Hubert Palan de Productboard

Fundador Café episodio 002

Soy Jeroen de Salesflare y esto es Café Fundador.

Cada dos semanas tomo un café con un fundador diferente. Hablamos de la vida, las pasiones, los aprendizajes,... en una charla íntima, conociendo a la persona que hay detrás de la empresa.

For this second episode, I talked with Hubert Palan of Productboard. I met Hubert about a year and a half ago at TechCrunch Disrupt at San Francisco, and I’ve been considering using Productboard to professionalize product management at Salesflare ever since.

Hubert es un hombre de producto y un pensador de corazón. Su visión: más productos excelentes a través de una mejor gestión de productos. Hablamos sobre todo de lo que le motiva, de cómo gestiona Productboard y de dónde busca inspiración.


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Jeroen: Hi, Hubert. It’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Hubert: ¬°Hola!

Jeroen: You’re Founder of Productboard. For those who don’t know Productboard yet, what does your company do?

Hubert: Claro, sí, gracias por recibirme. Es un placer. En Productboard, ayudamos a los equipos y creadores de productos a crear productos excelentes. Productos que importan a la gente.

What it means in day to day is that our customers’ product teams at some of the leading companies out there use Productboard to centralize research and user feedback and understand what really matters to their customers, by means of having a centralized repository for insights from the market, customers and prospects through what customer success or customer support team professionals are hearing.

Then based on that they prioritize ideas and feature requirements. And they organize them in a hierarchy that’s actually manageable, unlike flat backlogs somewhere in JIRA.

You can create and organize hierarchy in Productboard, and then put it on the roadmap, and make sure that everyone around the company is aligned on what’s being built and why.

También tenemos un portal que los clientes pueden configurar para recoger información de sus clientes sin hacer entrevistas o sin hablar directamente con ellos. Les ayuda a recopilar información a gran escala.

Jeroen: Sí, genial. Centraliza y profesionaliza la gestión de productos.

Hubert: It’s a CRM for product management. Product managers at Zendesk or Shopify are our customers, and it’s their go to tool. Every day, they go there and they go to find out what’s new, what customers are saying, especially when they want to make a product decision. They see all the features that are being considered and then ultimately prioritize and see the status of it progressing. It’s the product brain of the company.

Jeroen: Y normalmente se utilizan diferentes herramientas para gestionar todas estas cosas.

Hubert: Correct, no spreadsheets, no PowerPoints, no Evernote notes, no emails floating everywhere. It’s all in one place.

Jeroen: Entendido. ¬ŅTu formaci√≥n personal es en gesti√≥n de productos?

Hubert: S√≠, hice un m√°ster en inform√°tica e ingenier√≠a de software y luego un MBA en Berkeley. Soy una especie de puente entre el mundo de la tecnolog√≠a y el de los negocios. Y pas√© varios a√Īos en funciones de gesti√≥n de productos, primero en consultor√≠a en Accenture en Praga. Pero luego, despu√©s de la escuela de negocios en el Valle en un par de nuevas empresas.

And then at GoodData where I went to be VP of Products. That’s the reason why Productboard exists. Because I was a product manager myself and I understood the pain. And I figured, hey, let’s change that. Let’s solve the pain.

Jeroen: ¬ŅEn qu√© momento exacto decidiste crear Productboard? ¬ŅEn qu√© estabas trabajando? ¬ŅD√≥nde estabas y con qui√©n?

Hubert: I’ve always been inspired by people who create great products. And real excellent products will resonate with people, not just on a functional level. Not just like “okay, this works well”, but also on the emotional level. On the level where it actually invokes specific emotions.

I’ve read all the books and everything I could find on people like Steve Jobs obviously, but also Phil Knight of Nike and Disney as a company and even other CEOs of fast growing startups. Especially those that have some strong brands or have some promotional appeal.

Siempre he pensado: ¬Ņc√≥mo debi√≥ de ser cuando Steve Jobs subi√≥ al escenario y lanz√≥ el primer iPhone? Y s√© que Apple es una analog√≠a demasiado usada, pero la idea era: ¬Ņc√≥mo era la sensaci√≥n de orgullo, satisfacci√≥n y logro? Porque todo el equipo sab√≠a que esto iba a cambiar fundamentalmente la vida de mucha gente.

Lo sabían porque conocían muy bien las necesidades de los clientes. Pasaron mucho tiempo analizando, creando prototipos, probando y retocando muchas versiones diferentes. Realmente pusieron mucho esfuerzo y mucha atención en crear algo delicioso.

That’s something that I was always wondering and then when I … after business school and after Steve Blank, the founder of the Lean Startup, was my professor at Berkeley, and the whole lean startup movement was happening: “get out of the building” and “talk with customers” and all that.

