April 10, 2023

Episode 231: Raphael Ouzan, CEO & Co-founder of A.Team

Raphael Ouzan is the founder and CEO of A.Team, a team formation platform that enables tech leaders to assemble, deploy, and manage cloud-based teams—high-performing, distributed product teams that build transformative new products. A.Team is powered by a members-only network of the world’s top engineers, product managers, designers, and marketers who come together to escape rigid structures to work on problems that matter to them alongside teammates they love.

A.Team is on a mission to change how we work for the better—part of Raphael’s quest to unlock human potential through technology. He founded BillGuard, the antivirus for bills (acquired by Prosper), co-founded BlockNation with Apollo Mgmt CEO Marc Rowan to invest in web3, and founded ITC, a not-for-profit for global tech upskilling. A decorated officer of IDF’s tech unit, he was named 30 under 30 by Forbes, and Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum.

Julian: Hey everyone. Thankyou so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast. Today we have RaphaelOuzan. CEO and co-founder of A.Team, A.Team formatted platform that enablestech leader to assemble, deploy, and manage cloud team, high performing, distributedproduct teams that build transformative new product.

Raphael, I'm so excited to chat withyou. Not only you know and your background, your experience, but also what wechat about a, a little bit before the show about the, the change in how teamsare and the companies are really having to not. Get the right people, but alsocreate the right environment and also manage that, that team to make sure thatthey're hitting the target.

That there's so much, all that soundssimple. There's so much iny, the nuances that actually allow team to be able toperform at that level. And so I'm curious, obviously, and and for the audiencesake to dive into that, but before we get into 18, what you're working on now,what were you doing before you started the company?

Raphael: Yeah, I'm glad to behere. So, Before I started the company, I, I, I felt since, so a little bit ofbackground, I I didn't go to college, but instead I had the chance to go to themilitary. So I was there for five years doing cyber warfare and cryptography inIsrael, and that's when I first felt the power of teams coming together.

In the Army, it's kind of in thisextreme situation where you've got a bunch of 18 years old cons. That have totackle really big kind of world class challenges that typically the people thatare supposed to deal with the things are way more educated than you are. Well,they're way better paid. And that show to me the power of teams.

So when I left the military, I knew itwas very clear to me that what I wanted to do in my life is to be able to workon really meaningful problems with great people that I want to work. I knewthat if I was in a situation to do that, then, would be amazing. At the time,the only way to really do that was to build startups.

So that's what I did. I built startups.Yeah, build organization does deep tech retraining and upskilling. So for somereason I was compelled by the problems of, or, or the opportunity rather, ofusing technology to, to unlock human potential. And that's what I had a chanceto do for a while. So, so before A.Team, I was really looking for, I've beenplaying around that space for, for, for over a decade before then and after Isold my previous company, suddenly a little bit of investing.

I was an entrepreneur resident at ThriveCapital and I started investing also with with the fund that we set up withwith Mark Rowan. I called Block Nation and and I wanted to learn, how the bestcompanies in the world function. And every time it was kind of the sametakeaway, which is the gap is actually not capital as we typically know it, butrather human capital.

And I realized then that the, what I wasfeeling, that I wanted to have the autonomy to choose the problem that I workon and to work with people that I really wanted to work. Is something that in away we all feel and aspire to, except before A.Team, most people had to kind ofeither be born very wealthy and then they don't care.

They can do whatever they want. Butthat's not exactly a choice. Or they just had to work their entire life tofinally achieve professional freedom. So the question behind A.Team that kindof triggered this whole thing was, Hey, wait a second. What if we could enablethis emerging category of product builder?

So think like product managers, designers,engineers, data scientists, growth marketers, et cetera, people who have thislike really powerful skills that can create essentially exponential value tosay, you know what? We don't need to be restrained by the rigid structures oftypical employment. We can actually go and choose the work that we wanna workon and, and, and choose the people that you work with.

And and with that establishing kind ofthe future of, of what we call cloud-based teams, those fractional teams. Andyou see now this whole way of working that has been propelled forward extremelyfast with all the recent events of the past few years that enable people tomore and more people to participate in that kind of new way of the new economythat puts the builders to people who can build things at the center of it andprovides them f freedom and, and autonomy.

