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Nov 6, 2020

How Middesk leverages ops for its API

Will Saborio
Head of Operations at Middesk

Will is currently the head of operations at Middesk, a SaaS platform that helps businesses conduct background checks on other businesses.

Outside of work, he enjoys coffee, mezcal, bottling tequila, data, fiction and non-fiction, comedy, and lists.

You can follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and visit his website here.

0:40   Who is Will?

2:23   Will's definition of ops

4:07   Operations at Middesk

7:08   How Will's background as a consultant helped scaling ops

8:32   Should folks go into consulting first before joining a tech company in ops?

9:32   Why Will moved to Mexico City

11:21   How ops at tech companies in Mexico City differs from those in the US

15:29   Will's experience at Wharton

17:34   Will moving to SF with a suitcase and a dream

18:59   How Will joined Checkr

20:28   What is Checkr and Will's experiences there

26:34   What is Middesk

28:51   Expectations when Will first joined Middesk

30:18   Biggest learning at Middesk

32:24   How Middesk scaled and how communications changed as the company scaled

35:13   The power of Google Slides

35:38   Will's 3 buckets of ops

40:47   Internal tools at Middesk

44:19   General career advice for people interested in ops

45:29   Maria Isabel Tequilla

47:13   How to reach Will (@willsab)

[Apologies for spelling mistakes as the transcript is machine generated]

Will: [00:00:32] Hey Derrick, how's it going?

Derrick: [00:00:34] Doing great. Doing great. Thanks for joining us.

Will: Of course. Happy to be here.

Derrick: [00:00:39] To kick things off. Would you mind just telling the audience who Will is?  What's your story?

Will: [00:00:43] Yeah, for sure.  So, uh, I grew up in NewOrleans.

Actually both of my parents, parents were from Nicaragua.  SoI actually spent a lot of time traveling down there growing up.  and I think growing up in two very distinct different places gave me a pretty unique perspective on a lot of things.  and we can kind of talk about what those are later on, but,  Ended up going to college at Princeton.

And that's actually where I met a good friend of yours,  Peter Zakin co-founder of Macro.  and yeah, I mean, had a great time there and didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life after that. So I ended up where all kind of. Mildly confused.  College graduates end up,  in consulting. So spent a couple of years doing management consulting in DC, , and actually did a couple of large scale implementations for. Government telecommunications and financial services clients, and really worked across a couple of different functions and industries, which was a great learning experience.

But at the end of the day, it didn't really give me a whole lot of ownership of things.  so ended up going to business school,  for a brief period of time and then made my way out West and started working in startups and been there since. 2017,  landed in startups in technical sales, at checker, , which is a background check API, which you and your listeners might know of. And now I lead operations at Middesk,  which is a business verifications platform.So that's what brings me here to today .

Derrick: [00:02:21] So maybe we should start at the very end. what is, what exactly is operations?

Will: [00:02:28] That's a great question. And I feel like I ask myself that every week.  but I would say that my definition is probably a little bit more scoped down to like early stage software startups.

and my theory is that in early stage startups really, there's only two functions that exist there's sales and then there's engineering. , you have to like, Sell the thing and you have to build the thing.  then there's everything else that's critical for the delivery of the product or service. And that to me is operation.

now that's a pretty broad definition,  and I think the form of operations can be radically different in different industries, different business models and even different companies. so this can mean. You know, but QA of a product on the way to delivery to a customer, or it could mean gathering the right data or requirements for actually building the product.

and even for some companies, it could just mean like scheduling folks to show up at a job site, right. Everything outside of kind of the sales and the product itself. I think operations just facilitates delivery of that thing.  and I think what's critical to, to that definition too, is that like, because operations is so integral to delivery of the product and everything else it's going to change.

And it's just with kind of the changing scope of the company, the changing scope of the product. , but at the end of the day, it really is just defined by like making the right things happen at the right time for everybody.

Derrick: [00:04:07] Cool. , so what, what exactly does that mean for Middesk?

Will: [00:04:12] Yeah, so in the same way that,  I think operations shifts for, for a lot of folks, definition of operations desk has been pretty fluid over time and it's evolved directly with kind of the growth of the company and the product.

