Guest Andrew Mullaney
I am joined by Andrew Mullaney the former CTO and Co-founder of NewsWhip
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Dave: Hello and welcome to the podcast I’m your host Dave Albert. In this show, I talk about technology, building a company as a CTO and co founder and have guests to discuss their roles in technology and entrepreneurship.
Today, I’m joined by Andrew Mullaney, former CTO and co founder of Newswhip. Thanks so much for joining us.
Andrew: Thank you for having me.
Dave: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself to get started?
Andrew: Sure. Um, so yeah, what’s what’s where do I start? Let me think I did electronic engineering and university, followed by a master’s in Management Science and then went and worked for big corporate in the form of Accenture and spent a year and a half there. And at that point, the startup bug, which was always inside me just had taken over. And when I resigned maybe 24 or five and decided, yep, quit my big job at the start of the biggest recession, like, I don’t know, 20 or 30 years, but Sure. I was hoping to live it anyway.
So then I went out to start my first startup, which is probably a startup that many people have thought of, which was a location based deals platform. And we had some traction but it was very challenging market. And learned, learned a lot of stuff kind of grew up quickly across those couple of years and then I met Paul who was a CEO and co founder of news whip. through some programs that we were involved in, and he’d been working in the news industry and had some ideas about how, how was changing and how social media was changing it, and I thought it was just a really, really good idea. Very exciting. So I got involved, and the rest is kind of history.
Dave: So for those that don’t know, what the news whip do?
Andrew: Well, what they what they do, yeah. So they might they measure where our attention is spent online. And that’s done by understanding and understand understanding what type of content people interact with on social networks. And so, we cover all the major social networks and you know, that is how a lot of content is spread and particularly, stuff that you described as viral, which which has, which has all sorts of different types of content can be viral, but there are there are attributes to them. And so you know, the amount of information being created is is huge and the amount of people interacting with it is even a lot bigger. And people who are willing to be right up on the cusp of this need technology to assist them as to as to what’s going on.
Dave: So that see publications will be able to find content before becomes a story through its sharing.
Andrew: Absolutely different geographies and different vectors of interest. Publications watching different beats and seeing how things work. So yeah, there’s many different ways that people can use it. But it’s generally to keep informed with them with with with what people are engaging with an often to try and understand why are they engaging with that content.
Dave: And with the way you know so much focuses on fake news nowadays. What arena or what how does that sit in the news with barrier
Andrew: It’s actually a big part of what we do now. Paul, Paul said on Bloomberg that a lie can get get itself around the world way faster than the truth can get his boots on something like that. It’s it’s an expression. And he was talking about, he was talking about the the the impact of fake news and it’s particularly in virality as well, because things that are sensational are often naturally viral. And so then things that are sensational happened all the time, but the question is, are they true?
Dave: Well, that’s the other thing is that, most truth has nuance apps on it.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. So we can go right into Pandora’s box. I’ve done a lot of work. And then Newswhip is involved in a project called that provenance which was backed by the European Union, which is consortium of companies trying to work against this issue. But even fundamentally, if you think about it, you know, truth in many ways is a perception. And I don’t mean that in a negative way, but one person’s truth is another person’s lie. And, and with a lot of the kind of debates we see online now, some things can be stated scientifically, like the world is round, but other things can be stated on another belief structures or whatever. And, and that’s somewhat it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s acceptable once you define within what context you’re referring to the piece of information you’re talking about, but most people don’t do that and hence you get a lot of conflict and you see that all over the place.
Dave: Mm hmm. That’s it. So, you know, there’s a difference between the different brain chemicals that get us hooked on different types of media.
Andrew: I know, I know.
Dave: Yeah, you’ve got the you’ve got your mean from your likes, but then you’ve also got the oxytocin from the connections?
Dave: So are you able to see anything through the different types of content of what, are you able to categorize what types of content?
Andrew: We wouldn’t go to that level of physiology though, I mean, I’ve read a lot of I do, I’m a big fan of psychology and you know, I’m, I’m not a doctor. So I don’t know enough about executive chemicals to our psychology, but I know there’s there’s, there is relations to that. We would say that generally content that goes viral has an emotional factor. So it invokes a reaction that causes you to act and this is also the basis for my next startup, which is that I have noticed if you want to get somebody to do something, you generally will look to invoke a reaction and you’ll see this marketers all the time. some level of stimulant like happiness or you know, laughing or anger or disgusts, you know all these types of things you can see the people content, and they’ve become incredibly vocal around this because it has it has given them that reaction.
Dave: When you started your background was it it was more in the which sphere? Was it more in the machine learning or in the office?
Andrew: God I was probably really just a generalist if I’m if I’m honest, started a new job. I I guess I was always just a bit of a hacker. You know, I tried a lot of different things. Previous startup, what it ended up in the deal space that had a few pivots. We built loads of kind of weird things in college, I tried to build the equivalent of whatsapp at one point, you know, I was always kind of fiddling around and I love tech. And that was great because at that era I think that was that was probably all you needed well, for what I assume, I was lucky as well that I got a very good degree in the form of electronic engineering, which is a lot of the maths for machine learning and and as I’ve kind of grown in my in my development over the years, I’ve gravitated, gravitated towards that discipline again.
Dave: Okay, what, what was the hardest skill set that you think that you didn’t really have when you got started, because nobody’s ready for it.
