Are you the user or the product? The tale of Parents Night Out vs. Kids Night Out.


You might have heard the phrase “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product” as a way to describe tech consumer companies where their business model is advertising. It’s a very limited — and wrong — way to explain the relationship between businesses, who they serve and who pays for it.

As much as we believe tech entrepreneurs are trail blazing new paths, mostly we are just mimicking paths previously traveled by other industries. My own business matches the description I stated above. The buyer is employers, but the user is the employee (a.k.a., a person). So who are we serving? Employers or employees?

When a parent goes to the supermarket and buy yogurt for their kids, there are two customers being served. The parent who is paying for it, and the child who will actually use (eat) the product. So who is the primary customer? The parent or the child? The answer is pretty obvious to me. It’s the child. If you can’t satisfy their demands/needs the buyer (parent) won’t buy it. They might even buy it once, but it won’t be a repeat buy (no retention).

From the parent (buyer) perspective, the question they are asking is not “is this the best?” or “is this the one I want?” — Even though they are asking those questions out loud, but not necessarily using it to make their purchase decision — they are implicitly focused on “is this safe enough to try?” If parents think a brand of yogurt is “safe to try” (based on whatever parameters are important to them) and kids like that yogurt (it serves the customers’ needs), you have a winning combo. Now you need to create awareness and generate demand, and that’s another topic.

Which brings me to the tale of two elementary schools I’ve been exposed too. Both of them have this “product” in which they will babysit kids so parents can have the night out for a few hours. They both provide activities to kids while they are there, they both have about the same quality of service, but one school gets who is the customer and the other doesn’t. That clearly shows on the number of participants in those programs. By focusing on the interested customers (the kids) and making it safe (for parents), one of the schools made a better product and it’s clearly more successful.

The bottom line is that you should focus on the user of the product first and foremost, and make it safe enough for the buyer. If you are making product decisions to benefit the buyer in detriment of the user you’ll lose because either the buyer won’t buy or they won’t renew. Obviously, it’s better when you deliver win-win to buyers and end-users, but if it’s not possible, stick with the end-users. You might lose business over the short term, but it’s the only way to create a sustainable business.

Helping More Women (& Men) in 2015: Open Office Hours


Last year I held Open Office Hours to meet with anyone who was interested in meeting with me, and it was a very successful endeavor. I don’t know if I was helpful/useful to all the people I met with, but for a few of them I’m sure it was. So this year I’m bring the idea back with a small twist: I’ll reserve at least 50% of my time to meet with women.

I’m not trying to get anything out of it personally (or professionally), just good karma by helping you. I’ll meet with anyone who wants to meet with me. We can talk about anything that you think it will be useful to you, but given my background I can probably add more value on topics around Startup, Technology, Career, Seattle, Business, etc.

The idea of reserving at least 50% of my time to meet with women came from Jason Preston, who wrote a great post on reaching out across the gender-divider, inspired by a conversation with his wife, Monica Guzman (both Jason & Monica are great friends of mine). I wish more men would do this, but for now I’ll do my part lead by example.

Here are the details of the Open Office Hours with me:

Where: Row House Café, Seattle

When: Two slots every Tuesday:

10:00 AM: Reserved for women
10:30 AM: Anyone

Who: Me & You

Why: Because you need help or just talk it out loud.

How: Find & book it here:

There are a caveat though. I won’t talk or help you with these three things: Finding a CTO or a co-founder, finding investors for your startup, and buy any product or service from you. In other words, don’t come to pitch me! Come to learn something new. I might not have the answers, but I’m sure I can give you some food for thoughts.

