Wir leben an einem der privilegiertesten Orte dieser Welt. Wir haben eine große Verantwortung für zukünftige Generationen. Deshalb nimm‘s in die Hand: Trau dich! Es wird niemand anderer für dich machen.
I received some feedback and questions about my post on leadership decisions at a workplace, and why I believe that many societal and political topics don’t belong to my workplace. (A clarifying side note: I wasn’t saying Basecamp is right or wrong. And banning and forbidding speech is a bad idea in general).
I’ve been chewing parts of this post for a while. But as about one third of the Basecamp workforce left after their leaders Jason/David announced some cultural changes and today Melinda and Bill Gates announced their separation, it was time to push it out.
All of these separations really moved me and over the weekend I spent several hours in reading and researching. It moved me because I can personally relate to that very well. In November I left my previous company (~60 employees like Basecamp) and over the last few month ~25 people – of which most of them I hired personally – left the company too.
(Just to be clear and explicit: I’m not making hints, propose conclusions or draw any parallels to my former company or people involved there. This is rather based being a curious, learning entrepreneur for 30years).
Companies and their leaders have the right and duty to make decisions. To set their leadership style and their culture. To change it gradually, radically or not at all. And to take the consequences. This isn’t good or bad per se. This is just how it is and how it has to be.
At the point a decision is taken (“Culture Changes”/”Quitting the Job”) – it was the right decision for the corresponding party. At the very moment to decide, everybody will take the best decision this person can take, based on the (limited) facts available.
Software engineers in the tech space are well paid (in Basecamp’s case ~220k/year, paying at the top 10% of San Francisco market rate and will receive up to 6 month of salary if they decide to leave). So they can also decide freely if they want to stay and adopt to the new situation/culture or if they want to move on. It’s also very unlikely they have to pee in bottles while driving delivery trucks or being in physical danger. So it’s pretty safe to assume:
Strong companies are built around strong cultures. And they will be highly individual, but they will share a couple of patterns. Often they are built around the leaders that craft them. I bet you’ve seen this comic:
Organisations need structure and leadership. This is a good thing and isn’t contradictory to self-organisation, empowerment of the individuals,… Modern leadership styles/principles fully embrace that. I’m stressing that because I strongly believe that so much of a happy/fulfilled workplace is dependent on that connection.
It’s as simple as that. Different cultures attract different people. Sometimes leadership changes, and therefore a change of talent follows. Or culture starts drifting away and gets recalibrated, which results in churn.
Nothing to worry about. just to be aware of.
As leader you need to know what employees enjoy. Where a person can work at their best. People aren’t resources that are slotted into a position. Remember, we spend a good portion of our time awake at work. We need to support everybody to craft their optimal experience at work.
You need to design around them. If people are engaged and come to that energized state that is named flow, magic happens. And magic results are just magic! This is only possible if people are in a safe space, where they don’t have to worry about many things. Without trust a safe space can’t exist. But how to create trust (Yes, mistrust leads to people quitting their jobs)?
Strong cultures are memorable and based on a set of rules. The simpler and more explicit they are, the better. Because if you’re operating on these set of principles reliably it creates trust. An additional benefit of trust is that it makes communication way more effective. Because, if you don’t trust me, all my talking would be useless.
A few of my personal rules that randomly come to my mind: “I do what I say, I say what I do”, “I communicate decisions, as soon as they are taken and don’t hide them.”, “In case of mistakes I’m focussing on avoiding it in future, not on finding who’s guilt it was.”, or to close that heading “Assume every decision is right, as you assume best intentions.”…
Never forget: It’s hard to earn trust and takes time. It’s easy to destroy trust and takes no time.
Lack of Appreciation
A healthy company has a good, diverse mix of individuals. The doers, introverts, fighters, dreamers, caretakers, listeners, thinkers, tinkerers, silent ones, critics,… As leader I often felt like a Zoo director.
Assume everybody is doing her/his best. All the time. Therefore everybody deserves their share of appreciation and attention. A “small beaver” can be equally important to a “big roaring tiger” but will leave if he’s not seen and appreciated. No matter how long an employee is with the company, or how important their role is.
Lack of growth perspective
Bill and Melinda Gates separated after 27 years of marriage because they “no longer believe they can grow together as a couple”. So, if an employee is asking: “What is my perspective at the company?”, you already missed the point of proactively managing that. If these answers are missing, one will sooner or later quit. On the other hand – providing a clear growth path can do wonders!
