Helm Co-founder and Partner Jonathan Gorczyca discusses his company and shares advice on building teams and more
Helm Experience & Design is a Buffalo based and run company that focuses on working with companies to design and build software that solves problems. This week I had the opportunity to sit down with Jonathan Gorczyca, Co-founder and partner at Helm. Jonathan co-founded Helm in 2014 with Nicholas Barone. Since then they have continued to grow and expand in all aspects of their company while leaving a notable footprint behind. I sat down with Jonathan to discuss his company, his entrepreneurial spirit, and more:
How did you get started in technology?
“I was always interested in tech since I was a young kid and the internet was coming about. I was really interested in pushing pixels on a screen. I studied digital media at Canisius and that was really my first endeavor into having a career in the tech field. From there I learned all sort of things like video editing, HTML and web development. I sort of gravitated towards interactive. Around 2004 I started freelancing and doing work on the side. That is where I met my business partner, Nicholas. We worked at Buffalo Rising as an early stage company, followed by some work in advertising and some work at Campus Labs. Then in 2014 Helm was founded.”
What made you want to start Helm?
“Around 2012, Nicholas and I would talk and realized quickly that there was a real need for design with startups. Whether it be friends or ourselves, people at Startup Weekend and other local events here, there was a real need for what we could provide.”
Biggest challenge you faced thus far in your career?
“I think the biggest challenge that we face is that anything can be built with technology. If you have an idea it can be very complex and robust, but that does not mean it should be done. A lot of people might have very grandiose ideas of what an application should be, but often times we need to discuss the real value it will deliver to the end user. These negotiations can often be difficult. We understand there is a vision at hand but sometimes you have to peel back in order to keep risk low for the person launching an idea..”
Can you name a time you have failed and what you have learned from it?
“There was a point in my career where I found myself hesitant, and holding back ideas when in a room with very well respected people. This became such a hindrance to my design work. I believe you should always be honest and speak up. Asking ‘why are we doing this?’ ‘or speaking up about how something might be done differently. It’s incredibly important. You have to stay true to yourself and your beliefs.”
What did you look for in your first hire?
“I was lucky enough to have co-found my company with a super talented friend of mine. The two of us, about a year and a half in, realized we couldn’t do it all and needed more people to grow. We put a job posting out for a designer and what we were looking for was someone who really ‘lived in the industry’. We wanted someone who really cared about design, whether it be digital, graphic, interactive, it did not really matter as long as you really cared about it. Our first hire really had this type of mind and really cared about the design of the community. It is that trait and way of thinking that has helped our company grow to where it is today.”
What was your process in building your company culture?
“Our company works in an agile fashion. We work in small teams that are autonomous and very honest. Everyone is empowered to talk to one another. Whether it be an issue we have on a project or with each other, everybody is apart of the team and can affect change. These are the pillars that guide us in our everyday work and have helped us build a strong culture.”
Is there any book/blog/podcast that has helped you along your career?
“The book I’m reading is now is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Khaneman, which is incredible. I’m about halfway through and it basically looks at the way our mind processes input and how much effort is applied when we’re solving complex tasks versus the things that are more automated. High Output Management by Andrew Grove is one of my favorite books. I found it invaluable when starting my own business.”
Any advice for someone starting out in technology?
“Just make things. Just keep producing things, work with people, go to events. Don’t think you have to build a huge app and launch it. Build the little thing, and then another one and many more. Just keep making and producing things and sharing it with the world. There is a quote I like that says “you never sit down and say you are going to go fail at the piano” but that is what you are doing. You are failing over and over until you have it and the same idea applies here. It’s all practice.”
Any thoughts on the Buffalo tech scene?
Well it is certainly exciting to see the progress that has been made. Where I would like to see it go is really seeing more successful companies constructed here. When we have success stories here we can shout it from the rooftops.Buffalo is no longer seen as this second tier city. We need to bolster our company wins and continue to have more growth within all of the companies seeded here. That will attract more people,funding, and talent which helps us all grow.”