Final round interview with COO and Head of Ops. Any advice appreciated?

As the question suggests, I have a final round (of 4) interview this week with the COO and Head of Ops. The position is for Operations Associate. The previous stages were a phone screen, a competency/behavioural interview and a case study interview.

The two people running the interviews so far have been the Senior Ops Manager and Project Manager (who would be my line managers). I asked them what to expect and they said it would be a cultural fit interview and should have much (if anything) in the way of behavioural questions – but they didn't seem sure.

Some further context – I have strong experience for the role, having worked as a Junior Operations Manager at a FANG company and feel I have done well through the rounds so far. (I do not want to leave my guard down, though). I left my previous role prior to Covid-19 (December 2019) and have been out of work for 6 months. This is on the lower end of my expectations in terms of responsibilities and pay, but I am most concerned about gaining experience in a tech start up because the work sounds incredibly interesting and has been a goal of mine for a while.

The company has ~ 80 people, 2020 Series A of £12Mil.

I'd be really keen to hear any advice on what I might expect in this round. What kinds of things do you think these two people are going to want to understand about me? Do you have any thoughts on how I should prepare? I'd be super grateful for any advice as Corona Virus has scuppered my plans and I really want to make the most of this opportunity.

Thanks in advance!

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

An Interview With Ron Jackson of DNJournal

 JamesNames.com: Since 2003, DNJournal has been at the heart of the domain name industry, providing verified facts and figures pertaining to domain sales on a weekly basis. Some of those sales figures have broken into the mainstream, as DNJournal has been cited as a source in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and even BBC News. The driv…
Domaining.com

“Ask why until it feels awkward, and then ask once more”: Interview with Mambu’s CEO Eugene Danilkis

The banking system is changing. With many challenger banks opening across Europe, traditional high-street banks are being forced to digitalise, and more and more customers expect a forward thinking banking service. 

In this context, Mambu was born, as one of the world’s only true SaaS banking platforms. Mambu is currently used by some of the world’s most innovative financial services to become more agile, including N26, new10 and OakNorth, and has +2 million end customers.

We thought it was about time we spoke to Eugene Danilkis, CEO and co-founder of Mambu, about consumer-focused fintech solutions, working with N26, his words of advice for young fintech startups, and his predictions for the industry.

Hi Eugene, thank you for joining us! To get going, can you tell us how you started Mambu?

I studied Computer Science, and started my career working as a software engineer on control software for the international space station. In reality I wanted to combine my interests in technology with those of business, design and social behaviour. I was drawn to a degree in Human Computer Interactions at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, which is a multidisciplinary qualification at the intersection of the fields of technology, design, psychology and business.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this put me on the path toward fintech and Mambu. I met my Mambu co-founders while working on a degree-related project  –  investigating how modern technology can help financial services access hard to reach markets. Through our work we found a gap in the market. Legacy approaches to building banking technology were too expensive, slow and cumbersome to help financial institutions serve individuals and micro, small and medium enterprises (who were poorly served by the existing backing infrastructure).

At the same time, cloud technology was disrupting industries, with internet and smartphone penetration becoming the norm, even in remote regions. The SaaS model was disrupting the respective CRM & ERP markets. Our idea was to bring lending and banking technology into the 21st century via the cloud, making core banking capabilities accessible to projects of any size and flexible enough for any market opportunity.

What makes Mambu truly unique?

Mambu is a cloud banking platform, the only pure Software-as-a-Service (Saas) platform in the market. We consider ourselves the lean, agile, cloud-first alternative to traditional core banking systems.

With Mambu, implementation happens in months, integration takes minutes and updates happen constantly. This is your foundation for actual agility. From day one, the platform supports lending, deposits, current accounts, transactions and accounting in an actually agile way, with a fully-exposed API.

That’s what differentiates us – through our platform customers can design and launch products themselves quickly, scale easily and do it with a small team. We enable our customers to take an agile, cost-effective, digital-first approach to bringing their lending and banking products to market. Today our technology powers over 6000 banking and lending products serving over 20 million end customers in over 50 countries.

You’ve spoken before about the ‘Fintech era’, and it being less about finance + tech, and more about building better customer-centric services. Can you tell us more?

We are living in the fast-paced fintech era. The world has shifted to customer-focused banking and lending. Customers are accustomed to intuitive, savvy services from Amazon and Netflix, so now they are looking at their banks with new eyes. They are demanding better experiences and starting to expect that from their financial institutions. Banks and financial institutions have no excuse for not delivering these types of services as the technology exists. Fintechs are swooping in and gathering more customers through the access to data insights to personalise offerings and the ability to scale. The customer experience has become tech-enabled – fintechs are offering superior and cheaper experiences. We see it as a dynamic, changing world and a shift in the ecosystem. It’s about putting the customer at the start of the conversation and solving for their needs using the technology that’s available at that point in time – which constantly keeps changing. 