I got super excited and then I took off. The reality hit here and I started discovering what it’s really like at many of the companies here. Even in the heart of Silicon Valley. And I found that most companies are driven by sales. Like “hey, we sold a deal and there’s a feature request”. Or they’re driven by engineering where you’re building stuff just because you think it’s cool, but you don’t really know whether someone needs it.

Jeroen: Totalmente.

Hubert: En la empresa en la que estaba, GoodData, estábamos construyendo una plataforma de BI genial, pero la cultura era predominantemente una cultura de ventas. Eso me frustraba. Quería asegurarme de que las decisiones se basaban en la comprensión de las necesidades reales de los clientes, en contraposición a lo que vendía el equipo de ventas.

That was the inspiration. The inspiration was “hey, let’s create a system”.

And of course, if you have a founder who just tells you “Shut up. This is what you need to do. And that’s how product management is done.”, then your get stuck. You first need to figure out how to create the moment of revelation or enlightenment first. Then slowly go and change the culture. Change it into a product driven, a customer driven one. Make sure that you have the deep insight and that you a have solid product strategy and then you can execute.

Anyway, a long answer but it was the motivation. The company where I was at was a B2B SaaS company, $100 million, well $75 million budget, raised by the time I had left, with Andreessen Horowitz and other top investors. I went to see many of our customers’ business, because we were a BI platform. I interacted on a daily basis with senior leadership at other companies. We were analyzing their businesses and I saw how they operate, and how they ran their product teams as well.

That was the motivation. I said: “Come on, we have all these task management tools like JIRA that are great for engineering, but there is nothing that would help you with deciding what should be on top of the backlog in the first place.”

Jeroen: Exacto. Tienes una herramienta para gestionar a tus clientes. Tienes una para gestionar tu desarrollo, pero la gestión del producto queda en medio.

Hubert: Where is this system where you have … In most engineering systems, you have entities in the logical model like features, stories, tasks, … It’s all solution centric. Here are all the features that you want to have; let’s break them down into manageable chunks and let’s push them through the engineering pipeline.

No hay ninguna entidad que represente a un cliente, o una necesidad, o un problema, o una importancia o urgencia. Nada de lo que rastrea la gestión de productos está representado en el modelo lógico del sistema.

You have some of the stuff in CRM systems. There you have customers, but it’s very sales focused. It’s about what happens before they become a customer and about seeing them go through the stages.

Creamos un sistema que ayuda a la gente a sentirse orgullosa y realizada por cada función que lanza como responsable de producto. Tener algo que respalde sus decisiones, algo que les dé confianza. Para tener algo que cree transparencia en todo el equipo.

During the process of building products, people make decisions throughout the whole development life cycle. From the initial research stages, to design, testing and development and product marketing and the whole go-to-market. If everyone throughout this life cycle isn’t very well aligned around the needs of the customers, and if all the people don’t understand very well what matters to the customers, then they will inevitably make the wrong decisions throughout the product development process.

Entendido.

Hubert: Maybe they design a feature in a little different way because they don’t understand the user. Especially if you’re building a B2B system, and you’re designing system for someone who is not you, then it’s more difficult. It’s about creating this shared understanding for everyone on the team. Only then excellent products can happen.

Sí.

Hubert: I talked to a guy who was an advisor of mine. He was at Apple, 20 years ago. He was on the QA team there. And he said that the difference at Apple was that — typically in other companies the QA, quality assurance team, says “Look, here’s the spec and test it against the spec. It doesn’t work as specified.” — and he said that the difference at Apple was that when he was there that his job wasn’t to sign off on the spec. His job was to sign off on: “Is the customer going to use it the way it’s built?”

That creates a very different mindset, because suddenly you are asked to think about what matters to the customers and about the real use case, the real flow, as opposed to just what’s in the spec. It’s a subtle shift, but it has some major implications, if you create a culture like that.

Jeroen: We try to cope with it personally by… We have issues and features, but then there is an in between point where it’s not broken, and it’s not like we didn’t intend to make it like that. It’s just not working for the customer. We label this a “UX improvement”.

Este es un tipo diferente de trabajo de desarrollo que tenemos. En realidad, se trata de asegurarnos de que construimos Salesflare de la forma en que la gente realmente lo va a utilizar, o que lo adaptamos a la forma en que les gustaría utilizarlo.

And we take these “UX improvements” even more seriously than issues sometimes.

Hubert: Sí, sí, bien.

Jeroen: We’re still doing without Productboard, but we’re looking at it.

Hubert: Sure, you’ll come around eventually. [laughs] Everyone will.

Jeroen: ¬ŅSiempre has sabido que quer√≠as crear una startup o es algo que se te ocurri√≥ cuando estabas en GoodData?

Hubert: Have I always known? Of course, I didn’t know. Well in life, are you asking me at the age of eight, did you know that…

Jeroen: Always, I don’t know. But with always I mean from the moment you were actually thinking about professional stuff. Did you feel like you want to start your own company or did this just come at some moment?

