React Native telemedicine

React Native Development – Create a telemedicine app onboarding process

In this article, I am going to talk you through how I used a React hook, namely useReducer, to create a smooth onboarding process for a telehealth app that I and my team at RebelDot have developed recently.

  1. Why is the onboarding process crucial in developing a telemedicine app?
  2. How did the decision tree idea emerge?
  3. What is a decision tree and why developing one?
  4. How to create a decision tree using React Native?
  5. What is useReducer and how to use it?
  6. A small way to digitalize healthcare.

Why is the onboarding process crucial in developing a telemedicine app?

Working on this healthcare project, I stumbled upon a challenge, trying to implement a complex feature within a relatively brief period of time.

To give you some context, the idea for this feature arisen in the very last stages of the development process, which is why finding a fast, yet effective solution was crucial to the project.

This feature was a decision tree needed for the user onboarding process, an essential machine learning-like feature to any telemedicine app or healthcare digital product developed nowadays.

It was imperative that the doctors knew relevant details about their patients so they can create an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Thus, we had to create a dynamic onboarding process, intuitive and not repetitive, focusing only on a limited number of important questions, such as questions about any chronic diseases or allergies that the patient might suffer from, as well as details about its family medical history.

How did the decision tree idea emerge?

The first and perhaps most basic solution that we thought of was limiting the questionnaire to a simple form (.text input) where the questions are screened one after another and the user has to complete the answer to all those questions.

Now, in terms of implementing this type of approach, it is fair to say it would have been an easy process and most of all, a time-convenient one.

But.

Not so user-friendly and efficient.

Patients would have had to waste time answering an entire list of questions, even questions that might not be according to their circumstance while doctors would waste their time too, going through all those answers.

Instead, we decided to build something user-intuitive and easy to complete.

A decision tree.

What is a decision tree and why developing one?

This meant that the onboarding process and respectively the introductory questionnaire addressed to the users would now be based only on relevant questions, also having a series of predefined answers as well as the option to add custom ones.

If you have ever worked with SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics, you probably know what I am talking about – adding a questionnaire/survey logic so that subjects would skip unnecessary questions.

To give a more technical explanation, a decision tree is a decision support tool that uses a tree-like model of decisions and their possible consequences. It is one way to display an algorithm that only contains conditional control statements.

For example, should the user provide a positive answer to a yes/no question, the following question might be based on that particular answer. In the case where the answer was negative, then, according to the established flow, the questionnaire will move on to the next question, without addressing the one specifically designated for those who answered the following positive.

In simpler terms, though, think of it as a dynamic questionnaire that alters its questions in real-time depending on the answers you provide.

How to create a decision tree using React Native?

I started with a simple ‘useState‘, but seeing that I need to add a lot of data to that state (and starting to look like a list of objects), I realised that my simple state can’t handle that amount of changes, so I started looking for an alternative that would save the entire team time and allow us to launch the product on the initially established deadline.

This is how I began working with ‘useReducer’, an alternative solution to ‘useState’, a react hook which helps managing complex state.

I read about all the react hooks, but the truth is that there are a lot of them which are rarely used, like ‘useMemo‘, ‘useCallback‘, or our ‘useReducer. Working with Redux before helped me understand the way ‘useReducer’ works.

In the beginning, my ‘useReducer’ state was pretty simple, but developing the algorithm and discovering every corner case, I ended up with a complex and strong component that allows me to deliver the onboarding process.

So I had a complex state and useReducer which handles complex states. This was the perfect fit that helped me to deliver a feature that appeared so hard to implement.

What is useReducer and how to use it?

Let’s start with some general information about what is useReducer and why it can be used.

useReducer is an alternative useState, the big differences are that useState is used for managing simple states (like strings, booleans, etc.) while useReducer is perfect for complex ones (state objects with multiple sub-values).

For those of you who are familiar with reducers, can easily understand how React’s useReducer hook works.

This is how you can use it, we have the state and the dispatch method attached to that state (as I said above, if you worked with reducers, you should know what dispatch is)

const [state, dispatch] = useReducer(reducer, initialState);

reducer is a function responsible for handling all the actions that are dispatched, hence modifying the new state.

initialState is, well.. the initial value of the state.

telemedicine app useReducer

In our case, the initial state is a list of questions with important sub-values such as question category, question text, answers (a list of objects), a prop which says if the questions accept multiple answers (boolean), a prop which says if the questions will be asked (a boolean) and other.

useReducer development telemedicine

Answer objects contain the answer text, the effect that that answer will have and the list of question indexes that will be affected by that answer.

In reducer I have defined the next actions: adding an answer, removing an answer, affecting a question and refreshing all the answers.

useReducer React

So how this work? When a user selects a predefined answer, the ADD_ANSWER action is dispatched (the answer will be saved) and the APPLY_EFFECT is dispatched to every question from the list of questions that is affected by that answer.

The last action will set if the questions will be displayed to the user or not.

A small way to digitalize healthcare.

Relying on this solution, this sort of machine-learning-like algorithm, allowed automatization of processes, eliminating the manual tasks and smoothening extraction of data directly from electronic records.

Besides, it created the possibility for doctors to predict trends in the patient conditions and their behaviors by discovering connections and relations from seemingly unrelated information, patterns that could then be used by to determine diagnoses, prognoses and treatments for patients in healthcare organizations.

On a more personal note, although I was a little scared when this task was assigned to me, I am now grateful for this, as the overall experience taught me that sometimes the solution is hidden in plain sight and that time pressure will have you uncover those solutions when you expect it the least.

Well, if you are looking for a reliable telemedicine app development company to bring your idea to life through the latest tech and a user-centric design, then don’t hesitate to reach out. 🚀

You might want to read our latest case studies where we present how we developed a telemedicine app, as well as a healthcare platform used to digitalize healthcare institutions.

Oana Mihail Senior Product Designer RebelDot

What is a discovery workshop and how to facilitate it

What is a discovery workshop?

Whether you are building a product and you are a startup founder, a big company owner or you’re approaching a project as an agency, you might hear “We gotta do a discovery workshop” from the product designer.

Discovery workshops are in my opinion the stepping stones that lead to a better understanding of the product, and they focus on collaboration between teams to help collect information required to begin a project. When you find yourself passionate about a specific idea, it’s easy to get lost in the details – discovery workshops shift the focus to looking at the project in its entirety and ensure all questions about business objectives, user experience, creative and technicalities are covered.

With this article, I hope to shed some light on this topic and explain the process I go through with our clients.

discovery workshop rebeldot

Why is a discovery workshop important for your project?

  1. No matter how great the idea is, a product can lose its value if not enough thought is given to it in the initial phase of development. You must answer in advance all the necessary questions that may arise from both parties during the app development lifecycle. Doing that in the beginning phase of a discovery workshop provides clarity and saves a lot of time to both parties.
  2. Through a workshop, complex projects can be easily simplified resulting in a structured roadmap and clear requirements that align with your goals.
  3. It helps the product team to arrive at a common ground even though they may have varying opinions. It also ensures that the project is completed in the given deadline or in some cases even earlier, as the core functionalities are always prioritized.
  4. Helps identify potential challenges that may arise later and unravel discrepancies, by highlighting project areas that lack clarity.
importance of a discovery workshop

Why you need a discovery workshop before working on your product?

In general, a discovery workshop usually lasts from 2 to 4 days depending on the scope of the project. Doing so, by the end of it you should have a structured roadmap to accomplish set milestones and goals.

It typically occurs at the beginning of a project or at the beginning of significant key substages of a project when there is a need to:

  • Understand existing research and gather existing knowledge
  • Understand stakeholder expectations
  • Build a common understanding of the overall project direction, key milestones, and vision for the entire team
  • Minimize the risk of building the wrong thing
  • Understand who the customers are and how the product will improve their lives
  • Define what sets the product apart in the market
  • Define what success looks like

But there are also situations in which conditions within the team make additional workshops necessary.

For example unaligned stakeholders. They can pull the team’s focus in different directions and away from the original purpose or problem being solved. During workshops, all stakeholders need to be active, vocal, and open-minded in order to make good forward progress. If a participant can’t or won’t make a decision about something, that can derail the entire process. Make sure key stakeholders are ready and willing to contribute.
It doesn’t really matter if the project is big or small, a discovery workshop is the most logical first step.

Small business owners tend to cut out discovery time and skip the workshop, but I observed that even with standard or minimum functionality, with a discovery workshop, you can unravel new frontiers and efficiently build a product.

For large and complex products, a discovery workshop is a necessity. It helps in defining and assessing the scope of work for every phase and streamlining the entire project at once. Through a discovery workshop, we dive deep, turn challenges into opportunities and explore new avenues to tackle a problem. It is an essential aspect of an agile development process

Sometimes when a client considers a project to be complex and outlines a big scope of work, a discovery workshop helps us identify which functionalities represent the core of the product for the initial phase. This reduces the scope and cuts costs for the client. In other cases, we unravel too many complexities as opposed to what was predicted which gradually increases the scope of the project.

What can be the output of a discovery workshop?

Focus on objectives and not only on deliverables.

A discovery workshop plays an important role in transforming an idea into a usable product. All the planning, scoping, and streamlining are done in the very beginning to witness tangible results.

Some of the desired and expected outputs from a discovery workshop are:

  • Aligned product vision and purpose inside the whole team
  • Setting clear, realistic goals for the product
  • Define the target audience, user personas, flows, and scenarios,
  • Sketch the User Journey mapping
  • Aligned vision over the project roadmap and priorities

Who can participate?

What I think it’s the best thing to do is to include representatives from every specialty like Founders, UX/ product designers, developers, and QA teams; In this way, everyone has a chance to weigh in from different perspectives and everyone feels more engaged with the business and product as a result.

Planning the Discovery Workshop.