Can you tell us more about what you’ve done with N26?

We partnered with N26 to help them transition from newly-launched single-market entity to Europe’s first pan-regional mobile bank. It originally launched in Germany in 2015 and leveraged off the banking licence of another company for a quick entry to the market. But they had big ambitions to expand to the whole of Europe. When they were granted their own banking license, we helped them make the transition to cloud where they had full ownership and control of their own tech stack, products on their journey to become Europe’s first fully digital bank. They have grown to over 5 million customers in Europe – and it was done on Mambu – a single, global platform, which requires little technical localization for new markets, to aid expansion.

What do you predict for fintech in the next 5-10 years?

Aside from the drive to offer a more customer centric and personalised service, we see collaboration between fintechs being more popular. This is the power shift in the market, with a realisation that just technology collaborations or “bank-led” collaborations are not enough. There has to be alignment from strategy through to value realisation in the entire ecosystem for collaborative models to work. As this develops the support to the customer experience and the ability to deliver better products faster at a lower cost will be key.

Flexibility in terms of a composable business architecture is also growing. This is how the market will deliver a framework for collaboration in order to support customer-centricity. We also call it ‘composable banking’ which refers to the quick and flexible assembly of independent systems. Having an architecture where everyone is “the best” at what they do, but with an easy integration that allows banks to build solutions and products for an unknown future is going to be a big differentiator.

In a cloud-based world, privacy and data protection are common concerns of customers. How does Mambu take on this topic?

We take information security very seriously as our customers, mostly banks, operate in a highly regulated environment. We set out to and obtained our ISO/IEC 27001 certification across all our office locations globally. We also took additional efforts to compile a SOC 1 assurance report that covers all our internal controls that affect our customers’ financial statements, across all Mambu locations. In order to satisfy customer requirements related to security and compliance, we’re steadily increasing the capacity of our Security, Compliance, and Engineering teams. This means performing more reviews of internal security and compliance along with facilitating customer audits.

This means performing more reviews and real world scenario testing along with facilitating audits with customers and partners.

What keeps you motivated when working on Mambu?

I love to create something that hasn’t existed before and do it in a lasting way. This applies to creating technology platforms which solves a big and challenging problem in the market but also to make sure that it can have a long lasting impact. Creating that lasting impact is the big exciting challenge since it means we have to make sure everything we create from culture, to communications, to technology choices is able to evolve as we grow, as complexity increases and as the market changes.  

In 10 years from now, I’d measure success in how many people we helped to create better banking experiences for, how much our customers value us as their partners and how much our own employees feel valued within what they do and what they personally get out of the time they put in with us.

What advice would you give to all the fintech founders out there?

While fintech in general is fast moving, the market, especially in B2B, may not be so quick to adopt. So if you are getting into the business, know that you are signing up for a marathon, not a sprint. It is relatively easy to build a new basic product but financial services is a complex environment. You have to work on building credibility through working closely with initial customers, and show the market the value you can bring through successful projects. This generally is a risk averse environment that needs assurances and references but it does contain innovators who can become your close partners in the early days and be key references for you as you move through the technology adoption curve. The key is to pace yourself, your business and your spend to how fast the market can adopt your solution. Sometimes you can drive that demand, other times you have to evangelize to build it up.

Building a fintech company, like most new businesses, is a journey of endurance and resilience. Build on what works, understand the value clients are looking for and differentiate based on this. Listen but listen deeply to their needs, and not their specific asks and requests, and ask why until it feels awkward – and then ask once more. Then you’ll really start to understand what’s going on.

You have to continue to invest in this perspective to find those earlier adopters who let you build customer success stories you can bring to your next opportunity. Take it one step at a time while sticking to your vision and values.

Take the time to find and onboard the right people in the right roles. Being able to rapidly find, onboard and empower the right people in the right roles around the world to support our clients and growth is quite difficult. But as cliché as it sounds, great people make a culture which makes a great business. The investment in time and energy to get the right people pays off many times over.

Lastly, remember that despite what is said, only a small fraction of your success or failure is actually attributable to you. You can make decisions about strategy, you can focus on execution but we’re all playing in a rapidly changing market with so many forces outside of our control: so if you can navigate those and luck aligns behind, you’ll be successful.

EU-Startups

“Users determine our roadmap”: Interview with Tiimo’s co-founder Helene Lassen Nørlem

If you’re interested in the future of edtech, disability tech, social enterprises or mental health care, then you might like Tiimo.

