15: Early Stage Analytics and Learning from the Y Combinator Experience with Axel Delafosse from Pool

This week on The Data Stack Show, Kostas and Eric are joined by Axel Delafosse, founder and CEO of Pool, a messaging app designed to help couples spend less time deciding what to do and spend more time together. Axel shares his story of how he went from having his idea being shot down in person by Paul Graham to being accepted for Y Combinator. While Pool is still a young startup, Axel offers wise insight from lessons he’s learned along the way.

Highlights from this week’s episode include:

  • Pool Messenger, “the ultimate antidote to decision paralysis” (2:50)
  • Pitching to Paul Graham and applying to YC (6:17)
  • The importance of the co-founder relationship (14:01)
  • The YC experience and losing Facebook’s API (17:37)
  • Products die, relationships last (22:05)
  • Breaking down the data stack (28:50)
  • Using data and conversations with users to evaluate the experience (36:12)

The Data Stack Show is a weekly podcast powered by RudderStack. Each week we’ll talk to data engineers, analysts, and data scientists about their experience around building and maintaining data infrastructure, delivering data and data products, and driving better outcomes across their businesses with data.

RudderStack helps businesses make the most out of their customer data while ensuring data privacy and security. To learn more about RudderStack visit rudderstack.com.

Transcription

Eric Dodds  00:06

Welcome back to The Data Stack Show. This is Eric Dodds and Kostas Pardalis with a great episode for you today we’re going to talk with Axel Delafosse who is the founder of Pool. And we’ll hear all about what that app does. Very interesting. He’s built the entire thing himself. And we’ll get to hear from him about an experience of going through Y Combinator with a previous company. Kostas, Axel’s company is really early stage, what do you want to ask him?

Kostas Pardalis  00:39

I think it’s going to be fascinating to first of all, hear his story around Y Combinator, and not just like Y Combinator, but about chasing, you know, the dream and like building a company. He’s a young founder, also. I think that’s going to be super interesting, for him to share his experience. By the way, this is the second product that he’s building rather than the second company. So I think it’s going to be super, super interesting to hear his experience on that. On the other hand, I mean, from a technical perspective, and from a technology perspective, in general, I think it’s very interesting, because it’s the first of certain early stage, product and company that we’re hosting on our show. So it will be interesting to listen about what the difference is when you start so early on the lifecycle of the company, the product, and what you do differently? How you keep yourself lean? And your data stacking? And do you need at the end a data stack at this stage? So all these I think are questions that we should ask and chat about with him. And I think that it’s going to be super interesting and insightful.

Eric Dodds  01:50

I agree. And we’ll just give a full disclaimer, Axel, we met on our open source community forum for RudderStack. He was just so insightful and so helpful in the community. We reached out to him and began a conversation and then he had such an interesting story we wanted him on the show. So very selfishly, I want to know why he chose RudderStack and what that experience is like running open source. So let’s go ahead and jump in and talk with Axel. 

Eric Dodds  02:17

Axel, welcome to The Data Stack Show. It’s great to have you. 

Axel Delafosse  02:22

Hey, thanks for having me. 

Eric Dodds  02:23

Wonderful. Well, just a little bit of background for our listeners, we met Axel on our open source community channel for RudderStack. He had a ton of questions about the product. And was really helpful and an active member. And we just messaged him and said that we’d like to get to know him and hear about the project that he’s working on. So Axel, could you give us a brief background on who you are and the company that you’re building?

Axel Delafosse  02:50

Sure. So hi, everyone, I’m Axel the founder and CEO of Pool Messenger. So Pool is a messaging app for couples combined with a shared list where you can pool your ideas of things to do together. So instead of forgetting or losing your ideas in the flow of conversations they are saved in the shared list, so you can easily find them when you need. We help you decide what to do. It’s the ultimate antidote to decision paralysis. So when you and your partner don’t know what to do, or where to go, or what to cook, or what to watch, Pool will help you pick your next move. And you can also share recommendations with your friends in one click and get inspired by recommendations as well.

