Last week we spoke about how product designers start a new project and deal with past baggage and today we want to further explore this with Juan Rodriguez, CEO at Camaloon, who joined the startup after it has been running for 5 years.

At itnig every Friday we sit down to talk with interesting people whom we meet throughout the week and we make a podcast (in Spanish) out of our conversations. You can listen to it on iTunes, subscribe to our channel on Youtube or enjoy it through iVoox.


For this Podcast #20 Bernat Farrero, CEO at itnig, Jordi Romero, CEO at Factorial, César Migueláñez, Product Director at Factorial, Masumi Mutsuda, Media at itnig and Juan Rodríguez, CEO at Camaloon came together to talk about the challenges a CEO faces while joining an existing company.

How do you as CEO plan changes in an already existing company?

Firstly, it is necessary to evaluate if there is even the need to make a change or if instead the company can continue as such? In our case Camaloon had a very strong and positive company culture from the get-go but it has been lost a bit on the way. So when I started I aimed to revive this initial startup culture.

Camaloon is a company based on technology, we want to grow differentiating ourselves from our competitors through the product. This means that we are always looking for tech talent who can bring the differentiating factor to the company.

When I started in the spring of last year, the company culture had gone a little bit of track, we were focussing on other areas and when I joined, my challenge lay in bringing us back on track.

When you decide to enter a new company at the most important decision making role in an already working company, how do you understand how the dynamics work? How do you decide the way to go? How do you develop what needs to change?

You observe the synergies in the teams, the dynamics. Is there a good communication between teams?

Of course there are many approaches but I believe in the end you base yourself on intuition, you have only a short window to make a change.

I would say it’s a mix of data analysis, observation and intuition. You try to provoke change observe where the road blocks lay, you have to move quickly as if you don’t make any changes in the first two months it will be hard to overcome the inertia moving forward.

When entering a new company and pushing for strategic transformation I think it’s important to:

  • Make decisions quickly
  • Fix strategic north
  • Focus people (feel secure, perform better)
  • Maintain the same message continuously

How was your first day at Camaloon?

First I arrived somewhat incognito, I sat down next to our admin department and asked for data. Everyone thought I was a tax auditor or investor, nobody talked to me and everyone was very polite. Then, on my first real day as a CEO I sat down between marketing and technology director. I started talking to everybody in the office and in our production plant.

Was there anything surprising?

All I knew about Camaloon before starting came from Bernat and he is an entrepreneur so when I started I was surprised to see that there was no startup culture. It was a very corporate and traditional company, with many departments and a deep structure.

And for you, Bernat, how were the first months of not being Camaloon’s CEO? Was it hard to hand over your control?

Yes and No. It was hard as I had worked daily with the Camaloon team, had a strong relationship and Camalooners came running to me even after Juan started. As first reaction I had the instinct of jumping in as always. But it was also easy to hand over control to Juan as he was 100% aligned in strategy and I realized his way of attacking the problems not only seemed right but I also saw he had the capacity to implement them. I had no doubt.

And indeed, Camaloon is growing. We are adding new products, entering new segments and going all in for technology. We are looking for great talent and great growth opportunity for team members, actually we are looking for Sales, Marketing & Tech professionals of all areas: itnig.net/jobs

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T.

The new time and attendance law will kill innovation in Spain and Europe

Simple solutions or “one fits all” policies are easy to market by populist governments but they are sometimes at the expense of certain sectors and their people. This time the affected party is innovation and value added services, to a point that puts in jeopardy our (already weak) spot in the global competitiveness landscape.

I’ve always told my teams that I do not hire their time, but rather their talent and potential: their brains, their energy and passion and their willing to make a difference and impact our clients and the world through them. Innovative companies try to get in existing markets and solve things in complete different ways, some go as far as creating new markets from scratch. They all have in common that their mission is extremely hard, sometimes impossible (thus most fail along the way). The key for their success is how they manage to convince their teams that everything they do is not a job, but a religion. They are changing the world and that is something worth spending time and making history.

I can tell if somebody is motivated by their job by looking at their eyes while they talk about their challenges and ideas. Best people don’t work, they play. They make their challenges their hobbies. I’ve had many conversations at 1 am in the office, after some beers and sushi, before even realizing what time it is. Only when a job makes this kind of conditions happen, the wheel of significant value creation really stirs and great things come from it.

It is very hard to create a culture in which people feel so empowered that they are capable of anything. In my experience, it helps granting absolute flexibility. I don’t remember the last time I approved vacations to my team, or I paid attention to their schedules, or the days in which they worked from home or the office. This is not the kind of conversations I want to have with them. My relationship with my team is based on trust, and it is based on one single (often repetitive) conversation: how can we do more and better, how can we grow faster, how can we raise the bar. Little it matters to me whether they contribute to this questions from the beach in Canary Islands or spending many hours in the office.

However, the government today decided that it is a great idea in the 21th century that all companies like ours should make everybody clock in and clock out by law. I’m now obliged to add people’s time and attendance into our conversation. We now have to treat all jobs like production lines in factories (amidst the era of hyper automation and robotization). They go as far as having us registering accurate pauses for lunch. Unfortunately they don’t include how should we manage the time spent in the chill-out area, or when having long coffees in the outside terrace, or spending the afternoon in ping pong championships. Should we clock-in and clock-out every time we do that too?

When I travel I always get asked how is the Spanish ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation developing, I always defend our potential to become a leading actor in science and technology,  besides our current reputation for tapas, toros and siesta. We previously analysed the many initiatives taking place in the city of Barcelona. But my question is: is there anybody in the government actually helping us to make this happen?

The new law will come to place the next 12th of May. At Factorial we developed a free feature, so companies can instantly become compliant with the law. Interestingly enough, almost immediately after launching this feature people started developing tools using our API to automate clocking or connecting it with Slack and other interfaces. It looks like after all there will always be people willing to work on relevant things and not waste their energy in bureaucratic traps.

PD: You can find more information about the law in this article.