From agency to startup with Noah Labhart
Noah discusses leaving the corporate world, starting a mobile app agency, and building a startup centered around on-demand labor
Noah is the CTO and cofounder of Veryable, an on-demand marketplace for manufacturing, logistics, and warehousing labor.
He's also the host of the Code Story podcast where tech leaders reflect on the path they took to create their products.
We talk about:
- Leaving the corporate world
- How poor estimation and scoping nearly sunk his agency
- Why bad software is worse than no software
- Hiring for an agency vs a startup
- Validating ideas and finding your first customers
- Code Story (Noah's podcast)
- Veryable (Current startup)
- Touchtap (Mobile app agency being wound down)
- Alcon (Previous employer)
- Dev Mountain Bootcamp (Bootcamp that Noah hired from)
Music by Crystal Cola
You can help edit this transcript at GitHub.
Jeremy This episode. I'm talking to Noah Labhart about why he left his corporate job. Creating a mobile app agency. And his current role as the CTO and co founder of Veryable. He's also the host of the Code Story podcast. Noah, welcome to software sessions.
Noah Thanks for having me, Jeremy. Excited to be here.
Jeremy Let's go back to the start of your career as an employee of Alcon. What was the type of work you were doing?
Noah Alcon was my, actually my second job out of college. My first job was with uh software architects and I only did that for a year, and that was a, as a consultant, a .NET Developer. Then I got the opportunity to move to Alcon and, I stayed there for eight years.
And the work I did there was more enterprise IT. Buy versus build type software. Project management and then team leadership. I worked in three different groups while I was there across the eight years. Uh, for three and a half I worked in document management, so that was imaging repositories. Uh, we worked very closely with our compliance department on retention and, and destruction of documents when they were, you know, past their, their prime.
And then after that, I actually flipped the script and started working for sales. Um in sales compensation, so I, I was team lead over a few individuals that we were over the systems, which calculated sales commissions. And that was, that was very eye opening to learn how the sales organization worked, how the compensation plans were structured and how they were all calculated.
And it was really interesting. And then I moved, to more of a, an applicable role to what I do today. , I worked in the manufacturing plant, , as an IT manager, so I had a group of six it individuals, and oversaw, . The engineering, , groups and their use of machines, their server needs, some of our, , our regulated systems, MRP and ERP systems as well and just sort of general managerial support of the it group there. Um, it's a heavily regulated environment. Being Alcon is, you know, eyecare products. So I'd do a lot of validation, a lot of work with our QA groups, and, uh, we were just heavily involved in the plant processes itself. Um, so I learned a lot about manufacturing there so that before I left Alcon that was my last role.
Jeremy You said you got to see sort of the sales, the marketing, the money in terms of how much you're spending on, personnel, I'm assuming, and on, , things that are sort of external to just the technical aspect what it means to be a manager run different parts of a business. And so that was very formative in gaining the experience you needed.
Noah That's right. Yeah. I got to see a lot of different things. I got to see it from a managerial perspective too, but like you mentioned, see the different business functions and action. And how they were using it and how they were using systems, and software and being able to see how it solved or created more problems for those individuals.
So it really helped me think in that those terms, whenever I was writing software, building software or choosing a piece of software to use.
Jeremy Yeah, that's an interesting point in terms of, you know, I think as software developers, we often think of software as being the thing that's going to, um, help your work become more efficient. But sometimes it actually is the opposite. It actually gets in the way and actually just wastes your time.
Noah That's right. Yeah. And I saw that, um, the handful of times at Alcon, you know, we had some software that solved a problem, but, you know, did it in a not very efficient way and our business counterparts really, if it was frustrating and, you know, as, uh, an it guy at that point, um, you know, at first I didn't really understand. Until I started looking at it through their lenses and it was pretty eye opening.
Jeremy What's an example of, a case where you saw that, you may have thought things were okay, but they told you like, Hey, no, this is actually, this is not a good use of our time, or, or our resources.
Noah Sure. So we spent probably three to four months, Rolling out a new software compensation, system for one of the Sales force groups. Uh, you know, we had promised it was going to be, you know, faster. I promise it was going to be more accurate, easier to configure, cause the plans changed on a regular basis and it accomplished some of those things.
But the way that it did it, uh, and the way that we rolled it out, created more work in, validation for the finance department in those commissions. So, so they were having to essentially do, do it both ways, do it manually through Excel that they had been doing for a long time in verifying commissions.
Um, and then also validating our system. And when the system was wrong, they didn't have time to wait on us to fix it. So it really created a lot of dual, uh, work there. you know, that it really wasn't really, wasn't supposed to, it's supposed to eliminate problems. Eliminate work.
Jeremy You said this had to do with software compensation, is that what you said?
Noah That's right. Well, I'm sorry if I said software, my, my bad. It's sales compensation. So sales commissions.
Jeremy Oh, okay. Got it.
Jeremy And then, so there was this manual process that people were following using Excel, you know, to calculate, , what the compensation should be. And they were very familiar with that process and it kind of worked for them. And when you added this sort of software piece that was supposed to do calculations for them. They would do the process, they would do before, and then they would also have to put it into this new tool. So it was basically just creating work for them.
