Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
Kirk Marple is the CEO and Founder of Unstruk Data, a new company that is Building the industry’s leading Unstructured Data Warehouse for automating data preparation via metadata enrichment, integrated compute, and graph-based search.
We discuss the approach to customer-led product development, being a tehcnical founder, pragmatic product management, and the role of being a founder and CEO during the early years of a startup. Thank you for the great lessons!
Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
Chris Hull is the Co-Founder and CPO at Otus. Otus is the first edtech platform to centralize learning management, assessment, and data for educators, students, and families. Chris was also named a “20 To Watch” Educational Technology Leader by the National School Boards Association.
Our conversation spreads across both the challenges of education, remote teaching, empowering students and teachers alike, and how Chris became an effective founder and CPO (Chief Product Officer) by leveraging learning and a great team.
Chris, thank you very much for joining us. I’ve really, really loved the idea of the problem that you and the team at Otus are solving. And I really want to kind of go at two interesting angles of our discussion. One is, of course, what’s the problem that’s being solved? How are you doing it? And kind of like, why is this an important piece and your place in the industry?
And also is a CPO, right? The chief product officer is an interesting title and it’ll be neat to go into the background of what led you to that role. So anyways, before we jump in, for folks that are new to you, Chris, if you want to give a quick intro to yourself and Otus and then we’ll start diving into the story.
Definitely. So I was a former seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher. I was really focused on helping my kids learn to the best of their ability. And I was really honing in on that problem. How do you maximize learning for each kid? I would have about one hundred and fifty students every year, and I started to use technology as a tool to help me do that and a variety of ways using. Online applications, finding ways to have my kids become more engaged, and I was lucky enough to be a coauthor to a grant that brought one device to every kid in 2010.
And I thought that providing every student a device would completely change my life and education and really allow me to impact every single student. However, upon the rollout of the one to one device initiative, I quickly learned I was pretty naive back then. I still am naive. I was pretty naive back then because it quickly became apparent that technology can actually expose inefficiencies within a system or a process. And that is what happened. I quickly learned that there were inefficiencies between collecting data, getting information about kids, we call it, articulating data from one teacher to the next or from one grade to the next.
There was inefficiency there and there was no system that really allowed the teacher to understand or get to know kids in a way that was really powerful and efficient. So I was lucky enough with two other co-founders to start OTUS. And we really focus on providing the tools to help teach, which is again facilitating, learning, giving activities, connecting to content grade, which is the ability to measure learning, understanding what a kid is able to do and what a kid needs to grow and get better at Analise, which is the ability to take information that might exist outside your classroom.
It could be national assessments. It could be passions or interests or things that may be the were found out by a teacher from a year or two ago. Analyze all this in a single place and then plan, which is our final thing we helped do, which is really to monitor the progress on initiatives such as like skill building or behavior or civics, or if you want students to be good kids, being able to monitor their progress while they’re in your district.
So with that, we have a platform that really focuses on the efficiency of the student teacher relationship and then also transparency for families and administrators into the world of their students. At the administrative level, we really can aggregate the data to look at cohorts. So a group of kids and then four families. Again, I have four kids who are very young. If I ask them how school’s going, they’ll tell me, fine. If I ask them what they’ve learned, they’ll tell me stuff.
If I had high school students, they probably might use different four letter words that tell me how things are going. But really we focus on a platform that is able to provide a comprehensive understanding of how a kid is doing. And by having that information about one kid, we can also aggregate that to the groups of kids so that if we need to find trends or things going on and we do that providing the tools to teach, grade, analyze and plan.
So the thing that really stands out to me about this story and, you know, the problem solving is a real disconnect sometimes. And when we talk about like I’m I’m from the startup world and from the business world and we talk about customers. Right. And when you’ve got a system and the first thing to do is identify this customer and in effect, it’s it’s your student because they have a customer journey from K to 12 and you’re their progression follows them through that versus I’d say a lot of the problem, like you talked about, like even in person learning and the general school programs is there’s not clean hands, there’s not transparency of the journey from that that child.
Like we we go to the paper copy and but like you said then it doesn’t go to the parents, then it doesn’t get shared between administrators. We can’t really use data to drive a positive progression for that student. And I love that. But like you said, the digital experience can add this now. All of a sudden you’re like, oh, I can see that literally and agreed to this child, struggled with this thing. And then we formed a plan so that in grade six, they’re in the right spot where they need to be.
But right now, I feel sometimes that teachers are basically looking at getting through their year with their class and once the class is gone, that’s kind of the end of the program sometimes.
Yeah, I think you hit on some key things, right, if we look at the the product world, if we look at something like JIRA or a CRM or I know I’m jumping around, but the idea is those systems are trying to provide insight into what’s actually happening. If we look at some of our eses and why do we use JIRA when we’re using Djura so we can track projects, we can see how things are going, we can identify obstacles.
I think one of the key things I’ve learned is many of the best practices that are happening in product are what really happen in the classroom to it’s one of the reasons that the the jump from the classroom to the CPO role has actually been less bumpy than I would have thought. Because you want to know you want to identify things early. If there is a blocker, you know, typical stand up. What did you work on yesterday? What are you working on today?
What blockers do you have? That same approach works with students like what’s your blocker now? Sometimes a blocker can be for a child. Maybe they’re struggling to get to school on time. Maybe there’s something going on at home. You know, it’s not always like why I’m struggling to understand who the answer the basic question of who is this article about now? Sometimes it’s more than that. Maybe they’re hungry. Maybe there are things going on, but there is the same thing can happen and product where you’re trying to identify is there a blocker and the processor in the system?
And this is where in an organization we have several product teams for our delivery side of the house. Well, if there is one blocker we have one of our teams is called the assessment team. And if they all of a sudden encounter a blocker, we unblock them, we solve it. It would be a failure of our organization to not share that solution with the other product teams. Right? Oh, this is how we unlock. We have this problem.
We are struggling with a PR. We’re struggling with something around that. And it’s like, oh, this is how we unblocked it. The same thing happens in the classroom. Everything, unfortunately, can be very siloed where if I’m a teacher and all of a sudden I have a student who’s struggling with. Complex text or maybe struggling to get engaged in a school if all of a sudden have a solution. It would be great to note that solutions so that if the student or another student ever encounters it again, we kind of have that in our back pocket.
And education does this in a really great way. I’m not saying it doesn’t. There are things called like places, but so much of the student information is siloed that it doesn’t carry on. And again, if we look at I mentioned earlier, like a CRM, like a Salesforce or any other one out there, we have things about the client. Right. So if all of a sudden our main contact is really into football, let’s go soccer.
You might mention that, hey, a great way to get them to open up and talk about soccer or hey, they really enjoy this type of food. All of a sudden it’s like those hints can be like to send a thank you note. They really like coffee and they really enjoy this brand. It’s like those secret things that you can put into a CRM or, hey, this is where they’re at in their process. It really helps continue the handoff within an organization so that you’re able to really maximize what’s happening for each person and client, customer, user.
They’re all the same, right? You’re in you’re engaging in interacting with someone and you’re trying to help them be successful. And that’s what we want to do for students. We want to help them be successful in their goals. And to me, that’s really learning how to critically read, write and think, having them become successful and what they’re passionate about.
Well, the advantage you get to when we systematize this process is that you can take the system and you can scale it outwards, right? You can now introduce it to other areas. I think the other challenge we’ve always got, especially, you know, we’ve got I’m Canadian originally. I’m living in the United States and we’ve got, you know, massive populations over massive geographies that act fundamentally different based on a variety of different scenarios. So they don’t tend to bring systems between them.
But meanwhile, they may actually have a ton of similarities that they could like, just say, OK, let’s just worry about the edge cases, but you can identify the cases if they’ve never seen outside their bubble. So you’ve you’ve really hit on a ton of interesting things. And it’s funny your language. You’re for an educator. You’ve got you sound like a great software developer. You’ve really seem to have tapped into both sides. And this is why, obviously the CPO is a great fit.
Now, when did you sort of decide that tech was a way to solve this problem, Chris, in the specific area that you wanted to hack into?
Yes. So I always thought I’m not the greatest technologist. It’s one of those things I’m constantly learning. I have an amazing team. I have a product manager, Zach, who is absolutely incredible, helping me learn along the way. Same with our CTO, Cory. They’ve really been amazing to help me learn because. There are these parallels, but to me, I was always a technologist in the way that I always wanted to become more efficient. I would sometimes say I always wanted to find the hack because trying to grade one hundred and fifty students papers is just really time consuming.
How can I save time but still do a good job? So I always looked at technology as a way to help me become more efficient, and that could be something like we’re going to use a platform to be able to better track something or to be able to better monitor something, or it could just be like we used to on our first. Technology we added to the classroom was actually first generation iPads, and we had a really simple problem, which was.
How do you put an iPad on a desk and how do you do that with twenty five students so that it’s not just laying flat? Well, my colleague, the other quote, the coauthor of the grant, came up with a great idea. And to me, this is always like a symbol of what technology can be. He took to doorstops that were like the triangles, and he created this little desk and we had a couple of pieces of wood, we had a wood shop, we could cut them all of a sudden.
Twenty five sets of doorstops created little stands on everybody’s desk. And now all of a sudden, they were the right angle. You could kind of type on them. And all of a sudden that was a source of technology. We took triangles at a certain slope and now we have these little stands for everybody’s desk and they could be movable. You could, like, tilt them a certain way. They were really great. Now, that was like, again, a piece of technology that helped do the job.
And one of the things I think has always been a lesson I’ve learned is if you’re just using technology for technology sake, you’re losing sight of what you’re really trying to do. That actually happened to us when we first rolled out our iPads in our classrooms. It became all about like, hey, look at this cool technology. And we were logging in to 15, 20 different applications and we’re logging into these applications. And it’s like we lost sight of our goal, our priority, which is helping learning.
And so I really like to look at technology not as what’s the latest and greatest, but what is going to help us do our priority or our goal or objective better. And I’ve been lucky enough to. Learn some of those things that have helped me in the from the classroom to the CPO about building a culture, setting a North Star or an objective, and then letting people really get there on their own, not by themselves with a guide, but not always giving them all the answers, because I have found that when a team is able to.
Discover and craft their own solutions, they have more ownership in them, and that ownership autonomy really allows them to thrive and succeed versus them going, oh, here is our process. I have to do it, and now it’s like harder to iterate on it. I really think the best, the best solutions allow for iterations because no one is going to nail it perfectly the first time.
And it’s very interesting, too, because, like you said, we seem to think like, oh, we’ll put an iPad in every student’s hand and that will that will be the solution. Like, no, that’s like saying cloud computing is the solution for business. Like it’s a path to the solution. The actual solution is how you leverage the tool, how you use it. And all of a sudden you’re you’ve got five browser tabs, two applications.
And in fact, you’re degrading the experience because now this child has you know, we’re really exposing attention, challenges and our acerbity on the right spot when we’re looking at. But it’s very easy for, like you said, for us to say technology for technology’s sake. And it’s it’s tough sometimes to be able to step back. And I guess we call it sort of the curse of knowledge that when you’re a power user of something, you just think like, oh, well, I use my iPad all the time.
It’s my I get on a plane, I have my book, I have my email, I have my three things that I need. So therefore, anybody could be handed an iPad on a plane and it’ll be productive for a three hour plane trip. And that’s actually not the case, but very, very easy for us to lose, especially with kids like because their iPad, when they go home, is a different, fundamentally different experience for what that iPad services.
So to suddenly give it a use case and a box around how you’re going to use this tool, it’s a it’s a really interesting and tough challenge.
Yeah, I think that’s where you have to have the clear objectives, right, and I, I know your audience is much more on the product side, but I always have found to be quite the the buzz word with certain people, like certain people, like I don’t like it. And I always have come to if you have a bad process and you try to put it into, juries are just going to make that worse. It’s going to expose all those bad things.
And that’s why a lot of people will tell you when you start with Djura, it’s always better to start super simple and then build it out over time instead of trying to overengineer it. And I think the same situation comes with the iPad. If all of a sudden we use your analogy about the plane, if you all of a sudden or let’s take the iPad and give it to a student, if you let the student decide what’s on their iPad, I’ll tell you what they’re going to put on it.
They’re going to put some really fun games that are going to be highly entertaining, but very distracting to learning. And if you kind of give that carte blanche out there, it’s like, oh, OK. But if you work with the kid and you say, OK, I think even games on the iPad are OK, I would sometimes have in my classroom I taught all the way until twenty eighteen. I would tell my students if they were productive, if they were productive, for we had 40 minute periods oftentimes if they were productive during the week on Friday, the last five to ten minutes of the final day, we would watch a funny video which I had reasons for doing, that there were students submitted.
