Captain's log, stardate d390.y39/AB
We are celebrating one year of our podcast, Life on Mars. If you are joining just now, here's a guide of what you can find in it!
During early 2020, we were in a hard lockdown and the sales pipeline was rather dry. Companies were focussed on navigating the uncertainty and on finding alternative sources of income to compensate for the huge drops in sales.
We were fortunate to have long-standing clients with retainer contracts, giving us a lot of stability during those trying times. That, and the fact that we couldn't host offline events, gave us the idea of launching a podcast. And thus, Life on Mars was born on June 1st, 2020.
We have been publishing one episode every week, alternating between our English feed and our Spanish feed. This way, we're catering for our two biggest audiences, our local community and our international network, especially overseas in the USA, where we have half a dozen of clients.
Since we've got new subscribers every week, we have written down this list to help you get started with the podcast. We will share three episodes in each language for each category.
The four categories are:
The most listened
Pieter created Sketch about 13 years ago as a remote-working company. In fact, he never met his co-founder until the day they launched the first version of the software, almost three years later.
Now, Sketch sits at 120 people scattered across the globe, as an example of an all-remote company with a bright future ahead. Entirely self-funded for many years, they raised a Series A round with Benchmark Capital to help them grow and conquer new heights as a company.
In this episode, we talk about bootstrapping, decision making when you're two co-founders, the struggles running an all-remote company, changes in the culture as you scale and as you receive investment, relationship with a board you didn't have before, how to keep the love alive for the company and with your co-founder ater 10+ years, and I struggled big time to pronounce Pieter's full name correctly.
Cristina Vila is the fearless CEO and co-founder of Cledara. She was knee-deep into the jungle of fundraising, so we decided to host her in a different episode to talk about the fundraising process solely.
Cristina shares the ins and outs of their fundraising round, led by Nauta Capital, of $3.4MM, including:
- What VCs to contact and why
- How many VCs they contacted and what percentages jumped to the subsequent stages
- When to contact them and how to time the responses
- How to manage the entire pipeline and the different timings for each VC
- How to negotiate your terms
- Time allocation as a CEO
… and more!
- 025 - What to do when you're approached by a buyer (part 1), with Mike Counihan (Transcend Partners)
Company sales: the miracle all entrepreneurs and business owners aspire to, mostly because we're bombarded every day with company exits news, and articles about serial entrepreneurs selling their 14th startup before they turn 40.
However, the reality is very different. Selling a company is an overly complicated process that drags along for many months, taking your focus away from your company, and in a lot of cases, the business owners don't see a nickel as a result. That is, if the process ever makes it to the agreement stage, so in a lot of cases, we're seeing what is called "survivorship bias".
But one thing is still true: as business owners, we're all likely to receive offers for our companies. In fact, in 2017, we received an invitation to initiate talks about a potential acquisition, and if you want to learn the rest of the story, you should listen to this podcast.
This time around, we talk to Michael Counihan about what happens when you're approached by a buyer. We wanted to cover the whole cycle, but the episode came out so long that we had to split it in two.
In this first part, we'll be talking about the initial exchanges of intentions, what protocols to follow, how to behave in the meetings, what things to do and what NOT to do, how to bring more offers to the table, when's the right time to engage with an M&A boutique and more.
But most of all, Michael is a very great guy. Trust us. You'll like Michael.
In this episode, we learn from Laura Gascón, former CEO of DPL ETT, a human capital consulting company, working in the field of temporary workers for big retail companies.
Laura had been the CEO of the company for several years until she sold it to a big player in the HR industry. But all that glitters ain't gold. Turns out, the company sale didn't go as expected and she conceded the first interview after such a dramatic process.
We learnt, in this episode, how to prepare for the sale of the company, how CEOs lose control of sales and the team, how negotiations drag along and cause friction with your own board and investors, and what happens the day after the sale. A lot of promises vanished like smoke in this operation, so Laura came to share her version of the story, completely unfiltered and with heaps of interesting learnings for entrepreneurs aspiring to sell their companies in the future.
For the sake of transparency, DPL ETT had been a client of MarsBased up until that acquisition process. Learnt about what we did for them on this blog post.
