I'm Taking a Break From Writing

I am taking a break from writing, at least for a while. Here, I explain why, and how these two hectic and stressful years have affected me as a founder and as a person.

I'm Taking a Break From Writing

I am taking a break from writing for a while. That also means I will be stopping writing the Daily Haiku, which effectively means stopping the project, at least, until next year.

I am writing this last post (at least for now) mostly for me, as a way of catharsis. Much like Marcus Aurelius wrote his stoic essays and letters mainly for himself, this blog has served me to release all those repressed emotions.


The last two years have been difficult. Very difficult. My ordeal started in the summer of 2021, after finally getting our shots for COVID. Finally, we were able to travel again.

Ironically, the years we spent in Bulgaria during the pandemic were the best period of my life, especially 2021. Once we accepted that we were going to spend a long time in Sofia, I went into a state of calm and started to enjoy my stay in the balkan country.

Days went by peacefully, and I don't remember it as a particularly busy period. We would go to a coworking during the mornings and some afternoons we would just go to the park or a cafe. We made some friends, and I started to play the piano again and even perform with my friend Petya.

Life was good.

Then, days before leaving to Antalya, Turkey, our CFO sent us her resignation letter. That set off a chain of events that shattered that beautiful illusion I was living in. We had to travel to Estonia, set up a new office, hire a new team, and appoint a new CFO. We spent the whole winter in the dark and cold Estonia.

Bootstrapped Startup Woes

Finding talent is difficult when you are bootstrapped. You can't afford to pay 7,000 euros per month to a developer, regardless of how good they are, so imagine hiring a COO or a CTO. You are at a disadvantage compared to heavily funded startups.

You have to be creative, and find people who are passionate and want to invest their time and energy in your business, not mercenaries in search of a high salary. People who appreciate other things (learning and growing, leading a new and exciting project, taking part in the decision process) and for whom money comes second. And it's hard to find people like that.

Specially managers or C-Levels.

These people are expecting you to pay them astronomic salaries (we are talking about 8-10k euros a month), plus equity. Also, many of them expect to just manage their teams. When you are a bootstrapped business, you cannot afford to have managers or C-Levels who just manage their teams. You need them to work too. And I mean real work. Your CTO needs to code, and your Chief of Customer Support needs to talk to customers and take care of tickets if needed. And both of them need to find bottlenecks, optimize processes, and push things forward. Not simply make sure things are going kind of ok.

And so two COOs, a CTO and another CFO came and went. In some cases, like in one of our COOs and more recently our CFO, they left behind them a disastrous situation.

When You Burn Out But You Have To Keep On Going

In each one of these situations, Miguel and I, as the co-founders, went into "crisis mode". We worked hard for weeks, 14 hours a day, weekends, nights, to fix things. But we made it.

The company is growing. In 2022, we had more than 1M euros in ARR. Our revenue in Q1 2023 is 2x what we got in Q1 2022. We are now less people than in 2022, but manage more customers and more projects than ever. Many of the startups I know had to lay off large parts of their workforce and some even went bankrupt. I cannot complain.

But all of this has come at a huge cost for me personally. I totally burned out during the winter of 2021. I got depressed and started to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.

It's not common, but from time to time you hear the story of a founder that has burned out and decided to take a hiatus or even quit the startup, perhaps appointing a new CEO. The problem is when you simply cannot do that.

In other words, taking a hiatus or quitting was not an option for me. I know I'll never be able to afford a CEO that can take the reins of the business, given how difficult it has become to find simply a decent developer for the same amount of money I earn as the CEO. A CEO that is willing to work long hours, weekends, and do whatever is needed, because it is "his or her business"? No chance.

And so I keep on working even after burning out. Some days I cannot open my email client. Other days, I wake up in panic at night because the next day I have to talk in front of the whole company during our monthly gathering and look strong and inspirational. Convey that image of the invincible founder that's so common in the startup literature and will keep my team happy and calm, knowing that their capitan is capable of fighting every storm and enemy ship to take them to that elusive unicorn shore.

It just got worse and worse. But I had no choice. As one of my best teammates usually says, "it is my company". So I hang on, and I work hard every day, I do my best to move things forward while I wait for better days.

The Path To Recovery

After our second CFO left, Miguel and I have managed to turn the business upside-down again. We have doubled down on automation and started to optimize every process and procedure of the company. We have created a clever structure for our financial department and have automated a lot of stuff.

I have developed an AI engine that would eventually automate accounting (I have an AI engineer background after all) and I'm working like a maniac to make it happen while my team is hard at work to launch a new product that's going to be a game changer for Companio.

But I need a break. I long for those days at Bulgaria where I could decide to spend one afternoon wandering at the park, skating or reading, or simply walking. I need to slow down and step off this train. Only, I can't. Not now anyway.

It's not just the business. Being subject to all this stress and anxiety for so long takes a toll on your personal life. Your relationships, the things you used to enjoy, the small things that kept you alive. Nothing is spared.

So that's the reason why I am taking a break from writing. Even though writing is really positive for me, I need to use every small amount of time I can get to do things outdoors, to enjoy the sun, feel the breeze, or simply lay down and relax.

I will get back one day, I promise.