So just to give a little bit of context on what desk does, the early insight behind Middesk was that every financial services institution on the planet, when they're onboarding a business customer, they need to, or. This customer is legitimate, that they're a real valid, legal entity that they are, who they say they are.

and today there's a number of data providers. Yes, do that, but they're pretty awful.  so names like Lexus nexus, Thomson Reuters.They're quite stale. They're quite, dis-aggregated, they're not easy to build with, by any means. They don't have like slick API APIs for pupil to start developing on.  so the idea of Middesk is to solve this problem of dis-aggregated and stale business data with a single API through which you could learn everything about a business.

And so the idea was to build just a better data platform to compete and. Early days.  when I was building kind of the first version of that data platform, we needed to QA a lot of things because we weren't really confident entirely in the things that we were passing back.  and so there was this additional review layer, this kind of human in the loop that people on the team were, um, kind of.

Conducting in order to ensure the quality of the product.  and as we kind of grew and got more feedback from customers, we realized that there was a ton of value in that human, in the loop, in that QA, because. All these financial services, institutions that are reviewing this data have teams of operations, folks that are reviewing that data and kind of actioning it,  on their end.

And so we were able to provide kind of an additional layer of QA before it even got to them so that they could move more quickly,  and decide things more. More cleanly,  when they got the information from us. And so obviously we can keep doing that in a very scalable way,  to, to meet the current volumes that we have today.

But now that we had invested kind of this human in the loop,  process, we kind of understood what we needed to automate. And that's actually been one of the big insights of our operations team is that. We kind of have to do things that don't scale upfront so that we can be really intelligent about what we build into the product later on.

and so we've seen that that's kind of a huge differentiator for us and for kind of our core products today.

Derrick: [00:07:08] How did your, a consulting background does that help at all in terms of building out this scalable machine early on, you know, the tryout things that are not scalable having that human loop system, do you think consulting as a background helps?

Will: [00:07:23] Yeah. I mean, I think what consulting really teaches you is how to go, how to really scale your understanding of something and how to ramp really quickly on a topic.  so. If you think about early stage startups, you're just doing that constantly. You're jumping into a domain that, you know, very little about and trying to go from zero to one and establishing a function or a process or a team to do that thing and do it reasonably well.

so consulting, you're kind of switching cases all the time. You're ramping up on new teams all the time. So it really builds that muscle of. Kind of understanding what the most critical drivers of success in one environment are, and really designing a project or a process to really hit it, those things.

so I think it, it definitely taught me kind of that core skillset. And just generally it, it arms you with kind of a, let's call it a Swiss army knife of different quote unquote business skills,  that are generally just good to have,  in these kinds of environments.

Derrick: [00:08:32] What'd you get the folks who want to go into consulting advice where you do you think they should go into consulting first and learn this with army knife of skills before they jump into.

Into tech or, or operations that tech companies, or do you think they should just dive in head first?

Will: [00:08:47] Yeah, that's I get that question occasionally from, from folks in college or coming out of an MBA and, , you know, I think it's, I can see both arguments, you know, there's, you certainly get that Swiss army knife, like you mentioned.

but at the end of the day, like if your heart is in startups and that's where you want to end up, I think.  you know, not wasting time in kind of. Gaining skills and another place to eventually hopefully apply them in another domain.  I would just say, you know, jump into startups, you know, start, start diving deep into the world of operations.

Derrick: [00:09:25] Well, that's, that's great advice. , so, so you were at the consulting firm for four years and then just a relatively long time. And then. I think left in,  and actually moved to Mexico city.

Will: [00:09:39] Yeah. What were you doing? So it's funny. , one of my last cases at,  my consulting firm, , was actually in Mexico City.

So we're actually helping one of the,  governments, Largest agencies, kind of the in-charge of telecommunications actually launched a brand new nationwide telecommunications provider,  and really cool project. Really cool scope that a lot of cool people and. In the process of doing that, I just kind of happened upon a number of different startups happen upon a number of different investors.

And that's where I ended up meeting some folks at All Venture Partners,  , which is kind of one of the leading early stage investment firms in Mexico. , and I knew I wanted togo to business school, but I didn't want to go just yet. And I wanted to keep working in Mexico just because it was the first time really that I.

