#TechVAN March: On tech debt, beauty, and getting good

Vancouver’s tech community came out in droves this week for the second #TechVAN downtown meetup, co-hosted by Vancouver Enterprise Forum. Entrepreneurs and VCs mixed with experienced innovators in a lively crowd. Presenters included founders from across a wide spectrum, all sharing actionable tips to hack growth and focus on core values.

Buyatab’s Matias Marquez

“Technical debt is bad – but if you think your company isn’t going to have it, you’re out to lunch,” he began, talking about the gap between demands from customers and the ability of developers to meet those requirements – often by taking shortcuts. His company that works with hundreds of brands globally helping them to sell gift cards online has often faced this challenge – and the key to dealing with it is being realistic, Marquez added.

“When you’re sitting with a big opportunity, you’re always going to have limited resources and even large companies have technical debt.” The trick is for developers to feel empowered to ‘own’ their shortcuts, making them where necessary in order to fulfill business requirements. But the other half of that is documenting shortcuts in a systematic way, so those rocky bits of development can be smoothed over at a more opportune time (often very shortly after a product or client’s app goes live).

Jason Bailey from East Side Games

“What is your Magic Number?” That’s the question posed by a serial entrepreneur in the local tech space who thinks its long past time companies got religion around analytics and data. “What’s your goal? ‘Get more clients’ is the obvious answer, for any company – but how do we do that? What number is really important?” Whichever data set you’re looking at, the question you ask ultimately must provide an actionable answer. (In-depth coverage of this presentation to follow shortly on BetaKit! Look for it, readers).

Jordan Menashy, Co-Founder and VP Marketing of Bench

How can commerce be a tool to make the world beautiful while earning a profit?  That was the theme of Menashy’s talk, as he explained how accounting (the focus of Bench’s platform) isn’t particularly loved or beautiful – for no good reason. “We take raw data and put it into a form that’s useful and gives people insights over their financial lives – and that’s beautiful.” He explained that any company can aim to promote beauty in everything from its advertising and website design to its core values – and that by doing so, companies can “convert like crazy.”

Edward Nevaurement of A Place for Mom

“Good is better than excellent.” Nevaurement turned this counter-intuitive idea on its head, pointing out that in any sector that requires highly skilled people, from the NFL to high-end consulting firms and cutting-edge technical development, it is virtually impossible to differentiate ‘good’ from ‘great’ over time. You can hire people who interview in the top percentile, who perform only as well (or worse) as someone who scored a B+ grade on that same interview. Top performers in one year may not be top performers the next.

The upshot? Companies looking for top talent (a common theme on the west coast tech scene) “need to eliminate the first part, the difference between poor and good. We should look for good and excellent. There’s no difference between the best and worst in the league because they are skilled jobs – and we see this everywhere… Where you get success is simply from eliminating ‘the bad’.”

Jonathon Narvey

Jonathon Narvey

Jonathon Narvey is a content marketing strategist and BetaKit Senior Editor. Living and working in the heart of downtown Vancouver, he's watched this city's tech hub grow and start to compete on a world-class level. He has learned most of what he knows about tech startups and entrepreneurial spirit by interviewing some of the most innovative thought leaders here and abroad. He's always up for learning something new about the startups, leaders and technologies that are changing our world.