As Leader, don’t delegate diversity and inclusion. It’s your job. As soon you reach a point, where DEI is done for it’s own purpose you lost the connection to the company culture and this leads to dissatisfaction.
There are assholes out there. They might be inside your company. Manage them well. Recognise that you won’t be able to change them. Make sure they do as little damage as possible. As long you have the power. Don’t look away, act.
Oh, btw. I’m about to put together a new team as we speak.
Mail me or call me if you’re ready to make a choice.
Über die letzten 7 Jahre – während ich Crate gegründet und mit aufgebaut habe – hatte ich über zahlreiche Finanzierungsrunden Gelegenheit Pitches zu üben und zu “delivern”. Ich habe mich sehr gefreut, darüber mit Boris Gloger darüber eine Podcastfolge aufzunehmen.
This has originally been posted on the Crate.io blog end of September 2020.
I’ve had many roles at Crate.io over the years, and today I have a new, final one – a still convinced user and ambassador of CrateDB. But I will no longer be part of day-to-day operations. Instead, after obsessing for so many years over distributed databases and building a strong engineering culture built on trust, it’s time to move on and focus on solving other problems on this planet. Going forward I’ll use my experience and endurance to tackle them in any way I can.
Seven years ago, Bernd Dorn, Manfred Schwendinger and me built the first version of CrateDB and then we configured our startup: Manfred had to take care of our pre-existing business, I took the CEO role, Bernd, the best coder and architect was the natural choice as CTO and Christian Lutz, with his experience and success in funding, building and selling tech companies initially as our COO. Our goal was to make scaling super simple. CrateDB and “Big Data SQL in Real-Time” did a picture-perfect launch: HackerNews, trending Github repository, TechCrunch, Gigaom, TheNextWeb, Pioneers,…
It was crystal clear that building an open source database is a long-term, difficult undertaking requiring lots of VC funding, which would allow us to build together a successful business and raise capital in multiple rounds.
Machine generated data – including Time Series Data – is the fastest growing database segment and the fully distributed SQL query engine of CrateDB is the perfect foundation for the enterprise IOT market.
End of 2015 it was again a natural move that I took the CTO seat and Christian took over the CEO seat to build out with the team the commercial part of the company and execute professional VC fundraises in UK and Silicon Valley.
End of 2016 we tipped the cow, released CrateDB 1.0 and also started monetizing our product. This led to a global, strong growth of users and we transitioned from an engineering-only r&d company to a financially successful B2B enterprise business and also raise our Series A.
Today, 7 years and 360 CrateDB releases later, Crate.io is grown-up and is a revenue driven enterprise business with large customers and partners, and even more ambitious growth targets than ever. That’s why the board of directors brought in Eva Schönleitner as CEO, Christian got appointed as President to the board and I am happy to see Bernd coming back and taking again the engineering lead as CTO. To be able to pursue that huge opportunity that lies ahead of Crate the leadership team needs to evolve and guide the company to further growth. As a leaving executive I couldn’t be happier to see that the company is set up for success and find a new role.
As a founder, of course, I have mixed emotions. When you create a company, your job is to make sure it can one day succeed without you. Then eventually that one day comes and the celebration can be bittersweet.
It’s never easy for a founder to part ways with their work. I know that most ideas never materialize. Most software goes unused. Most businesses fail in their first years but we didn’t and here we are. Now, with Petabytes of data being processed by CrateDB, some of the largest and most successful businesses using CrateDB in their core processes, being recognized by Forbes Magazine and named a Cool Vendor by Gartner you know that your work was meaningful, and that a vibrant group of customers and partner will continue building upon it…. can any founder ask for anything more?
I want to thank from the bottom of my heart every Cratie – our team members, past and present, for making Crate.io what it is today. Thanks to you, this founder’s bittersweet moment is mostly sweet. I look forward to seeing where you will take it next.
What started with an Cathode powered screencast ends with the same:
Mein Freund Boris Gloger ist ein besonderer Mensch. Mich verbinden viele Sachen mit ihm. Wir wollten und wollen immer noch mehr gemeinsam unternehmen. Ein erster kleiner Schritt ist, dass wir es endlich geschafft haben, einen ersten Podcast aufzunehmen.
