Before you start: This is the second part of Daniel’s interview. If you didn’t read the first one, feel free to check it out here. Read them in any order you feel like, we’re not dictators here ^^
Change is a constant when you’re talking about startups and particularly in the IT business, so how do you approach change?
I think you need to find a way to embed whatever you’re learning into what you’re doing. When you’re changing things you must be learning and making sure you can use that knowledge to improve your processes, your products.
With that change comes progress. If it doesn’t, you’re just running around in circles. That’s, for me, the risk of change. As a good mentor of ours always says “Startups are great at making a motion, but not great at making progress”. It’s what you do with the change that makes the difference. You make progress when you learn from change and that makes you better. If it’s just changes on top of changes you’re not really learning anything.
Let’s talk about your brand muse. You’ve chosen Neil deGrasse Tyson. Do you want to explain why is he so inspiring for you?
I picked him because he has deep knowledge in one subject, which is very different from ours, but it’s one very hard topic and he is able to communicate that very well. I admire him, of course, but I also think that communication is one thing that we, as a company, need to get better at. We are developing something that is complex but we need to get much better in communicating it, as a whole company, in every single aspect from the culture to the product. I picked a muse in the inspirational aspect – I want to get there, I’m not there yet.
You’ve also chosen a company as a muse. Do you want to explain why?
I picked Patagonia. I don’t follow trends of clothing by any means, but I love a company that is true to its values and does a lot of things outside their core product to live up to those values. There are thousands of examples where Patagonia was able to do that. For example, they sued the American Government when they tried to reduce the national parks. They went to court, spent probably hundreds of thousands of dollars in court with something that has nothing to do with making fabric. But it’s core to their values. It is a very expensive marketing stunt if you want to see it that way.
They recycle clothes, they will repair your clothes for you for free, they hate the trend of buying a completely new set of clothes every season. They say that if you buy an item it should last forever, or at least to the extent of possible.
So those values are very different from the industry but are core to what they do and you see it everywhere. It’s not just a marketing host, it’s really their values. It is something that I respect and that more companies should live by.
And do you bring that inspiration to Attentive? Those values?
Usually, people start with the outside, with the communication part. I think we should start on the inside. It takes longer, it is fuzzier, it is more difficult to define. But if you can get a team to align around a couple of values – and it takes time, I don’t think it is going to happen in the next few months – if you build the right foundations, then eventually we will start communicating in a very natural way, the same way Patagonia does.
I don’t think they’ve decided one day what they wanted to do and the next day they were doing these things. It was their values over time, with the right people, with the right focus, that led to that. With Attentive, that is something I want to do as well.
As a CEO my product is the company. I think that the product that we have to build is one that has those core set of values. And we’re still trying to find words for it or even trying to align the team. I’m not too worried about that because I think that, with the team that we have now, we’re gonna get there. So, I think that we need to communicate, of course, right now, but the compounding effect that we’ll have when the whole team is super-aligned and we’re very clear on the values that we have that’s is going to be a booster for sure.