Founder Chats is brought to you by Baremetrics: zero-setup subscription analytics & insights for Stripe, Recurly, Braintree and any other subscription company!
Like this episode? A rating and a review on iTunes would go a long way!
About David Darmanin
David was born in Australia to Maltese parents. At about seven or eight, by way of Spain, he returned to the tiny island.
Despite having a family who embraced job stability with traditional jobs such as teaching, David was drawn to the startup culture in his teens. Against that interest in technology, designing, and making things, he applied for and followed through with law school.
Before Hotjar, David worked for a Swedish company in Malta as an Optimization Specialist. He moved up the company’s hierarchy into the VP of Design and Optimization position. From there, he also spent some time at Conversion Rate Experts.
David’s path from law to SaaS
After graduating with a Doctor of Law, David gave the profession an honest try but found it a poor fit for him. His interests were elsewhere. Specifically, he wanted to work in a way that would enable others to also build and create useful and appealing things.
After his brief stint working in law, David worked as an Optimization Specialist. The position amounted to “growth hacking” before that term was regularly used. Digging deep into optimization led him back to design.
It was at industry conferences where he began to appreciate just how much is needed to truly optimize a business process. It isn’t just A/B testing but also user testing, interviews, and focus groups. This realization was a big part of what brought him to founding Hotjar.
“I tried to practice a little bit. It was horrible. I don’t think I even lasted one or two months just because I was like, “Oh my god. I did all this and now I’m going to throw it away.” This was just one, two months of confirming that the decision was right, inform the family, yeah, I’m done. I’m free. Then I kept on doing consulting gigs and freelance work, but I got quickly frustrated by that and I realized now is the time that I want to kick off a startup, right? This is where I spoke to my cousin and we were like, “Okay.” I had played around enough with Drupal and stuff in trying to build sites for clients. It was frustrating and difficult. It was like, “Okay, what if we built a subscription-based platform where people can build sites, right? They have modules like articles, e-commerce, and all these things?” – David Darmanin
Building his first MVPs
David started his founder journey while still working for Conversion Rate Experts. However, they failed to take off and ended up being little more than minimal viable products (MVPs). He attributes this to thinking too small. David took that to heart, thought big, and pushed his next project, Hotjar, to an ARR of $10 million in about 18 months.
“I built a couple of startups that didn’t do very well. It wasn’t like we built a business or anything. We just built an MVP, but we didn’t get traction twice in a row. I realized I’m not thinking big enough, right? I’m not thinking big enough.” – David Darmanin
From the release of your MVP to an ARR of $10 million, your focus should be squarely on growth.
Baremetrics makes this easy by tracking key growth metrics in real-time. Start a free trial today.
Building HotJar from 0 to $10 million
Hotjar’s growth from 0 to $10 million was incredibly straight. In fact, David considered it almost annoying. While the growth trajectory has been phenomenal, it almost invalidated every experiment he ran.
He attributes this success to two main things. The first was a long free beta trial. Over 10 months, 60,000 interested people applied, 20,000 sites participated, and a huge fanbase was born.
“I guess the main thing that we identified was creating what we call this wave, right? We spent 10 months in beta. Although we incorporated in June, we actually released commercially in April, 2015. We actually ran the company for … Sorry, we ran the beta for 10 months and during that time we had 60,000 people apply, 20,000 sites participate, collected a lot of data, created a community, big fan base. This definitely enabled us to create huge word of mouth, because there was no friction, right? Everyone was joining the beta for free. There was no payment. That created a lot of buzz and noise, which we call the wave basically. It was the wave that then April, 2015 we came out really fast and then we just kept on growing from there.” – David Darmanin
The second was just a phenomenal net promoter score (NPS). It’s easy to get people to sign up, including by PPC, when every trial leads to two more by word of mouth.
“On the free I think our MPS was around 57 and for customers it’s close to 50. When you’re doing paid with a product like that, it’s much easier, right? When you do it for a product that is loved, and that is efficient, and converts well then it’s super easy. Basically, for every account that we required by paying, another two come in organically, right? That is very powerful.” – David Darmanin
The hardest part of growing a fully remote team
Hotjar has been remote by design from Day 1. This has its perks, but it also comes with a couple difficulties. Two of those are helping employees find a good work-life balance and just finding the right employees—not everyone is able to thrive in a remote environment.
