Welcome to Part 3 of an ongoing series with ShuttleCloud engineers discussing projects, bottlenecks, and whatever else is on their mind.
Below is an interview with Carlos Cabañero, Co-Founder and CTO of ShuttleCloud who lives in Madrid, Spain.
At a glance
Name | Carlos Cabañero
Role | Co-Founder and CTO
Background | 3D engines, Big Data, video game development, B2B software
I started coding when I was 6 years old — my dad was sick of buying video games and told me I should make my own, so I did. Back then magazines came with pre-defined applications you could code yourself, and I discovered that changing the games to make them my own was more fun than playing them. Besides games I also made applications for businesses, accountants, retail, and even libraries. I published my first video game when I was 16 to one of the earliest digital publishing platforms, but ultimately got cheated out of the revenue share.
My interests evolved during university when I began exploring digital art creation with a partner named Álvaro Castro. We were invited to exhibit in 2006’s Ars Electronica with an application that makes projections on urban planning emergencies based on sample data like population size. This was effectively an application of what Big Data is today — taking sample data and visualizing it.
I’ve always loved the symbiosis between hardware and software, and as an artist I worked with individuals and companies to envision new ways that technology could reshape their businesses. One of my projects involved designing a device for domotics. It evolved into a mobile device that could store personal data — either from social networks or other sources — and could share this data with surrounding devices such as a home stereo (to know what music you’d like to play) or a thermostat (based on mood and weather conditions). We worked on this before the iPhone was a reality.
What’s your role at ShuttleCloud?
Eduardo and I started the company with a single concern — do people want to migrate email? We threw together an MVP to validate the idea, and after receiving interest we knew we needed to scale very quickly to meet demand.
During Techstars my role as CTO was crazy. The incubator concept is to create a product that looks interesting within a short period of time, with very few resources, and with a lot of distractions. I spent many nights sleeping on couches at the office. This phase was rough but critical — it was all about discovering things and being able to iterate quickly. These are the character qualities you want during the early stages of a company, and we survived, which feels great.
How have you built the team and the platform?
Our investor pitch was that it doesn’t matter where or what your data is — I came up with the vision of a ‘pipeline’ on top of the cloud, optimized for data movement and agnostic to endpoints (email, contacts, whatever). I knew to achieve this we’d have to test potential architectures very quickly, the last being what Félix discusses. Over the past 2 years our entire team has contributed to the platform.
After graduating and raising money it was time to build a team and scale what we hacked together at Techstars. As we’ve grown from 2 to 12 people in the past couple years I’ve adapted Werner Vogel’s framework for a growing CTO. Right now I’m in stage 2, described as a leader with a vision whose moving away from daily ops and helps assemble teams.
What bottlenecks have you encountered?
Hiring is obviously a bottleneck, but it’s also related to the speed at which you grow. Even if we could onboard 50 engineers overnight we wouldn’t. One of the most important things for our engineering team is our culture — knowing ‘how’ to approach each other with problems. Since culture takes time to build, so should hiring. So in one way, building culture has fueled the bottleneck of hiring, making it a good problem to have.
Another bottleneck is that there’s no “silver bullet” in software development. Ultimately you have to cross uncharted waters and fix issues as they arise. As Bill Buxton once said, “it’s 500 no’s for every yes.”
When you start out you’re constantly throwing code away and building again from scratch, but as time goes by you have to work with patterns and improve what you’ve got — starting over isn’t feasible anymore. This is a bottleneck, however, that you have to cope with instead of fight.
Describe a project you’re proud of.
What I’m most proud of is our great team — we have 11 already! It’s all for one (and one for all) and the team’s talent and drive makes me proud.