Angel Maldonado is the founder of search and navigation specialists, Empathy, which pairs site search software with interfaces.
We asked him what it takes to run a successful company in this space, and just what does success mean anyway?
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Angel Maldonado: As the founder, most of my time is spent researching and learning from partners, associates and colleagues. This is then paired with dreaming and trying to land visions and goals for the team, company and products.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation?
Angel Maldonado: I’m the founder and owner of Empathy, greatly supported by German Heredia (CEO), Borja Santaolalla (Co-founder), Eduardo Sanchez (Chairman) and Jose Lueje (CFO).
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Angel Maldonado: Curiosity, imagination, communication and sensitivity.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Angel Maldonado: No two days are the same but an ideal working day might look a little like this. I start quite early, I normally wake up at around 5am and head to bed no later than 10pm, which is very unusual for a Spaniard! I start by writing notes and ideas usually for an article, a presentation or a meeting that’s scheduled. Then, around 6-6.30am I will send some messages or emails before heading out for a gentle run which I mix with a light swim.
I’m back at my desk by 9.15am and kick off the day with the exec stand-up. This is where I catch up with senior members of the team, look at the priorities for the day and flag any potential problems or issues. By 10am I should have finished catching up on all the team stand-ups and I move to phone calls and video calls with other team members, partners and customers.
The rest of my day is spent white-boarding, sending more messages, confluence notes, slack channels… and then the evening comes, with the US waking up and reigniting activity with more calls and email interactions which I try to cut off by 6pm. Then it’s family time, where I catch up on reading and I try to be in bed by 10pm, ready to repeat.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Angel Maldonado: I suppose we all love the same; feeling valuable while also feeling a sense of growth and achievement. I also love the sense of camaraderie with colleagues and partners, and observing some of the search innovations we work on coming to life in the outside world for millions of people to enjoy.
And it sucks when I fail, as it does for everyone. Failing to understand something or not having had the required sensitivity to appreciate someone are definite lows for me.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Angel Maldonado: Having goals is a tricky thing! It can result in reducing what should naturally be a wide view of life. One sets different goals depending on different reasons. And to set your goals you have to know those reasons.
For example, if you say “I am results oriented” or “an objective oriented professional”, then you set your reasons as a practical person with practical goals. However, you also need to ask yourself if you need to set more than practical goals…or in other words: do you have to know more than what you need to know?
I believe we all do, and I believe we’ve got to bring free thinking, irrationality and counter-intuition to the equation, considering that nothing extraordinary was ever reasoned into existence.
As per KPIs, there is no one KPI that defines success because success is a subjective feeling.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Angel Maldonado: Communication tools. I strongly believe that there is no better form of communication than human speech. We have so many different ways to communicate these days that I think we sometimes forget the original and most basic one; to actually talk to each other. I’m someone who would much rather pick up the phone and have a conversation.
How did you end up founding Empathy, and what might be next?
My generation were very fortunate to have a computer at a young age, 12 in my case. It was while trying my first programs that I was excited by the idea of asking questions and getting responses. This fascination propagated at university, combined with a strong curiosity for design and psychology. All of this led to me founding Empathy as a Search innovator.
Empathy has been very successful, freed from the investors trap and creating an imagination-driven culture that is the source of irresistible products and solutions. Yet, I’m curious about greater scale and will likely spin and explore other models that propagate Empathy’s ideas on a bigger scale to the design, developer and product communities. We’ll soon have more about this initiative so watch this space!
Which retail experience has impressed you recently?
Angel Maldonado: I love unique brands like Lavinia.fr, Lovelybikes.com or SohoHome.com because they deliver values beyond convenience and interplay with the customer’s emotion.
What advice would you give somebody if they were starting an ecommerce stack from scratch?
Angel Maldonado: Have an idea that’s necessary but also authentic and irresistible. Assume that nothing that is irresistible has ever been reasoned into existence. We don’t love products simply because they work or serve a need, we love them because of the way they make us feel. Realise that your idea, team and product need to be dreamt first, and engineered second.
Set financial targets, but acknowledge that it’s not only about money, it’s about your team, its culture, and creating an authentic and honest environment. It’s important to grow in values not just in necessities.
Culture comes first, product second. Nurture positive and energetic minds, reward freethinking, counter-intuition and imagination. If your stack needs a sales force to succeed, then where is its value?
Reflect on where you are, where you’ve been and where you want to go, learn more than what you need to know.