Tispr Product: Alex and Andrei, From Alliteration to Success
In a world overloaded with technology and software, making headway is certainly not easy. Envisioning a new concept, a new product that would find a market fit – that’s the stuff for entrepreneurship. But turning concept into a product, into a more or less palpable construct that other people can actually use – that’s the “less exciting” process story of a Product Department.
Not for Tispr though. We think the story of how our product team came to be is not only exciting, but inspiring. And like every other great story, it starts with passion. This week, we’ve been talking to Alex Voitau, CTO of Tispr, and Andrei Pitsko, Head of Mobile, who shared their exhilarating journey from big company employees to founders of Product & Technology for a small startup.
“I had a choice to make, but the decision came easy. In a startup you have to wear many hats, you need to learn much more and I love new challenges” (A. Pitsko, Head of Mobile)
At first, there were two. Alex and Andrei were the first engineers to join Tispr (BuddyHopp at the time) and they worked hard to implement the requirements coming from business and design. They both came from Belarus and they brought with them a fresh take on scalable product, the path from ideation to delivery and technology infrastructure.
But their strong vision and their passion for innovative technology were not the only things they brought with them. As the company slowly moved into next stages, we needed different skillsets to achieve milestones. So they brought their friends. Andrei had a large network of engineers and developers back in Belarus, which proved to be the backbone of what now stands as the Product and Technology Department at Tispr.
What started as a few freelance jobs for specific, time-bound projects gradually grew into steady work. The requirements became so heavy at some point that full-time employment made sense and the Belarus office was born. “At first, I was skeptical about the idea”, remembers Andrei, “I thought it was premature and we'd be struggling with the distance and difference in time zone”. Alex has a different memory: “The decision (to open the BY office) was based on our desire to build a team that’s invested in the product and the future of the company. Building culture and loyalty were at the center of our move.”
With struggle, comes progress
Of course, scaling an entire department and forming a team that is physically separated from the business presents a whole new set of challenges. Add to that the two pivots the company underwent and you might have a classic chaos recipe. But as Frederick Douglas once said, “Where there’s no struggle, there’s no progress.” And so they struggled, and they progressed. The first pivot came as a hard change and it was heavy. But Andrei and Alex had put together a team of dedicated people who powered through.
“People usually think that working with friends is difficult because it gives rise to awkward moments when someone’s work is not up to par. But we honestly never had that problem. The team we formed, everyone is great at what they do and they are all committed.” (A. Pitsko, Head of Mobile)
It’s not unusual for startups to change course in the early stages of the business. It’s also natural to adjust resources accordingly. For Tispr, the shift in direction also meant a shift in organization. Alex remembers, with a sort of musing endearment, how challenging it was to evolve from a small cross-functional team to multiple single-functional teams. “Collaboration followed a pipeline model, which increased the volume of communications and deliveries took longer. We realized that it was neither effective nor sustainable and we needed a change.” (A. Voitau, CTO).
The heroes are the dreamers
Success takes many forms and has stages of its own. Success is not always about achieving the ultimate goal, but about achieving each goal at every stage. It can be as simple (or maybe not so simple) as overcoming the struggles and difficulties of organizational changes. People are innately resistant to change because it psychologically implies discomfort. But Tispr was driven by vision and passion, and dreamers sat at the reins.
Communication was the single biggest pillar to sustain change. Everyone was considered, everyone was given the time to express their thoughts, their ideas, and even their feelings. Everyone mattered.
“I talked to every single person and every functional team. They all contributed to the solution and that feeling was priceless. The foundational resources we now have for every process are the result of the most impressive collaborative effort I have ever witnessed.” (A. Voitau, CTO)
When asked about the future of the product, both Andrei and Alex have a strong stance and talk about strategy and implementation. But their answers are sprinkled with emotional triggers like “ ambitious”, “supportive” and “sacrifice”. And then, as if they both feel we’re coming close to the end of the discussion, the conversation suddenly, though somehow naturally, tips over and they talk about customer-centric product and expanding the market share by creating extraordinary value.