“I’d say two things. The work-life balance, so we tend to hire really good people who are really obsessed with Hotjar, so we need to hold them back because it’s so easy to burn out, especially if you’re remote. The second one is hiring. Although it offers us the opportunity to hire anywhere in the world, I’d say it’s kind of a negative and a good thing. For remotes, you really need to be careful to really hire the right people that are really driven and that you can trust, but hey, are those not important things if you’re not remote, right? In a way, it forces us to be even more careful and selective, which I think is a good thing.” – David Darmanin
Get in touch with David Darmanin
You can find David on Twitter and LinkedIn. Be sure to also follow @Hotjar on Twitter.
This week I talk with Dr David Darmanin of HotJar! David and I talk about how growing up in Malta, getting into entrepreneurship, how being a generalist has helped David over the years along with the ups and downs as David has grown a fully remote team to build HotJar to a $10M a year company. Enjoy!
Josh Pigford: All right. Thanks for joining me on the podcast, David.
David Darmanin: It’s a pleasure, Josh. Thanks for having me.
Josh Pigford: Absolutely. The way I like to start with these off is I’m fascinated by not as much company origin stories as people origin stories, so I would love to hear about your childhood. You grew up in Spain, is that right?
David Darmanin: No, actually I was born and grew up in Australia, but then I was in Spain at a later stage, so actually there is some truth to that, yeah. My parents are Maltese, so when I was, I think, around seven-eight, they decided to move back to Malta. We packed everything up and came back to the tiny island.
Josh Pigford: Very nice. What’s the culture like there?
David Darmanin: I’m not sure how politically correct I should be in answering this. Obviously, it’s a tiny island, right? In kilometers is 27 by 13, I don’t know what that would be in miles but it’s tiny. It’s highly populated, but yeah, it’s a very laid back culture of enjoy the weather, enjoy your time, right? Don’t panic. No stress. Obviously, it’s nice in the sense of it’s a very laid back culture, but at the same time, as you can imagine, it can be very frustrating on other fronts. Especially when you’re starting up and launching a business.
Josh Pigford: Did you grow up … High school, was that in Malta?
David Darmanin: Actually, I want to make sure the high school maps well with our high school. High school, would that be 11–15?
Josh Pigford: Yeah. It’d be more like 15–18.
David Darmanin: 15–18, actually we call that college here.
Josh Pigford: Okay. You guys start college earlier?
David Darmanin: Yeah. I found this conversations, it’s confusing because college to us is different, right?
Josh Pigford: Oh, it’s different. Got you.
David Darmanin: Yeah. It’s just different naming structure. That age I was here in Malta, yeah.
Josh Pigford: What were you into then, as a teenager? Were you into business stuff then? Or were you doing other things?
David Darmanin: Well, previous to that I went to only boys schools, so at that age the most exciting thing, obviously, was mingling with the girls. No, I’m joking.
Josh Pigford: Sure.
David Darmanin: I’d say definitely there was … The social aspect was big for me, so when I joined the college I went to, there was a lot of whatever arts, and drama, and stuff that we were doing, but more importantly it was actually the first time that I came in touch with the business side of things. There’s this thing in Europe that’s called … Well, actually it’s not even Europe. I think it’s global. The JAYE groups. It’s basically a non-profit, which promotes entrepreneurship at a young age. They have something called Young Enterprise, which is at the college stage. It’s basically they invite you to participate in a program where you compete. You set up a company, for just one year, you build a product, you do a business plan, you do the whole marketing and everything. Yeah, you just compete on the local level and then European.
I just got pulled into this and I, for some reason, ended up being the Managed Director and bringing everyone together. We made, back then, wooden jack-in-the-boxes and it was such an awesome adventure for me. I come from a background where my family’s basically teachers, right? Or safe jobs, right? You don’t take risks. For me, this was really the first time I had this experience of basically create something, package it, and sell it. I just fell in love with it. I was supposedly studying languages on track to become a lawyer, which I still did, stupidly enough, but that’s where I fell in love really with the business side so that changed the trajectory for me quite a lot.
Josh Pigford: Well, how did you even come upon the idea of doing this thing where you start a business? Was that you were just bored or what about that interested you?
