14 Minutes of SaaS

14 Minutes of SaaS

E22 – Andrew Mullaney, Ex Co-Founder & CTO NewsWhip – I’m a Virus. I never go away – 2 of 3

Andrew Mullaney on 14 Minutes of SaaS with Stephen Cummins part 2

E22 – Andrew Mullaney, Ex Co-Founder & CTO NewsWhip – I’m a Virus. I never go away – 2 of 3

This is the second of a 3 part mini-series with Andrew Mullaney, former CTO & Co-founder of NewsWhip, a service that tracks how billions of people engage with stories. Is recession a great time to start a business? Why is Dublin an amazing hub and community for startups? What’s the one question he’ll always ask and interviewee? The influence of rugby on how Andrew builds companies. And why startups are not good from your finances. “It’s really hard. And that’s something that can get the better of some people … and some people just keep on ongoing. I used to describe myself as a virus. I was like ‘I’m a virus I’m just never going away!'”

Transcript

Andrew Mullaney

Only natural to be overly positive and I was probably overly positive when I made that decision. And maybe only if you are that positive will you actually do something as crazy as going off and trying to pass it out on your own, it’s really hard. And that’s something that can get the better of some people … and some people just keep on ongoing. I used to describe myself as a virus. I was like ‘I’m a virus I’m just never going away!’

Stephen Cummins

 

Welcome to 14 minutes of SaaS, the show where you can listen to the stories and opinions of founders of the world’s most remarkable SaaS ScaleUps.

Part two of a three part mini-series with Andrew Mullaney, former CEO. and Cofounder of NewsWhip. Is recession a great time to start a business? Why is Dublin an amazing hub and community for startups? What’s the one question he’ll always ask and interviewee? … he’s about to tell us that … and …Why startups are not good from your finances!

You live and work in Dublin close to where I live and work. I’m in the Silicon Docks. You’re in this beautiful Georgian Square here in this magnificent house. What do you think of Dublin as a place to build a business?

Andrew Mullaney

Well … I mean I built it during the recession. And I’m not sure if it was Dublin or if it was the recession, but recession is a great time to build a business. People are open to opportunities. People are trying things. You can get staff. You can get properties. I still think it’s a great place … I think it’s getting more challenging …. you know, there’s a huge amount of influx of large and small corporations.

And one thing I will say is the support here is very, very strong … you know  I’m talking direct support like Enterprise Ireland, but even the loose support like right down to universities and startup bodies. It’s small enough that everybody knows each other and helps each other – there’s a really good vibe about it. I personally really enjoyed it. I wonder what it would be like now … as things are getting really hot. You know, I’m sure it would be challenging but you know, that’s the same everywhere – be it in New York or San Francisco. You know, Dublin was a little hidden gem. So I really hope that we can see Ireland really getting on a big stage. I think we deserve it.

Stephen Cummins

Me too. What drives you to do what you do?

Andrew Mullaney

I remember when I left Accenture and they gave me a voluntary redundancy package. And I was like, you know what, I’m 24 … like I could just tear off around the world, you know, and I’ve done that once or twice before. And I just thought, you know what …  it’s not really that challenging. And then God, did I get a challenge. EasyDeals wasn’t easy and was a lot harder than I expected. So I definitely got what I wanted but, you know, Startups are challenging and things that are challenging are rewarding. And it’s very rewarding to do it with other people as well … you get this kind of combined team effort. I was very fond of team sports when I was younger. And, you know, to achieve that in business, in a professional world … it’s just something you can’t put money on. I really think most entrepreneurs are not driven by financial award. I will say that if you’re going into entrepreneurship for financial gain, your financially insane.

Stephen Cummins

If you’d a piece of advice, or a couple of pieces of advice, to give to somebody thinking of walking away from whatever it is they’re doing … or somebody just coming into the market for the first time and wanting to build a business or co-start a business … What would you say to them?

Andrew Mullaney

Well, if you’re thinking about walking away, I’d definitely say, you know, if you’ve got the itch … it’s not gonna go away. And I realised that myself and, you know, get out and give it a shot! You know, you can always go back and get your job. So just do it! Just bite the bullet – or don’t! … and then forget about it. But don’t sit in the middle and torture yourself.

One thing I do see a lot of is that people are adamant about their particular idea, and that this is going to be successful for these reasons.
And before they even kind of measure up the opportunity or the data around it, they’re kind of halfway down the line. And I always say to people in that situation ‘Do you want to be successful? or ‘Do you want this to be successful? …. because there’s a huge difference and it’s it back to my early days with easy deals. You know, you gotta say look, it’s not working and just because it’s not working doesn’t mean I’m not working. I can let it go and I can move on again. In fact, I can let it go. I can take all the learnings and move on. And then I’m better equipped and… and I think that’s when you’re really okay with the failure …. that’s when you’re kinda like, you know …  once you actually come around to that, it’s liberating. You know because you just go ‘Right I tried something that doesn’t work. I’ll try something else

Stephen Cummins

Andrew you had very international youth. How did that come about? And how was it for you?

Andrew Mullaney

Yeah. So my Dad … he’s a doctor. He probably has an entrepreneurial streak for a doctor … in its own right. And that served him well. But he also loves to travel and, I mean you have to as a doc get your training anyway. And you basically have to leave Ireland because he’s a surgeon. So we went to the States and he did his surgery there. And then we went to Middle East, which was a great opportunity for him … plus also the pay was better. And of course, back then we were not the wealthiest. We were paupers in some way. So we lived in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia … we could probably do a whole podcast on that alone.

