Interview with Glenn Rogers – CEO of Float

Float is a visual team planner for agencies, studios, and firms used by companies such as Nasa or Ableton. We sat down with Glenn Rogers, the CEO of Float to talk about his journey and his stories behind the scenes since he started the company. Without further ado, please enjoy our exclusive interview with Glenn.            

Hi Glenn, for those who don't know you, could you briefly summarize your life before founding Float.com?

I grew up in the country in Australia and spent a good part of my lifetime in Melbourne. I studied communications in university and majored in advertising at a time when advertising was getting quite interesting, and some of the best creative folks were just getting started in the industry.

After a backpacking trip around the world, New York City caught my attention. I moved there a few years later and took a job in a prominent creative studio known as "Fantasy Interactive". As a producer, I worked on some incredible projects, including the launch of the Porsche Panamera.

I met some of the most talented folks I'd ever worked with, including Anton Repponen and Irene Pereyra. After a few years, I moved to a much larger agency called Razorfish. I stayed there almost five years, and it was here that I really learned the craft of advertising, running accounts and managing creative teams over multiple simultaneous projects.

It was also here that I discovered problems in how creatives were being managed across multiple projects. These companies were managing 300 people with a spreadsheet. To me, that was crazy. I knew there had to be a better way.

Was this the birth of Float?

Yes, that's where the idea for Float.com originated. Float is a resource scheduling app that we now run as a business. I approached a technical director at Razorfish and presented him the idea. He’d worked on something similar in the past, so we decided to found Float with two other partners.

My experience in UX helped me sketch out a better solution to the core problem. We believed in cloud-based software and our concept was to manage resources that anyone could access any time and see who's busy and who's not. It would help teams of all sizes, so whether you're a small firm with 15 employees and you want to know who’s working on what, or if you're a team of 300 with 50 clients and five hundred projects, it all would work with our product.

We worked on Float through nights and weekends. We kept our day jobs and continued working in advertising until we could cover our bills, and then left advertising altogether to focus on Float. I think anyone can start a business at any time as the cost of entry is so low with cloud-based software. Now after a few years, Float is profitable, 100% bootstrapped and we employ 15 people completely remotely. We have a team across the US, Europe, and India. I am eager to work with amazing people in different places, so we simply hire where the best folks are.

Written by:
Filip Triner

Published
10.12 2018

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Float – Glenn and his team

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Glenn - CEO of Float.com

I personally love that you run the company completely with remote employees. That is really inspiring…

I think you do a lot of things when you start a business out of necessity. We couldn't find investors early on and we couldn't find the best engineers in New York because we simply couldn't afford to hire them. But then we realized that hiring remotely is a smart strategy. Now we passionately look for folks that are not where we live and we find they enrich our team culture profoundly. We have people in seven different time zones at the moment.

Glenn, what does a typical workday look like? I imagine you must have a strict routine to keep up with colleagues working in different time zones.

Before Float, we worked in jobs where we were stuck in meetings all day. It was extremely inefficient. You did your work in the evenings because your day was wasted in meetings. We wanted to flip that and do the work during the day, minimizing meetings and busywork.

So we did that and now have very few meetings: only two status updates a week via Slack video. The only other meetings are to kick off or retroactive important projects. A lot of our conversation happens asynchronously. I’ve realized that it’s very inefficient to force people to be available at the same time for a fixed amount of time; it simply doesn't scale.

Float.com – How did you come up with such a catchy name and how did you manage to reserve such a good domain?

Since we started, we loved the name Float. It's actually a project management term as well: the word "float" refers to the space between two tasks. At first, float.com wasn't available, and we couldn't afford it, so we started with floatschedule.com.

Fortunately (for us), the product that was using the float.com domain went out of business in 2014 and put the domain up for sale. It certainly wasn't anything we could afford, but after a year and a half of negotiations we landed at a price and were fortunate enough to purchase that domain. It was one of the best investments we ever made. It felt like a lot but it paid back more than we could have imagined. When you’re servicing other businesses, they need to trust you and a good domain name really helps with the credibility.

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Float.com – Scheduling

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Float.com - Reports

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Float.com - Mobile overview

"These companies were managing 300 people with a spreadsheet. To me, that was crazy. I knew there had to be a better way."            

What’s one of the most important lessons you've learned over the past few years?

Let's talk about the product: I wish we had started with half the amount of features we launched with and then listened to our customers to add in as we went. You really need to start with the core problem, get it out to the market and learn. Almost half your assumptions will be wrong. The minute you launch, you’ll realize people use it in different ways you never imagined, and at the same time they use it in ways you did imagine, but these areas need more work. We spent much of our first two years correcting these issues.

Can you think of a recent expense less than 100 dollars that had a strongly positive outcome on your life? And can you think of an absurd or special habit of yours?

I go out every day and buy two coffees. I never get sick of coffee. My days are very regimented and I like to keep this pattern where work starts after coffee and I'm ready to start my day. If I do this ritual every morning I'm extremely productive until lunch.

Another habit of mine is not checking my phone when I wake up. I don't check Slack until I get in front of my laptop and start my day. The time between getting up, going to get that coffee and then getting to the desk is my time with my wife. It's very easy, especially when starting a business, to get into the habit of always being available. But it’s not good for your mentality. We’ve been running Float since 2012, always recognizing that it’s a long-term journey. Startups need to be reminded it's a marathon, and you've got to have the mental capacity to keep pushing through. Being in the right mental place is key. That's just something you learn over time.

Let's say I was a freelance designer. Would Float still make sense to me? Or is it rather useful small to larger firms?

While we do have a surprising amount of one- or two-person teams using Float, the teams that find the most value in the product are usually five or more people.  We also have several large-scale teams and organizations using Float.

"I wish we had started with half the amount of features we launched with and then listened to our customers to add in as we went. You really need to start with the core problem, get it out to the market and learn."            

Do you have favorite podcasts?

I listen to "Masters of Scale" by Reed Hoffman and "Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History", which is great. I also keep going back to the "How I built this" podcast. Hearing other people's stories about starting companies, building products and scaling is fascinating. And then there’s "Track Changes", the journey behind Postlight, a creative agency in New York.

I have one more question for you. If you had a chance to put up a giant billboard with anything you wanted, what would it be?

I want to quote a good friend of mine: "Hunger triumphs experience." I think it’s about the hunger to keep going, pursuing your goal in difficult times and trying things until they stick. The best people we hired had that hunger and not necessarily the most experience. You can hire for experience, but you can't hire for the hunger that drives people to get up and do their best work each day.

Where can people find online Glenn?

I’m on Twitter under @glennfloat and our company lives at www.float.com.

Credits: Float

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