The goal of Hardly Hustle is to provide inspiration, drive and motivation in a 10 minute read or less. What you see is what you get. This is hot off the press without an editing team.
Sometimes people ask me whether I always knew I wanted to be a founder, and the answer is... absolutely not.
Larissa Licha is up.
Who are you and what do you do?
I'm Larissa, the CEO and Co-Founder of Joyn - a Co-Pilot for Operators. Sometimes people ask me whether I always knew I wanted to be a founder, and the answer is... absolutely not. I always had a non-linear way in life so a 5-year plan... What's that?
Before entering tech over a decade ago I was a tattoo artist with a mediocre metal band but after nearly dying I hit an inflection point of what I wanted to do with my life. Being German, in Germany, on paper I had nothing to offer so finding a "regular" job seemed impossible. After working 3 low-paying jobs simultaneously for a while and sleeping maybe 3 hours a week, I came across a book by a woman who was stuck in a rut until "life" visited her.
To be honest - something I'd never read but here I was. The woman moved to Dublin and I thought to myself... I could move to Dublin. After applying to a few jobs I ended up getting a role at a vendor for Google as a customer service rep. I packed up my bags and left. Living in a hostel with 3 Indian men, I didn't have much, but I had this job. Within a year I became an Operations Manager for a 40-person team and then switched companies.
At that company, I was fortunate to have had incredible mentors that within 8 years of working there I held 9 roles and ended up in the C-Suite. After years in product and engineering, I transitioned into a Chief of Staff role and this is where I had this "Aha" moment of how broken operations still are and how we're stuck with terrible tools that only add work.
I've known my Co-Founder for nearly a decade and we always knew we wanted to do something together. Having led large-scale AI/ML teams for many years we decided to combine our experiences and found the company, and here we are, doing it.
What did it take/how did you get started?
Having seen how operational visibility depends so much on an endless amount of status meetings, a barrage of Slack messages, and digging into hundreds of tools... I just wondered "Why?". At my prior company, we kept hiring headcount to streamline operations but if we have great tools for engineering, sales, and customer success, why not for operations?
Today, everyone just drowns in the admin of their work. At my prior company, our product managers didn't talk to customers for over a year because they were so bogged down in project management and we kept wondering why we lost product market fit. Something just seemed utterly wrong to me and it seemed even more wrong to me that the tools at hand depended so much on people to make them effective.
Yet, I saw the impact operators had and the expertise they've built up. Operators are incredible people and I wondered, what we could 100x their impact by putting their expertise into software and AI? I envisioned a world where everyone has access to an exceptional Chief of Staff and how that wouldn't only create more successful businesses, but happier employees.What does the future look like for you and your business? We just want to get the product into as many hands as possible so we can keep learning from those who are doing the work every day. Operators and customers are at the core of our mission so ensuring we build a product that changes their day-to-day for the better is what we're focusing on.
What drives / motivates you on a daily basis?
I've always been driven by envisioning a better tomorrow for people - not only at work but in life. Even at my prior company which was an ads company, my Co-Founder and I were so adamant about finding meaning in ads (.. I know right?).
We ended up spinning out this causal inference machine learning business unit that black and white showed whether or not ads had an impact. To some extent, it was a risky move for the business, but it ended up building so much trust and closed some of the largest contracts in history.
I just want to have a positive impact on those around me, whether large or small. We spend so much time at work so making a dent in people's life of how they experience work and bringing joy back into it is something I deeply believe in.
What advice would you give someone interested in doing what you do?
Reality is - being a founder is hard. I know everyone says this but you won't really understand it until you do it. The most important thing for us has been to stay grounded in our vision by staying extremely close to our why and who.
Your product will change, your customers will change, your team will change - but the why you're doing it is something you have to believe in at your core. Surround yourself with advisors and mentors who can normalize the journey, and invest in a coach and therapist who can help you navigate - this is not a journey you have to do alone.
What has been the hardest part of your business journey?
Starting a business comes with a lot of sacrifice - financial stability, time with loved ones, free time for hobbies... it's a big risk. Maintaining a balance is critical but being flexible in what that means and giving yourself grace is just as important.
I was so disciplined before my startup - exercising twice a day, cooking healthy, getting up at 5am, pottery every weekend and when I started to realize I wasn't able to deliver 100% on all fronts all the time anymore - I initially felt like I was failing. Instead, I figured out a new routine that helps me maintain a balance but without having unreasonable expectations of myself that aren't feasible with the time available when you're running your own company.
How have you managed burnout thus far?
It's an ongoing journey for me but making time for the things that bring me joy and balance has been critical. While I might not work out twice a day anymore, I make sure I work out 3x a week which works well for me. Getting a walk in daily, listening to a podcast, making a meal - whatever it may be, I set aside even just the smallest amount of time to find a moment where I'm not just thinking about work.
Therapy also continues to be a huge driver of balance for me and having mentors that give me outside perspective and pull me out of the weeds. Lastly, ask for help. Whether at work or in life. I had a huge issue asking for help because I've always been extremely independent but people are extremely willing to support you so leaning on those in your life and your network is key.
What are a few resources that you'd recommend?
Founder vs. Investor especially if you're fundraising. It's the most transparent perspective I've seen around the founder vs. investor perspective of raising money for your business.
Also - It's about damn time by Arlan Hamilton especially if you're a founder from a historically marginalized group. I found the book extremely empowering and Arlan's perspective to be healing.
For podcasts - Lenny's Podcast has a ton of amazing learnings around early product, customer-centricity, and more.
List the founders
Larissa Licha, Kendra Wilkins
How many hours a week do you work on this hustle?
Uhhm - 60-70? Who's keeping track...
# of Employees?
When did you start?
How much did it cost to launch?
What were your funding methods and ballpark amount raised?
Bootstrapping now we're backed by Techstars ($120k in funding) and are raising our pre-seed round.
We just started converting customers and are on track to hit $500k ARR early next year
$1.2M for 2024
What's the #1 thing you need right now?
Hiring Senior Backend Engineers with expertise in Big Data Infrastructure, ML/AI and we're also raising funds currently for our pre-seed round so intros to early-stage investors and angels that are interested in what we're up to.