Advice to Aspiring Tech Start-Ups

Henn Ruukel, CEO of Fleep, discusses putting together the building blocks for a start-up, finding and building a team of like-minded people and tips for growing your company.

Fleep is an Estonian start-up that I founded at the end of 2012, which includes some former employees of Skype as co-founders and investors. I had the idea at Skype to build a great messaging app that works with email to intelligently organise all your team chats and business emails in one place, and that is what we built.

We have just launched Fleep 2.0, with an updated look and feel to encourage greater user engagement and more active users and recommendations. Getting to this stage in two years has been a great journey, and below I outline the key things we have learned along the way and what I would recommend to anyone else looking to start a new business.

Selecting the right team

When you first get your idea for a start-up you will want to start thinking about building a team. You should consider the skills you will need and find people to fill these roles. This group will be your co-founders who will help you to build your company. Try to find co-founders with whom you have worked with before as you will know how well they perform under pressure. I would encourage you to select them carefully and treat them equally.

I started by explaining my plans to people I knew, asking whether they were interested to join or could recommend someone else. It is important that the team you choose shares your vision on what you are trying to achieve, in our case to build a great messaging app that will replace email. To get to the Fleep team of six took me seven months and speaking to around 30 people.

Building the right culture

The culture of the business is something that shapes everything you do, from how developers write code and fix bugs, to how you treat users and other team members. I learned from Skype that it is very easy to align culture while the team is small and close together, but it becomes a job in itself during the period of fast growth.

The culture of the organisation makes a big difference and is a living thing that has to be nurtured. Everyone’s company culture will be different and as long as you stay true to yourself, to your team and to your users, you won’t go wrong.

Investor advice

With investors the most important thing is to be up front and completely transparent as they are there to help. It may be tempting to jump at any investor that crosses your path, especially earlier on. However, try and avoid bad investors that don’t invest their money as much as they invest their time, advice and network.


An efficient internal and external communication is vital for any start-up. Email is a 40-year-old technology built for sending and receiving letters in electronic form and we believe that businesses today should look beyond it to modern messengers like Fleep, Slack or Hipchat.

Messengers are optimised for conversations, teamwork and collaboration which will make your life easier. Fleep also integrates with email so you can include email users into a conversation without forcing people to sign up to a new service.

I recommend testing out the range of modern messengers available and find one that suits your needs and aids productivity. Email need only then be used where it still excels, such as for one-way communication like sending invoices and bulk marketing emails.

Design and functionality

Design and functionality of your product or service should be given equal value. Companies can differentiate themselves through great design and user experience which will encourage users to remain active and share with others.

A few years ago people shared everything on Facebook and now people are more considerate about what they share on social media and in real life, which makes getting a recommendation even more powerful. When people see a great design and the product is easy to use then that creates the emotion, and like great food they want to tell their friends.

The points I have made have worked for me and got me where I am today, but there will be other things that you will have to learn through trial and error. The most important thing is to not give up and learn quickly from your mistakes and you won’t go far wrong.

Henn Ruukel is CEO of Fleep the messaging app that works with email to intelligently organise all your team chats and business emails in one place –