Every great journey comes to an end

Today was one of my most emotional days. Even though it’s been in the brewing for some time and been decided months ago, my co-founder and dear friend Simos announced to the team at PPH today that he will be leaving the day-to-day of the company as at end of March to start his own startup.

I have to say, even though I’m very happy for him and I believe it’s the best thing for him and the company I couldn’t help being moved. I’ve been through thick and thin with Simos, for over 6 years, and whilst most people who know me will say I’m a fairly tough nut, it was one of the few times when my eyes swelled up. Part with happiness and part with sorry.

So why is Simos leaving?

There are these magical transition points one will find in companies at certain team sizes again and again, the first one being around about the 50 people mark. It’s the first inflexion point when group behavioral dynamics change. They say it’s to do with how the human brain is wired to deal with groups, the relationships and interaction between people changes at around 50, and then at 250 again and then at 1500 and then 3000.  Look at how the army (the most mature human organizational structure on earth) is organized: you have platoons up to about 50, then batallions up to 250 then infantries up to 1500 and then regiments up to 3000 and then brigades.

It’s the same with startups. People who like or thrive at the 0-50 don’t necessarily enjoy it as much in the 50 -250 braket. Which is not to say they can’t do it.  But it may not be their sweet spot. Every stage in that transition is important, but undoubtedly the 0-50 is the phase which defines the DNA and deep rooted culture of a business.

For me – and I say this with full conviction – Simos is probably one of the best in the world at the 0-50 phase. I could not wish for a better partner in that critical phase and I was lucky to have him.  I would certainly not be where I am today without him. He is without a shadow of doubt a world class problem solver, a scrappy and resourceful entrepreneur, has killer insight and instinct, and is stubborn as hell which in that phase you need to be. And most importantly, he is a super nice and genuine guy that you can count on come what may.

Which is why I believe he deserves to go back to that phase where he excels at the most. We are all as human beings optimized to deliver best under certain conditions and circumstances. And we owe it to ourselves to make sure we gravitate to them, regardless of how hard it may be.

The success of PPH to date set aside, which would not be where it is without Simos, and despite my passion and obsession with PPH which we co-founded, what  I cherish the most when I look back at this journey is the quirky, weird and totally random experiences we shared to get here. I could go on for ever if I started recounting them, but suffice to say when Simos joined the business to help me turn an offline bricks-and mortar ‘by the hour’ service outsourcing business into what PPH is today, he found himself selling holidays to Mauritius for a time 🙂 Don’t ask how. He just did (and against all odds he did it damn well! )

We went through a massive turnaround, fall outs with landlords and shareholders, had bailiffs turn at our door twice, once with a bit of a shuffle, we went through ridiculous phases of name bashing and business planning before we ended up with PeoplePerHour (the highlight being a predecessor almost disaster name called ‘the Beetler’ which – ingeniously of course – stood for Busy Bee’s Butler  !! …God forbid. That was TOO close man !) and countless more rediculous stories.

(Note: we actually went to the expense of even getting a logo designed for The Beetler which I must confess I spent the last 20 minutes trying to dig out to share here to no avail 🙁 )

But more to the point. Simos leaves on a high note in the path of PeoplePerHour and that’s largely because of his contribution. As CTO Simos set up the engineering team from scratch , hired a Head of Engineering (Spyros), and most of the talent we have in the tech team today. And now the team – after lots of roller-coaster rides – runs as smooth as it ever did. Things happen faster than ever, we went through a massive hiring spree, over-hiring beyond our means and then cutting back to what is now a very optimized and efficient operation with some top talent that most tech companies our size would envy. And the business is growing faster than it ever did.

Equally, having built the first version of PPH on a shoe-string budget, we have in 2012 completely rebuilt the platform, migrated to an MVC framework that has given us a lot more speed and scalability, moved to Amazon Web Services, cleared out a lot (disclaimer for my tech team before they bite my head off: I said “a lot” NOT “all” !! ) of the technical debt we inherited from Scrappy days dot com, and introduced some pretty cool cutting edge technologies.

So in perfect PPH cudos, for Simos it’s Job Done. He’s done a hell of a lot and I admire his stamina for wanting to do it all over again.  I know I couldn’t.

Important to say, Simos is not leaving the company. He is leaving the day to day of the company. He will still attend Board meetings, he is still a shareholder and will remain so, and I look forward to catching up with him regularly on the business and watching his progress in his new startup (and I better be your first investor otherwise I’ll come bite your head off !)

Simito – on behalf of everyone at PPH, that has been and still is, the community and all our stakeolders, I thank you from the bottom of my heart dude …it’s been a pleasure and an honour. (and gives us plenty of stories for our grandkids. Ok ok correction: your grandkids 🙂

PS – if you find that Beetler image please send it to me 🙂 It needs to be immortalized!

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