- 003 - Cómo escoger tecnologías y organizar equipos de desarrollo en scale-ups, con Marc Oliveras (CTO @ Tiendeo)
I hosted one of the bosses I had in my previous job, who was at the time of the recording, CTO of Tiendeo. Marc jumped from an ultra-corporate environment, selling enterprise products like Sharepoint, Salesforce and Liferay to some of the biggest companies in the planet, to a Barcelona-based startup, back into technology as their CTO.
With about 100 people in his technical team, Marc explains how he runs his squads, how do they manage all the projects and platforms in the company, how to deal with huge monoliths and technical debt, how to pick technologies for their new projects, which programming languages and frameworks they use and Tiendeo and how to scale shit up from the technological standpoint.
- 014 - Colaboración con grandes corporaciones y el futuro del sector inmobiliario, con Anna Gener (CEO @ Savills Aguirre Newman Barcelona)
Anna is one of the most influential businesspersons in the industry of Real Estate in Spain. She leads the regional division of Savills Aguirre Newman.
We talk at length about how should startups and small companies approach the big players to collaborate with them and sell to them. We also discussed the future of cities, remote work and the re-population of rural areas, the fluidity of cities in the future and other tendencies in how jobs shape cities.
All throughout our seven years as a company, people have demanded to know more about us. However, we've insisted on interviewing other people and giving the stage to others, in a mix of impostor syndrome and modesty. We decided to give it a try and we've found that these episodes have been performing above expectations.
When we turned seven, we decided to take questions from the community, our closest friends and colleagues from the industry. The response was overwhelming, and we ended up with so many questions that we decided we're going to record an episode of Q&A with the founders every few months.
In this first episode, we talk at length about our origins as a company, how we came to get the Startup Grind chapter, how we picked our technologies at the very beginning and how we see the future for all of them (more specifically for Ruby) and we also share a lot of anecdotes and lore of the company. You can't miss it!
This is a very special episode. I grabbed the mic and talked for an hour about our 2020 year in an audio format, similar to the blog post we had written called A breakdown of 2020: what a ride!.
In it, we break down 2020 and share what we did and how we felt during each and every month in most likely the most convulse year on Earth in the last hundred years.
We mirrored the English version of this episode, which I had recorded alone for the English feed of the podcast, to go through our 2020 as a company and as first-time entrepreneurs.
This time around, I was joined by my two co-founders Xavier Redó (CTO) and Jordi Vendrell (COO) to have a three-way conversation remembering the month-to-month ups and downs we experienced the previous year. And though we tried to stay on the same track of what I said in the English episode, this one contains three different opinions on things and it's interesting to see how we see things different yet we always manage to come to an understanding for the benefit of the company and everyone working with us.
Since we get the question of what tools we use at MarsBased to communicate with the team and clients a lot, we decided to answer this on a podcast episode with Leire Oiarbide (Head of People Operations) & Jordi Vendrell (COO & co-founder). They joined me to dissect our communication stack inside out.
With them, we talked at length about how we use Basecamp as our single point of truth, Slack for synchronous communication with team and clients, 1password for the permissions/passwords management, Harvest/Forecast for project assignments and invoicing, and the rest of tools under our belt.
We also discuss our rituals and processes regarding our company get-togethers, our Spring cleaning habits and other good practices that we think we should share with the rest of the universe.
Funnily enough, during the recording of this episode, one of our funnest and most convoluted fuckups as a company was happening, so we narrated it as it was happening. Definitely, one not to be missed.
If you excuse our poor audio editing skills, this episode is VERY interesting. I interviewed Jordi, our COO, at the start of the pandemic, for Startup Grind Barcelona to talk about how to work remotely properly, and over 300 people showed up in our first-ever online event, and most certainly one of the biggest ones we've ever hosted.
Jordi and I talk for about one hour and a half about how we've run our company without an office for seven years and how can people adapt to the "new normal". We also took a lot of questions from the audience, so we covered stuff like: * The transition from the office to working from home * How can non-tech-savvy adapt to remote work * Async vs. sync working models * People management in remote environments * Communication and empathy * Reporting to clients * Management methodologies * Good and bad practices * Tools we use at MarsBased * Common mistakes and fuckups
Seriously, we recommend the video version. I overedited the audio to fit it under one hour of content, so the result is a bit forced. Luckily for us, we decided to avoid cut edits in the audio version from episode number two or three.