Noah That's right. Yeah. And it, it created duplicate work. And, you know, when they were calculating sales commissions on a, you know, a monthly or quarterly basis, um, their, their schedules were full. You know, there was a lot of people to calculate this for. It wasn't their only thing that they were, you know, working on. And so having to all of a sudden do double work. And that really, really threw a wrench in their process and it was pretty frustrating for them.
Jeremy Yeah, yeah, totally makes sense.
So tell me about the moment that you realized that you wanted to leave or you realized that you weren't, being effective anymore at the company.
Noah There was a lot of great people at Alcon. Alcon is a great company. I was well taken care of. I was, um, given lots of opportunity, , you know, as I had moved up to a manager's role pretty quickly. Um, so nothing bad to say about the company or working there.
I learned a lot and uh, definitely, took a lot away from it. But that last year, last part, a year and a half, I was there just really started to feel like I wasn't making a difference no matter how hard I worked or how much we did as a team, we were still just keeping the lights on.
We weren't really innovating. We weren't. You know, moving the needle. We weren't making things better. And that bothered me. Um, that really bothered me. That, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm built in such a way that I want to change things for the good. I want to help and I want to change things for the better. And just wasn't seeing that, um, you know, I was seeing positive reflection in my team that I was managing and you know, in, in their lives and in their careers.
And so that was fulfilling. But the. Moving the needle from a business standpoint just wasn't happening. , so I started to, you know, think about what else I could do. You know what, what else I wanted to, uh, I had a buddy of mine, uh, Chris Graybee's, one of my best friends in the world. Uh, he and I started kinda tinkering with mobile apps, um, on the side.
And I had done software for a long time, but never learned how to build mobile apps. So I jumped in and started to learn how to build iOS apps on the side. Um, and I just loved it. Just fell in love with mobile development and the space. the thought process around user experience and the real estate that is very limited on a mobile phone and how you had to think about it.
And so we built a bunch of apps on the side and I thought, you know, I can, I can do this full time. I don't have to be doing this on the side. I can give this a shot. Um, so at that point I decided, , you know, after some, after some serious conversations with my wife who was very supportive, uh, she was absolutely amazing through this whole process.
Uh, cause we had, I mean, we had two kids, uh, or we had one kid and one kid on the way, or two kids, I don't remember exactly. Um, and so, but she was very supportive of, of the change. And so I decided to jump out on my own, just give it a shot.
Jeremy why do you think that happened at the end of your career? Like was there something about how the company was structured or something about, you know, your role? Like what, what, what do you think it was.
Noah Sure. Um, that's a good question. I haven't really thought about it from that angle, but what comes to mind? There were two things I think that were going on for me. , one Alcon had just been acquired. They've recently been, diverged or divested or whatever the word is. Um, at that time, they had been acquired by Novartis, and so there was a lot of integration work going on between the two massive companies and, , all of it very necessary, all of it.
Part of the, you know, the acquisition. Uh, but nothing that inspired me. nothing that was innovative, it was all just procedurally based and keep the lights on, type of tech work. And so I think that had a little bit to do with it. Um, the other part is just kind of realizing the big box corporate America set up.
You know, no matter the amount of good people that I was surrounded with and the opportunity I was surrounded with in the big box corporate world. How do I say? Well, there's two things that are coming to mind actually. So from the big spot, big box, corporate world, it's hard to make a difference.
It's hard to move the needle if you're, you know, a small, um, it group, or a individual contributor. That's just, that's sort of the, the fact of the matter in the second part to add to that is. , when your product is not technology, when your product is not software, , your group or your function is a necessary evil, so to speak.
And I don't mean that people thought it, people were evil, but more of like, you know. It's a, it's a expense to be managed. It's not a strategic tool to use. And so I felt that, I felt that, you know, I was, I was a group that was, uh, keeping the lights on and, and at the end of the day, that just wasn't enough for me.
Jeremy And did you feel that at the start of your career, um, that that was, that that was different, that people did kind of put a priority on, you know, your team's work and that it kind of shifted to becoming basically this cost center?
Or is it more like, it was always that way.
Noah That's a great question. Uh, it, it really was always that way. I think my head was in a different place when I first started at Alcon. I was busy, you know, doing outside things. I was, I was playing in a rock band. I was, you know, I was younger. I was single back then. And so, you know, I was, I had a job too. I wanted to have a good job and I wanted to.
To be working at a place that was, , you know, that was stable. , but I didn't really have that entrepreneurial buzz going on in me cause my, my head was in a different place. . Once I met my wife and we started our family and, , you know, started moving down that path, things started to shift for me.
And I think that entrepreneurial desire started to bubble up within me the desire to, you know, sorta take a hold of what I'm working on and, and put as much effort into it and get as much reward out of it as the effort I put into it.
Jeremy Yeah. So it sounds like there were changes. Within yourself. That kind of changed what was interesting to you, and there was also the aspect of the acquisition where it seemed like you were probably, like you said, you were doing work that needed to be done in terms of integrating with the company who purchased you, but to you it probably felt like I'm kind of retreading old ground, like you were doing work to get to a point that you had already been to and that didn't seem that interesting to you.
