Gen Z Founders aren’t snowflake founders

They weren't alive when NOKIA 3310 entered the phone market. Yet here they are, entering the startup market 24 years later. Adam and Petr, two GenZ founders striving to change our hair care, we met during our Truesdays tech meet-ups.

What made diving into the entrepreneurial world a “piece of cake” for you as a young startup apprentice? Wouldn’t you rather attend student parties, try backpacking in South America, or just enjoy the free time? 

Adam: Startups aren’t mutually exclusive with having fun. Rather the opposite. But besides the fun you have building your startup, you can do pretty much anything. Just take your laptop with you and learn to communicate and plan accordingly. There are phases where meeting your team daily really helps with developing the product (e.g. prototyping) – but there are times when you can spare a month in South America or Japan or whatever you’re into. But I would say that seeing each other and working together really improves the overall taste – communication, motivation, and synergy, so we try to do it as much as we can.

Petr: I think people have more time than they realize, so why not spend it on building something meaningful instead of watching TV? Also, the startup community brought me new friends with whom I can go hiking or do stuff I like.

 

Playing a game of “Chicken & Egg,” which came first – idea or motivation; your burning motivation to become a startupist (and creating the idea later), or the realization of the burning problem that HairDo, your startup, is now addressing?

Petr: I knew from when I was young that I wanted to build something myself, not to work for anyone else. I’ve always had ideas, silly ones, unrealistically big ones, but also ones I knew I might just be able to do by myself or with people I know. So for me it was always like “let’s cook something!”, like not why, but why not?

Adam: I feel the same way, Petr. I was always hungry for a growing project and an opportunity, as soon as I was career conscious, really. But it was hard for me to form and kick off good ideas with little know-how and no community of fellow startupists. You can’t really cook anything tasty if your fridge is empty and you’ve no cookware, right? So I did the only thing I could do – I worked on projects of other people and I learned a lot about running a business (and occasionally how not to run a business) I also met very inspiring people, who were miles ahead and already had functioning projects. I would encourage anyone interested in starting their own project to seek a community of startup/business/tech people and also gain some domain knowledge – in a direction that suits you.

 

As a young entrepreneur, what’s the special sauce that you believe distinguishes Gen Z founders like yourself from the recipes of older generations in the business cookbook? 

Adam: I’m shocked by the amount of people who underestimate our generation, often calling us snowflakes, but I guess that’s how the world has been ever since ancient times. Did you know Aristotle is the first documented person ever calling the younger generation snowflakes? But – I believe people in our generation are resilient – we’re not afraid to face important and often uncomfortable topics head-on. We tend to break free from authority and bosses that are no good, think independently and are sometimes a bit stubborn. I think that helps when building a startup. I believe we’re also more open to working with emotions and inner-self, finding a better understanding of our personality – which helps immensely with proper communication within the team and also can help you stay motivated in the long run.

Petr: I kinda have an opposite opinion, based on my experiences and the experiences of people to whom I’ve talked about this, it seems to me that the current generation, in general, is less motivated to do stuff, especially here in Czechia. On the other hand, society is now used to young ambitious people and is willing to give chances to folks with little to no prior experience, and not only in the startup world. I think this helps a lot and wasn’t true just a few years ago. And the social circle the three of us live in is full of these ambitious people, so we might not see it, because being surrounded by startup founders can shift your way of looking at things.

 

In the simmering pot of startup challenges, have you ever felt like you’ve burned your fingers? What is the biggest challenge you are now experiencing? 

Adam: Definitely. I’ve sent some terrible emails (mostly cold messages when selling) that make me cringe to this day. I’ve made project management decisions that resulted in months of wasted time, general unproductivity and a lack of direction. I believe we hit our low at one moment, not much was happening and we almost lost motivation to continue our pursuit entirely. Then suddenly, one evening, we decided to turn things around and design-sprinted the hell out of our MVP. Then we started no-coding it and we’ll be releasing it in a few weeks now.
I believe our biggest challenge so far was motivation – working on HairDo for no pay for months without end. I believe it’s important to see some results of your hard work, even when you don’t have paying customers yet. Being able to build an MVP really surged our motivation. At that moment our solution became tangible and we realized we were very close to something wonderful.