Julian: Yeah. It's sofascinating thinking. Human capital being, being a constraint. And if that,what were you seeing out for other companies in lack of lack of skillset? Wasit not the right player or finding talent? Attracting talent? What? When, whenyou talk about the deficits, what were some things that you thought othercompanies.

I don't wanna say feeling and you're notdoing so well on, but seeing as a constraint within that human capital, oneparticular was stopping them from having a productive team or having a highperforming team with the, the assembly of those individuals. I'm curious onwhat, key things that you saw were, were not going well in some organizationsthat, what other organizations that were going well, what they were doing?


Raphael: Yeah. I think thereason for that is basically employment as we know it, and the way thatcompanies are structured is super out. It hasn't really changed much, right. Inhundreds of years, really, like since we left the field to get into factories,it's pretty much remained the same way, which is you have a list of people youneed, you bring those, your hires people, and then you have them do some kind ofwork together during the day and, and that's about it.

But we've completely changed in the pastfew decades in terms of what generates. And in the knowledge economy, whatwe're looking for is exponential output and to create exponential output.Particularly when we talk about tech and we talk about tech builders. Turns outthere's some elements that really matter.

And it's not just about, it's not justabout remote and not remote. It's much bigger than this is, Hey, do I even careabout this, right? Because if I care about this, you care about it and we workwell. We'll have that much more likelihood of producing something that is trulysignificant. So the old model that is kind of structured in terms ofdepartments and headcounts, things like that, is like has been broken for awhile and you see this now more than ever, right?

Every company is kind of like doingthose massive layoffs, which is basically something that happens, on an ongoingbasis in a lesser capacity because it's structured around headcount versusbeing because of structuring. Around missions or initiatives, which is whatwe're actually compelled to do.

So, so we're in a situation now that iseven more acute than it used to be, where the market pressure of that ispushing every company in the world to think in terms of efficiency is is iskind of encouraging companies to think of, of better ways to do. And forprofessionals to there. They had a big realization this year, which is thatthis sense of stability that comes from the kind of typical nine to fiveemployment is gone, or at least that illusion has been shattered.

Yeah. You see that with the greatbetrayal now, right? Of so many people being laid off kind of overnight. Theylog in like, oh, I can't log in, I guess, I would just let go. But in tech, for15 years, tech giants have basically tried to hoard and monopolize all thebrains showing them with perks, and then certainly it's like gone, right?

Yeah. So this is the kind of new erawhere people realize, wait, I have to be self-reliant, like I cannot just relyon one employer. So you could see this like massive changes happening in thegap for human capital is really because when you think about it, every businessproblem is. A talent problem. Yeah.

Like at the end of the day. So this isthe difference between success and failure, but also between being able to takeadvantage of opportunities, vir versus not.

Julian: Yeah. And you, Iwonder if you have any, if, if you have any numbers you can share on the, the,the impact that Human Capital has if it's not run efficiently and successfullyin having that, whether it's the right team members or.

Structural organization. What is thedifference between a company rather than, obviously the extreme minus onecompany fails, the other company succeeds. Outside of that, what are some ofthe outcomes that companies will see if they haven't seen the capital problem?Do you have any of those numbers that you can share or I guess any anecdotes onwhere that's been most, I guess?

Present in, in, in your experience?  

Raphael: Yeah, so first of all,we see, we anecdotally, I think we all know that there are better teams andlesser teams. So to crack the code on how to make a significant, significantlymore optimized teams is, is very significant. Now, productivity is not exactlya metric that we know how to measure.

As a, as an industry, particularly notin tech. Like for some reason, for the longest time you, there was, in a waythere's like so much money in that space, or there used to be, at the veryleast that didn't really matter. It's like, okay, just more, just more ofeverything. Now this doesn't work anymore because every board is telling thecompany look like you can't spend too much ahead of revenue, so you need to beable to invest and divest.

So that agility at the workforce level,and that's true. Every company. Like think about I, I gave this talk like areally long time ago. Some somewhat, someone founded somehow it was called likehow to build the A.Team, which is kind of funny. It was like maybe 12 yearsago. And the, the proposition I had then was, we talked a lot about leanstartup, which is like essentially failing fast and that it's good to fail fastbecause then you can iterate.

