Discover Hack & Hustle’s new business model. His founder David tells you in an interview exclusively in English. For those who do not speak English, you can translate directly.
«MADEMOISELLE ERGO» – Can you describe your concept of “Hack & Hustle”?
David Cruz e Silva – At Hack & Hustle we believe in the power of innovation to create a better future, a more sustainable future. For us sustainability goes beyond the typical misconception of environment. For us true sustainability tackles environmental, economic, social and cultural issues. We believe that innovation is the best way to pursue this true sustainability, by creating real change.
It’s our ambition to revolutionise the way people and organisations operate and become enablers of change; advocates of our future. We focus on using human centred problem solving. Some call this design thinking, others Lean Startup Methodology, etc… In all honesty, it really does not matter what you call it because at the end of the day it’s about good management, it’s about erasing words like hoping, assuming or thinking from your dictionary and replacing them with Hypothesise, Test and Check. This change in mindset is key to create things people actually want and need. That’s our added value. It really doesn’t matter if you fail or not. What matters is that you fail as quick as possible. This allows you to save money and time to “find your truth”. At Hack & hustle we complement businesses with the skills they need to create a better world.
Why did you create this?
Most people don’t know how this company was born. Unlike what I now advise other entrepreneurs and startups, there was no plan, no strategy, no vision, no purpose, nothing.
I had always dreamt about living somewhat of a nomad life and by the end of my Bachelor’s degree back in Portugal, I decided it was time to go for The Nomad lifestyle! I told my mom I was applying for a double degree for my Master’s. Simply put, this meant I would spend another year in Portugal, and a second year living in Belgium, close to Brussels. For me this was the first step to my Nomad lifestyle. Cutting the chains from Portugal and, slowly, but surely, becoming more independent and, eventually, achieving this sustainable nomad lifestyle I dreamt of so often. Little I knew, that this would actually be fast-tracked; and here we are getting to the “non-official” birth of Hack & Hustle.
My mom told me I could go but I had to pay for it all. In fact, my mom ended up being the catalyser for the birth of Hack & Hustle.
I already knew I wanted to be an innovator and a business developer. This, naturally, lead me to entrepreneurship and startups. Luckily enough, I came up with a game plan to help me achieve this.
I started out by sending an email to every single entrepreneur I knew. In the email, I explained what I wanted to achieve professionally in the following 5 years and said that, as a learning experience, I would like to offer them services as a business developer for free.
As you can imagine, the reactions to these words were very positive. In a matter of weeks, I acquired, roughly 14 “clients”. Companies for which I volunteered and offered my services. I had barely any experience or skills, but I could still add value. For more or less 6 months, I worked on several different projects with several different startups around the world and charged nothing for it.
Roughly 6 months had passed. I was definitely overworked and underpaid (better said, unpaid).
I simply emailed all these entrepreneurs for whom I was working for free. The email was short and simple. I said that for the last 6 months I had worked for 14 different companies and gathered experience in several areas. I also shared with them the average value created per client and, based on that, my new hourly fee.
Out of 14 existing “non-paying clients”, 4 said they were willing to start paying for my services. And guess what, I was able to finance my whole year abroad through that.
Growth was and has been very organic (aka slow). We are now entering a new phase for the company. Although we started by consulting and advising SMEs on whatever they needed, the dream is much bigger, as you know.
What did you study in higher education?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering with a Minor in Management by the New University of Lisbon, a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering with a Minor in Management by the University of Lisbon and a Master’s degree in Business Engineering by the Louvain School of Management.
What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
I think it actually is a love/hate relationship. Probably because I am not 100% able to answer this question yet. Very often I wonder if the stress and extremely heavy work schedule is worth it. I believe that this is because I still have not fully understood the type of entrepreneur I am (SME, startups, lifestyle, etc…). Nevertheless, what I love about my “job” is that it does not feel like a job. Meaning, I do what I am passionate about. I feel extremely lucky and blessed to be able to follow my heart and make a living out of it. I truly believe in the need of creating a more sustainable world and that innovation is the only way we can somewhat revert the current situation.
Personally I did not feel attracted to work in a big corporation in a very specific role with little strategic involvement at first. This is not a critic in any way to other people or organisation, it is simply not for me at this time. Being an entrepreneur felt liberating because I did not have to change anything about my belief system or habits.
How is a typical day or week with you?
It really depends. The most common trend is a lack of fixed work schedule and hours. Often I might be working until 1 am and start next day at 11am. Or I might start working at 7am and work until 5pm. It is extremely flexible and I love that. I adapt it to my lifestyle. A less positive aspect of it is that I do not really distinguish between week and weekend. I work 7 days per week almost every week. Nowadays, I am working a lot with a specific client. Meaning that I spend a lot of time on their location working with the team (this is actually one of the main reasons why I have been based in Brussels for some time now). If not, I either work from home or from nice locations I like (I recommend The Office: Rue d’Arlon 80).
What advice would you give to young people who want to embark on creation?
Great Question!!! It’s really hard to answer though. If I had to choose I would focus on tips relating directly to the individual, since it is an intense path to follow and very often misunderstood. – Be sure you are an entrepreneur. Not everyone is one and, if you are not, you can still do amazing stuff. Innovation within a big company, intrapreneurship, (new) business development, the list goes on and on. – Be sure you have a safety net. How will you survive if you don’t make money for the next 24 months? If you are a lifestyle entrepreneur or and SME founder, this is less of a stress point, however, if you are trying to build that next huge startup, expect to not make money soon. – Learn, Learn and Learn. You probably read a lot of books, articles and saw a ton of webinars from gurus. At the end of the day being an entrepreneur is painfully straightforward. Never assume you now anything and hope for the best. Hypothesise, test and check. Adapt. Simple as that. If any of you are really interested in becoming an entrepreneur, write down the following:
- What’s your vision/purpose?
- Who belongs to the team and why?
- What is the target market? Go niche!
- What are their main problems/challenges?
- Which solutions are you or will you develop to solve these?
- Drop me an email with these answers at firstname.lastname@example.org