Hubert: Yeah, I think that it was on the back of my mind, but the environment where I grew up… I grew up in Czechoslovakia and then in Czech Republic. I’m almost 40. I’ll be 40 this year. It wasn’t the most entrepreneurial culture to start with.

When I go down to college or my masters, I was like: “hey, what am I going to do”. I studied computer science, so I wanted to be in the digital world, but then I figured: “I want to see how companies are run and how companies operate”. That’s why I went to consulting and then I joined Accenture in systems integration consulting and then in business strategy consulting, but still within the technical realm.

At the moment when I started seeing how banks work, and insurance companies and those large group corporations. Then I figured: “Oh my God, this is terrible. And things can be done so much better.” That was the motivation for me to say “I’m going to build my own company one day.”

Odiaba la política y siempre quise estar en una empresa en la que todos, incluidos los conserjes, se sintieran orgullosos de trabajar en ella. Donde la gente se identificara con la misión.

I never understood people who work at companies just for the money. Why don’t you go do something that you actually love and make money? Of course, in our world, we are lucky in the sense that, if you’re an artist, it’s harder to make money and do what you love. In tech or business, you get both.

Jeroen: We can do what we love and earn money if we’re successful.

Hubert: Right. It’s a big game for us.

Jeroen: For them chances are also there, but they’re much smaller.

Hubert: Yeah, yeah. The scale, it’s the aspect of scale.

Jeroen: It’s maybe also more objective than being an artist. As an artist, you create something and if you can convince people that it’s nice… While probably in our trade there’s much more of a… if you build a nice product, at least you have a bigger chance of being successful, or don’t you think so?

Seguro.

Jeroen: Or do you think it’s all marketing?

Hubert: No, no, no. I think that in products the art, that’s kind of the emotional side. And taste is acquired, but you can also influence the taste of other people if you’re consistent, if you have a strong vision.

I like creating things that are practical. Both functional and emotional. Products that solve problems. That’s why I love art and architecture and design as a discipline.

But ultimately, I want to see it apply to something that advances people’s lives.

Jeroen: Empezaste como consultor de empresas y te gusta el arte y la arquitectura. Es algo que te viene de familia o de tus padres?

Hubert: Yeah, probably. Now we’re getting really deep. My great-grandfather was a diplomat and he died in a concentration camp during the Nazi Germany.

And my mom was in marketing. She ran marketing for Hewlett-Packard in Czech Republic — Slovakia, and then for Olympus. I’ve always thought about the soft side of things more than your typical techy guy. And empathy and emotions. I just think it’s so important in product management. And I talk to many product managers, and they’re analytical and very functionally oriented: “Let’s solve the problem.”

Fast moving consumer goods companies, the P&Gs and so on, they’re much better in general in the discipline of product management. They’ve been doing research and are making sure that they understand the needs. They have been thinking with emotions.

But in the tech world, it hasn’t been the case. Even brands and big successful companies like Salesforce, they have a huge followership, but if I say “Salesforce”, does it make you feel warm and fuzzy or something? It’s not like if I say “Nike”. You have an emotional reaction. If I say “Apple”, you have an emotional reaction.

Zendesk had a great brand with the buddha and Zen, because that resonated so well with the customer support people. You’re under stress and people complain, unless your product or service is excellent.

Intercom is doing a great job. It’s being human, but there’s not that many companies like that. The kind of traditional brand and emotional marketing… you don’t see it that much in tech. It’s always about the functional benefits.

Jeroen: Maybe that has a bit to do with the type of companies they’re marketing to. If you’re like Salesforce, you market to enterprises. They find specs lists interesting. While small companies will go much more for the more consumer type marketing where you have emotions and not ROI or something.

Hubert: Totally, I get it, and of course you can say that in enterprise and in B2B the customer is not the user. The buyer is not the user. Therefore, it’s much more about functional requirements and of course this is the case if you’re selling large enterprise deals. You’re dealing with procurement people and that’s a different persona.

At the same time, I think that the consumerization of the enterprise is happening and I read this article just last week in Harvard Business Review. It was a pyramid of needs and you still have the emotional aspects high up. The sense of pride and showing others that you’re competent and just striving at your job and feeling amazing. It’s important even in the enterprise.

I think that it’s changing more and more. And you see it, really in the long term. The user experience I believe is the only sustainable competitive advantage. Because functional aspects can be copied. They are being copied. More and more and faster and faster.

But the emotional piece, the appeal. How it makes you feel and what you got to believe in and why we’re using the tool, that’s something that’s much, much harder to copy. Look at Apple. That’s been their play all along. Of course, the products are great in terms of functionality as well, but the emotional appeal, the delight that it creates…

Of course, it’s a different segment, there’s multiple segments in the market. Not everyone is their ideal target customer and not everyone cares about that. But for the segment that they go after, it matters a lot.