Lived in Latin America and like even worked in Spanish. AndI was just really enjoying it from both a professional and a personal perspective. So I wanted to just stay there a little bit longer, get a little bit more experience. And yeah, I had a lot of fun and kind of working with a couple of great founders, , in that market and with some pretty great investors.

So, , it was really, really interesting. Mexico City.

Derrick: [00:11:01] Mexico city is one of my favorite places in the world. The food is amazing.

Will: [00:11:06] The food is incredible. Yeah. I mean, I, yes, I still dream about it sometimes.

Derrick: [00:11:13] I think it's probably got the best street food maybe outside of. Taiwan orSoutheast Asia. It's incredible.

so do you think, , operations at a startup, the Mexico city?

I think they're very similar to the ones in the UnitedStates, assuming that they are started about the same time.

Will: [00:11:31] Yeah, that's a good question. , I haven't seen enough companies to really reliably say what the shape of operations that kind of early stage companies inMexico look like generally, , in the handful that I saw up close.

I think it, I would say probably that early stage startups in Mexico probably rely on operations a little bit more. Then say your average software company in San Francisco. , and I think the reason for that is because a lot of the companies that I saw getting started there very early on were for lack of abetter word, kind of like, , you know, I think of it as like Uber for Mexico or Lime for Mexico and Instacart for Mexico.

, which is great. But just think about kind of the business model of those kinds of companies. They are more operationally intensive, do require a little bit more kind of coordination of let's say atoms instead of bits. , so I did see kind of a little bit more, , emphasis on operations as a function in early stage in Mexico, then perhaps the same time in SF.

Derrick: [00:12:54] And then I, I also read on your blog that you wrote about this great piece of, of almost, , founding equity and the difference between us startups versusMexico startups. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Will: [00:13:07] Yeah. , so it was pretty interesting. I mean, that was before I had kind of spent a lot of time in San Francisco and kind of in, , early stage companies in the Bay.

And I just knew that there was a kind of a large culture around equity sharing, you know, folks joining early and giving up. Kind of pay compensation towards equity compensation. I just knew that that was a big draw for a lot of folks. , so I was kind of surprised when I went to Mexico and saw that there was less of an emphasis.

In that way. And I just immediately asked myself why. , andI think some of the biggest conclusions that I came to, , which just were true at the time and may not be true anymore, was that there just weren't really large exits that founders or investors could point to, to say, listen, if you take a percent of, you know, Mexican startup X today.

Like it could be the next Instacart. It could be the nextUber. It could be the next Stripe. , so folks just weren't as incentivize or, or, , cultured to really. Value equity in that way, like folk in San Francisco and the Bay area are, and just generally in the U S are. , so I think that's probably changing today just with, you know, companies like Rappi, ,Cornershop.

That are actually making massive waves in the Latin American market and, you know, delivering great returns for both Latin American and, , US investors as well. So hopefully that there's going to be a little bit of a different shift in that kind of culture. How long were

Derrick: [00:14:58] How long were you in Mexico city for. So I was working at all VP for maybe something like three or four months.

Will: So really not a long time. And it was really just the four really between when I ended atDeloitte and started at Wharton that I was there. Got

Derrick: [00:15:17] I got it. So, so you actually got into Wharton before you left for Mexico city.

Will: [00:15:22] Exactly. Exactly.

Derrick: [00:15:23] That you went from Mexico city to Philadelphia. What was that experience like?

Will: [00:15:31] You know, I was really looking forward to, you know, the Wharton MBA. And the reason I think I had applied was that, , I wanted to kind of steep myself in kind of the space of startup ideas and business ideas and, , really just meet a lot of other folks. Who were as excited about startups and technology as need.

, now, , I don't want to speak ill of MBA programs or kind of, , MBA graduates. Cause I know a lot of great ones. , but at the end of the day, I don't think that, , it was really the place for me to. Really make that transition to startups, , and really kind of continue to develop the business skillset that I had, , started to develop, Deloitte.

And there were a lot of great people at the school, but it felt like the majority of the culture was focused on kind of landing the offer at McKinsey or Goldman rather than building new companies. , so actually I, I ended up dropping out of Wharton after my first year. , there's a couple of different reasons why,  the most immediate and the biggest catalyst was that my mother who had been quite ill,  with, , stage four lung cancer, ,who was living in New Orleans at the time, , just got Hiller and got sicker.

