Peter Beaudoin Hosts Mike Bignold
Listen to episode 164 of the Podcast
[00:00:00] Peter Beaudoin: Thanks Al. Hi, my name is Peter Beaudoin and I'll be your host of today's Rainforest Podcast. Today's guest is Mike Bignold, the CEO and founder of Cost Certified a Calgary based software company that has turned the construction estimate process into an e-commerce buying experience. So, firstly, Mike, welcome to the show.
[00:00:19] Mike Bignold: Thank you very much for having me.
[00:00:22] Peter Beaudoin: So let's start off by tell us a little bit about Cost Certified and what problem are you looking to solve?
[00:00:28] Mike Bignold: So Cost Certified, primarily the biggest problem that we solve and the biggest benefit that we provide is we give contractors the ability to give homeowners a realtime interactive buying experience.
So we're turning the estimate. Into a point of sale. So we're, front-loading all the data needed so that the consumer, for example, could upgrade their countertop from quartz to, or, from laminate to quartz or from quartz to granite. they could add or remove the bathroom from the scope of their innovation, so that they could afford it better.
And everything that comes with the bathroom, you know, comes out. Add or remove a fireplace. So things like that, so that customer can see the change in the price instantly. so really turning the estimate into more of a quote, point of sale, a configurable quote.
[00:01:15] Peter Beaudoin: Okay, well, and it was, I'd mentioned this to you before the call that like, I'm actually doing a bathroom renovation now and getting those quotes and feeling the inefficiencies of the overall process and having to go to Home Depot, take pictures of the unit and get the product number, putting it into Google and sending it off.
So it's quite an experience and it's quite a workload. I can see inefficiencies in the process. So how do you measure efficiency in this process? Because when you look at it from a contractor's perspectives, there's improvement from a customer's buying experience, like where do you see the biggest benefit in that process?
well, right now, like you said, the process is a miserable, it's miserable for everybody. It's miserable for the homeowner. It's miserable for the general contractor and it's miserable for the subcontractors. So the whole. The whole cycle is miserable for everybody. even the vendors, you know, the vendors are miserable about it too.
[00:02:08] Mike Bignold: So, so we're trying to solve the problem. We started out solving the problem primarily for the general contractor, which ended up solving a lot of problems for the consumer and ended up solving, becoming a problem we can really solve for the subcontractors and the vendors as well. So. there's a lot of risk in construction.
and so, one of the happy accidents of building this configurable tool with all this data, front loaded is that we're able to de-risk the construction workflow. and so we're able to build a system that is, you can trust the system instead of having to trust your contractor. So, that's one of the biggest benefits that we've found through that system.
[00:02:47] Mike Bignold: If you're going to make a contractor use technology, it can't just be a little bit better. It has to be a lot better. So we really have to make the contractor's life easier. and so, you know, you're talking about efficiency. we can drop the time that a contractor takes for doing a quote from four hours to five minutes.
So, it makes it a lot more accessible all with all those upgrades and options already baked in. So. so in terms of efficiency, that's a really big focus.
[00:03:16] Peter Beaudoin: So when the, the contractor comes to your home, is he sort of working with a tablet and just taking stuff off on the tablet? Is that the idea or is he going back and then working from his desktop at home? When you say real time, it really is there when he's in the home, is that it he's able to quote right there?
[00:03:32] Mike Bignold: Ya, and it depends on their process. I mean, it works for different contractors, no matter how they like to do it, they can bring a tablet. It basically reduces a really complex estimate. It could be a new custom home.
It could be a whole house renovation. It could be just a paint job. And it reduces all of those, quotes into just a step-by-step wizard, where the contractor just needs to ask questions and they could hire. There, you know, their son or daughter to do the estimate. They could hire someone who knows nothing about construction, but maybe is really, really good at sales to do it because all they need to do is take some measurements and answer some questions.
[00:04:09] Peter Beaudoin: Yeah. So I I'd looked online and I see that you have a demo available for the end customers, right. Even for the contractors, et cetera. So users are able now to go online and see how it works. They sign up for a demo and they'll see the entire process end to end is that correct?
[00:04:25] Mike Bignold: Yeah. Yeah. We've got a really stable product.
We've got,hundreds of customers and, yeah, we're growing at about 26% every month. So, definitely. Yeah. If you, if you're interested, if you're a contractor or subcontractor, give us a call.
Yeah. And where are you available now? Obviously? Cause I I'd seen you. Are you international yet?
We are. Yeah, we're most of our, most of our contractors are in the U S about 80%, probably about 15% Canada and 5% rest of the world.
So UK Portugal, Australia, South Africa, India, Dubai, Singapore.
[00:05:02] Peter Beaudoin: I want to explore that a bit. So just to understand the ecosystem that you have, because when you, you obviously have the contractor and then who it's a, they're a B to C sale, but they're also going into the suppliers. Correct. So you're interconnected with all of the suppliers as well?
[00:05:18] Mike Bignold: We're working on that. So right now, when a contractor gets onboarded, we help them onboard their suppliers as well. So it helps us build out our network. So we get a bit of a network effect, by bringing on our contractors, cause we get their subcontractors, we get their vendors and suppliers. Right now, we're working out some deals with some vendors so that we can have some built-in finishing items and materials items that are shippable that get delivered to site.
The contractor can click to order and they get delivered just in time for installation. So that's what we're working on now.
[00:05:50] Peter Beaudoin: Oh, goodness. If you can get that, given all the supply constraints, that's probably that's ideal right now.
[00:05:56] Mike Bignold: Yeah, definitely. So imagine as a consumer, you know, you can choose the faucet you want, what finishes you want on the faucet. What, countertop you want, what tile backsplash you want, what floor you want and your choice, the contractor, all they need to do is mark it in progress, and then put it in the schedule. And then the item gets delivered to site just in time for them to install it.
[00:06:18] Peter Beaudoin: Wonderful. I just want to know a little bit more about how you were founded and built up. So I guess I see that you were founded in 2016 and you went through the Platform program and as well, I believe the Y Combinator program. So could you tell me a little bit about your, your sort of growth, how you've been growing and, and some of the steps you've taken over the years.
[00:06:39] Mike Bignold: Sure. Well, part of the reason that that we've been able to solve this problem, I think is because my experiences in business and contracting and coding, it's like this Venn diagram that doesn't overlap very often. So that's sort of been my background and my experience. And part of that was that I ran a contracting company up until about 2018.
So in 2016, I had decided that. And I had built this software basically for myself. So I was scratching my own itch at that time. And I decided in about 2016 that I wanted to, you know, spin it off into its own business, but I hadn't sold my company yet. So in about 2018, I had wound down my company and then I went, full-time into Cost Certified and I started, basically, I built it from scratch again.
I just rebuilt it so that it was more scalable and more applicable to many different contractors and not just myself. And then we did a Platform Calgary in September, 2019. So by then we had sort of mostly rebuilt it. And we're starting to think about how to turn it into an actual business. We had some really great early customers locally in Calgary that used it every day, all day long.
they were great beta partners. They gave us feedback every single day. And we just spent, you know, basically two years iterating, listening and iterating, listening and iterating. And then in, only in the beginning of 2021, did we really start selling subscriptions? So in, in March, 2021, we actually started selling subscriptions.
[00:08:04] Mike Bignold: So it wasn't really until last year that we started growing.
[00:08:08] Peter Beaudoin: Okay. And so that's, it's a SAS model. So it's a software as a service and you, you then charge a monthly fee, something like this, is that correct?
[00:08:17] Mike Bignold: Ya, right now we're completely SAS. So right now we're charging based on subscriptions, we've already launched a financing, so, so contractors can get financing for their business.
we're launching payments and consumer financing and a, an insurance product. So this year, by the end of the year, subscriptions should be still most of the revenue, but by the end of next year, subscriptions are almost going to be a foot note.
[00:08:45] Peter Beaudoin: You tell me a bit about the contractor financing? Cause that that's interesting. I mean, that's, in a way that's a side element, but very integral to the component. So how does that work?
[00:08:54] Mike Bignold: Yeah. Good question. So the primary process that we're trying to do is we're trying to become an escrow service for the construction project. So what would happen is that, you know, say there, you know, a customer has accepted a project, we're building there, you know, we're doing a renovation for them.
So then the GC sent them the quote, they accepted it. The GC has. You know, maybe 10 subcontractors on the job. So this the subcontractors say the plumber would then say, okay, they would mark off their items as complete. So they'd have it set of items, you know, install the sink, install the tub, install the faucet.
So they would check off those items. One by one, as they completed, then it would go to the general contractor. They would have their, they would do their job, which is quality control. So then they say, oh yeah, you're done or no, not so fast. And then the check mark goes to the consumer and the consumer gets their checkmark.
And then when the consumer checks they're there, that they're satisfied, the money goes directly to the plumber. So instead of going to the GC and lump sums or the GC, you're hoping the GC then writes 10 checks to their subcontractors. The money goes directly to the plumber. So the GC doesn't have admin to take care of the plumber gets paid and every subcontractor will tell you a story about when they, they weren't paid on a job.
[00:10:07] Peter Beaudoin: Slow payment, it's the kiss of death in business.
[00:10:10] Mike Bignold: Even no payment. Oh goodness, goodness. All the time. every single one will have a story for you. And then, and then the consumer, and then all three, all parties are secure that the consumer is going to pay as well. So it's all, it's a secure process where you can trust the process instead of trusting your contractor.
That's the most important thing? the, the objection we hear from that is that the contractors then don't have these lump sums to use for marketing and use for, hiring a receptionist or whatever it might be, which they really shouldn't be using the deposits to pay for. I mean, that is really almost not their money.
So they shouldn't be using that for marketing or for whatever they're doing. So what we do is we've given them we've launched Cost Certified Capital, which allows them to get financing so they can get financing for their business. They can, they can pay for the receptionist for their marketing, for growth, for whatever they need in a legitimate way without using the deposits for the job.
So that's, that's sort of the purpose behind Cost Certified Capital. And we wanted that launch before we launched the escrow service.
[00:11:13] Peter Beaudoin: Okay. And then for branding. Cause when I think of this. If I'm a, if I'm a shopper now in the market, if I go to a contractor, I want to know, Hey, are you powered by Cost Certified as an example. I mean, what's your branding strategy then? Are you trying to get the Cost Certified brand out front to go look, these are the contractors we support. How does that work?
[00:11:35] Mike Bignold: That's exactly right. And that's actually how, how the name Cost Certified started is that we wanted contractors to be cost certified. You know, we wanted them, it's like a certification for them.
So we really believe that the consumers in the market are going to demand that their project is done through Cost Certified, because it's really the only way that they can be sure. That they're safe because the last thing they want is to pay full price and then to have liens on their house, which happens all the time and Cost Certified prevents that.
So Cost Certified eliminates that danger. The, we also are building in insurance, so every job is going to be insured and protected. They know that the subcontractors on the job are going to get paid. and the best subcontractors are also going to demand to only do work through Cost Certified. And we came through this realization when, you know, we were renting a house on Airbnb and we knew a friend who was renting a house and we thought, well, let's just, you know, let's do a deal outside of Airbnb.
just to save a little bit money, you know, cash deal. And he said, no. And he said, no, because he wanted to be protected. being in the Airbnb ecosystem. And that really clicked something for me, where I realized that consumers in construction are going to be the same way there. They're just not going to want to do a project outside of Cost Certified.
[00:12:53] Mike Bignold: And actually we're already seeing that we're already seeing that customers, once they receive a Cost Certified contract or an estimate from Cost Certified a quote, the, they are much more likely to book that even when it's a little bit more expensive than a quote from a contractor that doesn't use Cost Certified.
[00:13:10] Peter Beaudoin: Yeah, well, absolutely. I can see where the peace of mind you're providing peace of mind, because in most instances you always hear of contractors that do a great job, but are they always doing a great job, but here you have, you know, you are ensuring all your, your processes are protecting the buyer from that.
So that's, that's ideal. I understand that you're looking to raise some funds. Can you tell us a little bit about the raise and what will you be using the funds for?
[00:13:36] Mike Bignold: Sure. Yeah, we, we did, we did a pretty significant raise in September. the largest seed round in Alberta history, I believe, for tech and we are working on doing our next raise a series "A" at some point in the coming year for us, our growth is pretty much almost a hundred percent efficient.
So when we grow our sales and marketing is nearly paid for, immediately and by the sale, by the cashflow from the sale. So our growth is almost self-sufficient. and by, you know, may and June, may, June, July timeframe. We want it to be more than a hundred percent efficient. So really for the, for the funds, it's going to fund product growth.
So we, we have almost infinite options for product growth. I mean, there's, there's just so many options, that we can build into maximize revenue per customer. we can be a sort of a business in a box for contractors and a lot of other service type companies. So, so that's really what we want the money for is growth and marketing, but also for product growth.
So we want to build a product and we want to make sure that our existing products are very well-maintained and always improving.
[00:14:50] Peter Beaudoin: So just to clarify, cause I, I can understand where you've gone into the financing and the escrow, and you've got all this process. So when you say product growth, what product are you describing, I just want to clarify?
[00:15:00] Mike Bignold: Well, we're building new products all the time. So, probably the next product that we want the funding for primarily is for consumer financing. So for construction financing. So Cost Certified really has a really unique advantage when it comes to de-risking network flow. And that gives us a huge opportunity with consumer construction financing.
That's different from the financing to the contractor, this is financing the consumer so that they can pay for their job. So instead of saying, You know, instead of having our upgrade options, that's show, you know, add $2,000 for quartz countertop, it's going to say, add $20 a month, you know? And so then they would pay, you know, an add to their monthly payment.
And so construction financing is really expensive. Typically, you know, private financing you're at 15 to 25%, you might as well put it on a credit card. Banks will have to send someone to site. So banks are reluctant to, to offer construction financing. So because they have to send someone to site to check on the contractors and see what the stage is that those are sort of some of the problems that we eliminate with Cost Certified, which makes our financing much more viable.
we only really need to underwrite the consumer and their credit worthiness.
[00:16:10] Peter Beaudoin: How many people are you guys now, Mike? I mean, and, and how, how, you know, over the next year, how much are you growing?
[00:16:16] Mike Bignold: Yeah, we're 57 people now over that, by the end of the year, we want to have a hundred people in Calgary and a hundred people.
we're opening another office. And so we want to have a hundred people at the other office as well.
[00:16:27] Peter Beaudoin: Great. Is that in Canada? You're opening that office or in the U S cause you said that's your big, one of your biggest markets? So
[00:16:33] Mike Bignold: it is, yeah. And we have some remote workers in the us, but the office is actually in Cape town, South Africa.
[00:16:39] Peter Beaudoin: That's where all your backend processing is done?
no it's done. we're on we're all in the cloud or are, but, we're building a sales apparatus. We're basically duplicating our office here, there, and allow us to blow our unit economics out of the water. There's a really great latent talent pool there, and that we're looking to tap into.
[00:16:56] Mike Bignold: So don't tell anyone, but that's our secret.
[00:16:59] Peter Beaudoin: Okay. It's only between you and I ended the rainforest guests or listeners. So I guess let's, let's look forward. I mean, you're growing and, and, you know, in 24 months, right after your successful raise, you've got to, you know, you get to another, a hundred people by the end of the year, where are you going to be in two or three years?
What's that going to look like?
[00:17:16] Mike Bignold: Well, you know, we want to have a lot of our products built out. We want to have a marketplace. We want to have. Like network effects. We want to maximize revenue per customer. We want to have net revenue retention, you know, like 130% net revenue retention in three years.
You know, we won't still want to be growing at a really big, good tick. Maybe we go public, in five years, this is a massive, massive market. It's just, it's, it's just almost endless. It just there's so many opportunities to not to grow to different verticals, you know, integrating vendors and suppliers being like an ad network for materials advertising directly to consumers.
So having a consumers come in and be able to estimate themselves. We've got lots of cool integrations, like with 3d rendering tool, we just launched it with Sidreo. So we just launched us a tool that you can design your own house and then click a button. And it turns it into a quote with Cost Certified just instantly.
so we're, there's so many connections and so many products that we can build. So in three years, you know, we want to own the market.
[00:18:21] Peter Beaudoin: What do you see the hardest part about growing? Cause you guys, you know, if you're running 26% month on month, you said, right, this is significant growth. You've got to sort of ride this tiger.
So what's the hardest part about your growth trajectory?
[00:18:33] Mike Bignold: Yeah. Well, it never gets easier. So every month it's never, it's never like, yo you've reached the stage where you can sit back, it's like, it's the next problem? And things are, you know, the office is bursting at the seams and there's, there's, it's like a game of whack-a-mole.
So we'll, and, and especially earlier on, you know, when we were building out this machine, it's like, you know, we were doing inbound and then inbound crashed. And then we had to, you know, turn on a dime and build our outbound team. And, and then it's like training and suddenly we're doing batches of like six people at a time.
We're hiring six people every week and it's like, you know, what's working, what's not working. And, and then it's like the proportion of customer success. Cause we have a really significant onboarding process. So we have a, a, a really great onboarding team. And so, but it's expensive and it's time consuming and it's and how do we, how do we weigh that in?
And are we, are we getting enough money to pay for that? cause that's part of our efficiency and then what's the proportion of, of those people to our. SDRs versus AEs and the portions never. Right.
[00:19:32] Peter Beaudoin: Sorry, what's an SDR. And AE?
[00:19:34] Mike Bignold: SDR is a sales development rep. So they are doing, outbound, calls, emails, connecting with contractors, our AEs, our account executives.
So they're our salespeople. They, they basically do demos and they sell, and then our CS as our customer success, and they do the onboarding, they do renewals. They make sure that our customers are booking jobs right away. So that, so that's our, that's our goal. And so we never know exactly what the proportion is, you know, at the beginning, what the proportion was of each person.
So we would get bottlenecks wherever, you know, there'd always be a bottleneck somewhere. So it's a game of whack-a-mole.
[00:20:11] Peter Beaudoin: Yeah. So you're obviously busy. You've been at this for a while. What do you do to relax, Mike? I mean, what do you do to take your mind off all of these opportunities?
[00:20:21] Mike Bignold: Oh, not much these days, to be honest.
No. Yeah. A little whiskey after work sometimes.
[00:20:33] Peter Beaudoin: Oh, well, that's good. Well, if you're growing it through these growth rates, you've got to be on top of it. So, no, it's great. It's great talking to you about this. So just a question. If listeners want to know more about Cost Certified, what should they do?