Eric Dodds  03:35

It’s so interesting, when I first started looking it up, it’s that really funny situation of, you have a free night with your partner, and even though there are a million things to do, it’s so hard sometimes to just decide what to do. Seems crazy, but it’s true. It’s true. And that I know that you have said before it was kind of out of your personal experience the reason you started the company. Can you tell us a little bit more about when you had the idea? And the point at which you said, I need to build something to fix this.

Eric Dodds  04:09

Yeah, sure. That’s just because I needed it was my girlfriend, as you said, There is so many times where we don’t know what to do. We don’t know where to go. And yeah, I just needed to find an easy solution to share ideas. And what people use today is just messaging apps or notes apps. It turns that the ideas are lost, and you forget about what you wanted to do. And it’s just a mess. So I figured I would just stop it because I’m a software engineer and I built the first version and we started to use it everyday with my girlfriend and then I realized, okay, I’m solving a real pain here.So that’s how it started.

Eric Dodds  04:55

That is really cool. Well, you applied to Y Combinator, tell us about that experience. When did you apply? And when do you find out? Have you already found out about acceptance?

Axel Delafosse  05:09

Yeah, disclaimer, it will be next time. I guess the project is too early. Yes, I applied, I think it was three months ago, I can’t remember that. It’s always a great exercise to apply to Y Combinator. Because you, you’re forced to ask the right questions and articulate your business in a way that makes you see it more clearer. So, yeah, maybe you have some more specific question about the application.

Eric Dodds  05:41

But it was just, you know, it’s always interesting to hear about the experience, I think, I know Kostas has a bunch of questions. But just one question about the process of applying to YC. As a software engineer, who’s now founding a company, what was that experience like? You know, I know as a software engineer by trade, you’re immersed in the technical side of things day to day, but interested to know what it was like to be forced to, in your words, think about the business in really critical ways coming from a technical background?

Axel Delafosse  06:17

Hmm. Yeah, actually, it’s not the first time I applied to YC. But now it’s different. Because yeah, I’m the CEO. So I have to think about the business model and what the company should look like in 10 years. So actually, it’s a lot of vision, like what the product should look like, where should we go. But it’s really like just thinking about what your users want, and trying to make it super simple to understand. So it’s a very natural process, try to understand what you do, and explain it super clearly. It should be like crystal clear, and then write it down and just remove all the useless parts. And then you you, you get to you’re applying, actually, I guess the first time I applied to YC was a little bit easier because I met Paul Graham in Paris. Okay, so that’s a funny story. And

Eric Dodds  07:18

Yeah, tell us tell us that story.

Axel Delafosse  07:20

Yeah. I met PG in Paris three years ago. He was invited to a startup accelerator in Paris. And he told me to apply to YC. After I delivered my one liner, he responded with Hmm, that’s a shitty idea. And you can’t imagine that. I’m like, okay, we just had a talk. And I was like, okay, man, I read your book. And it’s amazing. And we, we just talked about, like, technical stuff. And at the time, he was working on a new programming language and didn’t freeze data at the time. And so we were talking like technical and then I’m like, Okay, I will deliver my one liner and try to pitch and stuff. But I’m a tech guy, right? So he just said, that’s a shitty idea. You can’t imagine my face at the moment, but I stayed calm and continued the discussion, explaining how different we were because yeah, the start up helped you find the best electronic music events in Paris. So yeah, I explained why we were the best to do this. And 30 minutes later, he asked me to send him an email and to apply to YC. And I told him, it was probably too early, and I was too young. I was 21 at the time, and he told me it’s never too early to do YC. And that I should apply. And I did it. And it was the best decision of my life. Yeah, basically. So that’s why I will always follow this advice. And even if it’s probably too early, for my startup to be accepted into yc, I would just apply.

Kostas Pardalis  09:05

Axel, how many times you have applied to YC so far?

Axel Delafosse  09:08

Two I guess.

Kostas Pardalis  09:10

Two? I mean, the first time you were accepted?

Axel Delafosse  09:12

No, two with this new startup.

Kostas Pardalis  09:16

All right. And the first time you were accepted, so you participated in the YC program or not?