The M-Shaped Brain


Recently I decided to re-brand my blog the “M-Shaped Brain”. It’s a concept I’ve been thinking about for a year. This is about a skill trait most commonly found on entrepreneurs and it’s clear when you see someone that fits into this pattern.
You probably heard the concept of T-shaped persons (or skills). That’s a metaphor to indicate someone who has a breadth of knowledge, but they are deep in one field. For example, a designer who understand well about software development, marketing and sales, and she’s fundamentally a great designer. Being T-shaped helps her do her job better and have empathy for other areas of the business.
But there is a more unusual type of person that’s M-shaped. More like this M:


Not only M-shaped skills have depth, but they have multiple incongruent areas of depth. This person can write back-end code, create a marketing tactical plan and strategize SaaS pricing. Or, she can create front-end CSS, write copy for the newsletter, pull data from a database into Excel to analyze variables correlation, and be at a board room talking about capitalization strategy.
Different from T-shaped — something everyone should aim to achieve in a professional setting (you can’t be a great chef without having some understanding of food production or the food business) — the M-shaped personality is rare because it only creates value in very specific settings, like entrepreneurship.
I can easily point many folks who are M-shaped: Drew Houston (Dropbox), Elon Musk (SpaceX/Tesla), Larry Page (Google), Marc Andreessen (a16z), Danielle Morrill (Mattermark), Hadi Partovi ( and many others. But these are the mostly successful cases. There are many, many more out there, including myself.
This concept solidified in my mind after this tweet storm by Marc Andreessen. He quotes a CS professor talking about developers who shift effortlessly between abstraction layers, but I think the same can be applied to entrepreneurs who are M-shaped. The quicker you brain can abstract low and high level concepts and how they intertwine and impact each other and the business, the more likely you are to quickly make good business decisions that have complex repercussions.

10 Tips for Recently Laid Off Microsoft Employees


Let’s get this out of the way. It sucks. It’s like being dumped. Even if you were unhappy with the relationship, you wanted the break up to be on your terms, but it wasn’t. If you are reading this, likely you moved from most or all the five stages of grief and you are ready to accept and move on.

Here is the thing. Being laid off doesn’t mean you are bad, unskilled, and incompetent, most likely. It means the overlap of interest and skill wasn’t as large as it should have been. People thrive in different environments, and I have worked with people who sucked at big companies and were exceptional at startups, or were mediocre as developers and rockstars as product managers, or vice-versa. There isn’t a one size fits all.

These are my 10 tips for you to pick yourself up and move on, quicker:

#1 – The Timing was perfect for you
First of all, see this as a positive. You have to. No one wants to hire or work with people who blame their previous company, previous manager or the world. We live in one of the best times for technology, and Seattle’s startup & tech industry is growing faster than ever (faster than the late 90s and during the Dot Com boom).

#2 – Update your LinkedIn Profile
I hope it was up-to-date already, but if it wasn’t, update it now (by “now” I mean today!). There are two reasons to do this. One is that LinkedIn is the new resume. Everyone you’ll meet in a business setting – if you are interviewing, looking for a partnership, selling, buying, etc. – will check your LinkedIn profile, so it needs to be complete and polished. Fill as many sections as possible with your history, not only jobs, but also Patents, Awards, Public Presentations, Skills, etc. Make sure it has good grammar and spelling. The second reason a complete LinkedIn profile is important is because that’s how you appear on Search Results on LinkedIn and other tools Recruiters use to find candidates. If someone is looking for someone who knows “SQL”, “JavaScript” and “Video Encoding” and those words don’t appear on your LinkedIn profile you don’t appear on the search results.

#3 – Reach out to your network
Suck it up and just let your friends know you are one of those who got dismissed during this round of layoffs. It’s no biggie and there are plenty of people who know people hiring right now. Just compose a short and sweet email about you becoming available in the market with a short description of your skills, experiences and interests and a link to your LinkedIn profile*. Make it all under 200 words! It’s not begging if you are not begging. You can send this email using MailChimp or BCC a bunch of contacts, just don’t send an email with 100 people on the TO line.

* Did you know the more people that click on your profile on LinkedIn the higher-ranked you’ll be when recruiters are searching for candidates on it? Now you know.

#4 – Polish your interview skills
When was the last time you interviewed for a job? If it’s anything more than 2 years and you’ll need some practice. The easiest way to practice, IMO, is to interview for jobs you don’t want or are the least desirable for you. Have a couple of interviews with companies you might not be as interested, and leave the ones that you are really interested for last. There are plenty of tools and resources online for you to get better at an interview.