If you just match the features but don’t match the emotional appeal, then people are going to switch.

Jeroen: ¬ŅA qu√© otra startup o fundador admira y por qu√©?

Hubert: I mentioned the big guys. The big successful companies because there’s a long history of what you can study, and there is a history of what they did and how they turned out.

Of course, in hindsight it’s always 20/20, and you kind of forget the bad things, and maybe you connect the dots in a more idealistic way than it really happened.

But still there is more to study. So that’s why I mentioned companies like Nike, Apple, and I even mentioned Zendesk and Intercom.

The Intercom team is inspiring to me. I’ll also look to companies that are in different industries, not necessarily just who’s around here in the Valley.

I put together this blog post and it’s on my Medium. I collected videos of 20 top unicorn companies’ CEOs. I put it all on this one feed and I watched it. I really wanted to see how the CEOs and founders of all these top companies, how they are and I wanted to see how they speak in real life, because there’s so much more you can get from the sense of who they are as people.

Jeroen: You’ll be happy to follow this series as well then. The founder of Intercom, well one of them at least, Des Traynor, is also going to be on.

Hubert: Sí, conozco a Des. Des es genial.

Jeroen: That’s going to be cool.

Hubert: I just read this book called “Mastery”. There’s a lot of examples and case studies about the biggest people overall. The biggest inventors and stories of the biggest people of humanity.

I look for examples of people that I know are amazing and I spend more time studying them. I obviously see founders around me who I think are real people. But for me, personally, the biggest inspiration comes from people that really dedicated their lives. Veterans in medicine or architecture or biology. It doesn’t matter. The passion and the focus and the excitement with which they live their lives. How they really stay focused and how they didn’t waste their life doing things that are not important.

They really realized that life is short and that we need to work hard. It comes down to excellence for me. And the strive for excellence in everything that you do. Sorry, I didn’t give you examples of recent startup founders that I find inspiring. But Darwin was super inspiring to me in what he did and by his persistence.

Jeroen: That’s cool. In terms of how this reflects on your ambitions: where do you want to go with Productboard? You want to make it really big?

Hubert: Sí, creo que estamos creando una categoría totalmente nueva.

The product management discipline is at the heart of every company. Whether you’re creating digital products or physical products or even services; you are combining the deep customer insight. Your strategic approach to how you’re going to get to where you want to go. How you’re going to form the vision and the execution.

In every company there’s people who are making product decisions. It doesn’t have to be necessarily someone who has a “product manager” title. But there are people who make product decisions.

Creo que el mercado para nosotros es enorme, en el sentido de que tenemos clientes que no son sólo digitales.

Although our ideal customers are people who are making digital products. Don’t take me wrong. Like SaaS products or e-commerce platforms or apps.

El hecho de que el software se esté comiendo el mundo y que todo se esté digitalizando nos ayuda.

There’s what I call digital product managers. But we even have customers like an RV manufacturer up in Canada or an exoskeletal device company. Because with physical products, you collect feedback and you improve that as well. You have more constraints.

The market in a sense is big. Product management is one of the last functions in any company that hasn’t had a very good toolset.

Tiene CRM y herramientas de gestión de tareas de ingeniería. Tenemos Workday en el ámbito de los recursos humanos. Tenemos herramientas de análisis e inteligencia empresarial. Luego tenemos la automatización del marketing. Tenemos el éxito del cliente.

Todos estos campos cuentan con software específico para ayudarles a hacer mejor su trabajo. Pero la gestión de productos se ha quedado estancada. Así que creo que tenemos potencial para hacernos con esta categoría.

Excelencia del producto. Quiero que las empresas conciban la gestión de productos como excelencia de productos.

Jeroen: Su ambición es básicamente profesionalizar la gestión de productos y tener el mundo lleno de grandes productos.

Hubert: You’re an expert in sales, right? Think before CRM how sales were done. You would have a spreadsheet and you would have a Rolodex. You had business cards and you would try not to forget things.

And then CRMs, customer relationship management systems, standardized the process, created transparency, increase the predictability, lowered the risk that you’re not going to hit your number. Because you have the system in place.

Of course, you always have genius outliers, who will sell because they’re charming. They are the outliers. But most of your sales team is going to sell well if they have a good process, if they’re consistent, and if they do the hard work. If they follow up and do the day to day.

Product management is the same thing. I’m not saying that because of a system, you will suddenly turn into Apple, and you will be turning out the best of the best products. But I’m saying that thanks to a solution like Productboard, for product excellence, the chances of launching better products in the market and the chances of eliminating the risk and increasing the predictability of success are going to go up.

Like in sales, like in customer support… If you suddenly have a system, it’s organized, there’s transparency. If a product manager leads your team, the knowledge stays in the company. It doesn’t walk out of the door. All that is contributing.

That’s a big opportunity for us.

