Episode 7: Success in Tech Entrepreneurship is One Tap Away
Multi-time tech entrepreneur Jesse O’Neill-Oine visits with Matthew D Edwards about his latest startup and reflects on what he’s learned on his journey to solving problems for people with a security-first mindset.
Jesse O’Neill-Oine is a multi-time tech entrepreneur and one of the original co-founders of SmartThings, a company purchased and now run by Samsung. In this episode, he discusses what he’s learned about himself on his journey in solving problems through technology and his most recent endeavor, One Tap Away – a next-generation platform aimed at bringing “contactless” access to amenities at multifamily properties.
- While O’Neill-Oine and his partners have always had overlapping and complementary skills, what matters most is working with great people – from his first business, Refactr, to SmartThings and now One Tap Away.
- Lean on other solutions when possible: In the build vs. buy debate, the answer is most often buy. A sweet spot is always a “glue company” where you are integrating existing things and pulling them together into a seamless package.
- When it comes to information security, treat your users as first-class citizens and choose good partners who have a security-first mentality, saving yourself from having to go back and solve security issues later.
- Not being afraid to ask questions is what helped O’Neill-Oine be a better technologist and solution provider, and while he has always loved technology, his focus has always been solving problems for people.
- There’s no shortcut for becoming more and mastering your craft.
Read the Transcript
00:58 Matthew D Edwards: My guest today is Jesse O’Neill-Oine. Jesse is one of the original founders of SmartThings, a company later purchased and now run by Samsung, and is now co-founder of a new company named One Tap Away, a next generation platform aimed at changing the operations, products and services offered in multifamily properties. You should check them out, onetapaway.com. So Jesse, welcome.
01:26 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: Thank you.
01:26 Matthew D Edwards: So tell us a little bit about you, your journey and technology, connected things, starting and running companies. You’ve done a lot, you have a lot to talk to us about, so your journey in tech.
01:41 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: I was actually going to go way back, because usually at various companies that I’ve started, I begin my journey at college, which was actually Aerospace Engineering, interestingly enough, so I’m a rocket scientist, but I don’t use that skill much. I actually was in college in the late ’90s, and the internet was the big hot-ness, and so while I was in this degree program, I fell in love with computers and programming and figuring out how to get these things online. I don’t even want to tell you how much I spent on my first PC or the loan that I took out to do it, but that’s really where I start, I was as an engineer with an engineering mindset, but got really into computers and tech and really wanted to pursue that, and anyone who’s been around long enough knows that the late ’90s was a great time to do that, you could be an English major and program Perl, which is the language I did start with. I got a job while I was still in college, actually at a company called Imaginet, did various web programming, HTML, early CSS, Perl programming, etc.
02:51 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: And I just dove in and I was pretty much self-taught. I took a couple of classes, one with C and the other was Scheme, I got to be honest, those have not done much for me in my career. [chuckle] So I didn’t have that traditional training, but dove into the web hardcore and really through this job at Imaginet, honed my programming chops, learned more languages and even there at that company was sort of the reason I go that far back was my buds then, or a lot of my buds now, and that was the first group of people that I talked seriously about like, “We should start a company.” Scott Vlaminck and Ben Edwards in particular, who then… Quite a few years later, in 2006, that’s when we started our first company, it was called Refactr, and it was a consulting company focused on startups. Our mantra was “Three developers in three months and we’ll build your MVP.” So that was the first company that I had started and we didn’t know what we were doing, we knew a lot of technology and how to program, we hadn’t worked with clients much, so we just sort of winged it and learned it as we went through those Refactr days and it went well.
04:10 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: We made a lot of great relationships in the community, we put a big focus on the local community and the user groups, and we even started… One of the guys, Ben Edwards, started mini bar here in Minnesota, which continues to this day to be one of the largest bar camp-style conferences. We put a lot of focus on that, and that’s actually what eventually netted out to us doing the bigger startup that anyone who Googles me will see is SmartThings. Somewhere around 2010 or so, at one of these conferences, we met Alex Hawkinson, who ended up being one of the co-founders of SmartThings with us. In that case, it was interesting, we started with him as a client for a company that he was working with and worked as a consulting company with him for several years doing this client work, during that time frame, we all became great pals, we respected each other, we realized probably more important than anything that our skills overlapped in a really good way, we had some really good tech people, some great design people, some great business people.