1. Define a goal and output for the workshop.

Be clear about what you want to achieve, and what the tangible artifacts produced during the session will be.

2. Decide on workshop participants.

The power of design workshops comes from a varied perspective, so like I said, make sure you invite a wide range of roles.

3. Gather needed materials

The environment can be informal and creative if you are holding the workshop in the office (face-to-face) and plan on using tools such as markers and blank paper for sketching, post-its, and water and/or snacks for longer sessions. When we work remotely with our clients we rely on Miro.

4. Plan your agenda

If you are the facilitator of the workshop make sure to have an agenda in place. Plan for a structured sequence of rapid timed sketching cycles, presentation, critique, and choose a prioritization method such as dot voting.

Here is an example of how my agenda looks like:

It not only aligns the project team, stakeholders and clients but also provides the opportunity to mutually explore the scope of an idea and steer the project in the right direction.

agenda for a discovery workshop
  1. Introductions (Workshop intro, attendee intro) – 15 min
  2. Design process overview (Walkthrough the design process steps, milestone and desirable outcome for each) – 15 min
  3. Stakeholder interview (About the Client, Business Goals & Objectives)- 45 min
  4. Assumption mapping (Mapping how desirable, viable and feasible is the product)- 45 min
  5. Coffee break- 15 min
  6. Who are our users – 45 min
  7. What are your users goals (Get everyone to know the users better) – 30 min
  8. Personas – 45 min
  9. Lunch – 60 min
  10. Brain dump exercise (Great way to generate a lot of ideas)- 60 min
  11. Voting – 15 min
  12. Discuss the results – 15 min
  13. Coffee break – 15 min
  14. User journey mapping (Will help generate feature ideas)- 90 min
  15. Coffee break- 15 min
  16. Present journey – 30 min
  17. Final review – 60 min
  18. Coffee break- 15 min
  19. Feature prioritization – 90 min
  20. Coffee break – 15 min
  21. Define MVP – 90 min
discovery workshop for digital product

Even if a discovery workshop may seem like an added expense on the project’s budget, it is completely worth it. Having a discovery workshop at the beginning of the product will minimize the risk of building the wrong thing, will help everyone involved to understand who the users are and how the product will improve their lives and it will lead to defining clear, realistic goals for the product. Once you got through this stage, you can then move on to building an MVP and test the assumptions and insights gathered in this initial stage of the process. 

NFT rebeldot

What’s an NFT? A jargon-free guide to answer your questions about NFTs.

If you are still struggling to understand how the blockchain operates and what it isthen you’re probably not so sure about what an NFT is either.  

I mean it’s totally cool if you’re trying to learn these concepts just so you can be relevant too in the mainstream conversation, but besides being looked at as a tech guru, there are a couple of other advantages of knowing your way around NFTs. 👀

In this article we will discuss the advantages of having more than a basic idea of how an NFT works, by addressing the following questions: 

  1. What is an NFT? 
  2. What is Blockchain and how does it relate to NFTs?

    3. Why would anyone create an NFT?

    4. What makes NFTs unique?

    5. Can you make a copy of an NFT?

    6. Owning an NFT – weird flex or not?

    7. What NFT marketplaces are out there?

    8. Can anyone make NFTs?

    9. How to create an NFT?

    10. How to ride the NFT wave? 

What is an NFT? 🤔

NFT stands for non-fungible token, which is a unique digital asset that you cannot replace, much like an original Degas or Picasso. Or a rare baseballor even Pokemon card. You got the idea.  

Technically, it represents a unit of data that can only exist online. It comes with a proof of ownership stamped on the blockchain, which functions as a digital ledger, hence making it unique. Formally, an NFT is a kind of contract, smart contract in this case, that is put together via open-source code, using blockchain technology.  

Although much of the current excitement is targeted towards cryptoart, it is safe to say that NFTs can really be anything digital. 

But to make sense of this, let’s first circle back a bit and understand: 

What is Blockchain how does it relate to NFTs? 

Blockchain is a decentralized public network, an open market that does not comply to any governmental or private entity power, where both people and institutions can store and securely transfer information and currency in seconds.  

An NFT is a unique token living on a blockchain. It can take many forms beyond simply images, video or other visual formats, but, in its essence, it is a container of authentic information. That information which the NFT stores is what makes it so unique.  

Because they live on a blockchain, usually Ethereum, NFTs are easy to track. This tracking allows for verification of their authenticity as well as their history and owners.  

Why would anyone create an NFT? 

It all started back in 2017 when the team at Larva Labs released the first ever NFT and ERC-721 smart contract consisting of 10.000 images of CryptoPunks. Back then, each of these unique digital artworks could be purchased for as little as a few Ethereum pennies, as TechCrunch mentions. 

Shortly after the launch, all these 10.000 unique characters were claimed by various crypto enthusiasts which today probably don’t regret that decision. Their value can go up to 7.5 million each. 

Since the end of February of this year, the NFT market has seen explosive growth as a lot of artists are pivoting their work to the crypto environment 

An acquisition that you probably have heard of, spiking mainstream interest in NFTs was Beeple’s work which auctioned for no less than 69$ million to position him “among the top three most valuable living artists,”.  Sports organizations have jumped on the bandwagon too, a good example being the NFT-based NBA Top Shots platform which surpassed the $230 million mark in sales. 

 

Artists are also heavily adopting NFTs as it allows them to reach thousands of consumers worldwide directly to whom they can sell their craft in an authentic digital form. By-passing middle parties like auction houses or galleries means that artists get to keep a larger percentage of the profits from a sale.  

To put this into further context, think about the free aspect of the internet and social media. – It democratizes access to an endless stream of art but decreases the value of the content out there.  

This means that whatever type of art you’re putting your time into, as soon as you will put it on the internet will most likely be drastically depreciated in financial value, since people can download your work.  

Having this scenario in mind, it quickly makes sense why more scarcity could be indeed helpful. That’s what creating an NFT would imply. Scarcity on something that, up until now, could be found in abundance.  

Art enthusiasts will be willing to pay much more to have a particular connection to a piece of art or music, while the file will remain completely free and available. In that way, as Elinor Ostrom, a Nobel Prize-winning economist put it, “you kind of achieve the dream of the open internet, while also ensuring compensation for the producers. 

However, there’s a flipside to that. While some artists can create an NFT with $100 dollars and then sell it for $10.000, for example, some other artists, if not most of them, are actually losing money, because, although they forge a scarce item, there is no demand for it. Not that the quality of the work is superficial, but because that specific artist does not have a personal brand already established, is probably lacking some good PR, some rich friends or God knows what else he’s missing out on.  

What makes NFTs unique? 

As a digital token, an NFT is a type of cryptocurrency, much like Bitcoin or Ethereum. But unlike those two or any other coin existing on the blockchain, an NFT is unique and can’t be exchanged (hence the term, non-fungible). 

Yes, just another fancy jargon type of word, but really not that strange as it sounds. Investopedia does a great job at explaining this term, saying that fungibility of a good implies its ability to be exchanged with other goods of the same value. 

As a cryptographic asset on the blockchain, an NFT file stores extra information, which is why it is not just pure currency and can be pretty much anything, really.  

To put it into contextNFTs are like any other physical collector’s item, but instead of having a picture to hang on your wall or a miniature statue to display it in your fancy furniture, you get a digital piece of art to add to your digital gallery 

Can you make a copy of an NFT?  

As part of the Ethereum blockchain, NFTs are individual tokens containing extra information stored in them. That extra information is what makes these tokens take the form of crypto art like music, video, graphic design, in formats like JPGs MP3s, GIFs and many more. Because they hold value, they can be bought and sold just like other types of art – and, like with physical art, the value is largely set by the market and by demand.  

Now here is where it gets a bit tricky.. 

Much as in the case of an original art print which often gets a lot of copies made, bought and sold, an NFT does not have only one digital version available in the marketplace. You will find copies of that seemingly unique NFT available on the blockchain, although they won’t hold the same value as the original. 

Owning an NFT – weird flex or not?  

There’s a common desire amongst people to own scare objects and develop an online portfolio to reflect personality traits, much like wearing certain clothes and owning certain objects. 

Besides, amost people associate it to cryptocurrency, they tend to assume that owning an NFT has tremendous financial potentialYou definitely don’t want to miss out on this, man.. 

Now that’s not necessarily wrong, but in order to actually make a profit out of an NFT, you either have to invest heavily, catch a fortunate timing and still invest heavily, or do some crazy stuff to skyrocket your personal brand overnight and make Banksy’s NFT look like a bargain.  

I know some of y’all may be thinking “But that Beeple guy who no one knew anything about made 69$ million and I can’t?”  

Uhmm..you probably can.. If you are at least as consistent as that guy, because, guess what? He’s been publishing a new digital artwork for the past 14 years eve-ry-day.  

Let that sink in. 

However, talking about value, you should know that there’s a difference between financial and hedonic value. 

Not everyone is buying NFT’s just to flex their cryptocurrency wallet or benefit from reselling art like sneakers. Some are simply fans, people who genuinely support an artist, people who purchase such digital tokens to have a sort of intimate bond with the creator.  

What NFT marketplaces are out there? 

Obviously, as the popularity of NFTs is soaring, you can also expect the same upward trend in the case of the NFT marketplaces. This means that you can sell & purchase NFTs off a variety of platforms, but it really depends on the specific kind of token you got in mind, as not all marketplaces buy and sell all types of NFT.  

No matter if you’re looking to buy or sell an NFT, you should know that different marketplaces support different NFT token standards. Until not long ago, most NFTs used to be part of the Ethereum blockchain as Ethereum has released two standards, specifically ERC-721 and ERC-1155. In time, though, other blockchains have started to emerge, facilitating NFTs, one example being Binance, which has also released two standards, BEP-721 and BEP-1155.  