I'm like, yeah, this is absolutely rightand great. There's one thing though, that you cannot fail fast. And that's thecore team. So when you think about a seed stage company and has a little bit ofmoney to kind of get going, they don't really know what will work they, and ifthey hire the wrong people, at least as full-time employees, it's they're gonnarun outta money and die before before they fix the mistake.

Because letting go of people isextremely hard, both emotionally and just takes always longer than you'd like.And and turns out that you gotta fine tune. You gotta e. On your core team justas much as your enter a new product because your product is changing, thepriorities are changing, your understanding of the market and the positioningis changing.

So, so really at every level you seethat having that agility with a mix of contractors in a specialized area ofthings and full-time employees is like, that's the right mix. Which basicallyshows that companies are now morphing to not just go from think in terms ofheadcount and departments, but rather in terms of initiatives, but alsobringing agility not just to software development, but also to companybuilding.

So you ask about numbers for that. Andtoday in the network of, of a worth close to 9,000 of some of the most highlyskilled product builders, we never really marketed that in fact we were in stealfor two and a half years. And the, the network has grown eventually, eventhough it's very hard to.

Intuit, like we, we have long vettingprocesses and you typically need to be referred by someone that worked with youbefore and and so forth. But the thing has been growing like crazy and theinterest is, is very significant. And we see that the interest is not just thatevery level of seniority, like you see independent contributors, you see headsof products, you see, founders who've exited companies.

You see executives from Fortune 500 thatare saying, you know what? I'd rather have a more of. Portfolio career becauseI wanna be able to work on real interesting things that I choose to work onwith people I wanna work with. Yeah. And that's also how they better theirskills. So you see that shift happening very significantly.

And on the company side, whether thechance to work with incubated bunch of startups work with many of the, the,most significant scale up all the way to Fortune 500. And we sing companiesthat so you see on one end of the spectrum, Early stage startups that arebuilding with A.Team as they build our kind of hybrid full-time, part-timeteams as you described.

But you also see incumbents like reallybig companies that are not tech native companies at all, that are certainlyshipping products the way you would expect like a Google or Facebook to be ableto do.  

Julian: The, the wholetransition to distributed talent. A lot of people think that, it, it's justcompany trying to bootstrap and being cost effective.

But a lot of other, most companies, ifyou talk to them, really describe the access to highly skilled talent inunconventional ways. And being whether it is full-time employment, being that'sthe more conventional way, whether it's contract or any other. There's a lotof, of gray area in there. And so I, I'm, I'm curious to hear from the clientswho had at the company and, and the product that, that the 18 building, how hasthe landscape of district team changed and where are we finding the besttalent?

Not localized anymore. It, it, it'severywhere. And, and how is, how are, are you helping those individuals cometogether as a thing?  

Raphael: Yep. So you're right,it's not just about, it's not localized to a particular place that can beeverywhere, especially throughout Covid have been travel, people have beentraveling a lot, and and and it's also not just about best talent in a way, thesame way that you, some investors talk about founder market fit.

You know that it's not just about theproduct having market fit, it's also the founder being the right founder tosolve this particular. I think the same goes for, in a way, talent, right? Youwant a talent, you want a talent company fit and talent, product fit. It's notjust about if I take, this person who is like, great at all the exams and thatmean that that person is going to be excellent at executing and producing what,what, what we need to accomplish.

There's a part to this that, that isreally important, which is enabling people to choose what they care. To work onthings that matters to them on problems that matter to them. Now when you thinkabout company mission and things like that, yeah, the early stages enoughbecause the company will do things very much in that vicinity and will be veryclear how your impact is relevant to the bottom line of the company.

But very quickly you kind of lose that.And I think anyone who's scaling past a even couple dozen people. It becomesreally hard to understand how me, as a software engineer or as a designer, etcetera, I'm, I'm actually impacting the company. So think about companies thathave thousands of people, like, then it becomes very, very diluted.