- 007 - How to keep the house clean: sunsetting legacy systems and tech hygiene, with Dorion Carroll (Amazon)
In this episode, we talk to one of our favourite tech experts, former CTO/CIO) @ Zynga and current VP of Customer Engagement Technologies at Amazon, Dorion Carroll.
Dorion has been working on the development side of things for decades in the US, in companies like Oracle, Electronic Arts, Technorati, Postini, Zynga and more. For all these companies, he's been always advocating for keeping the house clean when it comes to technology.
We discussed how to sunset old apps, turning the lights on/off on projects, how to deal with legacy systems, putting budgets against financials for new tech ideas and the concept of tech hygiene. We also talked about how to pitch finance departments and/or CEOs big investments into technology, like a big refactor, a change of technology or a complete rework of the architecture of the platform.
Dorion has also got one of the best beards in the industry. Period.
Pau Ramon has been spearheading the technical department of two of the hottest Barcelona-based startups of the last years: Redbooth (previously known as TeamBox) and Factorial.
We've invited Pau to talk about how he behaves as CTO of Factorial: how does he take technical decisions, when to delegate them, who takes which decision in the technical department, who chose the tech stack, when is the right time to rewrite an MVP (if ever), tech hygiene & keeping lights on in side projects, how to align expectations between departments - especially with marketers! - and much more.
If you're Pablo Villalba and you're reading this, you should listen to this episode because we speak about you, and drop us a line to say hi, pal! 👋
Developer advocates, tech evangelists, developer relations and myriad of combinations describe a very versatile role that companies are incorporating to help them have deeper conversations with the communities of developers around them. But unless you have one, you might now fully know what they do and what advantages they bring into the company.
What do devrels do inside the companies they work for? When do they do it? How can they combine speaking at conferences, writing blog posts, helping in doing customer success, organising hackathons, developing community around their company, hiring and more? Are they extroverts or introverts? These questions, and a bunch more, are answered in this episode.
Ana shares her expertise with us, as well as her background, and we even venture to peek into the future of events, as we're both very invested in that field.
We invited over our good friend, and Rails core team member, Xavier Nòria, to discuss what can private companies learn from the open source community. For this episode, our very own CTO, Xavi, joined us in the conversation.
Not many years ago, using open source in corporate environments was apostasy. Today, it would be utopic to try to find any company not using open source technologies. With the two Xavis, we discussed this change of paradigm in the industry, how open source projects are organised, how they change nomenclature as culture and society evolve and what's the role of community in the tech sectors and in open source, among other topics.
We love keeping in touch with former employees and having them around in our community. This is the case of our former designer and frontend developer Marina Aisa (frontend developer at Apple), whom we invited to talk about the state of the art of CSS, along with our UI/UX expert Javier Artero and Jordi Vendrell, our COO.
The four of us nerded out big time talking about:
- What stage is CSS at nowadays
- Who can be a good CSS developer
- Differences between graphic designers and web designers
- Different implementations and paradigms of CSS
- Product vs. service - does it affect how you structure CSS?
- Tailwind, the hot technology right now
- Differences in teams and team sizes according to company size
- Accessibility, sadly always forgotten
- When's a good time to refactor your CSS code?
Backend people won't love it, but 🤷🏻♂️
- 008 - Inteligencia artificial conversacional y chatbots, con Susana Durán (Sage) Most so-called chatbots aren't bots. That's one big statement Susana started this episode with, to let us know that what we might know about bots and chatbots isn't necessarily true.
For about an hour, we nerd out on Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, the technologies and frameworks used to develop chatbots and much more with Susana Duran, from Sage. We also delved into ethics and moral implications of building such components, the cost of maintaining and evolving your bots, what profiles are needed to design and implement them, what's the state of the art right now and what technologies are available from big players to allow us to play around with bots, but we didn't go into whether a super-powerful AI will destroy the world someday.
Other honourable mentions / Miscellanea
Companies are spending a fucktonne of money on marketing, and more specifically in ads, mostly on the main platforms like Google and/or Facebook. However, these platforms act like a black box. You have little to no control over where do your ads end up appearing.