Noah Yeah, that's, that's well said. Uh, you know, retreading kind of doing the same thing again, just it wasn't, it wasn't something I wanted.
Jeremy Yeah. It's, it's interesting cause it seems like, there's so many acquisitions I guess when it comes to things related to software and it seems a lot of times for the people who are already there, the acquisition really ends up changing the culture and it ends up changing sort of, who wants to stay.
And, um, I've always found that really interesting in terms of, you know, companies will sometimes they'll, or they'll acquire because they want the, the talent, but by acquiring, they really change the, you know, the company they're acquiring and the talent they want may no longer want to stay there.
Noah Right. That's absolutely true. That that definitely happened with the Alcon Novartis acquisition. There were two different cultures going on. , and that was, that was very challenging. Um, you know, it's funny. Alcon was owned by Nestle before that, and, um. Definitely two different cultures there too. But Nestle left Alcon alone and said, you are your own thing.
And we recognize that, and I think Alcon thrived that way. , and the Novartis, uh, acquisition was, was done differently and you know, different, different views on that. I don't fault anybody for it, but I have seen that acquisition that when you try to merge two cultures, it's, it can be destructive. It can be really a really difficult task.
Jeremy For sure.
I want to go into you you mentioned how you started a mobile app company with a friend right after, uh, leaving Alcon. . Kind of what was your experience going out the gate like did you, did you have any big struggles when you first started out?
Noah Oh, sure. Yeah. Uh, at a one really big defining struggle, actually. So I started the, uh, mobile agency on the side with my friend and we were taking on some projects, and this was while I was still at Alcon. And then, , whenever I decided to go full time, he actually pulled out. He said, I can't do this full time.
He's like, I'm, I'm, you know, interested in staying involved part time. but I can't, can't do it full time. He, he had a, you know, another full time gig. Uh, he was doing, and I was like, cool, man. Nope, no problem. I'm, I'm gonna do this. I'm going to keep going. , as long as you're cool with that, then, then let's do that.
And, and it was, it was fine. , and so, when I left Alcon, we had. Uh, a few projects on the, in the pipeline. , one was, uh, was going okay and one was not going so hot. , so I hadn't been a business owner. I hadn't been a freelancer. I hadn't been running remote teams or anything like that. Um, but I had done project management and, uh, I built software.
So I, I took on projects thinking, no problem, I can do this. This is, this is just the same type of stuff I've been doing. And I was rudely awakened, um, that I bit off way more than I can chew. , on this one particular project, we were supporting a, , beauty salon in Connecticut and I'm based in Texas. so I put together a developer team, , put a bid out there for this job and got the job.
I bid it way too low cause I had no idea what I was doing. Um, and I hired developers to do part of the work, but not, I didn't scope it enough. Um, and I should have scoped it enough, and bid a lot more, um, so quickly, you know, I lost control of that project. Didn't have enough money. It was way over budget.
And basically had to, like, I paid all the developers and basically I had to go to the client and say, I, I'm. I can't do this for you anymore. Um, which was extremely difficult and humbling. Um, I don't think I slept a wink the night before. Uh, woke up, well, uh, didn't sleep, but probably, you know, napped a little bit, but woke up several times just, you know, with my heart pounding, , had to get on the phone, just say, Hey, I've lost control of the project.
Tried to give her the software we had built. And just say, Hey, this is what you have paid for this for. And she obviously didn't like that. , started to getting them in conversations about bringing legal things into, uh, the, the equation. And I said, look, no, let's not do this. I'll just refund all of your money.
You keep the software and you keep, and you keep the money. So I had this dip into my personal savings and refund all of the money that she had paid us this far. Um, which was not a insignificant amount of money. Um, so that was a really hard lesson out of the gate. I mean, that was the first three months out of corporate America, and it was, it was really, really tough.
But looking back on it, it was, it was a character building moment for me professionally, entrepreneurially, and to learn that hard lesson right then and to date, I still. Employ the same things that I've learned from that lesson, which is to take steps, start small, and take steps, , and building software and building teams.
Like what do you need today? And at that point, what I needed was I knew how to build software and I knew how to write mobile apps. So I'm just gonna start my agency and it's just going to be me. And I'm going to go work on some projects. And I started to do that. Took on several projects, got overloaded, and said, okay, what do I need now?
I've got several projects and I can't do them all. I need help. So it started to bring on part time, help, got overloaded up that to full time help, and then built the team, uh, over the years based on our project needs. Um, and that seemed that that worked out.
Jeremy Looking back, it sounds like if you were to have that customer again, you at that stage in your business, you most likely wouldn't have taken the work because you, you think it was too much too early on in your business.
Noah Yes. Yeah. I think it was way too much to manage at the state. I was in, um, the state of learning. You know, there's so much learning that goes into just being an entrepreneur and not even, you know, building software for clients. It's, it's just even running a business and, and bidding on work. Uh, you know, I should have tripled my bid that I bid on this project. I was way off. And, , if I knew what I know now, back then, I would've said, , thanks, but this, it's not, it's not a good fit for me.
Jeremy Taking on the smaller projects, working on your own, what would you say where you know, the big lessons you, you learned and were able to use to grow your, your consulting business?
