Startup Chapter 4 – Zanthion Team
Jeff, our COO, and I often have conversations centered around how running a company and participating in the competition of business is the same as our experience playing sports over the years. 4 out of 5 of our executive team are or were athletes that competed over an extended period of time.
There are a lot of reasons to play sports, but for most of us who do it seriously, we are adrenalin junkies who love the ebb and flow of the game. You learn very quickly in team sports that the synergy of the team is everything. If you want to hold the court day in and day out, regardless of individual circumstances, who you play with and how you play together is the heart of the game.
The story of Zanthion for the last three weeks is a story of the power of “team”. Three weeks ago on May 25th Zanthion had $42,639.10 in our bank account. Today we have $ 35,318.56. Stepan, we call him Steven, our director of software engineering, and I have invested over 4 ½ years in developing a comprehensive open architecture flexible extensible IoT platform for elderly care.
Three months ago Jeff Robinson joined our team as the Chief Operating Officer with over 25 years in medical device and elderly care. Every team needs a playmaker, the guy that dribbles into the opposition, forces a double team, and dishes to the open man. Jeff is our playmaker. From day one his efforts took Steven and my engineering to a new level by sourcing read and broadcast sensors at a fifth of the price we were paying and 10x the battery life. In a short 3 months, he found 12-hour full android watches that auto answered callers and worked seamlessly with our platform for fall and wandering protection at a price far below industry standards for a watch of the quality he found.
Three weeks ago our team consisted of me, Jeff Robinson, Stepan Rudenko our director of software engineering, and Viktor Ponomarenko our expert mobile application developer. Steven and I had been struggling with the resource issue we had of paying for and supporting the most functional cost effective IoT elderly care system anywhere. When Jeff joined our team he immediately recognized the bottleneck and we set out to build out our technology team so that I could spend more time developing the business and procuring capital. We placed a job in Indeed.com for a CTO and constructed a strategy for gaiting any potential candidates. We knew after a lot of pain and anguish that we needed a player we could count on being there during the good times and bad times and who was willing to invest in the company practicing before expecting a payout. We engineered a sophisticated gating mechanism for their CTO hire involving logic tests, measurement of their personal investment in elderly care, measuring their proactiveness, determining their willingness to provide value first, and last and most importantly, their integrity and capability.
Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. John exemplifies integrity and Zanthion is lucky to have gotten all three in a great leader.
Jeff and I filtered through 75 candidates in 7 weeks:
- They took a logic test, only three out of 75 candidates got an expert rating
- We asked them for the reason they were requesting to work with us, we wanted someone that cared about the state of the world and specifically elderly
- We asked about technical skills, as a manager were they still coding daily
- We asked what they expected in pay and were looking for someone that would show us what they could do before asking for money
- Lastly, we checked into their integrity, did they say what they would do and do what they said
At the end of our 7 weeks of interviews, John Hagelgans sent in his resume after receiving an expert score on the logic test. He had started and run startups, been programming for over 30 years, and had just exited a 65 million valuation startup as their CTO. He was looking for something new. We loved him. He is an easy going, team player with a lot of “hit the ground running” experience. That was 3 weeks ago. He immediately spun up some servers on Amazon and scripted backups for our databases. This last week he implemented Terraform so that we could spin up dev, test, prod and customer platforms at the push of a button. John is awesome.
While John was spinning up Terraform and backups we were pumping out code to support broadcast sensors Jeff had sourced and a new amazing 4g Full Android Watch that Steven had increased the battery life on from 3 hours to 12. The Zanthion Platform is 20 man years of work developed by 2 people with help on and off over time from others. It is extremely complex. We have been fast-breaking our competition for years. Every once in a while one of us trips and falls. Zanthion is competing against the biggest players in the industry; companies like Google, Amazon, SimpliSafe, and on and on. For us to go to market with a far superior product we don’t get to take breaks or miss the fast break. We always have to perform at the top of our game. That is why it is so critical to have team players because we watch each other’s backs. We know when one of us has pushed their personal life too far or is stressed by whatever new challenge we are enduring. In those times, because we are very deep in experience, one or all of us rally, pick up the injured player and win the point.
With the acquisition of John and our impending market introduction, our team needs to protect our investment before going to market by investing in a CFO who can align our stock offering, put our accounting in order, and develop a strategy for capital acquisition. While I was visiting my sons in Colorado I ran into an old friend of the family and friends of my eldest son, John Sebesta. I’ve known John for over 14 years, played soccer with him, watched him graduate at the top of his class, heard of his engineering exploits, spoken to him about his experience working at Lockheed Martin negotiating contracts, and before this last meeting his soon to be exploits starting and running a business in South America. John is one of those rare team player geniuses that always improves a team with his energy and intellect. We are in negotiations with him to become our CFO with hopes he will join us full time in a couple of months.
While all this was going on, we missed a few blocks, tripped a couple of times down the court and made some passing errors. Specifically, our gateway has had 3 releases in the last 3 weeks. The last one broke the read sensors. It will be fixed by this afternoon. I made a copy command for our complex event technology that deleted some key events in our test communities and this too will be fixed by the end of the day. On the bright side we discovered that we will be able to install into the vast majority of home security company homes, that is 34 million homes, use their existing sensors, combine their output with our event technology and wearables and deliver unprecedented understanding of the occupants health and notify family, friends, medical staff, and emergency services of falls, health issues, wandering, and break-ins.
We are a TEAM!