Guest Davy Engone

Guest Davy Engone

Davy is the founder and Head of Engineering at Hackages


Wed, 29 May 2019 04:20:54 GMT


Davy and I discuss a number of important elements of a startups including what happens if co-founders break up. Hackages 'Where Hack Means Education', software development training, guidance, and consultancy.


Davy is the founder and Head of Engineering at Hackages


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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, we’re joined by Davy Engone founder and head of engineering at Hackages. Thanks for joining us.

Davy: Thanks for having me.

Dave: It’s a pleasure. Would you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about Hackages, please?

Davy: Yep. And so my name is Davy, as you mentioned. And I’m a software engineer by training. I study computer sciences and always been passionate it by like building stuff, trying to find my way around every single computer my father had at home. And but you are not allowed to use or to actually touch computers at home, although my father was a is an engineer, and he had tons of computer at home.

So I did, I just broke them all and fix them. And then so and fast forward. A few years later, I went to study computer science actually study oil and gas engineering first, like for semester, and then I dropped off and I was like, No, I want to do computer science. So I went into computer science school in France in Paris.

And, and for a few years, I work as a consultant for many companies industries, banking, or automobile and every single I mean industry you could imagine. And then sometime in 2016, I started in 2014 with Hackages. It wasn’t called Hackages but the concept that I’m going to explain in a bit, but it was already there. I was giving a free workshop in the evening. Everything around JavaScript, I love JavaScript.

JavaScript as script, nodejs angular react and then people liked that those evening sessions. And they would invite me by day to give them some of the sessions at their workplace. So and then I did that for about two years. And in September 2016, I officially incorporated a company that that will support our activity in the long run.

And it’s been three years now. And, and, yeah, packages grew a lot. And we’re providing it’s not only just training, but we provide to customers to companies, we provide a set of training program that covers from a one-shot training, I want my team to become better in JavaScript, send them to our lab for a few days, and you will get a better version of your team or coach your team over time, don’t send them to one shot training, because technology change over time.

So we can also we have that program where companies subscribe like a gym membership. And every now and then they get an update on whatever is interesting for their business. So we’re kind of earned the company for our customers. Yeah, that’s what Hackages is about.

Dave: Yeah, I was at one of the hack, hack jam events. I think that’s what it was called.

Davy: Hackjam yeah. Everything is Hacked at Hackages.

Dave: And it was a really good session. You know, you learned a good deal about the one I went to was React. Yeah, I learned a good deal about it very quickly. So it was it was well thought out and a nice program to kind of take you from not knowing very much about it yet through to understanding enough on how to continue your development that which was amazing for just a couple of hours of effort. So it was really nice. So how, how many locations are you in? And we’re your team all spread out?

Davy: Okay, so Hackages is started in Belgium. So in Brussels, we are we have a team of 20 or 30 people now in Belgium, I mean, as a company, and we also have an office in Amsterdam. So we, but we operate all over Europe. So the team now travels to Luxembourg, Paris, everywhere in Belgium, Amsterdam, and they go and train people in those cities.

Berlin, we have. Yeah, we’ve been in many places in Europe. So yeah, but offices wise, we only are in Brussels and an Amsterdam. Yeah, but a majority of the engineers are Brussels based. And so the idea is like as a company, we challenge ourselves saying, Well, if we do XYZ as a, we achieve these XYZ goals this year, let’s just open an office in Luxembourg, or let’s open an office in France. And yeah, those are the kind of things we do and acting, maybe next year, if we do it right, Luxembourg and Paris will probably be the next to.

But we’re not just growing for growing, we never we don’t have those metrics. Like, let’s just grow 20 more people. We never published a job offer for software engineers. We just meet people. And then we clicked, we realized that Oh, you love what you do? So do we. Do you want to work with us? Do you want to spend some house with us, and we take them through our interview process.

And if they make it, they’re happy with it. We are happy with them. And we start working with them. So we have a lot of people in Paris that want to join Hackages, but we don’t have an office yet there. And they’re not willing to move to another country because they already have families. And so just for them, if everything goes we’ll just open an office in Paris, or Luxembourg.

Dave: Cool. So how do you find most of your customers is that through doing the meetup type past jams?

Davy: That is a bit original or the approach is it’s quite, it wasn’t thought out that way. But it ended up being like, we go to these evening sessions, you’ve been there like 30-30 plus people, which means technically you have thirty or 20 plus companies represented in the room. And then all these people obviously will go back to work the day after.

So if they spend an amazing moment, they’re willing to share that with their colleagues the day after, with their priors, and then they will reach out to us saying “The thing you did yesterday evening or that week?”, “Could you do that in our office?”.

And that has been mainly the way for about two years and a half that we acquire a customer. And, and still today we have we still have calls from customers like “Hey yesterday I was at your event, you guys are knowledgeable, can you help us with XYZ.” And that’s the way we acquire customers. A year ago, we also went through the traditional path means that you hire a salesperson. And then that salesperson goes and find customers by telling the story of what you’ve been doing.