David Darmanin: No. I’ve always been very interested in the idea of turning a profit since very young age, but more for fun. Not to be rich. It’s just, I guess, I’ve done the strengths finder and I’m an achiever, and competitive, and strategic, so as you can imagine I love playing Monopoly. It’s just in you that it’s like to me and my co-founders, we’re very similar, to us it’s playing the game. We really have fun playing this game, which is building something, delivering value, and whether you can succeed or not. I guess, when I joined college there were a lot of different initiatives and, to be honest, I joined a ton of them, right? I was in debating competition, tried to join the … What’s it called? The Committee? The Student Committee. I’ve always been … I bought into way too many things, right? It was one of them, but I just fell in love.
Josh Pigford: You got into this … What you said, the JAYE thing, was this a way to … Or really got you into building businesses more from an actual business standpoint than just purely for kicks. What was the next step after that? You said you went to … You finished your law degree?
David Darmanin: Yeah.
Josh Pigford: How did you end up there even doing law in the first place?
David Darmanin: Yeah, it’s a weird story. Back then there were people who would help you with your career, supposedly, right? They’d evaluate what you’re strong at. I loved languages, and I loved to debate, and I’m quite analytical. For some reason they said you would be really good at being a lawyer. Back then there were … I was a creative, always in love with design, but back then the university model was quite limited, right? There wasn’t, I don’t know, a communications course or something of the sort, right? For some reason I ended up doing that instead of taking an, I don’t know, a more technical course, which probably I should have done instead. Hey, looking back it’s come in to be quite useful, especially recently, in the sense that we deal a lot in data and my thesis was about data protection. I believe everything happens for a reason, so I at least got the privacy angle, which helps me with Hot Jar.
Josh Pigford: Sure. You mentioned that your family a lot of teachers, very safe, low risk kind of stuff. Do you feel like that played a role in you sticking with the law stuff, because that was a safe route to go?
David Darmanin: Yeah, I think so. I think so. I enjoy seeing Gary V. talk about this. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of his clips where he talks about university and careers. Yeah. I was just like, “Why did you come so late, Gary? You should’ve been around a decade ago.” Anyway, yeah. Pretty much what I did, I never went to lectures. If anything, what I learned from the course was how to hack yourself through a doctorate basically.
Josh Pigford: Sure.
David Darmanin: Studying very last in and using statistic modeling to guess what’s going to come out in the exam. That was fun, but instead during that time I ended up working for a German m-commerce incubator, which was really ahead of its time here in Malta. We raised $30 million. I was still 18. I started my own advertising agency, I had a ton of jobs. I was experimenting a lot while I was studying.
Josh Pigford: I was the same way in that I went to college, I got a graphic design degree, but for all intents and purposes though, I’m completely self-taught on everything else. College, for me, was this few years of getting to just try lots of dumb things from a business standpoint. Getting to figure things out.
David Darmanin: That’s a good way of putting it. It was the figuring things out stage. Yeah.
Josh Pigford: Yeah. How did you get … You mentioned the e-commerce startup. Was that your intro into the web as far as web and business?
David Darmanin: Yeah, I’d say so, but I think even before that … No, it maybe came after. No, I think at this stage I was mainly in design, so my background is design, right? I was doing design as well, but completely self-taught. Then I started doing some project management and whatnot, but then at a later stage when I started doing freelance work, I had a client who I did a lot of design for. He was actually famous comedian in the U.K. They said, “Can you do a site for us?” I had never done a site. I was like, “Sure.”
Josh Pigford: Of course.
David Darmanin: Of course. Paying by the hour, right? No. I started experimenting with Drupal and ASP. This was where I start building by, again, by hacking, right, decoding stuff. Yeah. I set up servers and registered domains. Then that’s the time where I was like, “Oh, I can have a reseller program selling domains.” The figuring things out period, right? At least, I guess, even though I’m not technical, I got dangerous enough to be able to kind of understand all the moving parts and to make suggestions to our technical team.
Josh Pigford: Sure.
David Darmanin: That came in very, very handy.
Josh Pigford: Yeah. You were able to get … You knew enough to be able to talk the language to get things done?
David Darmanin: Yeah, exactly.
Josh Pigford: Yeah. After all these initial things, out of law school, what did you do once you’d finished up your degree?
David Darmanin: Yeah. When I finished that, I tried to practice a little bit. It was horrible. I don’t think I even lasted one or two months just because I was like, “Oh my god. I did all this and now I’m going to throw it away.” This was just one, two months of confirming that the decision was right, inform the family, yeah, I’m done. I’m free. Then I kept on doing consulting gigs and freelance work, but I got quickly frustrated by that and I realized now is the time that I want to kick off a startup, right? This is where I spoke to my cousin and we were like, “Okay.” I had played around enough with Drupal and stuff in trying to build sites for clients. It was frustrating and difficult. It was like, “Okay, what if we built a subscription based platform where people can build sites, right? They have modules like articles, e-commerce, and all these things?” Yeah. This was a little [crosstalk 00:11:58]-
Josh Pigford: What year would that have been?