Jeroen: Sí, totalmente. Muy bueno. Sería estupendo que más productos de software fueran realmente mejores productos.

Hubert: Sí, el software es difícil en el sentido de que tiene muchas más limitaciones que los productos de hardware.

There’s this joke in the design world. There’s this picture floating around of a remote control that has hundred buttons or so. You need just two to change the channels and change the volume. You can screw up and you can create an over complicated product even in the physical world.

But in the software world, you don’t have the physical boundaries and it feels easy and cheap to just shove another feature into the product. And think “That’s okay, not everyone will use it.” That’s a danger and that’s why it’s harder. The constraints are much more relaxed.

If you do it right, you can actually create infinite variations of your product and the user experience wouldn’t be impacted for any of the customer segments that you’re serving, as long as they would be exposed to the complexity of all the different variations.

The only problem is that it’s very difficult to create a product like that and make sure that the features are really hidden completely, so that you don’t end up with the ribbon in Microsoft Office, where you have so much stuff and you don’t need most of it.

If I didn’t see it, if I’m not the type of customer who needs it, I shouldn’t even see it. Then it’s fine.

But that’s not the reality. That’s not how the software products are built.

Jeroen: They’re more built to show a lot of features that people are looking for, instead of making it easy to actually use those features.

Hubert: Sí, la mayoría de los productos. No todos. Hay excepciones, pero la mayoría.

Jeroen: Cool. Do you think that if you win the lottery tomorrow you’d still be working at Productboard, or would you choose to do something else?

Hubert: It’s like a baby. You know it as a founder. It’s your baby. You want to see it grow up. I want to see it grow up.

Si me tocara la lotería, podría recaudar menos dinero de las sociedades de capital riesgo e invertir las ganancias en mi empresa.

But I really like what I’m doing. I believe in the vision.

Jeroen: That’s cool.

Hubert: Maybe I wouldn’t put all my money into it.

En realidad leí la entrevista anterior que hiciste con Adam Hempy. Hablaron de la financiación de capital riesgo y todo eso. En realidad me gusta el aspecto de traer VC, no sólo por el dinero, pero creo que sus posibilidades de éxito son mayores si se comparte el éxito. Si involucras a más gente, y si interesas a más gente en tu éxito.

I found the investors that I’ve had so far helpful in that regard that more people are on your team. More people are trying hard.

Of course, it’s got trade-offs and you’re losing control and all that. But the fact that more people are investing into your success… I think it’s a huge deal.

Jeroen: Do you think they’re really invested in your success? Are they not more invested in their overall portfolio than in specific cases?

Hubert: They look at it from a portfolio perspective. They need someone in their portfolio to succeed. Then the portfolio math works out and they can deliver the ROI that they promised to the investors. That’s something else driving it.

But that means that they want you to succeed, because they want you to be this successful company in the portfolio. I think that from that perspective the incentives are aligned, and I don’t see friction here.

Jeroen: Okay. What is it that you’re busy with right now? What keeps you up at night lately for Productboard?

Hubert: I sleep well. I manage to get my life under control and I manage to distance myself from the stress. There’s this huge business stress. And so many things are happening at the same time. But I told myself that if I’m going to be worried about it, and if I’m going to be stressed out…

Don’t take me wrong, I was so stressed in the early days of the company. There was so much pressure. Everyone tells you, “You’re nuts. This is never going to work.”

I always joked about it. It’s like you have a baby. You just had a baby and you’re walking around and showing it to people and some people say, “Oh my God, this is so beautiful! Congratulations! I wish you all the health.” But with the early stage start up, unfortunately there’s more people who look at the baby and say, “Oh man, I’m sorry that the baby is so sick. It’s not looking good.” Right. You need to get over it.

But right now, we’re doing well and we’re growing. That stress went away a little bit and I managed to distance myself from the day to day.

I have a very strict schedule that I stick to. I planned all my work time, family time, friend time. I have everything in my calendar. I follow the schedule and then I don’t feel like I’m not attending to my family or vice versa to my business. I made a conscious decision of how much time I’m going to dedicate to each.

Of course, it’s not ideal. Sometimes you need to break the rules. But it just gives me this confidence.

Me levanto a las cinco y salgo a correr. Luego voy a la oficina. Por las ma√Īanas tengo reuniones y luego, por la tarde, tengo un bloque de cuatro horas de tiempo.

There’s this great book called “The One Thing” that inspired me to do all this. I have an uninterrupted block of time for the most important thing that I’m working on every day. And I have a scheduled time to rip up and plan. It really helped me. I’ve been doing it for several months now and I love it.

Jeroen: What’s that book called?

Hubert: I think it’s called “The One Thing”.

Jeroen: ¬ŅY por qui√©n est√° escrito?

Hubert: El libro es de Gary W. Keller y Jay Papasan. The One Thing.

Jeroen: Vale. ¬ŅDijiste que te levantas a las cinco?