So I kind of got to know the kids in a fun way. And then also I would let the kids sometimes on their iPad, take five minutes, play a game performance. That’s that’s OK. But again, the goal has to be clear. Like this is not the purpose of it. But yeah, you can have a game, but download the download the right books, make sure you have the right tools that allow you to like what you focused on.
We did a lot of writing, so we did a lot of Google Google Docs, but it really becomes interesting without that clear goal. Yeah, I’m going to use it for what I’m interested in and then that can really take you in a lot of different directions and cause yeah. You give somebody something for their plane trip. Hey, use this on your plane. Well, they might play solitaire all the entire time. They’re not getting that productivity right.
But they used it. That’s really by defining what the goal is, is really helpful.
Yeah, well, it’s funny you mentioned Jeeralang. That’s a classic thing we bump into is that the tool doesn’t solve the problem. Like, yeah, it’s like saying like running doesn’t cause any problems. It finds them right. Like if you’ve got something it will immediately surface when you do certain things. And like I said, applying a workflow tool like a JIRA, a ServiceNow or something like that, even any automation process is I’m a I’m a king of of hating being doing the same thing repeatedly.
So I’m lazy in the greatest way because I want to automate as much as I can. But immediately, once you have to, like, systematized that thing, it makes you stop and say, OK, what do I actually do? And you realize, like when I say I’m just going to go and grab this file and put it up on the server and that’s it, then it gets read by the system. You’re right. It’s like, oh, now I save it, I export it.
I add some stuff to the end. I do a search and think, oh, wow. And now all of a sudden you’re like, it’s good to visit because it allows you to say, do I need to do it at this stage? And sometimes you go to real first principles and say, like, well, what are we actually trying to achieve? Student needs to get content. Content is here. We need to measure the effectiveness of how they get it and how they use it.
But it’s hard because. Look, of any system that’s got Whalsay legacy as the coded system right intact, we always talk about legacy systems. How much more legacy and effect is our education system and not legacy is bad. But I mean, legacy is really just it’s been evolving very slowly for a long time. So it probably was even more challenging to suddenly come in and say. I’m going to put some questions to how we’ve been doing it for a couple of hundred years.
Yeah, I think that you get you hit on something where I think legacy is sometimes seen as bad, but it actually just become such a I sometimes referred to this will seem like a really bad comparison, but it’s kind of like the Titanic, which now legacy has that really bad. But in some ways it’s so big and it’s just been added onto so much, it’s really hard to turn it and become very navigable. It’s hard to move it around.
And one of the things with learning, teaching and learning needs to be more agile and not as waterfall approach because things change. And this is where I think one of the things that OTUS does help with and not trying to be on the sales soapbox too much. But one of the things that has happened in education is for administrators and the people who are kind of managing all of this. Their feedback loop is really long, it can be almost a full year where it’s like, oh, this is how we’re doing, this is how it’s going, and it’s almost like a full year passes like this is how third grade what what are we going to do differently for third grade next year?
And what Otus is trying to do is we’re trying to provide the tools all in a single place. We’re trying to collect the information efficiently and in the background to teachers. And students are just doing their thing of teaching and learning. But because we’re collecting that information and making it transparent to all the stakeholders, we want to shorten that infinity loop. We want to basically that feedback loop. I call it an infinity loop, the feedback loop. We want to shorten it because if all of a sudden we have these goals and we’re monitoring them regularly, all of a sudden you’re able to measure, you’re able to build, you’re able to adaptable.
And that is what other industries have done. So effectively, the idea is the waterfall approach. Why was that so problematic? Well, by the time it actually went out, things changed, things adopted. You misread something you weren’t able to iterate as you went. And when we get to this more agile approach or this approach where we’re able to do things in shorter, you don’t want to release once every year. Right. You want to release as quickly as you can.
Now, some people could debate how often is good for the user, but that, like the idea is once a year is not often enough. And in education, it would be great not to over measure. I don’t want to test a kid every single day, but observation, observations or measurement. So if I am adapting and iterating and able to tweak what I’m doing on a daily or weekly basis, that’s really where your best teachers are at because they’re able to find where the kids that find out what those obstacles are, find those blockers, adapt and then continue to see improvement over time.
And if we can get schools to. Be able to help students that way, but it also one of the things I think OTUS also helps do is it helps with the professional development. We had talked a while earlier in the conversation about how. If let’s look at a product, if you’re a product leader, you’re a team or a program manager and you’re trying to solve something, your toolkit has to be like so big to solve every problem out there.
The same thing happens with teaching. But if we’re able to pinpoint what a problem is, hey, students are struggling, multiplying fractions. OK, we have a very specific problem, multiplying fractions. It’s hard. What are things that we can do to help with that specific goal? Well, now, when I’m giving professional development to the teacher, how do I make the learning of multiplying fractions more fun and happening faster? And the same thing goes like if all of a sudden in the product world, if we’re struggling with the collaboration between you and developers and we want them to be more collaborative so that.
Are you are you are you X components are being built better. OK, that’s a very specific problem that we can figure out. How do we increase the collaboration when building out a component between a developer and you? X Well oh let’s do pair programing or let’s have we added a column to our job board where we call it UTI so that it’s actually being checked for that. And one of those things that happens is like, OK, now you can solve this specific problem because it’s not, hey, we’re having inefficiencies with our delivery.
Well, what is the inefficiency? What is so when you’re able to pinpoint it, you’re able to better solve the problem, but you’re also better able to collaborate and also build out that toolkit so that it’s not just all these general uses or general ideas.
You’re the teacher I wish that I had. It’s it really comes through No. One, Chris, the passion of the way that you’re approaching the problem, plus the fact that you’re able to see beyond. Like I said, you’re the the phrasing that you use, the description of the challenges and the solutions. Like you you you may not feel that you’re as comfortable necessarily on the technology side, but you’re fantastic compared to a lot of folks that I find that being able to bridge between, like understanding the problem and living the real lived experience and then bringing that across and then building a solution for it, you’ve really, really crossed that that river beautifully and that you can still see both sides of it effectively.
And that’s it’s a rarity because quite often we have just purely like systems thinkers and then we hand them user stories and we hand them things and and it comes back as the old even like the waterfall. Project Management was the classic joke. Right. They’d show the like the little eight, you know, caption cartoon. And it was like what the user asked for and what the user wanted. Know what the project manager thought it was, what the developer thought it was.
And it was like a swing. This all the kid wanted was a tree swing. And it’s like all these different iterations. In the end, it was just like a piece of wood laying on the ground with a rope hanging from a tree. It’s it’s really interesting that you really, really understand both sides of the experience. So how did that come to be? Like I said, because your background is is obviously an education and you’ve got a really and your education wouldn’t tell me that you’re a solid on the on the tech side as you are.
Yeah, I think that it comes from. I appreciate the kind compliments, it’s sometimes hard to hear, but I do try to understand what I do well and what I don’t. And one of the things that I have found is I was a political science and world religions major. I really enjoy learning how systems and processes work and how they impact the individuals involved and also understanding where you best fit into the puzzle. And so. I am pretty good at seeing the ninety thousand foot view I can I can really see it.
I can set I can understand what the market is doing. You mentioned, you know, the tree swing. You know, one of the things that we’ve been talking about is not always doing exactly what the customer wants, but instead we really like to bring out what are the problems that are causing something to occur. And the question that I always like to come back to, it’s a broken record for me, but it’s what is more difficult than it should be.
And so really focusing on the problem. But what I really learned is that the details do matter and building out a team to kind of complement those. So like our product manager, Zacky, is, he’s got the best he’s the best at details that I’ve ever come across and having him work with me and then also working with we have a great UX team and we’ve identified some of these key things like UX is essential. You know, the technology literacy in education really spans the gamut.
It just is huge. Like you have students who are amazingly tech savvy, like they can figure stuff out. But there are some teachers. I had to help install apps on their iPhone and there are others that could do anything way better than me. So it’s like understanding what is going to be needed, building out these specifications, but then also really relying on the people who are experts like our CTO. Corey is incredible. He helped. He helped really another startup in education really have the good core and skeleton and understanding that we have team lead.
So we have team leaders across the board. We have one for assessment, one for all of us. We have all these people who have these expertize that I don’t know, we have one of our our alums lead. His name’s Colt. He’s he was a great experience and internationalization. I can understand what the term is like. Oh, OK. We got to internationalize Otus. We’ve got to localize the product. Like, I can understand the high level, but.
Implementing it, I that’s not going to be my strength now, setting the vision of why we want to internationalize, we want Otus to be able to be understood again efficiently for all stakeholders. Well, there’s a very diverse group of families out there, and it’s important that education can be hard enough to understand when it’s in your non-native language. Let’s bring as much as we can into their native language. Let’s help this all stakeholders get onto the same page that fits our vision.
Then you hire the people who know it and then you build in the structure to allow them to do it and. I think that I’m constantly trying to learn, and I think it’s been amazing to have the team at Otus really helped me do that and they really are the experts. One of the things that I often will say is. Otus’s in education technology, which is also often referred to as EdTech. And I really don’t like that term as much, because I think ADTECH often means you’re short changing one or both either tools are super like, wow, the technologies really knew what they’re doing.
This is so impressive. But they didn’t get the educator point of view or to be the opposite, where it’s like, oh, man, the educators clearly. We’re helping develop this, but then they won’t be as stable or scalable or all of a sudden it’s like man who designed their UI, UX like it’s like one of those things where I really want us to embrace the skill set of both. We have about a third of our employees are former educators.
I want them to have a voice and that educator voice, but also with people who aren’t educators but are parents or family members. OK, what would you need from the system in that situation? And also the technologies? How do we build scalable solutions? How do we have data portability? How do we have security, all of those things? I’m not going to be able to speak to other than OK, that’s important. Let’s make sure we take the time to do it.
And I think it’s understanding what you are able to do and understand where you might have room to grow and then finding those people who can teach you and taking the moment and the time. I guess it’s more than a single moment because learning for me takes a lot longer than it probably should. I really have to have conversations, ask questions that are sometimes. Pretty silly, you know, it was one of those things just today we were working on some of our load testing in terms of next year, and we came up into a situation where it’s very technical for why it wasn’t giving us like the same results as we expected, and it was why.
And then I had to ask like two or three very clarifying questions because we were using a small subset of accounts to extrapolate over. Right. Taking a thousand accounts and make reusing them ten thousand times. Well, that caused our systems going to react differently when the same thousand users are signing it all the time instead of it being fifty thousand four hundred thousand unique users. Well, there was a technical reason for that. I looked a little silly as I asked my questions, but again, it’s being willing to know and the team knows that I’m in it for the right reasons and they’re willing to help me learn and then it clarifies it.
And now next time it’ll make sense. And it’s one of its venturing out. I like to say risking failure while striving to be your best. Striving to be my best. But I was risking failure and asking a question that I probably should have been able to figure out.
It’s it is good to have the humility to bring that question to the room, though, and this is something that we often struggle with. This is a human tendency of like, well, I’ve got to I think this is going to be a dumb question. So you hang on to it. And in fact, sometimes it’s people. Oh, OK. Well, actually, now that we say that right, we’ve we’ve reused a thousand accounts. It’s going to perform differently than if we took ten thousand because there’s a diversity of life.
So there are genuine reasons why that needs to be brought up sometimes. And the good thing is the comfort among the peer group and the team in being able to say it’s OK. Right. We often have this thing of culture as we talk about in team culture is the success in culture is the ability to feel like you can fail and you can fail with this group and be comfortable that it’s a learning experience, not a punishment experience. It’s it’s something that, you know, when you choose your co-founders and your team, you have to stuff you find out in practice.
Right, right. I think that’s where a culture like that’s the biggest parallel to me that really has opened my eyes is that is what a teacher does, right? They’re building a culture of learning with their students so that. You need them to be able to ask questions. Can I work with seventh and eighth graders like they’re not going to know the history of all that’s going on? That’s that’s not they haven’t had the opportunity yet. But you have to build a culture of understanding, a culture of community where they can ask that.
You know, I always had I had three guiding principles that I use everywhere from for my own kids to Otus to to my classroom, which where, you know, respect, honesty and then strive to be your best while risking failure. Those were the three. And it’s been interesting because that same culture building is exactly what happens on product teams or in. Specific components and we use teams a lot, we have product teams, but then we have platform teams, so it’s sometimes use of teams.
When I’m talking to external folks, it makes me sound a little little team happy. But the idea is like the UX team needs to be able to collaborate with the front end team and the back end team and our data team. But they also have to be one group on our product team, which is like assessment where we have multiple members on. And it’s like that type of camaraderie and that problem solving, the open problem solving and communication only occurs with the right culture.