David Darmanin: That was 2003 maybe? 2004?
Josh Pigford: Now, obviously, SaaS companies are … Everybody wants a SaaS company, right? In 2003, it’s kind of a foreign concept to like, let’s build this subscription software thing. Where did that come from? How did that idea come about for you?
David Darmanin: It basically came from this domain registration thing, right? Just, oh my god, this is genius, right? You register a domain, it’s something you don’t want to lose, right, so you’re going to keep it and then you pay them yearly for it. It’s like this is just genius. It’s like passive income in a way, but it’s a stream of revenue, right? I was thinking what if instead of paying a company to build you a website and it’s a one time thing, which I had done quite a lot, what if instead we systemized our work into modules, right, and then we created this revenue stream. It was mainly inspired by domain registration actually.
Josh Pigford: Oh. You do that for a few years or …
David Darmanin: I don’t think it even survived a year. Basically, it was me and my cousin out of a garage literally hacking things together. He had the job so it was something on the side. It wasn’t moving fast enough so I got frustrated. Then I saw an ad in the paper by a Swedish software company based in Malta and it said, “We have millions of page views. We’re looking for someone who can work on them.” The role name was Optimization Specialist. This was just the beginning, the birth of conversion rates optimization and what’s now referred to a lot today as growth hacking. When I saw this I got super excited, and I just applied, and I got the job really quickly. Yeah, I was off to basically working in the software business.
Just to put things into perspective, this was pre-smart phones, right? There’s no apps. It’s easy to forget. We were doing software for PCs, right? Driver update utilities and security stuff. Yeah. We were doing this $29 per year kind of thing. Yeah, it was deeply into the subscription thing, and very lightweight simple product, and I really, really enjoyed this job because basically I grew into VP from there and built a design team, built an optimization team, and we were doing brand and UX and all that stuff and a ton of a splitters things. Learned a lot from that.
Josh Pigford: You kind of touched on this, you had your hand in a lot of different things, I guess, at that business. Do you feel like that’s something that you … That sort of environment that you thrive in where you have lots of different things going at the same time? You have this overview of lots of things going on instead of doing one very specific thing?
David Darmanin: Yeah, I think so. I’m definitely a generalist and I enjoy using my generalist skills and even moreso than hiring specialists to take over. I really enjoy that, creating something really scrappy and then really defining it by hiring an awesome team. That’s something I definitely enjoy.
Josh Pigford: From there, you go on and did you stick with the conversion optimization stuff? Or did you stay in design?
David Darmanin: Yeah, it was kind of both. Weirdly I ended up with a role, which was VP of Design and Optimization, which actually is not that weird. It makes sense that design was leading solving problems, right?
Josh Pigford: Right.
David Darmanin: Optimization was really the name they gave it internally, but it was basically our design and testing strategy that I was leading. Yeah, eventually during this time I was doing split testing and everything, but then I started to attend a lot of events, like E-Metrics and other conference. I started to realize that there’s much more to just split testing than just the numbers. I started seeing all these qualitative methods that big businesses were using like user testing, or interviews, or focus groups. I was like, oh my god, this is so interesting. I started to do it at the business where I was at. I realized how bad things were, because we were only optimizing on the numbers, right? Was like, oh my god. The reality is if you run a business for too long optimizing on the numbers, it becomes very difficult to act on the qualitative stuff, right, because you dig yourself into a hole which is highly optimized, which is very difficult to get out of.
Josh Pigford: Yeah.
David Darmanin: That was a very interesting learning curve for me and then from there I joined then Conversion Rate Experts, which was a remote gig. I took a lot of my experience there, but learned so much from those guys. Super smart team there.
Josh Pigford: Yep. They’re sort of The guys [crosstalk 00:17:08] stuff.
David Darmanin: They are, yeah.
Josh Pigford: Yeah. Then after that, you get into Hot Jar, right? Where did that come about? How did that idea even get its start?
