Dec 15, 2010
MITER: What’s really impressive about Pixable is that your team is spread out across three different continents. How do you manage that?
IB: Here in New York it’s great because we have a small team here. Since we formed Pixable I’ve spent as much as three months in India working with our team there or sometime in Argentina building the team there. I went to India before graduation from MIT and then went again for three weeks in November. When you’re young and passionate, you can live cheaply. I stayed in India in a very, very, very cheap hotel – you can’t imagine. Basically, you have to make sacrifices. In the beginning it was difficult, but when you’re playing with your own money – which we were when we started – you just don’t think about it. You go for it, fly to India, and simply live cheaply. If you get there at 2am, instead of getting a hotel room, just take a bus to where you need to go and sleep on it. And in the morning, you have saved one night worth of money. You couldn’t have done that if you were with a large company. So when you’re ready to make sacrifices, it becomes easy.
When we just got started in the U.S. there were a couple of months when we started work each day at midnight to be in sync with our team in India. We were on the phone from 2am onward each day. Now it’s getting more difficult because we have a larger team. But you still need to be ready to be online any time of the day and night.
MITER: You created international offices to be capital efficient or were there other reasons as well?
IB: Capital efficiency, for sure. But mainly the possibility of attracting talent faster. . So I’d call this being time-efficient in recruiting talent. In Argentina, saying that we’re an American company, we work on a product (vs. a service), that we work with Facebook and that we’ve raised money, goes a lot further. In New York, there’s a lot more competition for talent. It’s supply and demand. Foursquare, for example, just raised $20M and they are going after the same people that we are. And Facebook and Google, too, are growing their offices in New York.
MITER: But you’ve gone to MIT, the hotbed of talent. Shouldn’t that give you an advantage in recruiting?
IB: That’s true to an extent, but we’re based in New York and the disadvantage about New York is that there’s a lot more marketing talent here than technical talent. This is not strictly a disadvantage because in business-to-consumer markets marketing is very important – it’s all about user experience, it’s about design, it’s about events. And since our business is photos, that matters to us that much more. At the same time, it’s tough bringing technical talent to New York. People don’t want to commit when there are high risks, New York is expensive, and there weren’t that many tech and consumer web companies there before. Furthermore, most MIT graduates who come to New York end up in finance. In fact, I read somewhere that about sixty percent of engineering undergrads from MIT go to finance or consulting. So we do have access, but it’s still difficult to recruit.
MITER: Why didn’t you go to Silicon Valley?
IB: That was a big decision. When we were still at MIT, we considered Boston, Silicon Valley, New York, and Miami. In the end, it came down to Silicon Valley or New York. We felt Boston wasn’t the right place to be longterm with a consumer product and Miami was disadvantageous in terms of talent. We chose New York for two reasons. First, we are an international team – I’m from Spain and my partner is from Venezuela, so we wanted to be close to our families. When you’re in Silicon Valley, you can’t just take off for a weekend in Europe. But if you’re in New York, you just take a flight on Friday and you’re back on a Sunday, no problem. So proximity was one. And proximity nowadays has nothing to do with distance – rather, it’s how long it takes you to get somewhere. Second, we made a longterm commitment. Starting a company is not like going into consulting, for example, where you can spend two years doing it and move one quickly if you don’t like it. With a startup it may happen that you’d spend the next twenty years of your life with it. So you need to choose a city where you want to be longterm. New York is very international, very diverse; it lets you get to know lots of interesting people outside of your industry; and you can also complement your very hard working life during the week with a lot of cultural events on the weekend. Silicon Valley just doesn’t have that – you go there, work a lot, but don’t have as many fun things to do on the weekend.
Interestingly, after we moved down to New York there has been a boom of consumer Internet companies growing here: Foursquare, Hunch, The Ladders, Gilt, Etsy, Tumblr, Rent The Runway, …