With that being said, here are some of the most popular NFT marketplaces: 

  • OpenSea – Offering a wide range of NFTs such as art, domain names, virtual worlds, trading cards, sports, collectibles and many more, OpenSea wants to live up to its promise of being the largest and most democratized NFT marketplace in the world, hence the name. To some creators, it might seem a bit more accessible, as anyone can mint essentially anything for free and have the cost of creating an NFT processed only after the token is purchased. Not so bad, right? On top of that, it features pieces from many other marketplaces, such as the ones featured below, as well as a bunch of cryptocurrencies besides ETH, like DAI, WHALE, or RARI.   
OpenSea NFT Marketplace

SuperRare – marketplace that specializes on selling unique, single-edition digital artworks. Besides positioning itself as an exclusive platform where some of the highest worth transactions are being made, SuperRare is also the pioneer of an eco-system that connects artists with collectorshaving a social network component built on top of the marketplace. Due to its exclusive nature, it is fairly difficult to be accepted as an artist and also have your bid processed for a certain NFT. The platform operates with Ethereum’s network, so you’ll need to fund your account with ETH coins to make your purchase. 

SuperRare NFT Marketplace

Rarible – One of the most popular marketplaces to emerge in 2020. It is particularly useful for creators, as the minting process does not imply a lengthy process or any off-putting requirementsBecause of that, buyers are provided with a larger variety of tokens they could choose from. Besides, as opposed to super rare which rather focuses on single edition NFTs, on Rarible the tokens appear to be listed in multiple editions. It is a community-owned marketplace with a native coin called RARI, which is yet to be commonly used, as most of the transactions are still done through ETH.  

Rarible NFT Marketplace

Once you decide which platform you will be using to purchase your NFT, you’ll need a wallet specific to that platform and you’ll need to fill that wallet with cryptocurrency. 

It is also worth mentioning that these crypto marketplaces all do share some similarities to Ebay, in the sense that people can either place bids for your NFT or directly buy it. Usually, NFTs with limited quantities are typically auctioned off and then resold. On the other side, other NFTs can just have set prices, being available for direct purchase. 

Can anyone make an NFT? 

Technically, yes.  

Anyone can create work, turn it into an NFT on the Blockchain and put it up for sale on a marketplace of choice. You can even attach a commission to the file, which you will receive every time someone buys the piece – including resales.  

Contrary to what you may believe, creating your own NFT does not imply any extensive knowledge of the crypto industry as it is rather a straightforward and intuitive process, especially with a lot of NFT marketplaces emerging to lure artists of all kinds.  

But because it couldn’t just be simple all the way through, someone had to come up with a fancy verb for creating NFTs – minting 

Minting refers to the process of turning your digital token, no matter if it’s a GIF or a controversial tweet, as part of the Ethereum blockchain – a public ledger, specifically a record-keeping system that maintains participants’ identities in secure and anonymous form. 

To put it briefly, think of it as the digital equivalent of minting metal coins prior to adding them into circulation. The same happens with your artwork, so that you can sell it or trade, but most importantly, track it digitally as it is highly likely that your NFT will be resold or collected again in the future.  

But how do you mint an NFT exactly? 

You will first have to decide whether you want to issue your NFT on the Ethereum Blockchain, or other less popular blockchains like Binance Smart Chain, Flow by Dapper Labs, Tron and many more which are starting to gain traction.  

Let’s take the Ethereum blockchain, for example, since it has the largest NFT ecosystem.  

In order to mint your own NFT on the Ethereum blockchain, you’ll need an Ethereum wallet that supports ERC-721, or any of the Ethereum-based NFT standards (as discussed above) and, of course, some budget, ideally between $50 to $100 in ether (ETH). 

Once you have these, just look for an NFT-centric platforms that allows you to connect your wallet and upload your chosen image or file that you want to turn into an NFT. 

Told you it’s way easier than it sounds. 😉  

Developing an NFT Marketplace 

Now we have discussed about creating, selling, buying and reselling NFTs, which are all valid means of making profit. Still, there is one more that people seem to neglect, for some reason. 

At RebelDot we are already working on a bunch of NFT digital products. Lately, we’ve been constantly contacted by startup founders looking to build NFT marketplaces. 

It seems to us that more and more techies are sizing a profitable opportunity here, looking for technical partners to support their ideas from paper-sketched wireframes and all the way to fully functional products.  

You can hop on our blog to read more about the crypto art marketplace projects that we’ve been working on. 

 

Is this a long-term thing or just a bubble? 

While many rush to conclude that this is just another bubble that has already started bursting, I tend to share philosopher’s Naval Ravikant opinion who claims that, although NFT art is where the current mainstream focus is, this new technology will ultimately authenticate the entire world, as public blockchains will be the title registries for everything of value.  

Also, you might want to keep in mind that, (as it is usually the case with bubbles), the ones who will eventually benefit the most from the NFT hype won’t be the people who speculate, but rather the companies that will offer people the opportunity and the platform to speculate.  

As James Surowiecki perfectly put it in his popular NFT article, “You can make money being a gambler. But in the long run, it’s much safer to be the house.” 

via negativa wellbeing

Via negativa – a bold approach to wellbeing.

Via negativa – a relatively new concept that Cristina, one of our QA Engineers and a psychology aficionado will present in this article, aiming to provide you with a practical means of decluttering your daily routine to live a much more fulfilling life.

Who wouldn’t want their life to be better? 😌

Specifically, who wouldn’t want that something that would make their life better? Be it a better romantic relationship, a higher salary, or a fitter body. A quick glance at the plain Google search containing How to make life better yields more than 7 billion results.

Venturing even deeper into peer review research, keywords like improve well-being entered Springer Link Academic Journal, outputs around 6000 results. It seems that so much time and effort invested in researching, blogging, and creating podcasts, might indicate a prevalent problem.

Indeed, according to WHO, mental health and other behavioral problems are the primary drivers of disability worldwide. Apart from socioeconomic variables, genetic influence, and environmental factors, are we taking the wrong path towards this issue?

A more recent approach, commonly known by being associate with famous Black Swan author, Nassim Taleb is the via negativa approach.

Instead of focusing on the positive, why not focus on the negative? Specifically, on cutting out the negative? This approach that centers on what not to do rather than on what to do is called via negativa or the upside-down approach.

Originally born out of a theological approach, via negativa can take many forms. The core of this life philosophy is to focus on what to eliminate from your life in order to make room for whatever positive you want to add.

If I want good, why can’t I simply do good? 🤔

Deciding to decrease negativity or to increase the positive are two completely different approaches.

The first one deals with cleaning the internal or external environment. It’s like you try to cure a pulsating wound by cleaning it daily.

You don’t go to the doctor to apply skin grafts on a pulsating wound, do you?

Why won’t you?

Because by doing so, increasing the positive first approach, you will experience a failure in the end. Skin grafts applied on infected wounds don’t make wounds healthy. On the contrary, they get infected from the wounds. What you lose is not just the time you’d have to wait for the wound to heal. You increase the healing time and you lose some healthy skin grafts.

There are some reasons in favor of us accepting the negativity in our life and focusing on dealing with it, instead of cluttering it with another 21 ways to be happy in the next 2 hours.

Bad is stronger than good.

Humans are more attuned to negativity than being drawn to the positive. In a comprehensive article, Baumeister gathered evidence from multiple research areas. All data pointed to what might seem, at a first glance, a pessimistic worldview – we are so affected by negative factors: declining health, poverty, traumatic relationships. In this case, simply increasing positive behavior will have little to no significant effect on out well-being.

Losses weight more than gains. 💡

According to Kahneman, losses loom larger than gains. In some heavily replied experiments, people made irrational decisions when having to choose between scenarios framed either as losses or as gains. The authors’ conclusions pointed out the so long neglected flaws in human decision making – that of deciding based on the rational actor hypothesis.

People don’t just compare and weight anticipated outcomes and make a data-based informed decision. They actually decide through the lens of losses, a fact that might ruin investigations and marriages, and, generally, one’s future well-being. We are prone to acting out our cognitive biases.

Willpower is expensive and limited.

Research shows that willpower is easily depleted and, generally, not the best candidate for attaining long-term goals. Just an energy-consuming mental task makes us more prone to saying (and justifying the decision) yes to unhealthy temptations.

Yes, this vanishes all the pop psychology suggestions that romanticize the hero who manages to never eat the chocolate cake when everyone else gives in. But if willpower is not our trustworthy friend when it comes to getting rid of negative habits, then we should find other reliable solutions.

Via Negativa in practice

Via negativa solutions in practice. ✅

Behavioral activation exercise with a twist.

Behavioral checklist – select the activities that involve mastery and pleasure at a certain cutoff point. Based on behavioral activation theory, it involves introducing behavior to increase positive mood.

Distancing from clinical context, the exercise can have other purposes: discarding redundant, or low-quality activities. These are not necessarily pleasurable activities or activities that don’t have immediate, measurable outputs. The goal of this exercise can be to improve performance or mood by getting rid of the cluttered elements in your life.

If combined with the upside-down approach, one could easily add a twist to the logic behind the original behavioral activation exercise.

In this case, the steps are:

  1. Make a list containing all your day-to-day activities.

2. Start by extracting the activities that have the lowest level of mastery and/or pleasure.

3. Set a cutoff point (e.g:. discard all activities with mastery less than 7)

4. Set a limit of activities (e.g:. no more than 3)

5. Plan when to perform the activity in a specific manner (day, hour)

6. Plan which activity you’ll replace (e.g.: discard an activity with 5 mastery level and replace it with an activity with 7 mastery level)

Don’t refrain, control the environment. ⏱️

Successful interventions designed to decrease addictive behaviors have some key aspects in common. One of them is stimulus control. Originally introduced by B.F. Skinner, stimulus control captures the relation between behavior and a specific stimulus.

