Of how I started and killed a marketing agency, and what I leant from it.
In July 2013 my friend Pau Sempere moved to Berlin looking for new adventures. He had co-founded a coworking community in Valencia in 2011 after graduating Media and Journalism, and after a short experience in Italy – where he went following his heart – Berlin looked like a place where magic could happen.
We were all dreaming at the time. That summer was probably the golden hour of my stay in Berlin. The sun was shining,I was falling in love, work was great and now my friend from school was in the city. Idilic.
What the 24 25 Agency was
A few weeks after he moved here we decided we wanted to work together.
Why join a startup when you can run your own business, in your own way?
The idea was not new to us and we had already thought of starting a business when I was living in Valencia so we got excited about the idea.
What we had in mind was a marketing agency.
The costs were low and I already had a handful of people I collaborated with. We could start by sharing those projects and putting some money apart before we incorporated the company and made a bigger launch.
To make things even better Carlos from Quaderno was in Berlin and had asked me for marketing help. It was a software app, it had a beautiful design, their users were freelancers… it was and ideal first project together.
Pau took care of writing and i did the planning and meetings with Carlos. We had some days and nights of exciting work. We set up a website, a facebook page, a twitter handle. We designed a logo. We thought of the kind of work we wanted to do. We sat down and wrote our values. We had a brand.
The 24 25 Agency was our little baby and we were very excited about it. We announced it to our close friends and, as planned, worked on the Quaderno project while we got ready for an official launch.
The story behind our name
It was probably a warm night and we were probably drinking Club Mate and there was probably also a little vodka in it.
When we met in high school Pau introduced me to this band I still love called Kings of Convenience. They had this beautiful song, 24 25.
As it turns out, back in the days we were also numbers 24 and 25 of the class attendance list. Santamarina and Sempere, 24 and 25. It all made sense.
We stole the YSL logo as artists. Pau loved the design and I love Hedi Slimane (also Yves, just in a different way), so it was a quick deal.
We wanted to be black and white because colours were for clients. Words were for clients, too. All we had were some numbers and a statement of character.
“We were born in the years between the contemporary and the digital ages. We love the old and the classics, the smell of paper and the sound of vinyls. We are also addicted to anything that’s new, slick designs over retina displays and the immediate connections in social media. We are immerse in the digital age, but surround ourselves with analogue people. Putting faces to names changes it all. We travel the world to get to shake hands with our customers and partners and take many of our ideas from the interesting things we see in our trips. Inspiration is everywhere, and that’s where our agency goes.”
What went wrong
Four months in we decided to stop working together.
Looking back, that was not our moment. I was busy with Cobot, the Coworking Wiki, Kunstrial and managing the Quaderno account and couldn’t help Pau as he needed.
He was almost fresh out from Uni and was in the process learning how to work with confidence. He was writing great posts for the Quaderno blog but many things take much effort that they should if we wanted to have multiple clients and deliver the work quality we wanted to deliver.
It was affecting our work. It was affecting our friendship. It wasn’t working. And it was time to call it a try.
After some conversations we agreed it was not the right moment for the experience and the best was to close the agency we hadn’t even got to open.
Today facebook suggested I shared with my audience I publication I posted two years ago, when I did a soft launch among my closest friends of one of my entrepreneurship attempts.
It made me realise I had never written about it or shared the story with anyone outside my circle.
The Internet is full of success stories, and while I enjoy reading them I find a lot of peace on failure stories. Most of the entrepreneurs I admire failed multiple times before they succeeded; and knowing that other also fail and that they do it the same way (or worse) is comforting.
After all life is about learning, and the best way to learn is through experience. You won’t get a lot of it if you never fail.
What I learned from our failure is that for a partnership to work you need to be in the right moment, all of you.
He obviously has the capacity. He know his shit. But in 2013 he was “Innocent as Puss in Boots” (sic). Not the right moment.
As Steve Jobs said, it is easier to connect the dots looking backwards. Funny enough today I am also a project manager in eHealth Africa, through a software development agency.
2013 was not the right moment. Who knows is 2023 is.
All this said I am very happy we tried doing it together.
You learn much more from doing and failing than from dreaming, and it is just a bit more expensive if you know when your are putting too much in risk important things like friendship or credibility.
I am also very happy we gave up together.