Noah That's a good question. You know, the primary one was, was the one that I, that I mentioned, just being able to take, , take steps. So start with what you know, and then build on top of that. So I started to take on projects. myself. And build some income and then basically grow with my growth, you know, so a few projects on my plate, okay, now I need some help.
Uh, bring on some help. so that was a, that was a big, big lesson to learn. In the very beginning. The other part I learned how important networking was. , I started to network with not only, you know, software dev agencies saying, Hey, I'm here to white label. If you need a, you know, a developer, you need a developer to, I'm here to white label.
If you need just a, uh, agency, you can trust. Um, or, Hey, I'm, I'm new to this game. How, you know, what sort of, um, what sort of info can I glean from you? You know, what advice do you have for me? And then also partnering with design agencies because a lot of design agencies have amazing designers and they get approached for mobile apps and websites and things.
But they don't have people in house to do it. So it's essentially white label for them as well. And that was really important. Those first few projects that I started working on, just me, we're all from networking. We're all from just talking to people. They weren't people reaching out to me. It was me reaching out to them. So I'd say both of those things were, were really important for the success of of touch, tap moving forward.
Jeremy And how are you finding these people you know, to network with and how did you convince them as a new business that you were somebody they could trust.
Noah That's a great question. So a lot of people that I met were through mutual friends. Um, so I would start, you know, just talking to people that I knew, and then start there and they might know a person or two, and then I would just move down the line and start talking to that person and they might know a person or two. So the network effects really take place pretty quickly. , but earning trust was, it was interesting. You know, you have to. Prove yourself and you have to be willing early on, I think to take a little less money than what you may be worth and, and prove that you can, you know, you can do a great job, build a portfolio so you can point to it and say, Hey, this shows you that I've, that I've done it, that I can do it, and that you can trust the work I'm doing.
So a lot of that, a lot of, um, sort of humble beginnings of, you know, I'll do this for, for cheaper than what I probably could. , but I, it will, it will, you know, get us in a place where we have some trust. The other part was to, um, to help them in any way I could, you know, if there's, if they needed to find a designer, I'd tried to help them find some people or if they needed something.
We tried to help them some in some way, you know, if some other networking, uh, some people that I might know that could use their services, I would, I would toss them their way, uh, connect them with people that I might know, um, you know, that could connect them with people. So the, the networking favors really pays off a lot too in earning trust, saying, okay, this guy's gonna do what he says. So that's, that's important.
Jeremy Being as helpful as you can and people remember that, and when you actually come back with some work, then you know they'll be willing to give you a shot potentially.
Noah That's right.
Jeremy You know, you had mentioned you were three months out from leaving Alcon and you had that big project that didn't go well in terms of having to give back the money, having to dip into your savings.
What were you kind of thinking at that time in terms of, why you decided to keep going versus, you know, decided to go back and take another job?
Noah Right. So, you know, that was a pivotal moment. It was like, what did I just do to my family? I was thinking, uh, I just made a mistake. This isn't working. Um.
Should I go back and get a job? And to be honest, all credit goes to my wife for that. And she, she was the rock and she was like, no, this is part of the journey. And you know, it's, it's a, it's a stepping stone and it's, it's, you know, sucks. But we're gonna we're going to learn from it and you're going to do great. So, you know, stop crying in the corner and get up. You know, she didn't say that, but, but she was very supportive and was like, you know, this is, it's not optimal and we, we don't want to be here, but it doesn't mean we give up.
There's something, you know, there's still something, for you to go do in this. So go do it. So, all credit to her in that she's an amazing, beautiful woman.
Jeremy And so both you and her understood that like even though that this. Didn't work out in this instance. That was definitely still something you wanted to pursue in terms of running your own business. Like that was the thing that was going to make you happy.
Noah That's right. Yeah. I mean, there was no, really going back to the corporate world and back into the, you know, sort of mild depressed state of just, you know, what am I, what am I doing? Just kind of spinning my wheels here. Um, I have more to give more to give to the world. And then what I'm, you know, the results I'm seeing right here.
And she saw that and she saw that through the year and a half that I was struggling with it, um, at Alcon still. So, um, she was very, very good to remind me of that.
Jeremy So when you were at Alcon, I'm assuming you were involved in hiring there, right?
Jeremy And so when you. Started your own agency, and you mentioned how you started just doing the work yourself, but then you gradually started to to hire. As the workload became too much, what would you say were the differences between hiring for a corporation versus hiring for your agency?
Noah Well, that's a great question. It they were a night and day different. So at the corporation, you know, we're sort of hiring based on predetermined guidelines on, you know, you've got to have a bachelor's or a master's, you've got to have five years of experience. You've got to know this technology, uh, et cetera, et cetera. So the bar was set really high. In my agency. Oh. And also at Alcon was all in office. There's no remo remote remote work there. Started to do some at towards the end of my time there, but there was no remote work. And so, um, with the agency though, we were fully remote, we were a remote across, you know, the United States and Canada.
We had a couple of people, in Europe and one in London. And, That was a totally different dynamic. Uh, you know, the first couple of people that I worked with, I did, I was able to meet in person cause they were local to Texas. Um, but after that it was, it was all over the place. And so, you know, how I hired people was more, uh, and this wasn't, I don't think this was the right way to do it.