Tiimo is an app bringing structure and support to people with autism and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), so they can thrive in their daily life. The award-winning app can be downloaded to a smartphone or smart watch, and guides users through their schedule via visuals, notifications and vibration. So far the Danish app has thousands of users and closed an oversubscribed equity crowdfunding round on Seedrs 3 months ago.

We caught up with one of Tiimo’s co-founders Helene Lassen Nørlem to talk about creating an app based on scientific research and patient experience, analysing open-ended customer testing, creating University research partnerships, balancing impact objectives with monetary ones and raising equity crowdfunding. 

Hello Helen, thank you for joining us! I’m a big fan of impact enterprises so am looking forward to diving into how Tiimo works. To start us off, how did you first get the idea and what inspired you to go for it?

The idea for Tiimo actually started when my co-founder Melissa and I were writing our master’s thesis at the IT University in Copenhagen. At that time in Denmark the government had just enacted a new school reform that meant that many children who would previously have been in a school or class with additional support were being ‘integrated’ into classrooms without additional support. The reform included a lot of talk about inclusion, but disability advocates were very critical of it, as it was unclear as to how the children would be able to thrive after the reform was implemented.

Melissa and I wondered if there was a way that technology could support them in this context. We focused our research on children with ADHD and took a very ethnographic approach to try and best understand the needs of children with ADHD and their families. We followed the daily lives of five families to try and better understand their everyday life, both from a child perspective and a parent perspective. The insights we got from that research were the foundation for Tiimo as a concept.

Shortly after we graduated we both got other jobs, but the idea to actually make Tiimo a reality was still in our thoughts. And then when some of the families who had been part of our research asked when they could download the app, we felt very sure that we had to try to make it a reality.

We read that Tiimo was created in collaboration with 50+ families and experts. Could you tell us more about how you gathered all this information and feedback and turned it into Tiimo?

Well as mentioned, we started out really trying to understand what everyday life for children with ADHD is like. Some of the methods we used were cultural probes, where we, for example, gave the children an iPad and had them blog and do small videos about their days. To follow up and get a deeper understanding we did semi- structured interviews. Then we analysed the data and found patterns across the families and used that in combination with knowledge from specialists in the field to form a design workshop. It was through this design workshop that the first concept was created.

In general we aim to have a very user-centered design approach and really do our best to always involve our users in the design and development process. So in the first phase of the product development we collaborated with these 50 families and experts to make sure the product met their needs. This was done in a combination of workshops and interviews. As the product evolved this process included more observations of user testing to understand the interaction with the product and UI specific needs. We also take customer feedback extremely seriously, it is basically users that determine the bones of our product roadmap, and we have a group of test users that we are in ongoing dialogue with. We also have an extremely hands-on customer service approach, so many people who end up calling or writing about a bug (yes, we have them sometimes) end up giving incredible insight and feedback, which is taken into account in future design decisions.

Now Tiimo is up and running you have a research collaboration with Aalborg University in Denmark on the effects of using Tiimo as a support-tool for children. How does this work, and how do you apply their feedback?

We have worked with the same researcher from AAU several times. She has both been involved in some preliminary workshops and also done qualitative research about the effect of Tiimo in families after the product was developed. After any research, she presents her findings to us so we can use that in our development. She has actually recently published a paper on the initial research of a new feature that we are working on regarding self-assessment of mood that will be a big part of the future product. 

Do you have any advice for medtech, healthtech or wellbeing startups on how to create, manage and maintain research partnerships when creating or adapting a product?

Yes, I think the first would be: do your research and do it well. A good health/medtech startup needs to be aligned with up-to-date language and understandings within the scientific community. If it’s not, it will not be interesting for a research partnership. But if it is, then just reach out to people! Explain the problems your product tries to solve, questions you still have, and how diligent you’ve been in research (both in the broader scientific community and with users) and I think you’ll succeed. Often researchers build small apps to try and carry out projects, so it makes much more sense for them to collaborate with a product that’s already developed than do it alone.

As a social impact startup, how do you balance the societal impact objectives you have with monetary ones? Do you have any advice for similar budding startups?

This is a very good question. I think a lot of people in this space wish that they could just make their product free for their users, but the reality is often that if you want to continue to develop a good product and be able to both maintain it and make it better it is a necessity to also have revenue.

At Tiimo, we’re a small team of people who genuinely want to make the world a better, more inclusive place. So of course we wish Tiimo was free. We want everyone who could use Tiimo to be able to use it forever. The overarching goal of our work is to create more inclusive communities, so it’s frustrating to put up an economic barrier to the product, no matter what it is. But the reality is that eight of us (and probably a few more in the coming months) work on Tiimo – the technical aspects, product improvement, customer support, and getting the word out there – full-time. So we need to make enough money to pay our salaries, because if not, Tiimo will stop existing at some point.

