“We compete with spreadsheets”: Meet two former Atlassian employees striking out on their own
Wednesday, September 25, 2019/
Having first met as employees at Atlassian when it was in scale-up mode, Sten Pittet and Bryan Schuldt have founded accountability platform Tability and are venturing into a startup adventure of their own.
Sydney-based Tability is a platform designed to help keep teams accountable to their long-term goals and strategy.
While teams put a lot of time and energy into strategy and planning, “they spend hours discussing what they should be doing”, Pittet tells StartupSmart.
“As soon as they start to work, a lot of distractions come into play.”
It’s based on outcomes, rather than inputs, he explains, making sure teams stay focused on their broader vision, as well as on their key objectives and results.
There are already tools on the market focused on deliverables, he explains. But there’s a gap in the market when it comes to the strategy side of things.
“People ask us sometimes who we compete with,” Pittet says.
“The thing is, we compete with spreadsheets.”
Equally, more and more companies are now working with remote or distributed teams, with people based all over the world and in various time zones.
“You need to find ways to collaborate asynchronously,” he says.
It’s less about sharing progress on any one thing that needs doing or building, he adds.
“It’s ‘do you know why we’re doing this work?’”
Pittet and Schuldt launched Tability in January this year, having first completed a ‘soft launch’ allowing them to work closely with early adopters to make sure the product was right for them.
Now, it now has more than 500 teams signed up.
Atlassian and beyond
Pittet joined Atlassian in 2011, moving to Australia after working in the startup scene in France.
Having just left a team of 11 people, he joined the Aussie unicorn when it had about 450 employees.
“It was quite a jump,” he says.
But, by the time he left Atlassian, it had a headcount of about 2,500.
“The experience there was amazing,” he says.
“That definitely gave me a lot of structure and confidence. I could see the best practices, how to run a team.”
And, as a product manager, Pittet was working with collaboration software and speaking with people in various areas of the business, as well as customers, every day.
“Your job is pretty much to talk to as many people as you can, to figure out what the company will need in the future to be more efficient.”
It was “the perfect place” for the would-be founder to learn the ins and out of running, and scaling, a high-growth company.
“It’s almost a natural thing for me to have moved from what I was doing at Atlassian to what we’re doing at Tability,” he explains.
“We’re trying to help teams be more efficient and more effective.”
Schuldt, on the other hand, focused on brand and storytelling at Atlassian, working with the co-founders on their presentations and pitches, to tell a story that was not so much about the actual products on offer, but about what the experience of using those products could be, day-to-day.
Pittet contacted Schuldt when he started working seriously on Tability. He wanted the product to be about simplicity and focus, and Schuldt is “absolutely stellar” in this area.
“For me, it was really important to bring someone that was really strong on that,” Pittet says.
And, now they’re working together as co-founders, Pittet and Schuldt are vigilant users of their own platform. While Pittet is based in Sydney, Schuldt is in Portland, Oregon.
“Using Tability helps us collaborate in different time zones,” Pittet explains.
“We practice what we preach.”
A healthy ecosystem
We often hear that having large and successful tech companies — think Atlassian, Canva, Airwallex or Envato — in the Aussie ecosystem breeds more innovation. And Tability appears to be a prime example.
For his part, Pittet says just working in that environment has helped him out on his founder journey.
“I would recommend anyone who wants to start growing a company to try to spend a bit of time with people who have made it, who have gone through the journey,” he says.
“It will save you a tonne of headaches.”
Although he joined Atlassian when it was already scaling, there were people there who had seen it grow from a 10- or 20-person business.
“You can go and talk to them, and you can learn from them,” Pittet says.
Equally, your colleagues will inevitably move on to other companies, meaning you create connections throughout the industry more broadly.
“You will create the network and gain experience and knowledge that is invaluable and that will help you be more successful faster,” he explains.
“I definitely couldn’t be where I am without the experience I gained from that company, and also the relationships I created.”
Finally, the very presence of startup success stories, and the employees within them, has a marked effect on the ecosystem.
“I don’t like the term ‘trickle-down’, but that’s definitely what happens,” Pittet says.
People working in those businesses may gain the experience that will allow them to start their own ventures. And, they will help each other out.
“It makes Australia more attractive for other entrepreneurs, but also for investors,” Pittet says.
“It’s definitely a healthy ecosystem that is being built.”
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