05:20 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: In 2012, we started SmartThings, there were seven of us that were co-founders, but again, overlapping skill sets, it worked out well. One of my pieces of advice that I give to people starting companies is don’t have seven co-founders, even though for us, it was fine. That brought us up to SmartThings, and I did that for several years, lots we can talk about connected things and the journey there, and then eventually I got the itch to get back into small, and that’s what has driven me towards starting a company yet again in One Tap Away, where we’re now focused on building a platform for multifamily amenities.
06:00 Matthew D Edwards: Right on. Well, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about next and was teach us about One Tap Away, what problem are you actually seeking to solve, or maybe it’s multiple problems, because you’ve already done multiple startups… You probably have a pretty good idea of what recipes make sense? When do they make sense? When do you put something in the trash? When do you kick it down in the road later? So right now, on One Tap Away, given your past success, your past relationships and all of the things you’ve learned, what is it you guys are focusing on? Where are you heading? What’s your target market? And what’s the value prob but overall, it’d be interesting to hear, not only this is what we’re going after, but these are some of the things that we’ve already tested and put in the trash.
06:46 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: I think on the tested and put in the trash thing, it’s like… I don’t know that there’s any perfect formula. For me, a lot of what guides us is we’ve worked with a pretty familiar group of guys, the co-founders of One Tap Away are also all SmartThings folks, and so a lot of it has been the shared context and experiences together that has helped us to then, as a team, try to go through. We knew we wanted to start a company together before we knew what the company would be. We thought about machine learning and everything going on there, and how hot that is. As you and I have talked about Matthew, we also looked at the aging population and how to potentially use technology, especially connected devices technology to help them stay happy and healthy in their homes for longer. Ultimately, they’ll wear One Tap Away as today, and we can talk more about the journey that got us there. Today, what we do is we’re an amenity platform for multifamily buildings. What that sort of means is that we’re finding… Especially outside of the real top-level Class A buildings is that not a lot of tech has been brought to bear, and there’s a lot of problems that exist today. Access control continues to be a challenge, some places have cards, some places don’t have anything.
08:08 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: What does that mean for getting your DoorDash guy into the building to give you food? There’s lots of un-answered questions still around access control, and so we’ve got some unique things we’ve done there to try to make it really easy for residents of these buildings to get access, but also in our mind, a lot of it is also about getting other people access when appropriate at times, it could be a delivery, it could be packages, etcetera. We do access control, and we couple that with the Smart locker system. We use the Smart locker system primarily to deal with the package problem, especially during COVID, everyone’s ordering packages. If you go into these buildings, some of the packages are out front, sometimes the delivery folks did get inside and they’re piled inside, it’s sort of a Wild West. In some buildings, they have a closet, everything gets thrown in there. But then we’ve looked at it and looked at other companies like, Luxer One, who provide these sort of smart package lockers and tried to take that idea, drive the cost down, make it really easy to get it into buildings. Right now, those locker systems are this huge upfront cost if you want them, we’re trying to drive the cost of those down and then provide this multi-use smart locker system.
09:27 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: Initially, like I’ve talked about, we use it for packages and trying to deal with that, that’s great because it sort of cleans up the place, it means that there’s more security for people’s new iPhone or whatever. But it also is a great lever for us as a company, because we’re not holding these packages hostages, but we’ve taken the package and put it in a locker, so we have a really great path to getting people to sign up and engage with our services. That’s one of the things we really looked at hard when starting the company regardless of what it was going be is, what makes us must-have, so we have that really good lever and channel to talk to the user. Of course, in all of this, we give people who don’t have smartphones and don’t want to engage with it a path to get their package, but it gives us a really good way to get people into our app, get people onto our platform, and then we can expose them to other amenities that we can provide. Again, it could be the keyless access control, with COVID there’s a lot around amenity reopening. A lot of places have gyms, they don’t have any policy for how they’re going to re-open the gym safely.