Andrew: No, you’re never ready for it. You just gotta jump in. Well, one of the hardest things is knowing what you’re not good at, actually. So in that way, that question kind of is applicable to itself. There’s always, obviously is it when you start up a company in the beginning, you just have to do everything right, you know, literally everything. And that kind of becomes ingrained with you and it’s a great it’s a great mantra to have because for your own personal development, you end up learning a lot of stuff, you know, can learn to be a tech guy, but you might end up learning about strategy. Or you could learn about organizations or psychology through organizations and otherwise but then also, you gotta, particularly as the company starts growing a little bit, you kind of know where you’re not good because there are people out there who are way better than you. And it’s, it’s, it’s important for the company that that that’s recognized and delegated for the best people to be given the job, but also to be allowed to grow the organization because obviously, one person can’t do everything, particularly as it continues to grow. So there is, I think the most important thing for founders is just that story of continual growth and a degree of self awareness where you realize, right, yes, at a certain point in time, I had to do everything in this business. And now I have to do the exact opposite, which is the literally, kind of be very particular about what I do and and make sure that all the other people feel comfortable doing everything else.
Dave: So how long were you the CTO?
Andrew: About seven years.
Dave: Seven years.
Dave: And why did you use waive? Can I ask?
Andrew: Well, you know, it’s, it’s funny, you know, you start up a company and then all of a sudden, I think I’m truly I think I’m a founder at the end of the day, like, I love that unstructured kind of freedom. You know, I’m probably unemployable in that regard. And all of a sudden, I was employed by my own organization, and I still loved it, you know, I was still very involved. And I love the tech side. I love what we do. I love the impact of it. And, you know, I still represent Newswhip and still involved in the business but I’m not operation involved. And so I just guess it was it was, it was time for personal change it and then the other thing was I was very lucky in that I was able to leave you know most tech co founders by look at the history of me throughout Newsweek for the majority of the history I couldn’t I couldn’t have laugh during the consequences just would have been on on on one imaginable but by this point you know we lost revenue with customers with great technology team, great great head of engineering, great product team and they were doing great job and and you know, I was able to leave so it’s a massive compliment really.
Dave: What what do you think the hardest bits in the early days were for you?
Andrew: You know, I say this all the time. I think the hardest thing about being a founder is that the first six months is the hardest it’s probably like, is probably like trying to join some like elite military group or something like that, in that the entire world is against you like everything, you’re coming from a real structured environment, like where you used to work, and people, you know, everything was fairly planned everything from your income to what you’re supposed to do. And now all of a sudden, now all of a sudden, you’re in a scenario where it’s like, I can do whatever the hell you want. But obviously, it’s it’s really challenging in the beginning because you don’t have any reputation or you don’t even we might have an idea but you may not may have experienced in the tech side, but you might not have experienced in any of the other things that you need. And you know, you you really have to ramp up quickly but it’s kind of a psychological game, I think in that and in that it’s a long it’s a long journey, and you’ve got to remain really positive and you know, it’s hard that like six months in nine months in you kind of go Jesus I just take my job back and earn some money and and like be able to talk to some people I work with rather than spend lost for years.
Dave: Yeah, I can definitely relate. I mean, that’s the, you know, I knew it would be hard. But to difficulties are nothing that you expect them to be. Yeah, you know, I thought oh, figuring out hard technical problems. Those are some of the easiest things to fall they it may take some time, but figuring out how to move faster how to make sure that the most value can be created keeping your sanity.
Andrew: That that I think is the biggest challenge. Yeah, just I remember I was pretty young. And I just remember I thinking weird thoughts on my head. I’m like, Oh, my girlfriend, things like she might dump me now, I don’t have a job. I mean what kind of questions is that
Dave: Regardless of how much evidence to the contrary, so often, you feel like, well, at least I have, like a loser. It’s like, I am not accomplishing any of the things that I think I should be. Even though he evidence is showing consistent improvement. But you still just have such a high expectation and because you have such limited resources that everything takes even longer than the longest you think it’s going to take
Andrew: Yeah, an uncle of mine who’s successful in business and we were talking about he said, he goes get your timelines and multiply them by four, get your cost line and multiplied by four as well. And he was right, except that we didn’t even succeed. So that’s, that’s, I mean, that’s kind of the journey really is, you know, I had a business plan multiply the time and cost by four and then it fails. And and and and that I think that is probably the realistic outcome for your first journey as an entrepreneur. And if you get otherwise I would counter there’s luck, you know, not luck. I think you could have done great work and you deserved it. But statistically speaking, you’re in the minority. So, you know, I often say as well with founders is like, you know, it’s I told I was fine with failure and while I wasn’t really fine with it until actually went through it which was like to put three years of your life and all of your savings into a business and then turn around and say it’s it’s failed and to just I actually gave my first business a way to to a guy who have an effect
Andrew: Yeah actually not the business, I kept the business open for tax reasons but the website and all the brand and everything and he goes oh yeah you were those easy deals guys, and I was like, yeah 15:43 this was back when the deals were still kind going. You guys are doing alright, are you getting quite a lot of traffic I was like yeah, we just couldn’t get any money out of it. And he was like God yes, do you want it? Like I love it. I’m like, okay, you can take it. I just gave it to him.
Dave: Wow. I’m really glad we’re not at that stage now. Everything still looks good for us. But yeah, I mean, it’s still hard.
Andrew: That’s accepting failure, I think.
Dave: Every day of grinding and grinding and grinding and keeping that mental attitude of understanding that it’s going to suck until it doesn’t.
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. I as a there’s loads of mantras I used to say it myself and but the number one thing I think in businesses around, it is all around perseverance. And that being said, there is a caveat to that is that you do need to know when to move along. But for the most part is just an absolute battle of a marathon and you really have to keep I think I just became blindly ignorant. I think I just I used to describe myself as a virus. I’m like, I’m just not going away. I’m never leaving. I’m just here. I’m like, I’m just like, kinda have remove me with bleach
Dave: All over. Yeah, like you said, with the luck thing, every bit of, of success has some element of luck because there’s timing. So even if you do everything exactly right, and your timing is off, you could still fail. You know, I mean, Facebook, two years earlier, or five years later, wouldn’t be Facebook.