And that has also worked well. But I think the main, the first way of doing it is it’s more natural for us. Because we’re software engineer, we’re not going to sell you bullshit, we’re going to sell your real, we’re going to solve real problems. Not people or coming and saying “Hey, you have this performance issue and I know someone that can do that for you.” No, we’re going to do that for you first that evening and then you understand that we can do that at scale in your company.

Dave: Is there a typical size of the teams that you go and do your longer sessions with? Are they one to five team members?

Davy: So we have a rule, a one six rule, one mentor for six people. So if you have less than six people, you will get one mentor from Hackages. If you have seven, we’re going to send you two mentors. Yeah, but and which means that technically, as a company, if you have a pretty big company, we’re going to have to split them in smaller, smaller groups. Like we have one customer in Paris that has more than 20 people and a few engineers at Hackages travel to Paris every month and in different batches, to train them and program with them, coach them and help them with their program on daily basis. Yeah.

Dave: Is it more about prototypes and just abstract solutions to using the new techniques? Or is it actually solving their actual product problems?

Davy: We actually dive into the with into their problem. We’re not, we are a software engineer we’re building our self product. So it’s hands on. We kind of go from a blank slate, we don’t know your problem, so I’m just gonna pair program with you. Which is a coaching session in a way because I know Angular pretty well.

And I’m going to be your Google search for a day. So you might want to, you have these issues and I’m like, “Do you have those issues?” and I’m like, “Hey, let’s try this.” You will have found that on Google. But yeah, I’m gonna give you a direct path to a possible solution. Even if it doesn’t work, that’s also the thing, when you find a solution on Google, it doesn’t work. And I tried something else.

But I can condense that search in a few keywords. And then you try this, you try that. And then I realized that after doing the same thing with three different member of the team, then I can organize a training session of two hours to condense the knowledge. And then I mean, you see what the thing is like, that gym membership kind of thing. It’s like, yeah, I’m going to work with you today. And another team member tomorrow.

And then I realized the pattern like, they’re lacking this knowledge that I can put a quick two-hour session later the next day, all of you we go to that session, then I kind of level up the skills, at least for that thing. And then I continue programming which thing and then you repeat that.

Dave: And how often is it that it’s just before? They’ve so let’s say, like us. We don’t have a web app yet. We’re in the process of planning it and thinking about it and figuring out when it fits. I don’t know which technology we’re going used. I’m leaning towards Vue.js at the moment. But react is not out. Angular is not out. I haven’t made a decision. So let’s say we went with react, would that be a something that you would do in coming in and doing a session with the people who are involved in the development and talking through the way we would do that with react? Or is it more you already have a react app and you’ve got specific problems?

Davy: So that’s a good question because it actually we go even earlier than that, our process will be, depending on your situation, you will just say, okay, you’re already started with react, let’s dive in. Let’s, let’s show you, we’re going to show you how to build a proper app with react. But last year, 2018, we had a lot of sessions where we built a thing called a carousel.

Do you know the carousel, the component? You have multiple choice, I mean, not like sliding, first slide, second slide, third slide. One slide is about one technology will be a Vue.js, angular and react. So we can do that over three days. First day, we go react, we actually build an app. So you just don’t make a choice based on I read XYZ.

We going to spend a whole they’re building a proper app, you feel it, you write that code, you at ease, which react. And then you’re like, “Okay, that’s way I will do it.” Then the day after, you just do exactly, to build exactly the same app with Angular. It’s not about the complexity, is not about the app, it’s about the technology.

Today, you go Vue.js and then, at the end of the day, we do a quick recap, pros and cons, we bring our own opinion, depending on the size of your team, and you bring yours. But yours will be less biased because you work with it. No, it’s not a one week or three months project.

But you have the feel of rocking with angular with react, because we are mentors, we’re going to make sure that you get the right that bit right of you, and then get the right process off working with XYZ technology. And then at the end of the third day, we, we advise you on the route you should take, but it’s up to you to decide.

So that’s what we call a carousel. It’s, it’s one of the program, we build for a company to make a decision, we apply that also on mobile development. You want to go on React Native, you want to code native Android or so just put your set of people around the room and economic workshop on every single technology and you make the choice.

We’re going to give you an advice based on the size of your team. Go Vue.js or go Angular based on the background of your team. You guys are Java developer, you want to go front and react going to do the job. But you’re a big team, you’re already structured in a certain way. Maybe Angular and the funny thing is the last technology, so we have, for example, three days.

Angular if react start first. Most of the time, I mean, whatever technology start first and second, most of the time there, they don’t make it. Do you see what I’m saying? It’s like people are biases, like the last touch, like okay, literally a hundred percent of the time we had up with the last technology been chosen.

