“The Most Important Thing You Can Do Is Spend Time With Your Team”, With Shane Hegde and Tyler Strand
“Things are going to get hectic and busy; you’re going to get pulled in a million directions. Amongst the chaos don’t forget to spend time getting a drink, breakfast, or lunch with your team members to check in on how their doing. Spend time listening to them. Most people join early stage startups because they want to spend time learning or working with the founders.”
I had the pleasure to interview Shane Hegde and Tyler Strand the founders of Air Camera App
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Our parents spent their lives behind Sony Handycams. From school assignments to Christmas mornings, Mom and Dad were always there with the family camcorder and these home movies eventually became our most prized possessions.
Until this year my home movies sat in a box, unwatched, on my bedside table. They made the trip out west when I left for college and moved with me years later when I started work in New York. But eventually tech advancements made them simply unwatchable: I didn’t have the camcorder; The new laptop lacked a DVD player; The “data” sat inaccessible on outdated devices — a reminder of a home alive with energy.
In late 2016 I quit my job to bring home movies back to life. Simply put, I realized families weren’t recording Christmas mornings anymore. Smartphones had entirely replaced the family camcorder, but these pocket devices weren’t built to store large amounts of high quality video. The dream was to create a company based entirely around this personal passion: easy to articulate now, but at the time I knew I needed help.
Shane and I have been roommates and friends for years and he’s always tried to get me to join him on his latest adventure. But when he came to me with the early ideas for Air it was different: I sensed the utility and started to envision the product to support it. Storage limitations, playback issues, and bandwidth constraints force you to record low quality mobile videos and existing cloud storage solutions aren’t optimized for video.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Friends, family, and colleagues all know that Tyler is good cop and Shane is bad cop. Vendors love selling solutions to Tyler and loath working through contracts with Shane. These are the realities of our partnership and we’ve both accepted our respective roles. But this past April, at Tyler’s wedding, the tables turned when a vendor mischarged Tyler for one of their services. Rolling up his sleeves our favorite good cop was ready to rumble, and Shane was forced to swing in to action and play mediator. While we’ll never know if Tyler has a good right hook, it’ll be a moment working together that we cherish for the rest of our lives.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We’re selling a software application that is meant to emulate a physical product you use to own. The family camcorder was lugged to every game and each trip. Today we’ve replaced this machine with our smartphones, but these handheld devices don’t actually let us record a life’s full of memories. Three weeks since launch, its been amazing to see our users create home movies again with our tool. We had a dad in Canada send us a 10:00 minute clip of his son learning to read on his lap, and a family in Japan thank us for allowing them to record 15:00 minutes of their child’s 5th grade graduation ceremony. This is just the beginning, but we’re so excited about the progress. Our software has a brand, a feeling, and a physical analog — while that’s unique, we think its been the reason behind some of our initial success.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Search! Videos are different than any other asset because of their size and complexity. Unlike a pdf, doc, or even a photo, videos cannot be easily previewed. Simply put, the first 10s seconds might be dramatically different than the last 2 minutes and a “file and folder” system is not the right solution. We’re currently in development on a tool that would allow videos to be searched with audio and visual analysis. Enter “beach” and we could throw you right into the scene on the sand. Type “Darren” and we could bring up the clip where someone says Darren’s name. We think this tool could have immense impact and its just the tip of the iceberg for a cloud storage solution that’s built specifically for video.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Every team member should be in a position to own their lane. You can disagree with them, spend a night in debate, but at the end of the day individual team members (not the founders) should own most decisions. Certain topics can be non negotiable, but always remember that you hired your team for a reason. Founders are always accountable, but we need to divorce ourselves from making the final decision when we put a team member into a workflow.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My Uncle. I think it’s important to have people in your life who you are perfect in your head. You’re not close enough to witness their faults, but instead a bystander to how they live and the lives they touch. My goal is to be perfect like my uncle one day: to chase my passions, take care of my family, and love unconditionally.
My Dad. He’s run a small business my entire life. I’ve seen him live through the ups and downs, chase new ideas and opportunities, all while providing a great life for his family. He’s been a great role model and sounding board for me and Shane as we’ve gotten Air off the ground.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Our favorite part of the job is when we get to digitize a family’s home movies. Customers send in old VHS tapes and DVDs and we modernize these old video formats and store them on Air. It’s every founders dream to have a customer crying in thanks, and our digitization service has a 90% tears-to-order ratio. It’s an amazing gift to give back to the world: cherished memories past; voices thought lost.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Pay up for certain things to be done right rather than always trying to do it yourself
Accept the fact that you are going to lose countless hours of sleep, but be conscious of your time. Always be try to avoid unnecessary spending (it might take all night to get something done…), but realize that there is a limit to your sanity. In specific cases it’s better to just suck it up and spend the money on a vendor or partner to follow through with a task (accounting, taxes, pr, etc.).
The most important thing you can do is spend time with your team
Things are going to get hectic and busy; you’re going to get pulled in a million directions. Amongst the chaos don’t forget to spend time getting a drink, breakfast, or lunch with your team members to check in on how their doing. Spend time listening to them. Most people join early stage startups because they want to spend time learning or working with the founders.
You should always be recruiting
The worst decisions we’ve made have been stopping and starting recruiting efforts. Even if you’re not hiring into new roles you should always be searching for amazing people to join your team. You’ll never know when someone wants to leave or an opportunity arises for an expansion. Add recuritting time to your calendar each and every week.
Have 2 or 3 people you can talk to other than your cofounder
When we disagree it’s important for us to take a break and talk through our thoughts with someone else. Naturally the other person can’t be an employee or someone with a stake in the decision, but instead a personal advisor or friend who can serve as a sounding board. It’s not they need to provide an answer, just a fresh perspective that helps us think through our own insanity.
Make it a point to have a quarterly performance reviews
It’s going to sound like busy work, but mandate a performance review each quarter. It’ll help everyone stay on the same page and will address big problems before they are unsolvable. We made the mistake of having reviews every 6 months and miss managed key culture issues because of it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
Clarence B. Kelland
“Perfect is the enemy of done.”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
Ta Nehisi Coates: He’s figured out how to speak from his heart and I’d love to learn how. Sit outside and grab lunch from a street cart?
I’d love to grab a bite with Ben Thompson, author of Stratechery. I read his newsletter and listen to his podcast religiously, and I’m consistently impressed with his ability synthesize tech company strategy and predict what’s going to happen next. I’d love to get his take on Air!