Andrew: Timing is very important. It’s one of the most important things and, like, there’s a founders dilemma, which is like, I know, so when if I have an idea, and I think the timings right, it’s probably five or 10 years too early. And so I and that’s what I noticed in my first startup and even with Newswhip surprisingly, I was like, I run poll in this oh my God, this has to be done. I mean, this is just this is too obvious. You know, and no, and actually, we were probably, certainly for the direction we took in the end. We were probably about two or three years too early. Wow. Yeah. That being said, it’s hard to know if another competitor would just 18:05 . I mean, it’s hindsight 2020. But now, you know, that’s why I really always keep myself in check them on the third one now and I’m like, you know, I always think it’s too hard. I’m like, this is I have to happen, you know, like, and but that’s another thing I think as well, is that if your customers are really saying it to you, and you’re getting a lot of customers saying, Oh, no, this is exactly where we think things should be going about now. That’s that’s so much better read and when you start out in the first time, I think I always one of these people. I just had low confidence in this arena. And so the idea of asking someone on LinkedIn to come and meet me and asked him lots of questions about an idea was concocting was really kind of beyond my, my, my level at the time, you know, whereas now I like love it. It’s, but for whatever reason, and there’s a lot of encouragement now for founders to go out and I want 100% back all that encouragement back when I started, there wasn’t really I never heard of the Lean Startup model and you know, there wasn’t really incubators or anything so just everyone kind of thought you had a great idea and then one day you woke up and like running a massive business.
Dave: Yeah, that’s a it’s getting a little bit tired now but the overnight success only takes five to 10 years.
Andrew: It’s rubbish as far as I’m concerned that I I’m sure there are stories actually, this speaking of psychology there is there is actually a very well studied psychology that talks about how people often who work really hard to associate it to look because it makes feels makes other people feel better. Right You know, and it was really good idea and all this and again, we have if you forget to mention your top of your class 15 and then 18 and then you know, blah, blah blah worked really really hard and the ant gotten lucky you know a little bit of luck but i don’t think I’ve come across any exception where i think you need to look as well but i don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t had to battle through it really hard it’s really really hard is there’s no words my brother is starting a company now as well and he’s 10 years younger than me and I was telling him like it’s just so hard and he’s he’s excited and loves it and he’s he’s in techstars now which is great and he brings me up and he’s like oh my god i just never could imagine it it went to this side and I’m like and you’re still you’re pre revenue pre product, you know it’s like when i met when i think before the revenue days and i know that was like obviously an entrepreneur pre revenue probably for like five or six years I fought. It’s a long time yeah, I know.
Dace: It’s a, I don’t understand how to articulate just how I mean, it just that there aren’t words for it. You can hear it. It just it’s still. It’s like hearing about one of the Special Forces. Looked at the navy seals, you know, hearing about their hell week about being up for an entire week, basically. And that sounds ridiculously hard, but I’m sure if you were in it, it would be even harder than you could possibly imagine. And that’s what this is like.
Andrew: Yeah, I mean, I say I say it anyway, because and this is what I think happens in the first year like anybody who isn’t really partially not to be honest with you. I think there’s an element of craziness involved and that’s why a lot of founders are kind of very entertaining and interesting people. I love them. Yeah, but they probably are on an average of society a little bit bonkers.
Dave: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
Andrew: And so I always say to someone and again involved in started the first thing I say, you know, it is financial insanity, like no no numbers, no way you can there’s actually no way you can actually justify this other anything then just raw passion.
Andrew: And that’s what will get you through it.
Dave: Yeah, one thing though that I have realized, regardless of how it turns out, the growth that I’ve had professionally is just, I, I can’t imagine that a doctorate in technology and business would put me in the position that will last two years.
Andrew: There’s no way and this is part of the problem is that you know, we go into education systems and learn this and regurgitate that and and, and then I think we’re training people to be very much, you know, told what to do and and maybe that works for a majority of society. But the reality is that majority a lot of the world doesn’t work in a predictable manner and particularly engineering, are you solving new problems, these things, but you know, which case you got to go a different way of like, no one’s gonna be able to tell you the answer. You can’t get it on Google. You can’t read it in a textbook. You’re going to just have to figure it out yourself. And once you once you kind of get used to that you just get addicted to it. And you know, I can’t imagine operating in any other way I would feel suffocated. In fact, that’s possibly what was happening a little bit in my own organization, you know, because you do have customers and you do have products and you do have to support support them. And all I want to do is like, I don’t know, crack some other crazy thing.
Dave: So what are you working on now?
Andrew: So now I’m looking, it’s not too far away from where my expertise is. I think that’s always a good thing. So I’m looking at how news impacts the stock market and there’s a lot of I mean, you talk to any trader, and they’ll tell you yeah, you know, it’s, it’s hugely impactful, but we’re really looking to try and build technology that will give, give financial people an advantage. And it’s kind of a similar problem to what user solve, which is like you just as ever increasing masses of information. And those information is important for your job and you know, you’re a journalist or your PR person or you’re a brand person and you’ve got to understand all of you know, does it presented an opportunity or threat and in the case of finance it’s it’s actually amplified quite substantially which is you know, things happen all the time to companies and market reacts it’s kind of crazy and and it reacts in a reasonably predictable way. And and and so, you know, can we get a form of intelligence throughout the systems to try and assist people with the decision making around that
Dave: Cool looking forward to seeing how that turns out.
Andrew: Yeah, me too.
Dave: Hopefully by then I’ll have some money to invest in.
Andrew: God, yes.
Dave: Still early days for us.
Andrew: Yeah, God Yeah. Well, I mean, the starter broad it doesn’t. If you wanted to just make a whole pile of money from you know, there’s easier ways to do it.
