Founders & Friends with Scott Orn

A Startup Podcast by Kruze Consulting

Startup Podcast by Scott Orn

Subscribe on:

Posted on: 12/21/2020

Haje Kamps of Konf, the virtual conference platform for planning and running events with a focus on networking and social connection

Kruze Consulting's Founders and Friends Podcast · Haje Kamps of Konf, the virtual conference platform for planning and running events

Haje Kamps

Haje Kamps

CEO - Konf


Haje Kamps of Konf - Podcast Summary

Haje Kamps talks about founding Konf, the virtual conference platform for planning and running events with a focus on networking and social connection. We also talk about Haje’s background in Venture Capital and running a photography startup, all experiences that made him well suited for starting Konf.

Haje Kamps of Konf - Podcast Transcript

Scott: Hey, it’s Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting, and welcome to another episode of Founders & Friends. And before we start the podcast, let’s give a quick shout out to Rippling. Rippling is the new cool payroll tool that we see a lot of startups using. Rippling is great for your traditional HR and payroll. They integrate very nicely, but guess what? They did another thing, they integrate into your IT infrastructure. They make it really easy for when you hire someone to spin up all the web services and their computer. Which sounds like not a huge deal, but actually we did the study Kruze, we spent $420 on average just getting a new employee’s computer up and running, and their web servers up and running. It’s actually a really big deal. It saves a lot of money, and the dogs are eating the dog food. We see a lot of startups coming in to Kruze now using Rippling. So please check out Rippling. Great service, we love it. I think we have a podcast with Parker Conrad, you can hear it from his own words. But we’re seeing them take market share, so shout out to Rippling. And now to another awesome podcast at Kruze Consulting Founders & Friends. Thanks.
Singer: So, when your troubles are mounting in tax or accounting, you go it’s Kruze Founders and Friends. It’s Kruze Consulting Founders and Friends, with your host Scotty Orn.
Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends podcast with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting. And today my very special guest is Haje Kamps of Konf. Welcome, Haje.
Haje: Thank you, good to be back.
Scott: We were just talking before I turned the mics on, you have the best, as fitting for someone who’s doing a video events, conferencing startup. You have the best camera, and lighting, and everything I’ve ever seen. I wish everyone else could see how [inaudible] how clear you are right now.
Haje: Well it’s fun. This company really pulls together a whole bunch of this stuff I’ve been doing for years. I worked as a TV producer for a couple of years, and I really care about AV quality. And it’s just been an excuse to spend a god-awful amount of money on getting it right. And of course, spending, I was just saying before we went on, I think there’s probably about $5,000 worth of AV equipment powering the Zoom call. And I’m like, well that’s a little bit overkill for a video call. But the funny thing is, everybody I jumped on a call with go, wait, what’s going on here? I feel like I’m about to go on television. And-
Scott: [inaudible] too. It makes a huge difference. But you also before you ran calm, you ran a camera company basically, right?
Haje: Absolutely. I am an above average camera nerd. I’ve written 15 or 16 books about photography, including some beginner guides, like travel photography guides. I wrote the book on micro photography. So, you can safely call me a camera nerd, but I also really believe in application over technology. I mean, nobody gives a damn if you use the fanciest equipment if it looks awful. And I think that’s true for everything. The worst insult you can tell a photographer is, oh that’s a really good photo, you must have a great camera. I was like, Well nope.
Scott: Please come with a photographer, not the camera.
Haje: Exactly. Or, Hey, you run a really good accounting firm, you must have really good computers. Well no, it’s got nothing to do with it.
Scott: You’ve got a really exciting company. I’ve had you on the podcast before, you worked at a VC firm. But you took the leap and you’re building a super cool company called Konf, K-O-N-F. So maybe just kind of retrace your career a little bit, and tell everyone about Konf and how you got there.
Haje: Yeah. I mean most recently I was at a venture capital firm, and I think one day I ended up waking up and realized that venture capital isn’t my pace. In VC you make lots of really well-educated bets and guesses, but you don’t really know until a company exits whether or not you make the right choices. And that can take 10 years. And I think I just got less and less comfortable with that pace of life. I am definitely a have an idea in the morning, sketch it out late morning, implemented it by the afternoon. And the next day you start getting data to see whether or not it worked. That is more my pace. And as I kind of started feeling into, okay, what do I really want to do with my life? I eventually realized that, okay, maybe it’s time to change gears a little bit and do something where I can get back into the entrepreneurial side. And of course, in the venture capital firm, I was the director of portfolios. So, I was kind of an industrial scale startup mentor to a portfolio of about 100 companies. And so, I spent so much time with the entrepreneurs, and more and more I was looking at the other side of the table going, you guys are having more fun than I am. I really need to swap seats here.
