Sunday, June 29, 2014

Is a tough boss the best boss?

Great article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled "Is a tough boss the best boss?"

My favourite lines:

The respondents were asked what they hated the most at work. Number one on the list by far: lazy and underperforming colleagues. And, making it worse: their boss wasn’t doing anything about it.
Tough leadership is when leaders let employees know exactly where they stand without any timidity or ambiguity.
Tough leadership is when leaders set high standards to which they hold their teams to account.
It’s (tough leadership) most effective when used in short bursts and only when necessary.

via Geetika Marek Guz

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wanted: Director of Engineering, Shoes of Prey

Shoes of Prey is creating software to revolutionise the way affordable luxury products are purchased and manufactured. Our JavaScript 3D shoe configurator allows women to design and customise their very own shoes. Once designed, the shoes are then lovingly crafted on demand and shipped anywhere in the world. This model ensures the customer gets exactly what she wants, and we don’t have to hold any finished stock!

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 5.40.55 pm.png

Founded by two ex-Googlers and an advertising exec in 2009, the company has experienced very strong growth each year. We’ve been backed by a number of influential silicon-valley investors, raising $3m to date. It’s our view that mass customization, coupled with on-demand production, is the future of retail. With 5 years of success behind us, we’re in the box seat to make this happen and build a billion dollar company. We’d love for you to come and join us!

To achieve our goals we have some interesting, mind-bending software engineering problems we need to solve, for example:

  • How can we use machine learning to help customers quickly and easily decide on a particular shoe design?
  • How can we further improve the user experience of our shoe designer and sales process to make it more intuitive, fun and realistic?
  • How can we use prediction algorithms to know how much stock we should order?
  • How can we use mobile computer vision technology to scan our customers’ feet for accurate sizing?
  • How can we use A/B testing to further improve our website?
  • How can we better leverage eCommerce best practices to further improve the shopping experience for our customers and drive sales?
  • How can 3D printing and other on-demand manufacturing methods be integrated into our manufacturing processes to help speed up product development and delivery times to customers?

We are literally inventing a new way to purchase and manufacture goods. Our work is cutting-edge, fast-paced and extremely exciting.

Above: Experimenting with 3D printing our shoes directly from the CAD models. This shoe is life-sized!

As the Director of Engineering, your role will be to manage our software engineering team of six engineers. You will also help set the direction of the team by driving our technical strategy.

To be successful in this role, you'll need to be smashing the following out of the park:

  1. ensuring the engineering team is focused on making the biggest impact they can,
  2. mentoring each of the engineers and giving guidance on how they should attack unfamiliar problems,
  3. ensuring everyone in the company has clarity about what the software engineers are working on, and why,
  4. making a significant contribution to our codebase by ensuring we’re adopting best-practice, and writing meaningful code yourself, and
  5. running regular hackathons to experiment with new technology.

Above: A hologram we hacked together during one of our hackathons.

Your work experience should clearly identify that you have the following traits:

  • An entrepreneurial go-getter.
  • A passion for learning new things and crafting beautiful, easy-to-use products.
  • The ability to think strategically about problems, with a clear focus on ensuring the company’s commercial objectives are met.
  • A brilliant coder who is also a “people-person”. You should be just as happy writing code as you are jumping into a meeting with the board of directors to talk succinctly and confidently about our technical strategy.
  • At least 2 years (and ideally 4+ years) experience successfully managing a team. That means running the team meetings, having regular 1:1s with the engineers, and delivering quarterly performance reviews.
  • Dealing with “growing pains”. Today we’re 50 people and growing. Therefore prior experience at a startup would be beneficial.

You should have significant experience with the following technologies, or their equivalents:
  • Python
  • JavaScript
  • Git
  • Amazon EC2
  • Google AppEngine
  • MapReduce
  • SQL

If your skills don’t match exactly, it’s not a deal breaker. If you’re, say, a fantastic Java programmer, then we know you’ll be able to pick up Python quickly. There’s a good argument too that some systems may need to be re-architectured in the future as we scale, so in-depth knowledge of Java/C/C++ would be advantageous.