Axel Delafosse  09:22

But yeah, we participated in the summer 17 batch.

Kostas Pardalis  09:26

Wow. All right. So yeah. How was the experience during the program? I I have applied like three times I think to Y Combinator for my previous company, I never made it to the interview, to be honest. So I know a little bit about like the process of applying and like the questions and all that stuff and the video that you have to create and pitch, but I never had like the opportunity to move to the next step. So it will be amazing like to hear about the overall experience like from the day that you apply. Okay. Your case was a bit more special because you had the opportunity to like to meet with Paul Graham and you had like this conversation with him. But I guess like the rest of the process was the same, right? So how was this? Like? How, how was the whole process from the day that you submitted the application to the day that you started the program? And then we can also discuss about the program itself?

Axel Delafosse  10:20

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if we would apply. Because I was like, he told me to apply. But I’m not sure if if we were even ever get get in. But anyway, we did it and it was a late apply. And they just started to send the invites for the interview. But anyway, we got a little bit of help from some partners to craft a good application form and we applied, we got the interview. So we told Paul Graham, because I was sending him an email at this time. He actually invited us in in the UK to have a chat and help us figure out what we should tell the partners to get them excited. So again, we got super lucky on this part. And, and then we get to the interview. And that was the most stressful moment of our lives. I had two co-founders. And after, after the first interview, they started to like just go crazy. And I would like Okay, guys, stop arguing, stop, just stay calm, stay calm. And that’s what we did. So we stayed calm, they told us, okay, so we are gonna do another interview. So we were like, okay, that’s not a good sign. But actually, it’s never a good or bad sign. That’s just normal, if you don’t have… it’s 10 minutes, right. So it’s just too fast to understand everything about your business, about your funding team about your project. So, again, we stayed calm, we just did the second interview. And at this point, it was like the best interview ever. They were like, super excited about the product. I did a demo. And they were like, okay, that’s amazing. And so we went back to our apartment, and actually we wanted to make the most of it so we met with a software engineer from Instacart. And we just tried to network with everyone we could during these three or four days in San Francisco and we got the call and we got in, so yeah, I guess it was one of the happiest moments of all of our lives. And then we prepared for what will happen during the batch. We stayed focused, kept working on the project, keep growing the community.

Kostas Pardalis  13:07

Yeah, it’s amazing. I mean, congrats, first of all for making to that batch.

Eric Dodds  13:12

Yeah, that’s incredible!

Kostas Pardalis  13:14

Yeah, it’s not easy to get into Y Combinator, regardless of what happens after that, also congrats for that. And for also like, leaving your comfort zone behind and taking Paul Graham’s advice. And regardless of like, feeling too young or too early, or whatever; at the end, you did it. And I think that’s something that they really appreciated in the whole process. So basically, you said like the they interview in like 10 minutes, based on your experience now, after like it’s been a while and you’ve been through that and you’re much more mature and experienced on that. What do you think they are looking for during the interview and what advice would you give to people to go in front of this interview for the next batch?

Axel Delafosse  14:01

The most important is don’t speak over your co-founders. You really should have your own domain of expertise. And you should trust your co-founders. And I’m saying this because they are looking for great co-founders relationship, because it’s like the first reason that startups die, like early stage startups die. So they’re really looking at how you interact and that’s the most important part. I guess that’s what you can really feel during an interview. It’s how the co-founders talk about each other, talk about the business, and trust each other, and so I guess that was the most important part during our interview. But I guess there is always like, what you know about your market, how well you know your customers. You should always try to teach them something. I guess that’s something that I did with Paul Graham when I first met him and I taught him what I knew about the people, like young people who were going out in Paris. And I guess it showed that I knew my market perfectly, and I knew my customers and what they wanted. So I guess that’s the most important part: co-founder relationships and how well do you know your customers?

Kostas Pardalis  15:23

So great advice? I think many people would find it interesting. And what happened after that? I mean, you got accepted, you moved in the Bay Area for a while? How was the experience at Y Combinator, but before that, how was the experience for a person for a young person living in Paris, France, and coming to the Bay Area?