10:30 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: We can control access and so therefore we can help them come in and decide, “Okay, how many people do you want in there at a time? Is it one at a time? Is it multiple?” And then we can work with them to control that sort of stuff. And then from there, we see this world of amenities being much larger than this, and I can talk about a million different examples. We’ve done experiments with food delivery and group food ordering that could bring some interesting economies of scale to that as well as a centralization of the delivery again. We’ve done wash, dry, fold and dry cleaning tests with our lockers. Another amenity that could be really interesting for folks is the ability to just… When they’re down, they’re picking up their package, drop off the dirty laundry, and then later that night, pick it up clean… that sort of stuff. I’ll pause there, I’ve gone all over the place, but that gives you a sense of what we’re looking at.
11:25 Matthew D Edwards: Yeah, that’s a good call out. So some of the things you explored right off the bat… a big key in this conversation is, you have a group of folks that you’ve had a journey with and that you just plain trust. And an interesting thing that you said at the front of that conversation, that moment was, “There were a group of us, we knew we wanted to work together, then we needed to figure out what we wanted to work on.” That’s actually fabulous and amazing. So that suggests that you’re putting your relationships first, that is pretty cool.
11:58 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: My whole career… When I talked about being at Imaginet and that first group of guys, Ben, Scott and me, we knew we wanted to start something, but didn’t really know what we wanted to start either. For me… Scott actually has a great way of saying it, and I’ll blow his quote, but it’s, “I want to work with cool technology, I want to work on a problem that matters,” that has various degrees, it can be helping clean up packages. Said another way, “It doesn’t have to be world-changing for me, but it matters a lot that I’m making a difference for end users or the people who use my product,” and then number one for me is who I’m working with. We all go to jobs every day and every job, no matter how well run of a company it is, there are hard days, good days. So for me, it matters a whole lot who I’m going through that with, more so than the pure technology or even necessarily what the end product is, even though I still want it to be a cool fun technology where I’m learning and I want it to be a product I can get behind and see how it’s going to help users.
13:04 Matthew D Edwards: Right on. That makes a lot of sense. And then you said as you guys were figuring it out, there were things that you explored like machine learning or senior communities or otherwise, and said, “Hey, that makes sense, just not for us or not right now.” Did you go through a process of elimination. You ended up on… Did you call it multifamily units? Multiple dwelling units? How did you characterize it?
13:26 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: Yes, we were looking at… Now, COVID has thrown a loop, we started this company and then COVID came along, so it’ll be interesting. But we were looking at a number of different facets, technology adoption, it’s happening even in folks who are getting a little older… My mom is 70 and uses her smartphone and does all kinds of stuff. So technology adoption is really ramping up. We had this background in connected devices, so we knew with an adoption on the consumer side, we knew we could really do some powerful stuff, we were looking at that. We are also looking at, people are moving to cities, it’s a broad macro trend, this is where COVID… Who we’ll see if there’s truth to people fleeing New York City or not. I tend to still think there’s a pretty big trend towards people moving together and closer, and so there’s more and more multifamily buildings out there, and in those buildings, they have problems like this as well as opportunities, like there’s a ton of people in this one multifamily building, could we do something cool like Taco Tuesday that brings people together and we bring some interesting group dynamics to it and some interesting scale to thing.
14:36 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: So it was sort of some of those macro trends that we started looking at that then drove us into this area of looking at these multifamily properties, what we could do with IoT there, connected devices in general, as well as opening up this world of amenities available to these buildings, and part of how we’re able to help drive the cost down as we also look at revenue sharing opportunities with the building. So it’s not just for them a pure cost outlay, we can talk to them about profit sharing and revenue sharing for some of these amenities that stack on top of whatever, our basic packages, so we try to go in and form a little bit more of a partnership there with the building.
15:22 Matthew D Edwards: Right on. And now you are more or less heat mapping the types of people, the types of behaviors and activities inside these multifamily units, and then you’re also looking at industry competitive stuff saying, “Hey, what exists? How is it done? How can we do it better, different or otherwise?” and you’re not just looking at technology, that’s actually fun part of this conversation, at least from my perspective, is you are an engineer by training and you are a technologist by career, if you will, but yet you’re spending time thinking about people and needs, and then the economics of not only the people, but the multiple dwelling unit owners, if you will, the family unit owners, and you’re coming up with strategic ways to reduce that cost of acquisition and you haven’t said it, but I suspect you’re also working on ways to make it almost a hands-off cost of ownership conversation across time, just get it there and it works. What types of challenges have you already run into that you had to solve or you’re anticipating like, “We have a backlog, there’s 10 things we know that are going to suck wind and we’re going to have to solve all of them, and this is where we’re at.” What do you see in front of you?
