Three years, six months and one day ago – it was announced that our company would be shut down. It was the top Hacker News story of the day, with the title: “We’re shutting down ArcticStartup – please help my team find work.” To this day, ironically, it is one of the most read articles in ArcticStartup’s history.
Frankly, that was sad — I had just joined as a sales and business development manager a few months earlier and pretty much sold-out Arctic15, while Greg Anderson had only been around for less than a year and was pushing amazing content daily. .
However back in 2012/2013, we did not quite know what to do, so we told our then boss that we were willing to contribute for free on voluntary basis and perhaps run a non-profit. We were trying to find a way out. In that “last” article – ArcticStartup reached to all of you guys and asked for suggestions and boy did the community respond. We received hundreds of e-mails from people who were willing to do anything from giving us server space, to helping with company designs, helping with events, and more.
The community was telling us that there is a need and it came from all sources: e-mail, social media, comments on Hacker News, friends, you name it.
One untold story is that our good friend, Teppo Hudson, whom we shared an office with, had a chat over a pint of beer with Antti Vilpponen, founder of ArcticStartup and our then boss. What he told him was very simple and something along the lines of: “Well, if you are going to shut down, you might as well give it to Dmitri and Greg. They love doing it.” An idea was planted, a few discussions and negotiations later – we refounded ArcticStartup under a new company and got all the assets from Antti and the other founders.
Back then, we were just the two of us. Today, we are twelve people in the core team and 28 if you count our project assistants, volunteers, and interns. At the same time, we are launching a new version of ArcticStartup.com and are expecting the biggest Arctic15 to date. Over the course of these three and a half exciting years, the company was growing on average at 144% yearly in revenue. Arctic15 also grew from 840 people in 2014, 1405 in 2015 and over 1500 in 2016 (we are aiming for the same size) and we launched one more conference – Media Honeypot.
Today, we believe, we are going to take a step in the right direction on our media side with the launch of a brand new site (the one you are on right now), so do let us know what you think. It is our hope, that this new version will involve the community much more thoroughly: a homepage that makes sense to visit every now and again, list of all startup events in the region (go and submit yours), community discussions (full launch on what we have been working on to be expected after the tests, so watch closely), jobs board (which you can use for free), opinion leaders commentaries (if you want to join – let us know) and much more. To help us with the launch, feel free to tell people about it and invite them to check it out and sign-up for our weekly newsletter.
What We Learned
During 2013 and early 2014 – ArcticStartup really had no vision and no goals other than to survive. Remember, we were not (and still are not) backed by any investors, no private or public money – every single cent that was in the company came from our clients. Everything we made came directly through us. During the first year, the two of us were writers, editors, sales people, HR, cleaners, construction men (when moving offices), you name it.
The founders of the original ArcticStartup tried media, events and eventually left. So there we were, trying media and events. When you go to startup events and listen to speakers or investors – they all say, the team is the most important thing. However it took us a long time to really understand just how important that simple word of wisdom is.
Looking back, it was the most important decision and risk that we ever took and will keep on taking – hiring people, when we really could not. Jan Ameri was the first person to join. He basically just showed up at the door and declared that he will run Arctic15 for us (we did not do it in 2013). Today he is a partner in the company and the most amazing emperor of events and ideas you will ever see.
The three of us ran Arctic15 – 2014 basically alone. It was the end of 2014 when things really started changing at the point when probably the most important decision took place. Basically, we had very little runway left in December and normally in the situation – you would try to save and land big clients or try to get a last-minute investment. Us being us, we did not want to stick to that type of thinking. So we went on a hiring spree instead, thinking that if we get the right people, they will help us.
Two salespeople joined: Romain and Rida. Both were amazing with a dash of craziness, and that is exactly who we want. They were shortly followed by Maija “Suomalainen Nainen” Kopola, Joppe “Dutchman” Quaedvlieg, Xenia Chimacovscaia.
The beautiful mix of raw intelligence, humour and friendship created something special. It created the real ArcticStartup. It created a place that you want to go to when you wake up in the morning, a place that you got inspired by, a place that kept you going. “Work” became something you look forward to, not a word you think of negatively. At that point, ArcticStartup stopped being a company and it became a community. Community of friends working towards a common goal.
One day, we sat down and decided to come up with a vision. Surprisingly, we did it in under an hour and to this day – that is what drives us. We took the foundation of the company, which was all of our readers and the community and decided that we want to spread that both inside and outside of our brand.
“To help build communities with uncapped opportunities.”
That was a pivotal moment, as right after that – the growth really started. However, we believe that until today – we were mainly spreading the goal inside the company, and with the launch of the new website – we really hope to start spreading it externally as well.
That taught us the most important thing: hire great people at whatever the cost. We did it when we really could not and it took us to where we are now.
Thus, we want to thank everyone that has taken part in our events, read our articles, gave us feedback, was our partner or was involved with ArcticStartup in any way. You helped us shape our vision and to really get to know where we want to go. Today marks the start of the new era of ArcticStartup and we hope you will join through coming to Arctic15, participating in our pitching competition, posting job’s, commenting on articles, adding community events, participating in our discussions (to be announced), guest posting, joining our team (apply here), sending us news (tips.arcticstartup.com).
Just reach out and stop by our office for coffee. Our doors are always open, literally.