We are currently doing a lot of testing of our pricing and revenue model in general to learn more about what works for our user group. I don’t know if I have any advice in particular regarding this, since I believe this balance is different from company to company, but being transparent to your users about prices and why you have to charge money is a good idea. That’s something we are really trying to do at the moment. 

We saw you are a fan of visual information over written reminders. How do you think this could be applied further for the workplace and startup growth? Do you use this in your team?

We are huge fans of visuals, but mostly because we know that’s what works best for our user group. Our focus on visuals is a key aspect of what makes Tiimo so unique as a product. In terms of communication within the team, overall I think we’re good at remembering that people have different ways of working, so we try to be accommodating and attentive to that. That being said, I really experience that being very transparent (and using visuals can be a very good way to do this – on whiteboards around the office and in presentations, for example) is very important to make sure everyone in the team is aligned and working towards the same goal.

Tiimo raised funding in 2018 and 2020. What made you decide then was the right time, and do you have any tips for startups on the same path?

Early on we chose to have investors on board that would help grow the company – and this was definitely the right path for Tiimo. We have raised several funding rounds to get where we are at today, and I believe that having experienced investors onboard who also understand the mission you are on and the impact you’re trying to create can be worth much more than the money they invest. So my advice would be to make sure you’re aligned about the mission with the investors you bring onboard. The right investors will also help you with their experience and know-how (so that they almost become part of the team) and support your overall mission.

How has the current pandemic affected your team and have you had to pivot/adapt in any way?

I actually think we are in a very lucky situation since we had just closed a funding round before the pandemic, which means we have had money to continue the development as planned. Also the nature of our company and the way we normally work made it possible to continue our work remotely. I’m very proud of our entire team and the way that they all just stayed focused and delivered as planned even though the work situation suddenly changed.

I’m also really proud about how supportive we were of one another through the changes. A lot of us on the team have young kids, and it was of course a challenge to manage work responsibilities while daycares and schools were closed. I think we all adapted very well and were extremely understanding of one another and also very ready to help. The lockdown period presented other challenges for those of our teammates who live alone. I think we were also good at checking-in about how people were doing mental-health wise, not just in terms of productivity and work matters. I’m proud to lead such a human-centered team and I think the benefits of a compassionate approach to business really showed their value through the pandemic.

There was also actually quite a lot of interest generated around Tiimo because most people’s schooling moved online, so many families were looking for ways to structure the day. Actually it seemed like everyone was trying to figure out how to create healthy routines at home without external accountability. So we’ve really tried to get the word out during this period that our visual web calendar is totally free. We’ve also heard from users of both the calendar and the app that Tiimo has been especially valuable in terms of reducing stress through the quarantine – this is of course wonderful to hear.

Finally, what cool plans do you have coming up for 2020 and beyond?

I’m so excited about 2020. We have tons of cool developments in the works! In the next couple of months we will launch quite a few new features that will improve the overall experience of the apps. Some of these include a new recurrence system and pre-made templates for common daily activities, features that will make setting up a schedule much easier and faster, and then we are starting to develop the self-assessment feature I mentioned earlier. The self-assessment tool will be personalized to ask questions throughout the day regarding the user’s mood, feelings and symptoms, which can then provide insights to support decision making for the user. The self-assessment tool will also be helpful for the support-network of users – for parents, advocates, therapists, and doctors – who will have more insight on what might be supportive for the user. This feature will be launched in 2020.

We have also established a lot of new partnerships with key figures in the neurodiversity community. It’s extremely important for us that we work to support the neurodiverse community in every way possible, so building these partnerships is vital. Some of the creators, activists, and journalists we will be working with are Laura Zdan, Samantha Stein, Lydia Wilkins, among others. We’re also building a campaign (hopefully a viral one!) that encourages and inspires everyone to take concrete steps to building spaces that are more inclusive for neurodiverse people. But I can’t give away too much yet! You’ll have to keep your eye out for it.

 

EU-Startups

Interview with Matt Holmes : A look inside the world of Domain Development and Lead Generation

 MorganLinton.com: I first met Matt Holmes in Las Vegas at NamesCon and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him better over the years. Matt is a high energy guy, always super fun to talk to, and doing some particularly interesting things in the domain development and lead generation space. Along with understanding the power of a […]
Domaining.com

“We were adamant about finding a one-step solution”: Interview with inne’s founder Eirini Rapti

On a rainy April day, I had the honour of interviewing Eirini Rapti, the founder and CEO of femtech startup inne – a hormone-based mini lab for women. Despite us being complete strangers, separated by two screens and a few thousand kilometres, the connection was instant and what started as a classical interview quickly became an in-depth conversation about life, product design, and everything in between. 