16:43 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: Not technology things, mostly. A lot of where we’re at, it’s about… We’ve been actually taking largely bottoms-up approach in how we approach sales, and we’ve gotten fabulous feedback, but it’s a real challenge to go to the property manager, they have one set of problems that they care about, and they care about their residents quite a bit, and retention and that sort of stuff, but if we start at the bottom with them, we need to tell them how everything we’re doing solves their problem, but also pitch them the story for the people that own the building, we’re finding more and more that we might need a bit of a top-down approach where we can get to the property manager and explain to them some of the good financial side of this and get them interested from that regard, then get introduced and we know from other feedback we’ve already received that the property managers are going to love us because we’ve solved some real problems for them.
17:35 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: But we’re spending a lot of time just thinking about how to change that relationship and that almost go-to market strategy, if you will, because we need to convince the people that are going to sign the deal that it’s worthwhile to them and that there’s benefits to them, and it’s not just about solving a messy hallway or something like that. The property manager might care a ton, and it might really sell them or they might really be interested in one facet of what we do, but we need to be able to get that whole story across. So what’s in front of us right now is looking at that and figuring out different avenues, and we’ve got several. We’re talking to sort of big property manager networks that we have some contacts to, we’re also going through some alternate channels, like we happen to have some interesting relationships with a large laundry company, and they provide laundry machines and lots and lots of these multifamily buildings, and so we’ve been working with them on, can we work with them in sort of a partnership form around maybe a wash, dry, fold service that lets us get into the building through that channel, working with this other company, but then we can bring in the other beneficial amenities, the smart lockers for the packages into these buildings.
18:54 Matthew D Edwards: It sounds like even though you’re characterizing it as bottoms-up, and in my original receipt of that was you were talking about the tech first and then working up into the people arguments.
19:04 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: It’s not what I was talking about. To be clear, we did do that in parallel. This isn’t always the way you want to go, but we built a lot of software without clients, we built a lot of stuff based on what we thought was going to make sense, we were doing that sort of engineering bottoms-up stuff in parallel from my perspective, at a slightly higher level in the company, a sort of bottoms-up approach in terms of how we get into buildings. We’ve got some great technology that really resonates, but it doesn’t mean anything if we can’t get into hundreds and thousands of buildings. And so that’s where I spend a lot of time focusing on where I was when I brought it up, thinking of the bottoms-up approach is more about how we get into these buildings and get our software and our product in front of users. Again, at the same time, we were building a lot of technology in IP as well, to be able to go in and pitch this and show the problems that we could solve, so we were doing a ton at the same time.
20:00 Matthew D Edwards: Oh, sure. Right, yeah. You can’t just show up with a presentation deck.
20:03 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: I mean, you can and a lot of people argue that that’s how you should do it because you don’t know that you’ve got product market fit. So there’s a lot of people on the internet that’ll write reams of text about how you shouldn’t write a line of code. Different people have different opinions. We were where we were, we had a bunch of engineers and we knew how to build software and we started building cool software, and there’s stuff we’ve thrown away that didn’t go anywhere, and then a lot that exists today in terms of property management system integration so that we have a way to get all the users out of a building. We’ve got a lot of software written around controlling lockers and access control. In all cases, we try to lend… One of my mantras or beliefs for a long time has been to lean on other solutions where possible, and by that I mean AWS, using a cloud provider, we try to use what they can provide to a huge degree, we don’t usually have a build versus buy debate because it’s all always buy if you can.