Oh, and here is a tricky issue. Good candidates are not the same thing as good employees. You might be an exceptional employee but people won’t know if you are not a good candidate and pass the interview. Some interviewers believe they know how to spot a good future employee, but the reality is that most don’t and they are measure just qualities of good candidates.

#5 – Plenty of Startup Jobs
There are hundreds of startups in Seattle that are hiring right now. The longer you stayed at Microsoft the more *unlikely* it’s that a startup will hire you. There is a negative bias towards Microsoft, particularly if you worked on groups like Windows or Office in which the skillset, experiences, methodology and processes you are used to are less likely to align with those of a startup. However, for the most part, if you have the intellectual horsepower and motivation, you’ll be able to adjust and learn new tools, technologies and methodologies over a short period of time and quite a few startups know this and will interview you. I wrote a blog post a while ago talking about how a Microsoft employee should think about a startup.

Just in case you are interested, here is a list of *great* startups that are hiring right now.

  1. EveryMove (my own startup, 25 employees, 8 open positions): EveryMove unifies all your fitness data from apps or devices you use to bring you rewards, challenges, and other perks and benefits from brands, your employer and health plan who applaud your healthy lifestyle.
  2. Moz (140 employees, 10 open positions): Moz makes software to help people become better marketers (with a specific focus on making Google and SEO more transparent).
  3. Porch (140 employees, 21 open positions): Porch helps you find the right professionals and discover what’s possible for your home improvement project.
  4. PicMonkey (20 employees, 2 openings): Photo editing made of win
  5. Simply Measured (150 employees, 7 open positions): Social Media Analytics for professional Marketers.
  6. LiquidPlanner (50 employees, 6 open positions): LiquidPlanner is an easy and powerful online project management tool. Our multi-project scheduler streamlines processes, lets teams collaborate in real time, saves hours of work, and offers the best time-tracking, analysis, and reporting. 
  7. (60 employees, 10 open positions): is a sharing economy marketplace connecting dog owners with reputable dog sitters in your area.
  8. RealSelf (40 employees, 9 open positions): RealSelf helps you find the right cosmetic treatment.
  9. Haiku Deck (12 employees, 2 open positions): Haiku Deck believes visual storytelling is more important than ever before and they want to restore the presentation to it’s rightful place as something awesome to build and consume. 
  10. Estately (15 employees, 2 open positions): Estately is transforming the home buying experience.
  11. Apptentive (11 employees, 2 open positions): Apptentive makes it easier for companies to build stronger relationships with their customers.
  12. Chef (160 employees, 40 openings): Automation for Web-Scale IT
  13. (9 employees, 3 open positions): Buddy makes data from IoT or “connected” devices, usable. We connect data generated by devices with the tools and systems used to consume data. 

If none of those startups appeal to you, check out the list of top startups in Seattle on the GeekWire 200 or at these job boards: GeekWork, LinkedIn, Careers 2.0 (Stack Overflow), Github, Angel List, etc. Also sign up for DevDraft ( – an online hiring event for developers and DevOps where Northwest-based companies compete for tech talent. The process is simple, you sign up, complete a few challenges, and the participating tech companies will compete for you. The pre-qualification round begins on 8/29.

#6 – Go BigCo again 
Startups don’t float your boat? No problem. There are several big companies headquartered here in Seattle or who have opened an office here. Pick your poison: Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Expedia, Hulu, SalesForce, eBay, Groupon, etc. There are also medium size companies. They don’t fit the startup mold, nor the big company: Concur, Zillow, Redfin, Tableau, Apptio, Zulily and Big Fish Games.

#7 – Take a break and explore
If you could spare a few months without an income, I’d highly recommending learning a few new technologies and skills. Like I said on my blog post from 2 years ago, nothing makes you more desirable to a startup (or even a big company) than someone who can show initiative, is self-motivated and has the skills to do it (vs. talk about it). In no particular order, here are valuable things you can learn: iOS/Objective-C, iOS/Swift, Responsive Web Design, AWS, Azure, Github, Python, Ruby on Rails, Data Mining, Machine Learning, Data Visualization, User Experience, Web Development, Web & Mobile Analytics, etc.