And it’s the the culture thing is interesting, especially in the classroom, too, because, you know, in business, we’ve people generally have a long view of how they’re going to fit, you know, in the in the educational system. Well, let’s say you’ve got twenty five kids and one teacher. They’re basically looking to just survive nine months together. And because there will be a brand new cohort, a brand new selection, a brand new pool.
So the culture has to be discovered, evolved and then sort of measured for success and hopefully capped off with, you know, everybody feeling good about how they what they took away from that nine month experience into the following year so that when they see that teacher in the hall, they’re like, oh, hey, Mrs. Johnson, you know, hey, Mr. Hall, how’s it going? You know, versus like, oh, boy, I missed your whole last year is driving me crazy is a real he was a real hard nut around math.
You know, it. So culture is it’s very interesting that in the education system. It’s as a as an educator and then as a somebody who’s bringing in systems into that seeing that experience, then ultimately probably play out in data. Right. What data have you seen now through OTUS that’s kind of taught you lessons about that, the real in classroom experience.
Yeah, I think that I think data, you know, sometimes a four letter word, but information, right, is when you really are able to pull information, you really find that there are connections or correlations between things that are happening and, you know, behavior and attendance and engagement really do impact learning and. Having a teacher able to focus in on a couple of very specific things you need to get better at can really drive great improvement and that improvement can really be seen across the board.
And the data can really show that where if you have a. A teacher who does a really good job of driving engagement, really getting the buy in, and then you can put in the work to do learning, because to learn is an action that requires effort and that that effort is important. And so when you can really get to that real crux of learning and let’s say you really have been able to identify the main point in informational text. You’ll see those benefits in in science and social studies and all of these different areas, and it’s such a cascading effect where you’re really building these essential building blocks that really can impact their entire performance throughout the day.
It can even impact their performance and physical education if you’re able to understand informational text. Well, now, when you’re being asked to learn the rules of a new game, you’re able to pull out the main points to such a better degree. It really has been amazing to see how the data really does show that and it’s not always easy and I think there are successes. I also think the data shows that it’s not this like straight line. It’s not even like that in the other spaces of technology where you want that hockey stick approach.
That’s not that’s not what happens in education in some ways. A lot of times it’s like two steps forward, one step back because. Kids are just complicated. They’re just really something that takes time to be able to unlock and then for them it’s almost like, oh man, I had two great days and then you’re trying to replicate it. Well, now some a little different was something said on recess with something set on the playground. Did something happen at home that they if they were on a sports team, did something happen there?
And so. It really is one of those things that when we can. Collect more comprehensive information, we can pinpoint when they need something. Maybe it’s just a conversation, maybe it’s just. One on one time, maybe, I’d say we just got like today is a rough day, we got to be a little bit calmer or more understanding empathetic today. That was the word I was looking for, empathetic. I think the information can provide those insights.
And I think that we’ve seen when you really are monitoring things, you can you can get better overall growth, even though day in, day out, it might be a little bit more. Two steps forward, one step back. But if you’re monitoring it, you’re able to really identify. We’ve got to step back. We’ve got to really push forward now. Whereas in the past, you might all of a sudden only be looking at something data wise every three to six months, and then you might have missed something that could have been uncovered.
When just like many software or applications or whatever it is, you’ve you’ve got the consumer, the people that are actually involved in it, the people that ultimately buy it, and we talk about the user persona, the economic buyer persona. We’ve got the in the consumer maybe that, you know, the educator and then ultimately the student. So. How do you how do you bring those personas together and make sure that they’re all kind of in agreement on what you’re measuring?
Because I I know one of the challenges we’ve often had in education is this idea of like standardized testing, like, well, this is it’s a very distinctive and regional unique thing, but it’s not really. But there are enough idiosyncrasies and oddities and differences. Maybe it’s better a better way to describe it. So when you bring anything, that’s a system. Like, how do you where do you find the resistance’s maybe in people taking it on?
Yeah, I think this is where we’ve really we have an amazing client success team and they really work very closely with our districts. Because they’re the they’re the people making these decisions, we have a really flexible platform that can measure. What a district would like to measure, it’s very adaptable, so we really work with the districts to make sure they’ve identified what you want to measure. Let’s define them, let’s expand on them, let’s make sure they’re explained well, and then our system can then go in and do that and.
Because of that approach, I really think that we’re able to. Have the client feel success at the end of the day, our clients are the districts, but the districts are serving students and teachers and families. So that’s why we kind of need to incorporate it. But we’re there to that. We’re the tool to support the district initiatives. We are the tool of the district. The data is the districts, and because of that, we need to make sure that we are accountable to what their goals are.
And that really comes through a really great process we have of discovery of what are you looking to measure? What are your end goals? How do we get your path there? And we’re really shaping that customer journey with them because of how adaptable our system is. But it really does cause some challenges because it can be moving. Education right now is going through a huge transformation. The pandemic is one reason, but also there is this call for. Accountability and standards and these common assessments and this common movement and maximizing learning and districts are figuring out how to get there on their own in each person’s implementations, different depending on the state and federal situation they’re in.
But it has caused a couple of curveballs to be thrown because all of a sudden the district, we could have a plan in place and then halfway through the we need to change and adapt and pivot and then say, OK, we’ll pivot. But we might not be collecting. We might not have been collecting C, not because Otus can’t collect A, B and C, but because they weren’t inputting the data for A, B and C, so therefore we don’t.
So it gets into these things where it really does take careful planning, careful conversations, and really it’s exciting to be able to do it. But it is a learning process has been it’s been a great opportunity for me to talk to districts, our team. We have an amazing former superintendent who leads our team. His name’s Phil. He does a great job, his entire team does, to have these conversations. And one of the things we really believe in is we want conversations to happen as often as possible.
I’ll join them. Oftentimes we have a UX researcher who joins them to collect so that we can kind of identify trends that are taking place. That kind of I think I loosely answered your question, but that is the challenge is districts are currently. Providing what is their path forward and there is some changes on the way because educational administration is going undergoing change this past year for superintendents across the country, it is a very difficult one. I don’t think they were in a no win situation because they had constantly changing CDC guidelines.
They had constantly changing what are we supposed to do with the pandemic? And they were unable to focus as heavily as I would hope on learning, but because they had to focus on the safety and security and the well-being of their staff and their students. But it was one of those things that it’s too often the case that schools are unable to focus on the learning and they’re instead being distracted by things that are that are the administrative tasks that are important but are not the core, the priority that I think schools should serve, which is helping maximize learning for every kid.
And that really is the goodness gracious like of all things that we faced as a society in the last 18 months has tested us in ways that I hope that we gather solid lessons from it. And and it’s like I obviously anybody would would give up any lesson to not have had the experience. Don’t never of course, this isn’t a trade off that we ever wanted to make. But when faced with a and a trade off that we didn’t have a choice and know being suddenly remote.
I’ve been a remote worker for years. And somebody said like, oh, this is this is must be what it’s like to work remotely. I’m like, no, very different. Right. Like suddenly remote is not a remote work experience that you you interact differently. Hybrid is different. As we then go back to now bringing education into a combination of I think by September, hopefully we’ll have stabilized and everybody will be back in the classroom. But like, let’s leverage what we learned about the digital experience and how we can empower kids through some remote tools.
Because when I was a kid, I was in grade, you know, I was in grade school and when I went into high school, I got mono. Right. And this is like the classic thing. I, I missed a lot of school because I wasn’t able to go. And I lost an entire year of school because I missed enough education days and there was no remote learning. So that was it there. Just like you’ve missed too many days and so you have to lose your year.
So I lost a bunch of courses and then I went back kind of grudgingly and got my my last year done in one semester because we just switched over to semesters. And it was so now I think if I’ve got these tools, I’ve got ways that we can measure the health of their home experience and hopefully bring it into the system. But we can empower every kid to be successful for that year and beyond, right?
And I think that’s the thing. Right. And I I really am reflecting on my comment, like educators have done such an incredible job this year. But the task they were they were faced with was so. So daunting, I’m actually the superintendent of my students district, my sorry, my kids, my my kids district is also where I taught he actually hired me. They also use OTUS. It was one of those things we’re talking to him like the challenges he was facing between there would be a CDC announcement at like noon.
Then the mayor of Chicago would make an announcement or the governor of Illinois would make an announcement like 90 minutes later. And he was then tasked a minute after all of that. Well, what are you going to do? And I’m like, he just got like a bucket of information. How is he supposed to process check with X, Y, Z? But now he’s being asked, like, what’s what’s the reaction? It’s like to have to do that in real time.
Like educators and superintendents, they were they were facing problems that I don’t think anybody could have ever foreseen. So they had so much time and energy focused on the health and safety of everybody that. In some ways, education, like the learning, took a step back and it’s like, OK, how are we going to address? Because you made some good points, right? Like Bono or or kids who need to be home, like, well, now you can do things.
I don’t think it’s good to be doing them. And endlessly. I think there is a huge place for human connection, for being a person, for collaborating. Again, I have very young kids. My oldest is seven. I think it’s really important to understand, you know, but it’s also one of those things where. I would teach again, 7th and 8th grade, I had 40 minute periods and I would tell my you know, I tell people it’s like.
Teaching and learning is not happening all 40 minutes every day week, you know, five days a week, 40 minutes a day, that’s not all we’re doing. We’re doing connections. We’re doing culture building. We might be doing. Icebreakers, we have to get to know each other, we have to do that culture building, we have to I enjoyed going on some tangents if it’s going to help develop critical thinking skills. And it was one of those things where with everything being on Zoom, it’s like, OK, what are the expectations?
You know, it was one of those things that is very fascinating to me. And if we can really focus on the learning, I really think we can take things away that were we faced during the pandemic.
And that experience of being remote and on video, it’s especially for the durations that you’ve got to do it like I’m I before we were all remote, I had a great experience because I knew at a sort of slot my meetings and you had to do stuff. And then what happened was when everybody was suddenly remote, they had this unfortunate feeling that they had to fill this time like that. They had to do all these meetings, that they were doing ad hoc and schedule them and schedule them an hour long.
And so all of a sudden, we’re all on Zoom’s together. And look, there’s a huge like we got through it together because we were able to stay connected and do things. But it’s cognitively tiring to be looking at a panel of people for hours at a time. It’s we need to be able to, like, put the lid down on the laptop, sometimes walk around like, well, you got to do that. The whole fun of the hallway track at a conference is that you are going from one place to another and you’re like, you know what, I’m going to be late for this one because I just bumped into this person in the hallway that didn’t exist anymore.
Right. And it’s really, really tough. That’s why I hope we can find this sort of hybrid experience. And now, like, look at what you’re doing. You have now the ability through what you’re doing with Otus to take these measurements with this cohort for the coming years so we can actually then see what the the the downstream benefit are like, what was good and what may be challenges come up relative to previous cohorts, right?
Yeah, that’s inside of like what’s the impact going to be? I think it’s you also hit on some really big points, right? I think we we dealt with this at Otus. You know, the idea of. Yeah, I’m going to schedule an hour meeting. Well, I feel like if you schedule an hour meeting, at first you felt like you had to take the hour meeting, right. Whatever length of time you put the meeting, you just somehow drag it out.
And it’s like, OK, let’s schedule twenty five minute meetings. Let’s or. Let’s not meet let’s see what we can do asynchronously, and I think that’s where we are now, a remote company, and it’s been it’s been an interesting transition. And I think we’re getting better and better where it’s like, OK, we don’t we can do more impromptu things or we can just have, like we call them, hangouts where it’s like drop in if you would like.
But there is no pressure and or no video for a couple of days because you have videos. I used to be pretty good, I’m not I used to be pretty good at reading a room, you know, I did a lot of teaching. I think that’s one of the things you learn really well. You know, again, I had six classes, twenty five kids apiece. So I would be forty minutes a day, six times I would have to read the room.
I felt like I was pretty good at it. I can never read a Zoome room to save my life. I can’t avoid you. I have no idea how it’s going. And so I think that’s really where we can learn. I think teachers, they say like, I don’t know how you could connect with students to the same degree, because I used to tell people I loved holding the door open both for my classroom, but also at Otus, where it’s like that two minute conversation that time in two minutes, that twenty second conversation going in and out of a room.
That’s how you can really bond. Or it’s like that that that side comment you can make where it’s like, I don’t want to announce this to the entire class or the entire resume. I just want to have a little back and forth, you know, how is your kid doing? Or I know you play golf. How’s that going? It’s like, hey, what what’s the latest? It’s like those little tidbits that I don’t think you want to put everybody on public blast.