Dave: Yeah, must be.
Andrew: But I don’t think that would not be as fun, I think
Dave: Guaranteed not, guaranteed not.
Andrew: And you probably wouldn’t learn as much either. And this is other things I, it’s part of the mantra now that I’m taking with the new startup, and we happen to use it all the time. Which is like we’re going to enjoy the ride isn’t bloody tough. But, you know, we can have fun and we can have fun together. And you know what, then you start, that’s what a company then becomes, which is a bunch of like minded people who love the work they do, who liked being around each other, who, you know, obviously, there’s tough times and stuff, but you know, and that’s really enjoyable thing to be part of, you know.
Dave: I’m so lucky that this happened to have a team that’s formed around us that is so good natured, good. intelligent and, and just, you know, right attitude. Yeah. I mean, that’s, you know, part of our culture, is to make sure that we foster that but so lucky to have the people that we work with, and it makes the pains, not as painful.
Andrew: I used to say that’s just there’s two parts to startup this part of the start when you’re nothing and that’s just pure perseverance is like literally hacking through the the mangroves like the SS guys and then there’s the next part whereas like you start actually getting a bit of success is probably where you guys are at and and then you kind of like almost afraid to lose it because you’re still making hugely consequential decisions every single day you know, it could be do we build this into our product we take this money from these people do we sell to these people and and and they could be incredibly consequential and all of a sudden you have something to lose you something potentially to lose and I remember that that nearly I found tougher at some parts as well which is like the thing the the fear that you could have hacked your way through all this crap and then screwed it up. Yeah. And and, you know, that was where I, I used to fall back to, you know, worst case scenario and this is often a good way of just bringing yourself a bit of inner peace. Because at the end of the day, I was surrounded by really good people. So I don’t think I would have been capable of doing that. I don’t think we would have been capable of doing that, thank God. But I used to say to myself, Well, look, you know, if at all when I was just said that the guys Newswhip, you know that if you come and work for this company, my commitment is to ensure that you progress as a person and that you leave in a better state than he came. And, and, and hopefully that you’ve had a good time when you’re here. And I always thought, if if if I’ve achieved that, and a company doesn’t work out, I can walk away with my head high. Everyone’s doing well out of the out of the out of the company, and people have had a good time. And you know what, that’s all we really need.
Dave: Yes, that’s fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. So into a little bit more of the tactical what were some of the tools or techniques that you used in building Newswhip that you think are are your secret advantage? Wow. Yeah, again, you’re always learning I think the one thing I’ll never stop learning about is learning about people. And, you know, that’s probably interesting for a tech guy. But the computers are actually pretty easy. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but people are, you know, people are complicated. And that’s why they’re interesting. You know, you don’t press a button on the turn on, you know that people have good days and bad days, teams get motivated by different things. And so understanding that is, is is one of the key things, I think you can I think there’s a lot of forgiveness in this world, if you can, if you can figure out how to work well with people and just even level with them. So listening, always listening, always assuming that people have their best intention. I used to always assume that if there was any sort of problem and going on, I would always assume that we were in the wrong first. That’s some systemic issue. You are some sort of misdirection or miscommunication that the end of the day, all your employees, for the most part are well intended. I’ve very rarely seen body intended employees. And that’s just because they’ve had a couple bad days or something, it’s died. don’t think I’ve ever met anybody in my professional career who’s got a malicious intent. And so when you when you start working with that, I think then you can kind of build up a different kind of fabric. So that’s definitely key. God. You know, I think all the hiring team building tech, I don’t even know where to start.
Dave: Well, let’s start with what you’ll be doing in this new company that you would maybe not have considered at the beginning of Newswhip.
Andrew: Yeah, I think one of the things and maybe this is what the luxury of experience is that I’m going about it in a much more enjoyable manner as far as I’m concerned. This is I’m taking it way slower and being way more thoughtful about understanding exactly what it is we’re trying to do. And and and really, I’m under no time pressure and my co founders the same we’re under know time pressure. Obviously there is a physical limitation somewhere but that just makes it really easy I think a lot of people and I did it I did in my first startup I actually did it so badly I burned myself out, which was just get and start working work like work yourself into the ground, you know, write code, write code, and you know the amount of iterations and then knocks spit them out and then eventually end up handling the whole thing to a guy in a meeting right? You know, so that that that’s something that I’m a lot more thoughtful like really get validation get out there meet as many people as possible and enjoy it like you know, you don’t have to meet them in a boring place. You can meet them in a bar, you can go out for dinner. And you know, businesses about people and because of that it can be really fun. And so that’s Yeah, what am I doing differently I’m definitely being a lot more thoughtful looking at the problem way more talking to a lot more people, you know, being store about a probably have a bit more time now. When I was younger, I probably didn’t have as much savings in order to go as long but and yeah, you know, just I guess doing the right things at the right time as best as possible. I know I get it wrong. But you know, I think before I just literally ran down the road for 10 miles and then realize, let’s go pretty much all the way back row.
Dave: That’s one of the things we’ve been trying to work on within our team. You know, so you’ve got the difference between your lead time, your cycle time and your touch time. And so lead time being time you identify something to do and when it’s done, cycle time being when you start it until it’s done, and then the touch time when each individual of the team is working on it and each time it has to go back. So API works done, start to implement it. Oh, wait, we forgot this endpoint and this one, oh wait that you access to change so having a few more meetings, even though meetings don’t feel like they’re the right thing to do, it’s still saving us time by doing it.