So it turns out that distributed teamsand this type of thinking is about, it's not just about whether people areremote or not, and whether you have hubs all over the world. It's really aboutare you enabling and empowering builders, whether they're full-time ocontractors. To work on the problems that that first they understand what itis, not just the task they're doing.

Right. So you bring that at theinitiative level, but also to actually care that have that fit with Yeah. Yeah.I wanna go solve this because that's how you're gonna get the, the intangiblethat is so powerful, which is. Not just doing the tickets and making themhappen, but rather really understanding how to get to the goal you want to getto, how to deliver on the vision that you have for a particular challenge, andthat's when you get to exponential results.

So that's what distributed work enables,but it's not enough. It's about how you structure the company and how youcommunicate with people and how you empower to solve problems versus doingtasks or little projects.  

Julian: Right, right. We were,and the enabling piece is particularly interesting because a lot of people arelike, yeah, I think I enable my team, or, or, whether it's giving them thetools that they need or having structure, repeat the sessions or things likethat.

But, and that, that's typically notenough to really, utilize some of these skills, put them in a best, not onlysucceed, but also grow. What can companies do better to put those individualsin that situation, knowing more about them, if it having more. Better, way to,to, to set up the organization, what a particular can do to actually not onlyutilize that down that town skillset, but put them in a position to succeed andhelp them grow.

Raphael: Yeah, I like thisquestion because it's actually super practical how to do it. It's like if you,if you go to a company that has multiple teams, you ask the team members, Hey,can you describe to me what it looks like if you do everything you want to doand you. In like six month, right? It's like right now a lot of people arefinalizing Q2 plans.

Ask them at the end of q2, you've doneall the things you wanted to do. What does that look like? I think you'll besurprised to see that most people cannot describe it. Sometimes even teamleaders can't even describe it. Yeah. Because we get bucked down, but withtask, with projects and not, and it's actually hard to have, like we find thatsuccessful teams have mission, focus and trust.

So, but everything really starts withmission focus and to have mission focus and mission clarity. So to be able toelevate the conversation and elevate the way you work and you communicate withthe teams to the level of outcome and you, and if you create teams that areessentially outcome driven, That are cross-functional, that that means theyhave agency over solving that particular problem.

Yeah. Right. Versus like, oh, I'm doingthose tasks and then, some other department or teams is gonna take on thosethings and do something with it and whatever. Instead of doing that, youbasically say, okay, I have those initiatives. And then when you ask yourselfthe question of you asked yourself the most important question, which is, whatis the best team to maximize the chances of accomplishing this initiative?

And when you start having the conversation,this. What it does is it enables you to, it enables people to really rallyaround an outcome. And that's when you get, the type of engagement that is sosignificant to solve higher order challenges. And that's something that anycompany can do. It's just a slight change in thinking to go from kind of the,the headcount department thinking to the initiative.


Julian: I was gonna say, Imean, one thing that you hit that, that I think rings hard. The outcomes piecebeing that, you don't hire for JI skillset. You hire for the skill set that'sgoing to give you the successful outcome you want. They don't need exactly everytechnology they need to have, whatever specifically you need for thatparticular task.

And an individual who can learn that,that other auxiliary skills that might, you know, That might, that mightinfluence completion in that task. But a lot of companies, I think, Still gofor checking boxes and cropping off and, and, and kind of validating you by, bynot, not even just Prudentials, but by certificate accolade.

I think that rather focusing on, on theoutcome.  

Raphael: Yeah. And this, thisis the reliance that we had a lot on, on titles and, and things like that. Likeif you go to LinkedIn, basically like the way you assess someone is thecompanies they've been at and how fancy their titles have. What we try to dowith A.Team is to think is to focus on a different data set, which is what whatpeople have built and who they've built it with.

So when you asked before, how do weenable the formation of great teams? Well, we can, basically everything wetalked about we do with the companies that we work with. So basically we askthem, okay, what are the most significant initiatives that that like what isyour top milestone? If it's a small company that you're trying to accomplish,raising money, monetization, whatever.

Going into that market, this market. Andwhat are the, the, the top three initiatives that you're currently working onthat are not moving well enough or fast enough? What areas of expertise youfeel you have gaps in and what initiative you wish it started but didn't. Andthen once we have the answers to this question, we can help translate thatinto, okay, you currently have these people working on this amazing.