21:07 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: We like to try to avoid some of the undifferentiated heavy lifting and build our business intelligence and use things like AWS cloud providers or other SaaS solutions. For example, our access control all goes through right now, today, another company that does this as their primary gig and we integrate with them. Very similar in a lot of ways to the way we approached smart things as we saw, there’s a lot of pieces of technology out there that on their own are cool, but not super useful. And if you can be a bit of a glue company and bring a lot of these pieces together into a more seamless package and experience, then that’s sort of a sweet spot. And so this company, it’s somewhat of a glue company, is how I sort of say it where in a lot of cases, we’re taking things that exist out there and we’re pulling them together into a beautiful and unique and seamless package, more so than developing all of this on our own, because we’d need to have a massive team. We’re 12 people with five of them being engineers so we have to stand on the shoulders of giants anytime we can.
22:19 Matthew D Edwards: Right on, that’s cool. So part of the premise of what you bring to the table then, for all practical purposes, is a contactless solution, I mean.
22:30 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: Yes. We want it to be a contactless as possible, yes.
22:33 Matthew D Edwards: Right. Especially now, it seems to be a popular time to talk about that. But when you’re talking about mobile phone utilization, you’re maybe talking about scheduling, you haven’t said these things, I’m asserting, I’m hypothesizing, but there’s a dependency on the end-user device. But it’s not the only path, you said there can be a non-technology path as well. I believe you said to interact, but as it relates to the contactless solution approach, what types of interesting security or privacy things have you had to solve or do you anticipate having to solve? And are they different from things you have to do in past lives as well?
23:11 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: In a lot of ways, it’s the same as any other project. And I do think that that is true. A lot of security and privacy, you have to take it as a first-class citizen from the start. You’ve got to design with security and privacy controls in mind. In a lot of cases, we lean again on these providers as well. So when you talk about basic cloud infrastructure security, a lot of that is by making smart choices in who we use for that sort of stuff. And even when it comes down to some of the contactless stuff, and again, a lot of times what we’re trying to do, and at least now as a startup, and this could always change, we could decide that this is our sweet sauce and we need to develop this IP, but we’re using another company who spent years and has gotten millions and millions of dollars of funding to solve some access control problems. So we’re able to interact with them in a secure way, they’re able to design their software with security and privacy in mind, and when you bring those all together and look at all the edges and the interaction points, you can make a secured, safe system that honors privacy controls, ,where we haven’t personally had to sit down and spend every last second of our time figuring out how to secure every last hook of it, as long as we can choose good partners. Right?
24:35 Matthew D Edwards: Right, that makes sense. Some states have individual privacy laws that are different from other privacy laws, and some industries have standards that you have to follow that are different than other standards. So everybody has a flavor, and it’s a different context and purpose, and so you have a really interesting problem to solve which is navigate the line, know when, know what, know how. And so my favorite part of what you’ve said so far is, you have to treat security as a first class citizen from day one. That is outstanding advice. It has to be done on purpose, it’s not an accident, it’s not later, it’s like, “Ah, we can get this done Saturday,” it’s doing on purpose, first.
25:26 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: Yes, and I’m not going to sit here and act like I do everything perfect. I don’t really even believe in perfect, but I think by having those sorts of attitudes, it helps get you a long ways right out of the gate that you’re not having to come back later and solve some of these problems because you thought about it at design time. And I lean a lot on that. I’m sure, because we’re only in a couple geographies, we haven’t had to learn everything that we need to yet, I’m sure there’s many intricacies, as you say, that we’re going to have to learn as we continue to grow and scale but by starting with it as a high level idea in mind, then I think you can go a long ways.
26:07 Matthew D Edwards: Policy, legislation, law, all of these things change, they don’t change at the speed of technology, thankfully, or none of us would keep up. But one of the things you mentioned earlier was that you don’t claim perfection, which is cool, and you don’t even believe in the idea of perfect, that’s cool. When I reflect on my own career, there are many chapters, many seasons of attitudes that I’ve gone through, whereby I believed that I was amazingly intelligent and skilled, and I had answers to all questions that had not yet been thought of to all the way to now, when I talk to people, I’m like, “Don’t give me permissions I don’t need. If you have to give me permissions take ’em away yesterday. I only need to know what I need to know in order to get the job done.” Whereas in the beginning, my first question would have been, “I need root. I need access to all things because I can do all things.” That journey, I believe, a lot of people go through those journeys and some people make them through variable velocities.