And then we’re like, “Okay, then we need to reverse in the way we do the session.” And sometime we also because it’s not the same mentor that does the decision. So you can also have that biases. So each of them will come and say you their stuff. But ok, at Hackages, they cannot also take a step back saying I’m not doing it for myself, I’m doing for that team.

But you still handout from that thing, like our Vue was the last one. And people felt like it was easier. Vue was easier because you struggle with the thing the first day you didn’t even know what was the app about. Second day, you discover another technology, but you have a vague still a vague idea of what the app is about. And the third day, you’ve done Angular, or you’ve done JavaScript for two days.

Now you feel that you know, more coffee that you know the problem to solve that you are truly fast. And you feel like that’s the technology you need to choose. So it is it’s a free critique experience and the feedback that been amazing. And also a way for us to acquire customers, because we will sometimes we just offer that service is like no, you don’t have to choose us even after that training, we will just tell you, you know what, we, our job is to give you the right tool, or the right decision process, like making process.

Then from there, you decide if you want to work with us on leveling up your team and knowledge, we go with you otherwise, there are plenty of people out there that can also do the job. But at least you make the right choice for your situation. Yeah,

Dave: Yeah, that’s really cool. And like I really like because the mentors know, the React way to do it. And the angular way to do it and the Vue way to do it, then it’s a much better system than say, I watch a tutorial online, and then I go basically try to do in Angular, the React way. You know, so knowing the right way for each framework. And being able to give that knowledge to the people from the beginning. While they’re redoing that. And avoiding those issues. Which I’m pretty sure. I built an Angular app, the jQuery way, at one point, you know, so obviously. So I mean, I’m sure everybody has done something like that. So, that’s a really nice way to avoid that issue and help make a decision. I like that.

Davy: Fully people more people get to know that because most of the companies out there, which is to come and say we have Angular developers just use Angular. But what is my real problem? And what are my developers’ background? And how can I make sure that whatever I choose, works for them really well.

Dave: Are you seeing any kind of specific pattern of like the typically, companies with less than this, many people in the team have chosen one of those or?

Davy: So yeah, what do we solve for example, like that the team of four, four to five? No, like what I said three to six, thinking, three to six, it will take the most of the time they go react, and Vue js. But when you have bigger team, they start fighting over best practices out of the gate.

What should we do? How can we do testing? How can we do XYZ? And then Angular appears to be the winner there. Because even if the people within the team are, they know a react or Vue.js. They will say or react, mostly, they will say, for the well being of the team, let’s go Angular, because we have a structure out of the box, we’re not going to fight about all these patterns and stuff like that. They’re there. They’re part of the community. We don’t think about it just use whatever the community provides you and the documentation out there are there also.

So like one of the customers I mentioned, in France, they have this, like a huge team, and they do Angular, everywhere. But internally, you have a fight. People want to use react, they want to use pro-react. So you have that internal fight. And then they’re like, “Hh, have you heard about web component?” It’s like, now let’s stop the fight. Angular can help you build a web component, which means that you don’t see Angular anymore as a framework to build a web app. No, you see Angular as a tool to build UI. And then those UI components, you can use them in your react or, or Vue.js or in another Angular application.

Because that’s what the tooling around Angular is providing you today. See what I’m saying? So you, you just want to make sure that people are at ease which whatever decision to take saying, well, you’re a big team, you will mostly end up writing the same data, date picker like three times. No, you don’t need that. You can use whatever technology you feel at ease with but make sure that you turn that into a web component.

And then that web component is JavaScript, CSS, HTML, end of the story. There is no react whatever Angular involved, then you can reuse that anywhere else. So that’s also way to, to flatten that discussion. But once again, to your point, it’s the size of the team there a lot like in that decision. Once again, we had that team that just said, we love react. But we probably don’t have time to go into building all the patterns for ourselves. Let’s just use Angular and yeah.

Dave: Okay. Cool. So what has been the journey of the Hackages company? So, you know, from when you started, what, from a business person type of person yet of you now, Was it like, this is your first startup? Is that right?

Davy: No, it’s not the first one. So Hackages is my third attempt of building a company. The first one was a sport app. Like, I’m a sporty person, and I wanted to play basketball. Everywhere I will go working as a consultant. So I build an app where at could find that could help me find a basketball court in real time. The real-time part is mostly a day people playing there right now.

Yeah, that, that failed badly. I actually got a lot of customers using it at some point but didn’t find a way to monetize it. So I stop with it and then in late 2014, I started what is Hackages today, but it was through, another company called Philo’s, so providing evening workshop. It wasn’t planned, it was to me it was just, I want to spend time cutting with people in the evening, but it turned out to be the people wanted more by day. So that was Philo’s for about a year and a half. I had I was on my own but I got a co-founder.