[00:20:45] Mike Bignold: Well, you can find us on our website. the website is in the process of being demolished and rebuilt. So don't judge us too harshly on that, but, yeah, they go ahead and find us, sorry, you can hear, can you hear that? The bell?
[00:20:56] Peter Beaudoin: It's okay. Yeah.
[00:20:57] Mike Bignold: They're making sales here, so they ring the bell. Yeah. Give us a call. They can reach us on online. If there's a, there's a number there.
They can fill in their information. Yeah. If you're a contractor you need to use Cost Certified.
[00:21:08] Peter Beaudoin: Okay. Well, Mike, I do want to say thanks for your time today. Yeah. I look forward to hearing more about your growth in the coming months and years.
[00:21:16] Mike Bignold: Awesome. Thanks so much, Peter. Appreciate it.
[00:21:19] Peter Beaudoin: So if you liked the episode, please subscribe to the podcast and thanks for listening.
Jen Morrison Hosts Christa Hill and Renee Matsalla
Listen to the episode here
[00:00:00] Jen Morrison: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the LIBI podcast. My name is Jen Morrison and I am the learning catalyst and lead program designer at InceptionU, and I'm really excited to have this conversation with two women that I have met in the past year, I want to say, and so we've connected off and on and I continue to be amazed and inspired and empowered, whenever I have the chance to have a conversation with them and, hear about the incredible work they're doing. So I want to do things a little bit differently, for the beginning of the podcast today. So Renee, and Christa are joining me, I'm going to actually have them introduce each other because they know each other so well.
And I thought that would be fun to try for this episode. So Renee, I'm going to have you go first and introduce Christa Hill.
[00:00:51] Renee Matsalla: Oh my gosh. I am so excited to introduce Christa. Yeah. So as you can tell, and people will know by the end of this, you know, Christa and I are really good friends. We've worked together for years now we've been in, we've been in a band together. Actually, we were in a band together at Benevity where we met each other. We had this, this event called rock, the Cosmo where all of our co-workers made bands together and Sylvia, Chris and I were in a band together. So we've seen each other through thick and thin.
And, yeah, so Christa and I, we met, at Benevity. So she was leading the, you know, our work with causes and with our finance side. And it was just, you know, we met there and we knew we were going to work together. And I just remember with Christa she's just stood out because she's so frigging good at what she does as a product leader.
so she, she basically led all of the most difficult products at Benevity and helped us to. Funnel billions of dollars to causes who deserved it. And so after she did that at Benevity, that's where we met, she went on to Morgan Stanley at work. She did, she built many products that were the first of their kind.
[00:02:08] Renee Matsalla: So she has. Amazing experience in APIs. She built the first ever public facing API that scales the administration of a corporation's lifecycle from private ownership to IPO it's not the only. first she's done there. And before that, she was even at Getty images, she's led teams all over the world, and now we're co-founders together at Tacit Edge Product Leadership, where we took both of our passions for this role and coaching people. And we help people become product managers, a hilarious, charismatic, and so empathetic. That's her secret sauce. She sees things in people that they don't see in themselves, and she helps them realize their true potential. It's amazing. It's a magical watching Christa work with people.
[00:03:02] Jen Morrison: Oh, I love that. Well, on that note, Renee's set the bar Christa so it is now your turn to introduce Renee Matsalla. Do you mind taking some time to do that?
[00:03:13] Christa Hill: I don't at all. it's really been my honor, and pleasure to be working with Renee and we co-found a Tacit Edge Product Leadership.
you know, just help bring what our secret sauce is as individuals together. Because as a team, we are like, there isn't anything that we can't see in each other that we can find as strengths and then leverage what we know about each other, and really bring into the real world, just with our imaginations and with some great goal setting and with our skills.
[00:03:43] Christa Hill: And so when I met Renee, years and years and years ago, I was actually on my way leaving that company and I sat her down. I said to her, I'm like, look, we didn't really get to work together the way I really wanted us to work, which means like the intersections of our projects never went the way that I really wanted them to.
So we could spend a ton of time together. I said, but don't forget me. I'm coming for you. I don't know when it's not obvious to me yet, but when I call we're going to do something huge and sure enough, I, you know, it was maybe about two and a half years ago I reached out and I said I think I've figured it out, what we're going to do and it, and it looks a little bit like this.
And now of course, what we've created is, is quite different than what we originally thought we were going to do, but it started us on the path. And before that, I mean, I had a front row seat to Renee and her product leadership, you know, bringing some of the most successful products on the front end that Benevity ever had.
Right. Maximizing the power of matching between peers, their companies. Out in the world, accelerated the work that I was doing under the hood to make sure the mechanics were there so that the money could move and get around the world quickly. So it really was a game changer for the two of us on our expertise, just within that product line.
At that time, she was out there working on the hard issues, trying to bring so many great, innovations to workplace giving and the concept of diversity inclusion and belonging. She was at the ground floor of, and taught me new language in the workplace that I'd never had before. And that was one of the first things that really impacted me about the work that I did with Renee is that she, she took what I knew I had on the inside, around empathy building.
And she gave me new language, which got me curious to find out more and that I will, I will never be able to thank her enough work. So outside of that, even before that work, I mean, she was working in Berlin and San Francisco where she launched mobile monetization products used by Facebook, Google, and some of the world's most iconic, you know, game developers.
And now, I mean, here we are, we're, we're influencing that the tech ecosystem to help bring that, that concept of diversity inclusion and access to education. So all the things that we have built, we now have wanted to productize to bring product management to the masses and make it open to. And that's what we're doing.
[00:05:57] Jen Morrison: Well, boom, I feel like you both dropped the mic already. Christa. how would you describe Renee in three words? What would they be?
[00:06:05] Christa Hill: Like if there was a word that could like one word she has feels like overwhelming gratitude. If you know, Renee, the amount of gratitude that gushes out of her, just as a baseline.
Is above and beyond. And if you ever struggle with staying in a Headspace of gratitude, just hang with Renee for five minutes and you're like, you're back in there. So I know that was more than three words, but really that's, that's how I see her.
[00:06:29] Jen Morrison: Well, I, I think it's so lovely that you introduced each other and thank you for doing that.
It's way better than I could have done. So, really excited for, for the folks that are listening. I don't know if you can tell, but yeah. I'm having trouble sitting down. Like, I'm just so excited to talk to these two today. So I'm going to try to keep it kind of calm, cool, and collected, but I'm sort of fan girling on the other side here.
okay. So we're going to set the context for our conversation today, ladies. And, obviously you are leaders in product management and, creating space for learning and building and creating, in that area and the impact that it can have on the ecosystem. Before we dive into that, though, what I'd like to do is to have both of you think back to when you were kids.
[00:07:14] Jen Morrison: And I'm going to ask this a little bit differently than I've done in the past, and let's start with Christa. So, Chris, I want you to think about the people who love you the most. How would they have described you as a kid? And then do you recall any particular. Age or grade that you recognize things that you'd love to do or we're passionate about?
[00:07:35] Christa Hill: I, so I had a conversation with my mom about this cause she, she lives here with me and she, she gave me a very long list of things that describes not the view of my childhood, myself, obviously as children. We don't see ourselves the way that our parents see them. but she just basically described me as somebody who just was a doer. I just got curious. And then I just, I tried stuff and I did things and I was always busy. Busy with like a common theme. And as I would reach certain milestones and success, I just, I liked it. So I just pushed it even farther to see what else I could do. And I have to say, I've have had for those who know me and, you know, over the years, I've had a lot of different businesses.
I've run a skating school at a huge history of figure skating and competitive sports too, as well. And also working in the not-for-profit sector. Took me a long time before I reached the age where I knew exactly what I wanted to be. And for some folks, they know it when they're really young. And you would think that with my history and skating, I knew what that was really early.
But in fact, I think I was just really hooked on the success of it and just trying to do more and trying to do more. And I just deepened the art form within myself. And I just really enjoyed it, but it's not who I thought I was. And it wasn't until I was about 28. When I left the sport for quite a few years, then I wanted to go back and then created the skating school where I could give back and teach.
That's when I discovered what I wanted to do, that I knew, I love to get to a certain competency where I felt like I could teach it to others. And that's kind of the what's followed the cycle of my life is getting to a certain competency and then looking around, going, who can I bring with me? And that is essentially how I figured out what I really wanted to do in this world, but I was a pretty late bloomer, but I did a lot of really cool stuff in the meantime, but really didn't connect with my identity until I was nearly thirty.
[00:09:26] Jen Morrison: Right. It's so interesting that, that your mom shared that she saw you as a dooer and a creator and an explorer as well. I relate a lot to that. So, Renee, how about you, you know, the people that love you the most or knew you as a kid, how would, how would they describe you? And then also, you know, did you have particular things that you were curious or passionate about as a kid as well?
[00:09:49] Renee Matsalla: Yeah, it's so funny, so, like the way Christa's mom described her. Cause we both were like, oh my gosh, I have no idea how people would describe me like, I think of like my little nephews and I have so many words to describe them, but I'm like, I don't remember what I was like, sorry. I did the same thing.
And it was the same. The same thing. My mom was like, oh, you're a go getter. You just like decided you wanted to do something and you just did it. And you were always doing things. I was always, you know, outdoors having fun, being goofy, and I'm just like, oh, that's. The exactly the same thing. I that's exactly how I am now.
You know, I took a detour, in anxiety and stress, and that for a little bit, as many of us do, you know, in her teen years and early adulthood. And then we get back and find ourselves. And it's just so funny because yeah, I see that I'm more like myself when I was a kid now than, than ever before. And you know, that passion.
First came was, it was music. You know, I loved guitar. I loved, playing for hours, but similar to Christa, I didn't find my passion and still, I started sharing it with others and all through university, I tutored taught guitar. then. Again, got to competency with product management and learned as well that my passion is bringing others along and helping others, you know, realize the gifts that I've been able to realize in my life.
And then, so when Christa and I found each other, we're like, yeah, we have the, we have the same passion. Let's, let's make this happen.
[00:11:24] Jen Morrison: You know that, I don't know if you've seen like the gif with the two kids that are like these little kids and they haven't seen each other for a long time and they're running towards each other.
Do you know the gif I'm talking about? Where they like hug? I'm just thinking about that as you're both talking. which is that, which is really fun.
[00:11:40] Renee Matsalla: Every Friday after this to.
[00:11:41] Jen Morrison: Well there you go, oh my gosh. Well, I want to come and join that sometime.
[00:11:46] Renee Matsalla: Oh, any time. Open invite Jen.
[00:11:51] Jen Morrison: Okay. So it's so interesting because I relate so much to those pieces of both of you as kids.
And I, you know, before we started recording, you know, I was talking about how, these innate traits or characteristics or things that we love as kids can often get squashed in whatever way, whether it's through relationships or societal expectations or the shoulds of what we should be doing with our life. so I think it's really interesting. For the both of you. it was always kind of there, but it seems like it's almost been full circle and you know, the work that you do now, seems to really be leveraging those pieces that are so natural to the both of you. So on that note, I mean, you don't have to go through like a chronological order of what you did, but clearly your journeys, have been really interesting and you've done a lot of different things.
Were there some key learnings along the way that you want to mention or talk about that were really like critical to the next steps that you took. whatever those were. I hope that makes sense, but I'm just, you know, I feel like, I feel like that could be a whole other four-hour conversation about like, tell me about your journey, but what, like, are there particular moments for the, both of you that,stand out Renee I'm going to start with you for that one.
[00:13:07] Renee Matsalla: Oh, sure. Yeah, absolutely. You know, looking back there's, there's always those key, key moments where you're like, oh, I really realized something. So of course guitar was the first one started to be, you know, in bands around the city, having fun with that, but it never really felt quite right.
And I think, you know, I mentioned the, the, the stress and anxiety part of our early adulthoods that we all go through. Like, I wouldn't trade that for the world because I just tried so many different things and I tried marketing. I started in marketing. Really loved it. Didn't quite fit though I wanted to do more experimentation. I wanted to just try again, try more things are found in marketing. you really needed to be perfect before you launch something. So, but I also loved, you know, traveling loved being abroad. So I worked in Berlin, worked, in San Francisco and there, I learned just, you know, I can survive a lot.
It was tough, but I learned, okay, I can live in a country where I don't speak the language and I can learn enough to get by and I can try these different things. And, and then moving back to Calgary, and working at Benevity. I learned, I needed to just let go of that fear of failure and cause my desire to try new things was always kind of like tempered, like the joy was tempered by the fact that I had this fear and it was through Benevity that I was able to just say, you know what, that's it, I'm just going to try these things. And it was from working with people with, like with people like Christa that were like, no, it's okay, you can try these things.
And then the last thing was, I learned. You know, I knew my potential and I knew when it was time to do something on my own and to not let, what other people tell me. Define me. you know, I knew I was a coach. I knew I could really help people and I knew I needed to go and do that on my own and with an awesome co-founder.
So those were kind of those key moments that. You know, getting into music, trying different things, failing, being really scared in a new country, being really scared in a new role. Moving back, product management is not easy. It is hard and you have to just accept that perfection is not possible. And once I truly accepted that, my whole life completely changed.
Because I just said, I don't care. I'm going to try this. I'm going to try things. And again, it got back to who I was as a kid, just trying things.
[00:15:41] Jen Morrison: Oh that's so great. Okay. Krista, same, same to you. So like the key learnings along the way, are there any particular moments?
[00:15:49] Christa Hill: Oh there are so many standouts. I have to say. as I got older, you know, and I experimented in school and in the workplace, I was always super curious about technology and things that were disrupting, especially the banking system as working in the banks while I was going to school.
And so I was hearing about startups that were happening, that were moving money and for, you know, the very interesting ways that the internet was born of. I think we all know what I'm talking about there. And so I really. Got a line of sight to the fear that it was, bringing into some of our traditional systems and I was just hooked.
How could I like, could I get a job like that? Like I work in a bank, could I. You know, would they want my particular skillset? And so I was able to get in to a startup to experiment with some of those early, early, early wild, wild west, business models online. And from that point, you know, I just let it explore it even further.
Right. How could I bring knowledge of finance compliance and then turn that into. You know, working with teams to create working software. I couldn't believe how, how interesting it was to me. And then I took a pitstop and through other things in life happened and I was, you know, was into skating. I got my skating school off the ground and the, the rec center that I was, you know, coaching out of. We had amazing primetime ice that if you are in the world of trying to get ice times, you know that between four and six, multiple days during a weekday, and then Saturday mornings between nine and 12 is something you die for. Like you literally die for. And the, you know, we had no money in that rec center.
It was about to close. And so. You know, one night I was like, well, what could I do about this? How could I keep it open? I've got business acumen. I could do this. Could I run a rec center? And so I wrote a business case and presented it to the board. And the next week they threw me the keys and I was like, okay, now what? Software, right. I employed software to help me manage that facility and it saved it. It was a turning point, right? And that's when I knew the power of really amazing partners that could be, that could automate some parts of your job to free you up to do the things that are the real work out in the community or the real work out in the business world.
And so that was a huge turning point. But in the middle of that though, I had, I had my daughter and, you know, I became a single mom. And that was another major moment because I looked at what I was doing at the rec center, knowing that I was working around the clock because it was really intense. And I couldn't do that and raise her at the same time.
So, you know, we worked together to try and figure out what that could look like as I transitioned out of that role, just staying with the skating school. But, you know, there was a moment in time where I looked at her and I was just like, we need to build a life together. I need to make more money. I can do this on my own.
I don't have to be in a relationship to which brings me stability so that I can raise a kid and we can have a good life. We could actually, her and I just looked at her one day in her crib, sleeping, and I was like, we can do this, her and I. And so that was the beginning of me looking for more education around product management, within the community that I was working and volunteering.
So folks connected me with some recruiters that I've learned about the new roles. And literally I was, I was having dinner with some folks and one of them turned to me and said, Christa, you know, that there's roles in tech for people with social skills now. Right. I'll never forget this as long as I live.
And I was like, oh, that is so interesting. Tell me about those. And he described to me the product owner role at Getty images, and that was the first step towards where I am literally right now today with Renee. So I followed that and all the way through everything. One thing led to the next, and there was a lot of moments in that role with some organizations that as women in technology were really scary, for me. You know, in that point in time, it was not an overly safe place for women to be traveling and doing a lot of things. And we don't need to get into a lot of that, but you know, what really stuck out in my mind about that was that the next women behind me, I wanted it to be more inclusive and safer, for them to work and explore and accelerate their careers without the industry bias that, that Renee and I worked within. So everything we did had that eye of what's over our shoulder and who's coming in behind us. And how can we just make it a little less difficult for them than it was for us, because it doesn't need to be difficult.
It shouldn't be difficult. Right? And so that was really the key takeaway for a lot of my career. And, you know, the moment I sat in a meeting with Renee and she taught me the difference between feeling included and fitting in, and the difference between fitting in and belonging. And she taught me that I had no words or vocabulary for that.
And in that moment, I was like, I actually can just be me. And if they don't like it, it's okay. We're not a good fit. So in that moment I decided I was now just going to be me and I wasn't gonna try and fit in with my male peers. I wasn't gonna do what I thought they wanted me to do. I was going to follow my internal compass and that brought me to the next thing that I did.
And then I interviewed with that state of mind and got the next job saying these are my deal breakers. I need autonomy. I need to be myself. I need to practice product the way I believe it should be practiced. And also it's going to be contagious, get ready, but don't hire me unless you want that. So I was able to then reset the tone of what it was like for me to be in the workplace and it changed everything and sure enough, I've really realized my dream in the past two years.
I know it's been very difficult for a lot of folks in COVID. But it allowed me to experiment in ways, you know, that I've never known possible to create the life that I want for my child moving my, my mom in so that we can all be together and not have to worry about what's going on in the outside world, because we are here.
And I have, I can literally build a business with the best friend I've ever had in my life. And because of that, we can have the hard conversations where we always speak the truth. And because of that, we are building a wildly successful partnership and it is that all the journey. And there's so many things that have happened in the middle of that.
But those, those are really the highlights for me as to how, how this was possible and what I've listened to in those moments and what I did about it.
[00:22:20] Jen Morrison: It's so interesting to look back at our, our lives. I mean, I I'm, I'll be 41 in April and. You know, I don't know. It's I love that that you've shared what you have, because thinking back to my own journey and my own experience, everything, I don't know, everything creates space for something new, but the mindset and the awareness to pay attention, to be, to be listening. And I really love that you both talked about getting to this place of, I I'm going to be myself. And that's okay. And I want to find other people that want to work with me. You know, I want to find people that I want to work with, and I feel like that moment or that time period where that happened for both of you,
I think was really key. And I can relate a lot to that as well. Yeah. Any Renee do you have anything else you want to share?