Andrew: Oh sure, I mean, what did Albert Einstein say that fight an hour to save the world has been 55 minutes diagnosing the problem, five minutes saving the world. And, you know, it’s it’s really true and unfortunate, and this can be another paradigm that can be a little bit of a disadvantage in startups, which is, we talked about very energized and intelligent people that work in startups. And I’ve noticed this a bit but sometimes hiring those people and they will they want to get so involved, you know, and it’s great and you’ve got all this insane passion. But what you got to be capitalized like we have to be also kind of tactical about how to how we operate as a unit and when we go, we can just start sprinting in a definite I think that’s something that comes with experience both both as a founder but also as as an employee. I think the natural thing is just, like get really busy, we seem to be really busy, you know, and I’m putting a lot of stuff but not getting anything done.
Dave: You what came to mind when you said that I have, not even rode before, you know, like we’re gonna row boat but crew is the support if you had the most athletic people in the world, but the Cox color is the person that sits at the front and tells people to row row. And if you don’t have those, and you’ve got the strongest people in the world against mediocre people that have one of those, the mediocre people are going to win. So I have no idea where that came from. But when you said that that’s what
Andrew: Yeah, or the angle, you know, the other one is a if you’re off by one degree, you know, or you’re off by 5 degrees. So yeah, but it’s it’s just one of those things, you know, trying to can contain the passion and direct it. And I think that’s another another thing I’ve learned a lot about, we learned a new script, which is, is how to get people together, but not only together but in the same direction. And that’s quite hard because you could have 10 people in a room and the same stuff is said, and not everybody understands that the same way. And this this is why people are complex, you know, they they come from different places, they, a lot of the people that we were, we were working or words working at Newswhip their English was their first language. They were perfect English speakers, but you know, there’s nuances in the meanings and I forget, you know, some of the stuff that I say that so Irish-isms, you know, then there’s like this 20% of what I say is indecipherable. You know what it feels like.
Andrew: So, one of the mantras we’re running within the new company, is is, is that trust trust is built from understanding and understanding is built from communication and that somewhere in this world I think people thought it was offensive to over communicate. But no, we’ve said it’s actually a it’s a desirable trait over communicate, and to ensure that the other person is fully got it because sometimes it’s not until you actually bounce it back over and back once or twice. Do you realize oh, no, actually, they haven’t quite got or sometimes you might not even have understood it yourself. And this whole process is it builds up the understanding, but I know more importantly, it actually really build up the relationship.
Dave: That’s really good stuff. Um, what else have you kind of picked up over time that you think about something actually technical, this time
Andrew: Tech side? Yeah.
Dave: You really you,you always want to, to have within the company in the team.
Andrew: Yeah, so I mean, again, there’s there’s a lot of I spent a lot of my time looking looking at the human side and everything. I mean, one of the things I looked for a lot with problem solving, and I think that’s quite challenging also dealing with crisis, I think, I think if you’re a technology leader crisis is just the norm. So it’s it’s what you really need to look at is like, what percentage of time is crisis now I wouldn’t regard all of this is crisis, but you know, when the engineers come running up to screaming, we can call it a crisis even though you’re probably like it’s grand it’s happened like 100 times, it’ll be fine. But there’s, you know, there’s a night also comes with experience, which is just this like kind of logical check through of right. How do we, how do we avert this with the least amount of impact, and everyone has servers that have gone down and god knows what fortunately, we never had really anything serious, like data leaks or hacks or anything, like they’re the type of things that really, really worry me. And you know, a product going down for a period of time. I mean, in the early days, I was the only person writing the code. I remember when I was young. So I used to go out at the weekends. I remember flipping the servers I used to have a remote login from my phone. We had a problem this is my previous company and it was a problem that took me two years to figure out as that’s another story as well but every now and again the servers were crashes was because there was a caching clash when when, when to to HTTP request to the server the same time this was before they were busted are clouded a lot of this stuff. And when it did that to create two threads and then left one idle and and slowly but surely created a memory leak which took about depending on our traffic it took about a month or two to, to bring those server down. But anyway, this thing you saw on me. And of course, it would always be on a Friday night when you’re out with your friends. So yeah, I’d be there logging in and flipping servers like with way too much alcohol on board
Dave: But that’s something we’d have our slack bot do now.
Andrew: Yeah, exactly. We built auto things to restart it and stuff. And those things go haywire as well. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s more like a methodology. It’s more of an approach to it. I think, inherently just to love technology. I mean, I love it. We, we had a thing in Newswhip which was a baptism of fire and I thought about it as I’ve left, which is kind of intimidating. The first day you to arrive in as a developer, you arrived in and all these pieces would be there to be a CPU CPU fan, I’d be a box and the motherboard or whatever it just your computer and the first thing you have to do is build your computer.
Dave: I’m terrible at hardware, big gorilla hands.
Andrew: motherboards at. I’ve got to remember my first co founder I built him a computer I just couldn’t stand people buying computers back then I was like why did you buy computer which is better if I built him a computer and I made a mistake without knowing it and but the computer worked fine I made a mistake on the on the audio output to the box I think I put it into the USB on the motherboard. I don’t know what it did it put in the wrong place anyway. It was working fine until he plugged in his headphones though he was gone motherboard burned to pieces. So yeah, you know, and that’s the kind of it was the thing is actually no one ever really had we had one case for one Poor guy. We got them it was my fault actually I bought the wrong RAM and we couldn’t figure out what it was. But you know what it’s about. It’s about having that. You know you build your work by bench you know everything that you work in you confident in what you’re working in. And if something goes wrong, we’ll figure it out and we’ll figure it out as a team and it was it was something I liked. Then also you just got we the hardware we had the computers the teams that I think a lot of really really like their computers we we actually never really had to replace them. I think I replaced two or three computers now you just add by close to top of spec at the time, you know, I think as I was leaving I was on the on quad cores. I’ve got a I’ve got a I did it of course for my own startup I was like right what’s the first thing I do have to build a computer things massive beast and says barely getting into we were 16 core. It just I can’t even remember when I put in a number 16 cores and 64 gigs around motherboard and go up to a terabyte said it was Joe Rogan for nerds right?