Now let's do A.Team spec to see whatwould the ideal team would look like. And that goes through the platform,identifies the right set of the right cluster of people that not just to yourpoint, have the skillset and the experience, but I can also work well togetherand I want, and that actually want to work with this particular problem.

So what you get it? Hey, here's the bestteam for the job and here's why. Here are the people and so on. But also here,here's why they're excited to work with you on this particular. And that's howbasically we kind of reorganize in a way the way work happens. And that's howyou can do much more with few people because they actually care about it andthey have the right skillset and it can work well together.

So that's how you get to thatproductivity where people can be in the zone and actually doing the things thatvery few people can do.  

Julian: And who's responsiblefor that? We think about, maybe it's the founder, it's the ceo, it's the coo,it's. Chief people officer, if I'm thinking about it from, a founder's point ofview, or even if I have a co-founder relationship who's responsible for thatand how that carried out that kind of philosophy around building towardsoutcomes and projects and, and, and then assembling the team, and then enablingthe team.

That kind of goes downfall.

Raphael: If you're, if you'rean early stage startup, you're kind of in effect building the operating systemor the DNA of your company with every decision, even the mundane ones, andcreating clarity and figuring out the initiatives, what matters most from whatmatters less is the most important thing that founders can do.

As the company grows, though, you havemultiple people that participate. They essentially on A.Team, It's kind of likea product manager team where the product is the company, right? So that's thepeople leadership function, finance operation, et cetera. Whoever is in therekind of figuring out how to do planning and like those type of things, how tothink about people you hire and all of that.

So more and more people are in charge ofthat, but I think it starts very much with the DNA of the company You want. Andthe way you want to to empower people. Like there's, there's something aboutbuilding a moat for companies, not just in terms of the ability in the market,but also the way that they attract and work well and retain with great peoplethat actually care about what you're doing.

It's in the culture, but also in the wayyou structure work. So I would say it's very much the leadership and andfounder's role, but then it becomes the team leader's role as. Because ifthat's kinda the sense of ownership where, I can be A.Team leader in thecompany and if I'm just okay doing tasks when I don't really understand howthat, how it matters, what success looks like and so forth.

That's one way to do it. But I couldalso push back and say like, wait a second. Like we have limited resources.This is a difficult year in the market. Every dollar. And the opportunity costmatters because I could be doing interesting things, like let's, I need to havethe context to understand how this matters and what, what is, what is theactual outcome here, right?

So it ultimately becomes on all of us.

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. It's, it'samazing to think, and it's also, I think one thing that, that, that goes it, itundervalued. I think a lot of companies do it, and maybe, maybe it's almost acliche, but I think that's why the mission of a company kind of set the, theexpectation for what you wanna accomplish and the value kind of structure.

Okay. How do we go about. Accomplishingthat. What are our philosophy around how we interact as A.Team and, and as acompany and, and how, and what our focus is on, it's pushing the needle forwardor it, giving a hundred percent feedback or communicating all these differentthings that kind of set up the stage for how you should, or.

Interact at an orientation. So that's tohear true.  

Raphael: Plus plus. I would, Iwould add something, sorry. I just would add, particularly on the early stagepiece that, you know, if I recall like the first company I built and I had alot of kind of black and white beliefs on how to hire, how to build, like howwanted people with me forever type of thing.

Yeah. And this is real, that type ofthing. And then the web, I've done it after that a few times like changed and Ithink now, 2023 is a weird. Right. There's like all kinds of, all kinds ofstuff going on, and there's so much uncertainty, so much so that the onlycertainty is the fact that every couple weeks we're gonna have a new Black Swantype of event that we would've never expected to see.

Right. I think that's really clear bynow because it's been the case for quite a while now. And when you think about,how, and, and you know, the best explanation of, I think what's going on isbasically acceleration. Everything that will happen happens faster, right?Faster and faster, and, Something, it's hard for us to intuit as, as as smartpeople.

I've wrote about, I've written about so,so founder today that's building a company needs to, in a way, relinquish thethings that we used to take for granted. The, the typical thing that thestartups say early on is, I hire the best people. That's not true. Like youtypically hire the people that you can afford that are journalists enoughbecause you don't exactly know what you.