[00:23:20] Renee Matsalla: Yeah, because honestly the, when you say, cause once you start doing that, the people you want to work with just start coming out. They're just everywhere. Like it, it changed like Christa and I found each other and we're like no we're going to be ourselves.
And we're going to be honest with ourselves and each other. And all of a sudden I'm only working with people I want to work with. And the people that, you know, we're, we're working with, through our business, through our course at SAIT around applied product management, we're all the same mindset of we're going to be ourselves.
We care about each other. We respect each other. So we don't have to worry about what other people are thinking about us. We know people respect us, we respect our students and they can experiment and try things and really discover what they love within the course. And that's what we're just aspiring to be in.
It's it's almost like why haven't we been doing this the whole time? Ha ha ha, Honestly ha ha ha
[00:24:23] Christa Hill: I know, and it, for us, like when we were in the industry, you know, working within other companies, we couldn't find anybody to hire. Right? Cause we were looking for attributes that were wildly coachable and even just the threads of folks that, that had similar inclinations to us is what we were looking for.
But then they didn't fit a model that the company wanted them to fit. And so therefore we were losing people in the screening process that would never get through that I would have been happy to hire and coach. And so that was the glaring problem that we just identified Renee. And I were like, we, We can do something about. Literally, if we put our minds to it, we could solve that or try anyways.
[00:25:09] Jen Morrison: So happy that you said that because I think, you know, the HR screening or the process of bringing people on to, organizations, companies, startups, whatever that is, can a lot of the time be a significant barrier to amazing people.
and I want, I'm going to pin that for a bit because I want to now dive into. You know, product management and you have started this company Tacit Edge, which is super cool. Where, where did the, the term Tacit Edge come from? I'm really curious about that before we talk about, you know, what product management actually is.
[00:25:41] Jen Morrison: Do you want to share with us, like the inspiration for the name of your company?
[00:25:45] Renee Matsalla: My gosh, that is the equivalent. It's totally like my name's this, your name is that let's combine it together. I did put a thought into Tacit Marketing and, because tacit knowledge, you know, that's what it is. It's the knowledge that just kind of gets somehow shared through osmosis.
and that's a lot of what we do at Tacit Edge. So I was Tacit Marketing and Christa had a business called Infinity Edge and we're like, well, wait a minute, actually. It kind of fits because it is that tacit knowledge that gives you the edge and that's what we're coaching. That's what we're working towards.
[00:26:26] Renee Matsalla: It's that, those experiences, that, those skills that you can't explain, but just makes you successful, like being yourself, like knowing what you're good at having a growth mindset, knowing what you want to work on, knowing how to ask for feedback, knowing how to lead and empower others. That's tacit knowledge. And that's what we're bringing.
[00:26:49] Christa Hill: And it's a deep, deep level of, of emotional intelligence that goes along with the foundation of the skills, these things together are literally the difference, in my opinion, between the best and the rest of product management, right. Anyone can take and we'll, we'll go into what product management is.
Cause I think that's really important, because I know there's a lot of weirdness and ambiguity around that, that subject. But we can define that in a second, but honestly, what made us wildly successful was the ability for us to stay with the problems that we were solving longer.
Then most folks, and to really use our emotional intelligence, to influence the room, to help us stay in those problems longer. It's not just us that needs to stay there. We have to, without having a direct reporting relationship to the majority of the folks that are responsible for our deliverables that make us successful.
And there's a reason why that has to stay that way. For sure. There's a lot of benefits, but to have that work for you, you need to have that deep, emotional intelligence to be persuasive, influential, and also inspiring that people want to get up and build the thing that you're building, because it's interesting and fun.
And they see the impact of something that they built out in the real world and they can see it live. They hear about it, and they're connected with the folks whose lives is changing. And that is really all encompassing of how we teach and the principles we teach.
[00:28:16] Jen Morrison: Oh, that's incredible. Okay. So let's dig into product management because this, this word I think gets, I don't want to say tossed around a lot, but it can get confused. I feel like it's easy to get mixed up about what it means. So what I'm actually going to do here is Christa. I'm going to have you share with the listeners right now. How would you, I want you to do it in, in a unique way? So how would you share what product management is with someone who is 10 years old?
[00:28:48] Christa Hill: So this is a great way to do this because I do have to explain to my family on a regular basis, what on earth I do, because of course they can hear me working all day. So it can sound like I'm working more with people problems than product problems.
So they get really confused as to what it is that I'm doing, but really how I explain it to my daughter, for instance, is I was able to write a book and I called it Violet's Virtual Cupcakes. And my daughter loved cupcakes. At that time she loved purple cause her name is violet. So I wrote a story that was about a little girl named Violet who wanted so badly for her birthday to have a cupcake.
That was a custom just for her had purple icing, have purple dough, had a gold wrapper, and then she wanted to do it all from her bedroom. So I walked her through a tiny story of what it would be like if she went on, she'd stole mummy's phone, without mommy knowing, and she opened up an app that looked like a cupcake on my phone.
Cause it just so happened that I had that. Okay. And she clicked on it and then it took her through all the steps of what kind of flavor she wanted, the kind of icing and then how it was going to arrive at her doorstep. We didn't worry about the money part cause that's too complicated. And it just showed up and how happy she was that she got her very own cupcake that afternoon.
And I said to her, I'm like, babe, this is in a nutshell, what mommy does. I figure out what you would want, what would make you happy? And what would solve a problem that you have? And we Renee and I would build something for you that would help solve that problem. And then after we built it, we would ask you how it made you feel and what you would have liked different about it.
And then we make those changes and we continue to build. She's like, oh, right. So essentially what I described to her was the build. Right. But she really got that and you know, a five to 10 year old, they're not really sure what happens behind the scenes. And so eventually expanded the story to include characters.
Once that she knew from the workplace, we have a beloved UX person, Bailey, that is a real, Violet, loves her. And so I described the work that Bailey would do in the app to make it so that it was really attractive and interesting to Violet, how she would pick the colors of the buttons and somewhere she would put them and then watch Violet use the app to see whether or not it was working the way Bailey thought Violet would use it.
And then I introduced her to another person who was a developer that she knew, right. And what the developer would be doing in the code. And then it's like a series of things that materialize these things on the screen. And so when I could relate it to people she knew and jobs that they had and how we intersected, then she saw how I fit into the big picture.
Right. And so that's essentially how I described it, but that also worked with my mom for the first time she got what I did too. And when I told the story, my mom was like, oh, so it doesn't matter. I think storytelling is such a huge part of our job. And when we have to figure out how to describe what we do, right?
We have to take a look at the person's experience, what they know of the world, what they're in, in our case, because we're heavily involved in technology, but product management is not just for tech is everywhere. How can I relate what I do to an experience that they have in their real life? And then I can use examples of how we would work together. And that's how I describe it.
[00:32:23] Jen Morrison: That's so cool. What an interesting way to have her connect with the work that you're doing and, and appreciate it and understand it and also probably get curious about it. thank you for that, Christa. Okay. Renee, how about someone? Who's like 30 or 40, like me. How would, how would you, how would you share it with me? How would you define it for me?
[00:32:44] Renee Matsalla: You know, it's a little, a little bit different because I find, you know, people who are in their thirties, forties, you know, they, we, a lot of us have been in the workplace. We work with products that we see every single day, but still it's like, I think about, well, what, what do you see every day that could have a product manager behind it. So for example, we're on zoom calls, you know, the effects that make my eyebrows look better or make my lips look like they have lipstick on, you know, as a product manager behind that, you know, Facebook it's even, you know, there's product managers, building our cars and thinking about what customers need, what they really want and how may we might be able to, to make that happen. So I start with kind of pointing out to people that there's a product manager behind every single product that you're using right now. And what that person is doing is they're identifying that customer need, and how we might be able to solve that, to make a business successful. And then we're articulating what success looks like, creating a vision around it and rallying a team to turn that vision into reality.
So what I like to tell people is it's the future of business and it's the future of entrepreneurship. That's what product management is and anyone can do it. Anyone can get involved in it. If you're creating a meetup, if you're creating a marketing campaign, that's meeting certain needs. If you're building a process, your a product manager.
[00:34:19] Christa Hill: And there's so many folks during COVID that, you know, experimented with entrepreneurship.
So we have an entire generation of folks that really went for it in this point in time, and now have identified that they could do it on their own. Right. And that I think when you meet that with opportunities, for education on how to refine those principles and to get strong on the foundational elements, instead of just winging it, because you don't have to.
Right. We, you don't have to make a ton of mistakes on the way to launching your own business. You can learn some basic things around risk reduction that focused on usability, feasibility, viability value, and morality of product builds, which is huge for us now, as we, we, we talk about what hit the news and product management over the past year.
And I think we can all say that there was a lot of stuff that came out about Facebook and Instagram and the impacts on children, you know, and this is a product management area. We have to be talking about these things. Right. And it's, I think that's probably what for the first time I saw on Crave, there was a show, I think it was called Scenes from a Marriage where the main character, she's a product manager.
And so first time I ever saw myself on TV, except I'm not her, obviously, because you know, single mom, but it was so interesting to see that now it's hitting the main screen. This is the opportunity awareness breeds interest. If we can meet that interest with education, how could we accelerate this competency, where we are.
[00:35:52] Jen Morrison: So on that note, I'm curious, because in conversations we've had previously, before today even, you both have mentioned, barriers or. The things that are getting in the way or creating unnecessary challenge for people to step into this work. Do you both want to share some thoughts around that barrier piece?
Because I think when it comes to the ecosystem here, that's a really important piece that I think we need to expand our awareness around and then take action to help address that. So, Renee, I'm going to start with you. what are your thoughts on the barrier piece?
[00:36:28] Renee Matsalla: Thank you so much for asking this question because in Alberta, you know, we're, we're still building our ecosystem and we don't have to put up the same barriers that maybe other ecosystems that are more mature have put up.
So right now, if you want to become a product manager in a lot of ecosystems, you have to get hired for the job and then you get get trained within the company. And that puts up a ton of barriers. So to learn these competencies, you have to first be hired and that doesn't, that just doesn't make sense.
You should be able to learn these, learn to be a product manager, learn entrepreneurship, learn these tactics just because you're interested. And what we've found is if you have to be hired first, we're hiring the same types of people. And we're overlooking the amazing folks that are out there in the ecosystem right now that actually have the experience we want.
So we think about new comers to Canada. They know, newcomers know how to thrive in ambiguity. They're entrepreneurial in nature, but they might not have the network to get hired as a product manager. What we're looking to do is to democratize the education. So people with those skills and ambiguity who know how to identify a problem and solve it, who are constantly solving problems, who are constantly looking for needs and adapting, they can get the skills and then they could get hired just because they know how to do this work and they are meant to be doing this work. So. That's what Christa and I, that's our that's our dream is that we democratize this. Anyone who's interested and has the skills can then learn the best practices and they can design our future because product management that we're designing the future.
[00:38:29] Christa Hill: Yeah. It's, you know, as Renee said it so beautifully, you know, democratizing the content, democratizing the access to education for funding, right. And getting access to funding. And understanding that, you know, you don't need to have to prove the competency to get the job without ever having to do the job. It seems like this massive chicken and egg scenario of that, the majority of us have been under for a really long time.
And it's impossible, you know, so with the growing demand in our economy, we can't afford to keep doing it this way. So either we are going to open it up and really let a bunch of folks into this field and help them along that way by also democratizing access to the network of folks that can get them these jobs that's really key. I mean, the exclusivity around this role is, is well-known and it's not going to serve us in the next phase of our economy and we have to let it go. So I think, you know, one of our biggest things that we're we're overcoming is, you know, when we look at the demands and the need within Alberta, for this role of what we could do with our economy, if we had more folks that time for exclusivity, it's over. And what are we going to do to support folks getting in? And so we can all thrive.
[00:39:44] Jen Morrison: You know, it's so interesting. I didn't realize when we had talked before that a lot of product managers actually only get the training in and around this area, once they're already within a company. And that fascinated me, I was like, I didn't realize there was this giant gap. accessibility or, opportunity for people to explore this work. that was so interesting.
[00:40:08] Renee Matsalla: And even a lot of the education that's out there kind of assumes you're already in the role. Where you need. And then to get the job, you need to have experience working with developers, working with UX folks.
And it's like, okay, well, how do, how is that possible? So we're just like, no, we're breaking this down, that's it? And I think Alberta can, and the ecosystem here has been more than supportive. You know, we get support from Alberta, innovates from SAIT, from InceptionU we're all partnered together. And I think that's, what's going to make Alberta completely different from our other, other ecosystems out there because we're building with this in mind. And we were going to tap into that talent that other ecosystems are, are not able to. So I'm, I'm so excited about where we're at in Alberta and what we're building together.
[00:41:00] Jen Morrison: Well, the mindset of not even just thinking about who's coming next, but almost like who's coming after that, you know, thinking ahead. And I think having that mindset so important. So I want to ask the, both of you let's flip this a bit. So there are companies and organizations that, you know, you've both said, product management is the future. This is what our future is going to be built from with of what is the whole for companies. I mean, what, what would they really benefit from by having product managers or like people with these skills on their teams. What's the pull for that for the organizations?
[00:41:39] Christa Hill: The drive towards value and increasing the business value, but more over having really rewarding work, coming to the teams. You know, we have a huge problem with churn, right? We have a lot of people resigning their roles and a lot of it has to do with a lack of connection to the work that they're doing in the difference they're making to the world.
What if you could have somebody come in and give everyone a compelling vision. We're collaboratively on a strategy, how we're going to make that a reality. Everybody co owning the process and owning it every step of the way. And then we get to see how it materialized that in the real world. This is satisfying work.
And people want that they crave it now more than ever. And I think that in and of itself from a retention standpoint and really understanding what connects folks to their work, and we see that disconnection now between the work that they're doing and, you know, the business vision, there's a lot of daylight between these two things, especially in the past two years when we've all been working from home and we're really quite siloed.
Right. So how do we kickstart that connection back into the workplace, reconnecting with our peers, learning how to work together again in person? And how can we have a compelling leadership strategy around the product that makes that really inspiring? And then by the way, a happy by-product of that is really valuable products that really matter to their customers.
So it's, it's an inherent, win-win all over the place, you know, but really it's some of the things that are standing in the way can be organizational structure of businesses. They've a lot of them have not known what a product management organization can look like. So they're trying to build it from the ground up with junior roles, instead of having a senior, helping to guide and build it as a competency within the organizations, we work with a lot of folks to build that.
Right. And to try and learn what that can look like for them, but ultimately at the end of the day, it's about making sure that your company is delivering value. You're growing, you're thriving, and everyone is really satisfied with the work that they're doing because it's high quality work.
[00:43:45] Renee Matsalla: And I also, I think Christa, you know, summarized it, it perfectly. And when we say senior too, it's not necessarily like senior, I've been doing product for X number of years. It's senior in mindset, senior in. Having the courage to ask questions, like, does this really bring value? Why are we building this? we've so many times in companies where we're building things, cause someone asked and, and that's it.
we don't know the real reason. So product is what brings the customer, the business, and then the empowered team. That's building the product together to really drive towards goals and that empowerment, that motivation. Brings the results that we want to see within business.
[00:44:29] Jen Morrison: At InceptionU, we do a lot of work, with our learners around unlearning, not just with our learners, even with ourselves.
I mean, I'm unlearning things every day. Unlearning things that I thought I understood things I thought about the world or how things worked. But from your perspective, ladies, what do you, what needs to be unlearned when it comes to, Product management or people that are either interested in getting into the field, or I guess people in companies, what do you think really needs to be unlearned?
[00:44:59] Christa Hill: Yeah. Yes. And then it's okay. That imposter syndrome is a thing for you in the beginning. I think too, there's we worked through a lot of fear of anxiety, fear of the unknown fear of ambiguity, with a lot of folks that are new to the field, right. And we have to just give those things a name and acknowledge that that's what's happening to you.
And then we walk it together. Right. And just knowing that staying in a place of not all knowing, but all learning is what we all strive for in this industry. So just unlearning that, being the expert in the room is not what we're valuing. What we're valuing are skills that can move us to the next decision, the next right decision together.
And that you're not leading through control and all, knowingness you're, you're leading through bringing context and information and learning more, and then we make the next decision together. So I think that's really what I think a lot of folks in the industry need to unlearn is that, that, that concept of all knowing, being all valuable and it's. It's a fact. It's not it at all.
[00:46:03] Jen Morrison: Renee, do you have anything that you want to add around the unlearning piece? I mean, I agree a hundred percent with Christa. Anything else that you want to add?
[00:46:09] Renee Matsalla: Oh, I think I just want to put a exclaimation point. It's get out there, try things. It's it's okay to try something and fail cause we're learning.
And so I just really want to emphasize that and if we can. Go back. You know, when w at the beginning we were talking about when we were kids, we're trying, being afraid. Well, looking for perfection, looking for this, but really it's fine. Be yourself, try new things and put yourself out there.
[00:46:40] Jen Morrison: Well, to the two of you, I'm so grateful for your time today. I mean, I wish we had two hours and, you know, we don't cause you both
[00:46:48] Christa Hill: We'll come back anytime.
[00:46:51] Jen Morrison: So, on that note, to, you know, the folks that are out there listening, hopefully feeling inspired or encouraged by what you shared today. How can they get in touch with you? Where do you recommend they go? And is there any resources or things that they could start to poke around with it? If this is something of interest to them?
[00:47:10] Christa Hill: You can find us on LinkedIn.
Also you can search, SAIT Product Management Applied Bootcamp on the SAIT website, where you can learn how to work with a team and build a real product so we can give you that experience in a safe environment so that you can experiment and grow. As you are trying to pivot into the ecosystem and learn the fundamentals.
I, I mean, honestly, we're we troll LinkedIn, like crazy. A lot of folks get in touch with us through there and even, you know, supporting and getting involved with demos of, of these great boot camps that are coming out. And what has blown my mind, especially the work at InceptionU, we are shaking up what it means to create developers, to create product managers, support the initiative.
Right, get involved. Let's create opportunities for these people together because as a collective, we're trying to shape what the future looks like. And so all opinions and all thoughts on that have all different backgrounds matter. So give us your voice, tell us what you think we need and what we should, what we haven't considered we'd love to incorporate it into the future of what we're building here.