That’s like a that’s the difference between an icebreaker. We’re all here. Let’s all answer an ice breaker. It’s not the same as like, hey, let’s have like a little side huddle. I used to do that with my my students all the time. Like, we’re going to the side hall. We’re going to talk for two minutes. How’s it going? It’s like such a different energy and connection that is fostered that way. And it’s really something that I really going back to school for students is going to be important.
I think that the engagement was really hard this year in terms of being invested in what was happening for all students. Some are able to some are self-motivated. Some are able to go in there. And I got this. But the idea is, what about for the students who need that nudge or need that connection to be able to push faster? And I think it’s also happening in the workplace. It’s just we’re in we’re in store for some interesting change coming up here.
The the one thing that you bring up, too, is that those holiday conversations and the door opening conversations, especially with students, even if we say like, OK, the Zoome room is for X, right? We’re going to talk about something for an hour. You know, the subject matter. You know the agenda. Sometimes you can slip in and hey, how’s it going. But there’s twenty two people on the on the room with you so it’s harder to have those conversations.
So what do you do. You take it to Slack Wall or the chat area like. Well no, because they especially for students, they need to know that if you say like hey, you know, I know you’ve been struggling like you just sort of catch them in the hallway. You know, if you need any help, just feel you you know, you can come and talk to me or the team and they may at that moment open up or they may come and see you after class.
But they’re less likely to go into the chat area on software to have that open conversation, because there’s always a sense that what I’m saying is being recorded or seen or like and you don’t type like you talk. So it’s you don’t see that. All right.
I think the one example that really comes to mind is I used to always try to pay attention where it’s like, oh, you have a big dance recital, you have a big competition or an art show. You could just be like, oh, how’d it go this weekend? They didn’t have to always say anything. You might just see this like this kind of downward glance or it’s like, oh, that probably didn’t go great. Or you might see the smile of, like, all mad.
It must have went really well. It’s like you miss that and it’s like you don’t want to put it on blast because it’s like. You miss that, right? It’s like, oh, how the Arko go if they just like, take that pause and they’re that momentary, like their shoulders go down and it’s like, oh, man, like like tell me about it. Or it’s like you might have that like they might, but I’m on a slacker on a chat.
Good. It’s like, oh well they’re telling me right then it’s like you’re losing that moment where it’s like how’d it go. And then you could read it and then it’s OK, I’m going to put a pin in that, like maybe there isn’t that opportunity to dove in deep, but maybe the following day it’s like I know it didn’t seem like your art show as well. Do you want to take a minute after class and just talk it out?
It’s like it’s impossible to do that with some of the technologies and that and that’s just unfortunate. It’s no one’s fault. But that’s one of the reasons that I think. In the K-12 experience, it’s why. I really don’t think remote is going to be feasible forever, and I think it was it was a good solution for the situation we were in that was unfortunate and again, a global pandemic. But in really in order to maximize learning, we need to be able to have those connections be built to really be able to unlock that.
And students. And I think that comes from the teacher student relationship. And that’s that’s the piece that to me. Where that’s what I focused a lot of my time on when I was in the classroom, I really wanted to get to know my students. I’ve been lucky enough to stay in touch with several of them, even after I’ve left education and they’re now out of college. It’s like makes me feel very old. But the idea is like that type of connection, it allows them to achieve great things.
And I really. That was what Otus was built to do. It was built to be able to create this collection of information so that you could get to that moment of connection sooner. It’s not going to be done by the system itself. Otus isn’t going to have this machine learning that’s going to unlock every kid for you. But the idea is it’s going to have information to give you a jumpstart on this kid, really into soccer or this kid is all about, damn.
So this kid’s all about Archos or hey, this one’s all about music. Oh, cool. Like that gives me a head instead of me fishing, trying to figure it out. It gives me a head, gives me a jumpstart. And that’s that really can be a huge way to get the connection going.
These are the signals that, like you said, there’s a lot of non-verbal stuff, there’s a lot of things that we experience acutely through the year that you don’t necessarily pass on because it’s like but just like a CRM, you say like, oh, I just found out this guy’s got his kids are going to Brown next year. And, you know, it’s like, see, you you put those things in there and then it becomes a talking point, a reminder later on.
And although it’s in the context of like warming the sales relationship, what it really is, is building a relationship and creating that comfort. One thing that’s interesting that I’ve you is I’m not sure how to even measure it right now that we’ve gone through Zoom and we’re doing digital platforms, there’s a real power of the democratization of it, right. That everybody’s kind of got the same access. We everybody is from the chest up. Right. Like, that’s kind of our view of the world.
But it also takes away things. Because if I were to stand next to you, Chris, I happen to know that you’re a rather tall gentleman. So but you and I looked like we’re about the same height. In fact, I’m a couple inches taller than you on camera. But that doesn’t come through when we’re digital. Right. And one of the fellows I work with, I worked with him for four months through this experience, and I helped him with onboarding things.
And then they showed I saw his picture on LinkedIn and it was the first time I’d ever seen him from the above or below the shoulders. And he mentioned that he was a veteran. And then I found out that he had lost his legs from the middle of his thigh down in in battle. And like that, I don’t know that it’s like plus or minus that that wasn’t discovered. But that’s a very unique and distinct thing that he and I actually had great conversation.
But after the fact. But like, I never would have found that out until I because I only see him from the shoulders up like that. Just it’s a very weird experience now, like especially students. Same thing is like we probably open up opportunity with students, which is positive, but then we take away some of that uniqueness that we can really, like, bring in like nurture and bring into every year as they go through the learning journey.
And I think, as you said, it’s just a it’s a very small glimpse into the world when you’re only doing a zoom as you might, I’m six, seven. I don’t think anybody on this would have any idea that our idea is like there are things that make people unique, that your story about the veteran is very touching and the idea of like that’s who it is. But students express themselves and so many unique ways. And I actually just ran into a former student who’s going to college and he was actually making money being a he was working for Dauda.
Or maybe he was just delivering pizzas for Malnati’s, we eat a lot of Malnati’s cheddar, that is my former coach Malnati, but he was we were talking it was funny because he came up and I came up to my he didn’t know it was me. Like, I thought it could be you because of the name. I’m like, he’s like, oh my. I’m like, how are you doing? In seventh grade he wear shorts every day.
Shorts. He wore the same athletic. It was either blue or black shorts every day, one or the other. And it was funny because he goes, how did that all the way through high school I was like, I’m like, well now you’re pants. It’s like now I’m an adult. And I was laughing because it was like such a small, unique moment. Right. But it was like that perception was like that’s what he wore. There are other people like, you know, I had students who would love to draw one of the things I did for my.
From my classroom was I actually painted my desks with whiteboard paint one year because I really believe that, like doodling and drawing and I had a couple students who. They just would draw the most amazing they just were amazing artists, and it was like I would never have noticed that if were on a zoom, right. Like I would I would never have caught what I’m doing, you know, drawing down here, doing. And it’s like those are the connections that really can unlock that next level.
And I feel like I’m a broken record here, but that’s really how you can. Pushed through the difficulty that can happen, the obstacles, the Blocher’s, you can push through that when you get to know somebody.
And really this is why, like I said, I, I when I saw you come up as a guest, I thought, this is it. You can I’m passionate about the potential for technology to affect human life in some small way every day. Right. That’s I do mentoring. I do lots of things. And I’m using, you know, tech where possible to augment that. And the fact that you’ve literally said I’m going to throw we’re going to throw this awful K-12 experience towards this and measure effectively to empower kids and empower education, then this is something that it’s a long tale to write as a founder.
Sometimes this is not a quick win. So for a lot of folks that are looking like every founder story doesn’t have to be the hockey stick of, you know, I grabbed crabbiness some seed and jumped into a serious AI and I went to 10 million. And we’re like, I wish we can affect human lives in incredible ways by doing this stuff. And this is where technology is such a such an enabler. And I really applaud what you’re doing.
No, I appreciate it. It’s definitely it was hard to leave the classroom, but I definitely do feel like I’m still having an impact on helping teachers do. They’re the most amazing job. I just have so much admiration and and. Just praise for them for what they do on a daily basis, and same with parasite families. I like to say families who are helping with kids are just they’re doing the most difficult task. I’m often at wit’s end with my four, but.
Well, that’s and it’s that’s the thing is we no one’s perfect all the time. Right. And that’s why we can use these things to, like you said, every every kid, every student, every teacher, principal, character, anybody who’s involved in the educational system, they are they can hit those moments. We’re like we’re going to be a little different for the next couple of days because something happened. And the fact that you can take that and sort of bring it through the experience and then because sometimes it’s longer form, right?
Death in the family, you discover something about about a child that’s very positive. That was kind of a hidden treat. And now you can bring that to that next level for them to help them on either side of how it goes. One thing that’s interesting and I know is, of course, you’ve got the the the privacy badges. Like, we didn’t go deep into this and we don’t have to necessarily, but like the data that you’ve got to gather.
I’m curious, Chris, was there any resistance challenges around the fact that you have to be able to collect a certain amount of of potentially personal data as part of this process?
Yeah, so one of the things that was interesting about the whole what data are we going to collect? That’s where, you know, to our previous point in the conversation, that’s where the districts are really deciding. And it’s not our data and it’s really the district’s data and it’s being collected somewhere. So why wouldn’t we collect it in a single place and by collecting stuff that’s already been collected? We haven’t had that. That obstacle has not been as high.
It’s like, why are you collecting this? Well, you already were collecting it. Now we’re going to put it into a place that’s more visible and more transparent. So that’s been helpful. But it does get in conversations. There’s some data that people don’t want to put into because we do believe in. And when I say visibility, it’s visibility to people who have permission to see it. So it’s not just like everyone in the world can see it, but there is this idea of like.
It starts the conversation that’s really important, one of the mistakes I made was I thought everybody would want to be very transparent. I think that one of the things that really can unlock real growth is getting everybody on the same page with the same information. But I think there is. A process to get there. They want to start and say, let’s start with this, let’s problem solve that amount of data. Now let’s get to the next level.
And so we have districts who’ve been with us for several years. They’ve unlocked so much through the time. But it’s also something that’s a progression. You don’t want to just overflow people with like reams and reams of data. So that’s been a conversation. What’s going to be helpful? What’s going to help you problem solve? And we can grow with you. We can grow with you and help you achieve what you want to do.
It’s it is the the good thing is at this point in sort of society’s understanding, I think we’ve like you said, this is data that’s being collected elsewhere anyways. We’re just bringing it and and looking for signals within it to get positive benefit. So I think especially at this range, you know, K to 12 is such an ideal spot where so much growth and learning can happen, the more we can do to speed and empower that. I think very rare cases where people wouldn’t want to know that their data is being held somewhere.
Like you said, it’s it’s not that it’s not being held anywhere. It’s always been somewhere.
And we put we we take it we have we’re part of the data privacy pledges and we would take that very seriously. We want to treat data with the utmost respect and we try to do we try to be on the cutting edge of everything to make it as secure as possible.
Well, you’re on the cutting edge of something fantastic, Chris, it’s been a real pleasure to share time with you and for folks, of course, we’ll have links in the show notes if they want to find out more. So Otus’s ot us dot com. And if anybody wants to reach out to you directly, Chris, and have a chat, what’s the best way that they could do that?
LinkedIn is probably the best way I’m on LinkedIn. Also, my email is pretty easy to figure out. It’s Chris Chris at Otus dot com and I definitely welcome the opportunity to continue learning and appreciate the conversation today. Eric, it’s been absolutely wonderful. You have a terrific podcast. I’ve been lucky enough to subscribe in preparation for this, and you do it well.
Thank you very much. I appreciate that. There you go, folks. This is it. You just learn some incredible lessons, Chris. It’s been a real pleasure.
Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
Joseph Fung is the CEO of Uvaro, a tech sales career accelerator. A graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Computer Engineering program, Joseph’s a five-time technology Founder & CEO, and with multiple successful exits, and speaks frequently on the topics of sales leadership, diversity, and corporate social responsibility.
We discuss so many important topics around enabling people, empowering individuals and teams, using systems to map our experiences and get to progress faster. Joseph has an incredible story and I highly recommend you have a look at what he and the team at Uvaro are doing.
One of the amazing things that I love about this podcast is that I meet incredible people who genuinely have an impact on how I think and do things. You’re going to get the advantage of doing that today with Joseph Fung. Joseph Fung is both a serial entrepreneur as well as the founder of Movado. So he’s really, really neat Canadian as well. Which kind of a bonus. But before we get into there, let me just jump in and give a shout out and a thanks to the amazing folks that sponsor and make this podcast happen.
