14 Minutes of SaaS

14 Minutes of SaaS

E52: David Darmanin – Founder & CEO of Hotjar – 2 of 2 – Pragmatism before Passion

David Darmanin Hotjar part 2

E52: David Darmanin – Founder & CEO of Hotjar – 2 of 2 – Pragmatism before Passion

Concluding half of a 2 part series, David Darmanin – Founder & CEO of Hotjar talks with Stephen Cummins at Dublin’s SaaStock about his passion for building 100% distributed companies and the importance he places on self awareness and building on one’s strengths. He advises entrepreneurs to avoid what he calls the passion fallacy when building companies – it will protect them from building stuff that they are passionate about, but that people don’t need. He also lists some great books that he mandates all new employees to read when they join the company.

Transcript

David Darmanin

 

I advise … I speak to a lot of young startups and people starting up and I’d say easily 80 or 90 percent of the reason why they end up failing is they made the I did right? They have this great idea … driven typically out of their passion. And I wrote a blog post about this – the passion fallacy which is your passion drives you to do something because you love it, but no one wants it, right? So its important to think about that.

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.

In this the second and final part of our chat with David Darmanin, CEO and Cofounder of Hotjar, he talks about his passion for building 100 percent distributed companies … which are 100 percent remote working.  The importance he places on self-awareness and building on one strengths. And he mentions some great books that he mandates all new employees to read when they join the company.

Stephen Cummins

Bringing you back to the remote piece … any recommendations for a company that wants to build like that? … build a team like that?

David Darminan

There aren’t that many actually … and in fact, that’s why I said … after Hotjar …  I’m planning to write a book. Or maybe we start working on that now. I get so many questions about this. And there’s so many things that we’ve learned … and we’ve interacted with so many other companies that do remote ….  from Automattic to Basecamp. We’ve talked about how they do it, and don’t. So there’s so many learnings that we need to be sharing.

I’d say the first tip –  more than anything  – is if you have parts of team in one location and you’re thinking of remote as an add-on to that to expand your possibilities, don’t. That’s not gonna work. In my opinion experience, mixing remote with non-remote doesn’t work very well. Mainly because it creates the ‘Us and Them’ culture – and you feel left out. So it’s critical that you avoid this situation – and the reality is human nature. If you’re jumping on a call or a Zoom with a headset … and on the other end, there’s six people in the room, but you don’t really feel like you’re part of the team. And that very early on creates the separation. So unless you’re willing to have everyone with a headset on joining a call separately, then probably remote is not the ideal ….  if you really truly want to invest in this, right?

To me remote is everyone individually connected together right? It’s not adding a team on to an existing company in a separate location – that is not remote.

Stephen Cummins

Is that because part of that means that you’d almost have 2 tiers of people and the remote people are kind of – you never quite get your head around how to work with them – because you’re so used to interacting in situ? …  yeah, okay. That’s fascinating .

David Darminan

It’s about culture, right? This is really, really important to not create that divide.

Stephen Cummins

And is it a is it easier to scale … if you’re working in this way … is it much more challenging if they’re working out of the house … or if you have like twos and threes and fours and pods of offices around the place. What works better?

David Darminan

Yeah. I think it all depends on the culture, the values of the company, the culture of the people. I guess leaders who prefer the more command mode will struggle with remote, right? So it works best when you are a more transparent, trusting, open leader. Not everything is made to work for everyone, right? So there are situations where it’s not ideal. So there are many different formats you can have – with different pods and everything. But what we’ve found is that what’s worked really well for us – and the more I speak to people with challenges – this is kind of feels like what would help them …. . it’s that we do not distinguish between you and like this country and that country … when I speak to someone, it’s probably this global citizen thing I have in my mind. Like I don’t think of them in that way. That’s just like a detail. It’s the equivalent of what clothes they like to where and this is the country they like to live in. When we connect digitally, we’re just there … we’re in the Hotjar-sphere and that’s it. So we don’t think beyond that.

Stephen Cummins

It’s fascinating to hear it David because so many people will tell you that, you know, they build a remote team …. sometimes for cost reasons, sometimes for other reasons, sometimes just because they can’t find people where they are as it’s so competitive. And they always say … get an office and get eight or nine of them and get that one amazing person that will … but it’s fascinating to listen to someone who has scaled such a successful company for people working at home or working out of their own office or whatever … all around the planet.

David Darmanin

And the reality is that it will work for some companies to have one office and have a leader and just own that, right. It will work. It all depends what is your objective. Are you just trying to make a quick buck and you need that team. Or are you trying to scale up a culture or an organization, right? So it depends what your objectives are.

Stephen Cummins

How many people are there in Hotjar now?

David Darmanin

We’re 70 team members.

Stephen Cummins

Wow…across how many countries?

David Darmanin

17

Stephen Cummins

Any tips that you would give to somebody considering starting up a business themselves – whether they’re in the middle of a corporate job or they’re coming out of university? What are the two or three things you’d do if you were going back in time?

David Darmanin

Looking back in my mistakes and failures, I’d say the one most important thing is to not start with the product… start with the market! And it took me a very long time to understand this. A great book to read about this because we don’t have much time is the ‘22 Immutable Laws of Marketing’. It’s by the people who wrote ‘Positioning’. So it’s all about understanding that at the end of the day you need to be a brand that owns a position in the minds of your market … and you need to start from there. And then build a product for that. And obviously typically your idea of what to build and how to take this position comes from your experience. So I’m not saying you should go and find a hole in the market – but more than anything validate your idea against that, right?

I advise … I speak to a lot of young startups and people starting up and I’d say easily 80 or 90 percent of the reason why they end up failing is they made the I did right? They have this great idea … driven typically out of their passion. And I wrote a blog post about this – the passion fallacy which is your passion drives you to do something because you love it, but no one wants it, right? So its important to think about that.

Stephen Cummins

Do you have any inner superpower … or one or two superpowers that you know …  they’re your strong points, they’re the things that have helped you be successful? Would you mind sharing what they might be?

David Darmanin

Yeah. And in fact, we actually know at Hotjar everyone’s strengths. We… we do something called the Strengths Finder. Okay. Which is basically a small book with a survey embedded in it – with a link to the survey

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