Hört euch an, was wir zum Thema “unternehmen” plaudern:
“Die Ideen gehen mir nicht aus”, Jodok Batlogg ist Gründer und Geschäftsführer von Crate.io in Dornbirn. Außerdem ist er Informatiker und mehrfacher Entrepreneur, der bereits sieben Unternehmen aufgebaut hat und nun das achte Jahr im aktuellen Unternehmen Crate.io angeht. Ausgehend von einer – für ihn – glasklaren Idee einer hochskalierbaren Datenbank für maschinengenerierte Daten (z.B. Sensordaten, Daten in der industriellen Produktion) gründete er das Start-up Crate.io und fing dafür wieder einmal bei Null an.
Ich unterhalte mich mit Jodok darüber, wieso er es nicht lassen kann, was ihn antreibt und welche Hürden er überwinden musste. Er erzählt uns ein wenig über seine Produktidee, was seinen Lebensstil als Unternehmer ausmacht und wie er das gesamte Unternehmen denkt. Silicon Valley spielt natürlich auch ein Rolle.
I had the opportunity to record an episode of the “Digitale Leute Podcast” with my friend Oliver Thielmann from Giant Swarm and would like to reshare it here as well:
Why industrial IoT startup Crate.io can easily do distributed databases but still had trouble finding product-market fit
Being at number one at Hacker News or winning the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battle might help create a hype around your startup. But it doesn’t help finding the product-market fit. Jodok Batlogg, CTO at industrial IoT startup Crate.io explains in this episode why they needed six years to finally hit product-market fit.
Digitale Leute Insights is the podcast for passionate product people. We interview product developers from around the world and take a closer look at their tools and tactics.
When Jodok Batlogg was the CTO at StudiVZ, the largest social network in Germany before Facebook got traction in Europe, the biggest problem they had was data storage. The data of 60 million users were running on about a thousand servers and Docker had not been invented yet. It was clear to Jodok that the amount of data would be growing and the problems with it.
Four years later, he founded Crate.io with a prototype of CrateDB. The open-source distributed SQL database management system used Elastic Search when that was still “a crazy guy sitting in Israel coding at a new kind of approach on how to deal with distributed computing,” as Jodok puts it in this episode.
His startup enjoyed two hypes early. The first one was a Hacker News article that resulted in the company going into the “Big Data SQL in real-time” direction. The second boost came after winning the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battle, which Jodok completed with a broken fibula. Although it helped to keep the company alive with bringing in investors, they were still to find product-market fit, Jodok admits. “On the product side, it was fine, but from the going-to-market side and on the monetization side, it was totally wrong.”
How to gain product-market fit
The turnaround came as late as five years after the foundation when the company did a customer survey. The result was a transformation to a more enterprise-focused company concentrating on industrial IoT. They switched the open-source model, which allowed the customers to perceive Crate.io as a product worth buying. It also helped the sales department actually to sell the product. Before that, even hiring extra sales employees had resulted in zero sales.
Today Crate.io is a remote-first company, led by Jodok Batlogg as CTO from Dornbirn, a small town in Vorarlberg, Austria. The mountainous country and Jodoks attempt to not use his Audi anymore leads him to try out all the new electric boards, bikes, and gadgets on the market. He shares this passion with our host Oliver Thylmann. This is why they close this episode by discussing electromobility and paying it with bitcoin.
About the Host Oliver Thylmann is a serial entrepreneur based in Cologne, Germany. He is the co-founder of Giant Swarm, a 35-person SaaS company providing managed microservice infrastructure to big enterprises.
Hi, welcome to the team. I’m so glad you are here at Crate. You’re now a Cratie!
You’ll need at least one cycle to figure this place out. Maybe even two cycles. That’s totally o.k. – take your time. Uh? a cycle? What’s that? Let’s call it 1-2 quarters (of a year) for now. When entering a new environment, the first impression is really important. And we’re working hard to make the first experience a good one. But as we’re a bunch of curious, different and complex people solving complex problems this will take some time. Btw. complex is still better than complicated1. Be curious, meet everyone, look around, ask all the questions, write and talk to whomever you want. I bet there are many new acronyms, habits and rituals to learn. This will time until you’re fully productive. We expect that. In case you feel unsafe or don’t dare to ask someone, you have multiple fallbacks: your onboarding buddy, your lead person or just me.
Company culture is reflecting the people working there. What you do is who you are2. It started based on the belief of the two founders – Christian and me. Over the last 6 years we kept a lot of principles, but also carefully changed others. The following paragraphs are a user guide to navigate Crate and navigate it. It captures what you can expect out of working as part of the team, our aspirations and the leadership values that influence our culture.