Hubert: Yeah, well. I’m here in San Francisco and we are distributed. Part of the team is in Prague, in the Czech Republic. So, I need to have an overlap with Europe and in the SaaS business you have customers all around the world. That dictates my schedule.

I’m on the early morning schedule. And I even go to bed early. And I also have a two-year-old baby boy. You can’t sleep in the morning anyway.

Jeroen: Te has alineado con el bebé.

Hubert: Exactamente.

Jeroen: ¬ŅA qu√© hora te vas a la cama? ¬ŅDuermes ocho horas o?

Hubert: I try to, yeah. Like I shoot for nine, often times it’s ten, but I shoot for eight hours. I just think you’re more productive.

I’ve done my crazy, crazy years, where I didn’t sleep much and I saw the toll. The physical penalty. You make more mistakes and you don’t think so clearly. It’s not worth it. It’s so not worth it.

I’ve changed. I said: “Look, when I work, I’m going to put the most and best of my skills and effort into it.” At the end of the day what I achieved is what I could have achieved. You can always spend more time, but you can do it tomorrow and not instead of sleeping.

But again, if there’s a big launch. We had a big product launch in November. That is a big deadline and we didn’t sleep and all that, but that’s an exception. It’s an exception. You don’t do that on a regular basis.

Jeroen: ¬ŅQu√© haces para mantenerte cuerdo? ¬ŅHas dicho que sales a correr?

Hubert: Corro y hago ejercicio. Despu√©s de correr, hay un peque√Īo parque infantil junto al lago por el que corro. Hago sentadillas, flexiones, dominadas y todo eso.

Then I get relaxation, it’s time with my kid and my wife. It’s amazing. It’s a different world.

My wife is a nurse practitioner, which is like a physician or family doctor. That gives me also a perspective, because I come from work and I complain like “Oh, this customer is making it so difficult. The legal contracts. There’s so much friction. I had a bad interview with someone.” And she looks at me and she tells me how people are struggling in their lives and dying.

It’s a completely different perspective. That keeps me in check as well. It brings me to reality. That it’s not all just about making products. And that the vision that I have, that is it’s a big vision, but at the end of the day, you’re in a society with people.

I also pay attention to politics a lot, because it’s just frustrates me that there’s so many things that could be done better. I spend time on that. Even though I wouldn’t say that politics is relaxing. It’s not fun and relaxing unfortunately.

Jeroen: En este momento de tu startup, ¬Ņcu√°les son las responsabilidades que asumes principalmente? ¬ŅA qu√© dedicas el d√≠a?

Hubert: Mostly, it’s hiring because we’re growing and we just need help on so many fronts. I spend most of my time hiring.

And then, we’re like 25, I think, right now. We still don’t have processes for everything.

And some of the more complex legal stuff. I need to be involved and review contracts. I like to understand everything that’s happening in the company. Maybe I should be delegating that more, but I just don’t feel comfortable leaving it just to the lawyers. I actually take the time to really understand every negotiation point that we’re discussing with our large enterprise customers.

Eso sería lo más importante: contratación, contratos complejos y procesos.

Another big chunk is communication, especially with the distributed team. We have regular updates. I make sure that everyone understands what’s happening in the company.

I’ve seen the different teams create their own culture. There’s a danger that the engineers would start looking down at marketers. “Engineering is the hard shit” and stuff. “Marketing is the easy stuff.” I don’t agree with that at all. I think that every part of the company contributes and I want everyone to understand what’s happening.

So, we take the time to communicate what’s happening and what every team is doing. We make sure that everyone understands the complexities. Everyone can come up with ideas for how to improve anything anywhere, whether it’s marketing, sales, engineering, design, … I spend a lot of time making sure that I know who heard what and making sure that everyone’s involved.

Esas serían probablemente las áreas más importantes.

Jeroen: ¬ŅCu√°les son los principales procesos o herramientas que utilizan para ello? Tenemos cosas como reuniones preparatorias. ¬ŅUtilizan Slack?

Hubert: Yeah, yeah, so we’re on Slack. Everything’s on Slack.

We have a regular all-hands meeting on a weekly basis. On a monthly frequency, the all-hands meeting is more detailed and longer and there is a wrap up for every month and it’s on progress towards the bigger objectives. On a weekly basis, it’s a little more tactical.

Tenemos una llamada de producto en la que hablamos de cosas específicas del producto. Tenemos una llamada de éxito del cliente. Tenemos una llamada de marketing. Todas las diferentes partes del negocio.

One thing that we started doing that I really like is that every team sends every day, a very short daily update into a Slack channel. With just a few bullet points of the main things that they achieved that day. That’s a way for everyone in the company to quickly read it every day in the morning. For me, it’s morning. In Europe, it’s the afternoon. To read it and to get a pulse of what’s happening in the company. It’s been working really well from my perspective. I feel like I know what’s happening and I would recommend doing that.