And I just didn’t know what it means to have a co-founder. I was like you seem nice. You can have one-third of the company because I had another friend of mine who was my co-founder who had one-third of the company, but that we left at some point so we end up being the two of us. I was like “You take 50, I take 50.” But things didn’t work out.It was, we’re just straight apart and we realized that these things going out not going to work because one is putting more energy into the company than the other.

Then I left, I didn’t I just for one year I just gave him the company like you can keep it and then I went on and build Hackages. When I started Hackages one of the things that I learned from the two previous things. First get the first company, was like first lesson: get a team, you’re not gonna, you’re not Superman. Yeah, I could do design, I could do programming and doing sales. Doing all those things that are actually equally important, even more important.

So, from from Philo’s to second company, what I learned is: Now that you know, you’re going to need to find a co founder. A co-founder take someone that is willing to work probably hard as you are, and I believe it he was but I didn’t we did just didn’t match into in that sense. So then when I started Hackages, I don’t give 50% out of the box. No, you don’t do that.

You don’t know the person, I never met him before. And it was really cool, really thoughtful. And I thought like, yeah, that guy’s gonna have me on the business side. And that didn’t work out. So when I started Hackages I gave a friend of mine recommended me broader to help me out with all the admin stuff. That’s the part that I hate about starting.

Dave: Paperwork, just makes my eyes just glaze over. I absolutely. Every time I sit down to do any kind of paperwork that I don’t consistently do. I feel like I’ve just sat down for a very important test in school that has, not only I didn’t study for but forgot to go to the class the entire year, I just show up to the final exam. And I’m like, “Woah, woah.” I’d rather code for you know, 40 hours in a row and do one..

Davy: We’re through on that but I hate the paperwork part. So yeah, the guy..

Dave: Because paperwork doesn’t have a compiler.

Davy: Yeah, you’re right. That is completely right. How can we, you just gave me an idea of like a company a product that I can build.

Dave: That’s what you do for one of your hack jams is to get the students to build it for you.

Davy: To build that yeah. How do you automate that part? I’m not kidding. Actually, I had one of the idea was to build a startup like a product, not a startup. Build a product that will automate all that change. And if you say I want to become a, on a builder company that will do just, you register an app, and you give it a name, and the company checks that online, like “Does that exist?”, “No, it’s yours.” You want it, then accept, move to the next thing. “How many paper x, y, z?” You just answer a few questions and there you go. You’re good to go.

Really, I thought about that part. But you gotta you gotta focus. It’s part of my my to do list. So yeah, and then Hackages. And then I got co-founder, it was a friend of a friend. And No, it’s brought of one of my friends. And my friend told me, “Yeah, he’s really into all these things and he can help you with the paper part. And he does sales, as well.”

I was like, “Oh, that’s a good combo. Let me talk to him.” And he had met him before and then when he arrived, I told him like, “You know, what, I’m gonna pay you 2k per month, I give you..” We started by saying, “I’m gonna give you like as a freelance, like, 400 euro per day, to help me out with a thing. And then once you’re done, I can get things rolling.” I think five days in, he came back to me saying, “Okay, now I kind of understand what you’re trying to build with Hackages. I’m going to quit my job, I want to be part of that.”

So that was actually a big testament, like someone’s like realizing the potential of what what you are building, especially because he came to our Hackjam. And then you realize that you don’t need a sale. Look at all these people, they love the thing they are, they’re enjoying that part. So you gotta cut me in.

So I decided to, I told him like, “Okay, let me give you 2k net salary per month plus, company car, and like, that’s a bedroom package you usually give to employees, and then I give you 10% of the company”, not 50 percent don’t do that again. And so I learned from my lesson at that moment. So he took 10% of the company but the day we were incorporating the company.

At the bank, they told us, they told me something like, “Well, if you want that your co founder to have access to your bank account, and every single thing, it needs to have at least 25% of the company.” That was a weird thing. But I was like, it’s not 50% it’s 25. So it’s not a big deal. I still have one, three, fourth of the company. So a few days went by I gave him 25%, we incorporated the company, we start rolling, but I didn’t know anything about business, and not business, but like IT on all things.

So it was a three to four months learning boot camp for him. And, and we hired our first two engineers, the day we signed a company. So we, they were just waiting for us to incorporate. And so as a software engineer, already managing all this stuff, I kind of spend less time coding, but managing a few things. So in December 2016, we got approached by investors, they’re like, we love your company, we love what you’ve been doing. It’s a consultancy company that sees us as a way for them to attract talent to their office, and then they can pitch, we can pitch their thing.

And then so Hackages is part of our company. So if you want to work for packages, we can hire you, but it was just to send you into consultancy and make a lot of money. And without providing you a proper Learning Program. Which was the core thing for me, like, you know, I want my employees to be well paid to have an amazing learning program.

And, and they put a lot of money on the table, they were like, we want to either acquire you or build or take a chunk of your company or buy a franchise. From Hackages that we can operate out of France, because we were Belgian based and they were like French based company. All the options seems free. Okay, we were willing to go in one of the direction but then my co-founder realized that holy crap. Am I allowed to say that?