David Darmanin: Yeah, basically it started already when I was in the software company. There were so many tools to use and everything, it was a little bit disjointed, but then it got amplified when I joined Conversion Rate Experts. I was working with so many other consultants and a lot of my own clients, some really big brands I’m not allowed to mention. It was interesting to see that everyone felt the same way, right? It was like, okay, it’s not just me. It’s interesting, while I was consulting, I was actually … I built a couple of startups that didn’t do very well. It wasn’t like we built a business or anything. We just built an MVP, but we didn’t get traction twice in a row. I realized I’m not thinking big enough, right? I’m not thinking big enough.
Then I started to realize the more I read, I was reading a lot of books, watching a lot of sessions by, for example, Guy Kawasaki talking about entrepreneurship and everything. I realized that the unfair advantage I had was that I really knew this industry well and how to use these tools and I had a background in software. I knew amazing people who could build a solution. I was like, okay, I need to really think big. What if we just really innovated and disrupted this industry, right? What if we rethought the experience based on how we did software before, right? This low friction, start small, premium model and basically rethink the way it worked. I reached out to the best people I worked with in the past and asked them if they wanted to join in and, yeah, that was the start of Hot Jar.
Josh Pigford: Usually, when people … You mentioned the word, how do you disrupt this kind of stuff and then you’ve got to get … You’re trying to build up this team because you’re not technical. You can talk the language, but you can’t really build the thing. How did you go about getting that off the ground, because you guys didn’t take on any funding for Hot Jar, right?
David Darmanin: No, not yet.
Josh Pigford: How did you even manage to pull off an MVP and get this company off the ground when you’re having to scrap together lots of things?
David Darmanin: Yeah. Sorry, say that again? What was the last part of the question?
Josh Pigford: How were you able to pull all of these things together when-
David Darmanin: Oh, pull them all together.
Josh Pigford: Yeah.
David Darmanin: Yeah. That’s a question I ask myself, I would say. It was very difficult to do that, especially we had a lot of challenges so we had to hit a lot of marks at the same time, right? I guess being scrappy is the main answer. Just doing a lot of things in a quick and simple way. Not obsessing about doing everything perfect. I think the fact that we approached the whole launch with doing a beta, and starting simple, and just inviting people very quickly to participate in it helped us also know where to prioritize, and what to look at, and what to do first. In a way, we obviously did this using our own funds, right? We didn’t take on any funding. We paid for it ourselves through our own funds. That obviously helped us being scrappy, I think, because when you take on a lot of funds it quickly eliminates the need for scrappiness and you start throwing money at problems. I think that helped us hitting all the marks early on.
Josh Pigford: One of the big things with Hot Jar is that you guys have a ton of tools all in one place, right? That’s one of the big selling points is the fact that it’s all here, you don’t have to go to a dozen different places to get the stuff, right?
David Darmanin: Yeah.
Josh Pigford: I feel like in the past few years, I would say maybe the past five to eight years, there was this big unbundling of software where you’ve got 100 very specific tools that do very specific things and you end up … I know as a founder, I feel like I use 1,000 different tools and it drives me crazy, but I feel like in the past, I don’t know, year or two we’ve started seeing, I don’t know, the rebundling of software where now people are burned out on using a ton of different tools and would rather have it all in one place. Do you think that’s true?
David Darmanin: I think the all-in-one aspect of Hot Jar is probably one of the biggest reasons why we got success. It’s a tricky one, right? Even to now the coding exactly what we got right and not right in the all-in-one is key, right? That’s a key part of our work in terms of speaking to our customers to understand where the value comes from. I definitely agree with you that I think we’re going to see more of this in terms of many more people this frustration of so many tools to do a job. I think it’s up to entrepreneurs to find what are the personas or teams where there are groups of tools where they make sense to group them up together. Probably at the same time we’re going to see lots of startups grouping things in ways that maybe don’t make sense, but there’s going to be more of it. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen, there’s this marketing SaaS thing, where there’s all the different logos you can use for everything? Apparently every year this is nearly doubling, right? Yeah.
Josh Pigford: If you’re bundling lots of things and trying to have this all-in-one, how do you keep from becoming such a massive piece of software that all of a sudden you wake up and it’s impossible to use because there’s just so much stuff in there?