And so I decided to move back,  to New Orleans to help take care of her. And she ended up passing away and, , Yeah, I appreciate that. And, , kind of when, when the dust settled from that, I kind of just took stock of where I was and what I wanted to do, and just thought, you know, life's too short to like,Spend more time doing things that, , aren't necessarily the most valuable tome.

So ended up just packing a suitcase and renting an Airbnb inSan Francisco and starting to look for jobs in startups. So. Wow.

Derrick: [00:17:34] So you just packed a suitcase and moved out here?

Will: [00:17:36] Yeah.Yeah. I mean, I, I didn't quite know what I was going to do. I emailed a ton of people beforehand and just set up a ton of coffees, , and kind of just trusted that it would work out.

Derrick: [00:17:49] Well, what, what were you, I mean, at these, I guess coffee dates, right?

Like w what were you asking people?

Will: [00:17:55] That's a great question. I mean, mainly I was asking if they were hiring. , so, so that was like my main question, but, , yeah, I mean, I knew I wanted to, I think the, the main things that I was looking for is that I wanted some place where that was growing because. You know, I wanted to grow in a growing environment.

I wanted to expose myself to just a lot of interesting problems and a lot of interesting people. ,so that kind of drew me to a later stage company, , not necessarily series a orB, but maybe around C or D , just something that had kind of proven traction that had interesting customers that. Was attracting interesting and smart people.

and kind of when I was doing my research and canvasing of the entire SF Bay area for jobs, ,ultimately landed on checker,  that ended up being kind of the, the best opportunity for me.

Derrick: [00:18:58] How'd you find out about checker? Was it just through coffee?

Will: [00:19:03]No, so, well, I guess I had originally heard about checker because, , so one of my good friends in San Francisco, , Jack Altman started a company called Lattice,  which is kind of in the performance management space, in the HR tech space.

And I never really understood much about that space of HR tech. And I just remember in, inWharton, like there was a week where I just like, read everything about HR tech and I was like, huh, this is, this is pretty interesting.  and there were a lot of interesting companies on the rise in the space, like Gusto checker being one of them, I think Rippling was just starting out.

, but really one of the bright spots in that space. That I thought was very interesting was checker. and I just find myself attracted to things that are, let's just call them like fundamental and integral, like to process happening, but are kind of out of the spotlight.  so compliance background checks like really fit that bill pretty squarely.

and so I knew they were growing really fast. I knew that they had awesome customers like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash kind of the whole on-demand economy was like using checker. And it just seemed like a really fun place to like throw myself in and learn a lot about, about this stuff for them.

Derrick: [00:20:28] For audience members out there who perhaps aren't as familiar with Checkr, how Uber or Lyft, how would they use Checkr and how does Checkr monetize that?

Will: [00:20:38] Yeah, for sure. So for those who might not know, Checkr is an API. Through which to run preemployment background checks. so I guess the most common use case for checker and its customer set is,  everyone who wants to sign up to be anUber driver. Let's say they're going through the Uber driver onboarding flow.

They'll submit things like their name, their social security number, their address, and for. Uber to run kind of a, you know, a safe driving platform, safe for both its drivers and for its customers. They run background checks on all of the drivers that, , end up working for them. And so that, that onboarding app actually has an integration with the checker API, and that app makes a call to checker through which Checkr's going to find out the criminal history.

Of that individual driver and then pass back any results that it finds to Uber. , and so if you think about kind of the, the pretty significant growth that,  companies likeUber and Lyft and kind of the rest of the on-demand economy has seen in the last couple of years, that's a lot of background checks.

, and a background check is, you know, it's. Kind of taper use, so to speak. , so it's not like a SAS platform B or, , any licensing requirement it's pay per use. So each driver that gets background check, then,  Uber would pay checker, you know, a certain dollar amount for that, , background check. And so that's the way that they kind of monetize and grow along with their customers.

Derrick: [00:22:22] So they actually grew along with our customers as almost like the organic lift.

Will: [00:22:26] Exactly. I mean, when you step back and look at what Daniel and Jonathan did, but the founders of checker, it's pretty amazing because they not only built something that was kind of. You know, fundamental to the operating model of so many of these new gig economy companies, but did it at a time that was like just perfect, right?