[00:48:14] Jen Morrison: So to the two of you, I, again, I'm so grateful for your time. There's so many takeaways for me personally, in this conversation, and I am excited to actually check in with myself in a few areas that I think I need to just kind of touch on again, and I would encourage anybody that's listening, reach out to Christa and Renee, connect with them.
But also take action on the things that they have shared today. you know, we are building this together. They are clearly breaking barriers and, you know, creating space, for people to step into work that is meaningful and that matters. And, you know, I encourage all of us to really just pay attention, pay attention to the things that light you up that you're passionate about.
And be yourself. You don't have to fit in any box. So on that note, have a wonderful day. Everybody I'm grateful for your time and for your ears and, you know, check in with your passions and get to work. Have a great day.
Val McCarty Hosts Shannon Phillips and Tristan Ham
Listen to the episode here
[00:00:00] Val McCarty: Hello listeners out there. You're listening to a podcast that will be put onto the Alberta Rainforest channel. And today we're going to be talking to a couple of guys from a group called Unbounded Thinking. And, the name of the podcast, of course, is: "It's in our nature to innovate, so why aren't we nurturing it?"
And, I'm excited here, to introduce Shannon and Tristan. I'll just say a little bit about them and then let them, carry it from there. Shannon Phillips is an organizational behavioral specialist with a bachelor of biomedical science. Shannon is an expert in understanding human behavior and decision making.
And Tristan Tristan. Ham is a business development hype. Tristan has a background in human services, mainly in child protection. And he did this both in Australia and Canada. So would you guys like to say anything more to that?
[00:00:58] Tristan Ham: Well, like, I guess, now I just kind of want to have something along the lines of, I'm an expert in not understanding human behavior, just to like balance out Shannon
[00:01:07] Shannon Phillips: I like that Tristan had to mention that he's done his work in Australia as well, just to let the line up with my accent, right?
[00:01:14] Tristan Ham: Yeah. But, it's a, it's absolute pleasure to talk to you here, Val. we're, we're super excited about this topic about innovation and just, you know, what we can do to really kickstart it, kind of kick in the pants a little bit and, and look at it from different perspectives and really chat about, you know, the people behind it. Maybe not focus so much on the, the wondrous tech that often comes out of it.
[00:01:37] Shannon Phillips: And I, I think just to add to that, I think we need to crush that idea of innovation being the buzzword that it is right. We got to bring it back to what it actually is excited to talk about it.
[00:01:49] Val McCarty: Super, super. So in terms of bringing it back, let's just go back a little bit to when you were kids, what traits did you come to this world with? And, you know, tell us a little bit about the, what, why and where of your beginnings? I started out as a child,as many of us have. And, yeah, I guess, I actually, I had aspirations to get into a theater and into acting, kind of at an early stage and, and did a lot to do that actually went to college for it.
[00:02:16] Tristan Ham: But, you know, I guess kind of like a, a bit of a curiosity, a bit of a hunger for seeing how things work and, and, and if there's other ways that we can sort of look at it and approach it. And that kind of bled into, my work, getting into social work and working with child protection and vulnerable populations and things like that is, I was lucky enough to have the freedom from someone, a great mentor of mine.
To really try things to, to experiment, you know, to, to figure out different ways. What we call purposeful interventions, with the children we were working with in, in helping them kind of, contextualize their situation, maybe any diagnosis they had and things like that. So we had the freedom, I guess, to, to innovate even in that industry, which was pretty amazing.
Yeah, and then, found my way in kind of the tech world a little bit, and now I, I do, I work at startup Edmonton. I, I teach, entrepreneur, understanding and things like that, which is kind of where I met up with Shannon.
[00:03:12] Val McCarty: Awesome. And how about you, Shannon? What's your, what, why and where, if your beginnings?
[00:03:17] Shannon Phillips: Kind of like a reverse Simon Sinek book there with start with what and end with why, you can tell by the accent.
I, grew up in the, in the beautiful country that is Australia. I'm actually jumping on a plane tonight, to, to head back it's being nearly four years since I've been back. So I'm excited, but growing up out there, it was everything outdoors, everything, you know, trying, every, every sport trying everything you could, we're a very.
You know, entrepreneurial kind of country, you could label a country with that, right. Because we're always trying different things for traveling. So that, that came with the personality growing up, you know, I, Wanted to try every different kind of thing in, in school, which everyone did. Right. But I, I definitely fell into science.
I loved how the body worked, how the mind worked. I was just so excited to learn about that stuff that led from me for me to move into, like you said, in the introduction there, around biomedical science. So I spend my days very much thinking like a scientist now-a-days. I think that's important where we have a bunch of preachers and politicians and every different way, you know, when we look at different subjects, but I think it's super critical to think like a scientist, right?
Like always ask questions, always try and test things out. And that comes with, you know, as Tristan's talking about entrepreneurs and stuff like that. Yeah, that's pretty much me in a nutshell.
[00:04:39] Val McCarty: Awesome. So, what was it in the past that brought you guys together?
[00:04:44] Tristan Ham: Yeah, it's well actually, Shannon and our, we have a third co-founder there, Allie Wilson.
they both joined one of our programs at startup Edmonton to flesh out the idea of Unbounded Thinking and really explore how to make this, you know, from idea into, into business. And, they went through our. Courses. And we worked really closely together through a lot of coaching and things like that, throughout the, a number of programs.
[00:05:08] Tristan Ham: And, I just, I love what their intention is. I love what Unbounded was all about. And,about a year and a bit later, we started talking about maybe, getting myself involved a little more with unbounded thinking. And so, I've since joined the ranks and, helping really develop an and, and with some program delivery and with some outreach around getting the name of Unbounded out there and helping the people that Unbounded would really help the most.
[00:05:38] Shannon Phillips: It's a good moment to bring up our other co-founder Allie Wilson, right? Allie Allie's background is an engineer. So very much brings that structural perspective to what we do. And like I've already mentioned mine's more around the more of the human side of it. Right. I've focused mainly most of my time now.
Thinking about how we think. Right? So from that psychology perspective and that structural perspective that Allie brings, we realized that we needed a, an actual human being as part of our company. So that's what Tristen came in and, and fits very nicely.
[00:06:11] Val McCarty: Started off as a child. That's good. That's good. That's good. Well, I love it. So let's get down to business. Let's talk a little bit, about innovation. so here's a great question to start off our conversation. we all want to innovate. So what does that really mean?
[00:06:28] Tristan Ham: Yeah. That's and that's sort of the million dollar question Val. That's really good because innovation, I guess if we think about it, it's kind of a buzzword that's being, you know, zipping around the ecosystem for a while now, but what's interesting if you kind of unpack that if you talk to someone who's like, yes, innovation, my company is innovative.
Oh, I'm so innovative centric to get them to define it. All of a sudden, it, it comes to a bit of a halt because everybody has sort of their own thoughts on what that definition is. People know that it's necessary. People understand that it is a component for getting into the future for, finding ways to survive in this economy, in this ecosystem.
But to define it, to really figure out what it means is really interesting. I know what my definition is, and, and to me, in a lot of ways is looking at something in the world, somewhat like a person looking at something in the world and going that's not good enough, or that could be better, or nobody's doing this right now.
So, why not think of something to do in this space and it can be anything. I mean, typically I think we think about innovation in a very tech world. It's it's to do with like wondrous flying cars and hoverboards and all that kind of thing. But innovation is littered in every industry in every way. And so I love that idea.
I love that idea that someone, you know, in, in, especially in, in the world that I come from with, social work and things like that in child protection can think of a really innovative way to work with families. And that is true innovation because you're, you're trying something out, you see a system that could be better, you're gonna do something about it.
So that, that to me is where that, that fits.
[00:08:13] Shannon Phillips: Yeah. where, where to add, I mean, great, great insight there, Tristan. I think what always comes to mind when I, when I think about innovation, right outside of that buzzword, outside of that, I'm sick of talking about it kind of, you know, conversation. There's some good studies out there around it and not to, not to throw stats out there, but pretty much everyone you ask nowadays, do you innovate?
Everyone's going to say yes, of course we do. Right. But when you actually look underneath and ask the questions of how do you actually feel about, or how do you think your performance is when it comes to innovation? So, so small, like less than, you know, 5%, something like that. Right. So that's super important as to how we move forward.
When we look at innovation, it's, it's less about what, we're, what we're trying to innovate. It needs to be more about how we're innovating. We need to improve how we innovate. That's what we're all about, but you know, the, the definition side of things is for me, you know, I go back to that biological thought of it, right?
In terms of the, the, the neuroscience behind how we think and how we make decisions and that. And we are born to innovate. We are just born to try and improve what we do. And when you look back in history, it's so cool to look at that, that progress. Right. And I think when you look at innovation with that kind of lens, in terms of it, we're just, we're just driven as humans to do it.
Companies need to take advantage of that. I mean, you know, it's in the title today. We need to learn how to nurture that. And I think that comes from really first understanding what your definition is like, the question you asked Val and then being able to nurture it, whatever that looks like. But yeah, we can talk more about that as we go on.
[00:09:52] Val McCarty: For sure. For sure. So in terms of, of moving ahead and looking through a lens, there's a, a buzzword everyone's talking about that, we're about to enter the fifth industrial revolution. are we ready for it? Do you want to talk a little bit on that concept?
[00:10:08] Tristan Ham: Yeah, absolutely. And jump in here anytime you want there, Shannon. You know, we we've got these, we've actually had about four industrial revolutions so far. and typically they've been about a hundred years apart and they're marked by technological milestones, you know, digitization or mechanization automation, stuff like that. So you're right. We're on the cusp of this fifth revolution, which is personalization, which is something that focuses on the individual more.
Which is really fascinating because that's, that's gonna be something that's gonna be probably a little harder to recognize in the same way you could, the steam engine or the diesel engine or something like that. But what's cool about that is that it's now it's sort of focusing on that fostering, that innovative person, that creative person, and, and I guess it leans itself to, kind of our title of this podcast, how do we nurture it? Right. And, and so this, this fifth revolution is going to be looking at, how, how people can, can be supported, how people can bring, new ways of thinking new ways of doing things and how we can celebrate those individuals and really use them as that when the six revolution comes along, which I'm sure is like months after the fifth revolution. What do you think Shannon?
[00:11:30] Shannon Phillips: It's the rate of change that is so exciting on one hand, but damn scary on the other hand, right? Because how are we going to keep up with this rate of change? That's going on? You know, I love what you said Tristan and I wanted to dig in, you know, the, the current revolution that we're in, right. We're kind of scratching on the surface of the fifth, but the fourth was all about getting connected, right? With wifi internet, smart phones, social media, all of those in that bubble have just allowed us to share information, so are much better than we've ever been able to do before.
I mean, th the study we talk about is, you know, medical knowledge, right back in the fifties, it was predicted they take what 50 years I'll get the numbers wrong, but predicted to take 50 years for that knowledge to double nowadays, it's with, it's less than a, I think around a hundred days. So medical students are going to school, you know, one year, and then before they finish.
They're having to relearn what they, what they once learned. Right. And you know, that the funny part of that is we have web MD in our hands now, and we kind of look to our phones to help diagnose what's going on rather than trust that one profession that, you know, we've had so much faith in for hundreds of years.
And now all of a sudden we're going, well, wait a minute. I don't think I have that. So it's, it's so cool to dig into this rate of change going on that the fourth revolution has allowed us to, to now get to, and yeah, th this dance with humans and machines that are about to come up with this next revolution.
It's a really good question for, for all organizations to ask you, how are we preparing for it? Right. Do we have the right skills for it? Are we going to have the right structure for it, but innovation, you know, just needs to be looked at now as more of a survival tactic and less of a buzzword. So yeah, I'll move innovation from under the buzzword column to now survival tactic, because that's how you've got to look at it going forward.
[00:13:27] Val McCarty: Awesome. Awesome. So, you know, with, which leads us to our next question. So creative celebration at the rate of change, which is what we've mentioned. So technology has got us here, but it's our innate ability to want to innovate that drives us. So how can we harness that innate drive?
[00:13:50] Tristan Ham: Yeah. And that's a really good question and not to get into sort of Unbounded sort of methodology too much, but that's, that's our focus.
That's actually, what we really focus on is that individual, whether that be a leader, someone who is working maybe frontline, boots on the ground or whomever. We want to explore. We want to create structure around innovation in a way that you can now. Oh, wow. How can we support, encourage, and really maybe incentivize, how can we get the best out of the people that work for say an individual business so that they are thinking about the future and what could happen.
And to callback what Shannon was saying about survival skill. It really is, you know, for businesses to survive nowadays, there is a crap ton of stuff happening in the world. I won't go into, obviously I think everybody knows about it anyway, but there's so much happening right now that affects everything. And, you know, we see businesses here in Edmonton and Calgary, you know, that are struggling, clawing at the precipice to survive and they need, they need to change. They have to do things. They have to do things differently because doing the things the same way that you did previously, ain't gonna cut it no more. Because it's just not going to get them to that fifth revolution or to compete with other companies that are like, we're going to throw our whole traditional thinking out the window.
We're going to embrace the ways that we have to do business now and see if there's opportunities there. And then what we're going to do, the best companies, what they do is they go to help us get there, we're going to look internally and see if we can create ways to get our staff, our employees, the person pushing the broom around the floor to weigh in, to give us what they think would be important and beyond that. How do we support that person to actually see, to actually test, to actually make it a reality?
So that's really what it's all about is figuring out how can we help, I guess, companies discover ways that they can get their employees to buy in and get excited about making change for their own company in some amazing way.
[00:16:04] Val McCarty: Being heard by an employee is huge. There's probably employees out there and who's ever listening in they're companies that are just dying to be heard.
Do you want to add a little bit more of what Tristan was saying? Shannon?
[00:16:17] Shannon Phillips: Yeah, for sure. I mean Tristan and I talk about this stuff so much and we riff off each other, you know, he'll say one thing and then there'll be another discussion and it'll go that way. Yeah. You said change, Tristan, and I think that is super important for everyone, you know, thinking and talking about innovation.
That's what innovation is. It's being able to manage and nurture change. Because, yeah, if you want to do something new, you got to work out what that looks like within your company, right? And then you need to be able to manage that, create those new behaviors and so forth and so forth. So organizational change, organizational change management is a, is a huge part of what innovation needs to be.
I, I heard you talk about, you know, the current state, Tristan, in, in terms of how businesses struggle. That, that dirty C-word, which I'm going to say COVID so your mind doesn't wander, but not to talk about it, but it did bring an interesting, I would say perspective on businesses that struggle. So now we're looking at businesses that have to close that door doors because they're living week to week.
[00:17:21] Shannon Phillips: And, you know, it's a very, that's a very complex problem, but it did shine a little bit, of light on, you know, the need to be able to manage that change or, you know, prepare for, for things that you don't usually expect. Yeah, we can't just put a, put a lens of saying, well, here's an easy fix for that, but it did allow us to look into that a little bit further.
And I think it did bring more urgency to what we're talking about at, at at least anyway. and, and just one thing to, one other thing to add, you know, to really dig into that idea of a, supporting ideas from employees. You know, a story from my past career, which I call the milk story is, you know, we, we started a COVID campaign around, trying to collect ideas to help us adapt to COVID.
We've got the innovation software, we get the teams together. We're set, right. We're innovative. But I remember this employee come to the committee and said, Hey, I've got an idea to, improve the, or decrease the wastage of milk in the fridge, in the kitchens. That's not a COVID idea. No, no, thanks. But thanks for coming, but no. Just the thought of that moment, you know, of, of dismissing that idea and you know, nothing negative. Right. But we were just so focused on the COVID part of it. It had to stand back and realize that we just killed that person's kind of want, or, you know, motivation to want to share ideas. Right? So that's, that's where we, how we started this conversation that it's all about just nurturing innovation, no matter what you do, right?
Whether you're cleaning toilets or whether it's being engineering stuff, whatever it is. Innovation is about nurturing every person's ideas because that's what a, from the inside out. That's how you have to nurture it. And then build that structure around that, to, to support it.
[00:19:07] Val McCarty: And that leads to our next question. It was all about structure. So, yeah, most trained businesses don't or traditional businesses, sorry. Don't know how to innovate. they approach it with little to no structure or the right skills, preventing them from leveraging their greatest asset, which is the staff. And, and even, even this idea of the milk story with, with ideas, one idea leads to another idea which leads to another idea, which leads to another idea and on and on you go. So let's talk a little bit about structure.
[00:19:36] Tristan Ham: Yeah, absolutely. It's, it's tough. I think that people will struggle to think, how am I going to build a pathway, a real blueprint for people to then follow and be able to,contribute in productive ways towards innovation. It's a very difficult thing I think, to conceptualize.
Right. And so I think people scramble, they, they look for the latest, greatest maybe tool or, or method or consultant and think, okay, this person's going to put us on a great path and I'm not saying that their methods or their structures aren't great. There probably are. But I think what's missing in that equation is then figuring out, okay, are we actually paying attention to everybody who was affected by this? Are we always first paying attention to what their capabilities are? What their barriers are, what their strengths are, what they're not so great at. Because to thrust people into a situation where maybe they don't know how to contribute or what they best can contribute, why knowing what they are best at.
I think you're, sort of, setting herself up for failure. And so forcing people into a cookie cutter shape of a structure, I think could be just as detrimental as having a freeform, no plan whatsoever. So there needs to be guideposts. There needs to be a north star for people to be able to, to know what is expected of them, what they're able to contribute and know that there'll be safe and supported within that.
And then also, how are we going to take those great ideas, prioritize them and then find out how to go forward with them, what supports are necessary and with the buy-in of not just the employee, but leadership in that as well. So structure is needed to a degree, you know, there is, there's great, you know, bongo playin free form any idea is great. You know, that's awesome. I love that. That's my bread and butter, but. At some point, you need to find a way to progress that further and to know how to do that. I think gives people, confidence, gives them the assurance. And so that's again, that's one of the things we do is, is find out what kind of actual structure can work for that company.
But people need it. I, I think they need to know where the guard rails are otherwise. Yeah. You're likely going to drive off that cliff. Possibly, maybe not as dramatic.
[00:22:04] Shannon Phillips: Yeah. I would put those goalposts in a terminology of innovation management. This is really what we dig into is, you know, a human centered approach to innovation management.
And, and usually when you talk about innovation and management, yet you put those two words together. It, yeah. People get scared off you. Can't systemize innovation. You can't, you know, systemized creativity. Yes. You can. You need to, I mean, it's exactly like any other operating system that you have, whether it's quality or safety, risk, anything like that, when you can build something into a system, then you start to improve its efficiency.