Scott: Yeah, get more stress but it’s like living life a little bit more.
Haje: Oh totally. I’m not going to lie man, I miss my paycheck. I miss my hours, I miss all the stuff that is wonderful about VC. But I think ultimately, I was thinking about what is the most efficient way that I can impact the world and things I care about? And I had this kind of sitting on the mountain meditating type moment where I was like, what do I really care about? And I was like, okay, there’s two things that really set my solar light. And one is connecting humans to other humans. Like inter-human connection, having real, screw the smalltalk, let’s have big talk type conversations. And ultimately the environment, and climate change, and all that kind of stuff. The line I keep repeating to people is, Look, if it turns out that ruining the planet is the right thing to do, we can do that later. We don’t have to do it now. Let’s keep the options open to do things the right way, and to keep the planet around for long enough to figure out what we need to be doing. And I just think at some point I had this kind of vision like, okay, what can I do with my life to have a massive out-sized positive impact on the planet? I can right now grab a glove and a bag and clean up the street outside my house, but that is so local. And I’m like, I’m an entrepreneur at heart, I want to think big, and conferences, virtual events, and conferencing platform. And if you’ve spent much time at expos or conferences, those things are so wasteful. Every year a billion people get on planes, trains, and automobiles to travel to these events, putting enormous amount of carbon into the air. And the events themselves too, it’s all disposable everything. They build all these massive stands and then tear them down again a week later, and everything goes to the landfill. And it is so awfully wasteful. And at some point, my co-founder came to me, he’s a massive environmentalist as well and said, Hey, I’ve got this really cool idea for moving the needle on the world of digital events. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a platform that was good enough to eliminate a percentage of all the travel that needs to happen? And I was like, Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. Let’s take a look at the competitive landscape and see what’s out there. And yeah, that was the beginning of our journey.
Scott: It’s pretty amazing. And that kind of coincided with when COVID hit too, right? You guys were having those, because I remember you and I were talking, having those conversations, and all of a sudden COVID hit. And it was like, oh my God, it kind of accelerated everything three or four years. But I also felt like it kind of made your decision easier, because you had a pretty good life before. And then all of a sudden, you’re like, wait a second, I’m staring at a catalyst right now that can really turbo-charge Konf.
Haje: Absolutely. And I think what we’ve really seen is about five years worth of evolution in three months. And what I mean by that is, I think there was already a trend towards taking more of these events and putting them in the virtual world. There’s a lot of types of events where in-person makes sense and in-person might be better, but there was already a trend. Of course, there was lots of little hoops you have to jump through. People hadn’t figured out video, people have crappy internet at home, they can’t find a piece in their house to do meetings, and that kind of stuff. But because of COVID everybody who had crappy internet connection spent the time and money to upgrade them, everybody who hadn’t figured out video conferencing spent the time and money to figure that out. And if you live in a house with other people, occasionally you had to take a meeting that you had to do. So, you clear out a room, or you make agreements with your housemates, or whatever it is. You make the space you need, in order to have that peace of mind to be able to carve out an hour of silence. And I think just with these three things, you just saw an enormous amount of behavioral change, in almost no time at all. And the other example I like to use is that there’s a bunch of people who were staunchly anti-video, who have now changed their mind. And-
Scott: That’s a point I want to talk about too, because it’s impacting both our businesses. There’s been the cultural thing that also changed. We’ve been a distributed company for a long time for two and a half years now, almost three years. And like one out of like 25 companies would not want to work with us, because they’d be like, well you’re not going to come to our office. And we were like, Look, you think you want us to come to your office, but you’ll have us come one time, we’ll end up sitting in another room. You won’t even talk to us because you’ll have other things going on, and then we’ll go. And we could have just been so much more productive and less costly for you, if we would have just done everything over video and remote.