Applied to via negativa framework, stimulus control might take the form of choice architecture. This translates into simply cutting out the temptations or, making them hard to access.

Instead of focusing on bringing more detox smoothies or hard-to-pronounce purifying elixirs to your diet, start first by cutting out the junk in it.

An important key point is to always have a corresponding behavior to replace the unhealthy one. The upside-down technique can be used here to narrow down to a list that contains the most efficient foods that can substitute your unhealthy ones. Variety is not to be decreased with this approach. Rather, you can use the list to have a solid starting point for healthy replacements.

In this case, the steps could be:

  1. Make a list with the foods you want to cut out/remove from your diet

2. Remove them from your house/ Find ways to delay buying them

3. Make a list with the top foods you will use to replace the unhealthy ones

4. Make sure to have those healthy foods accessible

Conclusions. 🚀

The via negativa approach is a bold one.

It’s not comfortable to digest at first. But its function is not to decrease positive outcomes. Rather, the purpose is to filter to the core, which is to learn, to think critically about your choices.

As much as we’d like to feel good about ourselves, not all choices are the same, not all foods are the best, not all opinions have the same level of efficiency with respect to specific things. We are highly susceptible to cognitive biases, especially in a noisy environment full of too many options.

Using via negativa, you learn to filter everything based on a specific objective, in a specific context. It is an empirical approach almost rooted in a scientific mindset. Its purpose is to make room for positive emotions, relationships, decisions.

You can read more about Cristina’s transition from working as a clinical psychologist to becoming an integral part of our development team in the latest Rebel Tech Story.

CTO as a Service RebelDot

CTO as a Service (CaaS) – Finding the right team to build your digital product.

Most of the articles about CTO as a Service will focus on telling you that this is a low-cost alternative to hiring a full-time CTO as part of your company.

While this is often not the case, externalizing services to build new digital products can indeed be more cost-effective. However, there are far more important advantages of hiring an external CTO, aspects that go beyond price.

We will discuss these aspects further to help you wrap your head around this new fancy term, and understand the benefits of partnering with development agencies when it comes to making big decisions about your products and overall company’s growth.

For that, we are going to answer the following questions:

  1. What is CTO as a Service?
  2. What is the difference between a full-time CTO and CaaS?
  3. Why should startups consider referring to a CTO as a Service?
  4. What qualities should you look for in a consulting CTO?
  5. Choosing RebelDot as your CTO as a Service.

Context

As a startup founder, you want to collaborate with teams that believe in your product as much as you do and consider it as their own.

While this might be the case when you have an already established and consistent in-house team, we’re seeing a whole lot of tech, specifically early-stage startup founders looking towards web and mobile development companies that can cover the entire lifecycle of their digital product.

Now, there are some who are skeptical towards these collaborations, arguing that, unlike an in-house team, an external development agency won’t have the same level of implication, because it is not their own product that they are working on.

Still, it is safe to say that, within the current context where remote working is becoming a common thing, these concerned founders realize what they have been missing out on –

Commitment can flourish regardless of geographical borders and hiring cohesive and experimented teams can do much more to a company’s growth than a single leader could achieve.

What is CaaS?

CaaS stands for “CTO as a service” which is a 3rd party consultant or company whose responsibilities are very much the same as those of a traditional full-time CTO.

With profound experience in scaling businesses and managing the technical aspects of a company, most consulting CTOs will bring you onboard their own individual experience, together with a team have previously collaborated with both startups as well as mature firms.

We know, it might look like another acronym emerged in the context of cloud computing to get your head spinning, but it is really not that complicated. At its simplest form, CTO as a Service represents a rebrand of the collaboration between a custom software development company and its clients.

The term is still relatively new to the market, but it’s gaining more traction by day as both startups and enterprises realize they can hire expert teams to lead technology implementation, create and manage in-house teams, and support strategic decision-making within their companies.

CTO team

What is the difference between a full-time CTO and CaaS?

A CTO as a Service is not much different from a permanent CTO when it comes to the responsibilities it holds within the organization.

Overall, both have to offer support throughout the end-to-end software development process and other tech-related queries by creating the software architecture, articulating a well-defined strategy and a budget to activate it, suggesting the right tech stack for your project, streamlining the workflow through automation where possible and ensuring top quality standards.

Though similar in terms of responsibilities, an important differentiator when hiring an external CTO is the team it brings and specifically the combined seniority of each member and overall versatility of the entire group.

You basically get to collaborate with a synergic group of experts that have worked before on many digital products ranging from different industries, which makes their collective knowledge an asset to any startup.

Why should startups consider the CTO as a Service model?

As it is often the case for most early-stage startups, teams are rather limited to a small number of members. That’s why we believe that their founders can benefit greatly from collaborating with external homogeneous teams to guide their product development process from idea stage and all the way to market launch.

In our experience, we’ve seen founders who disregard any collaborations in the initial stages of their business. This is a common misconception that costs startups a lot of money that be otherwise invested wisely.

Specifically, we are talking about the Research and MVP development stage, basically, the most important aspects that lead to product-market fit.

Thus, the CTO as a Service model implies that you will work with an Agile team that is already used to collaborating and has countless years of experience in launching, scaling and even pivoting web and mobile products.

This team will support you in addressing tech-related situations while aiming to achieve business performance growth by eliminating unnecessary risks and ensuring the budget is spent efficiently.

Overseeing the latest trends in the industry, just like a full time CTO, a consulting CTO will also guide your company towards staying relevant and constantly delivering value to its customers.

Now in terms of cost, you will find that, unlike hiring a single professional, CTO as a Service might seem more expensive. The reason being launching a collaboration with an entire team of developers, QA engineers, and designers led by a technical & business-minded engineer.

However, in the long run, this will only prove to be a cost-effective decision when looking at the output that such team can bring to your product development in terms of quality and resources spent.

CTO as a Service startup

What qualities should you look for in a consulting CTO?

  1. A solid technical background. Having technical expertise and a track record of working with various technologies will support your collaborating CTO team in understanding and dealing with complex technical challenges that your company might face. The entire team should be in loop with the latest tech trends and be able to choose the stack that fits best for your and your clients’ goals. This will bring added value to the projects you are developing, as well as provide a differentiating factor against the competitors.
  2. Experience working for a similar company. Depending on the size of the company, as well as the industry that you’re activating in, the responsibilities of most CTO teams will vary.
  3. Proven experience in communicating with and managing multiple parties. Being primarily responsible for the development process, your technical partners will also serve as a link between other 3rd party collaborators, as well as your own in-house teams, engineers, executives, investors, or clients. Hence, your designated collaborator will need to attract, engage, and persuade a wide variety of people, which is why outstanding social skills are fundamental.
  4. Leadership traits. As an integral part of a leadership team, the CTO will actively engage in building and maintaining a healthy corporate culture. The same applies for an external CTO team. They might not share the same experiences as you do within your company, but they surely can positively influence your teams, inspire them to achieve business goals and work together to achieve your company’s mission.
  5. Strategic thinking. By nature, CTOs are preoccupied with envisioning the big picture, not just the output of the development teams. That’s why you should make sure that your future partner can also display a business understanding and is able to zoom out when needed and assess how each small effort is a step forward towards completing the wider picture of your company.

Choosing RebelDot as your CTO as a Service.

RebelDot is a digital product company, helping businesses accelerate their process towards digitalization and innovation.

With over a decade of experience in building products for over 50 companies in multiple industries, we come with proven experience in building web and mobile apps from the idea phase to a thriving digital product.

At RebelDot, we collaborate with founders from over 15 industries, leveraging our expertise to lead the technical component of all our clients’ projects.

Overseeing the development process from start to end, our teams are actively involved in building fully working web and mobile products, as well as establishing strategies to scale these products and grow companies in the long term.

As a tech service provider, RebelDot can provide:

  1. Business analysis & Technology Consultancy
  2. UX & UI Design
  3. Discovery
  4. Full Product Development
  5. Blockchain Development
  6. Digital Product Testing & Quality Assurance
  7. Digital Product Launch and Maintenance
RebelDot team

Conclusion.

CTO as a Service might be a novel concept to most readers. Still, it is one that started to get quite a lot of traction lately, as an increasing number of companies are adopting a work-from-home approach, looking for remote partners to support their growth.

Many startups are considering launching a collaboration with a cohesive and experienced CTO team, aiming to increase return on investment, reduce the amount of risk involved in their business and build digital products that the users enjoy using. 

If you haven’t thought about getting on board a technical partner, this seems to be the right time. In the end, a well-researched software development partner can be a powerful asset to your business goals. 

We hope you now got a good overview of what it means to collaborate with CTO teams — the Agile way.

Ready to bring your digital product idea to life? 🚀 Get in touch and let’s explore your product idea together!

Emilia Zagrian designer

Rebel tech stories: How problem-solving can shape your identity.

We are challenged to find solutions from trivialities to deep issues. What breakfast we choose in the morning, how we tackle a difficult task, fix an argument, even write a poem. Where’s the need for effort, there’s problem-solving. Some of us get nervous, while others already have a system that helps them thrive through agitating times.

Decision-making isn’t easy, but it is required for progress. And grit is the invisible ingredient for long-term changes.

If we think about the approach of problem-solving, we can mention design thinking, which is mainly a mindset that works by looking at the fundamental downsides of a problem and try to solve them.

There are other techniques like the six thinking hats, the 5 whys, or the design sprint.

What I’m interested in is not to emphasize the success of a specific method, but to share the potential of time and effort invested into ideas, with concrete examples about how commitment can improve not only your results, but yourself too.

The baseline is that if you prioritize greatness, it will eventually choose you.