27:08 Matthew D Edwards: Some of the things that you’ve said, for example, not believing in perfection, knowing that you don’t have the whole data set yet, and then you need to keep going and knowing that by principal, security should be a first class citizen. However, the actual implementation of that idea is, gosh, you got to figure it out while you’re on the journey too. It’s not just a snap of the fingers Lego-fit. So mastering your craft, whatever you define your craft to be, I imagine it’s become multi-pronged through the years and heat-mapped in different directions, but you had to learn to be a useful technologist, you had to learn to be a useful solution provider, you had to learn to become a useful entrepreneur, and every one of those are their own journey. It sounds like you’ve done multiple of them at the same time. You’ve probably had varying velocities of learning and getting schooled. Do you have some highlights from your career where you’re like, “Hey, man, when I was 23, I thought this, and when I was 27, I thought this, and now I think this.”
28:13 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: What you described sounds very familiar, I do remember much younger days when I thought I knew everything. Now I feel like I kind of know nothing. I feel like as I’ve aged and done so much, I just see the world more nuanced and I always assume there’s some other better expert out there, and I want to be cautious not to overstep or say anything with too much certainty, because there’s nuance in everything. So I don’t have a lot of individual “A-ha” moments, I think it has been a journey. I think from very early on for me, part of what helped me be a better technologist and solution provider and just more all around, is that I’ve never really been afraid to ask questions, and I didn’t really stick to my lane, and I don’t ever do that in a confrontational way. I’m a pretty pragmatic guy, but I’ve never been afraid to ask like, “Well, how does this make sense business-wise?” Or like, “What are the real financial drivers? Or, what are our users actually really want regardless of what we want?” So I think all throughout my career, that attitude and that willingness to ask the question, but in a non-controversial and confrontational way, has helped me a ton. To just listen, and if I have a question, I usually am willing to just vocalize the question, and that’s helped me a ton because I’ve learned so much. But by asking those questions, I’ve also, I think, shown myself to be someone who thinks about it…
29:41 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: Even though I was really obsessed with technology when I was younger, even then, I was thinking a little bit more about like, “What does success mean?” I guess. Do you know what I mean? It’s not just this technology, we’re not building technology for technology’s sake, we’re building it to address some problem or make some money or whatever our goals might be, and so I think I’ve always had a pretty strong openness to asking those questions and digging in, and I think that’s helped me a lot. On sort of a personal level, if you want to frame it as an “A-ha” moment, I think it’s mostly… I don’t know when this happened exactly, but somewhere along the line, I accepted that I am more skilled in a more of a managerial and director-type role, and that I’m pretty good at bringing people together and listening to people explain something and then be able to explain it with slightly different language so that this other guy or a gal in the room can understand it. And so sort of an “A-ha” to me was the point when I finally realized, “I’m not a programmer. I’m something else, whatever you want to call it, but I’m working at a slightly different level, sometimes it’s scrum master, sometimes it’s CTO.”
30:55 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: But the way I can be more of a multiplier isn’t by being a 10X coder, it’s by helping solve business problems, making sure that our technology solutions then match and line up to those business problems, and there wasn’t a breakdown in communications where we build a solution to the wrong thing. So that for me, that was a big more of an “A-ha”. There wasn’t a specific time, but it was just coming around to this understanding that that’s probably more my sweet spot is helping people and listening and directing rather than being the builder, which is what all I wanted to do when I was younger, I wanted to be a rock star coder, and I was obsessed with it and all that. Organizationally, I would say that “A-ha” moments, again, not so much an “A-ha” moment but I’ve just, you’ve sort of brought it up, I’ve always really believed in mutual respect, transparency, collaboration, and so I think that those basics can really make a team successful. People are shocked sometimes when I interview that I don’t ask a lot of technology questions, I really don’t. Scott is the same way, I reference him over and over again, because we’ve known each other since college, so it was Scott Vlaminck, and Ben Edwards was the other one that were my best friends to this day and instrumental in starting that very first company.