Axel Delafosse  15:47

I mean, that that was my dream for a long time. So at the beginning, it was just unreal. But then we got a flat in Mountain View. And the fantasy started to just fade away. And it was just work, like work, work, work, and it wasn’t much different than what we did in in Paris, to be honest, it was just working a lot. And what was different was, we weren’t alone, we were with the best funders we met so far. And with the best partners we met so far, like, we learned, we just learned, like 10 times faster. So I guess it’s just the best environment to learn as a young founder. And just to be surrounded by successful people. It’s very powerful, and super inspiring, obviously, as young people. I mean, in my batch was Eric Ries starting his new startup LTC. So we were like, okay, that’s, that’s just so inspiring. So, definitely helped us to keep on focusing and just work.

Eric Dodds  17:12

Yeah, you know, it’s, it’s such a fun story, because to go from Paul Graham telling you to your face that you have a bad idea, then actually, you know, making it into YC is such a cool story. And I’m dying to know, like Kostas said, what happened? You went to the program and it was awesome. But what happened to the company?

Axel Delafosse  17:37

So that’s a good question. We did the three months of YC. We did the demo day, but actually, as a French and European startup. American investors didn’t really get what was happening in Paris, meaning like, Why do young people are interested in parties and why to the need to find the best parties, because here in the US, it’s more like, you have like a big concert and a big arena. And in there is no small little parties, small raves, so it’s not pretty hard to find events, so they didn’t really get what we did. So to be honest, the demo day was pretty bad for us. But we, like Mike, my co founder and CEO was doing a very, very good job at keeping in touch with a lot of people we met in Paris. So we managed to raise like 500k from top tier investors in Paris from business ventures from actually the biggest business venture in France.  So with this and YC and the family and other business ventures, we raised a small seed round. We took a flat in Paris, so we were close to our users. And we kept growing the product, actually it was a great growth rate. And it was amazing. It was very, very, very cool. We were a scrappy startup and the people we were working with. But one day, Facebook started to have troubles with Cambridge Analytic that has come out. And the key to the strategy components of the graph API that we were using to scrape events. So basically, we were using a lot of Facebook data. So you were logging in with Facebook so we could get your friends, your likes, so we knew the artists you loved, events you were attending, and like a lot of data from Facebook. And one day it just shut down the API. So we had to stop. And that’s it. That’s a great lesson, because we learned that you shouldn’t rely on one platform to grow.

Kostas Pardalis  20:16

Yeah, that’s a great lesson Axel, and I think that many, many people will relate to that, I think. Similar situation with companies like that were using Twitter a lot. Same with Facebook. And I think that the lesson at the end is exactly as you said Axel, that relying too much on one platform, it’s a very risky business.

Axel Delafosse  20:40

Hopefully, our investors knew about it. And that was actually a good thing for … because we could like launch in new city in 10 minutes. We just launched scrapers on one city and bam, we will launch. So it was great. But yeah, we couldn’t know that Facebook would one day just kill their in-point. Without any notice actually, without any email. Just killed it.

Kostas Pardalis  21:10

Wow. So Axel, sorry, Eric, last question. And then you can ask. You said that it was your dream to come to the Bay Area, and be part of the ecosystem and all that stuff. And I think you are one of the rare few people that manage to materialize this dream in the most one of the most, let’s say ideal ways, right? I mean, your whole journey started with meeting with Paul Graham, then applying to the YC. And being accepted to the YC, of course, there was a roller coaster of situations that happened, as always, when you build the company, going back to Paris, starting to build the company, raising money, did anything change on your dream through that experience? Like, if you could go back? Do you think that you would do something differently? And what has like, let’s say Axel today has to say to Axel back then, who was just following his dream.