Right. And, and I get this some irony there and innovation being somewhat separate to how we do operations. Yes, 100%, but when you think about building innovation as a system, then you start getting the results that you're looking for. You start. Reduce that risk that everyone's scared of. When they think about innovation, it brings more confidence because now you're your C suite are kind of getting consistent results with it, right.
Rather than think, oh, you know, how much is that going to cost it? Now that I know what to expect. So very much you can bring that system to innovation and we need to, and I think that's, what's going to allow organizations to deal with this rate of change that we're talking about is that they've got a mini innovation engine and they're just chugging along chugging along.
And then they start to build that consistent way of thinking into the company where they're always trying to improve. And so that on one hand, I think is super important. And then just to add to that is, you know, we're talking about skills, as well. To me, innovation is all about bringing that innovation management, story, is all about bringing that structure and the skills.
And I think it's important to mention that there's new skills that are going to be needed with, you know, the rate of change that's coming. The world economic forum talks about the, you know, the skills report of 2025 and the top 10 of them are all around, you know, critical thinking innovation, problem solving, working together.
In influence all that kind of really good stuff that we haven't really focused too much on. I think that's super important for organizations to think of as well, because you can't just come in, bring in innovation software and say, you know, we're an innovative company. No, no. And you can't even bring in a management system and say, it's going to work.
You need to bring. Both the structure and the skills for you for a, I would say a system that's going to be efficient and effective, System management that basically takes innovation. Like the very first question from the buzzword to a value add. Do you know what I mean to something that's actually going to appear on, on your, your bottom line?
[00:24:47] Val McCarty: That's fantastic. So we're, we're up to about a half hour now. Is, is there anything that you guys would like to add before we, let these good listeners know where they can reach you?
[00:24:58] Tristan Ham: Awesome. Yeah, that was something that popped in my head while Shannon was talking. which was interesting is, is there's a mindset as well.
And we can, we'll talk about this in another,another podcast Val, cause cause this one could fill another half hour easy is just, acceptance of failure and sort of demystifying de criminalizing failure. Right because innovation you're experimenting. You're trying it out. You're seeing, but with that comes a lot of failed experiments, failed tests, and that's a bit of a mindset.
That's hard for people to get their heads around too, is that people have great ideas, but you got to sort of like. Yeah, things got to go wrong before you figure out how it goes. Right? So giving space for that to happen, giving permission for that to happen is a heck of a thing. Like that's a, that's a whole nother mindset that we want people to start to think about as well.
Is that success doesn't come off the one, it comes off the back of the experiments that didn't work so great. And you take that learning, you know, bogged down with the emotional impact of, oh, I failed it's oh, what can I learn from this? What can I get from this? How can I drive this forward? But that, yeah. Anyway, that just kind of popped into my head as, as Shannon was talking.
[00:26:07] Shannon Phillips: Yeah, I guess I was, not that anyone cares, but I was getting a hair cut yesterday, trying to look pretty for my, for my vacation coming up today. And, and we were talking about. You know, the barber industry, whatever that is, you know, hair styling and that, and talking about how stagnant it is, you know, you rent a chair in a shop and then your early on the progression is to, to open up your own shop.
And the margins are very small and if you rent a chair, you're giving 50% away. Don't quote me on the numbers. But as we started to talk, it was like, well, but what else could you do? What other revenue streams could you look at? You know, what's next for, for the barber world, right? How could you think differently about him and, oh, his brain went went, everywhere, and it was one of the best chats I've ever had.
And I kind of bring that up as a bit of a segway of something we're trying, which I think is super cool. Is it's something we're calling what's next, you know, it kind of innovation, forecasting to counter our terrible ability to be able to predict the future, you know, let let's talk about 1, 2, 3, 400 si-fi predictions, but yeah, trying to just spend some time where we're not really that comfortable, right.
We love, you know, w. We know how to talk about problems. We love coming up with ideas, but trying to think about what those ideas would look like or what would build from those ideas. We spend very little time. So that's something we're doing at Unbound, and it's really focusing on what's next for different industries, for different companies, something we're super excited to kind of bubble all this up to what we're talking about and have something to draw out that discussion anyway.
[00:27:44] Val McCarty: Fantastic. So now we have two future podcasts. We can do that whole, I'm going to use an old Stephen Covey term here, that paradigm shift about failure switching the old thought around and then innovation forecasting. So super that's what's coming up next.
So for our listeners that have been listening, thank you for sticking with us. And, if you want to get a hold of these two chaps here, go to unboundedthinking.com and you will find them an Ali and definitely click that contact button and you will get them.
So anything before we sign off guys, this has been a fantastic talk. Thank you so much.
[00:28:22] Tristan Ham: Yeah, always great to talk to you, Val. And, it's something we could talk forever about. So anytime, anytime.
[00:28:28] Shannon Phillips: Thank you so much.
[00:28:29] Val McCarty: Alrighty. So I will, sign off here guys. Thank you so much again, and thanks for our podcast listeners. And we'll catch you on the next one.
Al Del Degan Hosts Tony Grimes
Listen to the Podcast episode here!
[00:00:00] Al Del Degan: All right, everybody. Welcome to the show. My special guest today is Tony Grimes. Tony, thanks for joining me.
[00:00:05] Tony Grimes: My pleasure.
[00:00:38] Tony Grimes: How far back?
[00:00:42] Al Del Degan: Probably after teething, at least.
well, if we start at the beginning, I guess a born and raised Albertain, but mostly in Brooks. So I grew up in Brooks. That's what I consider my hometown. And. I don't know, actually, it's kind of interesting. I've been taking care of my mom and we did a kind of a series of recordings, not really a podcast, but just getting her stories on the record and everything.
[00:01:05] Tony Grimes: And she been telling me like how we actually ended up out here because my reserve is in Ontario and I don't really have a lot of contact with my family. And it turns out like she really didn't like the reserve. So she moved out here when she was really, really young and met my dad out here and it kind of just ended up, we ended up in Brooks cause my dad had a job teaching.
So I guess now I'm a fourth generation teacher, third generation teacher now. And he was teaching in Tilley when they found out about me. And it was like, well, this is, this is where we're going to stay for it. And that's kind of where I started. So, Brooks kind of has a weird reputation now, but, that was, it's mostly like industry-related and immigration related and everything, but that happened after I left and yeah, I grew up, in, in Brooks, loved it and you know, not a whole heck of a lot, to talk about there, you know, you grow up, you have run into friends at a really great group of five friends that we kind of helped each other out, protected each other, in junior high high school. And I was, you know, just middle of the road, popularity. Like everybody just kind of like ignored me. So I kind of just floated through and played mostly basketball and Marvel superheroes, a little Warhammer, 40 K.
So I was more on the nerd side for sure. Like my whole life and graduated, took a year off and got the best job I ever had, which is going to surprise a lot of people. I worked at the meat packing plant at Lakeside and on the cleanup crew. And yeah, that was just, you know, graduate high school. the idea was always to go to university eventually, but you know what, I'm going to take a year off.
And it was just this thing that I did. And a buddy of mine was working there. So I applied, got onto the cleanup crew and probably all of my best stories and all my best anecdotes come from that job, because it's just the weirdest thing. The things that you do and meatpacking plant have like no relation to the real world.
You talk about racing forklifts in the cooler and you have high pressure hoses for water fights and you know, all the gross stuff too, which never really bothered me. And I did that for about a year and the. You know, almost stayed. I got to admit, I, they offered me, they wanted me to be a manager and everything, and I really enjoyed it, but just something in the back of my head just told me that wasn't the right direction for me.
so luckily for me, I'm bill 31 status Indian. So we get, you know, quote unquote free education. So back then you would get a free bachelor's, a master's and a PhD. And I took advantage of that. So I thought my mom did all of this, but, when we were interviewing, she told me that I was the one who actually did all of that.
[00:04:02] Tony Grimes: She didn't even know what my plans were. And when I think back, I don't even know if I applied for any other university than the U of C. But regardless I got in and I moved up here and the plan was for me to move in with my dad cause he was living up here at that time. And I think that was the reason why I only applied to U of C.
Cause I just, you know, wanted to live with him for awhile. My parents had split up. He'd moved away, like when I was five or something like that. He was at the summer dad. Pretty awesome dad, a pretty crazy dude. He was a birthday clown, a Santa Claus, he did a lot of community theater and he worked in group homes, for his, what he called his backup career.
Cause when you're a male, you can work in group homes and work with violent clients and stuff. And you've always got a job. Right. So, he was doing that when I moved up, I was gonna move in with him, but, you know, things didn't work out, I just got my own place. And yeah, I just kind of bounced around.
Did my, did my time, so to speak at the, at the U of C and that's where, you know, my whole life just kind of, kind of unfolded, I guess I didn't really know what was, what was going to be happening, but, I graduated in 94, like at a high school, came into university in 95 and I didn't really know the difference between RAM and a hard drive back then.
[00:05:25] Al Del Degan: Well, did you know you were going to get into something technical or did you fall into that?
[00:05:30] Tony Grimes: My goal was to actually go to med school. So I knew I wanted to do something in science and one of the really great things about having your education paid for. And I had a living allowance and they paid for my books.
They did all of that. And even if I got a job, they didn't care. So when I got a job, I still got to keep all that money, plus my living allowance. So I approached university a lot differently than everybody else. I didn't really have a plan. I was just roaming. So I took a lot of. Well, at the end of it, I ended up with two minors because of all of the extra courses I took and I just kind of roamed, but I had, I always had this idea, you know, I wanted to go for status.
I wanted to go for the money and everything, and, went into biology. I was looking at the different types of careers that I could do in science. And after research, you know, chemistry was my thing. I loved chemistry, but there's no jobs in chemistry unless you go into the oil and gas industry or pharmaceuticals.
So I decided, you know what, let's try this med school thing. So I was in biochemistry and just did, you know, the genetics and, you know, I, I managed to get out of the math. I only had to do calculus. I, I managed to Dodge all of the English classes and just did pure science all the way through. And about two or three years into my degree, I, I was a photographer at that point.
And I just ran into somebody on a protest March who was also a photographer. And he said, you know what, you're going to university, just go to go to the, your newspaper and become a photographer. They'll give you all the film that you want and they'll give you assignments and you can go off and, and, you know, just work on your craft.
And I was like, awesome. So as soon as I got back from that, I went to The Gauntlet and became a photographer for the gauntlet. And that was my introduction into computers. Like I took computer 20 in high school. You know, I wrote some basic, but it wasn't really, you know, computers never really clicked for me.
I didn't really get it. And also it was pre-internet back then. So, or pre-web, and I just basically got really into the photography and scanning my negatives and learning Photoshop and all of that became a photo editor and did my year. And at that point, Like being an editor is pretty sweet at The Gauntlet.
Cause you get, you got the key to the office, which is basically the biggest locker on campus. Right. So I wanted to keep that, but I didn't want to do photo editor again. So my co-ed, Mike, we both, we both felt the same way. And we decided, okay, well, I can't write, I'm not a good writer, so I can't do news editor or anything like that.
And I kind of looked over and there's these three guys who are always, came in after production night and they were the web editors and they would, put everything online and I just kind of went over to them and just said, this is actually Tyler Shandro actually was the, was one of the editors. So he actually taught me a lot of web. And he just kind of told me, well, yeah, we just, you know, take the newspaper in Pagemaker, and we copy and paste it into Adobe Go Live, and then we FTP it up to the server and then we're done. So it was all static, HTML, there's no database, no anything. And I was like, you know what? I, I think I could do that.
So me and Mike, we, we ran for web editor and we, we won and that was my introduction into web development and fell in love with it right out of the, get-go got my first job, off the U of C job board. And, worked for PPDM the Public Petroleum Data Model Association. And as a webmaster, that's what we, that's what they called webmaster a moniker.
Yeah. Cause they didn't really know what Web was so well, you're the master of it. So we'll just call you that. And it was 16 bucks an hour, which is twice what I was making it at the meat packing plant, which I thought was already like really good, eight bucks an hour back then. And I. You know, if, if it was, if it was just that I probably would still do the, the med school thing, but in my early twenties, my arches fell cause I had flat feet and that was a big life changing thing for me.
Like I had to give up running and a bunch of other stuff. And then I realized, you know, med school is a lot of standing up, you know, eight, 12 hours a day. So I don't think I can do that. So that was the big push I decided to go down the web dev track. At that point. I'm not sure if I wanted to do that for a living, but it kinda got to the point where, you know, I just got this one job with PPDM and from there it was a trade association so.
The way you probably know how boards work. You know, everybody kind of works on different boards, word gets out people. people heard about me. So all of my clients, I just got calls from, you know, one client after another, and I was doing it part-time with, with PPDM at school. But then when I, once I graduated, I took a graveyard shift at a, at a autistic, home for, for children.
And I just did graveyard. So I had my little iBook and this is back when they didn't have wifi. So I hacked my flip phone for 15 megs of data a month. And basically just kind of learned how to build a web server off of my laptop. Cause there wasn't a connection and everything, and I kind of built my company.
I just did that for about a year after I graduated and I ended up with a degree in environmental biology, minor and chem, a minor in psych. and it was just, just a culmination of all the different courses that I took. Got that degree. Never did anything with it. went straight into the graveyard shift and worked on, on my business and from PPDM I got CAPLA, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Land Administrators from there, I got CAPL, Association of Landmen, PODS, Pipeline Open Data S ociety, IRWA. So all the, all the petroleum trade organizations kind of hired me as their web developer. And I became just the guy that built event registration stuff, how to do membership renewals. And this was all PHP back then. I worked for the Movie Poster Shop, and, and my partner there, he's the one who taught me how to code. So that was when I made the jump from HTML, CSS, just static to, going from Pearl to PHP and. Loved it loved it, loved it a lot.
And I really quickly like maybe two or three years down the road. I, you know how it goes. You, you gradually get enough clients that you can work full time, but then the feast or famine cycle kind of crushes you at the top and starves you at the bottom. So I just got more and more clients and it got to the point where I had to hire help and I hired my first engineer right out of a university out of the U of C. And we worked together, we both coded, and this was when we were building the CAPL, system, which was all like, just a homegrown event, registration, membership, renewals, all of that. And right around halfway through that project, this was my first big project.
They, they signed a contract for $30,000. It was just, oh, okay. I can quit. So I quit my job. We did that. And about halfway through that, that project, at some point I was kind of like looking at Andrew's code and I was looking at my code and he's the engineer. So his code was way nicer. And he was actually working harder to work around the way that I was doing it.
It was like you know what Andrew, like, let's hire another developer. You handle that stuff. I'll just handle the company. And this was probably around 2004, 2005, and that was kind of the start of me just being that the business owner and I, I did less and less coding. I got to admit and, I loved it. I loved it a lot, but you know, just for the good of the company, the good of the project, I just stepped aside because, you know, I was book learned.
I learned from the PHP cookbook. I didn't have any idea what a framework was. Or a design patterns or any of that stuff that Andrew had. So I gave him the wheel of the development side of it and it worked really well because I was the client liaison. I managed the projects, I scoped everything out and, I was pretty good at that.
And Andrew and the other devs, they didn't like dealing with clients as, as devs. usually don't so it was really nice, you know, I just kind of managed everything, did that for. Basically all of my career and, and the, the whole thing, I think at my peak, we had maybe four or five full-time devs. I think we had a PPDM,Trudy over at PPDM.
She was my first mentor. She kind of showed me the ropes, how to write a contract, how to kind of cover your butt. most importantly, how to ask for money, like how to structure payments and everything, and make sure that, you know, at the bottom of your email, like this is not a fixed quote. You know, I'm going to bill hourly, invoice, monthly, all of that and loved it a lot until I got really scared.
What was it? It was, I lost one of my clients to IRM, which was a local. I guess a SAS, a software as a platform, kind of thing for memberships, renewals, and events and all the things that I did, but they had a platform where they only had to pay like $2000 a month or $3000 a month or something. And I lost this contract that I was negotiating, which would have been like an $80,000 contract.
And they went with these other guys and scared the living poop out of me. Right, like, wow. And the worst part was that I was thinking through and like, you know what, I would've done the same thing. Like why would they spend 80 K on custom software when they could just go with somebody else and just go piecemeal?
So that was when I made a pivot into a more conventional software. and we turned into a WordPress shop and I didn't know it then, but that was the beginning of the end for me. I just kinda, I lost a lot of the, you know, all the fun was out of it. We're really, we're not coding a lot. There's not a lot of work for custom plugins, that kind of stuff.
So the, the whole, like right around at that point, that's when I started Pixels. And that was enough for me to enough distraction to kind of go into other things. We got you, we got work out of it, but. You know, there's this kind of period in time where I was very distracted, you know, I wasn't quite into what the company was doing.
It was making money, it was keeping people fed and everything like my devs and everything, but really, you know, Pixels really kind of took over. I went through this whole kind of phase where all I could think about was events. So, Did a lot of meetups. So we did Pixels, which was the one I'm most well-known for, but I also did a board game meetup.
So we had that going. It was a, a sellers meetup, Gotwood would field game league. And I started a podcast meetup. I did, a few and I just kinda got more and more into the. Public speaking kind of thing, bringing, my mics to everywhere and hosting people in a room and everything. And though those are back in the days when Melrose was still around and, and basically everybody had their events down on that, on that second floor and all, all this time that I'm kind of going off on my own little Trek, You know, the business is doing less and less well every year. And I, if I had to do it over again, I probably would have shut down the company sooner than I did, but you know what, all my devs, I made sure that they all landed softly. we gradually went from four devs down to three devs down to two, and then after a while it was just me and Andrew and then he left and then I brought on another business partner. And, but by then it was too late. Like I was, I was just had a, not into it, but luckily for me, when, just from the, the whole Pixels thing, you meet a lot of people. I got to be known as the person who knows people, which really came in handy. And I met, Dan Stevenson who was, one of the instructors over at SAIT.
And even before this, I was already down the road. because that's basically what I did for my company is I would spin people up like Andrew, he was a right out of school. He knew what he was doing and, brought on other devs who had already had coding experience and they were devs, but at some point I began hiring straight out of, out of SAIT.
So I would, take practicum students and I would train them up and I would teach them how I would do things and, and, and that kind of thing. I really enjoyed it. And teaching had always been in the back of my head because of my dad. He's the one who convinced me not to go into traditional, teaching.
he just said that the paperwork takes all the fun out of it. And, so I, you know, I took his word for it and I just kind of went my own route, but it was always in the back of my mind. And I just kind of by then, by the time I met Dan. I had already hired like maybe going through two or three rounds of practicum students and I really enjoyed it.