Over the last four years Erini, a healthcare professional gone entrepreneur has grown a diverse Berlin-based team that successfully launched their first product a few weeks ago. More than just a natural contraceptive method, inne is a radical self-knowledge tool for all the phases in a woman’s life. Since founding the company in 2016, Eirini has made the conscious effort to hire both designers and scientists to create a science-based product that is truly delightful for users. In the following interview, she tells us how the idea came about, why they chose Berlin as their base and what design, tech and science can learn from each other.

Eirini, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me and congrats on your launch! Can you tell me a bit about your backstory and how Inne came to life?

It started with me meeting my partner. When we met, I was 32, currently single and not using any type of contraception. For the first time in my life, I made a conscious decision to stay clear of hormones and set up an appointment to get an IUD. After explaining to my gynaecologist that I thought this was my only non-hormonal option, she asked if I’d be open to trying the natural method. She whipped out a little piece of paper, drew up my cycle length, told me to buy a thermometer, what to look out for, gave me a few books to read and sent me on my way.

At some point, I wanted to find a tool to help me collect this data about myself, but the existing tech at the time was very much from the 80s, with bulky plastic hardware that just wasn’t very sophisticated. The science behind it was just as cumbersome. 

I decided to take matters into my own hands and create something that fits my lifestyle and could be just like the other fantastic tech products I used as extensions of my life from the kindle to my apple watch. The goal was to create a product that was small, lightweight, well-designed that could travel the world with me. This quickly turned into a vision to build a science-based company to accompany women throughout all their phases in life.

Regarding this high expectation on the products in your life to be well-designed, how did you manage to build this bridge between design and science in your company?

This has a twofold answer; one is my personal journey into delightful products that improve and simplify my life. I worked in medical evacuations for a long time and had to travel a lot and work in fast-paced, ever-changing environments. I learned to appreciate packing very little and having access to information fast. From Blackberrys to small computers, I always looked for tech that allowed me to live a full life, keep me connected with people at home, but made me light as a person. I designed a decluttered life for myself, which made me feel incredibly free.

Now for inne, specifically creating a product in FAM (fertility awareness method), I knew if I wanted to create something that women can benefit from, it has to be used properly at the right times of the day in order to be accurate. The only way to make sure these habits are built successfully is to create a beautiful product that can seamlessly integrate into people’s lifestyles – and even create a sense of delight. 

How has this “delightful design” approach influenced the setup of your team?

It has been great to see design and science intertwine and influence all parts of the business from hiring to product development to scientific testing. We have a fantastic Creative Director, Franzi, who used to work at IDEO and has brought in a lot of her design practices that have become critical to the way we do things. In January 2018 we were four people: our lead scientist, one research scientist, Franzi as the only designer and me. Today in 2020 we have three designers out of the team, which is a very high design ratio for a biotech company. 

Design has profoundly impacted the way we solve problems. In the first couple of years we had to make many scientific decisions: how we structure the tests, how we normalise saliva collection, how we make sure the strip isn’t removed too early – these are essentially interaction design touchpoints. Having Franzi there, giving her design input drove our scientific thinking into a creative problem-solving approach. We went into a prototyping mode quickly, we worked on intermediate solutions, something a purely science-based team would have never let happen. We pushed ourselves to fail fast so we could make our product user friendly and create delightful user experiences as early as possible.

Can you give me a concrete example on a product decision that was made like this? 

A good example is the saliva test. Pretty much every saliva test is a two-step process: one step to collect the saliva and another step where you have to place it somewhere to be analysed. From the beginning, we were adamant about finding a one-step solution. We said the users need to have as little steps as possible, how can we make this work? It became a complex mechanical problem, an engineering problem and became an iteration of many solution suggestions and countless failures until we finally got it right.

How was making a ‘one-step solution’ for the scientists and the others in the team?

Nothing has been easy, but the scientists that work with me were longing for this type of input. In general, scientists want to share their knowledge with the world, so developing a product that actually goes out to the world is hugely gratifying. Even though this approach doesn’t necessarily fit their training or their way of working, the “aha moments” make it all worthwhile. 

On the flip side, the rest of the team has profited immensely from the scientific approach, and each of us now set ourselves up to doubt even a good result, helping us strive for excellence.

People talk a lot about tech – in our product tech is not “just tech”, it’s also science. Many other companies have successfully applied design thinking to hardware and software and created amazing products. What we were doing as pioneers was not only applying a user-driven approach to create the software and hardware part of our product but also to the science part. 