Dave: Sure! I’ll mark all these explicit whether I just thought of what I have to worry about what I say.

Davy: Okay. And he thought, “Oh, this is real, like we’re really into a company where people are willing to put money we’re making slightly bit, a bit of money.” And, and that night, we were in Paris, we met that those investors. And after that night, we went to do a Hackjam. We’re in Paris for Hackjam. So we met them through on our way to the Hackjam and then we went back to the hotel that evening. I think you met him in Dublin, he was here in Dublin with us. And he was like, he was shocked. He didn’t say a word.

Then on our way back to Brussels The day after he told me, he broke the silence. And then he said, I need more, share the company. And I was like, You should give me a good argument. Let me and you tell me how much you want? And then we talk. And then he said, I know it’s your idea. Like, okay, yeah, he reaches my idea, but it’s not really about the idea itself.

But I think it will be fair to for you to have for me to have 60% and he will have 40%. And I was like, “Yeah, so what are the arguments? Going the furnace part of it, I don’t get it. So give me numbers, give me something.” So we start talking about his involvement, like he quit his job and stuff like. And I’m like, “But you quit your job, you get to sorry, you get you got everything you get part of the company. So I still don’t get that. So give me all those arguments.” And, and he wasn’t able to are completely give me a proper reason.

And, and then I told him, “You know what, we were actually struggling financially speaking.” So I was like, “We we need money. We need money to pay salaries at the end of January. And, and I’m going to either sell 5% of the company to that, that or the company, or we just have to do something. Otherwise, at the end of January, we’re out of the market.”

We were actually planning to be in Dublin that end of January, we were in Dublin end of January 2017. Together, and we were already in that fight like, “No, you don’t take money from those people. Unless he gives his approval.” And I’m like, “You know what? I’m the majority stake stakeholder at the company. And if we go bankrupt, I’m going to have to, I’m going to suffer more than you. And moreover, you’re talking about, yeah, you made some sacrifice by joining a company.

I’ve been building that thing for about two years before you join. So people didn’t just show up at a meetup in Dublin. Yeah. So we’ve been building that before you even realize that you will be part of that company.” So it was probably selfish on my side. But fundamentally, I think he I thought it was an honest, in that part, it hurt me a lot. And I start defending myself like you, “You want to crush me. Fine. You’re going to have to go really hard on this because I’m not willing to give up on anything.”

So yeah, we’re we’re still in court today. We’ve been in court for like yeah, almost. We’re going into the third year now. So it’s pretty slow process. So I still don’t, on the court and he came up with a lot of lies. But that’s okay. I take that I made a lot of mistakes as well. Because he look, I’m just giving you a scenario. He has 25% of the company. So the company started in September, end of September 2016.

So in January, we’re four months in. And he asked me, like when I told him, I don’t want that thing to go on. Let’s just read and and I’m going to buy up your shares. And he told me, well give me a number. I’m like, I don’t have a number. Maybe we can find something there. I was at Remember I told you at the beginning it was 400 euro per day, let’s multiply that by the number of effective day you work at the company I’m giving you even the Saturdays.

Because as an entrepreneur, there is no vacation. Yeah, so I’m giving you two Saturdays as well. So we are round up the thing around 77K, which is a lot of money when you think about four months of work. But I’m like, okay, it’s probably the price I need to pay to, to move on with my company.

And then he came back to me saying that it’s going to be 250K. And I was like what where is that number coming from? So you went from these equation as a startup that in the space. That is as this potential is right. But at the same time, like, don’t you think you’re trying to abuse the situation? And, fast forward two years later he’s willing to settle at 50k. So I’m like what happened in between?

Can someone tell me why we go from 250K to 50k. So there is this weird, this weird thing. And so we’re still in court today, I lost the first part of the in court. Because in one of my email when we were exchanging I gave him my agreement for 77K, because we went from 250 to 77. And then I was like, okay, you take it or you leave it. I say okay, if you agree on that we move on from there. I say yes, I agree.

But in court. Yeah, that is kind of agreement you give by email. But the day, I gave that agreement, I was burying my grandfather. And I just I was like, I don’t want to share about anything, take that money, leave. But I didn’t have that money. That’s the problem. I was like, I’m gonna make up, I’m going to find a way to get you that money. But I don’t want you to be around anymore. I just want to keep reading Hackages.

And so because of that email, I lost first time in court, they said, “Yeah, you give your agreement.” So but then I’m like, okay, I gave my agreement but could you look into the detail, the DERA. The financial DERA and stuff like that, my personal situation. And then the second appeal, I won, and now we’re on the third one, when they said, “Now we have to do a financial expertise just for the first year of the company.