And that would be our good friends over at Veeam Software. I’ve got a really, really cool thing. If you head over to vee.am/discoposse right now. No, seriously, do it. Go to vee.am/discoposse and this is the wildest thing you’re ever going to see. The landing page is fantastic. You guys are really cool comic and I really, really love what they’re doing around the awards campaign that they’re doing. So definitely go check it out, go to Vietnam for signs just Capozzi, because they’ve got you covered for everything you need for your data protection eeds, whether it’s on premises in the cloud cloud native.
That’s right. Yeah. Kasten all sorts of neat stuff. Oh, that’s right. You want to do not just protection in the straight up data protection need, but complete disaster recovery and orchestration. Oh yeah. They got you covered to go to vee.am/discoposse make it happen. And of course, while you’re at it, wake up with a beautiful sensation that everything is good because you’re fully protected by Veeam. And also you get that incredible, devilishly good flavor of coffee pouring across your happy lips with diabolical coffee.
So if you want to head over, I am actually the co-founder of Diabolical Coffee, and I’m very proud that we are doing a really cool thing. It’s cool season. Get on in. We get some cold Rubins. We got the best T-shirts in town by an amazing limited edition art run that we’re doing with Zeen Rachidi. This is something you’re going to enjoy so head over to the Limited Edition Shirt section and you can download your own copy of the image so you can see how it’s going to look when it’s on your back.
And that is Devil’s Breath, one of the best shirts. Plus also proceeds go to support independent artists. That’s the way we roll. We want to support new creators. And one more thing before we get to the good stuff. Make sure if you want to get better connected with your customers, clients, peers, anybody in the tech industry, if you technical sales, product marketing, just about anything. I’ve created a guide called the Four Step Guide delivering extraordinary software demos.
Super cool. I’m very proud of it. I’ve had great feedback. So thank you to all the folks who have already downloaded. There’s much more to the program. So go to VelocityClosing.com You can actually check it out right there and there’s more coming anyways. Let’s get to the Good Stuff. This is Joseph Fung. Joseph Fung is somebody who I really, really enjoy spending time with. You are going to as well. He’s the CEO of Uvaro.
He he’s cool. We talk about selling. We talk about connecting. We talk about startup entrepreneurship, running teams, culture. Amazing. Enjoy.
This is Joseph Fung with Uvaro, and you’re listening to the DiscoPosse podcast.
thank you very much, Joseph, for joining. This is really neat because I love when I get to meet folks, when I look at what you’re doing and it immediately makes sense on a problem that I face on a daily basis, both in and out of my day to day work. And so it was really, really cool when I saw you come up and you Varro was the was the first name first. I did a look for you, Joseph Fung, and you’ve got a really great storied background.
You’ve got a couple of different things for you to talk about. So for folks that are new to you, Joseph, if you want to introduce yourself, tell us quickly about Loverro and then we’re going to talk about a lot of stuff in how people can get better at enabling people through the use of technology and proven historical work. That’s what led to this A.I. only.
Thanks so much for having me here. I’m I’m really looking forward to this conversation. We’re going to cover a lot of territory, and this stuff is always near and dear to the heart for Uvaro. By way of introduction, we’re on a mission to help the world’s professionals lead more fulfilling careers from their first job to their last. And we got there. I’ve been a five time tech founder and CEO, and every time building the people side of the business was always toughest, especially in the sales organization.
And we’re tackling that problem head on Jivaro and we get to see life changed every single day. And wow, is it fulfilling work? It is such a blast.
Now, the thing that I always enjoy is when you can see success come in, that people realize that there’s a repeatable thing that I’m doing and I can now leverage the fantastic capabilities of software to be able to make that process easier going forward for other folks. And I’ve done it with with mentoring. That was one thing. I was like, I keep having the same questions, get asked over and over again and effectively then built a playbook and then through developing this playbook.
Then I said, OK, now can I build a system that uses this playbook and, you know, doesn’t remove the human experience, but enhances the speed at which you can get to the human experience. And this is why I was I was really, really digging in on what you and the team are doing here, because you’re taking, like you said, multi time founders. So you’ve this is not, you know, straight out of school going, I’m going to create an idea and then create a thing and then I’m going to sell that thing.
You’re literally taking practices that you’ve developed over the course of time and now mapping them into a system. So if you don’t mind, just let’s go into the Wayback Machine and what what gave you the need, you know, in that first time you founded and as you went through this to understand that this was a real, you know, repeated problem that we see all the time.
You’re talking about the founding of Uvaro, or that way back. Yeah, each time. Yeah, even the pre Uvaro. I mean, it’s the fun that now folks that now they get to wait. They could listen because they want you want the real story, trust me. But I the lead up to it will actually will influence the reason why you are so important to.
I’ve gone through this a few times and the people who look at my my LinkedIn profile, they feel like, what the heck is this is like marketing hack and H.R. Tech. And there is a there’s a steel cable that links everything through. And if that idea of building, you know, really rewarding places where you can do your best work. And I think the real trigger was I went to the University of Waterloo, did co-op and one of my co-ops at Raytheon and a great space co-op leader, but is a multinational and they do military contracts and we did aircraft, airport surveillance radar and things like that.
They had a brand new president coming to visit. And it for me is a co-op because it’s super exciting. The guy runs a company that’s worth billions of dollars. I’m going to learn something new and, you know, maybe accelerate my career. But everybody was terrified because he planned to kill a factory. What does this mean? Why’s he visiting? And it struck me that that fear was the wrong way to build a company. I look back at it now and I’m like, Oh.
Co-op Joseph thought he could build a better company than Raytheon. That’s a very nice thought, but at the time, that’s that’s exactly what triggered me to do it. It’s like, you know what? I can build a place where people feel more aligned, more fulfilled, like they belong. And every step isn’t filled with that fear. And that’s what got me into building my first company. That was more than just a, you know, kind of a lifestyle business, soap opera style engagement.
And every step of the way, every time since it’s been that same ethos, how do I build a place where people can come and do their best work ever and now we get a chance to do that for our customers, too. And so feels in many ways like coming full circle.
The thing that you highlighted there is this thing of being able to have a different sense of experience through the same exact momentous experience as other people, and it’s funny, it’s very rare to identify that it’s different because most people don’t have the empathy to get there. Like whatever, you know, you’re that’s a you problem. What most people think, like, it’s really tough in like everybody is kind of stuck in just trying to figure their own stuff out.
And for you to be able to say, like, I’m experiencing this differently than other people, it’s notably different. And not only that, but then saying, I wonder if there’s a way that I could. If then my positive experience, and this is why I really enjoyed this story of the importance of being able to say I can gather a different, more positive outcome out of this thing, and I know it’s got to be in there in there somewhere for everybody.
How do we unlock that? And I think that’s that’s a huge thing, right? I mean, it’s changing the world in some small way every day. But then most importantly, figuring out as you do this over and over again, through different experiences, through different people. What are the commonalities that we can ultimately systematize and in doing so then? Bring it to sort of productize of people experience, which is which is kind of neat now. You’ve also definitely was interesting in that you’re you’re out, you’re directly trying to get to people and help them through this experience if you want.
Let’s talk about the heart of you, Varro, and what your mission is other than, you know, sort of the basic core that you’re aiming for.
Yeah, I mean, the crux of it comes from this, really. It’s funny, it’s one of those things you look at it and you realize, hey, you know, the world’s kind of flawed, but if you think about that career journey that anyone goes on and I mean, the stats are horrific, you know, average time in is like, what, two point eight years now? That’s like 16 different jobs a career. But what, 15 percent of people are engaged, 60 percent.
The stats are terrible. No matter where you look and the tools, the systems people have to access, whether it’s something like a LinkedIn or a job search site like indeed. Or the various platforms where you’re consuming content. The challenge is that all of these platforms, the job seeker, the individual, the professional is the product that they’re being sold to companies and to advertisers and things like that. There’s no one who’s actually aligned to the career journey of the individual.
And that’s really what’s at the core of what we’re doing. So, you know, we start right now. We’re focused on sales because every startup, every company has to start somewhere. And we really help people by providing that that full experience. We deliver training, internships, introductions, how people learn those new roles and then the coaching on an ongoing basis. And as a result, people are seeing amazing, amazing outcomes, more engaging careers. They’re talking about like opportunities of a lifetime.
You’ve changed my life. You saved my life. More income, more job satisfaction. The engagement level of our grads is so high and and change where matters like buying houses when they never could have previously looked at it, moving out like one of our own. Our students used to rent one room in a two bedroom apartment while he was saving for his son’s college education. And he goes through our program, lands a role immediately and immediately goes in to find a new apartment so that his son can visit, have a place to sleep instead of just like on the floor besides bed.
And that type of change to someone’s life is so profound. And it’s so much easier when you say, hey, I’m focused on your success, not focused on you clicking buttons so my advertisers can shift the product. And that feels really good because it’s an alignment of values that seems to be lost in so many businesses right now. So it feels really rewarding.
I enjoy that the more companies are least becoming aware to that now, this becomes the sort of salability of the benefits of the platform, that there’s an immediate people, like a direct, you know, your clients, your people that use it as me. It’s you. It’s our friends. It’s our peers. Yeah. But then as an organization, I can then look and say, if I’m using you, Varro, to empower my team, then they effectively are happier, more engaged, more likely to stay.
And what was the old, you know, oft misquoted, which I’m about to misquoted again, you know, statement of jobs or whatever, saying like, what happens if we train people and they leave and says, what’s worse, if you don’t and they stay right now and the sense that if you if you empower them to leave. So I worked four years ago. People can search my LinkedIn. And I worked for a company called Raymond James Raymond James and really enjoyed the company to work for.
I worked in the tech side, but the way they run their financial services arm is that it’s a rarity in the industry that they allow you to own your book. So you bring your customers with you, you know, or you develop your come your customer, you know, clientele. And you if you choose to leave, take it all with you. They give you the data, they give you the accounts, they help you with the migration.
If anybody who runs a financial service firm would be disturbed by the idea of doing this because the whole purpose is they’re developing your clients, Raymond James says no, no, you’re developing your clients and we’re helping you to do that. As a result, one of the lowest attrition rates in the industry because nobody feels the need to run away because they don’t feel locked in. It’s a fantastic thing. And more companies now, I think, especially in tech, are realizing that there’s so much opportunity out there.
Best thing you can do is to vastly empower your people.
It’s it’s funny because you talked about it earlier, that idea of finding a problem or solution and then trying to systematize and scale it. And for me, it’s like the engineering side of my brain. It’s really, you know, how do we optimize the systemize ties, those things? And if we think about a sales or support work, you’ve got, you know, people using your software, interacting with your customers, using your CRM. And we spend so much time optimizing, you know, the CRM, the buttons, the workflows, spent so little time trying to optimize the people.
We just kind of say, you know, we’re going to change crap around you and figure it out and see when you give people a stronger sense of autonomy, of of confidence, of a sense of investing when they perform better. And I love the example of Raymond James because that’s that’s a great example. But it happens at a smaller scale, too. Like we work with a lot of startups, a lot of scale ups. You know, a lot of our grads will go on to a 50 person company, a 20 person company, one hundred person company to see the same thing.
Our grads ramp like they get to Cuota in a third, the time at their peers, and they’re twice as likely to exceed quota. So, yeah, that’s great. That’s not about the software. That’s not about the buttons in the widgets. That’s about investing in the people. And you really can you can engineer, you can systematize your people, your culture. And that’s that’s not about making your company robotic. It’s about treating people equitably and deliberately without wasting cycles.
And it’s a very compelling thing to do.
Now, this is one that you hit a word that’s important and that’s deliberate. Hmm. We especially in startups and I say we I mean, a startup which is no longer a startup, we just got purchased by IBM where. No, you know, I’m a huge part of a huge company. But in watching the growth of this startup and many others like it. Most stuff is not deliberate, it is purely accidental, like they try to take practices that we see at big organizations.
But then the hilarious thing is your Erik Reece quotes this in his great book, Lean Startup, and he says, you get all these people that come from big companies and they create a startup. And the first thing they do is they try and create all this process they like. That’s the reason you left the big company. So we kind of look to these big sales training organizations and and these like big dollar coaching and empowerment. But if you’re not in the right phase of your company.
It’s it’s wasted money and ultimately it is repeating something that just doesn’t match, and that’s why I said it’s not their deliberate in their outcome, not the outcome of the reps. The outcome of the backoffice team, the outcome of everybody in the customer experience is the reason we call them customer success now instead of just, you know, help disguise the the word deliberate is very important because you have to say, like, what is the outcome I’m looking to do for everyone involved and what can I do to reach that?
An example of that, because I hear from founders all the time, like the idea, like, no, we’ve got we’ve got our values, we’ve got our culture. Our people are really important and. At one of the things that I found is that a lot of founders struggle to put it into practice. What does it mean? With my previous company tribe at the time that we founded it, so when we just got started, there was a if you go back and you Google the history and stuff, you’ll see there was a bunch of companies in the Toronto the Waterloo area.