Axel Delafosse  22:05

To be honest, I won’t change anything about what I just told you, I would probably change something about what happened just next. Because obviously, when things go well, everything goes well, especially with your co-founders, because everything is great, and everyone is happy. But then we had to find another project to work on. But it was all love to work on this mission. So it was pretty hard for us to find new things to do. And it started to show the relationship with one of our co-founders. And actually, that’s something I heard from, from someone recently, and it resonates with me so much:  product dies, but relationships last. And I wish I knew that because I was pretty angry about one of my co-founders because he left us and it didn’t feel right to me at the time. But now I would treat the relationship between co-founders differently. And it’s okay if a product dies And it’s okay if a startup fails, but you shouldn’t lose a relationship for this, like, you should treat your co-founders well, you should keep your relationship intact after all this.

Kostas Pardalis  23:43

Yeah, I can absolutely relate to that. I think that’s great insight that you’re sharing. And I think it’s a sign of maturity. That’s also my experience through building my previous company, Blendo. With the relationships between the founders, it’s extremely, extremely important. And I think that makes a lot of sense also, and explains why the YC interviews just 10 minutes at the end, and all they care about, as you said, is about the dynamics between the co-founders. And that was a great insight actually, like, thank you so much for sharing that. I think that probably also Eric has some experience with that based on the companies that he built in the past. So what do you think about that, Eric? Do you agree with Axel’s insights?

Eric Dodds  24:31

Yeah, I absolutely agree. I think, you know, one, sort of a mentor, I had one time told me, he gave me a really interesting, really interesting insight about investing. And he said, You know, there are lots of different things that an investor considers. Right, they consider the market obviously, the product technology trends, they’re looking at so many different components, but he said, But really, at the end of the day, they’re betting on, you know, the potential size of the market and they’re betting on you, you and your co-founders. And that really stuck with me. And I think that is similar to your experience in the YC interview and such an interesting point on not talking over your co-founders, and showing people that there really is a powerful dynamic there. And I would say, you know, in my last business, or I guess, in the last startup I did, there were three co founders. And one of them, we worked together great, we got along great. But we also disagreed on a lot of things just because we approach things from such different perspectives. And he had a birthday recently, and we did a Zoom call with, you know, all of these different people for his birthday. And we went around and everyone said something that they appreciate about him. And then he came back and said something he appreciated about all of his friends. And he said something really interesting to me that I’d never thought about before. He said, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a friend who I’ve argued more intensely with, over such a long period of time, who I still consider a really good friend said that probably means that we were, you know, building some really good and hard things together. And that has really, really stuck with me, because I’d never, I’d never thought about it that way. But it was very endearing. And I think, to me, encapsulates what you were saying, Axel around, even through difficulty, if you fight to maintain the relationship, I think that that can have a really big impact on your life.

Axel Delafosse  26:56

Yeah, it matters a lot. And it applies not just to co-founders but investors too I guess. I just remembered the person who said, product dies, relationships last. It’s Ashton Kutcher, and his investing through Sound Venture. And it resonates a lot like even with investors, it’s important. I guess, I still have a good relationship with all my investors. And that’s for the best because I won’t stop doing startup things. So that’s a good thing.

Eric Dodds  27:34

Yes, indeed. Well, Axel, this is, I mean, this has been an incredible conversation. But because we’re called The Data Stack Show, I guess we need to talk about a couple of technical things, before we hang up so that we can at least stay true to the title of our show. So Pool is a mobile app. It looks like you run on iOS and Android. Can you talk about, you know, what are any unique challenges that you face in building it from a technical standpoint, and then, for being such a young company, it seems like you’re building in a data layer to capture everything really early on, which is something we don’t really see very often, you know, we obviously work in sort of the data, you know, the customer data infrastructure world, and a lot of the companies that we get to interact with, are exploring these types of solutions, because they’ve hit a certain scale. And they’re trying to make sense out of all the data that’s coming out, and separate signal from noise, but you’re starting really, really early. So we’d love to know about sort of your technical setup and challenges. And then what drove you to make a decision to implement data infrastructure so early?