Knowing that during the first yea,r I put my money, I borrow money that I inject into the company, I need to keep it afloat. So if they come back, saying, “You gotta still have to pay in 50K.” I’m like, “No, it’s wrong.” And I had to put more than hundred k that year to keep the company afloat. So there is no way. So that’s the situation, it was hard. It was really hard. And I would advise anyone out there to really think twice, before choosing a co-founder.

Dave: But definitely. Not just co-founder, any shareholder who has voting rights. So you need to consider that. But also, you know, when you’re making agreements, make sure that both parties or all three parties, or however many people have enough stake in the company to feel like it’s theirs, you know, I’m not saying you made a mistake with the 25%.

You know, that could be plenty for some people, but you need to, you know, that happens a lot when one co-founder or one early owner feels like they took one number, you know, one percentage, and then they feel like they’re doing more than what value they’ve gotten for it. So it’s really hard to figure that out. And then even more if you start to take investments, that then as your your percentages start to go down. You know, obviously, the shares are less, but the value is more and more. Yeah, well, hopefully.

Davy: Hopefully you go that direction.

Dave: Yeah, but you know, as everybody shares started, because you never have more than day one. I mean, unless, unless you start with somebody and they go away, and somehow you get it back. But in general, your shares only go down or your your percentage of ownership goes down. The more investor. So you have to make sure that you know, you dilute one of the key people out to where do you end up with legal problems. I mean, it’s, there’s no good answer. I mean, even with somebody you know, you never know. Because..

Davy: At least you are you start from you have more data about the person, then, oh, that person looks pretty capable. Let me just have to let me give her him some chair. And then we’ll see.

Dave: But still, you know,there is something that I think can become primal, about startups in that. If you’ve come from a day job, to your first startup is the most fight or flight. You know, that’s the most risk you’ve probably ever seen related to business. And, you know, deep down inside, we’re all trying to survive, right?

It’s the lizard brain from hundreds, thousands of years ago, right. So you get that where you start to. I mean, I’m mostly talking about myself and seeing it that I can understand how I’m putting everything into this, and I’m not going to get anything out of it. Not that that’s actually true in a lot of cases. But I can totally understand how that happened.

Which is why it’s so common. For issues like what you’ve had to, you know, happen to other people, especially not having worked with people in really stressful situations. I just I think that myself, I’m extremely lucky to have already worked with Julie, but, you know, you never know what’s going to happen. And when money starts to get tight, which it will at some point, you know.

Davy: Or the other way around, when money started flowing into the company, then people start realizing like, oh, I’ve been putting way too much. Now, let me get a big, kept up the cake. And that also can cause a lot of friction, as well.

Dave: Yeah, it’s an interesting story, and definitely something anybody who’s considering starting something that others should hear. Appreciate you telling us about. Yeah, sure. I’m sure that there was a huge emotional burden on there, not just the mean, trying to build a company stressful.

Davy: But on like to on the business side, because you mentioned I went on, mostly on collaboration with business partner, but business wise, I mentioned, I mentioned the way we were able to attract customers, and then has the company grew, you realize that, “Oh, it’s not anymore for four people operation, you get into a 10 people operation”, “Oh, should I hire HR?”, “Should I, maybe okay we need a sales right now.” So you start thinking about, like, more business oriented.

And and that also brings a lot of challenges. Which engineers, you’re sure you’re getting, you got the right engineers, and as you show your, your interview process is well oiled to get the right people on board. It is the learning the learning is it is infinite. I don’t know how to describe that. You, might have had the same experience. But I’m so grateful for that.

So many sleepless night, I’m not bragging about that. It’s not a good thing. But at the end of the day, you wake up and you’re like, Okay, we’ve been doing a lot of things. And it’s just the beginning. Just keep pushing and pushing. But you need a min advice. There was, don’t burn out.

Dave: Yeah. That’s a big one.I mean, and that’s what every time. So you know, we worked and worked and worked and worked. We released the iOS version. It’s like, All right, we’re at the starting line. And then we worked and worked and worked and worked and acquired users. And it’s like, all right, we have enough users. Where’s the starting line?

Davy: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I like that.

Dave: It’s work and work and work and then we get an Android out. Where is the starting line? Yeah. So it’s like climbing the mountain. And finally, tipping over the peak to see that’s really just base camp. Over and over and over.

Davy: It did, I like that picture there. It’s indeed the same thing. Like, “Let’s release that V. feature. It’s out there. Okay. Okay, what’s next?” Because you’re like, “Okay, you are at which level are you?” “No, just starting a new one” Is like, and there is a there’s this thing about being a founder coming up with hundreds of ideas per day, to keep things afloat, to keep things going. Even though there is a roadmap. I don’t know how you handle that in the company, but not making sure that..

Dave: Not well, I am not amazing at longer term planning. Especially because I find software development, time estimation impossible. I don’t know, do you find the same?

