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Startup leadership: culture of validation vs.

culture of perfection






Mobile app to collect photos

Founders and team

Heygo is a real time photo sharing app

that pretends to revolutionise the way
of living and sharing experiences.
It is a social network and mobile app
focused on collectivity, where people
can share and visualize all the pictures
of an experience that they lived together.

Available for iOS and Android, the app

was launched soon after Madrids
Google Launchpad (July 2015).

This report focuses on startup culture and in

how teams past experiences can inuence
development processes and delay decision
making in the world of software companies
and apps.
Following the belief that most photo sharing
apps currently focus on the individual and
not in group moments, Nicolas Espinosa,
Claudio Omaa and Ari Prat decided to build
Heygo, a social network aimed at capturing
collective moments through images.
The team joined Google Launchpad before
the public release of its app for Android, in
what would end up becoming a hurdle in the
development of the app and in the process of
finding its product-market fit.

What were they focusing on prior to Google Launchpad?

Heygo was born in the heart of Mobilesf, a software development studio located in Barcelona, based on the perceived idea that most photo-sharing apps were focused on
individualism, instead of putting together collective moments through images.

*Customer validation

The Startup Owners Manual - Steve

Blank and Bob Dorf
*Building culture in a tech startup

Dr. Candida Brush - Forbes - Babson

*Building great founding teams

Steve Blank
*Executive vs. Leaders

Fred Wilson
*What a CEO does

Fred Wilson

When Heygo joined Google Launchpad, they had yet to officially release the final version of its app for iOS and Android. This was not due to the app not being ready or fully
functional, but because, as CEO Nicolas Espinosa said, we
were trying to reach perfection and to fix all bugs and
small issues there were.
As we will explain in the following paragraphs, during the
program, Heygos team would realise the need to launch
the app -initially on Android- to learn how users make use
of it and make changes based on that.
We were obsessively perfectionists, ambitious and we did
not have a lot of experience in the software startup field,
Nicolas said. This would come back to haunt us.
This culture of perfectionism in Heygos founding team
could be tracked back to their own personal past experiences in the world of technology and consumer electronics.
Heygos founders had previously worked in big multinationals like Intel or HP in positions of high responsibility,
which had a profound impact on the development and creation of the app. Heygos founding members are:
Nicolas Espinosa: he has 15 years of experience in various technology and engineering companies. Prior to
Heygo Nicolas was the head of test and quality validation
of Intels Microprocessor factory in Costa Rica.
Claudio Omaa: also worked at Intel as a product development engineer.
Ari Prat: mobile developer that had previously participated in the building of apps such as Zyncro, Aparca&go
and Barcelonas metro app.

As head of QA at a chip manufacturer plant,

Nicolas was used to a level of product perfection
that differed vastly from software quality requirements at a consumer oriented startup,
where bugs can be less important or fixable in a
short period of time.
What feedback did they receive from mentors?
Since the startup had not yet launched its app
at the time of the program, most mentors advised Heygo to relax their expectations for perfection in every detail and to launch it in order
to validate the hypothesis they had built and to
find the problems or pains the product solved.
What did they discover during Google Launchpad?
The team acknowledged they had created in
Heygo a culture of perfectionism that kept them
from launching their product and learn from
user experience. This culture was in direct conict with their goal of validating their value
proposition, which they had done with no close
friends but not in the real world, says Nicolas .
Changing a startups culture is a long term endeavor, but one that could be broken down into
smaller steps, the first one being launching their
What is their new focus or action plan following
Google Launchpad?
We launched the product after Google Launchpad and we saw that it was not working as we
intended it to, Nicolas says. The team explained that the app did not solve a big enough
problem for users and that these didnt understand the value it was trying to provide.
As a result of the above actions, the team decided to pivot and build a marketplace product and
app for consumers to request professional services from freelancers and experts.
How can previous work experiences inuence the
leadership role at a technology startup?

Software startups, as the direct output of the

work put together by a group of people, are often
inuenced by the personality and previous experiences of its founding team.
In the case being analysed, this was quite clear
in various areas and in the differences between
industries such as HP or Intel and Heygos field,
consumer apps.
As Heygos CEO would admit after the program,
the team sought product perfection -which
could be understandable in an industry such as
chip manufacturing- before launching the app.
However, this kept them away from finding the
products real added value to users and from iterating based on customer feedback*, thus delaying the startups pivot into a different area.
According to Nicolas Espinosa, there were three
main mistakes they made, which were inuenced by their professional backgrounds and
inexperience in the consumer apps sector.
Not joining an accelerator because of not
wanting to give up 10% equity and wanting ro
retain full ownership of his venture: this
would have allowed them to pivot faster and
to give more importance to fundraising, says
Nicolas, which would have allowed them to
focus on user growth instead of monetisation.
If they had no intentions to fundraise early on,
not having other sources of capital to finance
Not validating the product as early as possible.
As Dr. Candida G. Brush of Babson College recently stated on a Forbes article, the roots of
startup culture have to do with beliefs and assumptions that underlie how work is done in
the venture. Beliefs and assumptions that are
heavily impacted by teams past working experiences.

Steve Blank first introduced the theory behind the three layers
of founders and founding teams, which were later complemented by Fred Wilsons differentiation between leaders and
executives and his explanation on the role of CEOs (strategy,
hiring and financing).

In most cases, the three would go on to determine the culture

and work-ow of a technology company. In the case of Heygo,
previous expectations and experience would prove to be counterproductive in the startups first phase.
How can I use this in my startup?
Previous work experiences inuence the way most people approach their job and work place. In the case of startup CEOs
and similar leadership positions, it is key to realise this from
the very beginning and to adapt to new circumstances for the
benefit of the team and product.
When it comes to consumer products and apps, its better to
launch first and iterate based on customer feedback than to
wait to have a complete and seemingly perfect product. As
LinkedIns founder Reid Hoffman once said, if you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, youve launched
too late.