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1. What problem is your business solving and/or how is your business making life better for its customers? 

Networking in today’s world is broken. We get business cards and we either forget about them, lose them, or there is an issue with data entry. Then there’s social media but who can remember who they have added on LinkedIn here and there? The same goes with scan cards or QR codes, it’s so limited. It’s all still passive information.

My company, StayTouch, has a patent-pending technology where users create business or personal profiles and this information can be exchanged using unique profile links created by StayTouch or simply by bringing your phone close to someone else’s and accepting the contact request. This way your contact details are exchanged without error because the person who created the profile is in complete control of the information. There are no issues with data entry and it also creates an automatic memory of who, when, and where and timestamps it. Now it’s not just a contact, it’s a connection because I have a history of meeting. Having someone’s name and number saved along with vital information such as where and when you meet them is so helpful because you have more data points to find them in your contacts. Just like we are moving towards contactless payments, contact exchange should continue to move forward. 

Of course, if I update my profile, it also updates on your phone so my information stays active and doesn’t become dormant. We all have five Thomases or five different numbers for Jessica and can never remember which number is the current one or which Thomas is the right one. With this instant contact exchange and continuous updates, I am not dependent on losing business cards or anything. It really makes my life easier. 

Our app is highly secure and we’re working on a dashboard now. The dashboard will help you easily manage your contacts, add smart notes, voice notes, pictures. It’s going to be very powerful.

2. What obstacles have you faced in your business/endeavor? 

Since we are creating this brand new product and really disrupting the marketing, the technology does not exist so finding tech resources was hard. It took a lot of time to get competent resources to get the product to where it is. We had a team of about 8 to 10 developers focused on this for 15 months. It was complicated because you need competent people who are trustworthy, so our team is in the US and France. 

Another obstacle was making sure the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) was as good as possible. We have been doing a lot of beta testing, continuous testing, implementation and deployment. We have come a long way in just over 6 months and that’s just because we are focused on interviewing audiences and testing with them. We talked to people at conferences. We cold-called people. I connected with my network of finance contacts. We really talked to anyone and everyone for 30 minutes. We ended up doing two different phases of beta testing and a soft launch. This is when production got a bit larger, we had about 10,000 downloads within the first six to eight weeks. We got feedback everyday and tried to reach out to everyone. That’s the thing with wanting to continue improving, it requires a lot of effort. 

3. How have you overcome the obstacles?

To find competent resources I had to go beyond my city which I was open to. I didn’t want to delay development so I started reaching out to my network. There is no shame in asking. That’s how I met my people and built a great team. The only difficulty is juggling the geographical differences like different time zones and cultural gaps to manage my team as a full functional entity.  It definitely requires more working hours on my part to make sure the information flows seamlessly, that there’s no communication gap and people feel like they are part of a team. 

We have implemented a lot of different remote working tools: Excel, trello, Monday.com, Basecamp, Asana. None of them worked the way we needed them to, we really needed a project manager tool that is being moderated. Now we’re developing our own internal project management tool. It’s easier to all be in the same location, but we’re figuring out how to make it work. It’s doable but we’ve had to come up with a solution and be imaginative to track things and figure out how to create KPIs and such.

4. What insights have your setbacks taught you?

The first setback was being able to deliver on time. It was just never happening, deadlines were being pushed. Maybe it was because we were developing something totally new and sometimes it didn’t work, but we were determined to get it right. The push on the resources also pushed the finances especially as a startup. And cash is king so that added a layer of complication. 

Obviously tech takes time, sometimes something would get pushed because of the team or someone wasn’t competent enough to work. Then it takes time to find a replacement. But not too much time to delay things too much. So the thing I learned was to get the right resources literally as soon as possible. 

5. How have external advice and partnerships impacted your business decisions?

I have two very good external advisors who really are my mentors. Each one of them has 20 years of experience as either an entrepreneur or an investor and are a part of well-established, renowned companies. It’s always helpful to have interactions with them to advise on key topics. It has also really helped keep me on track for the long-term strategy and vision of this project.

Of course as an entrepreneur there are always ups and downs and my advisors really help me maintain that balance and keep focused. They really helped me to see the long-term vision. It can be easy to get hung up on small setbacks and you need someone to guide you through. It’s emotional support, moral support, and professional support coming from people who understand what you are going through. Since they are advisors as well as mentors they are a part of the vision and constantly remind you of the long-term vision. It can be really easy to get caught up in something and all the sudden have a billion different opinions and directions. It’s good to have the reminder that I can do this, that this is my focus. My advisors have also been great connections to smart people, other investors, and the right partners. Their main role, their belief in me and my strategy, has been invaluable. 

6. What have you learned about managing people and tools to engage your team?

Communication. It’s important to find the right team and people who believe in your project. People need to fit the project and the team. You shouldn’t hire single-minded players or people who think too much of themselves. You need team players who believe in the project, people who are competent, and hardworking. Once you have that team, then it’s about management and communication. People need to feel like they are a part of a team.

It’s important that they know the door is open and to communicate throughout the day. We also have bi-weekly calls. But I want them to know that there are no doors, everybody can reach out to everybody. Our focus is clear: the client is key. There is no senior, no junior. If there is a problem then spit it out, we want to help you find the solution. Problems come when you hide errors, when you communicate then there are fewer problems. 

Another thing I stress to my team is to not be shy in criticizing any idea as long as it’s professional. Constructive criticism is open policy that way innovation can happen and people can brainstorm together. Everyone has a different cultural background, different education, different views, different perspective so a good discussion can lead to the best decisions. Nothing is personal.

7. Do you have Millenials working for your company? 

I do and they are quite dedicated. I have noticed they are less driven by money and more driven by the project and what they believe in. A majority of them are not asking for perks but they want a jovial working environment. It’s all about being in a positive working environment, being free to talk openly, acknowledging achievements, feeling proud and being proud, it all really helps create a positive vibe. 

There used to be minimal churn. Now people change jobs every few years looking for personal and professional development. The moment millennials feel they aren’t the right person for the job, they will leave. They know what their skills are, how they can extend them,  and are vocal about them. 

8. What have you noticed about Millennials working in your workplace?

They need room for potential growth and the ability to take on new challenges and roles. But it cannot be forced, you cannot force millennials to move around. But if you give them the chance to grow and step up, that is taken very positively. If you give them choices for the evolution of their development then they are very happy. 

9. What are some of your current challenges?

The challenge for us right now is growth management. We want to grow and grow faster and into more languages and do it with the right team. Managing that team, scaling it properly, and growing at the right pace is important. 

Right now we are in English, French, and Russian. I am French so I have a big network there. We also have a good amount of users in London and Paris who use the app in Russian. We also have demand in Spain and Germany but have yet to take that on–for Russian, we had someone internally who was able to translate the app for us. But our next focuses are Spanish, German, then Italian. 

10. What are your hopes for your business for the next five years?

I would love it everybody were to start using it and it became a natural way to exchange contacts and to network. We live in a world where everyone has a smartphone and should be able to exchange information in an easy way. I want to improve how all people network, to make sure the basic information isn’t lost. I want people to interact and communicate and be more social by remembering personal details and important exchanges with people. 

The main advantage of this app is that the other person you are exchanging information with doesn’t need to have the app, I can use StayTouch and enjoy all the benefits of networking and remembering details that matter. I can still create that contact memory and am less dependent on everyone having the app. 

Date of Conversation: January 27, 2020