A lot of people see Mindvalley on its glossier side. Great products like Omvana (which has been featured by Apple in iPhone Commercials), award-winning office spaces, a really talented team and stellar growth without ever having to take VC funding or loans.
But what many don’t see is that BEFORE all of this is that Mindvalley was, well, really, really, really basic. Some might even say “sucky.”
We’ve all got to start somewhere right?
In this post, I wanted to share some shocking photos of Mindvalley before we succeeded. So you know that success may not always come quick, but if you’re prepared to start small and sucky and dream really, really big AND keep pushing, epic things may happen. 🙂
Our Office Space
This is our office space in 2010.
It was listed in Inc. Magazine, “World’s Top Ten Coolest Workplaces 2012.” Not too shabby. But that’s not how we got started.
THIS is how we got started. This was our first office in 2005-2006.
It was ugly, stuffed with used furniture and located in a really crummy neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur. We still had a great team though.
Some of you might recognize the guy on the left — that’s Khailee Ng who went on to found Groupon Asia, Says.com and now leads the 500 Startups Asian Fund. Even in our early years, we made it a point to find and groom really great talent.
Time to go from the old office to the new office: 4 Years
And it gets more interesting.
This is where our employees eat today, the Mindvalley Diner.
But this is how we laid out our food in 2006.
Programmers were never more than three feet away from horrible food.
Yum! Nescafe 3-in-1 instant coffee and the cheapest biscuits money can buy. But hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere, right?
This is the official team picture from 2013.
But this is the official team picture from 2005.
Yes — this was the OFFICIAL picture used on our site. Don’t ask why we’re posing with a pile of books and educational courses. I think we were trying to demonstrate that we were actually invested in learning.
We could have at least bothered to crop out that air conditioner or the white board in the back. Style was NOT something we were known for back then.
Finally, here is what our team looked like over the years.
Today, we have a world-class team from over 48 countries. This is a section of our “About Us” page on our website.
But in 2005, this was the “About Us” Page on our website.
I had to add my dog Ozzy as Director of PR. Hey, it worked. And TechCrunch thought it was funny enough for a mention.
The Hall Of Awesomeness: Mindvalley’s Auditorium
This is the Hall of Awesomeness from 2012.
Yes, we have our own frickin’ auditorium that seats 150 people. And this space just won an award for having the most beautiful interior design for an office in our city.
But we had to start somewhere…
This is the Hall of Awesomeness in 2009, just 3 years before…
Don’t you love how we improvised by joining a white board and projector screen?
In this picture, a visiting guest, Max Simon, is taking the Oath of Awesomeness on a statue of Wonder Woman (our unofficial company mascot).
Today, new hires still take that same oath. But now it’s in a state-of-the-art auditorium in the hottest neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur.
Time between these photos: 3 years.
Our Annual Team Retreat
We FLEW the entire team to Thailand, put everyone up on a 5-star resort, and treated them to amazing food, drink, trainings, parties and bonding. Now, once a year we take the team on an annual team retreat to an exotic beach in the region.
This is our Team Retreat Picture from 2014 at a 5-Star Hotel in Thailand.
Only four people in next picture worked at Mindvalley. The rest were friends. We were a smaller team back then. This picture was taken at Tioman Island in Malaysia.
We drove nine hours in a van to get there. We stayed in a rundown cabin on the beach that cost us $20 a night. Two people got beds. Three slept on the floor.
This is the Team Retreat picture from 2005. At a $20-a-night hut on a beach in Tioman Island.
Time between these pictures: 9 years.
Parties and Social Events
Kuala Lumpur is hot. So many of our foreign employees love a good pool party. Our first pool party took place in a condo in Bangsar, a renowned residential neighbourhood right by the city.
If you look closely you’ll notice we were drinking Single Malt Scotch Whiskey with Pringles. Yes, Pringles. We tried to be classy but failed miserably.
This is a pic from our first ever pool party in 2005.
Hey… at least we had that checkered plastic tablecloth for ambience.
And 8 years later, this is our Pool Party from 2013.
We had it in the best damn pool we could find in the city. The pool at Luna Bar, central rooftop hotel that overlooks the city of Kuala Lumpur. We got to use the pool, too.
This is our first-ever Beach Party from 2005.
We had two 6-packs of beer. And a candle. But we had fun.
Now, this is a picture from one of our beach parties in 2014 (we rented a private island in Thailand).
Our beach parties sparked what later became A-fest, an invite-only community of 2000+ extraordinary people from 50+ countries who come together to connect, grow, support each other, and learn from the world’s best teachers.
Now let’s take a comical look at our Christmas Parties
The Annual Christmas Party.
Our Christmas Party from 2004.
But in 2004 we had zero employees and Christmas was spent doing odd things to my pets. Ozzy and Kitty. Please forgive me.
Look, before you judge. It was 2004. I was lonely. I had just moved back to Malaysia and knew absolutely no one. My pets were my only company. And to be fair other than a massive ego blow to my cat, no animals were harmed in the making of this photo.
And there you have it. The truth behind how we started.
The point I’m hoping to make is that we all have to start somewhere. As glossy as things can look on the outside, know that it was an uphill climb.
We struggled, we pushed, and we worked our asses off. But we kept dreaming big. And expanding the vision of what it was we wanted to build.
Epic things start with small humble steps.
So remember: Pay respect to your beginnings. And if you are just starting out, know that it’s okay to be “sucky.” To be small. To be messy and chaotic. Just make sure to never ever stop dreaming.
As human beings we tend to overestimate what we can do in one year. But we tend to underestimate what we’re capable of in three years. So always visualize your life three years ahead. And push that limit and dream bigger.
If we could do it, so can you.
A Thank You To The People Who Helped Me Start
And finally, I want to thank this band of misfits who left their countries and jobs to join me in 2005. I couldn’t promise much. We had an ugly office. We could not afford perks or even decent salaries.
But these first few employees, because they believed in my crazy dreams, gave us the spark that eventually became the Mindvalley that we know today.
Mike, Kristina, Adelle, Jiangti, Hannu, Anita — you were our first six team members.
Thank you for believing in me 10 years ago when we were small, sucky, chaotic and had no idea if we were ever going to succeed. Your bravery made this all possible. And this post is dedicated to you.
If you want to read more on the blueprint of laws I used to build my company, check out my New York Times bestseller, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind.
This book teaches you to think like some the greatest non-conformist minds of our era — so you can question, challenge, hack, and create new rules for YOUR life to define success on your own terms.
Have you gone through a massive transformation like we did? Share with the tribe in the comments below.