Yann and Torben (Wingback): You might meet your next employer on discord

(00:04) Andrew: Well, thank you so much for, joining us today on episode one. Do you guys wanna start by just introducing yourself, talk about what wingback is, how long you've been working on it?

(00:17) Torben: Yeah, my name is Torben I'm (the) co-founder and CEO of wingback. I've been working together with Yann for more than 15 years, really, feels like an eternity. So we've basically been working together ever since, high school first some, like student projects then, something a bit more advanced. Then we dropped out of university to start our first company (ran) this company together for seven or eight years. And yeah, since, last year we are working on wingback and what wingback is, in a nutshell, it's, SaaS growth infrastructure, which means it basically helps SaaS companies grow their revenues. And, it does that by leveraging their pricing and packaging, which means that they can basically ship any given set of features of their product at any given price using our platform.

(01:08) Andrew: Awesome. And so you've been working on that since, this past summer, so we over a year.

(01:15) Yann: Yeah. So we started working on it, early in the year, I think like in spring term, we kind of got the idea. It was the problems that I had, as the CTO in the previous company where you get to the point where you built a product and now you have to start selling it and you realize you didn't write a single line of code to like, handle that logic. And our goal is to kind of make that, obsolete for teams that they don't have to re-implement the same billing logic again and again and again. And yeah, so basically, we started working on it, saw the idea had merit and did a lot of user interviews with I think 200 or so founders and people in SaaS and then we raised a pre-seed round and knew then. Okay, we need to hire people. Because the clock started ticking at that point basically. And we knew like in August we have to start developing and yeah. So that's when that journey started for us.

(02:09) Andrew: Nice. And so kind of at that point, did you, like I know you've gone through, you've hired a lot of people rapidly and in the past kind of how big is your team now?

(02:19) Torben: Right now we have 12.

(02:19) Andrew: 12 in the past. What is that three months?

(02:23) Torben: No, it's actually, I mean, we, hired in, in kind of two batches, so we started off hiring this initial team of like, it was, eight people. And we did that in a really short time. So that was basically, the month of July. And then yeah, in August we got going with this team of the 8 people at that point and only hired, the additional people, which basically bring us to the 12 in December and January.

(02:53) Andrew: And so I know, I was reading an article that, or an interview you did with, I think it was, I forget-- Fast company. And you guys, and you were talking about how you really kind of, when you were hiring this batch, like in addition for speed, but you really didn't wanna kind of use traditional like recruiting agencies. Was that kind of out of personal experience or just because it would take too long, or cost, or kind of a combination of all those.

(03:21) Yann: So we tend to look for what we kind of call like top talent. We look for people who have like a lot of drive, especially when you build an early team, you need people who are able, to take on bigger projects, to like work with like changing requirements and like a team that is just forming. So recruiting agencies, I think get better later when you have really fixed positions that you try to fill. But for us that was really not an option. And then in the past, actually we didn't make that great of an experience with recruiting agencies in general. if like any of you guys like trying to get hired right now, they probably get all that spent from recruiters, which is it's inverse, like as a CTO I think get like five or so every day, who try to send me their services. They are usually, quite spammy because yeah, the commission is very big.

(04:15) Andrew: Yeah. And so you guys did kind of all that initial outreach and sourcing yourselves through, like kind of specialized channels to looking for that top talent.

(04:28) Yann: Was really unexpected. Initially we, made a very big decision early on, which was, let's go fully remote. It’s not something Tom and me had done before. But we realized, well this, the pandemic kind of going remote is like the movement to remote has really accelerated and now it's kind of the new standard. And also we realized we will never be able to hire teams that will actually sit and come to one location. In the time requirements we have. So there was basically no choice than to go fully remote. And at this point we said, well, then we can also go fully global I think so we basically open applications for like about. We started by just doing what we did in the past, which was just, posting some job ads online and that really didn't work very well. We got I think like 300 applications, but the quality ended up being very low.

(05:24) Andrew: And was that through, like, was that like LinkedIn or indeed? Did you use that to post them or were they more kind of specific?

(05:31) Torben: No, we, used LinkedIn, Indeed a few other platforms and we were actually surprised that in some sense, I mean, we expected having to go through a lot of applications, but yeah, we didn't expect that there would be, like such a poor fit with literally everyone who applied. And we actually already got kind of nervous because we felt like, hey, how are we supposed to meet our own like milestones? And, I think that was the point when we sat together and discussed, hey, what can we do about this? And yeah, that's when we started doing this like way more targeted, outreach and where we also, tried to, basically look at each individual candidate and really talk about, something that like matter to them and try to find out, what are they really interested in? What are they really excited about? So, the quantity of people we contacted was actually pretty low. It was just, that we actually yeah did a lot of research on. Are they a good fit or not? And try to find that out as well as we could.