Dave: Absolutely. That’s really cool. Um Oh gosh, I forgot what I was gonna say. Sure I written it down.
Andrew: So yeah, I mean as I was saying just the approach is just just get into whatever you know I I’m personally I’m a bit like that as well. I think it’s, it’s the other side of in founding it’s always been like, right found a company and learn but as I’ve gotten a little older a lot of my hobbies have kind of found this as well as I built I built loudspeakers at home I don’t know I’m always taking up my house, my house is just a bit ridiculous to be honest with you like it’s obviously fully Alexa oriented, this multi room sound and god knows what I I don’t know, I’m probably been spied on by every agency in the world but.
Dave: But if I had if I had time, and money, I would have Arduino and Raspberry Pi’s all over the place, doing all sorts of nonsense.
Andrew: I have a Pi at home waiting to get programmed actually, yeah, one of my one of my channel switches where the HDMI didn’t work didn’t connect with it Alexa on like, yeah, I’ll do this with an RF thing. But haven’t got around through it yet. So it’s it’s sitting there gathering dust like a lot of the other projects.
Dave: Oh, I remember what I was gonna ask. So I know, some companies, founders end up in a situation where they’re no longer quite capable to remain in that as senior position. Was there ever a time where you thought you might need to bring in a CTO over top of you
Andrew: Um, I think that I mean, I think inevitably, if a company continues to scale that will happen, you know, and I think you got to know when the right time is. I think also, you got to know where your strengths are, and this is what I was referring to at the start and, and also me leaving Newswhip which is the type of technical co founder, who starts a company, I think is a highly, highly creative, you know, bit crazy type of person. And then the type of person who goes to run an organization as it starts to scale is probably actually more methodical and unpredictable and maybe more human system orientated. And when if the organization gets up to even bigger size like Google, or somewhere like that, it becomes a totally different leadership play, which is probably more like Tony Robbins or something. And yeah, you def, I mean, for the, you always want to pick the betterment of the company. And so you, you, you, you have to be aware of that there may be a time where it’s not and I guess so that was both I mean, for me, I’m I would regard myself as an innovative creative CTO, and that’s where my heart is, I I I know the other stuff, but at the end of the day, I’m kind of more passionate about this, and as a company became a know, a medium sized business, there’s only so much money we could spend in innovation and it comes to supporting other products. And you got to start thinking about that transition as well as you know, it’s hard to get senior tech talent and then there’s a long hand over, you know, like, for us to onboard normal engineers is somewhere between three to six months, I mean, realistically to getting them useful, but to onboard someone like a head of engineering, you’re probably I mean to do it safely you minimum year, but I think you need two years. And yeah, you know, I was always aware I, I kind of look at it slightly different, more that I say you should delegate or you’ll be a slave to yourself. And so you should just be constantly offloading all the stuff and you’ll notice that other people are just doing it better than you. And then, you know, you keep on going after what you’re curious and ultimately, they’ll kind of do the same. So Yeah, the thought certainly crossed my mind. I’m not sure if we could afford to hire CTO for me. At the previous I’m not I don’t think we really, really needed to, but if we’d become, you know, 5000 person organization, I have no experience doing that. Yeah, you know, I would have been out of my depth. And I think you see a lot of founders that happens and and then the smart ones, they make new roles for them, you know, they they chief scientist, or you know, they, and they will always be on the board and they will always be a leadership person, but operationally speaking, I mean, if you got 5000 people you want an operational, yeah, you want someone who’s got 20 years operational experience, you just don’t have that. Founders are generally generalists , you know, they are and, and that point where you move from generalists to delegating out that specific role that you used to do, I used to do the AWS AWS infrastructure, like you know, why would the CTO do that get really should hot DevOps guide. So and that that’s where the self-wareness is they can be challenging.
Dave: Just one of the ones I can’t wait to replace my self on is payroll.
Andrew: Oh God, yeah, I remember those. That’s that’s just bored to death that stuff. Yeah.
Dave: As I just feels completely that any kind of paperwork, any kind of paperwork I just feel completely out of my depth and just trapped. Somebody’s got to do it. I mean, I’m happy to for now, but I can’t wait to get rid of it.
Andrew: There are some companies I think that that offer very good prices and the service.
Dave: We’ve got some good services, but there’s still a lot of reconciliation and just so much paperwork.
Andrew: I do I remember those days and again on the general I mean, I did I remember when we were doing their first VC rounds and like I used to do investment models and everything like that. Certain different things. I mean, obviously it would be a team effort, but you find yourself doing stuff that you know, just all right, let’s figure this out. And you know, then it’s great. You hire a CFO, and all of a sudden you’re like, yeah, this is the model that I built on. Really don’t know if it makes any sense. This is what we’re supposed to do according to the investors, so I hope you like it.
Dave: You mentioned the Forex your time and yeah, investment expectations. Do you have any other tips on how to estimate timings of development because that is something that I have never seen work well, and I am possibly the worst person in the world. seeing the results that I’ve got means anyway..
