solution that our customers really need, value, and love. A recent customer survey showed that a staggering 70% of our customers said they would be very disappointed if Podigee disappeared. An additional 20% said they would be a bit disappointed.

And to be perfectly honest, I’d love to believe that it is because of the delightful, useful, and beloved product that we build, that we are having so much traction and growth. Because to me, there is nothing more beautiful than building something that is valued and is helpful to so many people and organizations.

And there is more to come next year, much much more. Stay tuned, because 2021 is going to be epic!

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