Our guiding principles at Wedo

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Just done the April all hands meet with the whole team, thought I’d post the essential bits and the deck here:

Who we are:

We do simple shopping
We do simple shopping
Simple, informative, easy, reliable eCommerce.

In everything we do, we follow these principles.

Be human, be interesting

We hire for talent and fit, and you need to have both to make Wedo your home. But you also need to be interesting. Everyone is unique, so after talent and fit, we celebrate diversity.  Show everyone honesty, integrity, humility and be trustworthy. We show our customers why they should think of us every time they go online.

Focus on simplicity

Take the complex and simplify so anyone can understand. Unearth the simple in everything you do. Focus on the fundamentals and eliminate distractions. The best products polarise.

Make yourself at home

Life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy. Treat your colleagues and our customers the same way you’d treat them when coming over for a cuppa tea. Bring a positive energy to everything you do. We work hard, and play hard. Make what you do fun, or find something new to do.

Measure & Adapt

Ask the tough questions to create focus, then use data to validate and measure. Reveal the complexity, then analyse to make sense of what you find. There are very few absolutes. Always look for the improvements you can make, and always ask whether something can be done better, quicker, simpler, easier. In data we trust. Most of all, change is good.

Make it happen

Ideas are cheap, execution wins over great ideas and technology. Execution is where great teams define industries.   While others are talking & blogging about their ideas, we’re working on them relentlessly.  There is always a solution. Be resourceful. Make every day count. Seize the opportunities presented to you every day. Don’t shrink from anything. Make mistakes fast, and then learn from them. Most of all, #JFDI.

The deck:

Walking in the shadow every day

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Long time since my last blog post. The last few weeks have been fucking hectic, so thought I’d write up something as it’s gnawing at me. I’m going to commit to more regular blogging once one or two more operational things are in place, so until then it’s as and when I can ;-) If anything, from now on, the stuff I write here will be for me and me alone. If anyone digs it, then awesome. If not, then I’ve got something to reflect back on.


So the last while has been an immense, epic, fucking monster entrepreneur roller-coaster. I’m cursing not because I’m an ineloquent person, but because I’m trying to get a point across in a blunt way.

On one day, we hit milestones and numbers that make my eyes water. I mean, I’m sweating blood for 3 years, delaying gratification for pretty much anything one can delay gratification for, and then in 4 months we start to grow in a way that I was dreaming about 3 years ago. We’re hitting metrics that show we’re growing, and fast.

Then on the flip side, we start hitting operational growth issues that are slowing us down, and creating a lot of pain. Everything is fast, everything is a firefight, everything is aimed at keeping the growth going so that we get to profitability faster. But it’s cool. Those are the good problems, those are the ones I’ll wake up at 4am to conquer any day of the week. Those are the problems I want.

It’s the fuckoff big other stuff that crops up at exactly the same time, which makes you wonder whether you can cope with it all. It’s the people you trust that let you down when it really matters, that makes you wonder whether you’re ever going to trust people from the get go again. It’s the mistakes you make when you’re so tired from firefighting all day long, that you really wouldn’t make usually (I left my wallet and phone on a train after no sleep; this is after identity theft and credit card fraud), which just complicate things further.

And so from one hour to the next on the same day, literally, you’re dealing with epic shit that doesn’t sit on normal people scales. Almost 99% of people I speak to just don’t get it. They can’t relate, so I don’t say anything anymore. I just say I’m in IT and Wedo ecommerce.

So what’s happened is that my tolerance / ability to deal with things has changed massively. This is a good thing, and this is part of why I’m writing this blog post. You learn shit about yourself when you think you really have nothing more to give. It’s also taught me that it’s something I have to become comfortable with to keep growing, and to become the person I know I am inside. I’m going to change and push the growth even more so I deal with stuff better.

But, it feels like almost every day my universe is at threat in a fundamental way, like I’m walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death every day, and it’s fucking hard.

And that’s all. My internalisation.
There’s no getting away from it ;-)

An open letter to African technologists

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PASSION = BRAIN FUEL.
DUMB BRAIN FULL OF GAS ALWAYS BEAT SMART BRAIN WITH EMPTY TANK.
SMART BRAIN WITH FULL TANK BEAT EVERYONE.