Andrew: Yeah, so yeah, I know. I have some advice and this is comes from, I think this is a strong point. But I’m kind of inherently lazy in some ways, which is like, I like to be able to balance my life and I don’t I really, I when I was in college, I would always study earlier. I just never liked to having to study past certain times and whatever. So it’s just when tech, you know, I was working on Accenture and there, there’s always deadline again, they’ll keep you working, it’s not really their fault. It’s the way that customers demanding your time. And, you know, that can be there forever. Unless you kind of push back and that’s one of the first things you think you do have to learn as youngsters was push back a little bit. The other thing is, I realized I was like, wait, you know, people are asking me for my timeline. So I’m like, I’m not gonna bloody well kill myself. So I’m going to give an accurate time and I’m going to give a good degree of buffer, you know, and I used to give what I’d regard is a ridiculous level of buffer. Generally ended up being pretty accurate. And, and this is actually a psychological paradigm. This is why you got a couple Arduino boards possibly sitting around or have a lot of unread books and a lot of other 48:50 which is that we actually we are way more complacent with our time in the future. You know, that’s why I want to ask anybody when you come in holidays and six months on that yeah sure of course no problem. Oh yeah, I was really busy then. And so we tend to overpack this and and so yeah, and I used to be the engineer now we get that in two weeks now. And well we want to stay until nine o’clock if we don’t and you know, I’d only be joking with them because it’s a very very common thing but I usually get rough estimates and just multiply them by two that’s really not a bad way of going about it. And you know, kind of just be conscientious of yourself like most of our work eight hours a day and if you can’t actually spend 20 minutes in slack and you go get coffee and you have lunch and you know, you talk to the other then and then you’re planning meeting and then you know there’s a Christmas party and then someone got sick and like you know, there’s actually not that much active time in the day. So yeah, if you if you estimate it correctly at eight hours and but you really work four or five hours, then doubling it would just meant your estimation was right in the first place.
Dave: So I guess my buffer should stop being realistic and should start being ridiculous. And then it will be more like real estate.
Andrew: It will and that also then the problem is that, again, a bit like the projects at home, and that’s fine because it’s all but in business, you want to be a bit more predictable. And so would then what happens and when, you know, the years when I used to plan the road maps and stuff, by plan all the year, I try and get a rough estimate of how much developer time we had. And then around trying really broad strokes, get the big initiatives and you know, with a good degree of buffer, and all of a sudden you realize it’s like woah we’re going to make some really, really tight calls here. And when you take a look like that, a it’s much better because the natural reaction is just say yes to everything, or yes to a lot of stuff. I know nobody in tax gets everything but come on, can you build this the customers want it and they really want it and they’re going to pay for it. Oh God, you have to do it. You know, and of course then naturally I want to keep them happy. But actually you could be just shooting your foot off and so when you do a large thing like that and you go and all of a sudden you’re kind of like yet like the project we said have this three projects we said we have to be done were actually only time for two of them, like something critical is gotta go. And that that that for me is real eye opening.
Dave: Yeah, okay. I think I’ve got some ideas for myself. I keep trying to you know, make better estimates of timing and road mapping but it just never seems to, I don’t know that’s not a skill apparently.
Andrew: I guess and we we used to do it our our teams a sprint I initially did in high levels, and then sprint planning the guys that have to do it. But you know, everyone’s with them to retrospectively go, I will always remember diction and how far off was, what was it that went wrong, you know? And generally the larger ambiguous stuff that you know, when you’re just on a lot, a load of unknown the stuff that’s usually the really ugly things that do and you can never really predict that you know, so you kind of looking for an average.
Dave: Seems like every single thing we start to do. Well, I mean, everything we do, is solving a problem in a way nobody solved before. Otherwise, the should be getting something off the shelf instead of building.
Andrew: Yeah, that’s it. That’s it that that’s a big question as well. And that was something I used to think a lot about was like, Well, what do we do specifically? On what are the things that we are willing to kind of go to the nth degree there a cut ahead of the others? And then where are we just going to buy off the shelf? Because you can’t innovate and every domain despite and that’s another founders thing, which is like, I’m really guilty of this and like, rip up every rule book, you know, just rip them all up, you know, and it’s like, now we do need an org chart, Andrew, come on, like there needs to be a hierarchy of some sort. No, it’s like, okay, you want to rewrite the rules of organization as well as like certain machine learning algorithms. Nah, stick to one thing.
Dave: If you go back to yourself when you were starting, let’s say the first company, what would you say to do differently? If you can think of one or two specific things.
Andrew: I mean, I Kamikaze out of my first business. And I kind of did it deliberately like and in many ways, I had this inherent kind of like, oh, it’ll all kind of figure itself out in time. And, you know, that’s kind of possibly one of the better approaches, I think, possibly I’d tell myself just to relax a bit more and not have burned out the first time and maybe just to try and try and I guess maybe enjoy it a little bit more but I said and enjoy it, but just to try and lay lay off myself a little bit because you can really work yourself to the bone yeah I kind of Kamikaze that I was like I I just kind of decided I was coming to an end with the the easy deals and then add some savings left and I was like well I have to find out whether this is going to work on and just clearly the right thing to do is spend all of my money on a radio campaign so I literally spend every last penny I had on a radio campaign and I was like, well then this was my logic at the time was with them at least on know that I tried everything and and it didn’t work out. And that is ludicrous by the way, that is just ludicrous. You can be way smarter than that like why the did get me to the right place eventually. You know, I was this is what I mean about just kind of going a little easier on myself like just being a little bit smarter and kind of going out like 15 grand as I think was one of those spend as my last money would be kind of useful. I remember when Paul came to me with the idea of Newswhip and it’s just like literally come out of the spin that I’d done. And I was like, this is a fantastic idea. I really like this. And you know, I was really excited by it. And I was like, there’s only one thing, Paul, I literally don’t have a five year old. I’m like, I can’t do I can’t put any money into the second just about make it into work, I think. But you know what the good thing is, they tell us to be better. So you can actually start a business with nothing. Like we had nothing Paul. Paul was in a slightly better position, but not much. And we had about six weeks to get into an incubator, and we just about got in. And then we’ve got just enough money. And we got going and we got our first round and I think about four months after that. Yeah, we had no choice. Like literally we were we were both just broke.
