There and back again

There and back again

I co-founded one of the biggest behavioural analytics companies in the world

After growing it for nearly seven years I realised it wasn't for me any more

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Let's rewind a bit and tell you a bit about Hotjar, myself, and how I ended up where I am today.

Moving to Malta

I was born and raised in Sweden but moved to Malta in 2009, so I guess I should call myself Swed-tese by now. I had friends who did the move a few years ahead of me. After visiting just once I knew it was the place where I wanted to be. It had this great atmosphere, and a much more sensible and relaxed approach to life, at least in my opinion.

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While living in Sweden I felt trapped in the hamster wheel of life, running towards something I didn't necessarily even know why I was trying to get to. Was I making a significant enough difference? Did what I do really matter?

So eventually I packed my bags and moved to Malta. Being an English-speaking EU country made the move really easy, and in a few weeks I had an apartment contract signed, and ready to start working at this place that was called Uniblue.

Co-founding Hotjar

During the early part of 2014, I got the amazing opportunity to be a co-founder of Hotjar. The other four co-founders were people I got to know from Uniblue. I still don't feel I deserved the chance, but apparently I did something to impress them enough to offer me to be a co-founder.

We built the core product in about six months, and we were off to the races. What happened then is something that still amazes me to this day - we got this incredible traction and today more than 900 000(!) organizations are using Hotjar.

We eventually realized we needed to start hiring a lot of people, and today Hotjar have more than 150 employees.

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That sounds like an amazing growth story!

The first few years were super intense, and I think we all learned more than we ever had before about how to run a business.

However, recently I found myself thinking - am I back in the hamster wheel that I escaped from in the first place? After many sessions of discussing this with myself I realized that "yeah, I'm kinda back in the hamster wheel".

I had helped build the coolest company I ever worked at - but personally, I wasn't really happy anymore. I recently realized that I haven't been reflecting enough on important things in my life, and instead I kept myself busy with work. Once the gears started turning it became more and more obvious what I needed to do - leave the company I co-founded.

I don't really enjoy being a cog in a well-oiled machine. I thrive in the more chaotic environment you get in a tiny company, where you always have to wear multiple hats.

// Erik, in one of his late-night conversations with himself

So let's bring out an old classic - It's not you, it's me. In the case of myself and Hotjar it's really how it is though. I had helped to grow an awesome company that I'm so incredibly proud of - but a company that wasn't a place where I did my best work anymore.

So what's next?

I'm going back to doing what I love - creating and running a tiny company from scratch, but all by myself this time.

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This book - "Company of One" actually helped me a lot. Much of what I read resonated so well with me, and I was finally able to realize what I wanted out of my work:

  • Spend my time doing things that I think are a net positive for humanity.
  • Build my work around my life and not the other way around.
  • Say no to opportunities that would require the company to grow in a way that wouldn't fit with the life I want to live.

I'm certain I wouldn't be able to pull this off if I tried to before my years with Hotjar. I was simply too naive and lacked a lot of the skills I've gathered over the years. I'll be forever thankful for what I learned at Hotjar, and all the special moments we shared!

If you're up for it, subscribe to my blog and follow my adventure of founding a new company from scratch. If you're interested in doing the same one day you might get a good tip or two. If you just wanna see if I make it that's fine too :)

I plan to write a new post about once a week. However, I'm going to start off by taking a couple of weeks of time off to recharge. The last seven years have been amazing, but demanding - I think I deserve a short break :p

 
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