Dear African technologist, hacker, developer, geek, product guy, dreamer, thinker, tinkerer, manager, CEO, multi-national-organisation-in-Africa,

We’re at the beginning of a shift in technology usage, where mobile adoption and usage is quickly going to become more prevalent and ubiquitous than the PC. Bandwidth is getting faster and cheaper for both PC and mobile, despite the monopolies that have held everyone back for years. Infrastructure is now massively cheap and easy to scale. There are toolkits, API’s, platforms, frameworks, services and stacks for almost every technology need you may have. It’s easier now to create something, and innovate, than it ever has been. Not moving forward means you’re being left behind.

The traditional approaches we’ve been using for years are dying. People are looking for authenticity, value, engagement, real’ness for want of a better word.

Dream. Find something that provides value. Help people to get some of that value. Make it great. Remove the crappy stuff.

Stop banging the same drums. Stop thinking you’ve got it all figured out. Approach problems differently. Give your people space to think and tinker. Innovate.

Get massively hyped about your product or service. Tell everyone you know. Let go of any conservativeness you may have, because if you can’t get excited about what you do, then no-one else will. If you’re working for a crap company, leave it. There are better things to do with your precious time.

We can learn a lot from places like Silicon Valley, New York, Berlin, Israel, London, Austin, Chile, Singapore, Ireland and India. We can learn even more from the people who live in those places, how they work, what they do with their time, and ultimately the success they create. We can also learn from the people we live among, by asking them about the problems they face.

There is no shortage of investors or money, only shortages of good people, scalable and executable opportunities. Be the person who can execute and scale, and do it with a product that people will use, and the money won’t be a problem. But don’t use a perceived lack of investors, internal or external, as an excuse.

There are no accidents, only trying, failure, and then ultimately succeeding. As a technologist, today, your greatest asset is the time and technical gifts you have. Use them wisely.

There are many problems people face in emerging markets, and they all need elegant solutions. Find the value. Supply the demand for that value, by doing something that makes you get up in the morning with a spring in your step and a whistle in your tune.

In short, there are no excuses or reasons not to do something awesome, other than the ones we limit ourselves with. Africa has the potential to be one of the largest mobile markets on the planet.

What are you doing about it?

What are your values?

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This week we sat down as a company to talk about what we valued the most, what we’d like to get across in each and every customer interactions, and what we wanted to live by. This is what we came up with, after 3 or 4 sessions:

  1. Love what you do.
  2. Be interesting, not perfect.
  3. Focus on simplicity.
  4. Be the ‘go-to’ people.
  5. Make yourself at home.

The idea is that in every decision, interaction, argument, direction, we take, the above values are our guide. We think the above take all of the little things we want to live by, and wraps them up into something which is easy to understand and talk about.

The proof it works for us, was that this week we had an experience which tested the above values, and we felt good about the outcome. We talked about how our values applied in this situation, what our conduct should look like to make us feel congruent with them, and then we acted. What’s funny is that my own default response was somewhat cynical (this happens after being in the trenches for so long – you get jaded and less and less patient), and much more sarcastic. But it was the team which brought us back to our values and what was the right thing to do.

No discussions, no debate, no arguments. Just alignment. And then happiness knowing we’d tried, and done the right thing.

We’re going to put the values on the wall, and we’re going to use them for all the important decisions. Feels good.

How about you? What’s your guide?

Execution is everything

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Some quick thoughts on execution, and speed:

Sometimes the temptation to be perfect is overwhelming.

We work towards perfection because we’re told that it’s worth aspiring and achieving. The problem for you and me is that perfection for some is rubbish for others, especially when your product reaches beyond the early adopter pool of people.

There are so many cliches around this thinking, some of which are below:
Release early, release often
Minimum Viable Product
Lean Startup Thinking
Ship it!
etc etc

What they all say is that getting out the door with something working is favorable to pretty much everything else.
Just get your shit out there for people to use.

It’s something I have to remind myself of every day, because the temptation is to labour over every pixel, every word, every line of code, so that it’s perfect. But perfect doesn’t pay the bills.

To me, that is execution.

* I guess one caveat to this is not to build up so much technical debt, or otherwise, that you can’t recover.

Do you want it enough?

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I’ve come across many people who talk a good game, who want the acclaim, who want to be the rockstar. Very few are prepared to do the work to get there. Even fewer are prepared to keep doing it when success isn’t immediate.

So when you look at what you’re doing in your life, do you want it enough, to go the distance, to complete the race, to finish it, or are you just a hobbyist?

If you can’t answer yes to the question above, then what do you get out of bed in the morning for? What fires you up? What makes you do what’s necessary?

The world is full of people on the same treadmill, following the same herd. Which direction are you moving in?

Food for thought.