And this is like all the early, early 20s, mid 20s, there’s a bunch that were purchased by US buyers and the teams moved as like Microsoft buys a team and moved them to Seattle. Google buys a team, moves them to California. And that was this big fear, like the brain drain was US companies acquiring Canadian talent and shipping them south of the border. And when we founded Tribe, one of the commitments we made to the team was we want to build a company where we can scale it for us, for our families.
We’re going to never we’re never going to ask you to move south of the border. We’re never going to do that. That’s that was one of the first commitments we made. We founded it seven of us at the time when we said it explicitly in the first meeting and. Kind of go fast forward many years we’re selling the company and we’re evaluating two things this a series, a term sheet that was beautiful, way better than we deserved. Now, I looked at our metrics.
I looked at that and I was like, wow, that was really, really sweet. Or this acquisition offer. And we hemmed and hawed and angst over the decision left, right, center. And what ended up making it a really easy decision was the idea of rewinding all the way back to those core ideas. Why did we do this? What did we commit to at the beginning? And I realized if we raised the series as we envisioned part of the next phase of the business, I got H.R. Tech.
So knowing your local stuff matters, we’d have to build a go to market team in the U.S. And even if we didn’t move everybody, the center of control would end up moving south and all of our investment would be into that US office versus the acquisition. You know, the idea was let’s use this as the kernel of building a large dev presence here in the kitchen or whatever area. And as soon as we looked at it like, wow, you know, in the first option, we’ve effectively moved the company.
S even if even if we’re still incorporated in Canada, even if I’m still living here effectively within itself. But this other example, we get a chance to build something better here for us, our friends, our families, the community. And it’s something made this like it was like this black and white, the very easy decision. And I think by making it such a principled statement at the beginning, it made later decisions dramatically easier. I did the numbers.
I was like, I will make this if we do this, this. If we do that, our shareholders will do it as I analyze it to the tenth degree, like every engineer will. But bringing it back to those core values just made it simple, crystal clear and a very easy conversation to bring to the team after.
It’s a I almost wish there was like a 50 50 or some like a marked reference that we always talk about the fiduciary responsibility of the directors of of an organization. Right. Then you have your required in order to deliver value back to the shareholders, which in most cases in a private firm, of course, is the investors. We know it’s a tough responsibility. We know as employees we hate to see stuff happen that seems counter to the people that work there.
But we also know that I know because I’m a bit deeper into it. Decisions are made for financial reasons, which cannot and which would counter what we believe is the right thing to do, so to speak. But you’ve you weighed both sides and said that I’ve been given a financial opportunity, which. While it seems like it could have a long term potential value to the shareholders, it also means that it could mean I’ve evacuated my entire employee base.
And a dissatisfied employee base, which means that has a negative impact on the value of the company. It is very hard to weigh the human impact to the long term financials and then look at what’s the what’s the thing you do. So it’s I again, huge respect that you said. You know, what do we do? You know, I could probably get this money and I could turn it into X and then scale it from there, especially as a startup in, you know, what do they actually call the I forget I said I’m from Toronto originally, so I know the area well.
And so if you mean it used to be back in the day, if you’re from Kitchener or Waterloo, you either worked for RIM or you worked for the university. Yeah. All right. So the fact that startups were popping up and getting funding and being able to stay and continue to employ people is huge. Right, that this is most people, like you said, I. I never thought I’d work for a company in tech. Because I there were no tech companies, they were U.S. companies that had a Canadian presence, so I ended up in the financial services sector for 20 years doing system architecture and stuff.
But then, you know, very different outcomes and goal. So now it’s a fast forward, much more opportunity in the startup ecosystem. And so you now have the ability to say, look, I can make these people’s lives better. So they can make their kids lives better and their peers feel good about things and ultimately hopefully draw more people to these type of ecosystems.
It’s a it’s a. The only way to put it is it’s like a privilege to have that opportunity, because now I take a look and we sold the company to NetSuite who was then sold to Oracle. And I see now there’s a tower in downtown Kitchener where under my stewardship we snagged two floors book. The third hadn’t filled it out. I think there are four or five floors now, several hundred people. And just I mean, people doing some really amazing work.
And I’ve got former colleagues there. I’ve got friends who then went to work there and we’re on some really brilliant stuff. And so that expertize is now floating around the local ecosystem. And that’s exciting. That’s really cool.
Because it’s always interesting when you look, it’s like when you drive by an old, you know, job place or even an old school and you’re like, oh, wow, you think at the time you spent there in the phase of your life and their life and the world at that time, it must be incredible to look at. Post acquisition successes that have been imparted on the people that went with it, which is such a beautiful thing to be able to see happen totally like when our first employee for Tribe.
What a fun journey, the first job that we posted was for clubs of Because You Never Want to Lose or DELAMATER, all that worst freaking job posting ever, I think is what I hear you getting the job. If I remember right, I think it was something like, do you thrive with independent work? You might be the only employee. Do you like high risk? High reward? We’re not sure if you’ll get paid. I mean, Handschu.
So Ryan, who took it, shows off to his first interview at at a coffee shop sporting the angriest mullet I’ve ever seen. And it turns out he’s a man who is a hockey team and they’re in the playoffs. They were you just letting it grow? Because I was a part of the team, the co-founders. It was like, you know, what, if he’s brave enough to wear that to an interview, was brave enough to work for us.
Let’s go. Let’s do it. I mean, like all startups, you’re hacking it together. So, I mean, our first office was like one room in the back of a car dealership because that’s where we could get some free desk space. And Ryan just did a great job through all the curveballs that we threw out and he ran with it. He did a great job through the exit and the acquisition, so made a change to him and his wife’s life.
Still still there, like within the security organization, amazing building, amazing stuff. And she can see that the individuals and the fun stories, but he also gets now act as that threat of continuity as the organization is growing around him. And that’s super cool.
I was thinking of was like Full Metal Jacket, you know, or like they start off and you see the guys getting their heads shaved in like they’re the new recruits. And then the second half of the movie is them being the seasoned people, bringing in the next class. And it’s like it’s it is cool to see that folks can thrive through those changes, because another thing I’ve discovered is there’s often not staging type of training and coaching. If you in the startup ecosystem, you find there’s a lot of players at a space, a level of growth.
So you get these sort of teams that just come in and they’re like SWAT teams, it’s come in. They’re like, yeah, I’m I’m from like half a million to 10 million in revenue. That’s it. The moment they hit like 50 million revenue, they start to get weirded out and they leave. But a lot of folks survive those sort of SWAT team infusions and there’s nothing for them through those progressions. That’s what I’m curious. Where do you see different types of training and coaching and mentoring that can be done for folks to say, hey, if you want to be a if you want to be the five to 10 million kid, go for it, but will enable you for that.
But if you want to thrive from one million to one hundred million, then we’ve got something that we can help you through all the way.
I love the idea that stage appropriate training and I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it. That’s specific training offerings like, hey, go, go take this course to learn what it’s like to go from, like, you know, one two million series A to 10 million doing your series B. I think where the onus really lies, though, is ultimately on leadership in many ways. I suppose there’s actually two answers to that for us on the overall side.
One of the big things we do is we do we spend a lot of time talking about what it’s like selling it to the different groups. And the reason we do it is not because we think people need to know the different mechanisms, but what we found is when people fit and they go into an organization that fits what they want to do, they’re more successful. What’s better than knowing the different stages is knowing where you thrive. And so in sales at things like the companies early and figuring it out, you’re going to do the full cycle by selling your whole thing.
And that comes with all the stress and all the dynamism and all of that. But if you like being an expert in your domain, a more established company will have more defined roles. Still a lot of room to carve out new territories to build new features. But you’re going to have some better guidelines and better mentorship. We’re doing that in the sale side of things, and so that’s why I think we have such a good hit rate, but I’ve never seen anything like that across a company.
And all the things I try to do as a founder is spend time with my teams just talking about what you should expect to see in the coming year. And sometimes it’s really simple things like we’re really early, so, hey, sales team or engineering team, you’re all reporting to me that’s going to stop. And it’s not because they don’t like you and it’s not because you’re not. But as we scale that happens and. We talked about that SWAT team, if you had people who have gone through this before, their heads are not in danger.
That makes sense. I got this. No, let’s go. But the people have never been through before. That’s terrifying. It’s really terrifying. And I think it’s founders. We spend so much time just being scared about everything we’re doing. We forget how disruptive that is for most people. You know, they’re trying to crank out a marketing campaign, crank out a bit of code, crank out some support lines, and all of a sudden it feels like the world was turned upside down because of an order change like.
We will do a lot more influence in people’s lives than we really internalize sometimes.
And it raises the importance of this idea of creating coaching and mentoring programs to to make sure that people can know they’ve got some baseline, they’ve got something they can lean into, because quite often that’s like culture is a class thing. One of my favorite, you know, I’ve read far too many books and I’ve got far too many unread ones and myself as well. But the culture code is one that I still reread often, you know, Legacy by James Care as well.
Also a fantastic one talking about the New Zealand All Blacks and this idea that a culture is the way they behave when you’re not looking. And as much as the masthead behind the receptionist’s desk says, you know, we are a people company, when the people on Slack are saying yes, not a people company like it’s that begins to happen and that can ultimately infuse that sort of inner fear and that misunderstanding of what’s next. So it becomes pervasive in the culture and there’s as a founder, you can’t be like pouring over the entire organization constantly to look for that.
You’ve got to create a system. You can let them sort of self discover, hopefully, and ultimately staved off.
I want to come back to that system thing, but I want to ask in a local ecosystem, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I find. Every three, five or six years, it’s like the same blog post article pops back up and it’s like a CEO whose company got to typically somewhere between 50 and older people. And the blog post usually goes something like this culture can’t be created, it’s the thing that emerges and you need to let it grow and then document and capture what happened.
And it drives me nuts, because what that tells me is it’s a founder, CEO that ignored their culture until it got to a point where they said, crap, I got to get my arms around it. And now that I get my arms around it, I’m going to, you know, expound upon why this is a normal thing. And I personally find it very frustrating because I’m a very firm believer that you can be very deliberate in your culture.
And if you do it at day zero, if you start at zero, it’s so much easier. Like forevermore. It’s I if you want a good analogy, it’s like SEO or it’s like code quality or anything. Like if you start paying attention to it early on, it’s way easier to maintain.
Why do we not have culture debt like we have technical debt, we have financial debt, we have all these things, but yet somehow they know they don’t attack this idea that that is a effectively a cultural debt. We create that. We’ll get to this later. Well, we’ll we’ll write it down once we discover it. Like, no, that’s the thing you discover won’t be the thing you wanted because you didn’t hire into culture you hired and culture came out of it.
You don’t want your culture to be a side effect. Right. We tend to think about it is like internally for us. We think about it as a separate thing. It’s like the product is, hey, this process we’re changing, how is it going impact the culture or, hey, you know, it’s time for us to clean up some of the edges or hey, let’s upgrade it or touch investigative culture 2.0 is ready. Let’s say let’s get it put into place.
Yeah, it’s funny. Like it raises all these silly metaphors, but it is like if you think about something that takes on this life of its own and how do you make something that will last beyond the founders, the CEO, the founding team, the customers, the product, the market, because all those things will change. How do you create something that has more longevity and actually a good review? You talked about scaling. You know what people say behind the scenes.
I’ll share. So we’ve honed this over a couple of companies and I love you raise that question earlier on the things that you get better at every time. This is something I think we do really well. The idea of conversations like manager, employee, one on ones. Yes. Do those. That’s regular. I’m sure everybody who’s listening does this already. If not pretend you are because you should be asking what a big old if you haven’t, I need you to stop and write that in your to do list and put it on your bloody calendar because it needs to happen like a minimum biweekly, make it happen whatever.
But we see one on ones as one of three redundant layers for culture communications. So is kind of like security, you know, defense in depth. So we do our one on ones separately. We have a system of executive buddies. So we have our upper layer of management, our executive team, and we will pair every employee with an executive that is not in their direct line of report. And it’s not intended to be structured one on ones, it’s not intended to be backdoor conversations, but it’s a chance to get an executive who is mentoring you, coaching you through your conversations, giving you another perspective, letting you try on email, language for size, conversation, language or size, challenging assumptions.
You don’t say, hey, I was in that one or one and I don’t know what my boss thought of that’s. So you got an exact body. So that’s our second tier. And that’s that builds the mentorship scale in our executives, too. And it’s a great reminder that all of their direct reports are having conversations. And then our third layer, we run these regular meetings, we call them Hello Friends, and we have an employee. She’s part of our people culture team.