Axel Delafosse  28:50

Sure. So yeah, Pool is a web app and a mobile app. So I chose React plus Nick.JS, for the web app, and React Native plus Expo in their workflow for the mobile app. And everything is in TypeScript, and I’m sharing code and types between React and React Native in between front and back end. That’s why I have been able to do everything all by myself. So I choose these because I go fast, I iterate quickly. And I’m clearly betting on the React ecosystem. I’m really amazed by this ecosystem, it’s amazing, and TypeScript is growing very quickly, too. So I’m pretty happy about those choices. And speaking about data, it’s super important for an early stage startup to get analytics right. So yeah, day one I already tried everything I could and yeah, I can talk about the data stack actually.

Eric Dodds  30:03

 Yeah, that’d be great.

Axel Delafosse  30:04

So I use RudderStack, obviously. And it’s connecting FullStory, Amplitude and Google Analytics. And I’m also sending everything to my database in Postgres. And I’m using Metabase. To be honest, I don’t really use Metabase at the moment, but at least I do have old events starting my own database and ready to query if I need it. But today, I’m mostly using FullStory, for UX improvement, and debugging, and Amplitude for product analytics, like tracking everything and measuring the numbers of active users, and retention.

Eric Dodds  30:50

Very cool and interested to know. We see all sorts of different data warehouse choices, but interested to know why you chose Postgres as your sort of centralized place to store all of the data that you’re collecting and sending through the app.

Axel Delafosse  31:06

Yeah, I’m already using Postgres for my own backend. I’m using nodejs pressjs as well for my GraphQL API. And … is doing a good job, which was great. So that’s why I chose Postgres. So it’s under the same database.

Eric Dodds  31:28

Sure, yeah. That makes a ton of sense. And so you decided to run RudderStack open source, and we we have a lot of open source users. But you know, it’s interesting. It’s not, you know, I wouldn’t say that running an entire data infrastructure is something that, you know, a junior engineer would necessarily, you know, jump into as far as like running it for a company. What was your experience like sort of installing or getting the open source infrastructure up and running with RudderStack? And do you use any other open source technologies like that as part of your stack?

Axel Delafosse  32:10

Yeah, you’re right. It’s not something that you should really focus on if you’re an early stage startup, but actually, it’s pretty easy with RudderStack. I’m using AWS ECS. And so I’m hosting RudderStack things to syncs to the Docker image. So it’s actually super easy to do, and I have some cloud computing credits, and I can just for free, so that’s a good point to do this. So yeah, I guess pricing is one of the main reason. It cost a lot of money for a consumer app to do this correctly. And actually, that’s why I migrated from Segment to RudderStack because pricing is is very important. Actually, at my previous startup, we started using Segment and it was very expensive. So I didn’t want to do the same mistake again. So that’s why I took like, three or four days to get everything up and running correctly. And yeah, it’s super important for an early stage startup, as I, as I say, to get analytic, right. But you should also be lean. And I guess now that we have RudderStack, we have a solution that makes it easy to do both.

Eric Dodds  33:37

I know Kostas probably has several technical questions. But one question for you. So you’re, you’re unique in that you are both the sort of founder and CEO, but also the founder and CTO since your early stage at this point. How do you envision your role changing? You know, as the company grows, and you bring more people on and sort of managing the tech stack that you’ve built? Do you, I mean, I know in the early stages, you’ll continue to be involved, but interested in how you’re thinking about that?

Axel Delafosse  34:15

That’s a good question. I am a sort of technical founder, but I totally intend to bring another good actor in the team to join me as a CTO. So then we could just program together. I guess the technical choices are pre abuse for the product and for the stage of startup. So it helps us, go very fast, would keep working with these technologies. And, again, it’s all open source. It’s super exciting to be part of this community. So I’m sure that anyone who would want to work in an early stage startup will be happy to work with these technologies.

Kostas Pardalis  34:58

This is great Axel I have a question, it’s not that technical, but it’s more about the data stack that you have set up and how you intend to use it. From what I understand by the tools that you have created, you have connected and where you send the data and what you should also about the data warehouse that you have, at this stage, you focus more on using the data that you have to drive the product vision and actually build the product. Is this correct?

Axel Delafosse  35:25

Yeah, correct.