[00:19:09] Tony Grimes: So basically I would bring them on at a really low rate. I would train them up to the point where, you know, they're making $40, $50 bucks an hour. And then because I knew, I think subconsciously that, you know, this isn't the place for you. I'm not going to become a billionaire, you know, doing this. I don't, I don't know how much longer I'm going to be doing it.
So I just made sure that they landed softly when they got bored of it, or if I completely encourage them to look for other positions and keep their eyes open. So. There's actually, a couple of them are working for EvansHunt. Now, Andrew moved up to Victoria and he's also working for, Doug, who was my business partner at the time.
So everyone is actually doing really well. And, you know, after a while I, I met Dan and he introduced me to the whole like, official teaching kind of thing. And you know, the rest is history now I'm, you know, I'm just at SAIT now. I'm, I'm also working with contractors. So that's where I met you. Well, actually, I don't can't remember where I met you.
I met you at a, a definitely at a, lunch without lunch. And somebody told me they like gripped me by the shoulders. And they said, you have to meet Al. And, and he just pointed, she just pointed like over there in the corner and I like, you know, shook your hand and everything. And I don't think we actually spoke for another year after that.
[00:20:28] Al Del Degan: I do remember attending Pixels and Pints though. I do remember attending that and seeing how successful and big it was, like the Pixels and Pints attendees, they love you. And they love that event. It just felt like he joined into somebody's group of friends only, there was like tons of them.
[00:20:48] Tony Grimes: Yeah. That was the funnest part about running events, is they do all the work for you. Your job is to create the room, you know, set the guidelines are not, you know, explicit. We don't have rules of like, this has to be a safe space. You just make it a safe space by having it be a safe space, right? And that was one of the things that I'm fairly good at is the talking and the charisma and all of that, so that was a lot of fun. It was just kind of figuring out how do I set up the environment so that this group of people can be at their best. And so there's a lot of tips I picked up over the years. cause we started, see we're in the 12th or 13th year now, you know, we started in Vicious Circle, which was just on first street and 11th avenue.
And we started with bench tables because, there was only maybe 12 to 15 people that showed up every, every, And that was a trick every month without fail. You always do it every month. You have to have that repetition. And that's one of the secrets there is that, that inner circle that, that atmosphere doesn't come out from nowhere.
It doesn't come out of a vacuum. You have to have that, that rhythm, that heartbeat every month there they're coming in and they're gradually getting to know each other and that builds trust. So at the core of trust is, is repetition in some way. And. The the other half of it is the, is picking a good room, having, having a good, nice room to, to have people interact in.
And at the beginning, when we only had 15 people a month, you know, had no street cred. the, the bars are always great, but you know, we're just one of many people. This is at the heyday of Meetup. So they would assign us a bench table, this big, huge, long stand-up tables. And it took, it didn't take very long for me to realize that that that's not a good way to organize an event because it's, it's a crap shoot.
You roll the dice. When you sit down on whether or not you're going to be having a good time, because you're with those people the entire night, you know what, if you sit next to somebody who's a crumb bum or something. So we, we did that for a while and. After Vicious Circle, I moved over to The District, which is where, Last Best is right now.
And again, they put us in bench tables all the time and we didn't really key into this whole thing until that venue. I began looking for other venues. Okay. Let's find a place that doesn't have bench tables. And we went to the Hop and Brew and that's when we really hit our stride because I learned about edges.
You know, the, the whole, how to design an environment. You have short tables, you have tall tables, you have stand up areas and you make it so that they have to mingle. So you take away chairs and stuff like that. And I think that was a big part of it was that, that camaraderie that everyone got by the time we got to Hop and Brew, we had a few people who were there like for two years, and then we just gradually built it up, you know, went from 15, 20 to 20 to 30 and.
You know, I think our record is the 10th birthday that we had. We had like over 200 and yeah. And the secret was really just the, the, the format. Cause I, I'm not one of those detail oriented people, the, the, with the checklists every day and, and, you know, I drop balls all over the place. They're there, they cover my life.
And I knew that going in that if I, like, I knew it had to be monthly, but I also knew me. If I have to find a speaker or some kind of agenda item that I have to think about every month, it's not going to happen. So Cody Torgerson who was doing Green Drinks, he helped me out. I kind of went to him and said, okay, I want to kind of do this thing.
I kind of like how Green Drinks does it. and he gave me the kind of pointers of like, like basically the entire format of Pixels is, is cause of Cody. and he said like, start at five. And that way people can come there straight to work, go late, go till nine or 10. That way people can go home and get their dinner and then come back and don't do any agendas like there that you can like under the Green Drinks format, you can have a max of 15 minutes for, for announcements.
And that was it. And the rest is history. Like Meetup kept me honest. It gave me that date, every month and I had to do it. And after a while, all it was was just me, you know, booking the room and just doing the hosting, just having the name tags available and that kind of stuff. And then, yeah, and then at some point we started doing announcements and that's where the call for talent came in, which I totally stole from Demo Camp.
They were doing that and was like, yeah, I'm going to do that too. I don't know if they called it The Call for Talent. I think, yeah, maybe they did. Maybe they didn't, I don't know where that term came from.
[00:25:51] Al Del Degan: Ya, what kind of numbers were you getting in those days? Kind of like the peak days, like it was a pretty big crowd.
[00:25:58] Tony Grimes: Yeah. And the peak days, would, would have been in when we were at Hudson's.
So after Hop and Brew, we outgrew the room basically. anything over 50 was a little bit too tight in, in the top floor there. And, and also it wasn't wheelchair accessible. and we didn't even get to wheelchair accessible until we got to Hudson's. But after that, we went to Rose and Crown, which was a bigger space.
And then we kind of grew to about 60, 70 a month, and then they did a Reno that totally ruined the room that I liked. So we moved over to Hudson's and they gave us the back room, which, you know, never was my favorite room, to be honest. I think Hop and Brew was probably my favorite, Rose and Crown being a close second, but Hudson's, at that point it got uncomfortable around 85 people and it was uncomfortable a lot.
So that was probably when we hit our peak, I think. And. It just kind of, kind of grew from there. And then, you know, of course COVID happened. We had the lockdown, so everything kinda shut down and yeah. And then that's where we're at now. I have no idea where we're going to end up now.
[00:27:10] Al Del Degan: Yeah, no kidding. Like you haven't been able to really have the regular steady meetings and,I've seen some emails go out with information, so-and-so's hiring if anyone's interested kind of a thing, but you haven't been able to hold that cadence because of the last couple of years.
[00:27:26] Tony Grimes: No, when we first locked down, I tried, you know, I did two in a row. it just wasn't there and, you know, I'm not going to force it. So, that's when I figured, you know, what, if there's at any point that I'm ever going to take a hiatus from Pixels, it's going to be during a world pandemic. So I just kinda like, oh, you know, I'm just going to go with it.
And I kept up the week with emails and everything, and I'm very, you know, up and down on that, because, like I said, I'm not the, you know, the task oriented, details, oriented person. that's one of my regrets from the whole thing is that I should have started with some friends and not be the sole founder.
that's where Green Drinks really, kind of, I think hit their stride was that they had four co-founders and they had a good mixture of cross disciplinary. So, basically with me being the only, Pixels person, you know, when I get burnt out, there's nobody to cover up my slack. So, you know, and that basically goes with the seasons of teaching. So I'm just so focused on my, program when I'm teaching that nothing else exists, basically.
[00:28:38] Tony Grimes: So now I'm kind of getting to the tail end of my current season. So, that's where I'm okay, now it's time to kind of think about Pixels and I'm really bad for only starting up the emails maybe two weeks before I actually have an event. Like one of these days, I'm actually going to get my group together and get that going. But I'm in no hurry.
[00:28:59] Al Del Degan: Well in all fairness, most of us have a short attention span anyway, so that two weeks is probably just right.
[00:29:05] Tony Grimes: Yeah. That's, that's another thing I learned about Calgary. It's a very last minute kind of city. So, I, I, I'm not sure what the plans are right now. Like we, we did some online events and I was very careful not to call them Pixels and Pints.
So they're, they're branded differently. I don't want any brand dilution in there, although nobody really understands that only I notice it. so there, there were called Friday Night Pints, in the last few and it's just a completely different feel,cause with Pixels, the experience level of the room is pretty high, right?
We've got a lot of seniors, intermediate and some juniors, because there always is the, the idea of finding a job. That's what networking events are kind of all about. But when we did the online ones, because I was a teacher, it was mostly my students,InceptionU students, it was my SAIT students, which is awesome, it's just not the type of event that Pixels was known for. So they were named something different and, I think, yeah, you know, just for the audience, like we're at, you know, the March of 2022. So we're just coming up on two years into it, not sure where we're going to be at for, you know, The ability to pack 80 people into a room.
I don't, I don't even know when, or if that'll happen in the near future, but yeah, that's one of the things that, that I kinda miss is, you know, I'm ready to get back into it. I'm ready to do the monthly events again. But I want to do it when it's right. And when I don't have to worry about.
Being too popular, you know, like when we, when we do it, we're going to not be afraid of, of putting a lot of people into a room. And, you know, basically that's out of my hands, you know, it's a, it all has to do with biology and, and whether or not we build. 10 new hospitals or something?
[00:30:57] Al Del Degan: Well, I'm not sure if everybody caught the call-out, but I think, if, if anybody's, intrigued and interested in chatting with you about Pixels and Pints, maybe this is the chance for you to actually build that crew of four or five people that kind of put their brains together and figure this stuff out. So you're not just by yourself.
[00:31:15] Tony Grimes: Yeah. This would be a good time to do that. because, like I said, I'm taking care of my mom, so she's living with me and, with her circumstances that if she gets COVID, you know, she's probably a goner.
So I, you know, there's no reason to wait for me. Like if, if we're going to do it, we might as well do it without me and, and start fresh. And remove my name from it, because right now that brand is, is entirely tied to my name. And it would be nice to, you know, have a group that can take ownership over that. Like maybe even if we rename it, who knows.
But, I, I would love to have some extra people to just kind of take over, I'm open to keep doing it as long as people allow me to do it, I'm fully prepared to do it until I retire at the age of 130 or however long we're going to be living the next couple of decades. But, it would be nice to kind of share the wealth, you know, it's, it was, it's been in a pretty amazing journey, and I think it's something that should be shared with other people, for sure.
[00:32:15] Al Del Degan: Well, that sounds great. What's the best way for people to get ahold of you? We'll add it to the show notes and stuff, but usually, people are listening to this maybe while they're bike riding or driving a car or something, what's sort of a good way for them to find you so that they can reach out and chat with you about it?
[00:32:29] Tony Grimes: Well, obviously email is going to be one of the easy ones. My turnaround time for email is actually quite slow. So every few days I'll check email, especially during school because my students are trained to Slack me. But other than that, we have a Discord server for Pixels and just DM me on Discord.
And that's the easiest way. sometimes like I check it. Most every day, but sometimes I don't, but yeah, that's the thing when I'm, when I'm teaching, there's really no need to, interface with the outside world. Right. Because, you know, I just, I have 20 to 30, like souls that I'm responsible for. So, all my attention goes to them, which is unfortunate. Everything else kind of falls to the wayside. But yeah, Discord is a good one.
[00:33:15] Al Del Degan: Okay. Well, we'll make sure to have that contact information in the show notes. and then, I imagine you're also on LinkedIn at some point?
[00:33:22] Tony Grimes: Yeah. That, that, one's probably the worst out of them. I log in every few weeks. And the first thing I'll do on a, on a message is tell them to email me.
[00:33:31] Al Del Degan: Well, thanks so much for your time, Tony. It was an absolute blast hearing your story. I've known you for a while now. but I never knew your origin story so that was really exciting to hear that. And, you know, best of luck with your mom, of course. And, I look forward to, someday Pixels and Pints being resurrected and going back to its glory. however that might look in the future.
[00:33:52] Tony Grimes: Bring the fire extinguishers cause we're. We're going to burn the place down.
[00:33:59] Al Del Degan: That's. That's awesome. Thanks tony.
[00:34:01] Tony Grimes: Thank you, Al. It was a pleasure.
Jennifer Morrison Hosts Alberio Bathory-Frota and Robbie Butchart
Listen to the episode here: rainforestalberta.podbean.com/e/e0159/
[00:00:00] Jen Morrison: All right. Welcome everybody. My name is Jen Morrison and I'm happy to host another episode of the LIBI podcast. Today I'm excited to talk to two really funny, incredible outgoing,innovative guys that are creating, an incredible company, here in Calgary and around the world. So welcome Alberio and Robbie.
[00:00:21] Alberio BathoryFrota: Thank you, Jen. Thanks for having us.
[00:00:22] Robbie Butchart: Thank Jen, that was quite an introduction. I'm excited for this one.
[00:00:26] Jen Morrison: Well, you know, you know, it's easy to speak kindly about people that are great. so for context, Alverno is the CEO and co-founder of LaunchCode and, Robbie is the CRO of LaunchCode. So they are creating the path and creating new, opportunities for the innovation ecosystem here in Calgary and Alberta, which is really exciting.
So let's dig in guys, and, you know, start with the question that's fun to ask, you know, who were you as kids? And I think that often we have, you know, personality traits and character traits that are innate with us. As children and that can continue with us throughout our lives. And hopefully it'd be part of the work that we get to do as grownups.
So let's start with Alberio, feel free to share whatever you like. you know, where you're from, background friends, family, but, yeah. Who was Alverno as a kid?
[00:01:19] Alberio BathoryFrota: Perfect, love it. Thanks Jen. And I'll try to keep this within a reasonable amount time, because I could probably talk for a few days straight.
but yeah. so I was born in Brazil. I was actually born right off of the equator in Brazil, a nice little beach town, a beautiful sunny days everyday around 30. And at the age of nine, we decided to move to a more tropical place called Edmonton now where I was bombarded with white stuff that was not white sand.
but it was a really cool experience. Right. at that time I didn't speak a single lick of English. It was, it was. I had to learn and understand, you know, on the ground running. I was put in the school there. I remember sitting in class having no idea what the teacher was talking about, what people were talking about.
[00:02:01] Alberio BathoryFrota: Right. And I think, what really helped me out during that time is, is the fact that, you know, as a kid, I'm a bit, I was a very curious person. I still am. Right. I'm very curious and very experiential. I find that I learn a lot more through experiences than I do, through reading or listening.
So. What I found at that time was that, you know, that that was kind of a really good trait for me, which was good too, because as many people will tell you, I have a pretty bad memory. So I always, I always have to relearn things by re-experiencing them. which kind of, I think has helped me in the long-term because it allows me to, you know, have a bit of a different problem solving skills than most, where I just kind of have to rely on my experience of basically relearning from scratch a lot of things, right? So that's, that's, you know who I was as a kid. Very, very curious, very experiential. I absolutely love nature. I love being out in nature. You know, I, we'd like to travel a lot. My family likes to travel a lot. I have family throughout the world.
Right? So my mom's side of the family is actually in Slovakia. I have, I have family there. My dad's side of the family's in Brazil. I have family in the United States. You know, I have how many here in Canada, so we absolutely love to travel a lot. And, and my, my perfect type of travel is that, you know, experiencing new things, right.
I'm not necessarily one that likes to go. To let's say the museums or things that are, you know, you'll find out postcards. I like to just kind of go in the place and, and be, and do what the locals do without a tremendous amount of, you know, organized or scheduled activities. You just go and you kind of experience it. Right. Absolutely love that. did that love that as a kid, as well, so that's who I am.
[00:03:35] Jen Morrison: Oh, that's amazing. Well, I can relate a lot to that curiosity piece. In fact, I have it, the word tattooed on my body, and I also can relate to the notion of taking the road less traveled, especially when traveling, you know, not going where everybody else goes.
I feel like we could share a lot of stories about that. So, but we'll park that and dig into that another time I want to. You know, let Robbie, answer that question as well. You know, who was Robbie as a kid where you from family traits that you, that you had innately and that are still part of who you are today. You want to share a little bit about that?
[00:04:11] Robbie Butchart: Yeah. Wonderful. Thank you. And the crazy thing is I'm the talker. So this is going to be a bit of a long one. Hey. The, the reality of, my mine's a lot less exciting when it comes to, you know, the fact that, you know, Alberio from Brazil and, and had to come to a different country, but, I'm born and raised Calgarian, you know, my whole family is from here. I'm still here to this day. my, a lot of the stuff I did growing up was all focused around sport, had a lot of energy. Outgoing from a young age was always kinda like to be the life of the party and, you know, have fun. That's kind of how I recharge, you know, and I figured that out at a fairly young age, that I really recharge with a lot of people around and, and, and just genuinely enjoy the presence of people.
so it got into sports to try and, you know, at a, at a young age to try and disperse some of that energy that I had a lot from my parents, I think drove him nuts a little bit. and a lot of the friendships that I kinda gathered through the years were all a derivative of that, of the different sports that I was involved with.
[00:05:05] Robbie Butchart: So a big focus for me was, was kind of, you know, that, that, that expression there, through those, those team sports, and then just found some stuff into the individual side as well. So, anything in anything, anything, and everything I can get involved with from a sporting perspective, I tried to so,
[00:05:20] Jen Morrison: Well, there you go. I know, I wish we had hours to talk about this, cause I'm sure we could, all, we could all talk for a long time, but any particular sports or, you know, activities that. That you really love to do Robbie, that you feel really launched, you know, who you were as a person as well?
[00:05:38] Robbie Butchart: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I, I think back through it all, and a lot of it was team-based and then a lot of outdoor stuff, you know, I really love being outside.
So, you know, in the winter, a lot of it was hockey related. I grew up playing it from a young age and, and stayed until the high school years. getting into different sports, you know, during the summer was golf and a lot of racket sports outside too. and then evolved as I got into, as I've gotten older and actually got into skiing at an older age with my kids and learned with them, so humbling experience, but a lot of fun, you know, try something new.
So, that was, that was really, a lot of fun. So that was, that was the focus.
[00:06:10] Jen Morrison: That's amazing. So building on what you've both shared, you know, Alberio being curious and, you know, experiential and, and Robbie really loving being around people and, you know, expressing energy and enthusiasm through sport.
You now are building and creating LaunchCode, right. Alberio's, CEO and co-founder, and then Robbie, the CRO and partner in LaunchCode. So, but you didn't end up there right away. So I'm wondering if you can both share your professional journey, of how after finishing high school, what was that period of time like between then, and the work that you're doing now, and I'll start with Robbie actually. Do you want to share a little bit about your professional journey?