Uh, looking back on it, but it was more about, . I'm going to hire you as a contractor, and I'm going to measure you on the work you're going to produce, not necessarily, you know, the longterm fit. So the, the project based nature of the work we did at touch tap, , made it to where we had a lot of contractors working off and on for the team.
We didn't really have a full time, full time team. , that was really good from the sense of I didn't have to look for the right people. I had to hire uh professional hands, if that made sense. , and so that, that made the project work. Or, it made the hiring a little bit simpler cause it was all about rates and project duration and quotes and things like that.
But what it didn't allow me to do was gain experience in. Finding the right people, , in, in finding people, cause I worked with some great people so I don't, I don't want to say that they were, they were bad. They were awesome, worked with some awesome people at, at touched tab then and there. They were all amazing. I learned a lot from them, but I didn't hire them based on their fit for a team culture that I was trying to build. It was all about how are we getting the work done. And so I'd say, you know, variable. It was the one where I really learned how to hire culture fit over, you know, just getting the job done.
Jeremy During your time at touch tap, what was your time primarily spent on, you know, like you have these contract developers that are working for you, uh, you're a developer yourself. How much time are you actually spending developing versus getting new clients versus kind of just a process or business type stuff that needs to be handled.
Noah Sure. So in the beginning I was doing all of that. I was developing, I was pitching, I was putting together bids, I was invoicing. I was doing all of the, all of the stuff. , as we started to get more people on. You know, I'll say an account manager and, , or a project manager or other developers to come in on the big projects and help.
I was able to take my hands off the actual coding and focus more on the sales, the, , quoting, the bids, the networking, and then the invoicing and all that sort of stuff. so towards the, you know, towards the end of touch, tap. Um, which touched up is still around right now, but just kind of wound down to not much at all.
But towards the end of touchtap, I was primarily just doing invoicing, and a little bit of BD work.
Jeremy Give me a sense of, you were talking about how it's basically winding down. how do you end up with a business that's kind of not bringing you profit or not bringing you value.
Noah Sure. That's a, that's a good question. Um, it's interesting. the first three years of touch tab were upward growth. we grew the pipeline. We started to bring on bigger clients, longer term engagements. Uh, and it was good. And, , during that time, towards the end of that three year timeframe, I really started focusing primarily on Veryable and, uh, tried to do both.
And it. It's very difficult to do both. variable isn't bootstrapped. Um, we, we have investors and, but touchtap is, so it's very limited as far as how I, what sort of resources I can put forward to grow that business.
I didn't put the same amount of effort into touch tap that I did variable and, and so touchtap, just kind of started to dwindle. It kind of started to become difficult to, you know, get clients. Um, our processes weren't exactly working we weren't doing a ton of marketing. Um, we were losing some clients.
The team members were kind of losing interest too. you know, all that sort of culminated last year. Uh, summer timeframe. And, , I stopped taking salary from the, from the, uh, the business cause there wasn't money to do it. And it became a point where it's like this just, it's not, it's not working anymore.
And, you know, having some successes in other areas too, with variable and with, , with the podcast, then, you know, it makes it like, Oh my am I, what am I banging my head against the wall for? You know, my, my baby, it was my first one. you know, I had a good run, so I should probably dial it down.
Jeremy So it's, it's kind of like, it still exists in name, but kind of what it was, is kind of, is gone in terms of all of the, customers and all of the sort of. Interest. Um, and so it's sort of something that you trying to figure out how to close out, but not quite sure how to do it yet.
Noah Yeah. And I think I have a pretty good handle on, on, on how to close it out. , kind of hand off the projects to the developers that are working on it. you know, the. The customers get a deal, the developers get a deal, , and they get to continue working on it. Most of those projects right now are all support projects anyway, so it's infrequent work.
So I'll, I'll keep touch, tap around. Um, you know, the site up and the entity around. I run the podcast through the entity, but, but as far as taking on new work, um, I'm more, I'm quickly to respond saying, Hey, we don't have the resources to take on your project. Check out these agencies who we trust. , and, and they will take care of you.
Jeremy And so next I want to talk about Veryable. can you kind of give a brief explanation of what Veryable does?
Noah Yeah. So what we've built at Veryable, it's a on-demand marketplace for manufacturing and warehousing labor. So, . We enable manufacturing businesses to ramp up and ramp down their workforce, their labor capacity, , with their demand. So we're a third new tier of labor. You have full time work, you've got temp staffing, which is essentially like short term, full time work, and then you've got us that you can ramp up and ramp down your workforce for those, uh, spikes and falls in your demand.
From a worker's side. Since we are a marketplace from the workers side, we offer daily pay, flexible schedules, , different diverse work opportunities. You don't have to work for the same company every day. You could string together a, a set of work. You can make that schedule work for you. So, you know, if you've got, responsibilities during the week that you can't really do a full time, you know, eight to five job, you can work on the weekends, you can work at nights. Um, you can. Piece together, the wall, the work that you want to, and you can stay in the industry that, you know, which is manufacturing or logistics or any sort of supply chain, industrial environment. Uh, we support. So that, that's, that's a, a high level, 30,000 foot view of, of what Veryable is.