(06:33) Andrew: And when you say like targeted research, would that be you going into kind of communities that you know are very dedicated, into the area trying to hire or what did that process look like? Was that you starting your network?

(06:49) Yann: So we basically looked in the communities where the developers hang out that use the same technologies that we are passionate about. So, for example, we are using a relatively new--, for example, they're using a relatively new, frontend framework called Svelte. It’s like everything I always wanted to have, in like fixed and react. Like I never like working with React and, I'm passionate about it. So, it turns out they have a discord I think 40,000 people now, and there's also a drop channel. So of course you, can't be very spammy you have to be very direct. Like we, are totally clear of what we were offering. We like, hey, we are a new company, we have finance, it's not our first rodeo, but things are gonna be, a little bit chaotic in the beginning. But if you're willing to do that and like are excited about the problem then, reach out to us and we even like published the survey already. Like we were like totally clear about what we are doing and which technologies we are using. And yes, I felt really well. so outreach like this I think we ended up like in these six weeks we've probably got 20 or 30 candidates already we hired like six of them.

(08:36) Andrew: I know one thing that applicants are always kind of concerned about when applying and something they're always frustrated about is kind of the lack of transparency that the job application has. Like it's, we want someone with this level of experience and we're a great company and come work for us. But do you think kind of your like laying it all out there, was part of the reason you guys received a lot of good candidates because you said, this is, what it's gonna be like, this is what you're gonna get. Or do you think it was more because, you were kind of going to where this talent hangs out and interacts as far as like the discord channel?

(09:12) Torben: I think it's really a mix, of both factors. So I think for once, what was really important is that we gave candidates a pretty clear picture of where we are at and, what's already there and what isn't. So, we weren't telling them, Hey, there's like, basically there's a lot in plates now we're just getting started and we have the product definition of the initial product nailed down. We know how long it should take from our perspective. But other than that, there's basically nothing defined, and you are coming into an environment where you would basically shape this together with us. And, I think being transparent about this is super important, especially if you're an early-stage company, because otherwise you end up with, just a lot of conflict very early on. And, I think that a lot of founders also underestimate the fact that it's not bad to say, hey, this is where we are at. And there's nothing there. It would be much worse if you would give the impression in doing the interview process, that there's already a lot there. And as a matter of fact, on day one, they learn, that's actually nothing. I think that's a pretty important factor.

(10:21) Yann: And you also have to realize that when you do direct outreach and you go into communities, everything is kind of based on trust, right? Yeah. So the moment I post, I get a big advance in trust from the community and I do have to kind of live up to that standard. So I would lie or, be a recruiter who spams every day, that's a very fast way to, lose these channels for founders or people who are trying to acquire new talent.

(10:49) Torben: We got the question quite a few times, people were asking us, Hey, if I hire a recruiter, why can't this recruiter go into such communities and do this kind of work for me? And, we have to say like, this doesn't work at all. It really only works if you are in there yourself, you actually, represent the company, you are the company at this stage. And if you think that, anyone could represent you there you're making a terrible mistake. I think it's pretty much like, if you think about investor conversations, you can also not just send, like some hired guy there. They want to talk to, the founder of the company. And I think it's very much the same with those early stage, super enthusiastic candidates. They also want to talk to you as a founder and they don't want to talk to any recruiter.

(11:40) Andrew: Yeah, yeah, no, that's, I definitely think super true. And I mean, what's interesting about kind of those communities is the like self-moderation. They're very not tolerant for any sort of spam, in regards to anything, which also means that the content there is like you said, there's a lot of trust there. and I'm curious, I know you, in that article, you mentioned how you really don't kind of look at resumes when you're, trying to ascertain whether it's a good candidate or not. Kind of, what is your, like what are some of the metrics you look at specifically for kind of software engineers and in determining whether they're a good fit? Do you have them kind of present some of their work in the past or, have you experimented with like trial periods? How do you kind of measure them, and ensure they're technically a good fit?

(12:31) Yann: So not caring about resume is something that we've always done. even like, 8 years ago, back then, I think it was less usual than today that people don't care so much about where you studied, or if you studied at all or where you worked before. For us, we always focus on the person. We are trying to find, little hints in the application that kind of point to someone who's passionate about what they're doing. We really look for not just how they've proven themselves to be capable in past projects, but also potential. Ultimately you will also have to learn on the job. You will also have to adapt to the culture, you also have to adapt to the product. So what we really always look for is (a person) who have passion and where do we see potential. And what I found really interesting is that this time we didn't even do coding interviews or take-home tasks like we did in the past. And, maybe it's because we interviewed so many people in the past, but I think we somehow managed to basically identify these individuals with basically like 3 interviews.