#8 – Get out of tech
I’m sure there is an option here. If you want to go into retail, food, hospitality, bioinformatics, research, academia, or whatever, there are options out there. I’m just not the right person to give you some info here.

#9 – Start your Startup!
I would not advise you to do that, unless you already have a project you’ve been cooking on the back-burner, or if you have done it before. I say that one of the biggest mistakes I did when I left Microsoft was to start my own startup instead of joining someone else’s. I learned (the hard way) at my own dime and my own time, and that’s just stupid. If you are absolutely set at starting your own startup, try to join a startup with 2-5 people for at least 6-months (and be honest that’s your plan) and then go do your startup.
However, if you’ll ignore my advice and you still want to do a startup, consider attending many of the events and meetups in Seattle for entrepreneurs. There are plenty of resources from the Alliance of Angel, WTIA, GeekWire, Seattle Angel Conference, TechStars, and more.

#10 – Retire & travel
Have fun.

On a final note, I’m sure this blog post will evolve and I’ll update with ideas and opportunities here, so come back for future updates. And since you might have a lot more time available to read interesting things on the web, here are two blog posts I wrote that might be interesting: The story of the failure of my first startup (an 8-part series), the story of my second “startup” being acquired by GeekWire (Seattle 2.0), this two posts about the vision and funding of EveryMove.

UPDATE 1: Replace the word “Fired” with “Laid off” to make it more accurate.

UPDATE 2: Added info on DevDraft (

f8: The conference that was supposed to be for you


Let me preface by saying that I’m a fan of Facebook and I hope they are incredibly successful. I can see lots of opportunities for my own business to benefit from some of the core elements of Facebook. That said, its flagship conference F8 is both meh in content and miss-targeted in audience.

Picture by Andreas Sandre

You can read the plethora of content on the web about their announcement so I won’t go into details here. It included: AppLinks, Parser improvements (local store) and better pricing, Anonymous Login, SLA, API versioning (are you yawning yet?), mobile like button, Facebook Advertising Network, and a few more nuggets.

Let me start by asking this question: Pretend the year is 2024 and look back at this F8 event. Which of these announcements will be the major transformative technologies in ten years? The answer for me is none of it.

Who is this conference for?

First of all, they need to be clear what’s the purpose of F8 and who’s it for. On the tracks I’ve been, they talk about marketing, Objective-C code, analytics, financials (LTV & CAC), and more, all on the same talk. So on each talk they manage to bore to death part of the audience. They talk to the audience assuming it’s a bunch of well-rounded entrepreneurs who can code, generate biz-dev deals, create marketing campaigns, and do customer retention and LTV analysis. No, the people here are not Mark Zuckerberg-wannabes.

This ain’t gonna change the world!

A “cross-platform platform”? First of all, it’s just a platform. Facebook monetization strategy for developers is incredibly blah: native ads (and banners and popups). Really? You have a billion people on your network and the best that you can come up for me to make money is ads? Well, I personally don’t care because my app doesn’t monetize consumers. I didn’t see any big vision of how the world is going to look like 10 years from now, and how Facebook will create the ecosystem to enable that vision. Everything was incredibly myopic and short-term thinking.

On the Facebook-as-a-Marketing-vehicle front I think they are overdoing. They keep adding more and more ways to reach and promote stuff to an audience. I’m pretty sure marketing managers are having a headache trying to figure out how to spend their dollars. Let me put this way Facebook: I have $100 to spend in marketing just use your magic to drive the most clicks/conversion/actions for me. Don’t make me think. Lookalike, Facebook Advertising Network, Send to Mobile, Newsfeed, Sidebar, Boost, yada, yada, yada. Too much. Just simplify it.

Anything good?