Haje: Yeah. Literally the only time I have wanted to be in the same space as my accountants, you excepted, because I like to go have a beer with you. But in your role as an accountant, it’s been when I was in the UK, my company was under a tax audit. And they actually sent a literal human being to our office to audit our books. That was the one time where I was like, hey accountant, can you come and sit with us? Because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, and I don’t want to be put on the spot by some tax accountant. But that was like once in 15 years of commercial history that I felt like that was useful.
Scott: Yeah. And the IRS, they just do it over the internet too. It’s like, don’t worry about that. But it’s just a crazy thing. I would always be kind of flabbergasted, but that’s completely disappeared. And so, I think for the better. And you were talking about a lot of the environmental waste, which I totally agree with. And I can see it in airplanes and pollution. But also, just the time waste, that’s really what this period has done for me. You know this, I used to drive half an hour from Laurel Heights to downtown San Francisco, it’s less than two miles. It would take me half an hour for the trip, just to go to our office and half an hour on the way home, if I was lucky. It’d be bumper to bumper traffic the whole way. That’s an hour out of my day that I’ve gotten back. You know what, I’m actually working out way more now. Because I basically use that hour to work out, and it’s made a huge impact in my life. So, there’s just these, I really respect the climate change and the environmental waste. And especially in the Bay Area, we’re feeling climate change with all the wildfires, and it’s really impacting air quality and things like that. So, I’m 100% with you there. But I also think there’s this time-wasting that people were okay doing, because they just didn’t know there was a better alternative. And now Konf is making this so that there may be some reasons to go to a conference in the future, but you can get 98% of the value out of using Konf.
Haje: Well, and we’re seeing behavioral change too. We have one customer who’s run two big events on our platform now, they’re both customer events. The first one was like four days long and like eight hours of programming per day, which is basically what they did was they took a real-life conference, and put it on the internet. Now they thought about it, they did a retrospective, they thought about it. And so, they just did their second version of that. And actually, it was just one day, it was three hours. It was scheduled in a place where it overlaps with the largest number of their possible customers. And they have almost the same amount of value. And I think what we’re talking about them is like, okay, what if you did three days, or three hours every two months, or every three months? And now you’re able to have much more frequent updates. And they are a technology company that has technology customers that are based all over the world. You’re not going to fly from Indonesia, and India, and Nepal to the US to sit in a room, and listen to somebody talk about databases. That’s crazy. It makes a lot more sense to say, okay, I just want to dial in. And for the bits I missed, I want to re-watch the video. And the live aspect of that is all about Q&A, workshops, all that kind of stuff. Because a lot of this stuff could be much better delivered over a podcast, or a YouTube video, or whatever we can skip ahead when there’s boring bits, or you can watch it at twice the speed, or whatever. And so really what you have to do for an event is to dial in what is the real benefit of attending an event in person? And it is meeting new people, it is the stuff that has to be done synchronously. Q&A sessions, panels, all that kind of stuff where you have real interaction. And you’ll be unsurprised that, of course that is what Konf is building. We’d like to build ourselves as the virtual events platform for people who love people. So, if you’re running, Apple’s AGM, you specifically don’t want all your activist investors to speak to other activist investors. That is crazy, you want to keep them as separate as possible. In essence what you’re doing is you’re running a YouTube live stream with the comments turned off.
Scott: That’s exactly it. [crosstalk] are kind of like that too.
Haje: Yeah, exactly. And we’re trying to do the opposite. Where we’re saying is, if you are running an event where you care that the attendees talk to other attendees and build friendships, collaborations, marketing, sales, whatever your goal is, we have a whole bunch of events running on the platform that are properly grassroots driven. They’re all community organized groups. And they love what we do, because it’s all about lots of breakout rooms where you can choose to be there, rather than the Zoom action of being picked up and dropped into a room, which I hate.