(13:44) Torben: I think one of the things that, adds to that is that, if there, you asked for specific questions that we were asking, it was really mostly centered around what they did in the past. And about, basically what have they been passionate about in the past. And even if they look just, at like the tech world in general, which projects do they find fascinating, or one of our favorite questions is actually which projects of the past that you haven't been a part of, is the project you're most excited and fascinated about. And I don't know, but, the answers to those questions tell us a lot more than, any like resume could ever tell us. And basically projects first and everything second.

And I think what's also important to point out is that, with going remote first, you really have to change your approach a bit. It, for example, at this time we were really looking for people who didn't just, like start projects, but actually, also pushed through all the way to the end. And, I think, this whole, like self-drive factor is just even more important in a remote environment because I mean, even if you would wanna do it, nobody would wanna do it, but you couldn't even micromanage people even if you wanted to. And I think that changes things quite a lot. And, we, were fortunate enough that we were made aware of all of that because we didn't have previous remote experience. We worked together with a fractional head of remote. actually she's still working with us because, we were very excited about, basically how she could teach us, like best practices that allow us to, basically build a better environment for the team and build an environment where people who love remote work actually thrive in. And, I think that has also been a big factor in making sure that, people are happy working with us.

(15:37) Andrew: Yeah. And so what do you think is most useful? Like if I was an applicant who wanted to come work at Wingback, what is beyond being kind of passionate about what I'm doing about what you're doing? What is the most useful for me, in preparation, just kind of getting that experience in other projects. Or if I don't have that experience, how can I kind of show that I'm capable?

(16:04) Yann: Right. So in like our job post, where we did like outreach. We didn't ask for a CV. Like I would write, Hey, if you're interested, write me an email directly to me. And tell me about some projects you've worked on and technology you are fascinated about. So we kind of do ask people since you are not asking for anything else, to spend a little bit of time to write something about themselves. Because that tells you a lot. Sometimes I would've to go back like, hey, actually you just send me like two sentences or people would actually send this here. And I was like, no, I specifically asked to not get the CV. and then would've to ask them and like do some follow up questions. so I think generally to stand out, if you kind of, I mean, don't spend hours on it, but like, if you follow the brief that the company gives you in the application process, it really, really helps.

For us, if someone doesn't do it, it just means they didn't read it. So they probably don't care so much about us. So I think that's kind of the first step. And then in the interview process, I mean, that really depends on the company. But for us, it's really about understanding how a person thinks. So we want to hear about changes they encountered in the past, projects they worked on. Sometimes we go through our own actual problems and ask them for suggestions on how they would solve it. Just to get to an idea of how like we could work together and how they think. And for us, it's like kind of almost the most important thing. And then the second one is team fit and that's always been quite easy. Like, don't be an a*sh*le. We love having different cultures and backgrounds and ages in the company. That's always really cool. But you have to be a team player.

(17:55) Andrew: What is kind of, from this most recent, kind of the team you're building now, what is the, like experience levels of the candidates that you hired as far as ages? Is there a wider range than you've had in the past because you kind of opened it up and were, a bit more agnostic about how you're hiring?

(18:22) Torben: I think this is also something that, yeah, like, as you just said is very much influenced by the approach that we took. Like, basically in terms of age, I think we go all the way from, what is it like early twenties to mid-forties. And, I think, I mean, if I look at those employees, a bit older, I think it's a huge factor that they don't have to move to a city in order to work with us. And that they're also pretty free in terms of, how do they arrange their hours in the day? If they have to bring their kids to school, that's fine. If they need to bring their kids to bed, that's completely fine for us, basically work on your own terms.

I think that's what, really helps if you want to get a diverse team because, different people have different requirements. If you ask them to, I don't know, move to a certain city and only work during specific hours of the day. Yeah. It's pretty clear that not everyone is able to do that. So I think that, just looking for, the best people for the job actually meant that we were also hiring a very diverse steam and not because we were specifically looking for just diversity, but we were looking for the best people, and turns out if you look for the best people. You actually assembled a diverse group. Naturally. And that was also pretty beautiful to see that, we ended up with, geographical diversity that we would never have imagined. So I think even the first six hires already came from five different continents. So right now we have people in New Zealand, in Indonesia, in Turkey, in, Argentina, in the US, in the UK, in Lithuania, and in France, and in--

(20:12) Yann: Spain.

(20:13) Torben: Yeah. And that's yeah, just beautiful.