There were lots of good thing, but just small improvements. The biggest one was probably the concept of AppLinks. It’s too simple and not as exciting as it could have been (it’s too shallow and too unspecific), but I’m sure it will improve over-time. Even though Facebook today promised at least 2 years before deprecating an API, I’d be careful to bet the farm on AppLinks because if it doesn’t take off the way they expect they will deprecate their support.

Maybe I expected too much. I came here to learn some exciting way in which Facebook could help me acquire, retain and engage an audience in a whole new way. I came here expecting they would provide a new way my product could integrate with Facebook to create a more seamless and pleasant experience for FB users on EveryMove. I got nothing. Well, I got a couple of things I’ll have to change my product to support another breaking change from Facebook (I was counting on date of birth data from FB and now I can’t anymore and that’s a deal breaker due to the nature of my business) and another handful of nice to have ideas.

FB needs to think bigger, much, much bigger than a better Like button. I’m not sure Mark can fill the shoes of Gates, Jobs or Page. He needs to look beyond a year or two of product roadmap and plot a ten-year vision. Sell a strategy. Sell a “why”.

"8 Pet Peeves of Health Apps & Sites"


I didn’t pick the health industry to build my next company. The health industry picked me, by chance. On my first tech-health conference I attended after co-founding EveryMove I felt like an alien looking at all these people and their companies and having an experience wondering why they did things the way they did. Over the years I was able to differentiate between what I call “old generation innovation” and “new generation innovation”. Everyone is innovating in healthcare and fitness, but some innovations are just incremental or simply applying technology to processes that were done “manually” before. They are not truly disruptive or innovative in the way we think about innovation.

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How do you create a service people will use for 5, 10 or more years?

That’s the question I posed to myself from day one on EveryMove. I accepted a challenge from Russell Benaroya, my co-founder to think about a product that would engage users with their health and fitness. It’s easy to realize a lot of engagement strategies are either gimmicky or they are short or medium-term strategies.
Inspired by hearing big-thinking entrepreneurs like Glenn Kelman and Rich Barton talking about building big business and long-lasting brands, I didn’t want to create just another Mobile game for health that could be a flash-in-the-pan, or a product that I could extract high-value from short-lived customers to make it big. I set out to build EveryMove with that question in mind: What does it take to build a service people will still be using 5 years after they signed up?
Like most people, I looked at my own life experience with technology to look at products and services I have been using for 5+ years and the ones that I used frequently and let it go. Games, quickly got into the flash-in-the-pan column. Yes, there are games that are super successful and have lasted for decades, but how many games can you name that have a strong 5-year retention rate and massive consumer adoption? On the flip-side of that, I’ve been using my mobile phone for 20+ years.
There were two themes that emerged from this exercise. First, for a service to be long lasting, it needs to be lightweight. All the services that stayed with me for many years are things that require me to take little action (news, RSS, Facebook, IM, Twitter, AA mileage program, LinkedIn, etc.). They are additive to my life and I can devote as little time to it as it feels comfortable, when I do dedicate time to it they don’t feel like a burden (for most of the time). Another way to say it is that they don’t have this insanely high peak and valleys of engagement from me, they are just more consistent.
The second theme of long lasting services are those that, even though they are more costly for me to maintain (money or time-wise), they easily justify their cost by bringing awesome value and/or fun to my life. These are things like banking, email, online shopping, blogging, etc.
Notice I’m only talk about voluntary consumer services. Things that you have to use because of work or that are forced upon you (like doing your taxes) are a different beast.

What this means is that you can take one of two routes: make it super lightweight and sticky, or deliver incredible ROI. Or, better yet, go for both. I believe just posing the question to yourself “will people use my service/app/product 5 years after they signed up?” and be able to tell a story that’s credible will provide strong guidance as you build features and define your strategies.

Disrupting Healthcare Through Experience


Healthcare is broken in the US. There’s no question about it. Bill Gurley, a very successful Venture Capitalist wrote a tweet that steered a debate about how to fix healthcare. David Shaywitz, a Forbes contributor, wrote an excellent piece on the topic. The debate is one of insiders vs. outsiders. More precisely, is the system so broken those who are already in the game can’t fix it, or do the incumbents have a critical advantage? The answer is simple and obvious: Yes.