Like it was just before all these gig economy companies really took off and yeah, I mean, they're, they're tremendous folks. And I think they, that their vision and timing was just impeccable.

Derrick: [00:23:01] Do they have a magic eight ball or a time machine, maybe they might, what a Checkr.

Will: [00:23:13] Yeah. So it's funny when I, , when I interviewed at Checkr, I remember walkingi n to the interview room, sitting down and seeing a piece of paper that had my name and then the role I was applying for, I actually had no idea what role I was applying for.

I just knew that it was kind of on the revenue side. It would be talking to customers, leading projects, et cetera. And I looked at this piece of paper and it said, solutions engineer. And I immediately freaked out because I thought I'm not an engineer. I, I have like very limited technical ability. , and I had no idea what it was, but as I kind of like learned more about the role, learn more about the company, , it was really just kind of being the technical person on the sales team.

and I'm technical enough to get an API up and running. , I would spend a lot of time with, ,customers, product managers or engineers kind of getting them up and running on the checker API. So. Thankfully, I was able to like get enough technical chops to, to make that happen. , but that role, I would say gradually expanded to basically just be supporting our largest customer accounts, our largest prospects, , and just really understanding the needs of enterprise buyers and aligning.

Many of the stakeholders at the company behind those needs and really rallying folks around those. So, it was a pretty awesome role.  You know, I tell so many folks from college who are considering a role in startups, like look into sales, look into solutions. It's an amazing training ground for under standing how so much of these really high growth companies work.

, and it was, it was an awesome experience for me,

Derrick: [00:25:00] Part of your role with technical, but how, how did you become technically savvy enough to be a solutions engineer?

Will: [00:25:07] Yeah. , so. You know, I I've been programming for some time, , at least as a hobby, you know, at the very least, I always like to have, , my own personal website that I've built, keep that up and maintained.

over time I've gotten really into just better and more scalable data analysis. , so playing with things like Python are just really fun for me. , and actually in between whenI.  left Wharton and started at checker.I just taught myself to code a little bit more seriously. , and I think that was a pretty integral part of, kind of that.

That time for me, , because it gave me a little bit more of a confidence to go in and have a discussion with an engineer or a product manager and feel confident that I knew how to integrate an API, , and that, you know, they could take my suggestions seriously. , and so I think it was, I, I didn't have to be crazy technical.

To, to help in a lot of these conversations. , I kind of had knew when I needed it to loop in a more kind of,  little engineer into the conversation. , but for the most part, I think some of those like core fundamental building blocks of, , you know, how APIs work, how just basic programming works, , really helped me kind of make that transition.

Derrick: [00:26:34] And, and now you are working at Middesk, which is another API first company, right?

Will: [00:26:38] Yeah.Love API APIs, , love any and all API APIs are the best. Yeah. , I mean, Middesk is. It's interesting. Cause it was born kind of out of some frustrations that we saw at checker. , and so, like I mentioned, I was spending so much of my time working with customers, getting them up and running on the checker API.

And I remember at some point we were growing any pretty, pretty quickly. We were adding. A large number of accounts every week. But the funny thing about background checks is that they're insanely regulated. , so the federal government has a very long list of requirements that kind of stipulate the things that you need to check before somebody is able to start running background checks.

, and so things like. This company is not on a terrorist watch list. It's a legitimate legal entity. And the reason that they do that is because they don't want somebody just coming in off the street and saying, Hey,I want to run a background, check on my brother-in-law or something like that., and so we had this team at checker called the credentialing team whose sole job was to be looking at these customers that we were onboarding in, verifying all these details.

About them. So collecting their business name, verifying their taxpayer ID. They're finding the HQ address is the same one. That's on file with the secretary of state, it was taking between three and five business days to do all of this. And so, you know, we were trying to spend time to automate more of this so that we didn't have as much of a bottleneck on our revenue.

And it was just really hard. Like I mentioned, at the outset, a lot of the existing solutions are just very dis-aggregated, they're very stale. And so when we were trying to solve this, you know, I was catching up with,  some former coworkers of mine,  Kurt and Kyle,  who were founding and Middesk.

and I mean, they kind of explain the mission of the company, what the solution was and how it was taking shape. And, , I kind of just clicked and that's how I ended up at Middesk.

