What I've Learnt: Deyan Dimitrov, Founder & CEO at Laundryheap
Laundryheap is a leading on-demand laundry service. Since launching in 2014, they've cleaned over 4.5 million items of clothing.
Founder Deyan built the company up with very little, not taking any VC funding while he made the business profitable. In a short time, Laundryheap has grown rapidly, increasing its user base many times over yearly.
We heard from Deyan about his life and experiences.
Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?
Organising my daily to-do list. Most days I do it whilst commuting, and it sets me up at the right might to start my day. Usually, I set two to three larger tasks for the day, and a couple of quick tasks that I have left from the day before. For the larger tasks, I block time in my calendar to make sure I actually do them and don’t get distracted by something else.
What's been your luckiest break?
Finding the right conditions that allowed me to bootstrap my business for three years. Without a large number of external investors to keep happy, I was able to put more back into my business and concentrate on building a profitable model whilst retaining equity.
This meant that we were ready to accept VC funding when the time was exactly right. This set us apart from our competitors and established us as a leader within a crowded industry, which has led to a huge amount of business growth in recent years.
What's your best failure?
In the beginning, we started small - our first office also acted as our warehouse. We then changed location five times in those first two years. Looking back, this used up a lot of time and energy which could have been spent refining the service for our customers.
Had we not have wasted precious resources on time-consuming, supplementary activities, we could have gone bigger much sooner.
However, the experience taught us to try everything on a smaller scale, in a controlled environment, before we confirm it’s working the way we want it to. Then scale up afterwards.
What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?
My team. I knew attracting people to the world of laundry wasn’t going to be the sexiest sell! But taking the time to find the right mix of talented people has meant I’ve been able to grow a brilliant team who make Laundryheap what it is.
How would you describe your work/life balance?
I try and make as much effort as possible to maintain work/life balance as my family live in Switzerland but Laundryheap HQ is based in London. That means I fly to Zurich every Thursday and return to London on Sunday.
It may sound like a crazy routine, but it means my time with my family every week is precious and I treat it as such. At the same time, when I’m at work I can pay full attention to the business and work late hours without feeling guilty.
Laundryheap is designed for people to spend more time doing the things they love, so I try and adopt the same philosophy when it comes to my life.
Which book would you recommend others to read and why?
‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz. Ben is a founder of one of the most prominent VCs in the world, so I find his perspective on everything startup very interesting.
The startup journey can be very stressful and is often full of dramatic ups and downs. Ben has seen a lot of success and failure over the years, so to me, his book is a boost of confidence. It reassures that a lot problems startups face are normal, and often even healthy.
What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
To take your time. It can be so overwhelming as a young person to see exciting innovations appearing every day. It can make you feel like you’re trailing behind, or running out of time. There’s also the common myth that you need to take wild risks in business to succeed.
But as I’ve gotten older, I appreciate the need to take your time to get things right. The vast majority of our business comes from repeat customers, and that isn’t achieved overnight. Building a rapport with people, whether they’re investors, customers or friends, takes time.
Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?
I am the father of a four-year-old who teaches me many life lessons: patience, why listening is important and to try again when something doesn’t work right away... unless I get it wrong and she sends me to a corner.
Tell us something about you that would surprise people.
I own surprisingly few items of clothing, mostly due to my constant travels. Luckily, Laundryheap is very quick to have my back.
What does success look like to you?
My definition of success is dynamic, it keeps changing with time. If I look back to where I started five years back, I would consider where I am now successful.