Kostas Pardalis  35:27

So based on your experience, and because you have gone through like many different stages of building a company, like on a very early stage startup, what is the use of data? Where do you think that it’s more important for data to be used? Because, of course, you can come up with KPIs, I mean, when you have the data, you can be extremely creative, right? And you can use the data for understanding and driving the business, do the same for product, you can do this for marketing for sales for almost everything. But this doesn’t mean that it’s the right way to do it. Right. Like because of the early stage, you’re turning to focus and focus a lot. So what’s your advice in terms of like how an early stage entrepreneur should use data and approach data?

Axel Delafosse  36:12

Yeah, you tend to look at this quantitatively, like you set up KPIs and you try to monitor everything, but what should really do is qualitative, like, see how your users already using the product. Do they use it like you intended or if not why? And actually, I do use all these data just to understand what’s going on in the product. But then I just talk with the users to understand why they did it that way. And, and that’s what I do. I just optimize for learnings. And I use the data to measure it and monitor it and find the users I need to talk to. And that would be my advice, just try to understand who you should talk with, depending on what it did in your product.

Kostas Pardalis  37:13

Yeah, that’s actually an amazing product advice. Actually, I think you’re touching a very important point that I mean, it’s very easy, especially for technical founders to use data as an excuse to not get in contact with customers. I agree. So but this is not the case. I mean, you should use data to actually get closer to your customers and build a stronger relationship. Because relationships don’t only matter between founders, it also matters between like founders, the company, and the customers, that’s like at the end what you’re doing. You build the relationship, business relationship with your customers. And yeah, I think what you said is like, one of the most important lessons that someone can get like from with a technical background, trying to build the product, use the data, as you said, to help you strengthen and choose the right relationships to build with your customers, but not to avoid getting in contact and chat with them. It’s really, really important to get on a phone call or meet in person, or have a Zoom call or whatever, with your customers, especially at the early stage. That’s a great insight today. One last question, which is a bit more technical. You mentioned your love for React and how the React ecosystem helped like a solo founder like build the product, both on mobile and on the web, which like a couple of years ago that would require like a whole team to do. And among like React and the rest of the technology that you have used to build the infrastructure on the product itself, what do you think it’s missing? I mean, which parts you feel from a technology perspective, that is not mature enough, and it’s not mature as React, for example.

Axel Delafosse  39:08

I won’t say it’s missing in the React ecosystem. It’s maybe that I just don’t use it today. But what’s missing for me today is a great design system. And I want to build a universal design system, meaning like, I could reuse components over web and native thanks to React Native Web. And that’s actually what’s missing for me at the moment, I do have like a lot of components that I can reuse thanks to Expose, thanks to other libraries. But what’s really missing for me is that I don’t have a great design system that I can share between React and React Native. And it would be amazing if someone could come up with like an easy way to build a design system like this.

Kostas Pardalis  40:00

Let’s see what happens with the people who are going to listen to our podcast episodes. You never know. That’s all from my side, Eric.

Eric Dodds  40:07

I have a question Axel on the on the tech stack and the data layer, especially with you, having built all of this yourself, and this may sound like a somewhat of a self-serving question, because we, you know, we built some of the infrastructure that you’re using in your app. But, why would you choose to sort of collect everything at the data layer, as an early stage startup, as opposed to just instrumenting everything directly? Because you only have three SDKs as far as the primary tools you’re using, right, so FullStory, Amplitude and Google Analytics. So I’m just so interested in your perspective, because I, I’ve done a lot of consulting around this and talk with a lot of our customers at RudderStack. But I’m interested to know how you would describe the benefits of having all of that unified at the data layer, as opposed to just direct instrumentation.

Axel Delafosse  41:08

Yeah, so for me, it’s just that I love the simplicity to only have one SDK. But actually, I did have some friends from also startups. And most recently, I helped a startup move from Segment to RudderStack. And to answer your question, it’s just that you can easily try new products if you’re our marketing team, or you just have like a unified view of your data. And it’s super easy to manage everything correctly. And if you do have like a lot of SDKs, and a lot of different API calls or whatever, it’s pretty easy to make a mistake. And making a mistake for some companies can mean a lot of money. And you really want to have your tracking plan set up correctly and very solid. So using a tool like RudderStack makes you think about your tracking plan and makes very solid, so you don’t make mistakes. And you can easily try new products. 

