How did ShuttleCloud start?
Eduardo: I moved to the US from Spain for grad school. When I finished I got a job at a mid size tech company. I was placed in sales even though I had never done sales before, so I was learning a lot at the beginning. However, I wasn’t getting much support from my boss, and after about six months, I started feeling like I wasn’t learning as much anymore. It was frustrating, and I began to feel a little restless.
I didn’t plan on becoming an entrepreneur – my parents are both philosophy teachers, so it wasn’t a career path I had envisioned for myself. But while I was in the US, I saw how many of my classmates were starting companies, one for example turning his master’s thesis into a business. It made me think that if they could do it, I could too.
Eventually, I decided to quit my job and start my own company. I had to register a company from scratch since I was in the US under a student visa that only allowed me to work for a company. Even though I didn’t really know what I was doing, I registered ShuttleCloud for only $50 online in 2010. Setting up a company in the US is super easy, so that definitely helped.
And that’s how ShuttleCloud came to be!
“Be free, keep learning and make an impact” — as ShuttleCloud’s purpose, what does that mean to you?
Eduardo: During a coaching session, our team struggled to come up with a set of values that would drive our company forward. We eventually went back to our roots and thought about why we all joined ShuttleCloud in the first place. We all agreed that learning and growth were essential to us. We share interesting news and scientific discoveries with one another because we’re all passionate about expanding our knowledge.
The phrase “be free” has been a driving force for us from the start. When I left my job to become an entrepreneur, it was because I wanted more freedom. I’ve always tried to ensure that our team members have the same kind of freedom that I have as a business owner. We’ve never been strict about working hours or vacation time, and we’re always open to flexibility. I believe that living this way is better for everyone involved.
As we’ve grown and found success, we’ve realized that we want to make a positive impact on the world around us. It’s not just about making money to pay salaries, but also about improving the lives of our employees, their families, our users, and society at large. One example of this is our ventilator project from three years ago. Several of our team members volunteered their time to help with the project, and we even donated some company funds to purchase ventilators. It was a significant way for us to give back to our community and make a positive impact.
In summary, “be free, keep learning, and make an impact” means that we value personal and professional growth, freedom and flexibility in our work, and the opportunity to make a difference in the world around us.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Eduardo: Typically, it’s Lara [Eduardo’s daughter] running towards our bedroom, when she runs she stomps, rather than running! So that’s what gets me up in the morning, almost every morning.
What’s next, for you and for ShuttleCloud?
Eduardo: So, for me and for ShuttleCloud, we’re focusing on combining our teams working on both Email Meter and ShuttleCloud, which has been a big challenge for us. One of the challenges we faced was having only one-time projects with customers at the beginning, which meant we had to constantly acquire new customers. However, we eventually started working with recurring revenue customers, which made us a more stable company. We also focused on a niche where we did really well, with some of the biggest consumer migration companies such as Google and Yahoo as our clients. However, with such big names already on board, it became harder to win remaining clients.
To address this, we launched Email Meter, which has the potential to have many more customers than ShuttleCloud. We’re now working on both products with the same team, hoping to win some large migration clients we can still get, as well as smaller ones. We also aim to sign up many midsize and smaller clients with Email Meter. This will give us the stability of having a lot of smaller clients while also having some very big clients.
Personally, I’m happy supporting Angel and the rest of the team, particularly with product and engineering, which is what I love most. We have some experiments, but for now, our focus is on ShuttleCloud and Email Meter.
What’s a cool story from your time with ShuttleCloud?
Eduardo: Yeah, so one of my favorite stories from my time at ShuttleCloud was when I negotiated a contract with Google. After we were done negotiating, I met the person I was working with in person a couple of months later in New York City. We ended up spending quite a bit of time at work, and it was nice to develop a friendship with her. Even though it’s been almost nine years since we signed the contract and she’s moved on to other departments, we still keep in touch.
This summer, our families spent a week together at the beach, and it was really awesome. We talked about a lot of things, but no business talk because she’s in a completely different department now, and I don’t work directly with Google anymore. It was really cool to reconnect after so long, and we actually connected back in the day over electronic music. We discovered that we liked the same kind of music when we met up a few months after signing the deal, but we were careful not to become too friendly because of the business relationship.
Now that we’re working on different things, it’s totally fine to be friends, and it was great to spend time with her and her family. Her daughter is the same age as one of my daughters, so it was nice to see them play together. It’s always great when you can become friends with someone you’ve worked with, and this was definitely one of my favorite experiences at ShuttleCloud.
What's your favorite quote?
Eduardo: So, my favorite quote that I recently heard is “to begin, begin.” It’s actually a quote that I heard from Angel, but I believe it’s originally from you [the interviewer, Ryan]. I really like this quote because it aligns with one of my personal values: taking action. I don’t like to just talk about things, I prefer to take action and get things done. So “to begin, begin” really resonates with me and serves as a good reminder to just start and not get caught up in overthinking or planning too much.
You ran ShuttleCloud from the US and Spain. What are the pros and cons of each?