My intent is to accelerate the working relationship between all of us with this document.
Our Average Week
People work from where they want and when they want. It might seem this is less efficient than having all people at one place for fixed hours. But we’ve deliberatly decided to craft a remote-friendly culture that even allows people in different timezones to be included. It makes us resilient and adaptable. It is sustainable. We’ll do as many things asynchronously and in written format as possible. People working in one of the offices have the advantage of meet at the espresso machine – and have random chats. But even if you are remote or in a different office you will be able to see and talk with your team mates at least once per day: During the daily coffee – a video call that the team does once a day. This call is about social interaction, staying connected and getting better known to each other. The teams decide themselves how to organize the rest of the work and agile methodology. One nice weekly ritual worth mentioning for the people sharing a location is the weekly team lunch – we cook something together in Dornbirn and invite you to go for lunch in other locations.
It’s up to you and your lead to agree on a schedule to set expectations, about cadence and structure/tools of 1:1s and related topics.
We have a bi-weekly all-hands meeting (attendance optional) where the leadership will present a summary about what’s going on in the different areas of the business and is also open to questions. The meeting is also recorded in case you can’t attend.
You can contact the founders 24hours a day. Don’t worry. We’re used to that and have tuned the notifications of our phones and other tools in a way that is in harmony with our private life. If we don’t want to be disturbed we’ll manage to not be disturbed.
If one of us is traveling, out of office, ill or on vacation, we update our status beforehand in Pingboard3. All our meetings still occur albeit with time zone considerations.
Some of us work now and then on weekends, evenings or early mornings. Some start later, some leave earlier. This is their choice. We do not expect that you are going to work on the weekend, evenings or early mornings. We might be sending mails and Slack messages, but unless the thing says URGENT, it can always wait until work begins for you on Monday. It’s up to you to find your work/life balance, be an integrated part of a team that delivers results. We’ll help you to do so.
We all take vacations. You should, too. Disconnected from work is when we do some of the best work.
North Star Principles
Simply Sustainable takes a major concern and common claim – simplicity – and qualifies with the ultimate payoff: sustainability, an application and a business that can scale and maintain itself ad infinitum. It’s forward looking – in a world of data overload, this is how we do more than survive: it’s how we thrive. Sustainability demands balance, playing well with others, moving forward with peace of mind. And who doesn’t want it to be simple??
Crate is a team of passionate, experienced people who’ve crafted a bold and clever database for the fast, data-intensive world, making speed, scalability super simple, open, and accessible – a solution that’s built to be sustainable for all.
Crate.io Brand Story
Clever. We’re passionate people with a love of technology and a lot of experience. But technologic breakthroughs don’t just come from knowing your stuff. They come from looking at things from different angles and flipping the situation around: they come from being clever.
Bold. We believe in being bold, in the power of having a vision and the gumption to realize it, however radical. Being bold means seeing the big picture and believing you can impact it, shape it, make it better.
Open. The best solutions come from people listening to each other as they share information, insight, and experience. Which is why we are fanatically open and honest — listening to our customers, being good citizens of the open source community, building with others to make solutions better.
Simple. It takes a deep understanding of the craft, coupled with human empathy, to render the complex simple. To make it accessible for all. In everything we do, from how we configure data and integration with existing systems to user dashboards, documentation, and support, we aim to keep it all super simple. Because data should work for everyone.
Sustainable. We believe the best solutions are sustainable, supporting communities and businesses as they grow. Which is why we believe in working together, building on each other’s advances, all in order to create open and accessible solutions that are sustainable for all.
Our System Of Values
Our Values are the guiding principles that lead to what we do on a daily basis. They are the parameters that tune our decision process that results in how we behave if no one watches. This is what we call culture. You can rely on those values, and you can demand them at any time.
Meaningfulness. At any time we offer to explain the meaningfulness and relationale of tasks, goals and measures.
Success. We strive towards and celebrate joint success.
Colleguality. We offer a work environment based on collaboration and cooperation. At the same time we respect everyone’s individuality.
Esteem. We appreciate and respect each and everyone and their opinions and provide open and honest feedback.
Challenge. It is our aspiration to provide everyone with the opportunity to grow by taking on new and challenging tasks.
Self-determination. There is as much room for self-determination as possible.
Joy. By Living Our Values above we gain happiness and satisfaction.
