Jumping from corporate employee to startup founder
Along with co-founders, Frank Cuiuli and Jamie Pride, Constantine started a management consultancy in 2009 for improving customer engagement called Velteo.
Constantine recalls that the first six months were a period of anxiety, but they quickly picked up the pace and created a niche for themselves in the market.
Velteo ended up in partnership with Salesforce.com and, in the course of a couple of years, became the premier Salesforce implementation partner. This led to an acquisition by Bluewolf Global in 2012.
After the exit, Constantine spent more time navel-gazing before he realised that more money does not bring him more happiness. He embarked on a journey to transcend his own self and ended up starting a not-for-profit called One Million Acts of Innovation. Afterwards, he joined a Venture Capital (VC) firm in order to help boost more founders.
In short, over the past five years Constantine has had the pleasure of educating and guiding more than three hundred startups through minimum 12 hour boot-camps. His experience in human development and social work (in which he has a degree) has helped him propel a great number of startups up through the Australian market.
All that experience and expertise led to Constantine reuniting with and co-founding education startup The Founder Lab with Jamie Pride.
Uncovering the biggest block to business success: culture
Peeling back that onion meant that it took a stretch of 18-20 years and various corporate positions in 10 companies for Constantine to realize that something was very wrong.
Wherever he obtained a higher level of seniority and responsibility he found that he just didn’t have the kind of support that he felt he needed in order to thrive.
The issue was about the “me” culture versus the “we” culture. This is a major issue in corporate business everywhere.
Constantine is a man who runs on success culture instead of a coin culture, and he wished that those who worked with him were sharing the same vision. He realized that he wouldn’t be able to assert the success culture until he ran his own business.
In fact, as he summed up his two decades of corporate experience, he gathered all the insight about what not to do with his own company.
He told himself: “I’m not going to do that when I get the chance to be in charge”, and that attitude has brought him to where he stands today.
Veltio’s culture and business ethics put them in the 1% of businesses who accomplish a successful exit. That stance is what made them different and desirable.
The psychological price of entrepreneurship
Being a startup founder is by no means a simple task.
Research shows that 72% of founders suffer from some form of mental health issue, with around 49% of them already having a serious episode of anxiety or depression.
Recently 33-year-old Matt Berriman, CEO of adtech Australian startup Unlockd, stepped down as CEO citing mental health challenges. It was a startling reminder to the startup world that founder mental health struggles are very much real, and founders typically experience a range of mental disorders.
Constantine and his team are actively doing something to support founders through these and other challenges as they strive towards building something great.
Constantine and his dedicated team work to boost founders through founder capacity development, specifically improving three leadership traits of adaptability, awareness, and resilience.
“The common misconception is that a startup requires 5 grand for initiation and website registration – voila, you’re done, zero risk, you have successfully become a founder!
Nothing can prepare you for the journey of a startup. Startup is the most stressful environment that you’ll ever experience in your life.”
Constantine knows – he has seen more than 300 startup founders through his bootcamps.
The 3 Traits That All Great Founder Possess
Those who possess those three qualities – adaptability, awareness, and resilience – are those who are the most likely to succeed.
The point is that If you don’t develop yourself, you’re going to get squeezed out. That’s the harsh reality.
The brand awareness challenge
When asked about The Founder Lab and the biggest challenges they have faced to date, Constantine says that they lack brand – the business is brand new.
The mitigating circumstance is that he and his co-founder can build upon reputation from their past companies and successes, but hacking attention is getting harder and harder as Constantine has noticed.
“The biggest challenge? Bringing your experience to people who don’t know you.”
Stoicism: an Ancient Greek philosophy worth adopting today
Stoicism in business ethics is something that Constantine propagates through the various bootcamps and programmes of The Founder Lab.
Self-inquiry and self-realization leads to discoveries that help you innovate more effectively, negotiate more fiercely, and make faster and better decisions.
Tim Ferriss, early-stage tech investor, best-selling author and podcaster, credits stoicism as the tool that he’s found the most reliable for managing his emotions and making his best business decisions.
Chasing goosebumps and anxiety
In the end, what makes Constantine return to his work is not money, but goosebumps. He loves what he does, and measures that by comparing the amount of zeal he got from his previous positions and his work with The Founder Lab.
The right amount of anxiety is what fuels him through the day – time passes by and he augments his performance according to the feels he, well, feels.
As a parting advice for the BLG community, Constantine says that you should question everything.
“Who could you be if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
“How many more attempts will you undergo to get that customer?”
Seek the questions instead of answers in order to progress.