Davy: It is impossible. I always get it wrong until today. And people should stop asking how long this will take? No, you don’t know. We were building a project at Hackages like a mobile mobile app for non tech people to learn tech. And I was like, “Hh, that thing’s going to take me a week. It’s been it’s been six weeks now.” Why? Because the other impediments you have to deal with. And it could be human factors, it could be platform, react native. That doesn’t give us the right result. Could be a lot of stuff. And you never know.

Dave: I find it like putting together a toy model. But all you can do is look at the box. And there’s no text on it to tell you how many pieces are inside and trying to say how long it will take you to put that toy car together. I guess about two hours. You open it up. And there’s 5 million pieces it’s gonna take you a whole lot. It’s because there’s so many unknowns that you can’t actually know until you start to dig into them. At least from you know, I’ve started trying to double my original estimate. I’ve also heard that one much better way to do it is arrange. So that first number you come up with between that and some other number.

Davy: Okay, what is the one that’s been departure for you so far?

Dave: I’m just never right. And it’s never early. I continually try to break it down into smaller and smaller pieces to estimate. But then there’s always, you know, you know more after you’ve started than you could have known before you started. So well, if we do this, it’ll make this bit easier later. This feature wasn’t something we thought we needed now. But it’s actually more important than the other bits. Until we actually implemented this in the database, we didn’t know we actually needed a new index that we have to process across 9 million records. And it’s going to take three days. And if we try to do anything else on this before, then everything will go slow for everyone’s let’s not do that. It just there’s so many

Davy: There’s always something. Yeah.

Dave: So I still working on it. I think one of the problems is we’re not a big team, but we’re still a team, you know, we’ve got a number of hands that have to touch something before it shipped. So anytime there is a handover, there’s a risk for having to do rework. And that’s what we’re in the process of trying to eliminate making sure that we have better kickoff meetings. So we’re going to develop a feature of element within the product that the designers there, we talk through how it should work. We talk through what it means to data, we talked through what it means in the mobile app, what it means in the API. Have we considered all the elements that we’re going to be asked questions about related to analytics on it? So trying to do that. And then we’re actually doing handover, trying to do them more with video chats, as opposed to slack messages, because there’s a little bit too much room for interpretation so do a little bit more screen sharing of “Okay, so I’ve got this doing it this way”, “Here’s a copy of, okay, you know, a results returned by the API”, “Here’s a query You mean”, those are the types of things we’re trying to do more of. But I’m not sure if it’s worse than paperwork, but I think it is paperwork.

Davy: Yeah I think it’s about trying, it’s about trying to get the like, when when you have a more like a remote friendly company in a way you have. And I will sit with the engineers and trying to sketch something we always, always get it wrong, but always trying to do again, you do it again, to the moment you feel like, “Oh, that one was good. No, it wasn’t.” And, but there is a business we have the managing director in Belgium was also leading the sales team, she will always come up, like “How long this thing will take?” I don’t know, it’s a program we need to design it from scratch. Yeah, “Can have it before noon?” No, and and then she’s right, because she thinks like, oh, since we’ve done that for other already, like … so then it might just be easier these times?. Nope, sometimes you just have to think first about the context and that new context and then go through the process of estimating editing and, and you will get it wrong. That’s okay.

Dave: I guess the other thing to consider is that when people do their estimations, they’re often thinking of the optimal week where they actually get to spend 40-50 hours.

Davy: Yeah, that’s true. That is true.

Dave: As opposed to all the other things that pop up. And, oh, I didn’t know the website was going to be down. So that took a day, I didn’t know that. We were going to have to do this upgrade to this portion of the infrastructure to prevent some, you know, hack, because CPE that was just released. I mean, they’re just so many things. I don’t know, I don’t like that part. And I’m terrible at it. So that’s a pattern with me. If I’m not good at it, I’d usually don’t like it. There are a few things that I like.

Davy: Apparently, it’s sometime, as the people mentioned on, “Are you starting a company?” Yeah, you know, you’re going to have to do things you don’t like, like, yeah, I’m gonna, I’m gonna delegate that to someone else. And then you realize that you can’t, some of them, you just can’t delegate, but you need to go through it. And I learned, I learned that the hard way. And today, I was able to delegate a few things like, but yeah, the things you just can’t delegate to people, I don’t have to put it out there. I’m not a lot of big fan of managing people. But I’m the engineering manager, have to make sure that their their learning plans, their career plans, and all these things are straight. And if you don’t do that, they have like 100 of job offered every month. So and the companies out there are willing to do that job. And, and you know, you need to be there and listen. And I have to say again, I don’t enjoy that. But I have to do it. And that I can’t delegate. Yeah, I can delegate the finance, I can delegate when you started the I know you’re not finance, and all this stuff, you can delegate that you can delegate a few things that I had to do when the company was starting. Community management, marketing and stuff. Then as the company grow, you delegate part, you don’t delegate people management, especially at the engineering level if you’re an engineering manager, and but yeah, gotta learn how to do it.

