Pierre-Habté Nouvellon, MEng ’18 (IEOR), on entrepreneurship and remote teaming
Pierre-Habté Nouvellon is a UC Berkeley Master of Engineering Class of 2018 alumnus from the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research department. Shortly after graduating from the program, Pierre-Habté’s entrepreneurial journey took off with Snipfeed, an all-in-one monetization platform for content creators. As the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of the start-up, he participates in the development of the Snipfeed platform and setting up the remote team.
Here, he shares more about Snipfeed’s remote team culture and how the product has evolved since we last featured Snipfeed.
How has the Snipfeed product evolved since you came up with the idea during the MEng boot camp three years ago?
The original idea of Snipfeed was very different from what we do now. We started as an artificial intelligence tutor bot for K-12 students on Facebook Messenger and ended up developing a monetization platform for content creators. This iteration process and pivoting is very common among consumer startups. For example, Twitter was originally a podcasting platform, YouTube was originally a video-dating app, and Flickr was originally an online role-playing game. We define Snipfeed as an all-in-one monetization platform for creators who are looking to expand their digital businesses. It enables you to host and sell all your services and content via one direct link.
Our current vision emerged during the COVID-19 crisis, when content creators suddenly saw their ad-based revenues shrink. For example, fitness coaches were not able to hold physical classes and psychologists were not able to see their patients in person. We first started as a standalone platform where content creators could import their content from different platforms (video/podcast/articles etc) and sell digital content. We quickly realized that we had to be better integrated with social media platforms because that’s where the traffic was actually coming from. Upon this realization, we decided to adapt the creator page to the bio-link format. The Snipfeed page had to abide certain constraints:
- Allow the creators to personalize their page
- Be mobile responsive
- Allow the creator to embed some of his content (podcast/videos) but also seamlessly integrate monetization features such as tipping, shoutout video request, or exclusive access to content.
Currently, we are iterating on the product based on feedback from thousands of creators using our platform.
How has the digital creator space shifted as a result of the pandemic? What trends have you and your team seen? What impact does Snipfeed have in the evolution of the digital space?
Professional service providers (fitness coaches, therapists, astrologers, etc) have seen their physical business impacted by the lockdown and are seeking new ways to expand their digital businesses. On the other hand, established content creators have seen their advertisement revenues shrink as businesses would cut their marketing expenses. In both cases, content creators are seeking new ways of diversifying their revenues on top of social media and Snipfeed is perfectly positioned for that.
Platforms like Patreon have soared during the pandemic, normalizing the idea that content creators can directly monetize their audience. Snipfeed provides a toolbox of several monetization tools, which gives the creator the freedom to test what works best for them and find their own “product market fit.”
As a business, how did Snipfeed adapt and respond to conditions under COVID-19 restrictions?
During COVID-19 the whole Snipfeed team went fully remote. We’ve had team members in locations like France, Morocco and the US and working across four different time zones. After one year working from home, people were happy to physically see each other. We decided to establish office space in Paris and the US. Snipfeed employees are still free to work remotely and hold a quite flexible stance.
During the COVID-19 restriction, we also had to raise our seed fundraising fully remotely. That proved to be a curse, as nobody knew how the economic situation would evolve. It was also a blessing as you could have on the same day a meeting with investors in San Francisco, New York, or Paris!
With a global remote team, how do you keep your team motivated across different cultures and time zones?
The Snipfeed team is a mix of three main cultures: Moroccan, French, and American, across three main time zones: Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. In order to keep the team motivated across the different cultures and timezones, we organize events either with the whole Snipfeed team or with sub-teams. For instance every two weeks we invite a highly experienced person from another company to virtually discuss technology and /or product subjects with the team. To date, we have had the chance to talk with scientists from Deepmind, a senior software architect from Airbnb, and the CTO of the ride-hailing company Kapten. We also try to organize an in-person annual team building event. This year, the tech team is planning to meet in Morocco for two days.
In terms of day-to-day work, we use Slack and Google Meet for communication, Notion for documentation, and Linear for development organization. We have daily tech meetings and encourage team members to do 1-on-1 calls whenever they have a question that takes more than two minutes to answer by message. Communication is key in a remote team.
What advice do you have for Berkeley MEng students who are likely going to navigate remote or hybrid teaming in this next year?
Communication is super important when working remotely. It will help you become more efficient as a team and also socially integrate into the team culture. Be proactive when seeking information and call your team members whenever you have questions to keep yourself motivated!
How has your Berkeley MEng degree impacted or influenced your business decisions today?
The MEng degree and entrepreneurship classes gave me the fundamental business knowledge needed to start Snipfeed and navigate the startup world. Our decisions are highly influenced by the people we meet. During my master’s at UC Berkeley, I met a lot of enriching people (my co-founders, professors, other students, and future investors) with whom I’m still in contact and learning from. Being in such a vibrant environment helped my co-founders (also UC Berkeley alumni) and me dream big — beyond the French or European boundaries.