(20:17) Andrew: that's pretty cool. And so how is the kind of on a different attack? Just I'm curious, how is, was it working on this company kind of async in remote? was that a big change from, I mean, of course, like the past two years everyone's kind of made that change, but really starting, like, that's what we're gonna do, as a company? Have you seen, are people more productive? Are you getting more work done? Or are there kind of, what are some of the learnings?

(20:45) Torben: I mean, I can start off by telling you that, when we were running our company in an office, I thought that we actually just, do the minimum amount of meetings. And I was actually, I would never have believed that we actually wasted so much time. Like if I compare it directly right now, I feel way more productive. Also, way more energized and, just better in general, because I can also divide my day, however, I want it to be divided. I think there's also, a lot of more like purposeful interaction with everyone, which is also really great. It’s less water cooler conversation and more specific problem solving, but then if you, just want to talk to someone about, I don't know random things, you can purposefully do that too. I think it really just gives you the freedom to, do whatever you want whenever you want. And of course, it requires you to change the way you work. Yes. But, for me, this change has been yeah, really positive way more positive than I would ever have mentioned.

(21:57) Yann: One thing that people told us early on, if you're kind of asking around on how to build a remote company because we had no idea was don't do hybrid. Because if you do hybrid, everyone in the office has to follow the same rules. As once we out of office, otherwise you create like a miscommunication between the different areas. And it's really, really hard to do because of course you want to talk to the person sitting next to you instead of writing a message in general, right on slack. So, for us, it was really a lot to learn. We spend several weeks, while we were hiring kind of just developing the knowledge base, which was like really complete for like the first time already, which we definitely did not have last time, cause you could just talk about it, right? Yeah. So we already needed, like company policies and time off and like just architecture, overviews, interesting. How we work and communication guidelines down to like how to set-up Slack and which hours we expect you to be online and response times and all that stuff.

(22:59) Torben: And again, a lot of credit here to Marisa Goldberg who's, our functional head of remote because I think without her, we would never have been able to set this up. We would've screwed up in so many ways. She really helped us to, give us like a framework of thinking that is completely different from anything that we've been doing in the past. And, even though I think in the beginning we still didn't really do a magnificent job managing everything. It still worked out in terms of, bringing the team together and also making them feel like, we care. Yeah. Because I was really afraid before that it's very hard to actually convey that we care and that we, value you being a team member, if you are not in office, I thought that's, really, really tough. And I think all of the things that Yann just described that we did, helped to make people feel like that and otherwise it would've been yeah. Very challenging to convey that message for us. Yeah.

(23:59) Andrew: Yeah. I mean, it's interesting, like you talk about like this kind of forced you to, put processes in place, that, maybe would've kind of been natural if you were in person, but in reality, maybe wouldn't have been put in place at all. And this new hiring model and assembling this team, I assume is, kind of what you've been doing to some extent, but is a bit different than how you did it at, at your old company. Have you seen, in the short time that your team's been together, like, are you pretty excited about kind of what you've produced compared with how you've done it in the past as far as kind of sourcing talent and finding great people to work?

(24:42) Torben: I mean, I think, just because we adapted, what we are looking for, quite a bit, we also hired, different people than we would have previously hired. And I think, especially this focus on, self-drive on, people who bring projects to completion and on people who really don't want to be micromanaged, I think that has been for me personally, a huge, shift. It has been a huge shift because I think that the people that we have on board right now, really want, to work on this problem, they really driven themselves. And I mean, we previously already looked for this factor, right? It's not like we never looked at this factor, but this time we made this factor, the number one priority. And I think it turns out we would have done a better job in the past with hiring if we would always have made this number one priority. So there was certainly a big learning there and, I think, that's something expected to me too.

(25:48) Andrew: And, are you guys still hiring?

(25:52) Torben: Yes, we are. So yeah, if anyone's listening to this and, wants to get in touch with us, feel free to reach out to careers.wingback.com.

(26:01) Andrew: Indeed. Awesome. Well, yeah, thank you both for, sharing that. I think it's, I think it's really cool what you've done. And I think at, that maybe is kind of part of the way, as hiring as this great resignation happens is people are kind of figuring out how, can we connect with the awesome talent town out there kind of going directly to the source is, definitely a great way to do it. So I appreciate the insights, from you guys who've done many times

(26:31) Torben: We hope it continues to work in the future, but yeah, right now we see, let's say, yeah, huge potential that, this is basically, the way to go for us in the future as well.

(26:41) Andrew: Yeah. Awesome.

(26:42) Yann: It's a new reality, right? Talent is global salaries are global. Like you don't pay someone in Argentina different salaries than someone in France. It's called globally competitive salary. Sometimes a bit annoying as a startup firm, because it means you has to spend more money. But it also just levels a playing field by a lot. And I think it's really, really valuable and will change, how we see teams and how we build new companies and technology in the future.

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