Jeremy You as a potential worker, you would say like, Hey, these are my skill sets and these are the times that I would like to work. And then companies can, posts, the opportunities they have. And it kind of matches the two up where you're not necessarily a full time employee or a part time employee in terms of, I'm going to be there on this day every month, but rather like, I could work. You know, four days a month or something like that for one company and five days at another company, that sort of thing.
Noah Yeah, that's, that's right. so you do, you input your skills and then you, you don't set a preferred schedule, but you bid on the work that, that has preferred to you. So there's a, basically a dashboard feed of, of work. In your area that you can pick from. and the work could be, you know, eight hours, uh, or one day, or it could be, you know, a week long, set of work.
Um, it could be a piece, uh, by the piece. You could be paid by, I got to build 500 widgets and I make 10 bucks a widget. so there's lots of different options for businesses to post-work on there, and lots of different options for workers to go to go get work.
Jeremy And you mentioned that this was a venture backed company. How did you sort of validate the idea in terms of knowing that this is somebody or something people would pay for, and how did you convince investors that this was something that was going to work.
Noah Great question. as far as how we went about it in the beginning. Um, we started with the friends and family can around and all credit goes to my partner. Uh, Mike kinder. I was focused primarily on building the software and he was doing the fundraising and. And making sure we had everything we needed to, uh, get a team and, you know, get a space and, and all of the technology expenses we needed to pay for.
So, , as far as the pitch, he, he's the one that came up with the idea and, and, and he's the one that kind of put the initial pitch together. and how we went about. You know, convincing, really aligned with his original hypothesis of, you know, you have all this stuff going on in manufacturing, all this new technology that's incredibly expensive, um, that people can afford.
And, and even if they could afford it, there's not a way to solve their labor problem. If you get all these cool widgets and cool tools in your manufacturing plant, it's gonna make your process better. If you can't solve your capacity problem, you're stuck. They're not going to help you. And so, his pitch was this, you know, kind of macro to micro view of these are the trends in manufacturing.
And then you dive into the manufacturing plant at a micro level and see that, Hey, without people, without solving the people problem. None of this manufacturing's not going to move forward with this new technology. So that was a big part of the pitch. And, and you know, as, as, as it is with most startups, you know, there's a lot of nos, right?
you know, there were a lot of, uh, conversations with some nos, but there were the right ones with. That are some yeses, um, that are some yeses. So, um, we have an amazing set of investment investors now, uh, an amazing board. Uh, and, and we're really, really fortunate to have the people that we have involved, um, financially.
Jeremy Do you think the reason you were both able to identify this need in terms of seeing this technology coming and seeing that, this sort of unique model of staffing was going to be required? is that because both of you had previously worked in the industry and that's why you were able to identify that?
Noah I think so. You know, it's interesting. We've seen people try to attack this problem in a broad sense. Um, you know, we get compared to temp staffing a lot, and we're not, we're not any anywhere near temp staffing. we do understand why people think that way because it's all they know. We've seen some people try to enable temp staffing through technology.
Um, you know, so the same type of technology that would hire a pizza delivery driver. You know, they would try to apply that technology to manufacturing to an operational need, and it just doesn't work. it just doesn't work at all. Um, our solution is built as an operational tool for operations managers to be able to bring people in and, and, uh, let you know, let people back out into the market.
Um, when the work is done and that discreet work opportunity, that discreet breakdown of the needs, um, is super important to optimize, optimize your operations.
Jeremy When you were first starting Veryable, tell me about the process of building the initial team. Like how many people did you have a, what were their roles and what was the hiring like?
Noah Sure. So early on we hired a couple of engineers to start building a a web prototype. Uh, are finished the web prototype and build the backend. Uh, up to that point, I had been using my, my resources myself and then another team member at touch tap to build sort of the early, the early prototype of the solution.
And so when we started to realize, okay, we've got the prototype, we've got some friends and family money, let's build a team so we can really launch this thing. Uh, went out to angel list and made some postings and started to sift through some, some resumes and have some conversations and hired a, um. Hired a few people, um, from the, from angel list. One of them, notably, his name's Andrew plan. Uh, he's our solution architect and he's still with us today. and, uh, so he was our, he was hire number three, uh, as a backend engineer, uh, came from the dev mountain bootcamp, uh, program. , so yeah, just early on hiring. Hiring a handful of people to help us with the things that we needed help with right then, which technology wise was the back end. And then the website, we also hired, Angie Turner, who's a friend of our CEO, Mike, um, to sort of sell the app before the platform was live. Um, so that was, that was interesting.
She was, she was selling the platform before, um, before the platform, um, came into existence. So, you know, we, we got the. Got some good people in place in the very beginning to really help us with what we needed to start
Jeremy And when you talk about selling the app, is that going to these manufacturing businesses and kind of telling them like, Hey, we're building this app, and getting them excited or interested in that beforehand.
Noah So it was actually, it was actually the reverse. So we, our hypothesis in the beginning was the supply, which would be the workers for us, uh, and the businesses, um, be the, uh, demand. . That the supply was going to be harder. And so we focused a lot on that. We built the mobile app first, finished that, and then started recruiting and getting the app out there.
