We met with Sylwia Gorajek , entrepreneur, host of Valley Talks and editor of Ja&on a Polish lifestyle blogwho shared the story of her journey from Warsaw to Silicon Valley via Route 66. She started working in her native Poland and through her love for Depeche Mode and running a popular Facebook Fan group led to a collaboration with Jakub Gorajek who eventually become her boyfriend and is now her husband. That collaboration resulted in a video production company that based in Poland. But Sylwia and Jacob knew they wanted to come to the US and with that embarked on “holiday” tour that took them across country where they filmed a totally cool Depeche Mode video on Route 66 and decided that the US held their fate.
One of the things that struck me in our conversation was Sylwia’s courage in making such a bold move.
“It can be simply said but very hard to do, we just decided one day to do it…..there will never be a good time to make a big decision”
And that’s exactly what they did coming to the US, copying the same model they used in Warsaw to launch and grow their video production company in the states.
Along the way, Sylwia’s own start-up idea continued to nag at her, she started concepting and building her idea on the side and eventually launching a hyper-local app called Spray. The idea was hatched during their first road trip where Sylwia and Jacob, as a young couple exploring cities off the beaten path wanted to be able to connect with locals, but had no real way to do so.
"When you have an idea or a dream just go for it and just don't waste any time"
While the start-up still exists and is downloadable from the app store, Sylwia is no longer involved with the company. She has been working at various Silicon valley tech companies such as Netflix and Apple and also launched her own talk show Valley Talks which was inspired by her own experience as a founder. Sylwia felt that something was missing from the current media dialogue around technology. The only stories being told were ones of success, funding, exits etc - she wanted to tell the other stories. The stories of struggle and learning because she knew how much hearing them would have helped her in her own startup journey. Truth being that everyone, every founder, CEO and entrepreneur goes through their own period of learning where they may not know all the answers and it can be comforting to know that others are in the same situation. Valley Talks is a great platform to tell those untold stories.
One of her favorite stories was her interview with Facebook’s lawyer Mark Howitson, who represented the company during its lawsuits with ex founders and the Winklevoss twins. An important lesson for founders being “however it ends, the beginning always needs to be taken care of." File this under important things you wish you knew when starting your own company. She also interviewed Julia Cordray, founder of controversial app Peeple that received a huge amount of backlash for its “people rating” focus. A concept that could be helpful, yet is quite challenging and difficult to execute. She admires Julia’s perseverance in believing in her concept enough to keep pushing it forward in spite of all the negative press.
One of the common themes in her conversations is that there is no one recipe for success. Also that everyone struggles, even while on the exterior we tend to portray only our best success, the reality is that everyone, even successful founders have their own struggles, fears and self-doubt. It’s reassuring that Sylwia’s guests are willing to share those struggles with the rest of us.
Her own lesson learned in launching her startup..
Don’t spend money on administrative or operational costs until you have an MVP (minimum viable product) keep it lean until you have validation that you have a product people want. This is ultimately what it takes to get funding.
Other learnings in raising money she’s learned from her own experience as well as her conversations with guests is that it’s all about the idea and the team. Make sure the people with whom you are teaming up with look credible in your investor’s eyes. More of her insights on raising money can be found here
Overall it was a great conversation with amazing insights from the unstoppable Sylwia Gorajek.
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