Dave: I’m lucky that I’ve gotten such good people, but it’s an easy job. I can’t say that I’m definitely doing it well. But they seem to be performing well. And seeing happy, so hopefully, we can keep that going. What’s the biggest challenge for you at the moment, or biggest couple of challenges?

Davy: So that sales process that I talked about, beginning saying, we go to events, and then they bring us business, when you’re like a 5-0 people company, that works fine. You have enough, inbounds. But then when you’re actually people person, that doesn’t work as much. So you got to find ways to, to innovate around that. So we’ve been, we’ve been trying a lot of things. One of the things we try as like, as a developer if I tell my manager that I need a training and react.

They don’t know what you’re talking about. Maybe if you tell them that you you’re going to solve XYZ problem that they’re, it’s that speaks their language, then you tell them that tool doesn’t matter, the name will help me get there will probably be a better way to, to introduce my problem. So we start reading away for non tech people, managers, peers, to understand the tech jargon. So because we thought that will also make it easier for managers out there to to send their employees to the right training, because they understand better the ecosystem that hasn’t worked really well.

We hire sales people to help us ramp up their sales machine. And, and that is still at the early age, we’re seeing some stuff, but at the same time in the part of Hackages became kind of a consultancy company. Which is, which is fine, based on what we do, because we train people, but at the same time, our trainers are also engineer in the field. So they know the problems. And they work on our internal product as well.

So they understand the thing. But the more they go out there, and then they deliver high quality product, the more we look like a consultancy like a hundred percent consultancy company. So you want to decide that you want to distance from that, because a lot of our customers are consultancy companies as well.

So you don’t want to get into that cash where your customer think you’re their competitor, you see what I’m saying? So we’re there, that blurred line like that. So a way for me to solve that problem is just by saying, “Let’s deploy a new website that basically highlights Hackages as a training company, that’s what we do. Let’s make sure that people know that they can come to us with us program.”

And then as we’ve been doing it lately, let’s just make sure that people know that we can help them on the coaching part, because that’s how we got into the consultancy thing. But it’s still early age with we deploy already all those tools. So we now gathering data to understand if that works.

So yeah, positioning is probably the main issue there, because even employees are also asking, where are we? So you have that positioning issue. Important then, another one for me to also solve that is to make sure that the company becomes even more visible than it is right now. What I mean by that is, we know each other because you saw me, we met during an event that I was coaching, I was mentoring that is being visible.

We wouldn’t be sitting cross table right now. So but if I just shoot a name, like Dan Abramoff, what comes in line, you don’t know the name, okay? Yeah, I don’t know in which space I can, like, is a well known guy in the React community. Right? He’s visible. What I mean by visible, is a software engineer. If you speak to him, it will tell you like, yeah, I’m a software engineer, I don’t even probably know more than you do.

But the thing is, like, because I work in a visible, highly visible project, which is react and communicate, manage evangelist, then you know about me, and you want to work with me, or you want to come to my training, you want to be part of that training space that I my space. So I’m like, if those guys were able to pull out, put that out, why can’t we?

So I’m building a platform where I can highlight the work of those engineers, put them out there on the map as well, because they’re also doing amazing job on the training they’re providing around the world, around Europe at the moment. Yeah, if more people were to know about it, the more visible they will be, and the more business that will bring to the company.

But on top of that our customer that might end up seeing us as competitor, we just understand that well. It’s a byproduct of us providing training, that we hand up helping customers with their problems. And not our first intention when we go we go to customers. So I’m just making sure that the way to solve that problem is to one of the ways to make the engineer more visible.

And and from there, we see how it goes. So a lot of things there the product is called Hackflicks. Probably told you about that already. And and this is, we see we see how it goes.

Dave: Yeah. I’ll stick all that and your contact details in the show notes so that people can find it.

Davy: Great.

Dave: So what, what would you tell people to do? So call to action for the listeners? Check out hack flicks?

Davy: So yeah, so there’s a hackflix that. So hackflix like, am I allowed to say?


Davy: I was about to give a name that is well known in the industry that I’m like, it is x for for tech content. No, we’re not going that route. But you know what I’m talking about. And there is hackages. but depending on the country you lived, you’re in. You might be like .be for Belgium, .nl for Netherlands. We have them also, if we provide trainings in your country, you might just type .de for Germany. It really depends. Yeah.

Dave: And how can people reach you? Twitter? LinkedIn?

Davy: Twitter works wonder. davy@hack and DavyEngone. So @davyengone in one word. That’s my Twitter account.

Dave: Great. I’ll put that and links to all the other sites on the show notes, like I said, and that’ll be on the website and share that out. Great. Thank you so much for joining us.

Davy: Yeah, it was nice.

Dave: And I’m sure we’ll do this again sometime.

Davy: Yeah, sure. Thanks again.

Dave: And thank you all for listening. Until next time, remember any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.