What we figured out pretty quickly was that it was actually easier to get the supply then it was the businesses. There was a lot more education and a lot more explanation, um, and mind shifting that had to go into the business side of things that we've accounted for today. . Then was needed for the workers side.
So, um, so it was a little bit easier sell on the worker side. People would download the app, uh, even just to be put on the waiting list cause they needed work. They were, they wanted to be on the list to be notified when there was work opportunity. So, , yeah, I ended up, ended up. You know, selling quote unquote, the mobile app by going to trade schools, colleges, , you know, areas where there were current manufacturing workers, and things like that. Job boards trying to get people's attention to download the app.
Jeremy Yeah. So you were actually physically talking to people, you're going to where they, where they worked or where they lived in, and just showing them, or at least talking to them about the idea of the app. And so you had built up this kind of solid base of interest before you had anything.
Noah That's right. That's right.
Jeremy Um, so one of the things you talked about earlier when hiring for touch tap was that you wish you had gotten to learn more about hiring for culture fit rather than just for technical skills or for costs.
And so I'm wondering when you are hiring for Veryable, how did you, how did you hire for culture fit? How did you look for the right people?
Noah That's a good question. Um, you know, I'm actually doing a talk soon, at the Texas A and M tech summit about this, this very thing. when we were looking for the people to join us at Veryable. Um, I say we, cause we, we all, Mike and I were, uh, a big part of it together. Uh, now I handled most of the, most, if not all of the tech recruiting.
What we're looking for is people that were gritty and hungry and wanted to solve a problem that no one was solving. , and it was less about, can you, you know, perform at this senior level. . You know with this technology or do you have massive amounts of experience? It was more about who are you and yeah, can you, can you do the job?
We definitely want you to be able to do that, but can you grow with the, with a startup? Can you come in and be jazzed about what we're doing here? And be able to wear multiple hats, be able to jump in and be able to work hard and be rewarded for it. Be rewarded for that hard work, but can you come in and really latch onto what we're doing?
And that's what we focused on early on in the beginning was, was a lot about the person you know a lot about who, who are you as a person? what are the qualities, what are the, the, um. The intangibles that you bring to the table. um not, I know how to do this technology or I've been doing this this long.
It's like I'm this type of person. Um, and that really worked out well because that's the type of culture we wanted to build at Veryable. And, and we did. And we have that today. And it's, it's makes us move so much faster and with so much more quality, uh, in our work, in the product and the way we address the market.
Um, having that, that team dynamic. And I think at, at touch tap, I didn't, I didn't do that cause I wasn't focused on building a team culture. I was focused on making money and, , you know, that's, that's not a bad focus. It's part of it, but it's not the whole story. It's not the whole picture. And I definitely learned that lesson. Um, moving to Veryable and really focusing on the whole picture of what we were recruiting for, what we were really trying to do.
Jeremy So it sounds like you're looking for people who are excited by. I guess the mission of the company, of the things that you're trying to do, the things you're trying to build, but also people who are in a way, generalists in the sense that you have kind of all sorts of things that need to get done and they're willing to, to learn, are willing to jump on to taking care of those things rather than somebody who specializes in just this one thing. And I'm hiring you just for this one thing.
Noah That's absolutely right. I mean, you know the generalist word, it's interesting. It rings a bell. I had a talk with Chris Lowe who was the founding engineer of Reddit, here recently on, on my podcast. . We talked about our hiring in those early days, and that's exactly the way he phrased it too, was like, you know, very capable generalist people who are excited to do different things, who were willing to jump in and do what it takes to make it happen.
Um, we definitely approached it, uh, definitely approach it that way and looked at those raw materials.
Jeremy And as you, you grew, I mean, how, how large is the engineering staff now?
Noah There are nine of us now counting me. We're going to be growing to 12 I've got a few more people to hire, so not, not huge. Um, but definitely more than a few.
Jeremy Yeah. And so as the team has grown, have you stuck to kind of this concept of hiring for generalists, hiring for people who can kind of swap roles? Or have you started to focus more on specific skills?
Noah That's a good question. We, we have focused a little more on specific skills, but we still hire for that sort of gritty, wanting to hunt, gritty, hungry, and wanting to do a bunch of different things. We bring people in to either do backend work. Front end work from a web standpoint or mobile work. , but we still bring people in that are excited about all of it, , and that are interested in all of it.
Uh, maybe not be doing it every day. Um, but are interested in, in coming in, making a difference. and we also, we bring in a lot of people. I've, I work with the dev mountain program, the dev mountain boot camp here in Dallas, and I've hired seven engineers from their program. And a lot of them are career changers.
So, you know, uh, one of my lead front end developer, Brian Hudson, used to be an English teacher for many, many, many years. And now he's a software developer and he's amazing. He does. He does amazing work and he can look at problems differently because he has a background as someone who is non non-tech, right? Maybe. Maybe, you know, he has a tech, he's a tech minded individual, but he didn't do tech. He was the consumer of the tech. So he can look at things a lot differently than. Then just your normal comp side programmer, that that only looks at things through the coding lens, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it just, it's not a real great fit for the culture we're trying to build.