I’m an outsider. For all my professional life I have lived in the world of software, mostly consumer software. I caught the healthcare train a couple of years ago by a series of well-timed events. And the reason I caught that train was precisely because I saw something fundamentally broken (a.k.a. startup opportunity) and that my experience applied to this industry could bring a unique advantage at creating a big business with a big social impact.

EveryMove is creating the Good-Driver discount for your health. Basically, pushing a chunk of the healthcare responsibility to the individual. If you do things that are good for you, you get more benefits. But that’s not how we started. We started without actually knowing what we were doing, and here is where some of the lessons I learned could be applied by many other entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and insiders who want to transform things.

The Experience is broken

We already agreed the healthcare system was broken in the US, but in what sense? The US has some of the best researchers in the planet, some of the best hospitals and doctors, treatments here are excellent. So, what’s broken after all? Most people immediately say “cost”. Yet, you’d not say a car that cost $50,000 is costly without taking everything else into consideration.

What’s fundamentally broken in healthcare is the experience! How we got to the broken experience is a different topic, one that I’m not qualified to talk about and certainly there is value in learning to make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes, but suffice it to say that it’s not a great experience, not even a good experience.

Think about your interactions with your health insurance company, with your doctor, with a nurse or a pharmacist, with the hospital or with the drugs you are taking. Think about how do you actually find information, price, value and rating for any of those things. Think about when you entered the doctor office and when you left, if you felt incredibly well informed and satisfied with the results. The current healthcare experience is the opposite of information symmetry. It’s not even a system of information asymmetry in which one party knows more than the other. It’s a high information entropy system in which none of the parties know enough about the system.

To make matters worse, healthcare doesn’t start at the doctor’s office. It starts at lifestyle choices and it percolates all through an individual’s life. There is probably no other industry that has this kind of impact on one’s life.

Yes, we can!

I’m sure there is bullshit in every industry. Healthcare is particularly bullshit prone. Not because the people on this industry aren’t as smart as people in other industries, but because the thinking process is calcified into the collective *and* because the collective consider itself incredibly smart, so it’s only fair to conclude the solutions by a smart group must be a good solution (if not a great one). The solutions that are coming from the inside, looking from my perspective, are re-hashing of existing solutions or incremental changes to the existing system — people don’t like changes, particularly if it affects their careers. There is no one from the inside throwing their hands in the air and saying, screw this, let’s do it completely different this time, or even, let’s try something completely new.

I hear doctors saying we need to do different, but these are the same doctors that want to withdraw information from the hands of consumers because they aren’t qualified to make their own health decisions. I hear hospitals saying they will do different and have better post-op follow ups (who would have thought of using email or a phone call to check on a patient a few days after they leave the hospital as innovation), but at the same time you see about a half-dozen different nurses in a day at the hospital ask you the same question over and over again. I hear health insurers talking about being a “health partner” but don’t provide any explicit benefit if you are actually holding your part of the bargain and living a healthy lifestyle.

And that answers the first part of the question. Yes, those who are already in the game can’t fix it.

HHS, FDA, ACA & a different time scale

If you had asked me two years ago what HHS meant, I couldn’t answer. Or even ACA, OIC or ACO. HIPAA for me was just some form I filled at the doctor’s office (BTW, talking about bad experience, I’m not sure which industry is worse with forms and complex lingo, the real estate or the healthcare). But you can’t avoid it and you’ll have to learn there are some complex and unsavory rules health-related companies have to abide by (same thing for the banking industry, or airline industry, or real estate industry). But I’m not a healthcare company, I’m a technology company and all my data is volunteered by consumers, so I don’t have to play by those rules, one might claim. Well, as long as you live in your own world that’s fine, but the minute you sign an agreement with a hospital, an insurer or an employer to provide anything that even smells like health data, the game changes.

It sucks. It’s annoying. It slow things down and sometimes it even prevents you from innovating. But you can’t just ignore it.

