On this week’s Praxis Monday workshop, we were joined by Praxis alum Philip Delvecchio. After moving to NYC during his Praxis experience and working at a startup accelerator, Phil went on to start his own company, Hapday Group, which specializes in helping international companies enter the U.S. market. He’s an international speaker and has worked with hundreds of founders as they bring their companies to the U.S.
Sounds like a pretty cool guy, doesn’t he?
In this workshop, Phil broke down his career journey, got real about what it means to go from employee to business owner, and talked about some of the biggest things he’s learned along the way.
International Traveler, Program Manager in NYC, Startup Founder: the story of Phil Delvecchio
Phil joined Praxis when he was 26. Prior to doing the program, Phil had gone to college and gotten a degree in computer science (and had a great experience, although he says now that college might not have been the fastest way to move towards his goals). After he graduated, he spent two years living in Taiwan through a Fulbright program, where he taught English and helped film promotional videos. Fun fact: Phil is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
“I was one of those people who was good at lots of things but didn’t really know what my niche was.”
Phil was interested in tech and in startups (with his computer science background), he was interested in cultures and international travel (which he’d explored through his time in Taiwan), and he had no idea how they all fit together or what he wanted to do next.
After coming back to the States, Phil joined Praxis. While in the program he moved to NYC and started working at a startup accelerator, where he realized there was a convergence of all of his interests — startup accelerators specializing in helping international companies launch in U.S. markets.
Phil had found his niche.
“Don’t stress too much about finding the perfect place. There’s a crazy spectrum of different role types, and you just haven’t found your niche yet. I loved computer science and startups and I loved learning about cultures and living abroad. I found the perfect niche in accelerators, which is a perfect triangulation of all these things that I didn’t even know existed until I got to NYC.” – Phil
From Startup Employee to Startup Founder
“I was working with all these people starting companies, and it almost became second nature to start my own. Before I knew what I was doing I’d spun up a logo on Canva and got an LLC and started a company. It wasn’t really conscious — it just happened. It wasn’t until I was three months in that I realized I was starting a real company and that this might actually work — and that I wanted this.” – Phil Delvecchio
Phil worked at the startup accelerator in NYC for 18 months. Over that time, he had the chance to work with 200 founders from 35 different countries. He immersed himself as deeply as possible into the tech world of NYC. At the end of 18 months, Phil was feeling burnt out and ready to leave his job — but he’d fallen in love completely with the space. There was nothing more exciting to him than working with founders breaking into the US market.
So Phil started his own accelerator — as a side project at first, but it very quickly turned into a real, full-time business.
“I like reading business books because I think entrepreneurship is romantic. Me starting a business was kind of embarrassing because I had no idea how to do it.” — Phil
Spoiler: he figured it out. Now, less than a year and a half later, Phil has eight people working on his team, and is serving multiple clients across multiple companies. Hapday group provides advisory and consultation, but they also roll up their sleeves and work with their clients. They help them establish traction and build out a pipeline and process here in the U.S.
He’s also employed his own Praxis apprentice, Dana Arends, who’s helping the team build out their marketing efforts.
Phil’s advice to young professionals
The most important things to embody to promote growth: truth, honesty, and real work.
These are the principles Phil embodies in his business, and the things he thinks are most important to cultivate to build a successful career (and ultimately company).
On truth: “Every business has a set of values and truths. Values and missions can easily just be the brand that you put forward, but truth is what you actually believe in. It’s extremely important for your own health and the success of a company for you to be living out what you know to be true. A lot of times people’s unhappiness comes from a contradiction between what’s going on inside and what’s going on outside. That’s especially important when running a business.” –Phil
On honesty: “If I went around trying to craft the perfect message to clients instead of just saying what was true I’d completely waste my time and wouldn’t get anywhere.” –Phil
And on hard work: “We want things to happen in a split second. Consistent work is devalued. That’s not fun, that’s not cool … but there’s no person in the world who’s accomplished something who found the fast way to do it and here’s the trick. The work you put in — that’s value. Then you have to know how to show that value.” –Phil
The values Praxis conveys are pretty important components of entrepreneurship. Another really important thing to start a company is to work at somebody else’s startup and learn.
Two things that really served Phil early on in becoming well rounded enough to do this:
Before you know what you want to do and want the most, be willing to do anything. Say yes to opportunity at any chance. Most people don’t have enough world experience to justify saying no to an opportunity. You still don’t know enough — even Phil still doesn’t know enough. Once you start to see something carved out or feel drawn in a direction, then you can start to narrow down your direction and focus.
This is probably one of the reasons Phil’s been able to do well at any company he works at. When he gets there he never gets the sense of security that he’s earned the role. He never stops getting the sense that he can do more and he should do more and he will do more. He doesn’t see a lot of people in the world who are like that. Praxis is one of the few places that has a high concentration of that.
“If you’re thinking of starting a business but you aren’t sure what will work, try to sell what you want to do and see if people bite. If people buy, sell more, and if they sell more than you can produce on the side quit your job and go all-in on a business.” –Phil