Petr: Yeah, motivation definitely. Just the awful, awful feeling of not moving somewhere, gradually losing interest. But I believe we’ve managed to tackle it.

 

Do your friends & family share your passion? Or are you an exception (fa in your class / social group)? 

Petr: My family? Shoutout to my mum! And friends? My social circle is full of people like us – enterprising, and smart.

Adam: The people around me are exceptional, they are talented and highly motivated. I’ve had wonderful luck having such good friends around, trying to help, consult, and motivate you. Everyone should try and have their own community of high-flyers for support because there are moments when you’ll need such people. I believe events are a good place to start and meet such people if you don’t have this kind of community yet. I believe casual events like Truesdays are a good starting point for meeting like-minded people.

 

Were there any business maestros or success stories that influenced your decision to step into the entrepreneurial kitchen and start cooking up your own startup?

Petr: Not anyone famous I think, but I have a few friends who succeeded at a much younger age, and I always admired them. I think they’re the ones I look up to the most. And if we were to talk about some ways of working, I really admire Steve Jobs for his ability to bring well-thought-out projects, polished to the tiniest details, to the market. This is, of course, not beneficial and probably not possible in a quickly evolving startup, however, if I ever get to a project where the resources will allow for perfectionism, this is definitely going to be the way I will lead it. For now, I’m really glad I have Adam, who is able to stop me when I’m getting too involved in the details haha and drowning in my perfectionism.

Adam: Thumbs up for being so sincere about yourself, Petr! For me – having worked on a startup project before starting our own helped immensely. I had seen so many mistakes being made and I got the chance to learn and avoid some myself. When it comes to maestros, I’d like to mention Zdeněk Rudolský, who found the time to sit with me for tea and is a role model for me of the successful-yet-humble founder. His attitude imprinted on me and I’ve wanted to be at least a bit like him in this regard.

 

Balancing the flavors of excitement and uncertainty in the entrepreneurial stew, how do you cope with the unexpected tastes of startup life?

Adam: Trying to keep one’s mental and physical health is a challenge, but I believe it is an essential one. I think it’s Joe Rogan who said that overall health and fitness are good predictors of one’s career long-term success. No matter how smart, good, or successful you are, if you do not keep yourself in a proper condition, you won’t be able to continue pursuing your vision.

Petr: I believe being able to function financially, e.g. having clients on the side or a job, is essential if your startup is hardly profitable – although it splits your focus, it can give you more stability and this stability can help you take risks you otherwise couldn’t. Founders who succeeded the first time won’t agree with me, but those whose startup floundered might agree. I also have a job and it’s nothing to be ashamed of as a startup founder, at least in the startup’s early stages. We also couldn’t emphasize more that our toil is only one-third as painful because there are three of us – me, Adam, and Jirka (shoutout to our tech lead, the very talented Jiří Šolc). We can always lift each other up when need be.

 

Did you already find some of the proclaimed features about the “startup life” to be untrue? What are some misleading stereotypes in your opinion? 

Petr: To be honest I googled some of the stereotypes prior to today, as I couldn’t really think of any, and I think we’re breaking a lot of them. Having no free time? Nah. Emotional decisions? I don’t do them on a daily basis. Spending too much money on your startup? Luckily our product was quite inexpensive to develop and maintain, with the vast majority of costs being just time, not money. Can you think of any other stereotypes, Adam?

Adam: As for me, I think the market decides what’s good or not. Even successful founders and VCs don’t know your customers as well as you do. You should know your customers and apply strategic advice accordingly and in a way that fits your market. If it works in your segment, it works. For example we’ve been told not to do partner sales early on, but it helped us solve the chicken and egg problem and saved us a hell of a headache. Some stereotypes I’ve heard and don’t agree with include that you: you have to be a great entrepreneur for your startup to succeed or that you have to be smart in order to be successful (sometimes the right amount of “dumb” is just enough to be successful from my experience). Some of the successful people I know aren’t frankly that smart. Nor were their parents rich. They built themselves up. Sometimes being the best and smartest is just not good enough and maybe qualities like courage, endurance and dreaming big help more.

 

What advice would you give to other young individuals who are contemplating starting their own businesses at a similar age?