The problem is not the rules and regulations themselves. The problem is the approach a lot of unencumbered innovators have tried to tackle, like Massive Health and Healthrageous, two very well-funded startups that couldn’t break through the system, IMO, because they tried to do too much (yes, I’m oversimplifying the problem). Too many health-related startups are trying to do too much. It’s the equivalent of Uber not only trying to change the taxi industry, but also trying to change how traffic lights work to improve the performance of Uber cars and change the car financing industry to make it more friendly to its drivers. Every time I hear “integrated solution” or “all-in-one solution” I think to myself, D.O.A.

Then there’s the speed in which the healthcare industry moves and changes. Even if you come up with a whole new model for delivering care, just for fun, let’s say Uber delivers Doctor to home, you still need to deal with the existing players. With the other doctors, the insurance company, the pharmacies, with the employer HR department who might be offering this benefit, and other players. You can’t just bypass them. And since you can’t bypass them you have to negotiate a contract with them, you have to sign business agreements and make sure they are satisfied with you meeting the HIPAA requirements and integrate with HIPAA 270/271 and much more. Things just move incredibly slowly (at least for us in the software industry). It’s not unusual for a partner to be extremely excited and all the signs pointing to yes, and yet, it takes 12 months for the partnership to launch.

And that answers the second and final part of the question: Yes, the incumbents have a critical advantage because they can accelerate or stall your disruption. Like Square and Simple (former BankSimple), Uber and Practice Fusion, Zillow and Netflix, embracing the existing industry and change the rules of the game to your advantage is key to success.

So, what’s the solution?

Here is the thing, there is no silver bullet, mainly because there is not a single problem. There are many aspects of healthcare that are broken in the US, and like I elaborated through this post, the Experience is one of them and needs to be fixed. The experience needs to be better in two fronts. First, more information needs to be available to consumers — by the way, you know a solution is from an incumbent if they refer to users as patients — and second, more tools should be given to individuals to control and manage their health, healthcare cost and healthy lifestyle. This is bottoms up healthcare reform. It’s what consumerization of healthcare means. Power to the people!

I still feel like an outsider on this industry and I hope that I continue to be while building EveryMove, because it’s an industry that is in desperate need of innovation, and innovation comes from being a little fearless and a little ignorant.

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How to conduct an exit interview at a startup?


Big companies have HR departments that usually deal with the people leaving the company. If they were a good employee and left to pursue a different career option it’s common for HR to conduct an Exit Interview. On that context, this “interview” is to identify what were the reasons a person left the company (likely the answer is a bad manager, and/or lack of appreciation/recognition, and/or lack of growth opportunity, and/or passion for the product/business/culture). On a big company, HR can isolate the leaving employee from their management chain and get them to give a more honest feedback. The value of exit interviews in big companies is pretty clear: it’s about evaluating the manager. Any company flaws (tactical or strategic) are absolutely irrelevant and ignored (despite what HR says).

On a Startup, exit interviews are way more important than at a big company!

The reason it’s more important is because startups are more fluid and culture, process, product, business and everything else is being defined and an exit interview is a great opportunity to learn and adjust.

I’ve conducted a few exit interviews in my life and they have been worth it. They were worth it for me to look at things from a different angle, but also for the person leaving to be able to be open in a way this person couldn’t do it before.

Now, like I said, you probably don’t have an HR person in charge of exit interviews and until you get to a hundred employees, I’d argue you’d be better off conducting the exit interview yourself, so there is nothing lost in translation.