Dave: Alright, well that sounds like a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work
Andrew: I’ve been broke all the way through university I was like this is nothing new in fact my my really short stint of working in an Accenture for a year and a half was when I was my exception of when I’d had money so back to the norm really.
Dave: Well, my genius idea was to take when the the rental market is pretty much the highest it’s ever been. And I’ve got three small kids and that’s when I should start the business.
Andrew: Oh, God, yeah. I know.
Dave: Um entrepreneurial, mental illness pretty much the same thing
Andrew: Who was it that once said that..
Dave: Not to disparage anybody with actual mental illness. Mental illness is mainly a..
Andrew: What is it was someone said the difference between let me get this right. Six, no the difference between genius and madness is what?
Dave: A razor thin?
Andrew: Profit. So you’re actually a genius just need that. Just need the profit and I’ll be there. My my uncle set up his business with five young daughters. I think they’re all under the age of six or seven. Yeah, I can’t remember but they were all very very young. Yeah, it’s this is the thing though. It’s a calling. It’s calling inside. It’s not it’s not it’s not financial decision. It’s it’s, it’s just something you feel like you have to do. Yeah, it’s a scratch after it’s an itch you have to scratch.
Dave: Yeah, that’s I’ve got quite a number of businesses that I figured out how not to run them before we started this one, this is the first one that I’ve made a full time thing. But number of Nope, that’s not gonna work.
Andrew: I mean, I, I say to myself, at least if I don’t repeat a mistake, I should be okay that’s that’s a very good thing to live by. But you still probably will repeat mistakes, unfortunately.
Andrew: Yeah, I know, I don’t even want to go there. But it’s Yeah, if I think just saying something I’ve said to my brother as well, which is something I’ve thought about once, and I think there’s an element of truth to it. It’s like, if you keep applying yourself at anything, you will eventually be successful. I’m like, think of a startup journey. Think about how many people cut out in year, one year, two year, three year for year. I was like, it wasn’t really till about year six in startups, that I started getting anywhere with Newswhip. And I think we were pre revenue probably till your for your five. How many people have cut out by them? Right? And so like, if you think about I think you can take that and bring it to the extreme. Like, let’s say you’re like a drummer on the side of the street and you’re doing it for 10 years, 15 years 20. Eventually, you’re going to become famous or something, something’s got to happen, right? And the thing is, just the sheer persist and when you think about it from the other way, which is how people perceive you like investors and other people in the industry, you know, after what because they are always just tracking people’s movements, particularly investors. All right, God, you pitch me an idea three months ago where you are now three months, six months, right? After two years, nobody reading that, right? So it’s this kind of like, you don’t have to invest in somebody aren’t you? I still him to be here, and that virus, you just can’t bleach off the step of your doorsteps. So, yeah, I know, I can get particularly you employ yourself to the growth side that success is inevitable, but it’s very, very hard. It’s very, it’s very hard at times to get into that, you know, sometimes it’s just, you just want to cut out you know, it’s just, I just, I just want to be able to go out with my friends and not have to flip a server in the middle of the night.
Dave: So is there anything that you’d like to say to the audience to you’d like them to do so especially, you know, people who are starting their journey or about to start. Want to be CTOs of startups or you know, early stage? cofounders?
Andrew: I mean, it’s it’s funny. It’s like another one I heard was why would I work 40 hours a week and get paid 100,000 a year when I can work 80 hours a week and get paid nothing. And the thing about it is, I mean, if you inherently love what you’re doing, it’s not really a problem. And I just one of the things I was in electronic engineering when I was in electronic engineering, we did a lot of coding, but the coding we did was like real, like C level, like adreno board level, and I just couldn’t really see the guy who is going to go, it’s kind of cool, but I need to have to have a big hardware company or something. And when I started learning Java, I was like well, you can just deploy this on your mobile phone, you could deploy this under a server that blew my mind. I was just like, holy crap. You can do anything with this and you know, that just, that’s kind of where it all started my master’s so it’s like, if you genuinely if you genuinely into something and everybody’s into things, you’ll you’ll just kind of go you know, you you doesn’t feel like and and of course there’ll be days when it’s tough and things you’re not interested but, you know, work for 80 hours for free and it just won’t feel like it you know, and I actually don’t advocate to work 80 hours it’s a joke more than anything else because you need to keep your minds clear you can make good decisions and you know, but just kind of follow your heart and, and, and stick at it. I mean, it is a long, long journey. So go easy on yourself because you need you need energy for year two year three, which is you know, I that’s where I burnt out and thankfully, I took a bit of a break and bounced back and if you continue just following your passion, I think you’ll end up in the right place eventually.
Dave: It’s great stuff and be the virus that no one can.
Andrew: Yeah, exactly. Be that what’s what’s that one on your lip colds or cold sore that every scientist in the world is trying to figure out how to kill, but just can’t figure it out.
Dave: Starting up herpes,
Andrew: You’ve got it.
Dave: How can people reach you?
Andrew: They can get me on LinkedIn. I think it’s probably the best way. So I’m Andrew Mullaney. Or if you put Andrew Mullaney Newswhip, and I’m always I’m always happy to help people out. I really, really enjoy just, you know, I help people startups all the time, and people have helped me all the way and that that’s how it goes, you know it. That’s when I said in the early days, I didn’t have the confidence to reach out that was silly, because actually when you reach out to people, you will be amazed how much they will help you they will they will nearly do anything for you. And that’s because someone did it for them.
Dave: Yeah. Well, that’s that’s fantastic and I’ll put your the link to your LinkedIn in the show notes.
Dave:So thank you so much for joining us today.
Andrew: Thank you Dave.
Dave: We had a great conversation and I’m sure we’ll do it again.
Andrew: Great. Thank you.
Dave: And thank you all for listening.
Until next time remember any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.