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15 things we learned this year building a company

Funder of VICO in a 500 startups event in Mexico in 2019

Hey there! The year 2019 is almost over and has been a very exciting one for us in every sense. In the following we want to share some of our learnings and aspects which we want to make better the next year.

Before we start:
A big thank you to all of our friends, families, co-workers, investors, followers and all you that helped us to make VICO a better company this year. We are very happy and grateful for this support and thrive to keep on for many years.

What happened in 2019?

First of all, here are some of the most important things that happened to VICO in 2019.

Friends of Medellín became VICO

We started our year by changing our name, brand and identity from Friends of Medellín to VICO. The transition already started in the past year, but was completed by unveiling our new Logo in March.

4 months in Mexico City and first investment by 500 Startups

We were invited to participate in 500 Startups, one of the best incubator programs for Startups in Latin America and the world. We arrived in April in Mexico City and enjoyed 4 months of mentorship, workshops and learnings from some of the best teachers and entrepreneurs in the field of startups in San Fransisco and Latin America. Many of the key learnings in the following list are thanks to our experience in 500 Startups. From 500 Startups we received as well our first external funding.

Our website is ready

Since early December it is possible to book and reserve a room through our system, which we was built by our team the last two years. It took us quite a while and there is still a lot to do. The work never stops, but it is the first time that we feel a confident that the website works well.

We started VICO in Bogotá

We are very excited to start VICO as well in Bogotá. It’s the first step in order to become the #1 Community for co-living in Latin America.

What did we learn in 2019

This year has been very moved and one of the most accelerated ones in the life of VICO, we really learned more than ever before. We want to share with you these findings: 1) what we learned this year and 2) what we want proposed ourselves to do better next year:

? Surround yourself with the right people in every aspect of your live

Everything becomes easier when you work and live and share with the right people. With right we refer to humans you like and that make you feel better. Don’t wait too long if there is someone toxic in your life. This may sound hard, but whether it is a toxic friend, co-worker or even boyfriend/girlfriend, you don’t help yourself by keep him or her close, because you and the other person as well suffers. The following principles are part of this learning:

Hire for a role: Be clear about the position you are looking to fill and what qualities you will need for this position. You should never hire someone just because this someone comes to you for a job, because they like the project or they like you and she/he seems to be a “cheap” catch

“Hire slow, fire fast”:  Once you know what you are looking for choose wisely. Take your time to see many candidates and don’t take a decision when you gut feeling make you feel good 100%. Only hire this person if it will push your culture and expertise to the next level. At the same time, when you feel someone is not 100% onboard talk with this person to explore the reasons of the feeling. When this doesn’t help, you should try to sort things out as soon as possible and in the worst case, go separate ways.

Work with people better than you: We started with a junior team, with people that are motivated but still have a lot to learn. But we don’t want to stick to this for ever. After hiring our first outside person, we started to notice the impact from day one. The person gave us feedback and new ideas, because he/she already arrived with experience and ideas from previous jobs. We are sure that these learning will be one of the most important ones in the history of VICO

? Be aware of your role and position when you say something

In VICO we practice a culture of radical candor, we critique each other, but critic is welcome, although it hurts. The only reason why we can accept this, is because we care for each other and want to become better in any part of our behaviour as founders, workers and persons.
But we noticed a change in how people react to the feedback of us, Tilman and Manuel, as founders. We noticed, we have to be more careful about the way how and especially, when we say things.

? Make decisions and have confidence in yourself

Don’t wait too long with decisions, when you think you reached to an agreement, start to get everyone on board. Clear out obstacles and disagreement in the team, so everyone can compromise 100% on the decision. Once we start to execute, have confidence in yourself and don’t overthink everything again, just stay with what you just decided. Only when the signals are getting stronger that something really didn’t work out, correct. Never forget, you can only progress if you are moving. Give it a try – and quick!

? Be unified

It is very important as co-founders to agree and commit to the decisions taken. If there is disagreement (and that’s for sure normal), don’t involve team members in these, but figure it out between yourselves. Once it is figured out, you need to commit to this decision without questioning.

? Being a founder is hard

Motivating yourself day over day is hard in a journey you aren’t sure sure how and when it ends. You have to accept the challenges and the setbacks everyday. You learn how to deal with it and how to become stronger through it. It never gets easier, but the problems become more complex.Dealing with uncertainty has become a part of our identity: We have been working on VICO for more than three years and never with a plan of more than a few months in advance. Something hard to explain to your parents (Hallo Mama!) and not easy at all.
The struggle is real, there is so much to do and so much to worry about, but having a team and co-founders and a family at your side, that believes in you, makes this adventure enjoyable, because we have a goal that unifies us: VICO will be the synonym of co-living in all over Latin America by 2025.

? Quality tops quantity

In all aspects of live, we started to notice that often quality is more important than having a lot: a) Product: Having the most important part of the process working 100% is more satisfying than ten functions with a lot of errors. b) Team: Having a small team with a clear roles and tasks archives more than a lot of people without a clue. c) Less hours of high quality work (concentrated and not interrupted) have more impact than just hanging around a lot of time in the office. d) Few goals, but these very well picked and drafted, will be completed more easily.
Having less – but this less being better than everything else – feels like having more.

? Be proud of what you have archived

In our German culture, the understatement is often the preferred way to go and that’s how we have done it so far. But in an environment of startups, Latinos and US-American culture, the people only believe 50% of what you say. Therefore, we have to communicate stronger what we have “already” have achieved and not just what we “only” have done. In other words, we have to become better at selling ourselves higher.

?Do the most important things first

Often we try to be busy to avoid doing the important thing. The next year we want to focus on doing the hard things first and not procrastinate. I admit often it feels more satisfying finishing something small, then to tackle the big thing, but when we talk about high impact, we have to talk about getting the important shit done.

⚖️Work AND Life Balance

Being a founder sometimes make you feel lonely, as you probably work more than most of your friends, you work weekends and you define yourself a lot through your work and your startup. This is why we want to become better in the living part. Force ourself to do things that aren’t related to work, like time for the loved ones, sports and travel.
In a long run, we will be better off by being healthy, happy and balanced. We never needed a lot, but we want to enjoy ourselves a little more so our work will be better as well.

Embrace the genius of the AND

Jim Collins coined this term in his book “Built to last”: Often we question ourself how a great culture and profitable can fit together, or how quality and agile work method may go together.
We have to change the way of thinking and we have to start to embrace the AND. By doing this, we become able to combine these all and find a way that makes our culture great while we become profitable. We don’t look for a balance of fifty-fifty: we thrive to combine two opposed ideas in our minds and creating a new way of working and living.

?Look for Mentors

We enjoy to discuss ideas with people that have been through the same experience and even in similar contexts. This is a great moment to learn and see problems from another perceptive. Which is why we want to build a mentors board at VICO with awesome mentors for a monthly review of our progress.


Communication is everything.

In all what we want to improve or what we learned, communication is the key. Like Wittgenstein said: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”. THis is something we feel everyday. We are limited by the way we communicate and express ourselves. If we are serious about becoming a great company, first we have to become great as persons at communicating and by this VICO has to become great at communicating.

In the end: Thank you very much for all your support.

We are very grateful for the year 2019 with all of you, you help and motivate us everyday to become better and create a better world together. Thank you very much!

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