Scott: Oh, that’s something that’s driving me crazy about that, yeah. So maybe talk about few of the features of Konf. Because that’s the one that drives me super crazy with Zoom, and it sounds like you guys have built something that makes this super optional, or even opting into a breakout room of your choosing.
Haje: Precisely. I mean, I really believe in choice and choose your own adventure. And so, what we’ve built is a platform where each session is in effect a micro-community. So, if I am holding a, in fact I’m doing this in a few weeks, I’m doing a session on how to write a book. Because I’ve written a few, it’s something people love to talk to me about. And so, what I’m doing is I’ve prepared a little 20-minute talk, and after that’s a Q&A. So, I can invite people to come up on stage, they can jump up on stage. We can have a little back and forth, they can go off the stage again. Next person goes on stage, and that kind of stuff. Now in theory what we could do is say, okay, this is a one-hour session. And then there is somebody else who is like, I don’t know, Stephen King is booked in a different session talking specifically about horror writing.
Scott: And there’s an overlap or something like that?
Haje: Well there can be overlap because the stage I’m on only closes when I close it. So, some people are super engrossed in my Q&A and don’t like horror, they can keep talking to me. And eventually when I close the stage, the questions remain, the chat remains. And if people want to continue talking, they can continue talking. So now you’re a choice. Do you want to go to a breakout room to talk to other want-to-be authors? Do you want to go to a breakout room and talk to potential publishers? Do you want to go to Stephen King’s session and listen to him, and then do that Q&A? And then you can always go back to the other session and continue the chat conversation. Or you can even listen to one stage, and then chat about something completely different in another room. And so, what we’re doing is we’re kind of giving people their choice back and saying, Look, it is unrealistic if I do eight hours worth of scheduling and I pick you up and I put you into a room. It is unlikely that you’re going to follow everything, that’s just not how people live their lives.
Scott: Hey, it’s Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting. And before we get back to the podcast, quick shout out to ChartHop. ChartHop is one of my favorite new SAS tools on the market. And basically, what ChartHop does, is it puts your org chart in the cloud. And I always like to say, it brings transparency to your organization. And so, everyone in your organization can see who they report to, they can see the full org chart of the company, and how their group relates to other groups. It also has a lot of information on the individuals in the company. And so, you can click on the ChartHop profile and just get where people live, their experience, Slack handles, all this kind of stuff. And it’s just a really great tool. The other thing is ChartHop has started doing some cool stuff around compensation and budgeting planning. And so, you can actually start seeing what the cost structure of the company will look like during certain kind of scenarios. So, I’m loving ChartHop, check it out ChartHop.com. We use it at Kruze, really like it, and I can’t recommend it enough. All right, back to the podcast. I totally agree. And as you were talking actually, I realized I need to make a connection for you, but I do some executive coaching in a group coaching every month. And we do these Zoom calls and they’re so dry, and everyone’s tuning out. It’s obvious everyone’s tuning out. Because you can’t opt in you have no control. You’re just being talked at the whole time. And so, I love these features you’ve built that kind of give you some control. Or we could do side breakout sessions while the speakers talking, or side conversations to get more out of the speakers.
Haje: Yeah, totally. And actually, we’ve really gone out of our way to make that the default behavior. We have one customer who came to us and said, Hey, during the main keynote, is it possible to turn off the chat? And so, from a technical point of view, yes, you comment out the chat, the chat is gone. You’re right, it’s like six characters worth of code, and we can fix that problem. But we actually chose not to do that for the customer. And we said, Look, if you believe strongly enough that people shouldn’t communicate during the keynote, you should probably find yourself another platform, not-
Scott: Because all they’re going to do is they’re going to be on their email, or something else.
Haje: Precisely. Or they’re going to have a side chat on Slack, or what have you.
Scott: Yeah.
Haje: It’s much better to have it right there, let people communicate. And I think just as a platform, we care about that enough that we don’t really want to turn that off.
Scott: I’m with you. It’s like an engagement enhancer. That person was looking at it as an engagement detractor. But really the chat is, it gets people more engrossed in the conversation. Which I think makes tons of sense.