The following interests/skills are beneficial, but not mandatory:
  • eCommerce
  • User experience design / research
  • AB testing
  • 3D rendering / CAD
  • Machine learning
  • Android / iOS development
  • Computer vision
  • Electrical engineering / robotics

Our engineering team is located in Sydney, Australia. If you’ve never visited Sydney before, you’re in for a treat. Sydney is an absolutely incredible city to live in. We have fantastic weather, beautiful beaches, and a vibrant cultural scene. For remote candidates, we will assist you with relocating including helping you to obtain a working visa.

Your exact package will be tailored to your individual circumstances.

To apply for this role please email a cover letter and CV to with the subject line "{YOUR NAME} - DIRECTOR OF ENGINEERING". This is essential as any applications without this will be missed by our email filters.

Thanks, we can't wait to hear from you!

My startup failed, and this is what it feels like...

Fantastic, incredibly honest post from 99Dresses founder Nikki Durkin on what it feels like for your startup to fail.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Managing Cash Burn

Fantastic article on Pando Daily titled "After the B Round".

Great insights that don't just apply to startups post Series B.

via Mike Cannon-Brookes

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Innovation at Atlassian

Great video by Dom Price on innovation at Atlassian.

We're still small enough that we have the equivalent of Atlassian's 'ShipIt' program happening organically, maintaining this will be important as we grow and that, combined with Atlassian's values is a great example of how to do it.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What fuels great design

Great post on the importance of user testing and speaking with customers to build well designed products. We're encouraging our head office team to do once a quarter shifts in our David Jones concession store, I've been learning a lot from occasional shifts there.

via Joel Pinkham

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Thank You Seth Godin... You Inspired us to Create a Company

Recently we sent this email to Seth Godin to thank him for inspiring us to create Shoes of Prey. His book Purple Cow taught us so much and pushed to creating a business that was worth talking about.
We'd be interested to know too - were any of you similarly inspired by Purple Cow? What did you do differently in your businesses because of it?

Hi Seth

I wanted to tell you about our little company. It's called Shoes of Prey, and you helped create it.

Back in 2008 my co-founders and I were throwing around ideas for a new business. We had many ideas. A dating website. Various social networking clones. A scuba diving review site. All were pretty yawn-inducing. Our only saving grace was we had read Purple Cow and were on the hunt for something very specific: a product people wanted to talk about

This was our only criteria.

Through a process of elimination we arrived at a concept: a website where women could design their own shoes. Beautiful shoes that would be painstakingly created by hand and shipped anywhere in the world in incredible packaging.

This is what Shoes of Prey looks like today:

Using the software on our website women can change all aspects of their shoe: the toe shape, the back shape, the colours, decorations, the heel height and so on.

Our shoes are unlike anything else you could buy in a store. We make shoes from a tiny 2.5 US all the way to size 15, a truly huge range of sizes. We can make one foot bigger than the other. We can add more padding if you would like that. Our gift certificates never expire and our returns policy is amazingly generous: 365 day no-questions asked return or refund.

More fundamentally, imagine the magic of opening a shoe box to see a pair of shoes that you yourself had designed from heel to toe? That experience by itself is worth talking about. 

It wasn't easy getting to where we are today. Factories told us it wouldn't work. Everyone around us thought we were crazy, and in retrospect, we probably were! We've learned along the way that creating something worth talking about is really hard. It's hard because it's inefficient and therefore expensive. It's hard because suppliers aren't used to working that way. It's hard because there is no rule book and you don't know how things will turn out. However, if you stick with it, and hire really smart people, you can make it work.

Things are now going really well for us now. We now have 50 staff members across Australia, Japan, China, Russia and the US. Our business is booming. Crucially our growth is driven primarily by word of mouth. Our customers love telling their friends about our - or should I say, their - purple cow. Our marketing department loves that too: we don't spend that much on paid marketing. 

I wanted to thank you for being the inspiration behind our company. This level of product customisation and amazing service may seem obvious today, but it certainly wasn't obvious back in 2008. Your book guided us to the destination.

We still talk about that hypothetical cow around the office. It gives us tremendous clarity when we need to make a decision: Would you stop your car to look at this cow?

If books could have babies Seth, then Shoes of Prey is your baby! 

Thank you again.


Mike Knapp

p.s. it would be fun to know what other Purple Cow businesses out there were inspired by the book. Perhaps we could all hold a conference one day!