David Darmanin: Yeah. I guess that’s the key, right? We were actually looking at that this week with the team and we were emphasizing, I was doing some slides at the tech for the team and emphasizing that the only way for us to succeed is to keep things simple, right? The key is to go wide, but shallow and to really focus ruthlessly on where the value is. For us, it’s really the art of saying no, saying it in a good way, and choosing really what we should be working on and what actually has an impact. Obviously, our customers all have their own individual cases and needs, be we would fail if we started to deliver on those on all fronts because you’re just going to create another monster, right?
Josh Pigford: Yep. Backtracking a little bit here, you guys start in, what, 2014? Is that right?
David Darmanin: Yes.
Josh Pigford: Okay. I was reading that, I don’t remember how recent this article was that I saw, but that you guys are doing upwards of like close to $10 million a year or $10 million a year?
David Darmanin: Yeah.
Josh Pigford: How do you go from … Was a lot of that growth, has that been pretty stable growth? The growth curve is basically a-
David Darmanin: It’s a straight line, yeah.
Josh Pigford: A straight line or is it there was a big change in growth or has it always been just really steady?
David Darmanin: Nope. Straight line, to the point where we were like, this line is so straight, is it broken?
Josh Pigford: Right. Almost probably annoying because it’s like I’m sure you try lots of things and the line just keeps being the same.
David Darmanin: Yeah.
Josh Pigford: Yeah. For you guys, even though you’ve got this straight line of growth, what do you attribute that to? What do you feel like was the reason for this really strong growth right out of the gate?
David Darmanin: It’s funny because I actually presented about this in Dublin just two weeks ago, their SaaStock, and I presented about how we went from $0 to $10 million. The title was actually “How We Grew from $0 to $10 million in Two and a Half Years at Pretty Much in a Straight Line.”
Josh Pigford: Nice.
David Darmanin: Yeah, then obviously the first slide was okay, it wasn’t a perfectly straight line, but yeah.
Josh Pigford: Right.
David Darmanin: I attributed it to actually five things. I could actually load that up, but I guess the main thing that we identified was creating what we call this wave, right? We spent 10 months in beta. Although we incorporated in June, we actually released commercially in April, 2015. We actually ran the company for … Sorry, we ran the beta for 10 months and during that time we had 60,000 people apply, 20,000 sites participate, collected a lot of data, created a community, big fan base. This definitely enabled us to create huge word of mouth, because there was no friction, right? Everyone was joining the beta for free. There was no payment. That created a lot of buzz and noise, which we call the wave basically. It was the wave that then April, 2015 we came out really fast and then we just kept on growing from there.
Josh Pigford: You feel like the bulk of that’s attributed to the fact that you had built up really positive press? Or some buzz around that?
David Darmanin: Yeah, exactly. Obviously, our background, having done it in the software business before, we understand paids, how to do paids really well. The beauty is that when you have a product that people love with a high MPS score … On the free I think our MPS was around 57 and for customers it’s close to 50. When you’re doing paid with a product like that, it’s much easier, right? When you do it for a product that is loved, and that is efficient, and converts well then it’s super easy. Basically, for every account that we required by paying, another two come in organically, right? That is very powerful.
Josh Pigford: You ran this free beta for 10 months. Is free still a big portion of leads for you guys?
David Darmanin: Yeah. I’d say we’ve come to see free as our brand.
Josh Pigford: Okay.
David Darmanin: Right? Free is what builds our brand and gets people speaking about us and, yeah, we actually have this pseudo free trial. You come to the site, you either go free, or you start the trial, but then when the trial ends you get moved to free. You choose depending on your needs how you want to experience it, whether you try and then grow or try the big guns and then decide what to do from there.
Josh Pigford: Yep. That makes sense. Switching gears a little bit here, you guys are totally remote, is that right?
David Darmanin: Yes, we are.
Josh Pigford: Baremetrics is the same way. How did you guys decide to go remote from the start?
David Darmanin: Well, basically, having worked at Conversion Rate Experts actually was the main reason why I wanted to work there as well. I really love traveling, right? At least before I had two young kids, so before that especially. My wife and I, it was our objective, so I wanted to do that to have the freedom to do that and we did, right? We traveled to Australia, all across Europe, Asia, South America. We had good fun and I was working on the go. Actually New Zealand as well. Driving through New Zealand trying to find wifi spots and whatnot. I loved the freedom of it. Then we had our son, who is now three and a half years old, and the freedom there helped to me enjoy those moments. I guess, when we created Hot Jar there was obviously the product side, but there was also the organization.