Jeroen: Yeah, that’s kind of like a standup meeting, but on a team level instead of on an individual level.

Hubert: Yeah, but it’s asynchronous. It’s not a standup meeting in the sense that everyone’s in the room and standing.

Jeroen: Yeah, but standup meetings can be asynchronous as well. Here in the office we do it synchronous, but you can use a software like Standuply. You could do it asynchronously. You just basically do it electronically like you’re doing. And it tracks your progress over time. You say what you’ve been doing the day before. What you’re going to do the next day. And that way it helps to stay up to speed with what’s happening.

Hubert: What’s it called? Standuply?

Jeroen: Standuply, yeah. They’re pretty cool guys.

Hubert: I’ll check it out.

Jeroen: They’re from Greece. I met them at a few conferences.

Hubert: Alright, yeah, I remember. I saw that somewhere. I’ll check it out.

Jeroen: We also spend a lot of time communicating, because it’s really important that everybody knows what everybody is up to. Getting to work as a team.

Sí.

Jeroen: You mostly talked about communicating the planning. What’s the schedule for the planning? Do you do it bi-weekly, monthly?

Hubert: Claro, sí. Ahora mismo tenemos tres equipos. Esto cambia, pero a grandes rasgos, planificamos en ciclos de seis semanas.

En el ciclo de seis semanas siempre fijamos grandes iniciativas u objetivos que queremos alcanzar. Cada equipo tiene un gran objetivo, una gran área de atención hacia la que priorizamos y luego planificamos las tareas.

Of course, along the line, there’s always a continuous stream running in parallel with opportunistic things I call initiatives, which is something that maybe you’ll prioritize over others, as long as it’s aligned with the strategy and the direction that we’re going. That goes into the prioritization.

There’s several bug also and there’s regulatory things, right. That’s compliance and now GDPR is happening and so all that stuff is running.

Or something that’s external, like a partner of ours is going to be doing a big launch and they need us to prepare something.

Things often happen at the last minute. That’s something that we will then try to squeeze in obviously.

We’re of course using Productboard. We have all the initiatives side by side in columns. It’s like a matrix. You have all the initiatives side by side, and then in rows, you have all the tasks, all the features that we’re working on. You see which feature contributes to which initiative and you see whether it’s a must have, or should have, or nice to have. And then you also have, next to it, columns with progress.

You have this one big picture view of everything that’s happening across all the teams. It scales beautifully, even if you had 10 teams. You can have them side by side and you see it all in one place. And you can filter it and you can slide and dice it the way you want. That’s how we run it.

Jeroen: Todo el mundo puede ver lo que hace todo el mundo.

Hubert: Sí, absolutamente.

Jeroen: You’re working in three locations, you said?

Hubert: Bueno, ahora mismo, técnicamente, tenemos gente en Praga, San Francisco y Boston.

Jeroen: ¬ŅPor qu√© Boston?

Hubert: We just found a teammate who lives there. And she’s great.

De acuerdo.

Hubert: She reached out to us and she’s in Boston. That’s the way it is.

And two of our developers are in Sri Lanka, working remotely. They’re taking some time off as well, but otherwise they’re working remotely.

It’s the digital nomad approach. It’s not like they do it all the time, but as long as they commit and deliver, my attitude is: “I don’t care where you are in the world.”

Jeroen: Is it different teams that are located in different places? Is development in Prague, customer service in …

Hubert: No. We now have three teams. That team is product management, UX and engineering together as one team. It’s cross functional. Ideally, I would also have product marketing on all the teams, but that’s a shared function right now. That’s how I envision to grow the company.

Podr√≠amos a√Īadir un equipo as√≠ aqu√≠ en EE.UU., pero ser√≠a de nuevo todo el equipo: gesti√≥n de productos, ingenier√≠a y dise√Īo, todo junto.

I’ve seen at my previous company, we had the separation roles. Product management in the US, and engineering and some of the design, or most of the design, in Europe. It’s not optimal, because you need a super short feedback within the team.

Creo que Zendesk lo hizo de forma diferente. Ten√≠an el equipo. Creo que todav√≠a tienen equipos en Dinamarca, pero tienen todo un equipo all√≠. O como Intercom, cuando hables con Des, puedes preguntarle al respecto. Ten√≠an la incorporaci√≥n o el equipo de crecimiento aqu√≠ en San Francisco. Y ten√≠an la gesti√≥n de productos, dise√Īo e ingenier√≠a juntos aqu√≠. Y luego otros equipos como los equipos de plataforma, y el otro producto que tienen fueron co-ubicados en Irlanda.

En lugar de separarlo por funciones, ubicamos a las personas por equipos.

Sí, lo tengo.

Hubert: That’s how we’re going to do it as well.

Jeroen: ¬ŅEmpez√≥ en Praga y luego se traslad√≥ a San Francisco?

