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imec.istart PODCAST # 6 : From founder to manager

The first episode of the imec.istart Series#2 Podcast discusses how entrepreneurs can grow their tech startup into a scaleup. 


  • Martijn Joris, the co-founder and former CEO of Twikit, is now the executive chairman of the company. He is now on the board of directors. Twikit is a B2B software company in the state of digital manufacturing that enables brands to tap into advanced product individualization at scale.
  • Ewout Meyns, the former CEO of PieSync, joined HubSpot after the acquisition in 2019 and became a senior product manager and later product lead. PieSync is a two-way customer data synchronization platform.  

Your host: Maarten Weyn

Scaling up: from founder to manager  

The first episode of the imec.istart Series#2 Podcast discusses how entrepreneurs can grow their tech startup into a scaleup. We invited Martijn Joris from Twikit and Ewout Meyns, ex-PieSync, to discuss the trials & tribulations founders experience in the transition from founder to manager and back, or from startup to scaleup.

In this blog, we highlight some valuable key takeaways and learnings extracted from the new podcast episode. Read more if you’d like to know more about the roller-coaster marriage that is a co-founder venture, first hires, first layoffs and the magical number 10, the power of internal communication, the art of zooming out, and the necessity of company culture.  


The Magical Number 10  

The magical number for managing a growing company would be around 9-10 people. When you have a company of this size, it's easy to put everyone's noses in the same direction. However, when your company grows beyond this number, things change. You need to start changing your management style and structure. Communication becomes more important, and transparency is key. However, there are still some things, such as cash flow, that should be kept within the management team to prevent unnecessary stress within the company.


Managing HR for startups

Starting a company is thrilling, but it requires a lot of responsibility, including managing people and handling HR. Martijn explains when Twikit started, managing people fell to the CEO, but they soon realized they needed someone dedicated to HR. Managing HR beholds a lot of challenges, including setting salaries and benefits, and handling payroll and insurance. Both emphasize the importance of having a salary strategy and hiring experienced HR professionals to set up the company's HR culture. Not having someone dedicated to the commercial aspects of the business is one of the lessons they learned.  


Transitioning: courage, resilience, and lots of sleepless nights  

Ewout admits missing the good times of being a co-founder but acknowledged that the learning curve helped him develop a thicker skin. As the company grew, he became better equipped to handle new challenges. Martijn highlights the significant differences existing between managing a small team and managing a larger one, but both agreed that they developed resilience and objectivity to deal with emotional challenges effectively. Starting and growing a business is a courageous and rewarding journey, offering opportunities for personal and professional growth.


Defining your Northstar

Furthermore, the conversation centers around the roles of CEO and executive chair in a startup. The CEO is the driver of the company, while the executive chair focuses on long-term vision and product development. However, being too operational in his role as CEO is a common pitfall that hinders the growth of the company. Martijn and Wout stress the importance of having a clear vision – a Northstar – and adapting to the changing needs of growing a business and reflecting on one’s role as a leader.



(Book) The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz 
I think he is one of the epic VCs in the US. Ben was an entrepreneur himself, building a big company and selling it to HP. And it's really about everything we discussed today and a lot of other stuff on finding investors, having problems with a team and finding a good Chief Commercial Officer. (...) it was a good mirror for me, but also a lot of good learnings in his book to take along.  
- Martijn Joris  

(Podcast) My First Million
 There's one podcast I would definitely recommend. It's called My First Million. It's from The Hustle network, which recently also got acquired by HubSpot. It's a great podcast. Each episode is around another entrepreneur and another business. And it's all around the question: “How can you scale a business to your first 1 million, and all kinds of different business models and team ideas are being discussed. I find it super inspiring to listen since there's really hundreds of episodes. 
- Ewout Meyns  
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