[00:06:52] Robbie Butchart: Yeah, I kinda, you know, like Alberio likes to travel. I took the road less traveled when I come to my, my, my track here. So all of, out of high school, I didn't, I didn't follow the typical path that a lot of people did. you know, I think for me, I didn't want to waste time and I want to really find out what I was passionate about and, you know, kind of reflecting after those years, it was all kind of around like, what do you want to do?
And for me, I couldn't really nail that down. You know, it was something that took me some time to figure out, but it genuine, it came, kind of just organically through, some experiences that, falling into a sales professional, kind of mindset is kind of where I started and I started at a very,a slingin cell phones will go with, you know, and so out of high school and kind of early twenties and just kind of trying to figure things out and got really enjoyed it again, all about people.
Right? So you're, you're kind of getting into an experience of dealing with. A multitude of different personalities that allow for you just to kind of hone in your skills and, that evolved, did, did well there. And that evolved into actually moving in, and getting into, an organization that sells hardware and software as well.
And did that for about nine years. And the, what I've found through that is that, you know, there's a unique opportunity, through that 10,000 hours concept, right? You become. Professionally become an expert after 10,000 hours of going at something. And I got to that point and I just, I, my, my curiosity and passion for helping people just kind of continued throughout those, those kinds of, those former formidable years in my professional career.
And through that, you know, really getting into the idea. Opening my own organization. And through opening that, or having that concept of opening it,approached Alberio is as to be a client of mine. you know, and it was really a fun conversation to how we got to this point in time. You know, and, and it really opened my eyes through what he had done.
Just kind of being, being a friend on the side for a number of years on what's possible when you have people that just are super driven. So for me, you know, you get the last four and a bit years here where I've been with LaunchCode and what we've been able to accomplish through that just touches on the experiences that we've all had and the true passion to, to get us to a point that we're seeing the success that we are today, which has been a lot of fun.
[00:09:05] Jen Morrison: It's amazing how after you've had years, of, of different roles or professions or whatnot, how you can look back and recognize how each of those set you up with skills that at the time, maybe you didn't recognize. We're going to benefit you down the road in that way. so really, really interesting to hear you share that Robbie, how about you, Alberio like, what about your professional journey and your, you seem to be quite the serial entrepreneur, like, that's just what you've done the whole time. Do you want to share a little bit about your, your journey after, after high school?
[00:09:39] Alberio BathoryFrota: Ya, for sure, and I think it's a continuation right. Of the curiosity and the experiences.
I, I love experiences. I love new experiences. So for me, you know, when I was younger too,big, I was big into tech. I remember taking, you know, computers apart, my mom's computer apart taking other pieces of tech apart. And I was always really, really, you know, curious about it, and I really enjoyed tech in general.
So obviously the natural thing was to go into computing science for my undergrad. Right. And, and about three years, you know, in, into computing science, there was the bug there that, you know, I'd like to start a business. So in my, in my third year in comp sci I started a business, where I was basically reselling software and hardware to companies, I was helping them set up their networks. So I kind of stacked all my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, all my classes and labs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then I'd work Monday, Wednesday, Fridays, which was, which is phenomenal, is a great experience, right? my, my marks were never the greatest.
They were just middle of the pack, but enough to kind of get you by. And it was really through that third and fourth year. I'm like, you know what? I really enjoy, you know, the, the business side of it so I did that and when I graduated, I actually got a job in with IT for governments. So I worked for a couple of different governments, in that, during that time too, I had another friend of mine from Edmonton that had his own business in the past is also into business. Always, you know, worked loved building things with his hands, him and I got together and said, Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we built a company that, you know, this and this. and so we, we did, we got together, we started building and through that process, you know, there's been different startups and sometimes it's just products.
We try new products, try to sell them that we've done across, you know, across our history. And it's always been so, so engaging. Right. I did have. And I guess part of that experience too, I'm always, I'm always constantly trying to learn. Right. So trying to learn through, through, you know, activities I do online, but I also went back to school where they, you know, I did my masters in computing science but never completed that.
But I did my master's, you know, my MBA completed that one. I'm actually, you know, and then I started taking courses in philosophy, to us as a philosophy. students. So in the end, I think it had been in student about five different universities or some crazy like that. But, you know, it's, it's kinda that, that model, I'm always trying to experience something new and going out there and do it.
[00:11:51] Jen Morrison: Well, and I think as well for, for the, both of you, because you are leaders in the organization, you know, that you're creating and building. Being an effective leader is not just one part. There's so many different pieces that, you know, create and build effective leaders. And I think that, you know, being curious about different facets of what that could look like is really important.
okay. So for the, both of you, I, it seems to me that you, you didn't have that typical path, which I know I can relate to. I know a lot of people listening can relate to that. Was there any particular, I guess, curve ball, or situation or circumstance that you experienced along the way, professionally that at the time might have been difficult, but actually created new opportunities that you didn't expect. Is there anything that jumps out?
lots, right, lots it's funny because
[00:12:45] Jen Morrison: well you can share more than one if you want
[00:12:47] Alberio BathoryFrota: for sure. You know, and I joke around with Robbie all the time, too. I know. Kind of what makes at least what I think makes people successful in business is your ability to just be kicked as many times.
As, as you can, and as hard as you can and still just continue on, you know, your ability to, to handle adversity and these challenges and just continue on is, is a big factor. Right. And I think in the beginning, I probably would have been affected a lot more by certain curve balls, you know, and looking back, it was, you know, maybe the first one that was like the first, the first two or three customers saying, yeah, wait, why are you selling this?
Like there's a year to have a competitor and he's way bigger than you. and he's got everybody else. Why you guys even do try and do this right. That I think was a lot more, heartbreaking, maybe, you know, it just affected me a lot more in the beginning of this journey. Now it doesn't because you have those experiences.
Right. but it was, it was just your ability to, to hear that. And then, you know, look through it a little bit and say, you know what, that's okay you know, here's a kick I got, but I'm going to continue on, I'm going to try this out. Right. I think that's, that's really a tremendous success factor. Like if you have the perseverance, right.
And not only just the perseverance, but the ability to persevere without just being super stressed, right. You kind of have to let it deflect off of you at times, if you can. That is huge. you know, another one, obviously I always say this to people who are trying to start a business, have a partner, a partner will keep you accountable and there's a lot of us.
And unless you're very, very unique and distinct, there's a lot of us that you know, when, when things are getting hard and it's a Friday night and you know, you don't want to, you don't want to do something and you're like, ah, I'll do it tomorrow. When you have a partner, that's keeping you accountable, it's you, you keep persevering and keep doing it.
Right. And then you could also kind of diverged some of those challenging times or challenging, factions between, so we've, we've had lots of curve balls, you know, some examples, like I said, being Braden off the, off the bat, things like that, competitors doing things to us where, you know, where they were, You know, questionable and on ethical point, whether you they're supposed to be doing that or not persevering through that, negative news, you know, stories about our products or the company that we've had legislation that was passed, that would stop our product in California, had to, you know, have to fight against that.
So there's a tremendous amount, but. Fighting a legislation and, and legislators in California versus a customer, one customer telling you that you shouldn't, you know, your product is, is obsolete. It's, it's the same thing. It's a challenge. It's just how you, how you deal with it. Right. it's, you know, one may seem bigger than the other, but it's not, if you, if you can add a boat the same way with persevere, then I think you'll be very, very successful.
it's it's a, it's a broad question. And, you know, I was thinking about that as he's been talking. Every day there's something that comes up. Like, there's not a day that goes by that you don't have something come at you that you need to deal with. And whether it's personally, professionally, you know, like you have a death in the family think of personal and how are you going to persevere through that when you are, again, that, that, that term that he used perseverance, it's the key to it all.
[00:15:50] Robbie Butchart: And there's a lot more graphical kicking that we talk about when it comes to just how tough it can be, you know? but you know, like you think of, you know, situations that happen with friends that you ended up going into the hospital for whatever reason, or, you know, you have a family member that's not in town that has health problems.
Like there's stuff like that, that comes into the play and you have to disconnect the emotion that you're feeling in order to fulfill your commitments to not only your business partner, but your clients, and then the people that work with you and for you like that, that's a, that's a really tall order to do so to be able to really kind of get through the day-to-day curve balls.
Cause there's not one thing I don't think that sticks out in people's minds. I'm sure there's, you know, as you go through these things, there's a accumulation of them, but really it's, it's the ability to disconnect, understand that whatever's meant to happen is going to, and you're going to be okay. You know, you almost have to deescalate the severity of the situations because there's some crazy stuff that comes up at ya and you have to just move past it. It's a learned skill.
[00:16:59] Jen Morrison: I really, I think it's great that both of you have talked about having that support system or that partner or that team around you, that can not only hold you accountable, but also provide that counterbalance in those moments. Right. You know, when things are coming up. and I also can appreciate, you know, disconnecting from the emotions of a situation can be really hard, especially when you're so invested in the work.
And clearly over time, you can get better at it. But is that, is that something that is still a challenge for the both of you, you know, especially when you're so invested in care so deeply about the company and the people and you know, the clients that you're, you're creating this for?
[00:17:36] Alberio BathoryFrota: For sure. I think what you, what you really said there is when you care real deeply.
And for me, that's, that's a big one, right? Cause you do, you put, you put a lot of time and effort, your own blood, sweat, and tears into this thing. And then sometimes, one of those challenges is one of those that, that makes, makes it seem like you don't care. You're not doing something right. And then, you know, that's when it kind of affects you a bit because you're like, you know what, I really, you know, I'm trying my best here.
We're really trying our best to make this, this organization, you know, the best he can be. So it kind of still does. Right. But at the end of the day, you have to just take it in stride. And I think, like you said that the partners is, is important for that too. I think things that affect me, probably don't affect Robbie as much, you know, it doesn't affect their other partners much, but, you know, And vice versa.
So, you know, having that, that sounding board and being able to talk among ourselves, with really it helps out, right. It makes it so that we can persevere easier.
[00:18:31] Robbie Butchart: Yeah. And I mean, just in addition to that too, you know, like having an understanding and having emotional intelligence for me, like that's, I'm an emotionally charged person.
So I think understanding what makes you tick and knowing who you are, allows you to deal with those situations differently too. Like I always have been, I have always been an emotionally driven person and. Having that awareness, as Alberio laughs, is something it's something that is for me is a struggle every day.
Right? Cause there's so much passion that goes into what we do that to disassociate and disconnect from that is, is hard, you know, because you, you, you don't want to take it personally, but sometimes it just comes that way and you have to just. Reset and find a way to disassociate and disconnect those, those intense feelings you get.
[00:19:17] Jen Morrison: Thinking about that space, you know, that space of like between the emotion and then like the strategy of the next step.
And how do you navigate the challenge? That's come up. okay. So the two of you are clearly, you've got a good relationship. You're you seem to be great friends from what I can tell. and you've worked together for a while now. I want to know how you met. So how did you meet? And then I, on, on that, you know, after that story is shared, you went into business together.
So you don't just go into business with anybody. So I'm wondering if you can identify the things in each other that you knew this was a fit like this was a, this was a partner and this is someone that I could, you know, build a business with, because it's not for the faint of heart. So tell us about how you met and then what about each other created that space to, to build the business?
[00:20:09] Robbie Butchart: Sure. So we actually met over 10 years ago now. I think, 11? I mean, I know he's got a circle on his calendar and he's thankful every day it's part of his gratitude mornings, gratitude mornings.
it actually, it actually, started with the family. So, my oldest son and his daughter, are the same age we're going to kindergarten together and the wives became friends and, we kind of. You started hanging out as acquaintances through, through the kids and the wives, and then, you know, kind of did some lots of exciting things, you know, outside of work. some stuff we can talk about, some we can't, and the reality of it is, is just, you know, had a lot of fun, in, in kind of getting to know each other and the families get along really well. And that's, that's a uniqueness in itself. So, you know, we hung out for quite a while for almost 10 years and, you know, getting into the business side of it was, that was an interesting one because when I.
[00:21:00] Robbie Butchart: I approached him and I'll let him tell his side of the story here, shortly. But like, from my perspective, you know, I was moving out of my, my, my, my position. I was in previously for about almost 10 years. And I was looking at starting my own sales consulting company. And I had, I had a fundamental challenge with my business model and I thought I figured it out.
And I was approaching people that I, you know, I respected. And then I came to Alberio. So it's one of those things that, you know, I was like, this is my, this is my concept. And this one, I'm thinking. Here's my challenge. And before I kind of got to the end of that, him and James who's, our other business partner were like, you know what we want to bring in.
We want to see what we can do with this whole other side of this business. We want to create. And with my history and understanding what was being able to be sold off the shelf, from a, from a software perspective, I saw a very significant opportunity with this, and I kinda, I did it in conjunction with, and, and you know, quite frankly, I'll let, I'll let Alberio tell his side.
you know, the trust that I was given at a very early stage was significant and, and, it doesn't, it doesn't, it doesn't surprise me just given the character that, you know, Alberio and James have, but, still in that sense, it was. was, was, was a big step forward of faith as big leap of faith.
[00:22:09] Robbie Butchart: And I think that talks a little bit too about, what it takes to be successful in this space is you have to have faith. So, that's my version of the story. And, I'll let Alberio tell, tell his side.
[00:22:19] Alberio BathoryFrota: Sure. I remember actually I do remember the first time we met, I was at my place you came over and yes, and I think we drank between the two of us.
More than we should have. So a night like that it usually makes for good conversation and good memories. Right. so, but yeah, no, no. It's, what's interesting about Robbie is his one-on-one those guys like when you, when you go into a room. You know, let's say it's a party and you don't know anybody. And there's a, and there's one guy that kind of just has that energy.
And you're like, man, I, you know, I really want to be friends with this guy. Like that was Robbie. And I remember, you know, the first time we met and he really had that energy where, where you, you really, you felt, you know, that, that not only is he a guy with a lot of energy, a lot of movement, but he's a guy that kind of, that really cares about you.
Right? So a lot of his questions were very, you know, introspective and, and not just because trying to make chitchat or talk, but because he generally cared. And then I felt that, you know, as our relationship, when we became friends, he was a guy that really knew what was going on in my life all the time and was always caring about it, which was,you know, a phenomenal thing.
That, you know, right off the bat that I knew that's that was somebody that obviously wanted to be friends for the rest of your life. And, and so that was on the friend side, on, on the business side. Yeah. You know, myself and James, we, we started the company in. It was, if it was first, it was a product company.
That's the one we started in 2005, so many years, many, many years ago. He's the one that I mentioned that, you know, reached out and we said, Hey, do we want to start a company together? And along that path, we've tried different product lines and different businesses. And James got to know Robbie and at a certain point, some of our clients were asking us to do something different than our product, build something that was new.
so we did it a few times and, and it was working really well. Right. So we thought, okay, well I think we have a business here, this custom development work. Right. and we said, okay, well, you know, if we want to go down this path and build custom software, let's bring in, let's see if we can bring in, you know, the best guy we know in, in terms of, of, you know, network and getting to know people and, and, and not just necessarily bring them to our company, but genuinely care about what is their challenge you're trying to solve. Right? What a, you know, in this has to be a genuine person that cares. And so, you know, he does, he cares about what, what problem are you trying to solve? ensures that, that we have that phenomenal relationship with our clients, right?
that is something that you know about Robbie, that that is tremendous and I've never seen it. Anybody else. You know, we will sacrifice many things in our organization to ensure that our client is happy and at the end of the day. Like that is the number one thing important. That's important to him. So we knew right away, like this is a match made in heaven.
[00:25:03] Alberio BathoryFrota: Like, you know, he's, he's our guy that we want. And, and we brought him on board and we built the LaunchCode brand with him, you know, as a partner. So, you know, he's, he's our partner in that in, and, and the success has been phenomenal.
[00:25:16] Jen Morrison: There you go. So building on that, right? Thinking about the characteristics of each other, that you were drawn to, to not only create a friendship, but also, you know, step into business together.
so I'm going to have Robbie, I want you to answer this for Alberio and Alberio. I want you to answer this for Robbie. From your perspective guys, like what is the mindset? Because we're talking about entrepreneurship here and which is not an easy path and no entrepreneurial journey is the same. What do you see in terms of mindset in each other that you think are really foundational to success as an entrepreneur
[00:25:54] Alberio BathoryFrota: You know, Robbie really, really cares about people in general, right? He cares, the generally cares about people, and he cares to ensure that people are happy and you see that internally with, with our own team, but you see that externally with our clients and our partners. And it's a huge thing because. that mindset is one of, you know, creating value for someone else.
Not, you know, you're not creating value for yourself. and I, you know, I truly believe that's, that's a huge, huge talent to have you got to, you know, you got to build something or you gotta develop something or you got to create a solution. something that brings value to somebody else. It can't be just, you know, we want to bring customers because we want to make X amount of revenue.
It has to be to truly solve a problem. It has to do to create something that's, that's better for that client or better for the world in general. Right. And I, and that's, you know, a mindset that I see in Robbie there. It is phenomenal for us.
[00:26:48] Robbie Butchart: And I'll, you know, I mean, from my perspective, you know, like I, I was thinking that as I was talking about it and just kind of listening to the story again, it's funny when you do some retrospective thinking when you're in the, in the midst of it.
And you know, like for me, when I came in, it was, it was an unwavering belief in, in what Alberio and James had created and, you know, understanding that, specifically with what, what Alberio holds as that, that CEO is that, you know, there's a visionary state. There is trust that, you know, he exudes in people and when he gives people trust, you want to trust him immediately.
And for me coming in, it was that, that. I can get behind this guy, you know, I can get, I can get into, into the passenger seat, the driver's seat, the back seat. I don't care where it is and we can, we can push this forward because there's alignment there. And the willingness to be able to, you know, look at situations with humility and understand that there is an opportunity that we all see, and we just got to work together in alignment.
When you have that mindset and you in the room, every single time you get into a meeting, you don't have to worry about the BS. You know, like you taught, I've been a part of many different companies and there's always just politics and drama and BS that need to deal with. And that just doesn't happen with, with Alberio as a whole.
What you see is what you get, and that is. So freeing and with that environment coming in and having that, I remember they don't give me a lot here. I'm surprised he's going to walk out of the building here after I've done this, but it's true for people to understand this. So, you know, like that is something that is so key is that you can, if you can remove all the BS and you have trust and faith and humility, when you walk in the door, you've got a team that's behind you, you know, and that's every day, you know, and, and I would say the one thing that, as a whole, both of him, both he and I just kind of exude is that unwavering belief and faith. We know this is going to work. There isn't another option. That's it like we will find a way. And so when you have that, that unwavering faith and knowing that your outcome will be what, you're, what you're setting out for you, you get people that get amped up and get excited.