Adam: Find a community, get some specific domain knowledge (really helps with coming up with good startup ideas) and just go for it honestly. You will succeed or you will learn. 🙂

Petr: Yeah, also spend your time doing useful things. I was always bad at school, but I can, even these days, spend hours just browsing Wikipedia articles or watching interesting educational YouTube channels. I love learning on my own.

 

Looking ahead, what are your long-term goals and aspirations for both yourself and your startup? 

Adam: My long-term goal is to work with people who are enthusiastic and do it not just for the paycheck. Also we’re launching in a few weeks, we’ll let you know when, just join the waitlist https://tally.so/r/mVzdlj. Our ambitions are global, follow us and see for yourself whether our approach to building a startup is effective.

Petr: I, myself, don’t have any long-term goals, the only thing I know for sure is that I want to move forward, at all times, at all costs. And when it comes to HairDo, I want it to become the go-to platform for getting your hair done, in Czechia – and as Adam said – behind its borders.

 

How do you finance the startup & your life (parents, other work?) 

Adam: We’re currently bootstrapping and are using every benefit as much as we can. Microsoft for Startups helped us immensely with cloud costs. Having partners helps immensely with sales and marketing. Also no-coding our app in Flutterflow enabled us to postpone raising. Reach out to me, we’ll gladly share our no-code lessons learned or just visit flutterflow.io and try it yourself. Seriously. If you fit the use-case, it’s a game changer for you.

 

How does HairDo break free from the conventional recipes? Do you do anything just your very own way? 

Adam: I really struggle to feel original in the context of all the inspiring global startups I’ve seen. A little help, Petr?

Petr: I actually agree with you, similar things have been built already, and methodologies have been developed, so it’s a safe bet to follow them.

Adam: I feel we need to dig deeper. Maybe the difference is that since startups are usually about the fastest and bestest growth possible and usually the way to achieve that is to get VC money, spend it, rinse and repeat. But I believe that new technology like no-code or AI allows us to achieve significant growth expected of a startup without VC money in the earliest stages.

How do the values of Gen Z, like sustainability and inclusivity, infuse their flavors into your approach with HairDo?

Adam: We don’t want to bullshit our way through this question. Honestly. Just because we’re Gen Z doesn’t mean we want to somehow force those ideas into our product, but there are niches, especially among customers, we’d like to address: there are people with specific hair needs, you can call it handicaps. Then there’s hair donation, which we believe to be a wonderful thing and want to support..

 

As you start building your network in the vast culinary landscape, how does your approach differ from the more traditional networking methods? (tady by bylo super zmínit startup kitchen & truesdays:)

Adam: We try to build a cozy place for ourselves within the hairdressing community and meet stakeholders and customers and even competition and understand them on a deeper level. We also actively seek inspiration and innovation – I believe the events you host are a great place for that – I love the concept of Truesdays and I love attending them repeatedly, because each new event brings something new – new people, new topics, thus, new inspiration.

Petr: Daaaaaamn I hate networking soooo much! It’s very rare for me to actually enjoy networking events, oddly enough, I think all of those I’ve ever enjoyed were made by you Kate. Sending love to the whole Startup Kitchen team!

 

How do you deal with investors? 

Petr: We wanted to get an investment earlier, but ever since we started developing stuff by ourselves, it became more clear we don’t need VC money just yet.

Adam: As Peter said, we avoided VCs up to now. That will probably change after releasing our MVP. If we take an investor on, it should be someone who has knowledge of our segment or business model and who understands the niches and quirks.

 

How does the communication strategy of HairDo reflect the preferences and styles of Gen Z, and how is it distinct from the communication styles seen in earlier entrepreneurial ventures?

Adam: We’re mobile first and wholly digital. We believe medium is the message. That’s our game-changer. We want to evolve the service and its communication into the digital world. We want to, but our customers need us to. I struggle to imagine people my age or younger calling into a salon from their phones and enjoying it.

Want to try your easiest hair salon booking? Let’s cut to the chase and join our HairDo waitlisthttps://tally.so/r/mVzdlj 

 

Follow HairDo online! You can find HairDo updates on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hairdo.cz/

 

 

This blog post is part of our series to highlight various audiences that regularly visit Truesdays – honest meetups about tech & business. 

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