Ever wondered what it’s like working for a startup accelerator? As exciting as it can be (sometimes) frustrating, above all it is dynamic and diverse. In this week’s Startup life Q&A series, we take a break from growing our portfolio of startups to have a quick chinwag with Panagiotis Sarantopoulos, Front-end Developer & Animator at Starttech.
Q1: So Panagioti, how would you briefly describe startup life? Or for want of a better expression, working at a startup accelerator like Starttech?
A1: Intrinsically rewarding. This is, actually, the reason I joined in the first place. I’ve always been compelled to help people better their knowledge by sharing my own.
Q2: What are the things that motivate you most, and the most difficult challenges you face in your role?
A2: Great comradeship and (ideally) consequent friendship are the best part of it, I suppose. In day-to-day business, at least. New knowledge is sort of a balm for the soul. For me, at least. I think a couple of challenges are essentially intertwined with my role. What I find most important is how to get people to effectively use my help, so that it matters. Also, at a lesser extent, new technologies I had no idea about and how to “master” them.
Q3: Having been exposed to many an entrepreneur and wannabe entrepreneurs, what is your take on Entrepreneurship in general? It is an often misunderstood concept don’t you think?
A3: It is. Or misused, rather. I’ve seen able people use it as a vehicle to build a small business that gives little or no additional value to the world. I’ve been one of them in the past. But only briefly and I dare say, unbeknownst to me. The term, along with its intricacies, was yet to be as widely known as it is today. But I think Entrepreneurship should be about changing the world in evolution. I digress; You can learn more about what I make of all this, in my “Story about Entrepreneurship“.
Q4: Interesting stuff. Now we have the niceties out of the way, can you explain why your office nickname is Bananaman?
A4: It’s not. You made that up (OK, you got me there – Ed). But, if you have to ask, the potassium and magnesium found in bananas can help protect you from muscle cramps at night. It’s important. Also, they work wonders at spotting errors in code.
Q5: What do you enjoy doing the most, both work-wise and in your personal life (apart from eating bananas obviously – Ed)?
A5: I’d have to say “learning”. Anything I can get my hands on. Nothing like a good book, followed by a DIY session, to prove the concept.
Q6: Right, let’s move on to the more important aspects of your daily routine. What’s the first thing you do when you get to the office?
A6: Set up my laptop and boot it up. What kind of question is that, anyway? (So, no headstands or yoga then? – Ed)
Q7: And the last thing you do before you leave?
A7: Shut down my laptop and carefully and methodically organize it, along with it’s essentials, in my extraordinary backpack. Sport Billy style.
Q8: Which tools do you use daily and do you have any secret tips and tricks, which help your productivity?
A8: I use a lot of tools. Text editors and other tools and clients for Web Development, Adobe Software for design and Animation and, of course, a couple of versatile Project Management tools, one of which was made by my good friend, Ioannis. A real time saver. Thanks Ioannis! I also use “The Stare”. Best tool I ever had.
Q9: What productivity and/or work-life balance tips and hacks do you have to share with us?
A9: Well, I say get it done by 4, so you can hit the links (golf term). Use the Pareto principle and choose your priorities wisely. Otherwise you’ll have nothing meaningful to show for your work. And your family will not be forgiving for the time lost, over work (limited transgressions may be allowed – until you get the hang of it, at least).
“Success? For me it means hitting the ceiling on a goal. I try to take it one step at a time, for the most part. I love me a fit of excitement with a huge smile, on the way home. People curiously looking at me and everything.”
Q10: What would you say to anyone considering getting involved in a startup?
A10: For entrepreneurs: Think twice, design well, get people that can align with the vision and be mindful of how you spend your capital. And, of course, keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to pivot or exit.
For experts: Expect it to be a journey, make sure you relate to the vision from day one and keep in mind you need to give a lot before you take something back.
Q11: OK, time for a few quick fire questions. What’s the last message you sent on Slack (we want the truth – Ed)?
A11: Oddly enough, I sent “https://youtu.be/3LrrHG9ASuQ”, to you, right after I resolved a brain teaser of an issue, on a project.
Q12: If you could only eat one flavor of ice-cream for the rest of your life, what flavor would it be?
A12: This goes against my better judgement, but I’d have to say pistachio. End of conversation.
Q13: Who would win in a battle between King Leonidas of Sparta and Alexander the Great?
A13: Alexander. He could wield a sword like there’s no tomorrow. He also knew a mermaid.
Q14: If you could start your own business/startup, what would it be?
A14: Still working on that. So many ideas, you know? Tell you what. I’ll do my best for you to be the first to know. What say you? (only if I can have a 10% stake – Ed)
Q15: When was the last time you did something for the first time (I hope your answer is more exciting than Aristeidis’)?
A15: Well… As a bookworm, I find there’s normally a lot of things I do for the first time. As a DIYer, I find it difficult to classify anything as a first time endeavour. Come to think of it, three weeks ago, I designed a counterbalanced wall bed of my own (in CAD). Complete with sidebar cabinets, its own retractable desk, custom lighting fixtures and a concealed charging station. It’s still missing the retractable headboard fixture with detachable tablet displays and embedded bluetooth speakers. I’m not sure it counts as a first timer. I’ve designed custom furniture before. Also, I’ve not built it yet. And that’s the best part.
But I somehow get the feeling that you were looking for something more along the lines of “jumping out an airplane, mid-flight”. You rascal… (nope, that’s pretty impressive. I struggle changing lightbulbs – Ed)
Q16: If you had 60 seconds in an elevator with an investor what would you say to persuade them to invest their money in Starttech?
A16: “What problem we solve, by what advantage, targeted at which audience, accomplish what goal”. If relevant, “what we charge customers, for what benefit, in return”. Investor’s floor reached… If you prefer to mumble about it, this other type of elevator may come in handy.
Q17: What does a successful day at the office, as it were, mean to you?
A17: Hit ceiling on a goal. I try to take it one step at a time, for the most part. I love me a fit of excitement with a huge smile, on the way home. People curiously looking at me and everything.
Q18: In brief, what are the most important aspects to consider when you evaluate a potential startup’s business idea?
A18: Simply put, all aspects related to question #16. As many of them are relevant, at this point, at least. Also, evaluate the founding team and their objectives, identify their assumptions around the problem, customers, and existing solutions, test it opposite all aspects of their unique value proposition. We can talk about this in more detail, at another time.
Thanks Panagiotis. You can get back to your bananas and DIY now.