Daddy, look what I made
The first year of Elva
I thought I’d mix it up a bit and add another flavour to the otherwise technical content that is presented here. This blog post will focus on my experiences and thoughts surrounding the first year at Elva, from the excitement of starting a company to the excitement of actually running it.
To be honest I’ve always “dreamt” of starting my own company but never really had the guts or “the idea” or even the know-how. Or I might just have been too comfortable or lazy, I don’t know. All I know is that I didn't want to do it alone. When I was approached with the opportunity and idea of the company-soon-to-be-called-Elva, it felt like a no-brainer. The idea of Sagewei (now Elva Group) acting as a platform company for our company struck a chord with me. A platform company consisting of people with a proven track record. With a view on both hard and soft values aligning with mine taking responsibility for handling the legalities, HR, writing contracts, and teaching us the ins and outs of building a successful company. Enabling us to focus on what we do best: Making silly jokes at, and photoshops of, each other. And serverless stuff on AWS of course. The stars aligned and all that. We just needed to assemble the right people.
Building the brand
Before you officially can start there are a few things that are nice to have in place. For instance a company name. It’s quite central but perhaps not something that makes or breaks a company. For us though the name was something to be proud of and that we all could get behind. The naming process was quite extensive and tedious, perhaps because too many cooks spoil the broth or simply because it's very hard to come up with names for a company. Looking back some of the names were... equally brilliant and ridiculous. Imagine if we had settled for "Wolf Tech"… When the name Elva came to light I think we all sort of just knew, and the voting was unanimous. It checked all the boxes...
☑️ Short and concise
☑️ Nordic sounding
☑️ Works in English
☑️ ... not Wolf Tech
... but the main idea is that the Swedish word Elva translates to 'eleven' in English, which is the position of the letter λ (lambda) in the Greek alphabet. Our homage to the AWS service that started the serverless revolution.
From there designing the logo went fairly smoothly.
Every Elva company is designed with very low overhead (at the time of writing we are below 6%). This enables us to maintain high net margins of profit (goal is 30%) while at the same time offering competitive salaries and making investments for the future. To reach and ensure the sustainability of these numbers our strategy has been to make sure that each of us had assignments from day one. Each Elva office is by design its own company with its respective founders, budget and board, free to make our own decisions. What we do however share is the devotion and focus on AWS and serverless. Not only is this a decision based on the fact that serverless is a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future it also makes it easier to stay relevant and updated. Another thing we agreed upon early was our intent to build a strong relationship with AWS. We also wanted to contribute to the community and share whatever knowledge we have and acquire along the way.
The ups and downs
Every journey is bound to have its highs and lows. I'll try to list some of those who have impacted me the most and in some cases even the company.
The ups 🔝
Many of us have had a long working relationship with a bunch of really great people from Cebu in the Philippines, who also happen to be super-talented developers. I contacted one of them on the off chance of him being interested in joining Elva. Lo and behold, he was very into the idea and decided to join us. I strongly believe in the concept of distributed teams and we will continue the search for talent, regardless of their physical whereabouts.
If we want to become the leading AWS brand in the Nordics we also believe that we should have a strong partnership with AWS. Therefore we put a lot of time and effort into trying to reach Advanced Partner and did so in less than a year.
Prospecting league x2
We entered the AWS Partner Prospecting League for the Nordics on two occasions and managed to become opportunity count champions both those times. Let’s see if we can bag a third one.
Sandvik Startup Challenge
I didn’t participate or contribute to this but it was exciting to follow from the sidelines. I’m extremely proud of the effort and outcome that the team put together. To be selected as one of the few companies to compete in the final of the Sandvik Startup Challenge was a huge honour and accomplishment.
Kickoffs and get-togethers
We’ve had a few kickoffs and get-togethers. Serverless meetups and dinners. Conferences and after works. All of which left me with a smile on my face, a head full of ideas and insights and energy in abundance.
Whenever you put in hard work, it's nice to get recognised. I'm trying to give credit where credit is due, hopefully inspiring others to do the same. That way we hopefully create an uplifting and positive work environment internally. When the recognition comes from outside it's sometimes even more encouraging. To hear what people are saying about Elva is truly inspiring and humbling.
Last but not least... the office
I almost forgot but we do, in my opinion, have a very nice office. It took quite some time to find the right spot and even more time to make it what it is today. But we are all very pleased with the way it turned out.
The ongoing recession is impacting large portions of the world's population as well as companies. This has made us rethink our strategy in a way, and perhaps slow down the growth rate of the company in terms of new colleagues.
Loss of assignments and lower fees
With recession comes hard times and with that, it’s not uncommon in our line of business to face lower fees and even loss of assignments. We are not exempt from this. It’s sad to have to leave a place that you like and care about. Even more so the people who've become your close colleagues and friends.
The important stuff
The way I went into this was that I wanted to build a company where I myself would love to work. A place with warmth and laughter. Where I am inspired to learn and have the opportunity to do so. Every day. (I’m saying ‘I’ but I should really be saying ‘We’). In as little as one year I can comfortably say that we’ve achieved exactly that. We are for sure still working out some kinks and will continue to fine-tune every aspect of the business but we are well on the way. By maintaining a flat organisation where everyone is invited and encouraged to contribute and influence the direction of the company Elva will hopefully be a place where more people love to work. From my previous job, the majority of my closest
colleagues friends have left said job. One is well on the way to becoming a police officer, another one left for Stockholm and a third one is moving abroad to save and care for seals. Have you heard anything so noble quirky lovely? One thankfully didn’t evade me and works side by side with me at Elva. And as far as the other founders… well we all used to work together at one time.
The point I’m trying to make is this: The most important thing, for me, is the people around you. Your colleagues. After all, you spend the lion part of the time you are awake together with them. At least now I can have a say in who those people are. They will come and go, and for various reasons as the examples above. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
Build capital (if possible without anybody else’s money). You never know when that rainy day comes.
Build the team. It’s nice to know that you can count on the people around you when that rainy day turns into a storm.
Build your brand. You don’t have to become a household name. But things tend to come easier if potential customers know your name.
Build the culture. And talk, talk, talk. Make sure that everyone can make their voice heard. We are all different but should be comfortable enough to speak our minds.
I can honest-to-God, hand on heart, scout's honour and I kid you not say that I love every day of working at Elva. And that's largely due to the remarkable people I share my days with. Through open and honest communication, we aim to retain the amazing talent we have and, by staying curious and updated, we hope to attract even more.
If you enjoyed this post, want to know more about me, working at Elva or just want to reach out you can find me on LinkedIn.
Elva is a serverless-first consulting company that can help you transform or begin your AWS journey for the future