What is the biggest piece of advice would you give to anyone else designing their product?

Don’t assume you know what people need, ask them. Do interviews, questionnaires, show prototypes and then filter out what you think will be useful.

Of all the places you could have chosen to set up shop, why did you choose Berlin?

When I did all of this, I knew I had about six months to figure out which scientific approach I would follow. My naive early entrepreneurial brain wanted to work with a university instead of having an in-house science team, which thankfully didn’t happen. We had three startup hubs as options: London, Berlin or Lisbon. London was where I spent my 20s, so been there, done that. In Lisbon, I didn’t have any ties. In Berlin, I had many contacts, mentors and an entrepreneurial support network. A friend and mentor, who then became one of the first angel investors in our product, offered me a desk in his office and it all sort of started from there. Now, four years later we have a lab within the Bayer CoLaborator in Wedding and our own office in Mitte. 

What’s up next for inne?

Last week we shipped our first set of products to the UK and Sweden and are now shipping in Germany too. It’s been exhilarating to see the first responses to the products. This year is about getting close to our customers and delighting them. Our number one priority is getting as much user feedback as we can and improving the product accordingly. 

Another big plan is a clinical study in the US, even if it will be delayed due to the current crisis, it is still scheduled to happen as soon as possible. We’ll also be going through FDA regulatory approval, which will be a big deal for us.

Closing off, what do you see for the femtech industry in the next 5-10 years?

Consolidation. I believe that women are looking for products that can take care of their various needs in female health and therefore I believe the industry will move towards a consolidation of services into ecosystems, thus serving women better. 

EU-Startups

Alternative “.News” Domain Name Gets Big Plug With Exclusive Trump Interview

 StrategicRevenue.com: PALM BEACH, FL – “Full Measure,” a news show that I had actually never heard of is sure to get a big spotlight on “.news” domain names as there was recently an interview with the President of the United States at the White House which took place last weekend. The interview was conducted by writer, […]
Domaining.com

Interview: Dofo aims to fix domain search

Domain search company wants to make it easier to find domains to register or buy.

The word "domain search" with a magnifying glass inside a search box

 

Finding aftermarket domain names is difficult. The two big domain marketplaces, Sedo and Afternic, don’t have search functions that help domain investors find domains that fit their metrics.

Dofo is trying to change that. I asked Dofo Founder & CEO Macit Tuna via email how his site can help domain investors and end users find available domains on the primary market and aftermarket. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Domain Name Wire: What is your background with domains and what’s the origin of Dofo?

Tuna: I started to be interested in domain names at the beginning of the 2000s. At first, it was just a hobby to check if a domain name was available or not. I wasn’t buying domain names, only making lists in Excel and checking their availability when I could use the Internet. Then I started to register domain names, then buy a few domain names for our own projects with my brother, Sacit.

After seeing the potential of buying and selling domain names, I started investing in domain names, of course, with a limited budget at that time. I also started a blog about domaining in 2007 and published more than 200 articles in Turkish. I also gave some courses in the universities about domain names and domain name disputes.

Starting from the 2010s, I was more interested in domain name related products other than buying and selling domain names. I built my own mini-programs to check domain name availability, expiring domain names, etc. At that time, I was thinking about making something big, that covered all domain names, marketplaces, expiring domain names, whois, etc. Of course, building something like that is not so easy: you have to have a very talented team, a high budget/fund, and more importantly the patience. Thank God, we could gather all we needed together and started to build Dofo. Because we are dealing with enormous data, it was not easy to build and maintain something like that. Now, although there are still many things to do, Dofo is working well and used by thousands of people every day.

DNW: Would you say your site is geared to end-users or investors?

Tuna: We want to show to the end-users how it’s easy to search and find the domain names they want. It might sound interesting, but most of the end-users still don’t know how to check if a domain name is registered or not. They don’t know there are more than 30 million domain names listed for sale on marketplaces. We know that without reaching the end-users and raising awareness, it’s impossible to see the real potential of the domain name industry.

Of course, targeting the end-users doesn’t mean the domain investors don’t use Dofo.com. There are hundreds of domain investors using dofo.com every day. We need more support from the domain investors and the industry players, especially from the bloggers.

DNW: What do you think about the current state of search for aftermarket domain names?

Tuna: I want to answer this question by explaining what we are doing to make search easier and better on Dofo. We tested almost a hundred different user interfaces and search functionalities. We did a lot of research to serve a better user experience to our users. We read UX reports dedicated to search; some of them were consisting of more than one hundred pages. We asked our users, and we analyzed the search filters’ usage to make the search better.

