Interview with Gilbert Camilleri, CEO at Ellp

In the startup world, the only thing we don’t have is time’ — is a mantra of the young CEO taking on automation in the software space. Gilbert Camilleri, CEO at Ellp, shares secrets of his new ‘old-school’ take on automation, reasons behind Ellp and what a soccer club has to do with it all.

While Silicon Valley’s most pronounced buzz words are cloud, mobile, and SaaS, we decided to stick to software, desktops, and Windows. I guess I’ve always challenged the status quo — and Ellp is doing just that. The idea behind Ellp has been a long way coming. Many of us have been working together on other software brands before and there was always that little something inside telling us that we could do bigger stuff, provide greater value and seriously introduce a breath of fresh air to software for the 400 million ‘old school’ (really?!) Windows users.

Whilst all textbooks suggest that the first question you should ask when starting up a business is — defining the market problem — we immediately nose-dived into how we’re going to be different. It is as if we wanted to make sure that all of us share some common beliefs before getting started. It took us no time to determine that the notions of quality, reliability, and simplicity would be the driving force of whatever we’ll do next. We wanted to change the perception of traditional Windows software and irrespective of what we come up with, it had to transpire that sense of ‘freshness’ and ‘coolness’ that we felt was lacking in this space.

Our experiences and research suggested that we should attempt to simplify lives by developing a new digital assistant. Whilst not many can afford to hire a butler at home, we dreamt of introducing this concept in people’s digital life. How cool would it be to have someone (or something) to do some work for you whilst you focus on what really matters?

And here we are, 80,000 downloads later and with over 30,000 Facebook followers, in just 8 months — we present Ellp!

What was the idea behind the name Ellp?

If it hasn’t clicked yet, Ellp is intended to be a geekier version of the word ‘Help’. The process of coming up with the name was actually quite hilarious. I remember long brainstorming sessions where everyone used to fantasize about the next Google or Facebook brand. We went from inappropriate names such as Glide It (yes, it was one of my most uninspiring moments) to abstract and mind-blowing oxymorons namely, TinyElephant (Kristina will kill me for sharing this). And like most things in life, the best things happen when you least expect them to. I was actually on a holiday in Munich, when on a cultural visit at the Linderhof Castle I must have come across something that reminded me of an old project name we worked on years back, bearing the name of Ellp. I will never understand how the name came along in such a digitally uninspiring environment, but hey, why not? On my return, I proposed it to the team and it was the first time we unanimously agreed on a name.

In your own words, can you explain your role within Ellp and what is it that you do on the daily basis?

Ellp has definitely been the most exciting thing I’ve worked on over the past few years. Seeing a brand, a product and a bunch of talented people develop so rapidly in front of your own eyes gives you thrills that are very difficult to explain. I guess the most exciting moment was when we started getting the first user feedback. Our mantra was always that, to provide a ‘better device experience’ to our audience and we wanted to make sure we track that from day one. Ellp was built in a way that encourages users to send us their sentiment and comments to enable us to iterate quicker and smarter. We have actioned tens of suggestions already and recorded hundreds of uplifting comments from our fan base.

I am coming from an online marketing background, and I am quite hands on in the way we communicate with our users and the overall user experience. It is something I hold to dearly and on which I want to make sure I’m never disconnected from. Obviously, the biggest responsibility lies in identifying what’s next. Why should someone choose Ellp? That is the question that I need to remind myself to ask every day. How can Ellp ease people’s lives? Sounds easy, but taking a concept and presenting it in the simplest form possible is quite stressful, to say the least. Thankfully we have an amazing team that is not only smart in developing, but also practical and user-conscious.

What hobbies/activities do you like doing outside of work?

Funnily enough, I do not consider myself as a tech geek. Even though my career always revolved around computing and the Internet, my life offline is far away from software and bugs. My deepest passion lies within sports, which I get to follow and practice often. Sports is the drug I’m addicted to the most and I find it to be the best for both the body and mind. My flair and inclination towards marketing, branding and leading teams, in general, came about actually from a soccer club I co-founded years back, which is still alive and kicking to this very day. Now that I’m answering your questions, it just occurred to me that Ellp is not actually the first start-up I was involved in. Strange how past experiences shape both the present and future and that even the most unrelated stories mold a better you.

On a scale from 1–10, how lucky are you in life?

I do consider myself to be lucky in the way my career developed, but I was always a firm believer that luck isn’t something that is reserved for just a few. You need to earn it, and sweat for it! I guess that I was blessed to get to spend time and work with such awesome people that believed in me so much — these are the people I will look up to forever! I found myself as a CEO at the age of 29, leading a team of around 30 people and managing a multi-million revenue company. Looking back, I realize how sticking through the toughest of times might get you to places that might seem unthinkable at the time. I was lucky to spend time with some exceptional characters and some questionable ones too. At times learning what not to do can be the biggest takeaway.

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