Coletiv — the boring company

Startup Stories Coletiv the Boring Company - Coletiv Blog

Hello dear reader,

thank you very much for spending your precious time reading this article about us, an article that even has the ‘boring’ word on its title.


Coletiv started as an idea from 2 friends who were fed up by some of their passed experiences and decided to create their own company to do things the way they thought was right.

We are proud to be boring and to do business like our ancestors have been doing for centuries: we buy resources and transform them into something better that we can sell to someone who needs it.

We do not know where we want to go, we just know that wherever we end up going or doing we will always strive for quality, honesty and humility.

The beggining of times

It all started in July 2011, I got out of the faculty and started my first job, unfortunately it didn’t last that long. The Euro crisis had it Portugal very hard, not only financially but also morally. A country which was known for its sunny weather, tasty food, happy and nice people was now immersed in sadness, guilt and fear of what the future will hold. At a professional level I had this feeling that the company I was working for wasn’t ambitious enough.

Soon I realized that I needed more! I needed to get out of this marasm of ideas, this sadness and throw myself into a situation where my safety net (family and friends) wouldn’t be around to help me. I wanted to see how the rest of the world was, how were they working, how different cultures approach the same problem.

I bought a mac, quit my job, started learning Objective-C & German and designed and developed a game in a few weeks to prove myself and any interested company that I would be worth a shot.

I admit the game was 💩 and I would never ever pay for it, actually only a friend of mine bought the game (I still owe him 1 euro for that :D, thanks Justo). In the end it payed off, a very small start-up in Switzerland (Zurich) hired me for an internship, it was April 2012 if my memory is correct, I was the 7th employee to be hired.

Startup Life

We started developing our own product and soon it started to gain traction along the tech media which led us to a huge funding. That’s when it all started to crumble.

The company grew really fast, in 2 years we went from 7 employees to around 100, and the problem was that many people arrived not with a mindset of improving the product but with a mindset of improving themselves inside the company to hold a good position when a hipothetical IPO would take place.

The initial core elements which had worked with all the passion and love for long long hours, many of them for low wages were now seeing their hard work being used by newcomers to achieve personal goals, and so they started leaving. What was once a true family was now just a bunch of guys looking to move up the ranks without having even a tiny bit of love for the product.

On the bright side of the experience I worked with some of the brightest people I know, which allowed me to learn a lot and to have now friends spread all over the world that keep helping me even as I am writing this article.

Corporate Life

That was the end of the line for me, I again needed a change in my life so I decided to move to one of the biggest corporations in Switzerland. I naively thought I could make a dent in there, that I could push them to care more about the user, to adopt more agile methodologies, to develop and test their products way faster then they were doing. Oh Tiago you were so wrong! It didn’t work out and in a few months I left the company and joined my dear friend Laugga for what we decided to call “Coletiv”.

Coletiv was born

We would get together at a Starbucks and brainstorm our ideas for hours. Coming from failed experiences the core topic we would discuss was what we wanted Coletiv to be and specially not to be. These sessions would go wild and fueled again our passion for making things.

Humans are makers by heart and so are we, we wanted to do things, whatever that would be: software, hardware, a simple social experiment that helped the people around us.

We closed a 6 month deal with Binary Edge, a startup in the Infosec area from Balgan and immediately started to get our hands dirty. We built a reusable C library that allowed the scanning of wireless networks in order to find vulnerabilities. The idea was to raise awareness about the network vulnerabilities your home might be exposed to, and it culminated with the delivery of Cyberfables.

Early prototypes for Cyberfables Early prototypes for Cyberfables

Philosophical doubts

6 months had passed in a blink of an eye and without realising it we were out of projects, we were so immersed in the project that we had put all our efforts on it and forgot to look ahead.

Once again the rollercoaster of life was going down for me and Laugga.

Laugga decided to dedicate some months into making some projects he had dreamed about for a few years. I whish I could be so adventourous as he is but I am not, and so I dragged myself home thinking about what I wanted for the future.