Commitment by Ghani Pradita

If you have a vision, set an intention

I’ve always been a dreamer, even the Adobe Creative Type quiz I’ve taken – developed in partnership with Anyways Creative and Caroline Gregoire – confirmed it. 

I’m deeply rooted in emotions and imagination. However, I didn’t identify it as a flaw. Dreaming created space for new possibilities and the only thing that it could hurt is my imagination.

The deeper I dove into it, the more opportunities I’ve started to see in the real world.

It fueled me.

As a creative, this trait is of massive importance. Anytime I have an assignment that requires problem-solving, I go through the brief repeatedly and extensively until the vision of the product is formed.

I start to create scenarios of it being used and tested, but of course, I come to a solid result only by trial and error. I see myself succeeding.

Why having an intention in your work is important?

Since I am a visual person and this greatly influences my daily work, it is crucial to see my goals before I take action.

Ideas need to be sheltered and nourished to take place. You don’t have to be a visionary to attempt accomplishing a goal.

Having that WHY in your process makes you more likely to plan for success. Try creating a vision board, or doodle a better version of yourself, or simply imagine where you see yourself 5 years from now.

Commit to the practice and work deliberately

I have a mantra that helped me survive my creative jobs over the years and persist in my practice:

Surrender to your craft.

You see, whatever job I had, I always looked at it in the grand scheme of things and didn’t think of it as just another service that I provide to a company.

I wasn’t defined by my job title and its requirements but by my creative pursuit.

What does the mantra mean? I’m not trying to infuse you with bukowskian knowledge and suggest you should let your work consume you in a self-destructive manner. I think in today’s framework, a more mindful approach is required for success.

What I mean by this is that you should enter the process from a humble place and be open to change.

Say you think you can be more productive, but you don’t have a clear structure for making this a sustainable practice.

So how can you get into a routine and be persistent?

Firstly, you need to choose a specific goal, in this case, be a better designer and invest 100 % focus into making it happen. Then you have to be open to receiving feedback to update your process.

The core of the deliberate practice is doing iterations on the idea and get feedback.

Expect to fail and fail again. Will you see it as an opportunity to get better, or will you drop it?

The motivation you have determines the amount of effort you are willing to put into it, which can greatly influence your achievement.

Maybe tackle the exciting part first.

Commitment by Ghani Pradita

Choose to work efficiently, but learn to love the process

Productivity basically aims for getting more done in a set period of time.

It can be difficult to grasp, especially for creative people. We don’t like pressure, and deadlines often seem like a bold demand. We simply do not operate in the same way, and some of us need to fit in the box, even if the box has space for more.

You cannot rush things to greatness all the time.

Sometimes your process is slow, but when the chance occurs, try to do your best. When is this important?

This is especially important if your lifestyle requires great responsibility or if you are ahead in your career and you need to manage several tasks with different priority levels. Being more productive doesn’t look the same for everyone, but it comes down to having good habits and a work ethic.

You might wonder where’s the spark in that.

Do I need to get comfortable with discomfort? Every day? Yes. But there are good parts to this too and you can make the process more enjoyable.

Take advantage of the zest of beginnings – when you are truly excited to meet your goal – and optimize for that: getting started.

Could you translate that into a long-term practice?

Start by creating a productive framework that works for you. If you have flexibility in your program, that’s amazing. Cleaning up your desk might be an old school advice, but it works every time you need to clear your head. Little adjustments might go a long way. You probably know this by now, but the chances to commit to it are greater if you love the process.

If you would ask me how my ideal productive workday looks like, I would definitely say diving deep into my tasks without interruptions. This is how I extract the most benefits from the hours I put in and how I access a flow state that keeps me engaged and enchanted. But I will tackle more details about this in the next section or the article.

Grit Angela Duckworth

How grit looks like in my practice

My mom is the grittiest person I know. She is an example of perseverance, especially when things fall apart. In her 40 years of work, she never called in sick or missed a day. Before she went to bed, she made sure she did her best, and if something wasn’t fixed yet, she didn’t wait but took care of it.

She has a strong influence on me and never forced me into doing something I dislike. When I got tired of pursuing without a reward, she reminded me of my journey, and I managed to see the bigger picture.

It was the support I needed in order to get back on my feet. Soon enough, I was able to get gritty again.

Analyzing the premise, but get savvy on its details. Have a holistic approach, but polish the result. Angela Duckworth, an American psychologist and a popular science author, wrote in the book Grit that sustained effort for long-term goals is what makes people successful.

What about talent?

It turns out it is the rate at which you increase at something while that effort is being invested.

Why working hard and long enough is the way to support your dreams?

Think about it. If you were just to work hard but give up when the results cease to show, this means you would sabotage your own efforts.

On the other hand, doing it without a vision doesn’t ensure success.

I want to take you into my process so you can see my approach to problem-solving through grit.

A few months ago, I had a visual project for a freelance job – I had to design a whale symbol. As soon as I got a grip on the brief, I didn’t jump to sketching immediately, but instead I’ve done extensive research on whales first, documenting real-life shots, videos, illustrations and other stylizations.

I studied them, then offered my own input on the subject and eventually ended up with 18 variations.

I think passion for the craft made it easier for me to put in the work. Think about it. What are you passionate about, and what is it that you really want to make happen?

Try to implement habits that cultivate grit into your life, whether it is working out, improving your lifestyle or generally bettering yourself.

See the value in transformation

You probably have people in your life who have visibly changed in the past years. Maybe you are familiar with their journey, or you’ve just recently stumbled upon them and you were amazed. You’ve asked yourself: how did they do it?

Change is alchemy. And when the output is positive, we like it and want to keep it.

There is interest in the self-development field because people see the value of self-care, self actualization and even the way this can be translated into bringing a positive influence in the company you work for.

Concepts like kaizen, atomic habits, and the compound interest effect might sound familiar to you. They all contain an incremental approach to goal achievement.

Flattery doesn’t usually last, but what sticks is intention and commitment to progress. This has much to do with having a growth mindset – the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, but it can change with your efforts.

In his book, Atomic habits, James Clear depicts four habit formation stages: noticing, wanting, doing and liking. He also writes that if you believe something new about yourself, you create Possibility. The effort you invest in improving a habit or learning something new requires traits like perseverance, resilience, patience and consistency. Once these are developed, they exercit in other aspects of your life as well.

Don’t underestimate the power of investment.

Remember that the value of hard work and developing healthy habits can create internal change and a new identity.

Self Portrait by Conner Perry

The evidence of intentionality and consistency in product design

A well-designed product contains a core vision that translates into its behaviors and processes. You can see it in great aesthetics or the value proposition.

It takes a mindful approach on the reason why the product should exist in the first place and how it can perform in a satisfying way for the user. It goes through a cycle of continuous improvement. In the end, we all desire simpler, better, and high-performing objects. Dieter Rams says design is through down to the last detail.

These are a couple of some well-known and established companies that, through their products, ask essential questions on how they can sustain and improve their users’ experience and impact their lives.

What they all have in common is the value they deliver and the desire for continuous improvement.

Belo AirBnb

Airbnb

I’ve recently listened to an episode of the Design Better Podcast, specifically Designing for trust, where Brian Chesky, the co-founder and CEO of Airbnb talks about designing in the pandemic context and the power of having a clear company mission that all can align to. Airbnb’s mission is one of inclusiveness and authenticity. It aspires to create a landscape where anyone can feel at home in an accommodation, be satisfied with the experience and grasp a sense of belonging. You are an insider and you should be accepted.

This translates not only to their mission statement, but their values, branding and customer experience too.

The Bélo is the company logo and a symbol for people, places, love and the A letter.

Google

Google is one of the most innovative companies, oriented around internal process and product innovation. Their culture encourages play and creativity, as well as continuous improvement as breakneck speed.

The backbone of Google’s continuous improvement system is the OKR approach (Objectives and Key Results), which aligns the organization behind a common vision and measures of success. This system gets every employee to commit to a set of measurable improvement objectives that support the organization’s broader mission, which is to organize the
world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Google’s mission and vision are reflected from their website copy to the content on their keynote presentation and product launches.

Apple

While most companies rely on surveys and market research to predict what customers will want in the future, Apple is built around timeless principles, like the need for beauty, truth, high quality, speed, convenience and self-expression.

This embodies the latest hardware and software technology. Apple approaches design in a holistic manner: from product quality to customer experience, market leadership and supply chain integration. A key component in the company’s strategy, which led to a superior product quality reputation, is vertical integration. Apple has great control over the entire supply chain, from components, manufacturing, distribution, software development and retail

Conclusion

Hopefully now you feel more motivated to get nitty-gritty. It doesn’t require much introspection to see the changing potential in every experience and an underlying lesson for you to learn.

Problem-solving is a muscle that needs regular training. It teaches us how to get better at identifying what needs to improve and how to choose the best strategies in order to accomplish our goals.

It supports our vision, develops grit, generates flow and results. It is definitely an essential skill to have and the better we get at it, the faster we grow and the more value we bring to every aspect of our life.

If you enjoyed reading Emilia’s personal story, check Cristina’s latest article, where she presents her journey as a QA Engineer, from starting out as a therapist to building web and mobile apps. 

clubhouse for startup founders

Here’s what tech startup founders can learn from Clubhouse, the invite-only drop-in audio chat app.

Since you landed on this article, I’ll go ahead and assume you are already an avid user of this new, invite-only drop-in audio chat, or you’ve heard of this platform and might be curious to know its whereabouts and the lessons it can teach early startup founders.


If you’ve had enough of social media and exacerbating your FOMO with yet another platform with content you are missing out on is not on your priority list, we get it. No judgment here.

I’ll keep this short, but grab a cup of [your favorite drink] to keep you warm while scrolling through this.

