Stiven Martínez


My history
Translated by ChatGPT

My history

By Stiven Martínez

March 16, 2024

Hello, this is my first article on after at least 12 years of registering this domain. The reason is simple and is the explanation that most designers or developers will give you: we really dedicate more time to our jobs and/or personal projects than to our own website or portfolio.

But without further ado, here I will tell you a bit more about my story in case you are interested in learning more about me.

Who is Stiven Martínez?

My real name is Brayan Stiven Cartagena Martínez, but as a way to create a personal brand, many years ago I decided to continue being known by my second name and maternal surname, that is, Stiven Martínez. I am a product designer, branding designer, and frontend developer; I also have intermediate knowledge in backend, but I have always preferred the visual part of the product.

I come from the city of Medellín in Colombia, I was born and raised in the now world-famous for its times of war and violence (times that I had to live through), La Comuna 13. Currently, and for many years, I reside in other places in my beloved Medellín.

I am the son of Mary Martínez and Luis Cartagena, two extremely humble people who gave their lives to bring their children forward, despite the conditions in which they grew up and had to develop their own lives.

I started my career at the young age of 14 in 2006, thanks to the fact that it was at that age when I had my first computer (With Windows Vista, I remember) and two rare software that immediately caught my attention: Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver.

What has been my learning process?

During my adolescence and early adulthood, from 14 to 19 years old, I dedicated myself to learning everything I could about the world of websites, positioning, ads, and monetization. During this time, I dedicated my vast knowledge to giving away my work to anyone who needed any type of design and/or website to gain experience and improve my skills. I also launched multiple personal projects, among them Themesei (A.K.A Temaslab), a project that I still maintain today but with other focuses. Back then, it was a store of pre-fabricated themes for WordPress that I sold successfully in forums and as many spaces as I could publish. One of my biggest milestones was "Viralike," a template that was installed on at least 25,000 actively sites.

In addition to Themesei, I also managed to position several of my SEO skill practice sites in the top positions on Google. They were niche sites focused on online games that I took from other places and embedded in mine. These games were from popular platforms and companies like Cartoon Network and incredibly, I managed to position them above the official sites of these companies. I used Google Adsense, which is a platform that paid you for placing ads on your websites, and it was a great era of personal bonanza thanks to the earnings I received month after month directly from Google. Beautiful, isn't it? I was only 18 years old.

At 17, I entered Pascual Bravo University in Medellín, but 3 years later, even though I completed the entire course, I decided not to receive the diploma. It was the pride of a person in their adolescence and today I regret it a little, as it would not have taken anything away from me to receive it and, on the contrary, it would have added. From there I have a peculiar story: I entered the university with the intention of taking the "web development" subject that was in the middle of the course, but I was disappointed when I reached that semester and in the first class of that subject the teacher sat next to me so that I could explain to him what I was doing, as I mentioned before, I started at 14. Something to keep in mind for the context, in those years there were no development schools like today or they were either too expensive or outside my country.

At 19, Ruben Zaballos, CEO of what would later become the MContigo Group, a company based in Salamanca, Spain, and which at that time had the largest group of health-focused media websites, called MejorConSalud and LaMenteEsMaravillosa, came to me. These sites received about 10 million unique users per month in different languages and multiple countries around the globe. Ruben contacted me to offer my services as a Freelance for the redesign of their successful media blogs in WordPress, a job that I accepted with joy and executed in a period of no more than 3 months. When we deployed these new versions, thanks to the knowledge I had acquired in SEO On-Page, we saw an even greater explosion in site visits, which led Ruben to decide that I should be part of his team as design leader. Subsequently, this would lead me to travel constantly to the group's offices in Salamanca and have the opportunity to visit half of Europe.

Until I was 28, I worked hand in hand with multiple companies and entrepreneurs around the world, from India to Mexico, while developing my work at the MContigo Group (I have always thought that if you know how to distribute your time and respect what you have agreed with a company, you should not have a problem developing other parallel activities, besides you can acquire knowledge that your work does not allow you).

At 28 and already ending my journey at the MContigo Group, my great friend of many years, Josue Gio, who I had had the opportunity to work with for more than 10 years as a freelance, but we did not know each other personally, came to visit me in Medellín. He invited me to this new project that sounded quite interesting called GuruHotel. I immediately joined, at that time as a freelance, to develop what would be the MVP (Minimum Viable Product), which was a WordPress template for hotels connected with technologies known in the field, such as the PMS (Property Management System).

When we launched, and thanks to the founding team of GuruHotel who were already working full-time, from sales to operations, they managed to capture the attention, thanks to the product, of at least 3 hotels that catapulted us from 0 to 60,000 USD in transactions per month. This milestone led Josue Gio and Jorge Flores, who were the original co-founders, to present themselves to the world's largest startup accelerator, Y Combinator, in 2019 for the W20 batch. They traveled to San Francisco and we were selected.

The story that comes here I will always tell with great pride, as once selected and from San Francisco, I received the call from Josue and Jorge to tell me that they wanted me to join not only full-time, but as a co-founding member and I would receive part of the company in gratitude. An offer that, of course, I accepted instantly. The conditions? Get my visa and travel to North America in less than 2 weeks (this is another story I will tell later) and indeed at that time we were already the 3 of us living in an apartment we rented in Mountain View (Silicon Valley) and for 3 months we were in the acceleration process learning not only from the hand of Y Combinator everything related to the startup ecosystem, but also from the hand of my two partners who were monsters in hospitality, everything I could about the industry.

Several years have passed since then, we have gone through difficult times such as the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic that threatened not only to bankrupt us but the entire tourism sector. We have raised close to 2.5 M USD in capital investment and went from those 60,000 USD in sales to 1.2 M USD (as of Q1 2024) and about 300+ hotels that use GuruHotel to transact their direct reservations.

We continue on this journey and we want to take GuruHotel not only to be one of the great technology companies for the tourism sector, but our ambitions to help solve problems go further, to the point of allying and being recognized by the 2 largest companies in the sector, Expedia and SiteMinder, who have been an example to follow for us and have helped us boost what we are.

Fun Facts:

  • I had forums with +1000 users and sites with at least 30,000 visits per day.

  • I have sold domains that I bought for 1 dollar on GoDaddy for about 1000 USD, thanks to my skills as a brand creator and domainer.

  • At 19, I bought a pet store with my girlfriend, a store that we had for about 2 or 3 years and where we helped hundreds of cats and dogs in street situations find a loving home.

  • I have 4 cats and 3 dogs.

  • I am married to the same girl I met in school and with whom I have shared a beautiful journey called life.

  • I know and have lived for periods of several months in countries such as: United States, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Spain, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Iceland, Netherlands, Hungary, Uruguay, Belgium, and Poland.

  • I am self-taught.

  • I love history. Whenever I can, I am researching the history of my own country and city, the context of how the generations before us lived, and also international history. I am a follower of World War II in terms of knowing the atrocities that were committed and how that in some way propelled the progress of the technology we currently use. I have personally been to the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps, also in the largest museums in the world about WWII, and I have visited the French coasts where what is known as D-Day in Normandy took place.

  • I consider myself a modern nerd.

  • I am passionate about soccer, I practice it whenever I can.