Pablo Villalba: Building a business remotely
University dropout Pablo Villalba had a steep learning curve until he got to the current place. Half a startuper and half a digital nomad (or rather a traveling startuper), Pablo wants to ‘build a better gym in your living room” with his latest venture 8fit.
Some might say that it’s not only about the place or particular set of exercises rather than motivation that one lacks when trying to hop on a regular fitness regime. 8fit has a way how to combat that — it sends you daily reminders with motivational words and a photo that should get you moving. Whether it will be enough to get you in shape, we’ll see. But one certainly cannot deny that Pablo and his team are on the right path — looking at their success in the number of paid users and seed funding, including $200k a month after launching.
Back in 2008, Redbooth (formerly Teambox) was built as a first Twitter-style collaboration tool, born out of Pablo’s frustration with existing platforms while working for a client.
Five years later and after selling his share in Redbooth Pablo is now devoting his time to grow 8fit, alongside the co-founder Pedro Solá. The very first prototype went live in March 2014 during their stay in Surf Office. “We enjoyed out time there as a quiet retreat where we could simply focus on work and enjoy the weather and discovering the city and beach.” Pablo recalls. Since then a year has passed and 8fit is still on rise. In fact, Pablo’s plans with the startup are nothing short of ambition. “We would like to achieve the revenue of 1 million dollars before the end of the year.”
Looking at the steadily growing graph of their monthly revenue , this can happen even much sooner.
8fit was created after Pablo’s own experience with workouts and diet rules that worked for him. After scratching his own itch, he started developing an app that would use the same principles as he did in order to become healthy and fit in a relatively short time.
Comparing to those times when Pablo started working out, he has quite a busy schedule filled with meetings, hiring new employees and generally managing a growing startup these days. Does he still work out that much? Pablo says he does and he still uses 8fit exclusively to staying fit.
As 8fit was built in a very small team, I’m interested in knowing whether he worked with freelancers to pull together the first product? “No, we did everything ourselves.” Pablo says. “We were three people and everyone did a bit of everything. After we grew we started hiring people.”
And although 8fit started remotely and Pablo has a history of working from US, Europe and Asia, it’s now settled in Berlin, at least for a while. Pablo preferes to have the whole team at one place. “It’s better for productivity,” he believes.
In his recent blog post about hiring at 8fit, Pablo explained that they even have a penalty for remote workers — if you work remotely, you earn 25% less for the loss of communication and productivity. Not that Pablo is against traveling and exploring new countries, but he would rather go on a company retreat once in a while than manage a remote team.
Having experienced the startup mentality in San Francisco and Berlin, how do they differ? “San Francisco is great but anywhere you go, in any cafe or anywhere else, people talk about startups. It might get overwhelming. In Berlin you have everything — the startup community, culture, fun… but in the right balance.” And so what are some cool places that digital nomads or just travelers in Berlin should check out? “I like to get away from the usual startup crowd in cafés like Treibholz or Pratchwerk.”
If you’d like to get inspired by Pablo and his journey of a digital nomad, check out his cool pre-nomadic preparations summed up on his blog. And if you’re wondering where does his nickname ‘Micho’ comes from, it’s not that mysterious, as Pablo explains with a smile. “It’s an affectionate way to say “cat” in Spanish. It’s appropriate, because I’m often distracted by shiny objects.”