32:19 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: I always tell people, I’m not… I kind of came… It’s not quite fair, but I’m not a natural entrepreneur, I’m not a huge risk-taker. If it weren’t for Scott and Ben, I wouldn’t have probably been on the same path that I have been on, because while I had the desire to be involved in the room where it happens, if we want to drop a Hamilton reference, I wanted to be a decision maker, but I wasn’t naturally drawn to entrepreneurship. But Scott and Ben were more and so the three of us, we went and formed Refactr. But we’ve, throughout our careers, worked together and had people be shocked at how we interview, but we’re looking at personality, we’re looking at, Are you a lifelong learner? Are you interested in things? Are you curious in things? Our basic thesis has been a lot of time as well, regardless of what you learned in college, we got to teach you the job once you get here, because every company does it a little different and there’s so much internal tribal knowledge, etc., that we look for the people who have the right personality characteristics, much more than amazing coding abilities or engineering abilities. So that’s led us to looking for people who show lots of mutual respect, curiosity, transparency, things like that.
33:37 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: I think people get hung up on individual skills when really it’s team dynamics that tend to make or break projects or companies even. It’s always a people problem, it’s never a technology problem, you can do anything with technology, it’s just turtles all the way down. You can build almost anything, but it’s always the people side of it, it’s like, “Are the requirements I’m hearing you say really what you mean? And when I then implement that in software or hardware or what have you, is it really solving the problem you thought you wanted to solve? Is the problem you thought you wanted to solve really the problem that your company has?” It’s all of those softer things that tend to make or break things in my experience, and it’s rarely like a big tech fail. When it’s big tech fails, a lot of times, it’s people that are obsessed with the tech and they want to build and own every last drop of it, and they think it’s all about the tech, not about solving whatever problem you’re ultimately trying to solve.
34:37 Matthew D Edwards: You know, the name of the podcast is, Long Way Around The Barn, and our initial premise was actually exploring different ways to solve problems and how sometimes getting to a solution for the problem may take unnecessarily long or be unnecessarily complicated, or it just took longer than it needed to, and so sometimes we’re looking for a shorter path, less complicated. But a lot of the things that you just said, I think, is worth calling out that there is no shortcut to the journey, there is no shortcut to becoming a master of your craft, there is no shortcut into becoming more. It’s just a path you have to walk, ditches you have to be in, speed bumps you have to trip over. The long way around the barn to becoming a master of your craft, there is no shorter way. It is the long way.
35:29 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: Right. The only thing I would add is that you’ve got an integral component of that is the feedback loop, it’s something that comes out of Agile. But I think it applies to so much more. You’re right, I don’t think there are a lot of shortcuts, you have to take the journey, but all along that journey, you’ve got to be getting that feedback loop that’s helping you redirect a little bit, helping you expand your horizons a little bit, what have you. I’m not maybe putting that very eloquently, but I think it’s a key component.
35:58 Matthew D Edwards: No, it’s good. The feedback loop, that’s super critical. So as we part then, you have talked about just so many things in such a very short period of time, but the most important thing that I want to call out is that you guys are in a new chapter of your journey together, and that’s One Tap Away. And that’s what you’re building and testing and evolving and is generally available now in moderated exposure. That sounds like an awesome chapter. Is there anything that you would want to add or that I didn’t ask or you want to amplify about your journey individually or as a team or as companies? The parting thought for us? Right off the bat, I already like the feedback loops.
36:38 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: I’m sure there’s much more that if you keep prodding me I could say, but I think we’ve hit on a lot of it. As you can see, I value the people and the relationships a lot, and I think that’s what generally leads to success. For me in some cases, that has been selecting who I work with, and that’s been this chain of startups. And it’s also even once you’re in a company, it’s the relationships with the vendors that you have, and there’s always partners involved, and so it falls into all of that. So I’m certainly happy with where I am in my journey and I’m excited where One Tap Away is. I would love for people to check it out, but unless you own a multifamily property, it’s probably not going to be something you’re going to necessarily go grab yourself, but maybe you can ask if you live for someone to check us out. And yeah, we just continue the journey and have as much fun as we can while we’re doing it.
37:38 Matthew D Edwards: Dude, this has been a pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to teach us today, this has been outstanding.
37:43 Jesse O’Neill-Oine: Thank you, appreciate it.