The best people to solve a particularproblem. They're extremely expensive and they probably would not join a seedstage company. And also you don't want them to, it doesn't really make sensebecause you could be wrong, you may wanna move, et cetera. So I think to besuper agile and to look at, how to build teams in a way that is really takingadvantage of the way that things work, but creating flexibility into as manydecisions as possible in the way you, you kind of build up your team and yourorganization is absolutely, Because technology is advancing very quickly andweird things are happening all the time in the market.

Right? Right. It's almost like thatimpossible reality where you have on one end, like, the war here, there, themarket banks collapsing, and on the other end you have like the most incredibletech advancement that humanity has been able to produce with like generative aish shuffling the deck for, for everyone.

It's like, how does all these thingshappening at. Well, this is the world we live in.  

Julian: Yeah. And don't followup about the traction of A.Team. How many, how many professionals do you havein in the network? And how many companies are using the amazing team to buildamazing product? Where are you at now and what are you particularly fed aboutIn the next frontier of A.Team.  

Raphael: We have, we have thechance to grow super fast, working with hundreds of companies from early Cstartup to Fortune five.

We're particularly in times like thiswhen everybody needs that flexibility and efficiency and kind of a few 10 xtype of teams and people to supercharge their teams or create new ones, thatmakes all the difference. So, so we have this really, and what I'm excitedabout is the opportunity to, to establish A.Team s that building block forcompanies that are going to make it this year.

And not just make it, but actuallythrive in ways. They could have never done before because there's somethingabout creating the agility of full-time, part-time bring having super powerful,powerful teams with fewer people that can do way more. That's reallysignificant. So I'm excited for us to keep doing that on the startup front, onthe scale up front, on the large company front.

So we, and we're very much expandingvery quickly to address that traction on the network side. We still, were stillvery, very selective both on company side and the, and the talent. We're very,very selective. We're not trying to create too fast. As I mentioned, it's likeclose to 9,000 people. But the cool thing about it now is that we have teamleaders and CTOs and CPOs and, and everything in between.

So you've got the people that arereally, really good at zero to one. You've got the people that are really,really good at teaming up and creating like prototypes to scaling, tomaintenance, to all kinds of different capabilities. So you can have the truebest in Class E. Even if it's fractional to help take like there's a probthere.

I think it's pretty fair to say thatthere's every company on the plant right now. Like there are either incrediblethings that it could be building that are leveraging their core assets. Likewhat they're uniquely good at already. Yeah. Or they have a problem they'recurrently trying to tackle that's with the right team behind them and maybeit's just like one or two more people helping on certain things Could beAbsolutely unlock.

Right. So that's what I'm excited aboutto, at the end of the day, have the opportunity to transform how companiesbuild. And, and, and therefore how people work.

Julian: Some of the biggestrisk that A.Team faces  

Raphael: I think it's trickyfor any company to, like, today we have the, the conundrum of I think mostcompanies, which is how do you, like, we're early in our journey enough that,we have this like really big vision and there's a lot of things we want tobuild. And these things require a lot of. On the other end, there's a lot ofuncertainty out there.

So should we prioritize, like short-termtype of work to get, to the, to the financial stability much earlier than thanotherwise we would in a, in a different market for, for tech. So I think that'sthe, the making those decisions. Well, and, and then they're never binary.They're somewhere on the spectrum.

Is, is is tricky. Like, my, the, the,the thing that I think myself and the team are most excited about is to, is wefeel like we just got started with A.Team essentially. Like we, I, I thinkwe're like 50% into the V1 of what A.Team is like, not even completed the v1.So being able to invest in that is is, is really important, but has to.

Done in a, in a reasonable and very wellthought out way in times like this.  

Julian: Yeah. I know youmentioned it already, Butta said in stone everything goes well what's the longterm vision for A.Team?