What is Clubhouse? 🤔

So Clubhouse is a free, audio-only social media app where people can meet and discuss anything in organized “rooms” that are typically moderated by one, two, or a group of people.

Imagine being on a semi-public Teams or Zoom call in which all cameras are turned off, and you are struggling to keep track of who and when is talking. (I honestly hope Clubhouse is working on making speakers appear a little bit more in our faces, so it’s easier to track down who is saying what.) I keep pulling my spectacles whenever someone’s saying something interesting in a room.

I have been using Clubhouse for a month now and joined a few talks on Startups, Tech, Investing, and, of course, Bitcoin. Although there are a few chats here and there on how this platform is going to maybe replace on-demand audio content like podcasts, I think it still has a long way to go.

People are startled at the ramp-up this platform received in the past weeks, but with the support of some of the biggest Silicon Valley names, and a powerful influx of influencers and bitcoin peddlers around the world (Elon Musk I am pointing at you), this (at least temporary — who knows?) boom has been inevitable.

Where can you get a Clubhouse invite from?

Although this is not the point of the article, I’ll tell you the app is iOS only (at least for now), and invite-only. If you have friends that might already be on Clubhouse, don’t shy away from asking for your own Clubhouse invite.

I tried buying my own Clubhouse invite in its earlier days (desperate marketer, I know) and would not recommend it. At this point, there are over 10.1 million registered users. If you can’t find one to invite you, DM me and we’ll sort it out.

Getting to the point.

Besides being one of the most talked-about social networks of the moment, I found out the story of Clubhouse has a few important lessons to teach tech founders and aspiring technology entrepreneurs.

Here we go!

The new app idea is right in front of your eyes. 👀

Officially launched in April 2020, Clubhouse took advantage of the momentum. Looking at the lack of human interactions due to the global pandemic and launched a platform that promised to deliver social interactions at a different scale.

They looked at what the world was facing and came up with a solution to something that was represented as a global pain.

In isolation, people were more prone to trying out new ways of socially getting out of their comfort zone. Et voila, a simple idea that solves a real problem!

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. 🧬

At the core, Clubhouse is a social networking platform. It’s an app concept we have all been accustomed to, but with a twist. Its two founders, Paul Davison and Rohan Seth took what was missing out of our day-to-day scrolling games and pulled out something new.

The morale?

Doing what everyone else is doing might not be that bad of an idea, as long as you have a different take on it.

The proof?

Clubhouse has over 10.1 million registered users, up from 600,000 in December 2020. And yes, it’s another networking platform.

Clubhouse is an invite-only and iOS-only app. 📜

If you have been around us for some time, you know we are huge advocates of small releases and investing as little time as possible before hitting the market with a product.

It’s not because we don’t trust the amazing product feature ideas you have. It’s simply because everything real users can tell you is 10x better than the assumptions you can make about your market. And of all things, Clubhouse got this right.

Everything real users can tell you is 10x better than the assumptions you can make about your market. And of all things, Clubhouse got this right.

Clubhouse is a fairly straightforward app, with limited functionality.

Users can jump in and out of different chats, on different subjects, in something that is pretty similar to a free-flowing podcast. They can simply listen or choose to throw in their thoughts, by raising their hand whenever in a chat. Imagine a cocktail party or clubhouse. Everyone gets a profile, and you can follow the people you want to stay in touch with. There is no typing inside the app, not photos, and no comments. Your voice is your only identity.

Add the fact that the app is invite-only and does not work on the web or Android devices, and, to some founders, this might already look like a disaster scenario.

The scarcity bias. 🤩

People unconsciously assume things that are limited are valuable and things that are abundant are not.

Intended or not, making Clubhouse invite-only made it more popular than it probably would have been if available to the general public.

Something that is scarce will always be more tempting, and you might want to use this for your next launch. As seen for Clubhouse, limiting the number of users in your app not only gives you control over the number of users in your app but creates a bold PR wave around it as well.

Product > Marketing? 💰

Although I don’t feel like contributing to the entire “good product outsmart bad marketing” discussion on the internet, Clubhouse is just another reminder that people respond to products that know how to feed their curiosity and momentum needs.

Their website is probably the most minimal Unicorn website you’ll find, and they do not seem to be bothered by this.

drop in audio chat for startups

So next time you want to invest months in the branding of your next product & website, remember Clubhouse. Or, launch an invite-only platform then have Elon Musk talk about it on Twitter.

The lesson?

Don’t overthink your branding and website design. It’s rarely important to spend months iterating on a website before launching a product.

Dave Gerthard
Dave Gerhardt clubhouse

Although Clubhouse has its own privacy issues, it is living proof that almost everything we are overthinking in product design, is unnecessary.

If you are not yet convinced that tons of features won’t grant the success of your app, allow us to change your mind:

  • Clubhouse is currently valued at $1 billion (up from $100 million in May 2020)
  • Clubhouse has raised over $10 million to date.
  • Over 180 organizations and venture capitalists have invested in Clubhouse to date.
  • With its $1 billion valuations, Clubhouse is now a Unicorn startup, joining the ranks of Uber and Airbnb.
  • Clubhouse is currently ranked #5 in the App Store under the “Social Networking” category.
  • Clubhouse officially launched in April 2020.

Source: Clubhouse Statistics

If you are looking for more startups and products related content, you might like the rest of the posts that we have on our blog.

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13 lessons RebelDot

13 screwups that turned out to be the most valued 13 lessons of my entrepreneurial journey.

At RebelDot, 2020 ended with an online event hosted by Cluj Startups, where I shared some of the most important lessons I learned in my 13 years of doing business in tech.

I know…13, might sound a little bit suspicious for some. Some won’t even open the article because of it. But this article is not for everyone — it’s for the rebels. (if you’re here, I guess you are one).

Cluj Startups is a community focused on tech/IT startups, programs, and events in Cluj-Napoca (and Transylvania). It aims to inform and support the local startup ecosystem, as well as to promote bright initiatives/opportunities for the startups in Transylvania.

In 2020, they started a series of events under the name of Startup House Meetups, inviting founders and business owners to share their experience in growing tech companies.

And that’s why I got invited.

I felt my discussion there brought value to the audience, so I decided to create an article based on it, covering the most valued 13 lessons of my career until today.

1. Be an opportunist. (No, not that kind.)

If you know me, you have, most probably, heard this story before. In 2008 I was a 4th-year student at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca. With both my parents working in the medical field, I was already walking astray from what the normal course of things would have looked like for me.

I had been already been working for two years for Digilent Ro, the subsidiary of an American company in Cluj, Romania. As Romania seemed the suitable place to build tech products, not just because of its competitive advantages of Eastern European prices, but because of the numerous software engineers that were just leaving University, the founders of Imprezzio visited Cluj.

Since the Washington based company decided to open a subsidiary in Cluj, I saw the opportunity and got involved. They soon offered me the Romanian Operations Manager position. My first task was to bring onboard 7 developers in a couple of weeks. I started to hire my university colleagues, running interviews from various restaurants in Cluj. Looking back, it seems like I was the right person at the right time, with the right attitude.

13 years later, some of my university colleagues are still working with me.

I see today’s aspiring entrepreneurs often paralyzed by not being able to identify the right opportunities for them, when, in fact, those opportunities are there — laying in plain sight. Notice the problems around you, and see if there is a way for you to solve them.

Make change your best friend (some of your biggest opportunities will come as a result of change; I once read this:

An entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.

Don’t get this statement wrong. I don’t mean try anything that goes through your mind no matter how stupid it is. Try anything that you believe in and you thought out.

2. Time passing won’t increase your seniority and experience.

True. Although this is more of general career advice than a specific entrepreneurial takeaway, remember that time passing will not increase your seniority, nor your experience.

I have learned that the more you expose yourself to new experiences and tasks inside a company (be it outside your JD), the more you accelerate your personal and professional growth rate.

Today’s companies are actively looking for people that foster an entrepreneurial mindset and understand the wheels that steer a business. Stepping out of your job description for the benefit of the company will help you outnumber years of experience with actual working experience.

The more things you get involved in and more exposed you are, the more prepared you will be for the future.

“I’m not going to do this as it’s not in my job description.” In my opinion, the best line in a job description is “Anything else as needed”, and yes, you should get involved in things that are diverse and which will help you gain more exposure and experience.

3. A company is not a family.

For almost a decade, I preached the sticking similarities I found between families and employees from my company. This analogy is also one that you have most probably stumbled upon during at least one of your interviews.

The first time I started questioning the familial character of a company was the first time I had to let an employee go, based on poor performance.

Years after, I read a Tweet by Adam Grant talking about the concept of family vs community in the company. I must say I agree with him.

A company is not a family.

A company is a community, a place where people feel a sense of belonging and care about one another while working for a common goal. A family-like company is great but can be a blocker when it comes to performance assessing and cost-cutting.

I assume if one of your children does not perform as expected, you are not going to let them go due to low performance, neither value misfit.

I started a chat around this on LinkedIn, and it was interesting to see how people are embracing this.

4. Stop trying. You are not going to please everyone.

As I started my entrepreneurial journey surrounded by colleagues and friends, I always wanted to involve everyone in the decision-making process of our tiny organization. This worked for an eight people company. As soon as we reached 20 people, we couldn’t decide on where to go for our next teambuilding. This is when I realized unanimity decisions are just dreams and that voting is usually not the best mechanism for decision making.

"Give everyone the opportunity to speak up and be heard. Listen, analyze, then decide. Even if there are people who do not agree with a decision, make sure that they commit to it."

Jeff Bezos

5. You need to start letting go.

Although I started out as a software engineer, at some point I had to look at the things I was doing and let go of the things where I was not bringing that much value.

Starting small as an entrepreneur creates a scene in which you get to know, do, and be involved in everything. Before you know it, you are the best micromanager your company has seen, handling sales, finance, culture, development, recruitment… and interior design 😊.