Derrick: [00:28:51] All your expectations when you first join them. I mean, you've worked at Checkr before, right? For a number of years.

Will: [00:29:00] Yeah.

Yeah. I mean, I, I had worked with them before, so I kinda knew what to expect from the people angle and from a, like the approach angle,, because, you know, we took a very similar mindset to. You know, meeting customers to understanding their problems to, to building the right solutions., but I would say the w my expectations were at checker.

I was getting really good insight into how to build a company from two to three to four. So like really seeing how to scale a company in that growth phase. But I really wanted to see things go from zero to one and see like why you go from zero to one in this area and not another, and like why one and not two.

And I really wanted to figure out how to answer those questions. , and that was really my biggest expectation. And I've been just doing that in spades. , I would say. Going from most of my job today is getting something up and running for the first time, , which is a lot of fun. So I would say that those expectations have been, , very much fulfilled.

Derrick: [00:30:18] What's been the biggest learning at Middesk,

Will: [00:30:22] Biggest learning at Middesk. , that's a really good one. I mean, it's hard to just draw one. , I'll call one out though that, , that feels, you know, more relevant, , in the, in the last couple of weeks. So I might've mentioned that,, I was pretty early admin desks, so I was the fourth person in the, yeah.

So it was the fourth person in the building. , second hire and it. You know, when there's only four people in the room, you can communicate every easily. And,  things just, you know, move quite quickly. , today Middesk is 17 people, , which is awesome. , and we're able to get so much done so much more quickly, and we're able to really invest in a lot more areas that not only benefits us from a.

Just company building perspective, but also benefits our customers at the end of the day. So it's, it's pretty exciting. , but it does kind of stress the, the importance of continuing to build those communication channels. , because when it's just four people in a room, you can kind of tap each other on the shoulder and talk about, , You know, any issue that that might exist or, you know, align really quickly, and when it's larger.

And I think this is also, , exaggerated by COVID and then being kind of remote first, , there's, you know, much more work to be put into kind of, you know, building alignment, , company building and. You know, I kind of knew that intuitively I kind of understood it theoretically, , but actually doing it and making the investment in building those processes and building those communication channels.

it's really interesting to see, , and it's been a really cool learning too, to be able to take part in that. So that's, that's been one of my biggest learnings and it's actually pretty fun.

Derrick: [00:32:24] Would you mind sharing, maybe some of the processes changes as the company scaled from four employees to 17, especially given COVID.

I mean, just as an example, Julia DeWahl, , who work at Opendoor, she described how one of the communications processes change. Was when Opendoor was massively scaling at all the all hands, the CEO would tell a customer story. And that really aligned people in terms of the mission and what the company was doing, because sometimes it was just scaling so fast that people lost track of, you know, exactly why are we here and what are we doing?

Do you have similar stories from Middesk?

Will: [00:33:01] Yeah. So I would say Julia at Opendoor is probably a little bit further along than us. , and, , I would say we're still kind of figuring out what the right kind of communication processes and channels are. , but we've actually made pretty significant progress even in just the last couple of months and kind of.

Finding out the right forum for communications and the right kind of cadence of it, , which has been pretty awesome. And one just really cool example that I'm a big fan of now that we've recently instituted, this is kind of bi-weekly, , like all hands meeting, , which is less about company updates and more about,  DRIs or.

Directly responsible individuals updating on kind of the top monthly objectives. , and so a couple of days before this really big,  slides presentation is shared out to the company.And folks who are owning an objective, kind of give an update on that objective. , and then once all that content is in, people can go in comment, have suggestions about, you know, how to unblock something or answer a question that might still be open.

And it's just like a very cool practice to have this really big. Slide deck that everyone is commenting in and everyone's kind of helping each other in answering these questions all to the end of like, Driving these company objectives. , it's both a fun kind of commenting exercise and watching the, the discussions pan out in the sidelines.

And also it makes for a really lively conversation, , when we actually review the content in person and everyone's invited, everyone can pitch in everyone chimes in with what their comments and perspectives and. It's been super cool as a, as a tool to just get everyone aligned on those company objectives.

So I would say that's been a, a very, you know, beneficial and, and interesting forum for us to develop.

Derrick: [00:35:13] And this is then a it's on a Google Slide.