That’s in rough times like this that family comes to the rescue, they pushed me up and showed me that after a big mountain there is always bigger one. So I started looking for freelance gigs and what was my first mentor (Melo) led me to my first project with Valtech, they are still working with us at Coletiv.

To grow or not to grow

Business was going well, projects were coming and the pipeline was full for me for a full year and clients were asking for more. This was the finish point for the uncertain times we lived for months.

At this point I decided that Coletiv needed to grow and Laugga allowed me to move on with this dream while he pursued his own dreams and projects. The timing couldn’t be more right, a couple of disconnected dots aligned and allowed us to be at the point we are now: David and André which I knew from the faculty in Portugal were looking for a new challenge in their careers accepted the challenge of working with us and Significa, an awesome design company, partnered with us so that we help them developing some projects they had and vice-versa.

So, why Coletiv?

We would be fooling you if we write here some chananigans like “we want to change the world and bla bla bla”. The best definition as to why Coletiv exists that we could identify with comes from Shoe Dogg by Phill Knight the creator of Nike:

Every runner knows this. You run and run, mile after mile, and never quite know why. You tell yourself that you are running toward some goal, chasing some rush, but really you run because the alternative, stopping, scares you to death. (…) Let everyone call your idea crazy… just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.

We couldn’t frame it better, we do not know where we are heading, but we know how we want to get there (whatever “there” is): with quality, with honesty and with this sense that we can become better persons, individuals, professionals every single day and strive for that!

Where does the “boring company” comes from?

Well I come from a family that always had businesses (i.e. old mills): they would buy something (i.e. corn), they would process it (i.e. grind the corn) and they would sell it for a price which would cover the cost of acquiring and transforming the product, plus some profit on top of that. That’s how I believe 90% of businesses should run.

But for some years that I see many people doing the opposite of that: they get huge piles of money just with an idea and a fancy business plan, then they shout about it, then they start building something and only then they find customers to sell their product. What the f***, seriously?

I know, I know, it made sense for Google, Apple and Facebook, but think for a bit if you are really one of them before giving up on x% of your business to some guy you don’t know a thing about!

Maybe I’m an old fashioned, boring, stupid guy but I don’t get it. If you deeply believe in your idea just build it (or convince someone to join you that can) and get users to pay for it.

I have a theory for this, maybe because people are used to get everything fast now: fast food, instant emotional gratification with likes, perfect body with some drugs, humanity lost the sense of having to work hard to get where they want to be so they are always trying to find shortcuts without going through the pain of planting, watering and taking care of the tree before it gives fruits.

We stand on the shoulders of Giants

Like Isaac Newton once said: “we stand on the shoulders of Giants” and so do we. Our ideas don’t come out of the blue, we take a look at companies we like and try to read as much as we can about them to get inspiration and to understand why and how they keep delivering great products year after year. Among them are Thoughtbot, Ideo, 37Signals, Nike, Tesla, ustwo, Jiro and a couple more of them.

This is not to say we are like them but as Picasso said: “Good artists copy. great artists steal.” and so we try to steal from these companies what we think are good practices.

Present days

Here we are in April 2017, 5 years later, currently working in projects alongside Significa for Hong Kong and Switzerland.

We are trying different technologies but working mostly with Erlang and Elixir:

Elixir is a dynamic, functional language designed for building scalable and maintainable applications

Working alongside Significa Working alongside Significa

More could have been said but the article is already way too long than what we predicted.

I hope you liked to have an insight of what goes inside the brains at Coletiv, much more could have been said, maybe in the next articles we get back to some of these topics. You can always talk with us anytime.

p.s.: I decided not to mention some company names because this is a personal opinion/perspective which might or might not be the reality, and that would be very unfair to the companies in question. Besides I can only say “Thank you” for the opportunity they gave me and wish them all the best for their future.

Thank you for reading!

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