Haje: Yeah. And another thing we actually recommend people do is that they pre-record their chats. So, if you have a little keynote thing, that you pre-record your little keynote, press play, but then that you yourself participate in the chat.
Scott: Oh, that’s super smart.
Haje: So, it’s like live commentary and live Q&A over the top of your own keynote. I mean, can you imagine anything more engaged? People are there, they’re thinking, they’re doing stuff. But they’re also being able to talk to the author of this keynote while the slides are playing, and all that kind of stuff. And the engagement goes through the roof because that’s really what you want to do. You’re sitting there thinking, daydreaming, they say something clever, you want to go, Ah, but have you thought about, or I disagree, or oh, I also heard about this other thing. And you’re able to be so much more integrated. And I mean, it’s not rocket science, but it’s just a little bit of thinking about who matters in these things. And a lot of the other platforms are, they’re really good for sponsors, they’re really good for organizers, and they’re really good for speakers. But if you think about it, those three groups represent less than 1% of the people attending the damn thing. And I’m like, Dude, make it good for the attendees. Make it engaging, make it good. And that is actually good for everybody else too.
Scott: I love what you’re talking about with being able to talk over your previously recorded speech. It’s kind of like the director’s cuts on a DVD of a movie. And I love watching those because you get the director and the actors talking about what happened here, what’s going on, or what their-
Haje: Yeah, the director’s commentary track kind of thing.
Scott: But yeah, the director’s commentary, not cut. Excuse me. But yeah, that’s a really mind-blowing idea. I love that idea so much. I just think there’s something about, I think your overall orientation towards control, giving the audience control, is really the difference for me. All these things spring from that.
Haje: Yeah. And I think it’s something that’s really in the [inaudible] anyway. It’s giving people control, the extension of that for me, is giving you control over who can communicate with you. We haven’t rolled out our one-to-one communication yet, but when we do, I want to put you at choice. We’re actually adding something where I’d like to think of as wristbands. So, if you have a red wristband, people can’t talk to you, it’s like, No, I’m not here to be communicated at. If I want to talk to you, I’ll do that. Yellow means you get to send me exactly one message. You basically can pitch like, Hey Scott, I would love to talk to you about butterflies. And if you go, you know what, I’d love to talk to you about butterflies. You can click yes, and now we can communicate. If not, you can click no or ignore. And in every message that gets sent, there’s going to be a block button, a mute button, and a report button. Because you know this as well as I do, there’s so much nasty shit that happens online, and especially in conferences and stuff like that. And in a real world, you can vote with your feet. If somebody says something inappropriate to you, you can get up, you can walk away. It is really inappropriate, you can call a security guard. But that dynamic doesn’t exist in the context of a virtual event. And I think it’s super important, really what it boils down to is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you don’t feel safe, you’re not going to be able to have a real connection with someone. And literally no other platform is doing this. And I’m like, Look, that is important enough to me as a crazy, liberal, California hippie, but it’s also important to me as a human. Because I think it is, really the only reason to go to an event is to connect with other people. Otherwise if you’re not connecting with other people, it is just not the right venue. It should be an article, or a YouTube video, or whatever. So, if that is true, then it has to be safe and you have to be in control.
Scott: I love your tagline, the video conference app for people who love people. But that makes so much sense, that’s a really good North Star too, I think that’s a really smart idea. Well let’s talk about. Maybe give the audience your business model, or people who are listening to this, thinking about is Konf right for me? How do I pay for it? How do I make sure that this is secure, all that kind of stuff to kind of, because I think people probably listen to this saying, Hey, this is pretty interesting? What’s the other side of the pitch?
