Solving a problem is often the greatest motivation for starting a small business. Alongside dreams of owning a company, and turning ideas into tangible products, starting a business is an exciting endeavor that promises great challenges – and hopefully great rewards.
Torsten Müller, co-founder of Tame, a Berlin based start-up, was working as a journalist when he and one of his co-founders noticed something missing in the digital media world – a way to organize an unending wealth of news updates across social media, especially on Twitter.
And so they created Tame, a service that analyzes a user’s Twitter feed and presents real time updates on trending topics in a clear and organized way.
“To found a company is a rather bureaucratic process,” says Müller. “However, the moment we signed all papers at the notary was very exciting. Almost like getting married.”
Mr. Müller and his partners spent 18 months developing their idea and building this service into the first version they felt confident enough to share with newsrooms across Europe and the U.S. In the beginning, one of the biggest challenges they faced was the need to build on their idea. They quickly realized that industry needs and other unforeseen developments caused their original plan to change and grow.
“Can you live with the fact that your original vision can change over time, and are you able to adjust to new goals in order to move your company forward?” Müller remembers asking himself. They ended up adjusting their original plan three times in “radical fashion”, in order to achieve their final product.
“If founders want to survive, they have to learn to iterate,” explains Müller. Persistence and flexibility became key qualities necessary in propelling Tame forward.
Müller and his co-founders also quickly learned to expect the unexpected, and to adapt to the inevitable changes and unforeseen challenges that might occur while managing a small business.
“Most of the challenges that we had to overcome were new to me,” Müller explained. “It is almost always impossible to know which troubles might occur. Collecting risk capital in the U.S. was a big challenge for us as a German company. [Also more] every day management tasks, [like] recruiting employees. The whole overhead that came with accounting and investor relations was costing us a lot of nerves… There is never one day like the last one. You learn to do many different things.”
Today, almost three years after Müller founded his company, he describes Tame as a “profitable bootstrap business,” meaning the core product works, and is making money. And despite small business challenges and product changes, Tame’s mission has remained the same, and aligns with the core values of their target customers – journalists, Müller emphasized. “We want our users to save time and tame information overload.”