Search is and should be the most crucial feature of any domain marketplace, and if the search fails, everything fails. Because most of the domain marketplaces’ websites are not newly developed, the searches don’t generally satisfy the customers’ expectations.

We are trying to keep search as simple as possible while we provide advanced filters. On Dofo, you can filter domain names by:

  • extension and extension type (gTLD – ccTLD)
  • price (min-max)
  • keywords (contain, start with, end with, exact match, not contain)
  • sale type (buy now, make offer, auction, available soon/backorder)
  • length (min-max)
  • special characters (letter, number, hyphen: include-exclude)
  • IDN (include-exclude)
  • domain create date (min-max date)
  • marketplace
  • language (still beta)

People search for keywords in general, but we also give the opportunity to filter whatever they want. I also use Dofo’s search to find good domain names for our new products.

DNW: How do you get access to inventory information from marketplaces such as Afternic and Sedo? It seems that they don’t provide a feed of their inventory.

We made partnerships with almost all domain marketplaces such as Sedo, Uniregistry Market, and Afternic. We are listing the inventory of sixteen marketplaces on Dofo, as of May 2020.

Each marketplace has its own method to share the inventory data. Dofo is one of the members of Afternic’s Reseller Network, and we get a daily data feed for the domains listed on Afternic. We are also a member of the SedoMLS Platinum Program. Although Sedo doesn’t provide a data feed, they give access APIs to check if a domain name is listed on Sedo.

It’s not easy to make an integration with all the marketplaces, but we do this. We update the marketplace data daily.

DNW: What features do you have in the pipeline?

There are still so many things to do.

We started to focus more on Dofo Blog and we publish several articles every week. Dofo Blog will always have the top priority. I should also mention that we appreciate what you have been doing at DNW for the past 15 years. DNW has become the memory of the domain industry and has become an essential resource for anyone interested in domain names.

One of the most important features we want to add to Dofo is a User Dashboard. Our users will be able to follow domain names and will be get notified whenever any change occurs about a domain name: whois update, on sale status change, etc. For example, follow a domain name and get notified if this domain name is listed for sale on any marketplace. Or follow your own domain names to keep track of whois changes.

We already launched The Lists feature, but it’s not fully functional yet. You will be able to create your own list, and you will also be able to follow lists. Lists are pre-defined searches created by us for you. For example, in “4N COM Domains For Sale List”, the four-letter .com domain names for sale are listed. You can check the “Bitcoin Domain Names For Sale” list if you are looking for bitcoin domain names.

We have created the very first version of Dofo Browser Extension. We will add more features to it soon. For now, it shows if the visited domain name or any similar domain is for sale in any marketplace.

We are discussing creating a mobile application with our team. But because the mobile web version of Dofo is good enough, we don’t feel a hurry to create it.

Translating Dofo into other languages is also what we will work on in the next few months. Keyword Popularity Tool and Smart Domain Finder for Startups are the other things we are discussing.

Post link: Interview: Dofo aims to fix domain search

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“The benefits a diverse team can bring are huge”: Interview with Adeva’s CEO and co-founder Katerina Trajchevska

Nowadays, we are lucky to see that an increasing number of inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders climb the career ladder by fusing the power of technology with solidarity, empathy, a human touch, and sense of empowerment. And, by doing so, they pull others up with them.

One of these leaders is Katerina Trajchevska, the co-founder and CEO of Skopje-based startup Adeva (2015), an exclusive developers’ network that partners with companies to scale their engineering teams on-demand. In her mission to use technology for a greater good, Katerina is inspiring people to make a difference, no matter where they come from. Following Adeva’s vision, she aims to contribute to creating equal opportunities for developers everywhere, no matter their location, race, or gender.

Katerina stands for equality, inclusion, and giving back to the community, both personally and professionally. She actively participates in initiatives for women in tech, contributes to the local tech community, and volunteers as a mentor in different programmes and initiatives. Moreover, she is a remote work advocate and a strong believer that the future of work is not about where you work from, but what you deliver.

Already inspired by her work and initiatives, we sat with Katerina to hear her story and get first-hand tips on remote working, inclusion, and diversity.

Hi Katerina, We are excited to interview you, thank you for taking part. To start off, what does it take for a software engineer to become an entrepreneur? Could you tell us your story?

Regardless of your background, what it takes to become an entrepreneur is the drive to make a change and not be afraid to fail, stand up, and continue moving. 

I started freelancing right after graduating and 2 years later I co-founded Adeva together with a colleague, Tosho Trajanov. We both had engineering backgrounds, so managing a business introduced a new set of challenges: from finding new clients to attracting skilled talent – everything was new to us. We had to learn on the go and we failed a lot, but all of that contributed to what we are today.