Eric Dodds  42:29

Yeah. Yeah, that’s actually something we hear a lot is that the data engineering team, part of their job is keeping other teams happy. One last question for me, do you, how do you think about attribution in terms of acquisition? Is that something you track in the data pretty closely around how people are, you know, what, what channels are driving adoption of the product? Is that something you do at Pool? I know you’re fairly early stage? And is that something you did in your previous company as well?

Axel Delafosse  43:06

No, not today for Pool. It’s still too early. Actually, I do know where the users are coming from. But for the other company I was mentioning, it’s, it’s a mess to get attribution right. And using tools like RudderStack can help you make it less a mess.

Eric Dodds  43:32

Yeah, it’s hard to get right in general, I think. I did a lot of that in consulting before I joined the team here. And, you know, we used to joke that everyone’s attribution is a mess, it’s just how big of a mess. 

Axel Delafosse  43:50

Yeah, I agree. 

Eric Dodds  43:51

Yeah, that’s just kind of, it’s just kind of how it is. And there’s certainly, certainly things that can make it easier. Well, Axel, this has been an incredible, an incredible conversation. What an incredible story you have, and we really appreciate you taking the time to share it with us.

Axel Delafosse  44:10

My pleasure. Thanks for having me. 

Kostas Pardalis  44:12

Thank you so much, Axel, that was great.

Eric Dodds  44:15

We’ll touch base in a couple months to see how Pool’s going. 

Axel Delafosse  44:19

All right, cool. Thank you very much, guys.

Eric Dodds  44:22

You know, you have some of those conversations where there’s timeless advice sprinkled throughout the conversation, and Axel had so much of that for us. I think, two major things stuck out to me. One was that he had the fortitude to continue pushing forward and apply to Y Combinator after Paul Graham told him that his idea was bad to his face. That’s a pretty amazing experience. But I think the other thing that really stuck out to me was Axel has clearly learned from his previous experiences, both from a technical standpoint, but also just from the standpoint of being a founder, and building a startup. And it’s really amazing to see how he’s made decisions based on carefully considering the learnings that he’s had from past experiences. Kostas, what stuck out to you. 

Kostas Pardalis  45:27

Yeah, I totally agree with what you said, Eric. For me, it’s, okay, we’re both ex-founders, and we have built companies in the past. And I mean, here at RudderStack, again, we’re building a company, I think, what I found so interesting, and it’s like something that I share as a feeling with Axel. Like, actually two things. The first one is, how a transformative process it is to build a company. And I’m talking on a personal level, it’s not just what do you do in the society, let’s say or like the markets, or with your customers, or whatever, which, of course, is like, ideally, what you’re trying to do with when you build a company, but at the end, it’s also like, on a personal level, like an extremely transformative process. And I don’t think that you can build a company without getting yourself through transformation, especially when you’re a first-time founder, or even a second-time founder. 

Kostas Pardalis  46:23

So that’s one thing. And that’s, by the way, regardless of age, I mean, it’s amazing to hear such a young person being so insightful and had learned so many things through this whole process. So that’s amazing. And the other thing that I found extremely interesting is about relationships. At the end, building a business is all about relationships, it’s relationships with your founders, relationships, with your employees, most importantly, with your customers, your investors, of course. So all the points that he made about building relationships, and how important they are on all the different levels, I think that’s also a very important and interesting advice that we can take from Axel. And we can learn from that. I don’t have that much to say about the technical side of things. I mean, the most amazing thing is like how you should approach data on an early stage. That was also great. And you can approach and use data, even on an early stage, you just have to be careful and not use data as an excuse for whatever. So yeah, it was a great and amazing conversation with Axel. And hopefully we will meet again in the near future and discuss more about Pool and what he has managed to achieve in the next couple of months.

Eric Dodds  47:37

I agree. Well, great conversation and subscribe to check out past episodes and get notified of new ones on The Data Stack Show. We’ll catch you next time.