Accepting work that is good but different than you would have done is hard, but you need to do it if you want your team to grow not having its hands and feet tied to yours. Micromanagement will get you into burnout while communicating a lack of trust in your team.

6. Offer the best service you can, and they will come back looking for more!

RebelDot is a company in which 70% of the business is referral driven. Since the beginning, we strived to offer services that give people at least one reason to refer us.

Our biggest client is the result of a small project we did years ago. I remember being on the edge of refusing the project because it was much smaller than the projects we were working on at that time.

In the first few years, we’ve grown on the services side of the business just through referral, which was happy clients referring us to other clients.

7. Who should I hire? Skill is important, but attitude is irreplaceable.

Being in the business for a long time, I can say I have been through a lot of recruitment scenarios. I hired people with great skill and the right attitude, people with great skill and awful attitudes, as well as people with little skill & the right attitude.

At RebelDot, we look for team players. Patrick Lencioni says the ideal team member is humble, hungry (driven), and smart (people-smart). I agree with him and can tell you that you should avoid skillful politicians, they are going to be a pain for your business. Good luck in identifying them!

Hiring Rebeldot

8. Transparency vs. secrecy in a company.

A few years ago, our development fees were not transparent towards employees.

One of our developers realized his hourly net salary was 1/3 of our hourly rate and asked for his salary to be doubled.

I smiled and invited him for a chat. Breaking down the rate, I explained to him what goes into it, together with rentals, overheads, and other administrative costs.

He immediately understood and changed his mind.

I always think that if I would ever start a new company, I would go for full transparency regarding the salaries of everyone on the team.

Why?

Because when it comes to creating a healthy company culture, transparency is always better than secrecy. If people know the real value they bring to the company and the actual costs of administrating a business, it will encourage them to act responsibly towards the company.

9. Although profit is usually a result and not a purpose, make sure you watch your cashflow.

This one may seem a classic, but it is the one that hit me the most.

Your business could be bringing in massive revenues and fail next month. Does this make sense?

Not for most… but it is especially important to make the difference between cash flow, revenue, and profit.

If money goes out from your business sooner than the revenue coming in, you are in trouble.

This topic seems to be most ignored by young entrepreneurs.

I have taken part in quite a few startup contests by now and, to this day, I am amazed by how optimistic the startups are on the budget side. They never consider their and their friends’ time investment.

Besides these, all-other expenses are grossly underestimated.

It is important to be aware of cash flows and budgets as you might need to get external funding.

PS: Don’t rely on banks. They do not like startups and young businesses.

10 . Find a way to transform disaster into opportunity — resilience is key.

This has happened multiple times since I started my first business.

Probably the most remarkable moment was the end of 2017 early 2018 when, after a series of events, the USA CEO of Imprezzio informed me that the services part of the business is not attractive for them anymore… this meant that I should let go of half of my team.

That wasn’t an option for me, so I decided to buy the part of the company they didn’t want anymore.

That’s how RebelDot was born.

In business, you have to make uncertainty your friend.

Trial and error carry the precious commodity of information. The Antifragile mindset (if you are familiar with the book of Nassim Nicholas Taleb) is a unique one. Whenever possible, try to create a scenario for yourself in which randomness and uncertainty are your friends, not your enemies.

The key is to know/learn how to fail properly. Never take a risk that will take you out of the game completely. Develop the personal resilience to learn from your failures and start again.

With these two in mind, you can only fail temporarily, not permanently.

11. Friendship does not have much value in business, especially during hardships.

After having a friendly discussion with my partners and agreeing on the general terms of the split I was announced that things will be taken over by a team of lawyers and auditors. This led to a long and extremely bureaucratic 6-month process.

Before this I really thought that whatever will come up, we will find a way to agree and proceed… never have I thought lawyers and financial experts will be involved. It was immature on my side to think that way.

We are still friends today.

12. Always look at things from multiple angles. Does everyone share the same perspective you do?

Since 2018, the RebelDot holiday policy has been different than the usual holiday policies you see at typical companies in Romania.

Every employee with a lifetime of over two years in RebelDot benefits from unlimited holiday, a very similar concept to the No Holiday Policy in “Reed Hasting’s No Rules Rules” book.,

So, does unlimited holiday sound like a clever idea?

Yes… until it makes the way you pay overtime obsolete.

KPI’s fall in this category as well. Always when you create a KPI (key performance indicators) there is unwanted behavior that might appear, so make sure that before you set any goals, you look at them from multiple perspectives.

Having the ability to see things from different angles will give you the power to really understand the world around you.

13. Culture matters.

Before the company split in 2018, the company culture started to deteriorate at a rapid pace. We did a couple of wrong hires, had split focus into services and products that we were building, internal conflicts were blooming by day, and things just went downhill from a cultural perspective.

The division happened, and around 100 people parted ways.

I was left with the services division of the company. The team was great, and the future uncertain. We had a few clients inherited from the past company and we were relying on our work to be of such exceptional manner that it would attract new clients through referral.

Shortly after forming the company, we started laying down our values, defining the type of company we wanted to grow into. We had a few internal values contoured, which was a great start for building a new company culture.

RebelDot values

Despite being COVID year 1, in 2020, 27 new employees joined RebelDot and we started 2021 with 3 new hires.

After over 2 years of existence, we are entering 2021 with almost 90 people in our team.

We had an incredible retention rate of 94% in 2020.

This was a long read, so thank you for reaching the end of my article. 

Not long ago I also gave an interview on what being a rebel in tech means for me. You can also read that too if you found my thoughts insightful.  

If you would like to get in touch, go and connect with me on Linkedin. I’d love to meet you see what are the most valuable lessons of your own journey.

If you would like to stay in touch with people at Cluj Startups, keep an eye on their future events.

Stay Rebel!

Work-Life Integration

How to play hard and work hard; a guide to better work-life integration.

We’ve all heard about the “work hard, play harder” saying, but how can we return to the play part when we’re now surrounded by work. Disconnecting from our devices after the working hours are over has become harder now that we’re all working from home, especially if all our hobbies involve them.

Work-life balance has always been a well-known concept, but now that the line between work and home has become thinner, this entire concept is enjoying its time under the critic’s spotlight. The past few months have redefined the way in which we do both work and play. If 7 months ago I was walking the floors in our downtown office, today I am writing this article from my living room with my dog as my assistant.

Life as we know it changes, and it changes fast, therefore, the proactive thing to do is to erase that line between work and personal life completely and redefine it as work-life integration.

Ready to dive into the topic?

What is work-life integration?

According to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, work life-integration is an approach that aims to create harmony between all areas that define the concept of life: work, home and family, personal relationships, involvement in a community, care for our well-being and health.

How do you make work-life integration happen?

Now that we have got a clear understanding of the concept of work-life integration, let’s get started and see how to make all the puzzle pieces of our life fit together in harmony. The first step would be, of course, to make sure that you finish your work in time so that the gloomy overtime becomes a thing of the past. Your laptop is watching you, lonely, from the desk that you’ve been sat at for probably more than 8 hours. How do you not let work guilt trip you into trading precious me time for the tasks that will most likely be there tomorrow?

Review the tasks at hand and scratch them out

Analyze and investigate the tasks and problems you have at hand. Sure, it’s easy to get carried away and feel overwhelmed when you have a dark cloud hanging above your head, a swarm of bees with different ticket names from Jira or things from your to-do list that you’ve postponed and are starting to haunt you. Shoo those bees away and lay down the things that you have to do on a clean piece of paper. Make sure to write it down the old fashioned way, so you get the brutal satisfaction when you finally scratch the items off your list once you’ve accomplished what you had in mind.

Review Tasks, Create Lists

Ask for help when needed

Now that you’ve got your list and the dark cloud doesn’t seem so dark anymore, it’s time to find the silver lining. What silver lining, you might ask? It might sound a bit cliche, but your colleagues might help you pull through and bring a little rainbow after them. Look at the list you just made and ask yourself “who might help me finish this?”. Don’t be afraid to ask around, you might find someone who sees your tasks as challenges and opportunities to grow and learn something new. It’s a win-win kind of situation.

Ask for help

Set boundaries and expectations

Teamwork does indeed make the dream work, but before that, you have to communicate. One important part of communication is setting expectations and boundaries with others. Talk about your schedule and the time you expect to be done with work, and emphasize the importance of having time for yourself. In case those boundaries are crossed, make sure to kindly remind your colleagues of your preferences, they get a little carried away too. To further enforce this rule, make sure you turn off your Slack notifications when you need the time of yourself, and ignore all incoming mails. More often than not, they’re not that urgent as the loud ping makes you think. If your hobbies include using a computer, make sure you have a separate one for the fun things — if this is not an option, just go ahead and create different users for both work and play.

Set boundaries to expectations

Have an ear for advice

Besides the help with the actual tasks, your colleagues might even help you with pieces of advice when it comes to organizing your work. One thing that I’ve learned from Iulia, my colleague from the People & Culture team, was to block chunks of time in my calendar to better structure my work. This helped me a lot with prioritizing my tasks and also led to better time management, knowing that I have an assigned time frame for getting things done.

Take that advice

Self-efficacy and how to raise it

A useful concept that I’ve learned while studying Psychology was self-efficacy. Self-efficacy means that individuals know that they are capable of pulling off different behaviours in order to achieve performance. This concept is not something stable, that remains the same wherever we look in our life, which sometimes maybe a bad thing. Who doesn’t wish to have that kind of confidence in all domains? The good thing though, is that you have the power to increase it.

Self Efficacy

Now you might think that what I’m talking about is totally random, but let me show you how understanding more about this phenomenon helps you achieve work-life integration. When it comes to easy, routine tasks, your self-efficacy is high.