But she’s not responsible for like H.R. processes. She’s not responsible for recruiting. This is her primary responsibility. And she does regular dropping coffees with people. And it’s confidential. It’s like kind of cone of silence. Check in. How are you doing? How’s the team doing and how are you feeling? What are you worried about? And her job is to look for trends and highlight worrying signs and nothing identifiable. Her job is to anonymize her job and say, these are the things your people are worried about.
You know, watch for it. Yeah, because we’re not going to catch everything and thinking about your systems or people’s systems in the same way you think about like your security or your processes, like the holes become very glaring very quickly becomes a matter of you can’t create a system if it doesn’t ultimately have a feedback loop. And we think of like the classic outta loop. Right. So you observe this is the you know, see what’s going on Orient based on the what’s happening in the signals, then decide, OK, I can either deal with this X or Y way or whatever it’s going to be.
What what do we do about this particular signal? Do we integrate it as core? Do we deal with it as anomalous, whatever, and then act, then what do you put in place? And ultimately that then feeds back to changing the way that you observe and orient because you then have to take that into account. The next thing like these signals are very non, sometimes even nonverbal, but they’re not what people will feel it. In the anonymous employee survey that went to your corporate email that has your email in the URL when you click it, the like, you know, are my favorite thing.
I work for a marketing team at the time we were when we were still a small organization relative to our chunk of the world. So it sounds like, you know, this is completely anonymous. What team do you here for? Work, for marketing? Well, that’s down to thirty people. OK, what where do you live? I am at the time I was in Toronto like so I said I’m immediately not anonymous. I’m the only marketing person in Toronto.
This is not anonymous at all. And there’s no option of I don’t feel this out like. So you’re going to fill out the survey based on what you believe they want the survey to say for the most part, which is unfortunate versus like you said, getting out there and saying, look, I know I work for this company, but I don’t affect your pay. I affect the way that we help you get better. People are more likely to be open and in their discussions, it’s you have to separate human resources.
It’s such a strange thing. And, you know, now we call them chief people, officer or whatever the whatever the title of, you know, the trendy title is going to be. It’s the fact that you have to separate the people experienced from. Legal and payroll, which is fundamentally what a lot of human resources teams are, they call it culture, but in the end, you you have a you’re there to protect the company from liability, protect the employee from liability.
It’s hard to split that line and really make culture a part of the human and people organization.
I think it’s also a lot of companies and I tend to see this in kind of first time, earlier stage founders a little bit more where they believe ownership of that culture sits inside an organization. So they try to hire someone and say, hey, you can fix this, right? Oh, yeah. Also in compliance and payroll and recruiting and company events do all that and fix culture while you’re at it. And I there’s only a few things that can sit on that CEO’s plate, you know, unequivocally, like don’t run out of money.
Yeah. Don’t screw up the culture. Yeah, I kind of put those up there. So I think it’s it’s really easy to believe that you’ve hired someone and that solves the problem. But I think founders need to make sure that they don’t forget that they’re ultimately responsible for it.
Yeah, it’s tough, like you said, those two core responsibility is what’s the you’re you’re responsible for growing the company and reducing risk. And of course, one of the biggest ones is keeping the company alive. You know, ultimately, there’s two reasons that companies fail. They either run out of money or the founders leave. You know, they choose to exit the situation. It’s generally finances will be the biggest thing that take that company out. But, you know, this is so it’s good.
I mean, I love the idea. Now, here’s the interesting thing. Speaking of, Lou, how much of the work that you have through you, Varro then ultimately feeds back to the next time you do things. And as you bring back, OK, based on the last six months, we’ve noticed some different signals coming from people. Maybe we should integrate. How does that continue to evolve as you build the practice?
Constantly. I mean. So much of what we architected was around optimizing the feedback loops, and I think a really good comparison would be things like look at post-secondary education, they generally do an annual intake cycle, and if they’re launching a new program or a new course, they’ll run it once, get the class through, take a term or semester to kind of think about the feedback maybe offered the next year. She’ll look at this annual cycle and. If you’re on your long sprints, you’re just not exactly going to go well.
Yeah, when we founded you, it. So our program is a three month program, and it scares the crap out of our team. You know, we’re going to launch a group every month. Day one is like a group every month. So by the time we get to the second group, we’ve got two months worth of feedback. By the time we get to the third group, we’ve got two first months and one second month with the feedback and so are our processes.
May cut in as we go. Everything from like regular feedback surveys, check ins, follow up with our alumni and our grads. We’ve just moved to launching multiple cohorts a month and by the end of the year to be doing weekly. And you can’t you can’t do that if you don’t have feedback, you know, baked right in. And the part that’s been really cool is we’ve got we have our training programs, but we also have the right software platform that’s used by the tenders out tens of thousands of sales reps across North America.
So we get to see what are the types of content or features or items like are people talking about objection handling? Are they talking about security? Are they talking about customer stories? And so we get both that kind of usage data to influence our curriculum and our programing. But we also see that really, really tight feedback cycle with our classes because we’re launching them every few weeks. And you’re right, without that loop, you’re just doing the same thing again and again.
You’re not improving.
This is the the beautiful merger where you can have many systems ultimately feed each other because you’re you’re doing things. Let’s talk about Kate, actually, because we talked to the very start. I wanted to make sure that I gave it. Do you know advertisement here this afternoon? Sounds awful, but like it deserves recognition. I actually I use the platform, so I I’m very deep in this idea because we’re all in sales. Bad news, kids. You’re all in sales.
You may not be directly in sales, but you’re supporting sales and work and technical marketing. So I have to understand objections and competitive plays and stuff. And so I looked at it and it was immediately obvious how fantastic it was going to be because it just made sense. Again, like you said it, then from there, it can help to influence the purely human enablement side. So this is a an amazing thing. How how lucky is it and how hard did you work to get that lucky of.
Taking the approach of having a systematize productize thing and then having it ultimately feed another another business, yeah, it’s it’s funny because where we are right now, we look at it like, wow, so much good fortune there. And the journey when you break it into the steps makes a lot more sense. And and it was very deliberate. I mean, the platform is it’s used primarily by tech companies, scale ups and fantastic attacks. The companies we’ve got great, great teams using it.
The part that was really cool was our go to market strategy was working with sales trainers. So if you’re company and you bring somebody in to build your sales process, they might leave behind a bunch of kids or they might leave behind Caite Playbook’s. And so we have these fantastic firms that we’re doing sales training and training programs. And as we started to dig into the usage data, they literally fantastic IRAP project. So, I mean, you want to toss in all the elements of a story, a government funded research to figure out what the heck to do.
All this data we uncovered these really interesting insights, like silly little things, like we look at our highest performing customers, the ones who are growing fastest, adding team members, crushing sales goals. And by and large, they had way more information about their personas and their target customers, but surprisingly, way less about objection handling. And that really had a scratching their heads because, I mean, sales traders always spent time on objection handling like how do you handle those?
And what we uncovered was that there was an inverse correlation. So across the board, the companies that did a really good job of doubling down on their personas, their buyers, their details didn’t have the same need for objection handling. So as a result in our curriculum, they’re not treated as two separate subject is treated at the same thing. How do your personas, your ICP, influence your objection handling? So how do you emphasize the one, decrease the other, drive up your total growth?
And so on an ongoing basis, we get to pull out these insights, these methodologies and push the of our curriculum and even to when we launched the first version of our it all came from our customers on the software side. We talk to them, we say, hey, how do we get you to use more software? And they’d also their biggest trouble is hiring, hiring great sales reps because we hire people, but no one knows how to sell software.
And so we bring in these trainers. They cost an arm and leg and they do great work. But because they cost so much, we can only bring them in annually, maybe every six months. And so you hire someone, they have to wait six months for the next sales cycle. No wonder it takes him eight months to ramp. And so when they said, hey, if there was a way to hire more people who had some software training experience, and that’s not simply just go recruit from LinkedIn or Salesforce, there’s a there’s a supply demand imbalance.
There’s, what, 50, 60 thousand B2B software sales reps out there in North America. We need another three hundred sixty thousand over the next decade. We can’t all just hire from LinkedIn. The need became really apparent, according to my next job is now. Good golly.
It’s it’s like it’s an absolute supply demand. This is terrifying. The difference that we’re about to face in the next.
Well, when I was going into university, all the conversation was like, the world’s going to need more, you know, computer scientists and engineers except for the ninety nine Hiko, like just as we’re all getting into it and we’re all like, oh crap, none of us can have jobs. I’m glad we were wrong. But if I, if I got two kids, if they were graduating right now and I was trying to say, hey, if you want a really good job security for the next 10 years, that’s what I’d be pointing at them, because that that imbalance in supply and demand is so.
And that’s just in tech like Greg Gardner studies like the way all business products are being sold are going to look like the way we sell Souse. And yeah, that’s not more robots and less humans. That’s just automate the crap. So the human element carries more weight. That’s exciting.
Yeah, this is the the thing that I try to tell people of, like we use these products to improve processes, CSR, I’m a Canadian so I can say this without making when I say processed the. But we do this, it always has to be to empower the people to do better and create measurability, which is a really this is the tough line and you’re close to this. So I’m curious at what point when people detect their KPIs, are attached to their performance, start to change the way they behave is the Eli Gold rat thing from the goal.
He says, show me how you measure me and I’ll show you how to behave. And it’s a dangerous thing where when you realize you’re being trained towards a KPI, that all you’re eyeing is the KPI, not the behavior that ultimately drives the outcome, which is a measurable thing via a KPI. So. How do we how are you finding people successful at. We’re not looking at the fact that they’re being watched or that metric.
It’s funny because we never try to encourage people to imagine they’re not being watched because it. Eh, they’re going to be up for a rude awakening. Is that going to be a boss who has a conversation or a colleague like over beers, like, by the way, you know, that this like. Oh, my. Yeah. Really, what we try to do is we try to make sure that if it’s not really up to the individual to manage that situation, it really is up to leaders in management.
I really like I think this is an area honestly where marketing and sales in most areas of the organization can learn from engineering, like in engineering organization. At the end of the day, you’ll have some high level outputs like overall development velocity or maybe it’s product quality and uptime, like whatever your North Star is for your organization. And that’ll vary. But you’ve instrumented your development process all the time, like code coverage. Operate on your Sprint’s velocity or variants on it, delivery versus commit and.
You know, having a really strong sense of like here’s this North Star, but the process is bigger than any one of us. So if we sense there’s something off in the process, how do we choose to focus on a Capi KPI for a while to make sure that that’s not the hang up? And once that’s good, we bring that lens over and focus on and depending on the engineer, you say this is like the lens or the magnifying glass or the eye or Sauron.
You know, we’re going to focus on a different area of the process. And most engineering teams that I’ve worked with are fairly comfortable with that. It’s like, hey, maybe for the next sprint or the next quarter we’re going to pay attention to test reliability or uptime or coverage or whatever it is. What I’ve seen in sales and marketing is there’s not that same sense of the sales and marketing process is external to the individuals. It’s this thing or trying to improve.
And so people take a KPIs in the ownership of them very personally. You know, they think about their open rate on their emails or their clickthrough or their engagement on the content, and they think about it, is them succeeding or failing, not about the system or working or not. And ultimately, I think that’s when that happens. That’s a failure of leadership, not helping the team separate themselves from the sales process because I’ve seen more sales reps lose it, lose their jobs, or leave an organization because the process was wrong, not because of their individual failing.
And that that’s a it’s a hard thing to separate, but it’s super important to try.
Funny that, you know, and I mentioned Ghodrat, which is apropos to this idea of like with engineering. Of course, this is what Jean came in and the team developed and they talked about the the the Phenix project. And and since then, they’ve they’ve done the developes handbook’s. These are methodologies that, you know, and it works like you set this marker of quality or whatever it is, you set the measurement, you move the constraint, you know, and ultimately we’re always attacking the constraint.
And as a result, it affects the goal. And the goal is velocity and quality. Whatever in sales is different because in engineering, no one says, hey, you squashed 400 bugs this quarter. So next quarter I’m setting it to five hundred like it’s very different because in sales, it’s always like you’re going to give 110 percent kid. Like there’s an unfortunate sort of screaming coach from the sidelines mentality that that is the I’ll say the lifestyle of a sales organization is they they think and act differently.
They set big, hairy, audacious goals. Engineering cannot do that. Because it means that they will set themselves up for failure, so they learn to like tighten the measurement to tighten the success rates. So this is. I wonder if there’s a way that we could get better at, like empowering sales without taking the go get them kid, you know, kind of of capability in it.