Will: [00:35:16] Yeah. So it's just a Google Slide deck. The template doesn't change that much., so everyone kind of knows what they need to be reporting on and things like metrics are included in there.

Things like updates on the latest objectives are in there.And,  Yeah, it, it's kind of one thing that everyone can easily rally around.

Derrick: [00:35:38] Awesome , I was reading your blog and you broke down operations, , into three buckets, which I thought were fascinating, , beta products and I think business operations.

Do you mind just touching on maybe one or two of those and,, what would they mean?

Will: [00:35:55] Yeah, for sure. , so. I love frameworks. , maybe that's the consultant in me, ,but they just helped me kind of make sense of the world. And like I mentioned earlier, I think operations is one of those very ambiguous and fluid, , spaces a ta startup.

Will: [00:36:12] And just being able to apply that simple framework of three things helps me plan out. My day, my week milestones for the month milestones for the next couple of months. , so love thinking about operations in, in those three pillars, at least in the desk. So I would say data operations is kind of one that's near and dear to my heart.

, because at the end of the day, Middesk is a data company., And one of my first projects was actually to go out to every us state and DC speak with their secretary of state department and sign an agreement with them to collect all the business entity data of every business that's ever been incorporated in their state.

so. There are a lot of businesses in the us.  so it's took some time, but we've actually been able to build out this incredible data platform asset that now powers the rest of our products.  and I think the approach we took for that day, the platform,  really differentiates that's against the kind of legacy providers of, of the market.

, and I think. One of the continuing areas of investment that operations makes in, in that asset, , is just making sure that those data pipelines are up and running, that they're running kind of on time that we're getting the right data from the right people when we expect it and flagging things when they don't come through.

, so doing things like. You know, reaching out to Wyoming because we haven't gotten a file from them in a couple of days, making sure that we kind of re up that relationship and kind of make things, , Run on time again. So that's kind of one of the big areas of operations in the desk. I would also call out kind of this, this product operation space.

like I mentioned previously, we do have a unique model in that, to always continue to improve the quality of our reports. We have a human in the loop. , so that means somebody that we've trained really extensively on most like business entity and corporation law, who, if we need to further diligence a business that's been requested of us, that person can find the right details.

They can include the right. , facts on that report or exclude things that don't belong and then pass that back to the customer so that the customer doesn't need to review it. They can just be confident that the data they're looking at is correct. Now that's awesome. That's a great, you know, product feature, but that means that there's a ton of product that needs to be built for that individual to interface with that report.

so you can think of it as internal tools. , so being able to, , Facilitate, , common tasks facilitate common workflows in an internal facing software tool that our team has built really facilitates that human in the loop element, which I believe is probably one of the most integral parts of our product.

And, you know, Greatly differentiates us in the marketplace.  and so product operations is really the practice of understanding what the product requires in terms of things that need to be verified data that needs to be included or excluded from reports, uh, and making sure that the software tools that we build really facilitate the.

The act of taking those actions. So I would say those are two pretty integral kind of operations, pillars, so to speak at Middesk.

Derrick: [00:40:07] That's pretty incredible. That's , that you gathered info from 50 States. That, that, that must have been a hell, operational challenge to say the least.

Will: [00:40:18] I mean,  I probably now know.

Way more secretary of state employees in the us than practically anyone in the world. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing, but it is what it is.

Derrick: [00:40:33] Is there like a LinkedIn, just for a secretary of state's office folks?  

Will: [00:40:38] No but that is an incredible idea. And I think I'm going to start it tomorrow.

Derrick: [00:40:44] I'll be, I'll be an angel investor. I love it. so for the internal tools that were built, I meant to ask, I'm assuming that you try to find off the shelf tools like Google Sheets or Airtable.  and they just didn't really fill the, the necessary requirements that you were looking for.

Will: [00:41:00] Yeah. So, I mean, I think.

If I'm left to my own devices, I think I'm going to put together as much as possible with duct tape and Google sheets. , now maybe that makes me like, instead of head of operations, head of things that don't scale.  but as soon as that process becomes more critical or it grows in scale and it gets more painful,  I'm really going to try and productize it as soon as possible.

So, , Luckily, and thanks to fully,  internal tools and kind of our internal user shave always been a pretty big priority for us at mint desk. I mean, we see. The ability for our internal users to do their job as directly impacting the value of the product and the value that our customers get out of it.

