There are tons of tips out there on creating and sustaining a business. But not all those pieces of advice come from people who have been intimately involved in interlacing the warp and weft of the fabric of a startup.

João Félix is definitely not one of those armchair experts who would give random suggestions about how to become a successful entrepreneur.

He is the founder and CEO of Mobiag, which provides “turn-key software, hardware, and mobile app solutions for any operational model of car-sharing, car rental, and scooter-sharing business.”

His SaaS mobility technology company managed to rake in €1.5 million in revenue over eight years.

Mobiag is developing intelligent solutions for urban mobility. (Photo credit: Mobiag)
Mobiag is developing intelligent solutions for urban mobility. (Photo credit: Mobiag)

A results-driven executive, João has a B.A. in management from Universidade Nova de Lisboa and participated at a business analysis and valuation program at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2007.

He has had the experience of working as an analyst at Goldman Sachs—an American multinational investment bank and financial services company—and co-founded Citydrive—which was built as a technology demonstrator for Mobiag.

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His years-long experience in product management, business development, finance and multiple stakeholder management, investment banking, and consulting makes him qualified to talk about different aspects of running a business.

In an interview with Via News, João shared his tried and trusted recipe for success. Here are his top tricks of the trade:

1- Don’t be afraid to reshuffle your core team, including yourself.

According to João, startup founders should not be afraid to change key members on their team because it could help them put the right person at the right job at the right time within the company.

“For instance, one guy that had worked with us pretty much since the beginning of our market approach was not the right person for the scale-up phase. Fortunately for me, he understood that himself and left and we got to hire someone who was more fitted for that role and things are going much better since,” he explained.

João says founders should keep an open mind and know that “just because someone was the right person when you were starting out doesn’t mean that they’re the right person to scale the company with.”

He also believes that entrepreneurs should not guard against the idea of offering their position to someone else and taking up a new role when the situation demands.   

“As the founder, you might be the right CEO at the beginning of the company, but you might not be the right guy to scale the company or bring it to an IPO or the Series C round of funding because the skillset needed in these different moments is not the same.”

The CEO of Mobiag added that founders should be aware of their weaknesses and get help from people around them if they want to keep the company together. “Find another CEO if necessary. Don’t be afraid to change people, including yourself.”

2- It’s easier to accept failure when you’re still small.

João advises founders to surround themselves with people who can support them during the scale-up phase because failure in that stage would not be as easy to accept as it is in the initial phases.

“I speak from experience in saying that it’s easier to be more open to failure when it’s a small business and it’s just your CEO, your co-founder, and maybe your first or second employees, especially if these guys are developers who can easily get new jobs.”

But the responsibility piles up when you have a team of 20 or 30 people, he added. “So make sure that when you’re ready to scale your company, you have around you people who have done it before, who can support you, and who you can talk to when you’re having questions.”

3- Don’t be too dependent on investors.

João, who is a mentor at Techstars, says over-reliance on investors would be a step in the wrong direction.

“Try to be as independent of your investors as possible. Investors should be there for you and not try to take the business away from you. If you don’t plan and don’t do your work, you’ll end up in a position where it’s either that or you have to close down your business.”

4- Things take longer than you think.

“Think well about your business plan, triple your marketing costs, and double the time you think it would take to do anything,” Mobiag’s founder said, adding that one of his biggest mistakes was getting into the headspace that things can get done very quickly.

According to him, fast results should not be expected, especially if the process in question involves large corporations.

Founders should also beware that client acquisition is “very expensive”, particularly if the business is based on a business-to-consumer (B2C) model, he said.

“So always be prepared to spend three times what you think it’s going to cost and then wait at least twice longer than what you expect.”

5- Learn from failed founders.

Our society is hard-wired to look down on failure, but João argues that failed entrepreneurs have great lessons to offer.

“Hear advice from people who have done it, even if they failed. You can probably get the best advice from someone who’s tried and failed.”

As the CEO of Mobiag says, the path to success is marked by failure. But even failure has a lot to teach us about success, only if we allow it to.

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