Hubert: No, llegu√© aqu√≠ hace 10 a√Īos para cursar mi MBA en Berkeley y quedarme despu√©s.

But I found a co-founder coincidentally at … How things start in life… I was a judge on this startup competition in Prague years ago, and I met Daniel there. Then when I started looking for a co-founder, I wasn’t sure where, location wise.

But I reached out to my next network and he said hey I’m looking for a new opportunity and I’d love to work with you on this. It started when I was still at GoodData and I posted on Facebook “a friend of mine is looking for a co-founder for his startup”. Kind of like secretly. That’s how it started. We started working together and it just went from there.

Daniel is now in Prague, and we travel back and forth. That’s how it’s set up.

Jeroen: You didn’t consciously choose the two locations of the company and then Boston neither. It just happened.

Hubert: Yeah, it’s just life.

Jeroen: Nice. Let’s start wrapping up. We’re almost at one hour.

Genial.

Jeroen: What is the latest book you’ve read and why did you choose to read it?

Hubert: I’m reading multiple books, because some I read for enjoyment.

The book Mastery that I just mentioned. I’m almost done with it. I’m at the very end of it. And I really liked it. Again, I talked about it already, but it’s so inspirational to hear stories of people who really achieve mastery in their lives. And they really make things happen.

He leído muchos libros de ventas recientemente. Aquí en mi escritorio, tengo la Fórmula de Aceleración de Ventas, que es la historia de cómo construyeron las ventas en HubSpot.

I listen to books. That’s what I like. When I go for a run. I run 5K three times a week, and I listen to audio books. Let me quickly pull up what’s there.

La Venta Challenger. La fórmula de aceleración de ventas que mencioné. Spin Selling. Vender o ser vendido. He leído todos estos libros de ventas recientemente.

I haven’t read “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built”. I have this lined up to read.

Then I found this book Insanely Simple, which is the obsession that drives Apple’s success. I haven’t read. I’m definitely going to do that.

It’s mostly business books, but I try to sneak in some more. Sapiens: A Great History of Humankind. I had read that, that was awesome.

Jeroen: Sí, yo también quiero leerlo.

Hubert: And design books. I bought this book. It’s another book that I have on my desk. It’s called “100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People”.

I decided that I’m going to read, now, for 20 days, five points every day. I’m going to get through it in 20 days. Let’s see how that goes. I literally bought it yesterday or two days ago.

Escucho los audiolibros a doble velocidad, o a una y media, o a una y tres cuartos, para ahorrar tiempo. Entrené a mi cerebro para hacer eso. Lo disfruto mucho.

Jeroen: ¬ŅHay algo que le hubiera gustado saber cuando empez√≥?

Hubert: Oh, man, there’s so many things. It’s just…

Una cosa.

Hubert: Una cosa.

Jeroen: Lo primero que me viene a la mente.

Hubert: I don’t know.

One thing that I’m still struggling with, when I’m hiring people, I always still judge people or I evaluate them… I think of them as myself.

Tengo que seguir recordándome a mí misma que papeles diferentes necesitan personas diferentes. Sé que esto es como una gran cosa.

I have three interviews after this call. I’m hiring even some very junior people right out of college. And I really need to remind myself what it was like when I was 23. Everything was new to me. Because I tend to treat everyone as equal and my expectation is that people know a lot and that they have a lot of experience already. I just need to keep reminding myself that it’s not the case and that people are different in that sense.

Me preguntas lo primero que me viene a la mente. Ahora mismo, en el momento.

Jeroen: No, it’s good advice. Hiring is not an easy thing to do correctly.

Sí.

Jeroen: In terms of advice: what’s the best piece of advice you ever got?

Hubert: I remember one piece of advice that I got: to constantly build networks and partner with people and just nurture relationships. That’s definitely something that’s paid off so much in my life.

I just mentioned that Daniel, my co-founder, I met him because I did this free thing. I’m going to go and judge a startup competition. And I stayed in touch with the people and that’s how it happens. Winston who is here with me building the company. We worked together at a previous company, and it’s been great and I stayed in touch. So just the value of “you never know what you’re going to do in the future”. And reaching out to people and staying in touch maturing their relationships being a good citizen.

That’s valuable and I would encourage everyone to do it and even more so if you’re young and starting.

It’s the value that your personal network will have for you in the future. It is so huge and you should nurture their relationships. You should even not only just focus on your discipline, on your narrow focus that you have, but even outside in different disciplines. It only creates value for you and gives you perspective.

Te llevas a las personas que m√°s valoras de una empresa a otra y de un equipo a otro.

Y también las amistades. Cultiva las amistades.

Jeroen: ¬°Gracias por el consejo! Y por acompa√Īarme en Founder Coffee.

Hubert: My pleasure. Thanks for doing this. This is awesome. I’m really looking forward to listening to the other interviews.



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Jeroen Corthout