Haje: Yeah. We actually are evolving our business model a little bit at the moment. So, the interesting thing is if you think about how people buy an event platform, or choose an event platform. It’s not like Slack where you sign up today, you start using it today, and you have full value. What happens for an event is if you decide to do a Masterclass for all of your CEOs who are on your platform, for example. It comes up as an idea today, that doesn’t mean you’re running it later this week, it means you’re running it probably in a few months. Now the problem is we are an extremely rapidly developing platform. So, the features that exist on the platform today are going to be different than a few months from now. And so, if you say, oh actually I really want polling, I want to be able to poll my listeners. If you say, I’m going to run my event today, can I do a polling? My answer is no, we haven’t got it yet. But actually, I know that’s coming out in the next four weeks or so. So, we’re actually in this really weird sales process. The customer has an idea of where they want to go, and we’re kind of skating to where the puck is going. But in the sales process, we’re actually able to say, well if you want these things, we can guarantee that these three things will exist by the time your event rolls around. These two were trying for it, but we don’t know yet. So, we have its kind of set up from the business model point of that you can license the platform for a single event, or you can do an annual subscription where you get, I think at the moment we do a 2,500 attendee credits. So, if you want to run 10, 250-person events, you’re covered. If you want to run 100, 25 people events, you’re covered. Or of course you can buy extra credits, that kind of thing. But to us the cost of letting you add more events is zero. The cost to us is really getting you onboarded in the first place, explaining how to best use the thing. Once you’re up and running, we don’t care if you run one event or 20 events, that’s all fine by us. And then on top of that, we have an enterprise plan, which we use for if you want a heavier customization, or realistically what you might be paying for is like, Hey, this polling thing you say you’re going to do that three months from now, I need one month from now. Can I pay a little bit extra to get it nudged to the top of the list? And we say, Sure, we’ll go and build that for you.
Scott: And it’s also a nice feedback loop for you.
Haje: Oh, it’s great.
Scott: You’re learning exactly what the market wants, the puck is telling you where to go. So that’s really, really cool. And what’s your customer, because when I was on the site, you have a really nice span of customers. You’ve got kind of the grassroots that you were talking about earlier, but you also have big enterprises who are using you guys. That’s pretty cool with what’s happening. Who are some of your example customers?
Haje: A couple of weeks ago we ran the largest startup ecosystem event in Norway, it’s called Oslo Innovation Week, and it ran entirely on our platform. We did the entire schedule, lived within the platform. We actually had the concept of an external session, which basically means in the schedule, there’s a link essentially to an external session that is off platform. So, if some of these sessions run in Zoom, some of them might run in other competitive platforms. Some of them might be just, go and watch this YouTube video and then we discuss. And so, there’s ways of, basically for us to be the hub of everything that happens.
Scott: That’s really cool.
Haje: Yeah, and they did an amazing job of having lots of really good speakers, they had a really good production team, and that kind of stuff. And that was one of the more elaborate things that ran on our platform. We have a couple of customers that I can’t really talk about, but one of them is an internationally recognized magazine, and they are running their kind of big session for all of their writers and contributors. So basically, Hey, where are we taking this magazine? What is our editorial strategy? How are we going to build this magazine from the inside? But for them that’s a dry run to actually do the same thing, but for their readers. And say, Hey, how do we put together a really good interactive thing for our readers, that includes maybe some celebrities, maybe some of our editors, maybe some of, all this bits and pieces. And of course, magazines are really good at content production, so they’re going to do a fantastic job.
Scott: That and they’re probably going to be highly opinionated because they’re great at articulating [crosstalk 00:26:46].
Haje: A massive kind of focus on green. If you’re a climate change organization we actually host your event for free. So, we have, the first one is happening later this week, it’s from an organization called Break Free from Plastic. Their kind of stated goal is to massively reduce the amount of new plastics used. So, they’re basically really big on plastic recycling and alternative stuff. And we took a look at them, we have a little application form. We took a look at them and we’re like, you know what? We really believe in the thing you are building. And so, we’re going to host it for free. So that’s one way that we’re just basically, of course it’s great marketing for us, but it also is so aligned with our core values, that if we can make their event better than it would have been otherwise, it fulfills their mission faster, and it fulfills our mission faster. So, we’re explicitly a proper triple bottom line company, which is actually really interesting because we’re currently out there raising some money, and some of the investors just run for the hills. They’re like, when are you going to give me return on investments? Like sorry, this is how we run this company. If you don’t like it, I don’t think we’re a good fit from an investment point of view.