With Adeva, you are bringing equal opportunities to developers everywhere in the world, no matter their location, race, or gender. Could you tell us a bit more about your company and the network you are building?

Adeva is a global network of world-class engineers. We partner with companies to help them scale flexibly and build products faster by working with distributed teams. 

As a team of 2 enthusiasts, we started Adeva to create better opportunities for ourselves. The company grew organically – from a freelance business to a global network with a team distributed in over 20 countries in the world. Over time, we made it our mission to create better growth opportunities for developers everywhere, especially those coming from emerging countries like Macedonia.

Speaking of inclusion, Adeva is a Winner of International Women in Tech Awards 2018: Best Inclusive Tech Company. What was it that brought you this award? What are the main challenges and benefits of implementing a D&I (diversity and inclusion) strategy?

I believe it was our remote culture where we embrace diversity in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity. We invest a lot in creating an inclusive culture where everyone is appreciated and heard, which can be a challenge when working with people from different cultural backgrounds.  Still, the benefits a diverse team can bring to the business are huge, especially when it comes to creative solutions, brainstorming, and team dynamics.

Your team at Adeva is already 50+ people strong. What tips do you have for building a great tech team? 

I believe that apart from the technical skills, it’s extremely important that each team member is aligned with the company vision and values, so this is the first thing I’d focus on. Then, adapt the interviewing process to your company’s needs instead of opting for “by the book” interviews that won’t tell you much about the candidates. Finally, once you have the team in place, make sure that everyone on the team has the opportunity to grow and advance, establish regular feedback loops, and take some time for 1:1 meetings. 

How much of your company’s work is done remotely? What have been your biggest challenges in growing a remote team and how have you overcome it?

100% of our work is done remotely. We practice what we preach and our internal team is also fully remote. 

Transitioning from an office environment to remote work can be challenging and when we were starting the team was struggling to set up their home office and stay productive. So, we started small – first by introducing remote Friday, then extending gradually to being a remote-first company. I think this is very important, so the team doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the new environment.

Do you think big companies or startups are more equipped at remote working? How do you think the working culture of these two will change after the pandemic?

I’d say the mindset is most important, regardless of the company size. To be productive at remote work, you should be fully result-oriented and avoid micromanaging. 

Companies are learning to be more flexible with the pandemic and some countries want to incentivise working from home even after the crisis, which is great. Still, a lot of the businesses were suddenly forced to completely change their working style without having the time to adapt to remote work. So, there’s also the concern that by not having the time to adapt their working processes, they’re facing reduced productivity which can negatively influence their perception of remote work. I’m eager to see what the situation will be like a year from now.

What are your 3 work-for-home tips for founders who are managing a remote team now for the first time? 

  1. Find the virtual version of your in-person processes. Use online tools for managing your project boards; use Slack for informal communication with the team; organize virtual happy hours and team buildings. The list is long.
  2. Avoid micromanaging. Allow your team members to organize their time as they find most productive and focus on the results only.
  3. Build a strong remote culture. Schedule 1:1 meetings, encourage everyone to speak up, and invest in an inclusive environment.

You actively take part in initiatives for women in tech. What do you think would be the main challenges for the next generation of women in tech and what can employers do to advance gender equality?

Compared to what it was when I was starting my career, the state of women in tech is significantly improved. I believe that access to information, positive examples and the ability to learn from other women’s stories make all the difference.

We still have a long way to go, but I’m confident we’re on the right track. What employers can do to reduce the gender gap is to adjust the recruiting process in a way that will eliminate unconscious bias toward female candidates (or other underrepresented candidates for that matter) and create an inclusive culture where everyone can speak up and be heard. 

What is the one piece of advice you would give to female startup founders?

See opportunities instead of obstacles. Women are still marginalized, but that’s the main reason why there are so many initiatives and communities for supporting female founders. Use the opportunities they’re creating and find your competitive advantage in them.

What is it like to startup in Skopje? How attractive is North Macedonia for launching a startup? 

Macedonia is still an untapped market and I believe it is a great environment for launching a startup. Digitalization is still a novelty here and there are so many opportunities to make people’s lives easier or improve business processes by introducing digital solutions. Even using an idea that’s proven to work abroad can make a huge difference for the local community and can be converted into a successful startup.

EU-Startups

Domain Investor/Developer/Blogger Morgan Linton Goes Deep in New Interview with GGRG’s Giuseppe G…

 DNJournal: Giuseppe Graziano is continuing his new series of in-depth domain industry interviews with the release of interview #3 with the multi-talented Morgan Linton.
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