But I think there’s also, to some extent, you know, confounding kind of a few statements in there. I see a lot of engineering teams who said some really audacious goals like, hey, you know what? We’re going to ship this feature for Q1. And you know what? Maybe all the bells, all the whistles, all the stories won’t make it in, but you’re going to kill it. We’re going to do a hackathon to make it happen.
And, you know, we’re going to kind of pull out all the stops and really make sure this delivers. And it’s really exciting. So I see teams do that and sales teams have their Nalgae with quarter goals or upgrades or things like that. And I think every team needs their version of that. And the sales version is very much like that. What gets Convolve, though, is there are some bad management practices that happen. You gave an example there of like as soon as you had success with the goal post.
You know, James is you made your quota. Bad news is your quota just went up by 30 percent for next year, which is why you see a lot of sales teams ultimately do a stint. They’ll do two years, they’ll do a strong relationship sale, and then they go to another company and take the relationships with them kind of idea.
And I mean, there’s there’s definitely management practices that that exacerbate it. But I think that’s a really good example as well of if the organization doesn’t separate out the process from the people, that feels terrible right now. If we zoom out for a lovely, great as a company, we get better. Our marketing team starts doing their job better. So now we have better quality leads. Our sales automation is better. So we’re, you know, filtering out bad quality leads at a better rate.
Our product is better. So now customers like it more. We have more customers who have better testimonials. Yes, the sales motion as a result is likely easier. So, yes, it makes sense that quotas and territories may shift. Likewise, as we scale a sales team, we’ve got more people we’ll have to draw new territory boundaries and. It’s really important, I think, as a company that you talk about those systems as the process and that those things happen because the companies are succeeding, not because a failure of the individual.
And likewise, your managers need to be really committed, invested to the success of the individuals so that the things you do when you succeed are feeling like you’re penalizing the people who got you there, because you’re right. Otherwise it feels like great, you hit your quotas, were raising the quota, create your top performing sales reps who are splitting your territory.
We’re throwing you in Wisconsin. You know, I shouldn’t joke about that. Wisconsin has a massive market. I’ve always I sort of joke about some poor dairy producers in Wisconsin. Millions upon millions of dollars in revenue come out of out of Wisconsin because there’s a ton of industry there. But it’s this whole thing like, yeah, you do great in the Northeast and they’re like, OK, we’re sending it to Nebraska, kid. You know, we to get that territory off the ground, like, oh, I can’t get my coat out there.
You hit the nail on the head, Doug. Imagine a rap where like, hey, you used to be in California. You know, you got like, you know, 30, 40 million people as your patch. And now you’re Wisconsin. You’ve got less than six. Yeah. It’s really hard to just say those stats and not leave somebody feeling like you just punch them in the stomach. And you got to separate that she was like, hey, great, as a company, we’re at the next stage so we can rejigger these things.
This is what we need. We’re asking you to do it because you have the most confidence in you. It’s a scary thing. What can we do to help you succeed and make this a win for you? Very different conversation and like, great, we’re downsizing your territory by five, six.
Yeah, we’re taking you off of two named accounts that you built up from the ground up because it’s like you’ve you’ve done an amazing thing. We’re handing it to this rep that needs to cut his teeth a bit more. You know, we’ve got a new lady and she’s really great. So we’re going to let her take over this big account. And you’re like, no, no, no, no. I mean. Who knows, right? But if and the sale goes beyond the initial sale, this the other thing, too, is that people often forget is that renewals are this is what we get measured on, is are not just are recurring revenue is the what will bury a company selling a bunch of stuff once is not a successful sales organization.
It’s it’s changing the culture of sales. And ultimately the playbook goes along with it because you don’t just have to defend it once. You’ve got to continuously make sure the product represents the outcomes the customer needs and that you can continue to represent the value relative to the price that you’re charging. Seems fundamental and simple, but it’s hard to do because also you’re fighting for organizations that, hey, look, we just went through covid. Revenues for those companies went down, so they we have to get way better as a vendor to present value, and it may mean sacrifices in a lot of different directions, and it may mean we lose accounts for no reason other than the fact that they just need to tighten down.
It’s really hard, and one of the things that I see is that a lot of a lot of teams haven’t. They haven’t fully instrumented their business and people often miss that that idea of churn. That’s an upper limit of how big you’re going to grow. Your growth hits and asymptote and its position is governed by your churn rate. And the difference between like a two percent churn, a five, a 10 I seen that is 30. That brings your upper growth limit down.
And a lot of teams fail to realize that if you’ve got a growth curve and you try to make it steeper, you try to hire more sales reps, you invest more marketing, you want to grow steeper. The side effect is it can often bring down that churn. And you really don’t want what looked like this nice, smooth growth curve to suddenly be a square wave. Because if you do that, you’re capping the value of your business and it can look really great.
You can raise money, but then you hit that cap really hard and it feels like just crashing into a ceiling and that sets you up for four down rounds if your fundraising turnover on your people bad customer experiences. So it’s tough. Sometimes you have to forego that speedy, speedy, speedy growth just for that long term opportunity with the company.
Well, this raises an interesting thing of, you know, we talking you’ve you’ve had, you know, multiple companies you founded. You’re very successful in the two that you’re working with now. You’ve empowered a lot of people, which is amazing. The trouble I have often when we talk to a lot of founders, especially serial founders, is we talk to same when we talk to poker players and no one talks about the hundred hands they lost. That never that they got dumped out, they were like they weren’t even like in the top 100 in a tournament, they make it to the World Series of Poker, but then they lose tournament after tournament after Sherman again.
But they have the drive to learn feedback, come at it like and go at it again. So I’m curious, Joseph, look, I don’t spend dark thoughts on it, but what have been some challenges that you’ve had to go through in your own personal history to it?
I mean, there’s all the every startup has various forms of like founder drama, investor drama, acquisition, drama. And if you talk to anybody, you’re going to get the same stories. So I’m always happy to riff on those. But and we have limited time.
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re almost done here to two things that stuck out to me, though. It’s funny because, yeah, we could train them as challenges. I’ve always felt them is like really good learning opportunities. One of my earliest companies, we were selling a white labeled web content management system like WordPress. But before WordPress existed and we had a unique solution where we sold through advertising agencies, marketers, and it was totally white labels because at the time everybody was worried about everyone had a, quote, Web guy who was very gendered.
It was the language they were using it for what it was worried about that person stealing their clients. White label solution. Really great. We had an upfront fee subscription offering, but this was before kind of SACE as a as a delivery mechanism. And one of the things we recognized was the entire way we thought about the app, we thought about mobility. You know, people needed to upload it, hosted themselves. They you know, if if we went down, they could keep the website forever.
We had to make a lot of things into it to serve the market at the time. But we recognized that the our market was a very specific buyer and we would have to have a fundamentally different business to get to the broader pool of website owners. And we recognized that it wasn’t that wasn’t challenged. We’re going to readily overcome. And so we split the company into and sold it because we recognized the opportunity wasn’t there. And that was a tough a tough pill to swallow to say, hey, you know what?
We picked a direction. We had some success, good growth, but we are not in the right position to see the kind of outcome that we really want is a good outcome. Made money back for our friends and family investors. We’re not in the belts or the company, but the. It, my friends, that it the right way, like it’s like, you know, you got that kid and you something, you look at it with honest eyes and go, Oh, I got an ugly baby crap twins.
And it just it wasn’t going to have the opportunity. That was a tough one. And we tried our most recent. This is a classic look, we’re a Canadian company selling it to North America, the US, and we never fully internalized how miserably painful benefits, enrollment and payroll are in the states. And that read the blog post, talk to the customers we never felt did because we’d never run payroll and benefits internally. And until we really got there with U.S. employees and we recognized how exquisitely painful it was and we realized we had underemphasized that area of our product so badly.
We were now a good year and a half, two years behind with that space wanted to be. And so as we were looking at the next step, it was like, hey, here’s a massive investment for us to stay ahead and in many ways catch up and exceed the competition versus selling the company. And that influenced our decision a lot. And the interesting thing is one of our our our premium investors, like best investors on our board, great.
Ended up after our sale investing and doubling down in another tech company. So there’s definitely a lot of like, oh, you know, could that have been us great. But the reality is everything we saw happen in the space. We realized, you know, we made the right decision. We made the right call. We. It honestly evaluated the decisions we made and now with everything that we knew, we were making, again, a good decision.
So, yes, it’s hard to reflect honestly on the work that you do and then not beat yourself up over it.
Well, and I appreciate like you said, you framed it beautifully, Joseph, and it’s been a real pleasure to spend time, you know, the idea of of lessons in that lessons and signals that feedback to choices and in the way that we build and continue to learn. So I’ll make sure I have links, of course, to Uvaro, and to Kiite for folks that want to get in, get in on this. I’m a fan of Kiite.
This is like this is so bloody easy. I can’t I can’t believe how easy it was. So I do appreciate it. And it’s been a real pleasure. And if folks if they want to reach out to you directly, Joseph, what’s the best way that they can do that?
Oh, they can hit me up on LinkedIn. Instagram I’m on most social is at Joseph. Always welcome the outreach, especially with other founders. So that’s very cool. Joseph, thank you very much. It’s been a real great conversation and I look forward to catching up again. And we can talk about the next phase of growth and and whatever is next as well.
Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
Shlomi Levin is the CTO and co-founder of Perception Point and also skilled in Security Research, Python, Penetration Testing, Cryptography, and Application Security. Strong entrepreneurship professional with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) focused in Computer Science from Bar-Ilan University.
We discuss the challenge that Shlomi and the Perception Point team are solving, how he used first principles thinking to enter into a market that was incredibly challenging, the roots of Israeli startups, and the art of product market fit and the “pivot”.
If you’re at all into security research, this is a must-listen! Perception Point is described as Prevention-as-a-Service, and the real-time nature of their platform is really amazing.
Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
Joe Rare is a natural entrepreneur, who loves creating solutions to the problems businesses face. But, it took him more than 3 years to convince one of his closest friends to allow me to help with their marketing. Since then, he’s founded many successful ventures and also created Level 9 Virtual, a virtual assistant firm that helps others get their businesses to the next level.
We chat on the challenges that Joe faced along the way to highlight that adversity creates prosperity when harnessed, and how he took hard life lessons and made the jump to start his own businesses which now are the groundwork for others to be able to do the same. The balance of family-first and still running successful business ventures is something that we should all reach for and there are some solid lessons here for anyone who has ever thought about how to change their life and explore other business options.
Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
Slater Victoroff is the Founder and CTO of Indico, an enterprise AI solution for unstructured content that emphasizes document understanding. He’s been building machine learning solutions for startups, governments, and Fortune 100 companies for the past seven years and is a frequent speaker at AI conferences.
What is very interesting is that Indico’s framework requires 1000x less data than traditional machine learning techniques, and they regularly beat the likes of AWS, Google, Microsoft, and IBM in head-to-head bake-offs.
Slater and I discuss AI, AGI, how to relate these topics to newcomers, how Machine Learning and ethics come together, and also how MMA relates to how he tackles startups and team building.
This really is like a lesson in AI and Machine Learning and really taps into the subject for both newcomers and veterans of the field.
Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
Rahul Sidhu is the CEO and Co-Founder of SPIDR Tech, which created the world’s first automated customer service platform for public safety agencies. SPIDR Tech has served over 500,000 911-callers and 150,000 crime victims in North America and is a three-time GovTech 100 Company.
We explore the ways in which using digital platforms can fundamentally change the community policing experience and how these tools have already enhanced life for the good of many communities, plus what we can do to keep moving in the right direction.
Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
Daniel H. Gallancy is the CEO and a founding member of Atakama, a NYC-based software company. Atakama hardens security by providing a fully distributed cryptographic key management system as well as the elimination of shared secrets (passwords, ID numbers, etc.)
Our discussion spans the deep technical side of distributed key, passwordless security, the people side of security and privacy, plus we dive into blockchain and cryptocurrency and much more.
Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
Dan Burcaw has founded companies on the forefront of profound technology waves: open source software, the smartphone, and cloud computing. He describes himself first as a serial entrepreneur; a repeat startup founder and CEO with his latest company being Nami ML.
We explore a deep discussion around how leveraging services and systems to let your teams do what matters is both powerful in business and life. We also talk about how Dan has created and operated his companies and some great personal insights into being a leader.
Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
Darin Haener is the President and Co-Founder at FermentAble LLC. FermentAble was created by a professional brewer who experienced first hand how frustrating it is to manage a brewery’s day-to-day operations.
We explore the science of brewing, how being in the brewing industry drew Darin to solve the problem FermentAble solves, and lots of lessons and discussion on bootstrapping and building a SaaS. We also dig into why to choose Ruby on Rails or similar DSLs and a lot of fun chat on the tech behind Fermentable.