Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Alex Zaccaria, Co-Founder of Linktree

Alex Zaccaria is the Co-Founder of Melbourne-based startup Linktree, a service which enables social internet users to connect their audience to their entire online ecosystem — not just one feed.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve always been entrepreneurial; in fact, I even signed up to study Entrepreneurship at uni, before realising that what I was looking for was real-world experience.

I quickly dropped out and started an artist management and promotions business before starting a digital agency (Bolster) with my brother Anthony and our friend Nick Humphreys.

It was during this time – while managing the Instagram accounts of a few artists, festivals and bands – we came across an issue we thought was unique to the music industry; that Instagram only allowed one #linkinbio. Quite simply, we were getting sick of having to change the link in the bio every time we posted.

We commissioned a developer to build the initial Linktree prototype and it took just six hours before we could start to push a very basic version of the platform out to friends, family and a few clients.

Three years – and many iterations – later, we have over three million users globally, including some of the biggest celebrities, influencers and brands in the world.

While we’ve primarily run Linktree as a side-hustle since launching in 2016, building out the platform and growing the audience globally has now become my primary focus.

2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

As you can imagine, life in the start-up world means that no two days are the same. While Linktree was in its infancy, the days were incredibly long and unpredictable.

A few years on and the platform is more established and our incredible team has grown. While the workload and day-to-day are still demanding, it’s certainly more manageable.

I’m very involved on the technical side, so my typical day involves checking in with the dev team to see where the latest sprint is at, understanding any blockers and looking for ways we can keep improving workflow. We spend a lot of time on the roadmap and planning new features that will deliver maximum value to our users.

We’ve got three million users across the globe, so I spend time analyzing how the platform is being used, what’s working best and where our new growth is coming from. It’s really critical that our platform perfectly suits the needs of the people using it, so we use specific tools to dig into our Business Intelligence.

Our team has grown significantly over the last three years, not only in size but in location. With team members in LA, London, Melbourne and Sydney and as well as international tech integration partners, a lot of my calls and conversations take place outside of ‘regular’ work hours.

On reflection, I spend a lot of the day talking.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Flexibility in the workplace is something that’s really important to us and a foundation of our work culture.

I sincerely believe that allowing your employees to work remotely and around their own schedules is empowering and sends a very clear message — we value you and your time, we trust you to get the work done and understand that you have your own life outside of our four walls.

It’s also important to recognise that different people are productive at different times. We like to keep things flexible so everyone can work when and where they feel like they can get the most done

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I’m forever looking for ways to manage my time more effectively. I’m an avid list-writer, breaking tasks into small parts and allocating time slots to each. I also put deliberate ‘blockouts’ in my calendar so the whole team can see that’s when I’m getting deep work done. If I don’t, I risk spending my entire day in meetings.

Easily distracted, it’s important that I remove digital distractions wherever possible. I mute all notifications on my phone and computer – I even go as far as using apps to block me from distracting websites.

5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work-life balance is something that I’ve really had to prioritise this year – when you’re in the process of establishing a business it can be the first thing that goes out the window. For the first few years – when we were running Linktree as a side hustle– it would be rare for my co-founders and I to leave the office before midnight. Weekends, by choice, were almost non-existent.

However, this year, I learnt the hard way that working those hours and living by that attitude was not a viable long-term option. Instead I needed to take the time to focus on my health. I now take at least one day per week for myself. I switch off, step away from electronics and get out into nature. I train at the gym four times a week, try to meditate daily and aim to leave the office before 7pm each night.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by people who to date have been understanding of the demands of start-up life and I’m forever grateful to them.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

My curiosity is probably my biggest ally – it drives my hunger to know more, read more, push further. I’m deeply passionate about tech advances and the changing nature of the internet – it’s why I started Linktree, but I’m grateful to be working in something I am so passionate about.

Family is what helps me strive for balance. Although I’ve had work ethic ingrained in me by my Italian migrant background, at the end of the day we’ve always put family ahead of business. We have weekly meals en masse, as well as see a lot of each other through the week. When you sit down at the table, you don’t bring (or try not to bring!) work with you.

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection by John E Sarno, was a book that changed my perspective on pain management entirely. It helped me move on from the challenges of being injured and helped me focus on the day-to-day.

While a slow reader, I’m an avid podcast listener. While Tim Ferris interviews have taught me a lot about productivity, I’ve learnt so much from podcasts like How I Built This with Guy Raz, and hearing other stories of success or failure.

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Sleep! It may seem counterintuitive but I have worked hard to change my relationship with sleep. Instead of viewing it as ‘wasted time’, I can now appreciate the health benefits of a full night sleep and put a lot of focus into my night time routine.

It’s also important for me to minimise the number of meetings I sit in each day. Blocking out time for me to focus on my work means I can be more efficient and effective.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

When you’re passionate about what you do, it’s easy to fall into bad work habits. I think losing momentum is probably every startup founder’s biggest fear. However, your mental and physical health is just as important as your work.

In my eyes, ‘health is wealth’ – something that took me far too long to work out.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.