And so it's imperative for us to give them great tools that they can easily work with.  and thankfully our engineers are awesome and amazing at understanding both kind of the customer side of the equation, as well as the internal user side.  and so I think. My general approach has been let's try and fix this thing with as little.

Process and engineering commitment required. And then once it starts to become more of a thing and it needs to work at scale and we need to do it more often, then let's start productizing it and getting real kind of product built to facilitate it. But,  I would say that that's kind of the. The general internal tools approach that we've taken at least early on.

Derrick: [00:42:42] So out of those 17 employees currently admit desk, how many are, are building internal tools? ,

Will: [00:42:47] Don't really think about it that way. It's more kind of like, how would I put it?It's more of like a time allocation thing. Like everyone builds them. Gotcha.Gotcha.

Derrick: [00:43:01] Was this a similar approach that Checkr took?

Will: [00:43:03] I wasn't super familiar with kind of the approach that checker took with internal tools. , but I I'm,  I'm assuming that there's kind of some overlap,  Yeah, don't have a great answer for that. ,

Derrick: [00:43:19] Are there any parts of this internal tool or processes, admin tasks, every involve some sort of like a checklist tool?

Will: [00:43:28] So certainly there's a good number of processes and workflows that. We train our internal users on that do require some kind of set of tasks be done in a certain order. , and we've actually invested a good amount of time and, and engineering resources in building out kind of what that needs to look like and almost, , giving folks a roadmap of what they need to be doing.

And when,  so we see that as pretty integral to the delivery of these products. And so. Again, thankfully, we've had great kind of commitment from the start to be developing those things. In-house and really tailor made to some of the,  some of the needs that our internal users pad got it.

Derrick: [00:44:19] To close things out. , do you have any advice to our listeners? Many of whom are considering careers in operations or are in operations themselves right now?

Will: [00:44:30] Yeah. , I think my, my main one would be, just be comfortable with ambiguity. ,I think one of the core competencies of operations folks is just venturing boldly into the unknown,  and just figuring shit out.

, obviously that's going to come with a lot of uncertainty and second guessing. , but you still in a fast paced environment need to move and ship with speed. , and it's something that you get more comfortable with over time. , not knowing what, what the solution's going to look like when you start something out.

Can probably be very scary at first, but over time, you start to recognize patterns in those problems, patterns in those solutions that you might, um, approach them with. And you'll be more and more comfortable with that ambiguity over time. So that would be my main piece of advice.

Derrick: [00:45:26] And here's a,  a last fun question.

Can you tell us a little bit about Tequila Maria Isabel.

Will: [00:45:34] Yeah. Yeah. So, , so we talked a bit about, my I'm in Mexico and while I was there, I just became really enamored with, spirits. So tequila and mezcal and, , yeah, I just found myself enjoying them more and more frequently. And when I came back to the U S and I was telling my dad about this, he was like, Wow.

Like I'm also like a huge fan of tequila and mescal. , so it just became kind of like this bonding experience for us. , and a couple of years ago, I think he was kind of just poking around and met some folks inHalle SCO, Mexico, which is kind of like a big, , Central place for a lot of distillers in Mexico to, to grow and, , distill mezcal and tequila.

And he met some great folks who, you know, were interested in kind of him and his story, and they kind of struck up a partnership and.Wanting to start bottling tequila. , so you and I worked together to find some designers, find some folks, , in Mexico to help us with bottling. And, , pretty soon, not yet, they're still kind of going through customs.

pretty soon you'll be able to get a tequila. Maria, you said bell brand a bottle from us. , You know,  mainly directly from me, but hopefully in a liquor store,  in your neighborhood soon. So,  so yeah, it's, it's pretty fun and it's kind of a fun side project that my dad and I do together. So I'll get you a bottle next time that I see you.

Derrick: [00:47:08] Yeah. That'd be incredible. I love that. So that'll be fun.

Will: [00:47:11] Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure.

Derrick: [00:47:13] well, well thank you so much for the time. , where can folks find you on the internet?

Will: [00:47:19] Yeah on the internet.  you can find me on Twitter.com @willSABAwesome.

Derrick: [00:47:33 ] Thanks.

Will: [00:47:35] Thanks,Derrick.