STARTUP STORY: Humbleness and craziness

Antonio Trincao, founder of Youcanevent, takes on the events industry and explains how company culture and vision are the key to his success. The company is now on the cusp of closing its first seed round and will soon be ready to start scaling up.

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After years working the hospitality and entertainment circuit in his native Portugal, Antonio Trincao decided it was time, as he puts it, to start his own “world-wide celebration.” Partnering with a friend he met at a musical theater nonprofit during college, Antonio launched Youcanevent, an online marketplace for organizing large-scale events, which over the past year has attracted some impressive clientele, including Microsoft, Primark and Mary Kay.

Antonio long had his sights set on scaling in the United States. But after failing to get accepted into a US-based accelerator program in 2015 – “We didn't have considerable traction; the product, the idea, the team, everything was missing,” he admits. “When you building a startup, you’re just so excited and you think you have everything in place to scale to millions, and you don't have anything.” – Antonio and his co-founder returned to Portugal to strengthen their platform.

Earlier this year, the duo tried again, landing a coveted spot with a San Francisco accelerator and establishing a home base in the city’s SOMA district in July. Antonio says the company is on the cusp of closing its first seed round and will soon be ready to start scaling up.

Youcanevent has a small staff of seven, including two full-stack engineers and a growth marketer. Antonio says his company’s vision and culture have been powerful recruitment tools in what, by all accounts, is a highly competitive and cramped events market.

“All of us, we work towards the goal of celebrating life; we want to build things to celebrate. The same way that Google is the father of information, we want to be the reference to celebration in the world and to create an umbrella for celebrations around the world,” Antonio told us. “That's what's actually cool about bootstrapping and being self-funded and not having an early investment, because when people are approaching you, you are so united. Our team is so united; our people want to become part of this movement.”

Antonio Trincao, Co-founder & CEO of Youcanevent.com
Antonio Trincao, Co-founder & CEO of Youcanevent.com

Antonio talked to us recently about what he looks for when combing through resumes, the best place to find good candidates and the worst management advice he ever heard.

HERE'S WHAT HE HAD TO SAY

How do you select people?

For me it's all about proven records. For a growth marketer position, for example, when their first line is like “four years of experience in digital marketing or graduated MBA from Stanford,” I don't even look. But when I read a first sentence that starts: “I grew from 3 million users to 50 million users,” or “I grew from 2,000 users to 2 million users,” that's what I want to hear. If I don't read that, the odds of me being interested in that candidate are way low.

When it comes to your team, what kind of skills is a definite must for you?

Humbleness and craziness. Those are the two ingredients that are super rare in a person and make the best recipe. If you are humble and crazy at the same time, you are a super-talented person, because you have the ability to listen and learn and improve yourself. But if you are crazy at the same time, you don't consider that not making things happen isn't possible. When you are crazy you think, yeah, anything’s possible. And at this stage, because we are growing and building our company, we need these kinds of people. We need people who are willing to work with us and give their personal brands to Youcanevent and grow the business together.

Where's the best place to find good candidates?

It depends. For sales jobs, you go to big platforms like Indeed, where you can get in front of a lot of potential candidates. Growth marketing, for example, you probably will go to AngelList, because it's a more startup-y world, and the marketers on AngelList actually understand what works for growing a startup. If you want designers, ask for referrals. If you are looking for developers, good luck. I would say for developers and designers, referrals. If you are looking for marketing, AngelList and LinkedIn. If you are looking for sales, general platforms. And then there are advisors, which you’ll find on LinkedIn and through mutual connections. We really need advisors as startup founders.

How did you grow your customer base?

We basically scheduled meetings and asked what their event needs were to get big customers. We scheduled a meeting, presented our platform and sold our vision. With our customers, we always share our vision.And they give it a try, and it is cool. Before scaling, you have to build credibility and the brand. If you try and scale right away, it doesn't make sense. People can smell if it is true or fake, so it's a natural stage of growth. First, you have to get your first customers and build credibility, and our first focus was to find customers with a lot of credibility, because that gives us a lot of branding and credibility.

What did you wish you knew before you launched your startup?

I wish I had read two books called “Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth” by Gabriel Weinberg and “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal. Basically what these two books say is that for you to grow a company, you have to follow the traction and the growth. So the point is to forget the Lean Startup method that states go to the market and validate your idea and build your company and raise and invest. No, “Traction” just says, sell your brand, get your first customers, land actual sales, make money and follow your growth and build your product towards your growth. And if I knew that almost three years ago when I started, we would be way ahead of where we are right now.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned?

You know that you don't know anything. It's like you just know that you don't know. This is true for everything in your life. I think that this sentence – you know that you don't know anything – I think it gives you that kind of humbleness that you need for your life.

Do you have a favorite failure that helped you become better?

Probably automation. I tried to automate a lot of things and create, like, let's say email sequences to scale the brand, and I failed a lot on that. Sometimes I make a decision too fast, and if I was thinking a little bit more about how to segment the communication in a scalable way, probably the results would be better. I don't mind to fail fast.

What is the worst management advice you've heard?

Build your product. Sales, sales, sales – that's what you should hear. Not because you are obsessed with money, it's just that sales teach you everything that you need to do for a company.

Why do you believe you are the right person for Youcanevent?

I think that my background in nonprofit organizations and the entertainment experience as well gave me the personality and the values to be ready to fight for a cause because if you want to be ready to fight for a cause worldwide you have to have a certain profile that helps you to be ready for that. I don't mind to die for this and to work the rest of my life for this. And it's not only if you are born this way or not. Certain circumstances in life make us that way as well. It's not all about hustling. It's about life experiences.