I’d say there was two things that we really wanted to have, which were one, purpose. We have a very strong vision, so we’re not just building a tool, we’re building a tool that hopefully puts the user and the customer at the center of organizations and we hope to be the solution that allows more organizations to do that. That is our purpose. Then the second one is freedom. Having experienced it, I wanted to build an organization that as we grow and as the team grows, it’s something that we share with everyone. We give a lot of importance to freedom. Anyone who joins the team automatically gets a [inaudible 00:29:48] credit card, they get their own budgets, they manage their own budgets, they manage their own leave, no one approves their leave. We believe a lot in a culture of trust, and being self driven, and managing yourself.
Josh Pigford: What’s been the hardest part of growing a fully remote team?
David Darmanin: I’d say two things. The work-life balance, so we tend to hire really good people who are really obsessed with Hot Jar, so we need to hold them back because it’s so easy to burn out, especially if you’re remote. The second one is hiring. Although it offers us the opportunity to hire anywhere in the world, I’d say it’s kind of a negative and a good thing. For remotes, you really need to be careful to really hire the right people that are really driven and that you can trust, but hey, are those not important things if you’re not remote, right? In a way, it forces us to be even more careful and selective, which I think is a good thing.
Josh Pigford: Yeah. To me, having a remote team, it’s not that the problems are necessarily harder than having a team everybody’s in the same place, but you just have a different set of problems. Even the problems themselves aren’t necessarily all that different, they just have … They’re painted a little bit different. You just have to look at them a little bit differently.
David Darmanin: Agreed.
Josh Pigford: How many people are you guys at right now?
David Darmanin: We’re 43, but we have another three that signed, so we’ll be 46 over the coming months.
Josh Pigford: That’s great. What’s the next year look like for you guys?
David Darmanin: In terms of hiring, I guess?
Josh Pigford: Really, what’s the … Not just hiring, but yeah. Higher level. Yeah.
David Darmanin: What are we up to? Yeah. For the coming year, we’re really focused on shifting the backbone of the business from a tech point of view to being less of a tool and more of a platform. We’re switching to an events based architecture, it’s become smarter, and where the dots are connected more between the tools within Hot Jar. That’s been a big, big shift for us. It’s the first time we’re actually focusing a little bit more on our pricing, and packaging, and this stuff. We’ve been very focused, ruthlessly focused, on the product, but there comes a time when you need to sort out that stuff, so we’ve realized now is the time to do that. Then there’s going to be also a very big drive towards, yeah, obviously the hiring in terms of key hires and leadership team, building that out. I’d say those are probably going to be some of the most biggest highlights, hopefully, for in a year’s time looking back.
Josh Pigford: Yeah. From a hiring perspective, what do you feel like has been the hardest role to hire for?
David Darmanin: That’s a good question. I’d probably say Product Marketing Manager, purely because we haven’t hired yet.
Josh Pigford: Yeah.
David Darmanin: We’ve been going for so long because it’s so difficult to find someone that gets our marketing model, and then gets the product, and then understands the whole packing thing. It’s so difficult to hire for that role, because it’s really like dating, right? It’s like you’re finding really the perfect match, but you’re a very choosy person.
Josh Pigford: I think on top of that you add in the remote bit where somebody might be really great at that position, but they cannot handle working remotely. They’re just not built for it. Or at least there’s such a learning curve, I think. I think the times where we’ve had that not work out was not because the person couldn’t have never worked remotely, but maybe we didn’t do a great job of helping onboard them to equip them to remotely or they just didn’t understand what that would actually entail.
David Darmanin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Josh Pigford: Well, cool. That’s all I’ve got. How can people get in touch?
David Darmanin: Yeah. I’m not super active on Twitter, but I am there and I reply to people, so it’s @DavidDarmanin. If not, if you do use HotJar, we pride ourselves that the whole team is on our support channels so if you want to give it a spin or if you’re in there and you want to reach out to me, that is a good medium to get to me because the team will assign stuff to me, right? We’re quite a transparent company and we’re very open to helping people out, so if anyone has questions or wants to learn more about remote, which is something we’re very passionate about, or the way we’ve built the business, we write a lot about it on our blog, on the HotJar blog, but yeah it’s equally we’re more than happy to chat with anyone who wants to learn more.
Josh Pigford: Good deal. Well, thanks for hopping on a call, David.
David Darmanin: Once again, thanks a lot for having me. It’s a pleasure, an honor, because we’re big fans.
Josh Pigford: Thanks, David.