Scott: But companies like Salesforce do that too. And so those investors are crazy if they’re running away from you-
Haje: Right. And I mean, Kickstarter is famously a B Corp. And there’s a bunch of really successful companies that care about this. And again, I think my big epiphany before we started this company, it’s like, Hey, if I’m starting another company, I am a choice. I get to make all these decisions. I get to decide what we care about, what we don’t care about. I get to decide who we hire, what our hiring strategies are. I get to choose who we give events to for free, and what the criteria are there. And I think just having that, so I am a really strong believer in that brand is really about personality. And the personality of our company is that we care about certain things, and that should flow through every part of the company.
Scott: Yeah. I love it. The brand is what you make of it, I totally agree about that. Let’s talk before, we’ve got to wrap up here in a few minutes, but there’s also something super cool about one of the decisions you’ve made, and who your company is, and what your personality is that you have an incredibly diverse team that you’ve assembled. Maybe talk about that a little bit?
Haje: I have run a bunch of companies now. And at some point, during each of the companies I came to realization, which is that I’m surrounded by white guys. And we get the work done, but also, I’m like, Look, if I am literally the CEO of a company, it means that I made choices at some point that meant that we ended up where we are today. And if I’m unhappy now, then that is 100% on my back. That is my fault, and I hold up my hands. And a lot of the time, by the time I finally got around to thinking about that, it meant it was essentially too late. Either because the company was already in a downward trajectory, or because culturally it is so strong that you scare away more diverse hires. You don’t want to be the first lesbian black woman to join a massive group of just dudes sitting around. And so, we took a different approach with this one. And actually, now we are 60% of women on the team, our entire development team is women. And the way we solve problems is notably different than any other company I’ve worked in. The bulk of our development team is actually in Egypt, in Cairo. And it works from a time zone point of view because, in fact I’m the only person out here in the US, the rest of my team is all in Europe and in Africa. But it works from a time zone point of view, it works from a who we want to be point of view. And I think it’s delightful to learn a lot about cultural differences, how you integrate people into teams, but also how to accommodate various people’s needs, and quirks, and foibles. And I think that is really how you build a company for people who love people.
Scott: Yeah, I love it. And I think it’s really a testament to your experience and that you care, that you started doing that right away in Konf. Instead of like you said in prior companies, you may have gotten to 10, 20, 30, 40 people, and then all of a sudden, the culture [inaudible 00:30:51]. Not only can you not recruit the kind of people you want, but they’re not going to be successful maybe.
Haje: Well I think this is a really obvious token of how essentially the patriarchy works. It is easy to be the first guy in a company full of women, it’s not easy to be the first woman in a company full of guys. And that is just a basic injustice that, unless you manage to fix it early, it means that the first woman you hire is going to have to have a really different set of characteristics, because she has to fight her way through a sausage fest. And I just think you’re a choice. As a founder you’re a choice, you get to make those choices. Right now, my biggest challenge is that my board is all white and I’m like, Well that’s not fair with a company that’s 60% not white. So, we’re thinking about that too. How do we make sure that the next person we add to the pool adds different voices, different contexts? And I think that’s important.
Scott: I love it, I love it. Well I’m super excited about Konf. Maybe you can tell everyone where to find Konf, how to sign up, how to get in touch with you?
Haje: Yeah, please come and find us. We’re at K-O-N-F.co. Konf.co. And yeah, we have a friendly team of human standing by.
Scott: Awesome. Haje, thanks so much for the time, congrats on the new company. And it’s also, you’re able to kind of share some of that traction with me, and it sounds like you guys are doing really well. So, I’m very excited for you.
Haje: Yeah, awesome man. It’s been fun to be back in the entrepreneur seat, and we’ll see how it goes.
Scott: I love it. All right buddy.
Singer: So, when your troubles are mounting in tax or accounting, you go it’s Kruze Founders and Friends. It’s Kruze Consulting Founders and Friends, with your host Scotty Orn.

Kruze Cares More - We take our clients’ success - and happiness - seriously. Kruze has worked with hundreds of early-stage companies, many of which have gone on to raise tens to hundreds of millions in venture financing - and a number of which have been successfully acquired by major public companies.

Explore podcasts from these experts


  call us