Cause you're building momentum and excitement through the passion that you bring into every conversation. So I would say that that's a, an add in that, you know, ties into to what you need to have from a characteristic trait.
[00:29:24] Jen Morrison: As you were both talking. Like, it just is so clear to me, how. As an entrepreneur or starting something new or coming up with an idea that, you know, pushes the boundaries or challenges people to step outside of their comfort zone, whatever that is.
I really hear two things coming from the both of you. I hear. The importance of team, the importance of surrounding yourself with people that are aligned, you don't have to be the exact same people, but like, what are those root things that you care about that you value that the, your team and those around you will value as well.
And how do you surround yourself with people that will build on that? So that's one thing that was coming to mind. And then the second is trust and that's a big one. And it's interesting because part of me thinks, you know, it takes time to build trust, but at the same time, Why not start with trust. Do you guys have any thoughts on that piece?
Cause you both mentioned that. And I also think it's, from my perspective and what you shared has been a really key part of not only your working relationship and you know, your friendship, but you know, creating the business that you have together. So. Just talk to me about trust. Cause, cause that really seems to be super foundational for both of you.
[00:30:45] Alberio BathoryFrota: Yeah. And I think there's two mindsets, around that at least that I see out there. Right. You have the one mindset that's like, you gotta, you gotta earn it. You gotta, you know, come in and earn it before I can fully trust you. And then the second mindset it's, you know, I'll just, I'll trust you. defacto trust you.
until I can't anymore, right. and one of them, you get, you may get burned every so often. the other one you don't right. but giving this, this trust defacto and just going that way, we'll move things a lot faster. right. I find that, and, and I find too that it just, you know, you get the right people as well.
people enjoy that, people, you know, Be appreciative of that and really, ensure that they, you know, keep your trust. so this is huge though. I think you cannot grow as an organization if you don't start relaying that trust out there. If you have to be involved in everything that the organization does, you become the bottleneck, right?
[00:31:42] Alberio BathoryFrota: You become the reason the organization doesn't grow. So it's going to be, you know, it's, it's extremely important that, you know, trusting others is hard, may be hard to do a lot of times, but it's important because that's going to be part of your own personal growth as well.
[00:31:58] Robbie Butchart: I completely agree. And you know, that's, that's the biggest thing is that you want people to be bought in.
And if you want people to buy in, you just gotta trust that they're there in, you know, and, and that's what we really try to focus on when we have conversations is ok I will trust you just go and do it. And I think once you actually say those words to people, there's an ownership like. Yeah. Wow. Okay sweet I'm going to go do this, you know, like it's that? And that's part of, I think the, the culture that, you know, we, we really focus on and I mean, are we perfect? No, but are we trying to be there? Yeah. You know, every day it's it's the model is everyday. Let's be better than we were yesterday and tomorrow than today.
So, you know, that's always the intention and the team behind us is phenomenal, but it's because you enable them to be that way. And, and I mean, it makes, makes our jobs a heck of a lot easier when you get that good of a team that's behind you. So I think it comes from trust really at the end of the day.
[00:32:53] Jen Morrison: It's so interesting that like, I'm just thinking about my own journey. And when I moved to Calgary in 2019, late 2019 was pivoting out of K to 12 education, looking for something different, have no idea what that was going to look like. And through a series of meeting, great people and, you know, checking out Rainforest Alberta, you know, was introduced.
by Jim Gibson to Margo and then Margo introduced me to Greg and Jill and you know, whatnot. But I remember within the first couple of weeks of my role with InceptionU back then, I had gone to Greg at some point, asked him like, you know, is it okay if I do this or can I do this? And he just looked at me and he said, I trust you, go do it.
[00:33:33] Jen Morrison: And I've never been. Like empowered like that, even though I know in previous work environments I was trusted, but the system that I was working in didn't allow for, for that, individuality or these ideas to thrive, if that makes sense. So, yeah. And I just know how impactful for me that was, To experience that.
And it took me a while to like adjust to it like, oh, and Greg talks about too. you know, a lot of the time with design and this is design in, in general, but he said a lot of the time at the root of the problem is waiting for too much permission. You know, it holds things back. So anyway, just relating a lot to what the, both of you have shared with that. Any, any thoughts?
[00:34:26] Alberio BathoryFrota: Well, it's, what's nice about it too, is in, in InceptionU, you know, if, if, when they're doing that, it's going to, it's going to come across to the ultimate client, which is a students, right? So, you know, having that trust within the organization is going to allow you guys to do better things and have better products. And, you know, the impact will be felt by your ultimate clients, the students.
[00:34:47] Jen Morrison: Thank you for saying that. And I would imagine that that's what you're hoping. For your business as well. And then the clients that you're working with and the team that you have, it does feel good though. You know, when you realize like, okay, I'm being my total authentic self, I'm doing shit that I love to do.
I'm working with great people. And like, you start to see the ripple effect of that. It's really powerful. Okay. So I, you know, Robbie, I was looking, well, stalking your Instagram earlier today. And, but I was, there was,a piece of a statement that you had on there that I thought was really interesting and it, it, it was, guiding the client through the art of what is possible.
And there's a lot within that, that I would love for the, both of you to talk about, but tell me how does LaunchCode as a, as a business, support that. And then also, how do you individually, the two of you model that in your day-to-day work? So it's sort of a twofold question. Like how does LaunchCode, you know,guide the art of what is possible, and then for you individually, how do you do that in your work?
[00:35:48] Robbie Butchart: Yeah, that's a good, it's a, it's a bit of a corny term, but it sparks good conversation and that's the whole, the whole intent behind it. But you know, the reality of it is, is I think that, you know, a lot of people, unless you're in the technical world or you have some understanding of the software space, a lot of people don't know what's possible anymore.
You know, tech is constantly evolving and. you hear a lot of times people there's gotta be a way, right? So they're wondering, what's possible. Like what is what we could we possibly create that can satisfy and solve some of these challenges and these, these, these goals and help us achieve some of these goals that we've got set out for, for our business.
So, you know, that, that's what. That, that statement is meant to kind of represent. And as far as, you know, the, the conversations that occur because of it, it's, it's very holistic, right? And you'd be talking about an organization as a whole. We talk about the way the business is looking at operating and how do we tie in technology and innovation to change client's experiences, whether it's internal or external clients.
And through that, you know, we really start to. Break down into kind of micro sessions. Sure. We'll go with that. I like micro sessions. It's the word of the day, apparently. But like with that, you know, it allows for us to break down the complexity and this really overarching high level concept into something tangible.
And with that tangibility, it allows for context to be able to now come to the forefront. And our process allows for us to really break that down. You know, we go into a four step process and, and through that, it's, it really allows again for the client to feel how simple this can be, because it's, it doesn't need to be complicated, you know, and, and with just conversation and, and understanding and doing your due diligence and asking questions and being curious.
You can get so much accomplished in so much enlightenment on what the is actually trying to do. You know, we've had clients come to us and say, oh, I've got problems with my overtime. And you know, and we're like, okay, well, let's talk about it. And you get into a conversation. You realize the core of it is not problems with the overtime it's the tech, it's the spreadsheets that they're relying on at the end of the day to run their business.
Okay. Well, what does, and so you get into this whole flow and it's very easy to get into that. And then you show them what's possible. Through our process, that is our presentation of awesomeness. And that word is what we use because it's self-explanatory with that though, you know, that brings, that brings context.
And, and we, we try and mirror that within our environment. You know, like we've got some big aspirations, again, same thing as our client conversations, sitting at the million foot view, we need to break it down into more. Granular stages and, you know, really map those out and then assign people that are accountable to deliver on them.
You know, there's a, there's a whole flow that goes into it. And that's where you have to constantly come back and measure on. So you can actually see that the deliverables are happening in that accountability thing. You know, whether you throw stuff in meetings at each other and or you have a nice pleasant conversation, whatever the fun is, you know, like, however you want to do that, to each their own.
But that's, that's a little bit of, of kind of how we break it down. Both externally and internally.
[00:38:51] Alberio BathoryFrota: Yeah. And you know, I think Robbie nailed the, the nail on the head there. one of the things that we do internally is, with our, with our we're a team, right? Every second Friday, we do special projects Friday, where, where we allow the team to build whatever it is that they want.
Right. We really. Really look for and try to bring in people who are very creative people who have their own personal projects. people were almost entrepreneurial, right? They have that kind of entrepreneurial mindset because it's, it's these types of people that, you know, that can help us really do what's what's not possible.
So we're very, very happy with the team. We have a phenomenal, phenomenal, talented, team here in this organization and the stuff that they can do is, is just amazing. Right. so we try to, we try to thrive that a little bit by giving them opportunities, you know, to do something that's completely outside of client work, which is the special projects. We try to have them work together in teams. You know, maybe it's sometimes it's on their own projects. So, internally as well, we all kind of have our own projects, you know? I myself, I still kind of program here and there it's been years since, you know, since I've been doing it.
my, our other business partner, James, he's working with his hands all the time. Right. Building things. he loves that side of the business. You know, Robbie's always learning new things, creating new things. So it's a, it's a mindset too, where we just, we want to ensure that we have that lifelong learning, right.
[00:40:18] Alberio BathoryFrota: Lifelong learning type of mindset. and that translates at the end of the day to, you know, figuring out solving problems for clients.
[00:40:25] Jen Morrison: Well, there's no one way to do everything. Right. And I think it's neat that you're, it sounds to me like within yourselves and then within the business, there's this constant evolution of how are we approaching things?
How are we thinking about things who is partnering with, who like there's this real. Agility and adaptability that I think is a really interesting, okay. We're going to start to wrap it up. I feel like, you know, the three of us could talk for four more hours. but I have just two more questions for you. I'm really curious for you individually.
What's lighting you up right now. Is there something that you're exploring or interested in that you find yourself? Really curious about, or that's, you know, provoking you to ask a lot of questions and it doesn't have to be work-related, it can be whatever the heck you want, but what is, what's lighting you up these days?
[00:41:13] Alberio BathoryFrota: I have found that that lately there in the beginning of, of this organization and, you know, and James and I first got together, there was, there was, you know, the, there was a business, we had the personal, and it, it was very melded right in that we were basically working all the time. So we kind of, you know, the personal was there as well.
Recently, and this is what I've tried to work on the lot is how do I have it so that it's, it's just one passion, right? And that's not a different passion between business or in a different passion between, you know, family and the traveling and the other things I enjoy. How do I do that as, so it's one holistic, right?
And, and it's really looking down the path of, you know, having clarity processes done of, you know, who you, who you are and where you want to go. Right. some of it gets on the spiritual side. Figuring all of that. And then, and then trying to craft a life for you that can bring this together, right? You shouldn't feel like work is, is a means so that you can have money to do your passion and your personal stuff.
what I'm, you know, trying to work on and, and trying to really create is, is that holistic, you know, experience, and not only just for myself, but how do we do that on an organizational level, right? How do we align, our people and where they want to go and what they want to be? How do we align them with.
[00:42:32] Alberio BathoryFrota: What we're doing in this organization and the how, and then how do we give them those opportunities to just be better versions of themselves? Right. so that's for me is it's that challenge, I think is a, is a forever challenge. It's something that's a continuous continuous work, on challenge, but it's, it's, what really drives me.
[00:42:49] Robbie Butchart: Wow. So deep man that was next level, you know, I joke, but we, we actually have very similar, thoughts when it comes to that, you know, there's. There's experiencing what's new, you know, for me is, is what are some of the things that we can get into to help you grow, to help you understand and learn that, you know, prior to getting into that environment, you've, you've, you've totally changed your perspective or you have a different appreciation for a different perspective.
So for me, it's, it's, it's growing in those areas and learning and exploring and exposing different things into my mind so that I can help kind of, you know, get into a different, different frame of mind, that skill set. So for me, it's, it's all around. How do I grow and how do I become more enabled and bring more tools to situations whether it's personally or professionally to help move the needle on whatever the situation is forward. you know, from, from that perspective. So, you know, understanding the, the clarity process is an interesting one, cause we've done it at as an organization and as a group and it's, it's enlightening, you know, it really brings. What it's meant to clarity around what you see moving forward.
So I think once you have that, that understanding that brings natural inspiration and motivation to keep that light as bright as it needs to be every day to come in and bring passion into every conversation and every interaction, whether it's at work or whether it's at a Starbucks drive through, or whether you're having a beer somewhere like whatever.
You're bringing passion into that and you're, you're bringing excitement. So for me, that's, that's a big thing. And, you know, part of the, from a business standpoint, you know, moving the organization forward and diversifying it with some of the different offerings we're bringing our clients is very unique.
the, the whole startup studio model that we're doing is. Beyond exciting, because that is something that, you know, is a, is a unique offering and something that, I think is going to make a big difference in a lot of people's lives. so very excited for, from that perspective. So, but bringing passion into that too, it's fun.
[00:44:49] Jen Morrison: There you go, well, I think paying attention to what lights us up is important because it's an indicator for me and I'm not sure what you guys think. I think it's an indicator that we're on the right track, you know, and paying attention to that internal guide. I'm actually, I just bought the book. I haven't started it, but it's called extended thinking.
Greg told me about it and it's thinking outside of your brain, and it really is tapping into. The awareness that is outside of our brains, which we tend, we just rely on our brains all the time. But, yeah. Anyways, so I'm excited to dig into that book. okay. Let's let's wrap this up now. This is a big question.
It's building off of what you have been talking about, the two of you, but, you know, what do you want to contribute to the world. and you can answer this from the mindset or the lens of LaunchCode if you like, you can think about it personally. but what do you want your contribution to be? And then what does that impact?
[00:45:43] Alberio BathoryFrota: Perfect sounds. Well, the funny thing is, is probably going to be a spiritual answer it's but, no, for my, my goal, what I'd love to do is I'd love to build an organization, right. That, that creates purpose, you know, and that allows people to have purpose in their life. Right. and you know, when we first started this, obviously it was always around the product and the clients.
my role, I think, has kind of, has changed into that. you know, I'd like to build an organization that we're bringing purpose and, and really creating better versions of people right now when they come in here and not just on their, on their professional life, but their whole life. Right. I'd love to be able to do that.
and I think that's why I'm so passionate with, with the startup studios. Right. And partnering up with, with startups, because I think we have a tremendous amount of, experience that we can help them with. Right. And. And there's a lot of things in the first, you know, five, six years of a startup, you know, that, I didn't know that James didn't know, you know, the two of us kind of had to navigate and try our best, that we can really bring clarity to the beginning of these other startups and, and put that sense of purpose, you know, in the beginning, because it will, it will allow them to, you know, get over those challenges. it'll allow them to get kicked many times and persevere, right? If, if you properly align a person's mindset with what they're doing on a daily basis, you know, but that is a holistic view of not just work versus life, but a combined a holistic view, we now create, an organization that's, that's bringing purpose to people and you know, that for sure is what excites me the most.
[00:47:22] Robbie Butchart: How do you follow that up? I don't even know how to follow that up, you know? So, you know, I w I I'll maybe touch on a couple of different points, but like, you know, there's a shared. And bought in, alignment there, you know, from my perspective, you know, and, and that's, what's exciting too. And I, and I would say that, you know, to add a couple of different things from the business side, you know, in, in addition to what LaunchCode the startup studio is doing the LaunchCode side is going to change the status quo.
You know, like we want people to realize there's a better and more trusting way to do business. You know, I find that the Canadian landscape as a whole is, is a little bit more. Conservative and the fact that, you know, they, there there's a misconceived or perception of there. We will say that, you know, everybody's out to screw you.
We're just going to figure out a way to how to do it. And it's like, there's a better way, but that's because of experiences. So we want to change that experience and bring a better and more trusting kind of approach to the environments in our, our engagements with our clients. and then for me on a, on a personal note, you know, for me, my focus is, is I want to leave people happier than when they started with me.
You know, like whether, you know, it's in, it's in the office and getting people laughing and having a good time, if it's in Starbucks and, you know, buying a coffee for somebody behind you or starting a conversation with some random stranger and just bringing joy and happiness to a situation and be like, wow, that was cool.
And they're walking out of that place in a different way that that's every interaction I strive to, to bring, a better perspective and a happiness when people walk away from it. So that's, that's on the personal side, my, my story.
[00:48:55] Jen Morrison: Well, I have to tell you that I feel that what you just shared, the, you know, the impact you want to have, you both had that on me today, which I think is really amazing, you know, checking in with, you know, purpose and things that light me up.
And, you know, Robbie, I definitely am feeling I'm just having a good day, but I'm having an even better day. I I've really, really appreciated this time that we've had together today. And it's always fun to get to know people on a deeper level and my hope with the podcasts that I'm hosting, you know, for LIBI that we really dig into the person, you know, the business is a ripple effect of who that person is, and we all have a story and experiences and things to share.
So I'm, I'm hoping that whoever is listening to this, that they are getting a really great sense of. Who Alberio is and who Robbie is, what is the best way for people to get in touch with you? If they're curious to connect or reach out, what would you suggest?
[00:49:50] Alberio BathoryFrota: I believe both of us are on LinkedIn. and, yeah, if you know, my personal email is just my name, Alberio at LC dot Dev. So that's L for Launch and C for Code, launchcode.dev DEV. Robbie, I believe is at Robbie at LC dot dev as well.
[00:50:04] Robbie Butchart: You bet. Both, both work, worked for me and preferred either one. So please reach out happy to have conversations and questions. And, Jen, thank you very much for having us.
This has been a fun and, and just a fun experience. We appreciate you giving us the ability to, to talk a little bit about ourselves.
[00:50:20] Jen Morrison: Well, secret side note, everyone that's listening. I did forget to record. The first 10 minutes when we started. So we had to go back and start again. So, you know, there you go. Nothing like making a fool of yourself in front to two great friends.
[00:50:34] Alberio BathoryFrota: Yeah, that was good practice. It was good practice the first 10 minutes. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Thank you as well, Jen, this is our second time we're doing the speaking engagement both times you've oh, you've made it. You made it awesome. Super comfortable and easy to talk to you. So I appreciate that thank you.
[00:50:49] Jen Morrison: Cool. Well, I hope that whoever is listening, has taken some inspiration or, you know, had some moments of pause for everything that Alberio and Robbie have shared with us today. Really appreciate you joining us. and I encourage all of you as I always do to really think about the impact that you want to have. Have a good day.