Here is how I’d recommend startups conduct an exit interview:

  1. You don’t have to interview everyone leaving the company. Poor performers or people who are terminated won’t add the right kind of value on an exit interview. Folks who are leaving for reasons that are obviously not related to the company (like a spouse is transferred to Europe) are also less interesting. Primarily you should interview people who you’d like them to stay at your company but they chose not to and yet they will be doing something similar at another company.
  2. Ideally have 2 different people (co-founders or execs) do the exit interview independently. 
  3. Have the exit interview on the last day of the employee. It’s a good way to wrap things up, and if you do it too many days before the last day you might create some awkward situation if something is revealed about another person on the team. In other words, a) wrap the work, b) do the exit interview, c) goodbyes.
  4. Be quiet, don’t correct, listen and absorb. It’s not about who’s right. It’s about that person’s perception. 
  5. Focus the conversation in three areas:
    1. Was an interview-mismatch, things changed along the way, or expectations were set wrong?
      You want to identify how you source, interview, recruit and onboard candidates and if there is anything wrong on that process.
    2. Was it an opportunity cost problem?
      Don’t they believe the startup will be successful and if so, why not? Don’t they believe the startup provides the right growth opportunity for them (comp, mastery, etc.)? This helps you look for blind spots on your plan. Someone who believes strongly enough your startup is going on the wrong direction that they decide to leave is a pretty strong signal. The flip side of it might be that the future opportunity isn’t as great as the past opportunity — the it’s not you, it’s them scenario. Maybe they are fully vested on their stock and they want to do something different. Or maybe they want to take the role of another person on the company and there wasn’t room for them if they stayed.
    3. Was it a people problem?
      This is the most important aspect of the exit interview. Did they quit because of an executive, manager or a peer who they couldn’t work with anymore? It could be an honest difference in personality, in which case neither party is wrong, but it could be you have an asshole on the team (maybe you are the asshole in which case you probably won’t conduct the exit interview anyway) and that’s driving morale through the drain.

There is no need for a post-mortem or to make a big deal of someone leaving. If you don’t have a screwed up company, even if you have the best startup in the world, people will go. It’s the nature of the beast and the first few to leave hurt more, and then you become surprised how those who stayed will rally even more behind the vision and mission. Or not, in which case you need to re-think your business strategy, your product or your people management skills.

Photo Credit: lkaestner

Is the Mobile Developer crunch over?

If you have tried to hire a mobile developer over the last two years you know how incredibly hard that is. If you are a Mobile Developer over the last two years, you know how easy it’s to find a full time job or a well-paid gig. There was an incredible growth of demand for mobile developers, primarily driven by brands interest in establishing their presence on the App Stores. The same way every business needs a website, lots of businesses assumed they also need a Mobile App (that’s a bad assumption but a topic for a different post).
All the demand, plus the gold-rush of independent developers trying to build their own app to get rich, is waning and developers are become move available.
First, the build-it-and-they-will-come ship has sailed. In the first few years of the iPhone App Store and Android Play Store, it didn’t matter how useless your app was, it would get some traction because demand was higher than supply. That’s why you got super popular fart apps, or flashlight apps, or I’m Rich app. The independent developer make it rich ship actually has sailed a couple of years ago, but the dream was still pretty alive. Reality is sinking in and many developers are now realizing that it’s not as easy as they once thought it would be, and they are trying to settle down by looking for full time work (it could also be that working alone gets tiring after a while).
Second, the insanely good contract rates for a Mobile Developer which were $100/h, $125/h, $150/h or sometimes even more (Seattle rates) is not as available as before. If a big company like REI, Nordstrom or Starbucks needed a mobile app, paying a handful of top developers’ $150/h to get the job done was a no brainer. Then they build the version 2 of the app. Then what? Some of these companies had enough time to build their in-house teams. Some reduced their investment in new releases of the app since they had a presence on the app store already.
And the two points above only speak about the demand side of things. On the supply side, there has never been more iOS developers than now. Sounds like an obvious statement, but if you look at TIOBE Index of most popular programming languages shows Objective-C (the primary iOS programming language) as the 3rd most popular in 2013, from 7th in 2011 and 10thin 2010. iOS has been in the industry for long enough time that now you can interview people who are experienced developers and since they left college have only done Mobile development.

If you are a startup trying to recruit Mobile Developers, 2014 is looking bright. If you are a Mobile Developer concerned about work or employment in 2014, don’t be. Investment in Mobile Development will continue to grow and there won’t be a shortage of work. If you are a bad mobile developer, then, yes, be worried. The free ride might be over.
(Yes, I’m hiring Mobile Developers)