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Q&A Tech

‘We’ve developed a culture of speed’: Q&A with Jason Goldberg

Jason Goldberg is founder and CEO of Pepo, a social platform that connects people with similar interests, with a focus on travel. It officially launched in November last year and, like Goldberg’s previous businesses, it’s been released at rapid speed. In the past decade, he’s also founded Social Median (a social news aggregator), Fab.com (third party e-commerce) and Hem (own-brand furniture e-commerce).

10 Mar 2017

Why so much focus on speed?

Some people like to spend a long time getting every detail right. I’m of the opinion that you can get the basics right and then develop it with real users. The risk is early users might feel the product isn’t right.

Surely that can be fatal?

Not necessarily. You have to have a thick skin, determination and a team that can react and move fast. I would rather be in the market with user feedback.

What’s the big advantage with this approach?

You see the problems quickly and clearly and the fact that it’s live drives you to fix them even faster. Among the several businesses I’ve been working on for a number of years, we’ve definitely established a playbook to get a product up and into the market at speed.

How have you been applying this with Pepo?

We started writing code in March last year, went into beta in September and launched properly in November. Those two months between beta and launch allowed us to test the product with 500 real users. In four months, we were up to 150,000 users.

We’ve been entirely focussed on the product foundations. Observing, tweaking and fixing the product; the user benefits and features.

How important is the transition from beta to launch?

Whenever you launch a product, you always start with a small audience. A very small number see the early version. You get a lot of rope to show them it’s developing over time; early users tend to have more patience.

I’ve tried to combat the whole big launch thing as well. I’ve seen a lot of consumer apps in Silicon Valley which make a lot of hype at launch, grow fast overnight and peter out. I think that’s because they made such a big deal out getting the buzz and PR.

I suppose making a big deal out of ‘the launch’ is Silicon Valley conventional wisdom?

It’s like growth hacks. It makes me cringe. Hacks and tricks are just that. They don’t get you long term momentum. It has to be real and authentic.

How hard is it to convince people to share this way of working?

We’ve really developed this culture of speed. We talk openly about making mistakes and give people the freedom to take risks knowing they won’t always get it right. We make our fair share of mistakes but the culture demands that no one gets upset; you dive in and fix it.

How do you set the culture where making mistakes is legitimised?

Most of the time the mistakes are minor things, and often because of me! If I’m the one who’s making the mistake, it sends a message out to everyone that it’s ok.

People often talk of there being no silver bullet to make things great. That’s of course true. But it’s also true the other way around: there’s never a single mistake that kills you, it’s several things.

People often say your appetite for risk reduces as you get older. I sense that’s not the case for you?

Definitely not! I take more risks now. I’m more confident now in my ability to identify risk and how hard to go.

Do you think in some ways this limits you as someone who is a specialist in getting a company off the ground, but not in those later phases of growth?

I’m probably not the guy who wakes up every day and gets excited about moving process around. But who knows?

Have any other founders inspired you with how they operate?

The most phenomenal example of scaling from product design to fast iteration to becoming an exceptional product has been executed by Brian Chesky [CEO and founder of Airbnb].

He has also made the leap from being an early stage product guy to becoming a really great HR leader. Considering the scale of that operation, it must have been tempting to bring in an experienced CEO, but he appears to be doing just fine on his own.

Photo from TechCrunch.