Nandini Jammi, a marketer at heart, started tracking the origin of the ads served to her and by scratching the surface, she ended up uncovering that a lot of ads were being served in hate speech sites, far-right platforms and all sorts of dodgy sites.
We spoke with her and our friend Josh Feldberg about why adtech, as an industry, is broken, why technology has been the cause and can potentially be also the solution to this problem, what's the role of agencies in this, how to allocate marketing budgets and what tools are guilty of what amidst a very intense session of nerding out about advertisement and ethics in marketing and brand advertisement.
January was crazy on the stock market, or should we say "stonks" market? The WallStreetBets movement against hedge funds, making GameStop skyrocket to an unthinkable price per share, made the front pages of all the newspapers and media outlets around the world. That caused a huge uproar and most trading platforms stopped trading on certain stock to avoid these so-called "unregulated" trades from "altering the market", which, in turn, caused WSB people to turn against the trading platforms, too.
Amidst all of this, Elon Musk was having the time of his life, trolling everyone, adopting the meme culture, proving he's embodying the current zeitgeist and riding the wave of this controversy like no one else is doing. By the end of it, he will have gained thousands, if not millions, of adepts of his cult.
In this episode, we talk to the man, the myth, the legend, Alex Wilhelm (Senior Editor at TechCrunch) and our friend Josh Feldberg about what happened a couple of weeks ago, and try to shed some light on it all. We talked about the role of tech journalism in all this nonsense, but we also talk about clickbait, the madness of the crowds, memes, the mixing of politics and economy, stonks and not as much as we wanted, but also talk about metal towards the end of the episode.
Musicians and bands are also entrepreneurs. Perhaps, one of the oldest forms of entrepreneurship we know, yet they often are overlooked in the business scene, as if music weren't a business or an industry.
That's why we brought our good friend Julien Truchan, frontman and co-founder of the brutal death metal band Benighted, straight outta Lyon, France.
That's right, we brought a real musician to talk us about the ins & outs of the music scene: how this pandemic is transforming the industry, how Spotify broke out in the previous economic crisis, parallelisms between running a band and a company, how to deal with a co-founder quitting the band, what technologies do bands use and what concepts and formats can the adopt to innovate in such trying times.
Julien Truchan is the charismatic and charming leader of this extreme metal band, who balances his musicianship with his job as psychiatric nurse and his love for rugby.
When we created MarsBased, we drew inspiration from a lot of companies. One of them was Mobile Jazz, a remote-working development consultancy from Barcelona, following a boutique approach to what they do. Funnily enough, later on, they drew inspiration from us when they decided to ditch their office for good and become and officeless company.
I invited their co-founder, Jordi Giménez to confront our models and talk extensively about remote work, sync vs. async, transmission of company culture, hard vs. soft remote, having an office vs. being officeless and much more.
Side projects that work, much like lifestyle businesses, are that sought-after but rarely found mythological animal in the industry. Everyone would love to have it but it's impossible to have them.
Or is it?
Alberto nurtured and grew his university project, a podcasting platform, for well over ten years until it became a very profitable business, completely bootstrapped and healthy as hell.
We hosted Alberto Betella, his founder, to discuss the technologies he built it with, the whole entrepreneurial journey, the history of buying the three-letter domain of RSS.com, how to work for many years with a co-founder you've never met in person, time allocation, potential contractual conflicts when working in other companies and much more.
Rosa is one of our favourite Spanish journalists in the tech industry, now residing in Miami, like all the cool cats in the industry. However, she moved there before it was cool, and she shares with us her story in the US as a tech journalist.
We invited over a journalist because their contribution to the ecosystems is fundamental, giving voice to unsung heroes and sometimes obscure startups who might start to shine after a nice coverage on a major newspaper or tech outlet.
We discussed how to interact with journalists, the quid pro quo relationship, do's and don'ts, when's the right time to start PR campaigns, the most common PR/communication fuckups and how to expand internationally, especially from Spain to the US.
Well, that was a long post. I hope you've found some episodes to get started and that you follow us in making this podcast grow far beyond the stars!
If you happen to like it, it'd be very helpful if you could subscribe to it on your favourite platform and leave us a review, to make sure we keep going on with it and inviting kickass guests week after week! Thanks in advance!