Eduardo: Yeah, so I’ve had the experience of running ShuttleCloud from both the US and Spain, and each place has its pros and cons. One thing that stands out to me about the US is the energy and optimism. Every time I fly there, I’m reminded of the country’s can-do attitude and how people believe that anything is possible. It’s infectious, and I love it.
On the other hand, Spain is a bit more conservative and negative by default. People here don’t necessarily believe that big things can be done, which can make it harder to get started in business. However, once you’re up and running, the quality of life is just fantastic. It’s hard to beat. In the US, you have to go outside of the big cities to find that kind of quality of life, or at least it can be more difficult to find.
Another thing to consider is the bureaucracy in Spain. There’s definitely more of it here, which can be a challenge. But on the flip side, in the US, you have to be prepared for lawsuits. Even when you’re just starting out with a few employees, you have to be ready to defend yourself, because people will come after you for almost anything. In Spain, it’s rare to be sued, which is a nice relief.
What do you think is one factor that makes ShuttleCloud unique?
Eduardo: Well, you know, I think one thing that makes ShuttleCloud unique is the people we have. We’ve got some really smart people here. And it’s not just a couple of people, everyone is smart. And I think that kind of intelligence attracts other smart people, you know? It’s like a positive feedback loop. I’ve learned so much from the team ever since I started the company.
It’s also really cool to see the kinds of things that pop up in Slack. Like, we’ve got channels about science and nature and all sorts of interesting stuff. And I didn’t create those channels, it’s just people sharing things that they’re passionate about. Having those really smart people working here obviously translates to having some pretty great products, too.
We also tend to hire some pretty young but really smart people. And sometimes they’re surprised when they end up working on projects with companies like Google and realize that the engineers and product people there aren’t necessarily any smarter than our team. In fact, sometimes we’re even smarter! And I think that’s pretty cool to see. We may be a small team, but we’ve got some seriously smart people who can compete with the big guys.
You’ve sailed since you were young. Are there any parallels between running a business and sailing?
Eduardo: When I think about sailing, I definitely see some parallels with running a business, particularly the competitive aspect. When I was younger, I was really into sailing to race. And I trained tirelessly for it. The type of boat I raced was a one-person boat, so it was a very individualistic kind of racing. I think that experience helped me as a CEO because, in some ways, being a CEO can be a lonely job. Sometimes, when I was racing and someone was passing me or going faster, I would talk to myself in my head and push myself to do better. Nowadays, as a former CEO, I still have that inner conversation with myself, especially when I need to fix a mistake or find a way to improve. Sailing made me more competitive, which I think is helpful in business when you’re trying to win deals or develop products faster than your competition.
What advice would you give to someone beginning a startup?
Eduardo: To begin, begin. [laughing] No really, you know, it’s true. Starting a software company is a great option because the costs to start are relatively low. All you need is a computer and yourself to start coding. However, it’s not easy to create a successful software company. That’s why it’s important to start coding and show your product to potential customers or users as soon as possible. There’s no substitute for actually doing it. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because they will happen. But the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to learn and improve your product. So my advice is to begin, begin.
What keeps you awake at night, other than your children?
Eduardo: As a company grows bigger, the role of a leader becomes more complex. I’m not the CEO on a day-to-day basis anymore, so I don’t have to manage a lot of people. However, I still attend meetings and collaborate with others. When we’ve made mistakes from a management standpoint, it can be difficult because it affects how we work together. Sometimes, when we’ve made an error, it keeps me up at night because I care about the success of our team and our company.
Who is your role model or inspiration?
Eduardo: Steve Jobs is definitely someone who inspires me, but not necessarily as a role model. I find his product creation and intuition for making products to be incredible and extraordinary. His leadership skills are also noteworthy. However, after reading his biographies, it’s clear that he wasn’t always the nicest boss to work for. While I don’t necessarily believe that bosses need to be nice all the time, there were traits of his that were insulting and not something I would aspire to. So, while he is not a role model, he is certainly very inspirational from a product and leadership perspective.
What attributes would you say are key to being the ideal employee?
Eduardo: As someone who has managed and founded companies, I believe that being the ideal employee can vary depending on the person you work with. We are all unique and have different strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to surround yourself with people who compliment your skills. As for me, I’m not the best at following up on things, so I need employees who are proactive and responsible, and who can help me stay on top of things.
However, if I had to name some key attributes for the ideal employee, I would say that optimism and positivity are some of the most important for me. Starting a company is already challenging, and as a CEO, it’s essential to work with people who share a positive attitude and believe in the company’s vision. Of course, there are many reasons why a company can fail, but having an optimistic and positive team can make all the difference.
Apart from that, productivity is also crucial. As a CEO, I had numerous responsibilities, and I didn’t have the time to micromanage every task or give detailed instructions to every employee. So, I need people who can get things done efficiently, and who take initiative in their work. Overall, the ideal employee should be optimistic, productive, and able to complement the manager’s strengths and weaknesses.