Stephen Cummins

Was it restrictive?

Andrew Mullaney

It was yeah, but for me it wasn’t because …as a kid it was grand – pools and lots of stuff. But yeah, you know, women couldn’t drive and there was no alcohol. And there was prayers five times a day where everyone had to go inside. And, you know, they publicly beheaded people in the central square.

Stephen Cummins

Yeah, you never saw anything like that. Did you?

Andrew Mullaney

You can do it if you want to. We weren’t interested in it.

Stephen Cummins

Oh, no of course not.

Andrew Mullaney

But it meant I had a very international youth. Its kind of like the start-ups as well … you know, you meet new people and when you’re a kid, you’re kinda stuck to your friends … but, you know, I got quite used to making new friends. I’ve actually stayed in touch with them too. A good thing with social media is that you can actually meet these people even though they could be continents away. And so, yeah …it was an interesting upbringing. It wasn’t the average one.

Stephen Cummins

Now … I know you love team sports … and you played a bit … or you may still play. I don’t know…

Andrew Mullaney

I’m so stiff right now because I was playing tag rugby last night.

Stephen Cummins

Really? Well fair play to you. That’s really cool! Tell us about the sports that you loved and you played … and does it impact on how you do business?

Andrew Mullaney

Yeah, absolutely. So I played rugby. I was a little bit small. I was actually a bit young for my year, but I loved it … and I still love it and I played it as an adult when I left school … much to my co-founder’s terror, because I came in with black eyes and sometimes I, couldn’t walk and once I dislocated my shoulder – which is obviously problematic.

Team sports for me …  you don’t achieve anything really on your own. When you talk about something considerable it’s going to be a team effort … and getting that dynamic down is something that you inherently have if you play team sports. And it’s definitely something I looked to hire for as we scaled. You know agile, which would be the development standard of choice pretty much now, is based off flat, non-hierarchical team units. It’s actually based off rugby – hence the name scrum. And that it requires people who think in a team way. And I see that as a hugely attractive trait when I’m hiring.

There’s a trick question I ask people actually which is … described to me the achievement that gives you most pride. And most people think I’m asking them to present to me the best thing they’ve achieve. But actually what I’m looking for is do they describe this in a singular focus or do they describe it in a team focus interests? Because if they say it’s like ‘Oh the time my team and I we won this cup.’ Okay … that’s how this person thinks …or the time I came first in my class. And it’s not to say that it’s right or wrong – for some leadership positions you’re better as a solo. But generally when it comes to achieving things, unit teams that operate very well together are what you’re looking for.

Stephen Cummins

Very interesting, I’m a huge rugby fan as well and played it in school … but people often romanticise startups and the startup world. I’m particularly thinking of maybe people that I would have worked with in Salesforce or other larger companies and … well it was tiny when I started, but when it became a larger company … you know, they have so many resources. I don’t think they’re fully aware of how blessed they are. And it would maybe motivate them if you threw them into a start up for six months. But, you know do people romanticize what it is like to be an entrepreneur?

Andrew Mullaney

Yeah, I think it’s only natural to be overly positive and I was probably overly positive when I made that decision. And maybe only if you are that positive will you actually do something that’s as crazy as going off and trying to battle that out on your own, it’s really hard. I mean that’s something that can get the better of some people …. and some people just keep ongoing. I used to describe myself as a virus. I was like ‘I’m a virus. I’m just never going away.’ … Kind of a weird way of justifying just to stay at it. You stay at it and something will come back your way. And really if people think it’s gonna be glorified or romanticized, I think they’ll get washed out quick enough. Because it’s really hard, and unless you really believe true to your core what you’re doing, I think most people cop out.  It doesn’t even add up as a job. Most people evaluate a job with … ‘How much am I getting paid?’ and ‘What is my role?’

When you’re to start up a company, it’s more about moving your life … you represent this. Everything about it becomes you. You’d take calls in the middle of the night if you had to …  even though you haven’t been paid for six months. Yeah it’s a totally different attitude. But again, like I said before, it’s rewarding because it is so hard. And so if you get reward from those challenges, you don’t work at in your life.

Stephen Cummins

I suppose the other side of that is … if somebody is wired that way and has that ability …. there must be so many that just made a decision not to do it … and you’re probably internally beating yourself up for decades afterwards. Maybe even without realizing it.

Andrew Mullaney

Yeah, I think a lot of it comes down to how people like to be recognized. I noticed this as I became an employer afterwards, because when you employ people you have to make sure you recognize them for their work – or they become demotivated and leave – which is makes sense. If you intrinsically have an entrepreneurship streak in you, the type of recognition you get from a classical job may not really cut it for you. Because it’s somewhat fostered … you know … whereas you want to try and make a real impact … one where you’re still judging yourself. And so, I think that’s kinda what motivates people. Like I mentioned before … climbing a career structure ladder or setting up your own goal posts and going after them … They are 2  different things … you’ll find people aren’t motivated by both. And there’s no right answer. You just have to find the one that’s right for you.

Stephen Cummins

In the next episode, the final part of this three part series, Andrew will talk about how he handles distractions. He’ll take us into his daily routine and he’ll discuss why founders should nail down what it is that motivates them.

You’ve been listening to 14 minutes of SaaS. Thank you to Ketsu for music provided under a creative commons license. This episode was brought to you by me, Stephen Cummins. If you enjoy the podcast, please don’t forget to share it with your network, subscribe to the series and give the show a rating.

14 Minutes of SaaS