You’ve done this before, you know how it goes and how to trick the system. When it comes to these types of tasks, try to start with the ones that might be time-consuming and a bit more tiring, so that at the end of the day you can relax and do the easier tasks at a faster pace. The tricky part is when you have new and complex tasks that you’ve never had the chance to encounter before. In these types of situations, working the other way around might lead to better performance. Start with the easy tasks and bit by bit you build your self-efficacy.

For more tips on how to raise your self-efficacy, our colleague Iulia recommends the book “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” by Brian Tracy.

Build a routine to end the day

To better accentuate the end of your workday, create a little ritual that indicates that indeed, the work is done and the fun & relaxing time can begin. Before the whole pandemic, my ritual was walking home and listening to different podcasts that would totally disconnect me from my work. Nowadays, the thing that I do is I start to organize and clean my desk and if I’m feeling especially tempted, I might even put my laptop into a drawer to completely erase it from my mind. Out of sight, out of mind is always a good idea when it comes to prioritizing the little time you have for yourself.

Moreover, Slack has a little helpful feature that allows you to set a notification schedule so that none can disturb you after a set time or wake you up in the morning with a random message.

Build a routine to end the day

Schedule your day however you want

Remote work is here to stay, so take full advantage of it! Now that there’s no longer a need to commute and wake up early to get in time to work you can use that time however you like. For example, our UX/Product Designer Tom, who is definitely an early bird, starts his day at 7 AM and gets off work sometime in the afternoon so he has plenty of free time to get the worm. Ildi, our Team Lead/Mom of two, starts her day by spending time with her children before logging in to tackle the development challenges of the day.

Schedule your day

Final words

However, sometimes the natural course of the day does not follow a linear cycle: wake up, work, enjoy yourself. That’s why the concept of work-life balance is kind of outdated. If you have a flexible work schedule, embrace it! Work-life integration is all about intertwining your life with your work, especially now that a 9 to 5 program is something you don’t often hear about. Feel free to start your day with one of your hobbies, go out for lunch with a friend, watch an episode of your favourite show in the middle of the day. You know better what suits you and what helps you keep a light mood during the day. Take breaks, enjoy yourself and return to work with fresh forces. Be mindful of your own well-being and stay rebel!

Work-Life Integration TLDR
Rebel Tech Stories Tudor Ciuleanu 1

Rebel Tech Stories: Tudor Ciuleanu – CEO RebelDot.

Who is Tudor Ciuleanu?

Over the years, I’ve come to embody many roles, but the most important of them all are being a father and an entrepreneur.

I have been present in the tech scene for more than 12 years. Until not long ago, I used to introduce myself as a young entrepreneur. However, having started to interact more often with entrepreneurs 10 years younger than me, I thought I’d better get rid of that “young” label.

My passion for technology surfaced at 9 years old, when I was given the first PC. I vividly remember it was winter when my father got back from France with a Macintosh Performa 430. You can imagine that I spent most of the following months at home, studying each component of my new PC.

Despite being raised in a family of doctors, I have graduated with a degree in Computer Science, as part of the Technical University in Cluj-Napoca. I am constantly asked varied questions regarding the professional trajectory that I chose, especially in relation to my parents’ career. I always reply that I was simply fortunate to have a family that supported my rebellious spirit and willingness to choose something different.

I am drawn to everything that’s new, challenging, and that seems impossible. I enjoy being surrounded by people with whom I can transform that impossible into possible.

I don’t like olives, dancing, and sports that involve balls, nor do I have a favorite singer or actor. I am into everything with an engine, I still play with LEGO thanks to my kids, and I will never be able to pick between the seaside and mountains because I like them both.

When it comes to the things I like doing, sailing, snowboarding, skiing, whitewater kayaking, and triathlons are the “sports” that give me the adrenaline rush I am craving for. Lastly, as I’ve been told that I have my way around storytelling, I am trying to enchant both my kids and my friends with frequent stories.

Despite the many facets that remote working has brought to some careers, I am grateful enough to be claiming that working from home for almost 8 months now offered me the chance to be even closer to my kids than before. We already share the same passion for boats, snowboarding and biking, but what is even more fascinating right now is that I started to let them get involved in my work too, which makes the line between work and personal life even thinner.

Not like I have ever believed in anything like work-life balance… In the beginning, it was a bit annoying to have them interrupt my meetings, but now I got used to it and I am not lying when I say that their presence often makes those calls less dull.

What made me start my own business?

Ever since I was a kid, I have developed a clear picture in my mind where I was my own boss, but never had a clear plan for this goal. I only knew I had to identify opportunities and make the most of them to achieve this vision. Few years later, I became fully committed to this vision, starting to invest far more time and resources to make it my new reality. Having a sleeping bag in the office drawer has definitely proven to be a brilliant idea many times.

The reason why I had this specific goal in mind is because I was craving the kind of freedom that entrepreneurship offers you. I am talking about the freedom to decide and build something based on your own values, not on a predefined agenda that you cannot really alter.

What is the current situation of the company and what plans do you have for the future?

It’s been a little over 2 years now, and although this time went by so fast, when I look back, I feel like RebelDot has been here since forever…that’s because of the many great things we have achieved and especially because of the family-like bond that we have cultivated.

From day one, I was transparent with my colleagues. We were all aware that, immediately after the emergence of RebelDot, despite having worked together before, we were now a startup, facing many of those specific problems that a startup has to confront with.

We were already a homogeneous group and had a unifying purpose of growing the team. The idea was to make the business sustainable faster by luring clients as soon as possible. Thankfully, this purpose was reached a year after the company was born. In Romania, I met way too many times the wrongful mentality that a company should be profitable from the very first day… in reality, this is almost impossible because everything starts with an initial period where the foundation is built and that requires considerable investment (in both time and money).

For the future, we aim to continue expanding our web and mobile apps development team to support more companies with our technical expertise. Our purpose is to become tech partners of our clients and even invest in some of the projects we’ll be working on. Our focus will continue being providing consultancy for organizations aiming to develop innovative digital products.

Besides consultancy, having already developed our own digital product, Visidot, we wish to carry on with similar initiatives and create even more digital solutions in-house, ideally supporting the local community.

Currently, we are in the process of growing from 50 to 100 people, a critical stage in the life of a startup, one that has been documented by so many for its difficulty. Having started this entire journey with 20 of us on board, we are now at 75 and continue to expand, all that while working remotely. So far it has been a surprising success, despite the many myths that I personally read in the business books. The most fascinating and perhaps rewarding result of our onboarding efforts was to see that, even in these circumstances, being agile and aligned, we can still maintain the culture that we have worked so much to define. I am glad to see that we are not only surviving, but functioning better than ever.

What challenges did you have in growing the company?

There were plenty of challenges in the past and just as many emerge on a daily basis. Some of them would be:

  1. Finding a name – After 10 years of having the same name, logo, and visual identity, we suddenly found ourselves in the position of having to change everything… We couldn’t settle on something because none of the alternatives seem to fit our vision. It took 6 months and some draining brainstorming sessions until one of our colleagues has mentioned “RebelDot” and we all felt like something finally represents us.
  2. Building the brand – 2 years ago, RebelDot didn’t mean anything as no one was aware of it. Lately, we made some considerable progress in generating awareness around our name, both locally and internationally. Here, the work will continue for a long time.
  3. Differentiation – Just like I mentioned above, we knew right from the start that it would be a drag to hit the market with something completely new. The challenge was to find an authentic approach to differentiate ourselves on the Eastern European market, an image that our clients would also resonate with.
  4. Perception vs. reality on/around the costs – When we started, we hit a harsh reality of this widely known association of the Eastern Europe and, respectively, the Cluj software development ecosystem with the low-cost attribute. Time went by and today, I strongly believe that this is no longer a competitive advantage for Cluj and its entire development hub. In this respect, at RebelDot we seek to offer premium services to our partners, which is why it is impossible to find ourselves as part of this association between Easter Europe and low-cost software services.
  5. Financial History – Having some history behind, our expenses were similar to those of an established company. Basically, we started out as an independent branch of a larger corporation, having to spend like an already established company, but our resources were significantly lower. Being a new organization, there wasn’t any institution that wanted to risk and fund us. Consequently, we had to rely on our friends and the creative spirit within our team to make it past these tough times.
  6. Non-paying clients – Unfortunately, this topic has been escalating in the industry. Neither of us wants to deal with something like that, which is why we always have to be ready for it.
  7. The discrepancy between the expectations and knowledge of the people applying to our opportunities – Eversince RebelDot came into existence, we managed to lure extraordinary colleagues, but the effort put in the selection and interviewing process is huge, especially when you want to get on board the right people.

What advice do you have for the young Romanian entrepreneurs?

I think it is paramount to have the courage to try and the willingness to make the most of the opportunities that often emerge. Nevertheless, as an aspiring entrepreneur, it is vital to befriend failure and manage to leave your pride aside. You should see failure as a natural part of the process, expect it and, obviously, learn from it.

A startup’s purpose should be strongly tied to the problems it aims to solve for the potential clients. It should be centered around the novelty of the solution it brings to the market and not on the ambition to generate profit in the short term. Focus on doing whatever you are doing the best you can, and the profit will follow.

Throughout the years, I have realized that it is painful and costly to only learn from your own mistakes. It drains time and energy that you could otherwise invest constructively in your business. When you are only starting out, it is important to have alongside people that have already been through what you are going through, at least once. Consult with those who have some experience and aim to learn from their mistakes too.

We tend to forget that the business is done between people, which leads us to underestimate the power of networking. Identify the niche that could help your entrepreneurial progress and start investing in building relationships with people who share the same goal.

One last piece of wisdom:

"An entrepreneur has to do two things: To promise what he's going to do and to do what he promised."

This interview was originally given to Expose at the end of last year and then translated & updated by us.