Will Sykora is Founder & CEO of Covailnt—a tech startup that connects independent workers and freelancers looking to team up. I was lucky to grab breakfast with him in D.C., where we spoke about tech entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and more. Below are my favorite takeaways from our convo:
Earlier this year, Will launched a tech company by himself—known as being a solopreneur—and, more surprisingly, wrote zero code to do it! Will’s background is in user experience and design, and not computer science (e.g. coding). To some, starting a tech company without code seems like an impossible task, but it’s not. Will used free resources like WordPress, Zapier, and other plugins to build his platform. Imagine that: your next big idea might not require an engineer, but rather figuring out how to use existing tools in novel ways.
The working world is shifting. Whether you’ve been personally affected or not, many jobs are being lost to computer programs that work faster and cheaper than people do. However, computers can’t replace every job out there. They probably won’t replace highly creative and highly skilled jobs for a very long time (maybe ever). It’s important to have a specialized skill or hobby that you care about. Do you? If not, it’s probably best to start exploring some things.
Important note: trying new things is cool, but at some point you must choose something to develop at a more advanced level, and keep that skill in your toolbox. If you’re at a beginner’s level in all your skills, then you have no depth or expertise. You become a jack of all trades, master of none, Will explained. In my eyes, you become someone that a computer can more easily replace. Will says that spending more time doing the things you love and learning how to get better at those things is crucial, because eventually you’ll achieve mastery.
Imagine getting sick at work and having medicine at home that tastes like candy. You get home, and have too much medicine—it just tastes too good. A few hours later, you feel worse than you did before. In a similar fashion, sometimes we feel burnt out from life and turn to our outlets to feel better. But in doing so, we overdo it, and then our outlets contribute to the very issues we were hoping to solve. Everything requires some moderation. “We need to balance our balance… I’d probably call it focused balance,” says Will.
When doing anything of consequence, there’s going to be a lot of noise from people. It’s important to know what noise to listen to. In building Covailnt, there were a few moments where Will’s friends and family raised extremely tough questions about the business. These questions required a lot of time and energy to work through.
In these moments, Will could’ve ignored their insights, passing off their questions for some other time. But he knew that spending the time to get things right in the beginning meant a greater chance of success down the road. As a result, Covailnt became a stronger, more robust system.
In the few conversations I’ve had with Will, I’ve found that he focuses on empowering the people around him, creates products with empathy and attention to detail, and pushes himself to grow and learn new things. I hope this post leaves you with some new ideas to digest, as the full 2-hour convo did for me.