Michael Julve is the Co-founder of BuiltFirst and GoGrow and an advocate for other underrepresented founders in tech.
To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Thanks for taking the time to read my story. For starters, I’m from a small town in New Jersey. I have blue collar roots, and if you had asked me as a kid where I thought I’d end up, I’d never guess that I’d start two technology companies, BuiltFirst.com and GoGrow.dev. But, if I’d guess where I would have ended up as a kid, I’d predict that I’d be a 3rd generation police officer, like my father and his father.
My first company was started during the COVID-19 lockdowns. I had just finished serving in the military and found myself with too much time on my hands. My co-founders and I democratize access to top notch remote engineering teams. With GoGrow you can hire 10x Latin American developers with experience at companies like Oracle, Facebook, and IBM, within your business’s budget and timezone.
My second company, BuiltFirst.com, is a platform for B2B partnerships. We’re proud to have some of the biggest companies in the world as our clients like CircleCI, Hubspot, and Zendesk.
Both companies have been a wild ride, but we’re scaling quickly.
But the thing that really motivates me is my mission to advocate for nontraditional and underrepresented founders. The data shows that these founders often outperform their peers, but they still struggle to get funding and support. That needs to change, and one of my primary goals is to make sure that it does.
What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
So, I wake up bright and early, often just before 6 am, and jump right into the grind. As a founder and executive, being responsive to customers and partners is a top priority, so I power through until I’m done.
Around midday, I take a longer lunch break to get in some exercise. I’m a big fan of rowing and hitting the stairmaster to get my heart rate up. Then, I return to work and focus on external calls, often with customers, mentors, and peers. Throughout the day, I enjoy checking things off my to-do list, and hopefully not adding too much back onto the list for the next day.
Around 7:00 pm, I call it quits and head to the kitchen to unwind with my fiancé. She’s as busy as me and getting through law school. We love experimenting with new recipes. We’re total foodies. We treat cooking together like our own little adventure.
Before bed, we tackle some household tasks and do some wedding planning (yes, we’re juggling that too).
My days are packed with a lot of work, but I love quality time with family and make room for it. So, while it’s a balancing act, I couldn’t be happier to take on everyday.
What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
As someone who works over 80 hours per week, the traditional heuristics of defining work-life balance hasn’t always been helpful because I’ve learned my happiness hasn’t been defined by the quantity of hours that I’ve worked, but by the quality of those hours.
I’ve worked long hours, at a used car lot and doing security, and finished the day exhausted and struggling to enjoy the relationships in my life. However, now that I’m building companies that I believe in and bring me purpose, I’m all in, even if it means working the same amount of hours.
Overall, work-life balance is about more than the number of hours you work. It’s about being present and living a quality life. It’s also going to take time and effort to build the habits and routines necessary for this, but it’s worth it in the end.
In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
When I kicked off my career, I was all over the place trying to juggle work and life. Often, it was all work and no life. But there was this little nugget of wisdom I got from Erik Cardenas at Zócalo Health that really hit home: “Remember, you are your most important asset.”
It’s like you’re running on invisible batteries. If you don’t stop to recharge them once in a while, you’ll hit empty and abruptly shut down. You’ll also end up getting way less done than if you had just taken the time to recharge your batteries when it was more convenient. That realization never really crossed my mind beforehand.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Change is a tricky beast, and it’s not as simple as just wiping your calendar clean. I had to do some soul-searching and figure out what truly fuels me. For me, it meant squeezing in a lunchtime workout to boost my mood and sharpen my focus. I even started going to therapy to keep my mental game strong. And sometimes, all I needed was a breather and some good tunes, podcasts, or catching up on sports.
Here’s the thing, though—I realized that making time for myself actually made me more productive. It’s like the saying, “Less is more” and I never thought I’d say this, but carving out unstructured time was the secret sauce to getting more done.
Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
As an avid podcast listener, I can’t stress enough how convenient and accessible they are. My favorite podcasts include All-in, Pivot, Lex Fridman Podcast, and The Ezra Klein Show, which provide unique perspectives and insights on technology, news, and trends.
When it comes to books, I make it a point to read a few per year. I’ve already finished Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore and Founder Brand by Dave Gerhardt this year. I’m currently reading Ready Fire Aim by Michael Masterson. Up next on my reading list is San Fransicko by Michael Shellenberger, recommended by my barber, followed by Golden Gates by Conor Dougherty.
If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
There are so many incredible entrepreneurs that I’d love to hear about in an interview on work-life balance. It’s hard to choose just one! I’d love to read an interview from an incredible duo at Drift: David Cancel and Elias Torres.
Both of them have always been a huge inspiration to me. They are not only amazing founders but also investors in one of my companies, which feels like fate.
David Cancel has an impressive background as the former CEO of Drift and former Chief Product Officer at HubSpot. He has founded and served as the CTO of several other successful startups. What truly inspires me about David is his journey as an underrepresented entrepreneur—a college dropout with immigrant parents from Queens, New York—who managed to raise over $100 million in funding from top venture capital firms and angel investors.
Elias Torres has a similarly remarkable story. He came to the US at the age of 17 and started as a janitor while on food stamps. Through sheer hustle and determination, he climbed the ladder and was instrumental in making Drift into a startup Unicorn.
I also can’t forget to mention Lolita Taub, who is an incredible advocate for underrepresented founders. Her role in our success has been invaluable. She is actively changing the narrative around who can be an investor and who we should invest in, as well as redefining the image of the founders who build unicorns.
I believe that their stories deserve to be widely shared to inspire other nontraditional and underrepresented founders, particularly those from Latinx communities, to overcome adversity and make a meaningful impact.
Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Work-life balance—it’s a journey, not a destination. We all want it now, but fixating on it can be downright harmful. You might think you’re doing yourself a favor by chasing that “perfect” balance, but the truth is, the pressure to achieve it can bring you down a path of burnout and anxiety. It happens.
So, I commend anyone who’s trying to strike the right balance, especially those just starting out. Just remember, it’s a moving target. That takes time to truly get right. It required me to have some more flexibility, out-of-the-box thinking, and a willingness to prioritize what truly mattered to me. It wasn’t simply working less and taking more vacations.
Importantly, work-life balance is also a privilege. Not everyone can afford it. There are people out there grinding away in low-wage jobs or burdened with caretaking responsibilities, and finding that balance is a constant uphill battle. If you feel this way, know even when the odds are stacked against you, taking small steps toward balance can have a profound impact on your overall well-being and productivity. It’s an investment in yourself.
So, don’t give up. Keep pushing, keep striving for that balance. It may seem like a never-ending quest, but the rewards are worth it. And hey, remember that everyone’s here rooting for you every step of the way.
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