Expectations and Feedback Protocol
We firmly believe that the process of setting, expressing and matching expectations is at the core of building trust and respect in a team. This requires the continuous process of giving and receiving feedback.
At Crate.io, there is a formal feedback cycle which occurs twice a year. We have outlined the structure of an appraisal interview in a separate document.
Meetings take time, we take care about our mutual time. Therfor we have a couple of principles for our meetings. First of all we deliberately run our calendars publicly visible. If you have a question about any meeting on any calendar, just ask. If a meeting is private or confidential, you’ll most likely just see a placeholder. The vast majority of meetings are neither private nor confidential.
Each meeting has to include an agenda and/or intended purpose, the appropriate amount of productive attendees, and the expected contribution of the parties invited. If Craties are attending a meeting, they prefer starting on time. If Craties are running a meeting, they will start that meeting on time. If it’s not clear to a Cratie why they are in a meeting, they will ask for clarification on their attendance.
If you send a presentation deck a reasonable amount of time before a meeting, we will read it before the meeting and will have our questions ready. If we haven’t read the deck, we will tell you.
If a meeting completes its intended purpose before it’s scheduled to end, let’s give the time back to everyone. If it’s clear the intended goal won’t be achieved in the allotted time, let’s stop the meeting before time is up and determine how to finish the meeting later.
Nuances (and Errata)
Being a diverse team is a priceless advantage. Because tolerance creates creativity. And creativity is the most precious ingredient of the future. It’s essential to have different personalities in a team. We embrace this fact – but also move out of comfort zone when needed.
We don’t put people into boxes. But to concern oneself with different scientific models helps us to work better together.
We always assume positive intent for all involved. Whenever a person takes a decision, it’s the best decision that he/she can take in that moment.
If someone of us is on the phone during a meeting for more than 30 seconds, say something. It’s easy to get distracted nowadays.
This document is a first braindump of myself – speaking as one of the founders and CTO. This is not my creation, but I was privileged to work as part of a system of people that shaped our culture and my thinking. When I came across Rands in repose article „How To Rands“, I decided to take this as template, rework it and use as basis for a wider discussion within the Crate.io Team, but also the public.
I would like to update it with you, make it a shared thing all of us can underwrite, and therefor would appreciate your feedback. I‘ll turn this into a Github document in case we need to improve tooling to collaboratively work on that document.
(especially after being a long time outside in the cold)
What is love?
It’s easy to say: I love my wife, I love my job, I love Pizza or I love this music. How valid are the ancient, greek definitions family love (storge), platonic/friends love (philía), self love (philautia), romantic love (éros), guest love (xenia) and divine love (agápe) nowadays?
I recently came across the study of Tim Lomas “The flavours of love: A cross-cultural lexical analysis“. He was analyzing words for love in many different languages and based on this analysis describing different flavours (that can be combined). E.g. Koinonia – the feeling if you’re being taken away by the emotions in a group for a short time. Wikipedia has all the theory about love.
I’m not sure what category to use when I talk about what I love in business life. But sometimes it feels like taking a foam bath after an afternoon in the cold!
The feeling when puzzle pieces fall into place. You’ve started something hard, complex, distributed and you and the team have been working hard for a long time – and at some point things suddenly and quickly fit neatly together. I love that feeling.
The moment you’re exiting the “valley of tears”. You had a series of bad events/messages/pity. Like it won’t ever stop and everything is going to be over. And then something game-changing is on the horizon. You realize the streak of bad luck is over. BUT you stay just a bit longer in that bad state to extend the joy of getting out of this.
Giving trust ahead and empower people. Against all odds you decide to trust into the person – and then you’re rewarded for that decision later. Investing that social capital and earning it back later.
Having impact on people. The moments I get wet eyes in the office are rather rare. But thinking back it were the moments where people (or their spouse) said thank you for the changes/personal development I enabled or I nudged them into. I’m still touched.
Let other shine. Of course I love the moment I’m the winner and stand in the limelight in front of thousands of people. But the more longlasting and even better feeling is if other shine – not only, but also because you coached, enabled and empowered them.
Waking up early, full of energy and starting something new. Priceless!
I’ve got it! The happenings, situations, feelings in business live I really, really love are connected to my definition of entrepreneurship:
Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled
Prof. Howard Stevenson, Harvard Business School
I love all the moments of it: Seeing an opportunity, pursuing it and seeing it working out – that’s where my inner Jodok is tipping his toes into the foambath after a long walk in the cold.