So. Hiring people that are switching careers, uh, they tend to have a lot of excitement about their first coding job. Like, I did it, I finished the bootcamp, I'm going to code, I'm going to, um, you know, get my first job in coding and I want to do a good job. I want to get experience, I want to do as much as I can and we'll get a bunch of exposure.
And that works out really well for them and for us, um, because it creates that, that, you know. Great relationship around that grit and that hunger
Jeremy When you first started, you had, I believe you said three engineers, is that correct?
Noah That's right counting me.
Jeremy The sort of work that happens when you have three engineers, in terms of the communication, I'm assuming, you know, it flows very freely. You all work very closely together.
How has that changed as you've grown the team? Like in terms of how you communicate in terms of how you assign tasks, that sort of thing.
Noah Sure. I think we're still growing in that. Um, right now it's still pretty open. we definitely, protect our collaborative environment and our collaborative culture. I think we'll always be that way. We'll always be the culture that says, Hey, you, you and you, let's get on the whiteboard and let's talk about this and just hash it out.
As far as our processes, we are, we are getting to the point where we need to get a few processes in place around, you know, work queues and, and organization of breakdown from our roadmap to the work queues. It's really about visibility and resource loading so that, you know, so that all makes sense.
One thing we have had to focus on, um, a lot as we grew was dev ops. We had to really put in some, some time into, you know, building continuous integration on the mobile side and on the website and making sure that when we shipped code, uh, you know, it went to the right place. It was promoted the right place automatically. So we didn't have to think about it. Um, so we definitely had to grow there, but I'd say we're still growing in other areas though.
Jeremy The way you personally feel coming to work, working on the problem has sort of the experience of that changed with the amount of growth you have? Or has it felt mostly the same?
Noah It's definitely changed. in the early days, we're making sure the thing works. Right? We're making sure that payments flow, we're making sure that the back end is up. You know, we're making sure that the mobile apps aren't crashing. Um, and we're smoothing out a lot of things nowadays. We're really solving the more intelligent type problems or more intelligent space problems of, you know, how are we automating this process?
For. Businesses are, or can we, or how are we, you know, serving up the best opportunities for our workers? You know, how are we breaking our platform down to make it the most performant platform it can be? So we have these really fun feature problems and really fun engineering problems. you know, going from, say, monolithic.
Architecture to microservices or, you know, building the apps to where it feels like magic that, that we almost know them personally and we're presenting the best opportunities are the best operators for them. so these are, those are really fun problems. And you know, we, we have built a tight core product now that is working well and we can start to focus on the next sort of wave of, of, of fun stuff to build. So it's, it's. It's gotten better and better and better. You know, it's always been fun. but I'm, I'm a little bit, um, maybe a little bit weird and I think that the, the hard stuff is really fun.
Jeremy That's, um, that's actually really good to hear because I think, you know, a lot of people sort of the stereotype is that when you first start a project and you're, you're building everything up from scratch, everything's exciting, right? Because, um, everything's new. Um, everything's on fire and you're just trying to kind of like put things together.
And then once you reach this state of, I guess, stability. Then maybe some of that, initial excitement or the excitement of all these changes happening is no longer there. But in your case, you're kind of saying that actually, you know, once you have everything solid, then you can really focus on these problems that are, that are really fun to you without worrying about, whether the thing works or not, I guess, if that makes sense.
Noah Totally. Oh, that's, it's, that's the way it is here. You know? I don't think that it's, it's like that for everybody. Um, I think it's, it's a bit unique here, which, which I'm really thankful for, that we have more stuff to build. You know, like we have this tight core product and we have other things we can go focus on now. You know, and, and still maintain that tight core product. We still pay attention to it, but, but you know, what, what is the next, it's almost like startup on top of a startup. You know, what is the next thing we're trying to build here? which is really fun as a builder.
Jeremy I think it's probably a good time to start wrapping up. So is there anything that you wish I had asked or anything that you, you wanted to mention before we wrap up?
Noah No, I think you, I think you did great. I think we touched on pretty much everything I, I'd love for. You know, for your listeners to check out my podcast as well, code story. Um, you can check it out at codestory.co or any other, any of the major directories. And, um, you know, I'd love to be back on the show sometime, Jeremy. I've really enjoyed the conversation and, um, yeah, would love to have you on mine as well.
Jeremy Awesome. Yeah. I think like anybody listening to this podcast, I think will, will really enjoy code story because it's sort of more of the, the origin stories of how people build their businesses. And, um, you have a lot of interesting guests, so everybody should definitely check it out.
Noah I appreciate that. Thanks and great job with your show. Really enjoy it.
Jeremy Thank you. Yeah. and where can people kind of follow you or check out, you know, what you're up to.
Noah Sure. So I'm on LinkedIn. I'm not on any other social networks personally besides LinkedIn. So you can follow me there. You can check out my personal website at noahlabhart.com, um, that has, uh, links and information about me. You can check out Veryable at veryableops.com. And you can check out what was touchtap at touchtap.com. Um, and then again, code story codestory.co.
Jeremy All right. Noah, thank you so much for joining me today.
Noah Thanks Jeremy. Appreciate it. It's been fun.
Jeremy Show notes for this episode are at softwaresessions.com if you enjoyed my conversation with Noah, go check out his podcast code story at codestory.co all right, I'll see you next time.