From the Founder - Artela’s First Year

Feb 19, 2024


Artela’s First Year - Rising from Ashes and Five Key Lessons


Since about a year ago, I founded a startup, raised investment from some well-known VCs, built a global team, launched a blockchain network. Now Artela blockchain is officially up in public test phase. In less than one month period, we’ve supported more than 1 million transactions on the network, crossed the 100,000 unique on-chain addresses mark. We also have a vibrant community on both X and Discord with more than 100,000 global community members. Looking back, we’ve come a long way. I can assure you nothing comes easy and we are just getting started with many challenges ahead.

From getting started in the depth of crypto winter to fundraising to stumbling our way through the maze of web3, here are five key lessons that I learned along the way:

1) There’s no bad timing to start if you have total conviction.

Artela’s official birthday (11/16/2022) coincides with one of the worst days in crypto history. It is exactly one week after FTX declared bankruptcy. Bitcoin price crashes all the way down to 16k, a multi-year low. The entire industry is having its head spinning from all the high-profile failures, bankruptcies, collapses. Most crypto investors are staring at huge losses from the previous cycle. One major VC famously wrote a letter to apologize to its LPs for their investment failures. Everyone is running away. It’s the worst timing for any startup let alone crypto.

That’s the environment we started our journey in. We did not necessarily want to choose a bad timing. We just had the belief. We believed in web3's future and its promises. We believed that we had something valuable to contribute to the industry and couldn’t wait to start. Get skin in the game. As they say in crypto. With $100 deposit, we didn’t bother to tell our bank that we were in the crypto business, so there you have it “Artela the software development company” was born in deep crypto winter.

2) Your resume gets you in the door but can only take you so far.

I couldn’t hire anyone and build a tech company with $100, so I needed outside investment. Prior to Artela, I built myself a solid career in tech and had been well connected in Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurship and venture circles. I was also the leader in blockchain business at one of the world’s largest fintech companies. They were all very relevant in what I was about to do. I found it not too difficult to get a meeting with VCs. Man, was it hard to get a yes from anyone!

I’d be the first to admit that we weren’t ready for many of the questions. Timing is bad. Too much competition in the L1 space. Your tech is too complicated. Your go-to-market strategy is not clear. You are not crypto-native. The last one really drives me nuts, which I’ll talk more about later.

Point is, you are never ready even if you think you are ready. You just have to push along. Don’t get discouraged. Understand this is all part of the game. You want to be a serious player, and you gotta step up to the plate. You want the full experience. Keep asking yourself tough questions. Swing hard at them. You are lucky if you make impressions with twenty investors and should definitely be grateful if one of them buys into your fantasy.

These meetings helped us sharpen our ideas. Get better each time. We also found out you don’t need to chase the vanity names. Many of the big-name VCs have a lengthy process of due diligence, but time is such a valuable asset for founders. It’s more important you find investors that share your vision and value and can move quickly. Through persistence and some good fortune, three months later, we received our first funding. Artela is in business.

3) It’s all about the team.

One of our investors later told me: to be honest, we don’t fully understand what you guys are doing. But we like your team. You seem to be smart enough and like to work with each other. Even if this plan doesn’t work, you’ll figure out something later.

I’m deeply grateful to my co-founders and early team members. Many of them gave up cozy positions in big tech. They used to work in a posh environment with a great support system. Now they work in a basement (literally!) and have to deal with harsh startup reality. At one point, our CTO had to register as a food delivery serviceman to get social benefits. No, he didn’t actually hop on a bike to deliver food. That would be an incredible waste of his time. We just didn’t have the setup for medical insurance and things like that.

Aside from running out of cash, the number one reason startups fail is founders break up. Times are tough. Odds are against you. You run into roadblocks. You make wrong decisions. More downs than ups are waiting for you. Not only do you need to have a team that complements each other in skills, but you also need a team that has faith in each other, that can go through tough times together.

4) Be humble and willing to learn and adapt.

Web3 is a fascinating whole new world. Many founders coming from web2 get frustrated and lose their way in this new world. Gosh, if someone says crypto-native one more time, I’ll lose my mind! What’s with the BS of repeatedly saying gm, LFG, and hodl monkey penguin business like a brainless degen?

That’s just surface-level stuff. As a tech founder, I always thought the product is the key. We should spend the most time focusing on building the best product possible. Quickly I realized that’s not necessarily the case in web3. Two unique natures of web3 are narrative and community. The spirit of web3 is grassroots, it’s anti-establishment, and most importantly, it’s community-driven. Building a vibrant community inspired by a distinctive narrative can be more important than shipping products. The product is still important. You just cannot lock yourself behind closed walls going at it. Recently we’ve turned the corner to prioritize community building and made significant progress. Going forward, we will be more transparent and take input and engage more with our users and followers.

5) Beware of web3’s dark forest nature.

Web3 is still not out of the wild wild west, and there are dangers and traps everywhere. You need to learn to protect yourself and navigate through. The global and regional regulatory policies are just beginning to take shape. Being a tech founder, you definitely don’t want to mess with some of the tax or security laws. And digital asset security breach is always a concern. We had a security scare when multiple people’s accounts got hacked in one night, and one of my co-founders got his iPhone bricked. Luckily we were able to identify and reacted swiftly to minimize the damage and implemented stronger security measures right away.

This industry is also notorious for attracting shady characters and scammers. Many of the earlier stars turned out to be total fraudsters. It’s a sad reality that money and fame corrupt people so quickly. It’s easy to get lost in other people’s glamour and seemingly success. You will find your value system gets tested sometimes. Remember, there are more important things in life. Stay true to your north.

As an upcoming new project, you want to make more friends and welcome meaningful partnerships. Meanwhile, you also want to be careful with who you get associated with. Slow and steady is better than running into hazards.

To sum things up, we made a lot of progress in Artela’s first year of existence with many lessons learned. We feel extremely fortunate to be where we are today. Artela blockchain is being battle-tested and improved every day. Developers started doing some of the creative work never been possible before. We have a growing and engaging community and will definitely do more this year.

This is a journey just getting started. I’m sure there will be countless hurdles ahead. We welcome you to join the Artela global community to witness, to participate, to share the journey with us. Lastly, I’d like to end this blog post with a quote from my recent favorite book, Shoe Dog, by Nike founder Phil Knight:

“The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way—that leaves us.”

Artela, gm and LFG!!!