Raphael: The, that's A.Teamwould be the wealth's best builders. Meaning that builders add companies,whether it's founders or leaders or executives that run transformation of BigC. Independent builders that want to be working on the most interesting things,like, well know that A.Team is the place that has been designed fully for themto enable them to do the best work of their career with their favorite people,while having autonomy and flexibility to make the decision that shaped theirlife, their career, and enable them while having the support of a createdcommunity of, of like-minded.

Like, that's ultimately where we'regoing.  

Julian: And I would like thisnext section I call my founder faq. So I'm going to with a rapid fire questionand then we'll see where we go. So, Jen, to break into it, I would like to askthis, what's particularly hard about your job today?  

Raphael: That is changes. It,it changes every other week. I have to like learn that it's a new company, it'sa new.  

Julian: Yeah. Thinking about,the teams and, and people who are building things, whether they're at a companyalready or not, or kind of whatever in the background experience is at thetime, what does that mean in terms of, measuring company success, not beingheadcount anymore, not being.

What stage of fundraising, but the focusmore on products. Do you see that we're shifting focus more on products thanthe best of those? Or did that still kind of, one camp and then the other campis still in focus, fundraisers again, head time, things like that. What are youseeing? Are you seeing a shift or are you seeing kind, kind of chew lobsters?

Raphael: That's a greatquestion. It's a great question. The shift is happening really fast andactually not thanks to us, but really thanks to the need for efficiency this.Where every board essentially is looking at from any company size is looking atmy investments and what the expected roi. So that means initiative A gottainvest, whatever million dollars.

I'm hoping to get 10 million, I'm gonnaget five this year, another five next year. Yeah. So, so we gotta, we, there'sno other way but to look at it that way, I would encourage anyone who's notthinking that way to do it. And then therefore, as part of that question,there's the team behind. And that's how you measure basically your, yourability to turn investment into value.

Julian: Yeah. Thinking aboutyour founder experience and, and all these, you've been, A part of whetherworking as a leader or as an employee or even as an investor, what makes andyou mentioned this earlier about human capital, but what, outside of that, whatmakes startups successful in regards to the, the operational foundation thatthey have?

And what I mean by this is talk to a fewfounders and, and a lot of things that they learned over the years was that,they create the foundation in a certain way. Have to not only culture, but evensystems and all the decisions you made. You mentioned earlier, But what aresome of those ways that companies that are, scaling and, and being successful,earning more revenue, increasing their profit, what didn't their foundationlook like?

If it was a machinery, you looked insideof the engine, what, what am I seeing in the box? What are the component thatmake it successful? Company?  

Raphael: A long list of things,but I'd say I would say, I would say this first, nothing about building acompany. The company is what comes. Yeah. And sometimes we get caught up.

Like it's very easy for, for whentackling a problem that is as challenging as building something new. We tend togravitate as human beings towards the thing that we have more control over. Idon't honestly have control whether the market's gonna respond the way I wantit to, but I do have control over like all the things that I do that are, that startupsneed to do, that companies need to do.

Focusing on those things is a waste oftime, at least early on. Right? Particularly pre-market fit. You don't careabout company, whatever. It's just like about getting to where you want. Andthen I would say once you're there, once you're starting building a company,think about it as a, as an evolving organism.

And and I would say there's somethingabout, there's something about I think there's something about the people thatyou bring around the table that that changes everything because you can neverfully control success, but you can control certain things, which. Are yougiving it the best possible odds?

And do you have fun and and intellectualkind of reward and fulfillment from working with the best people on the planeton significant problems? At least that's what drives me. Yeah. And I realizethat it's kind of a mindset that you need to have, which is, look, if what I'mworking on is important enough to at least some people, then these people canbring along and they can.

Maybe not all of them as full-timeemployees, and that's okay, right? But rather making sure around the table ofthe right teams to drive the right, the, the, the initiatives and to, toaccomplish that, that, that creates DNA in a significant way. And I would saylastly, diversity. Diversity is this point that, can be concerned all kinds ofways.

But I fi I, I realized, I realized apart of it that I think is overlooked, which is, Which is the most early stagecompanies are very homogeneous. Mm-hmm. Because you tend to hire people thatyou know, or that friends of friends within a particular location potentially.And like, and this is very uniform.

But when, we built A.Team using A.Teams,so we have a bunch of A.Teamers and that are, that are working with us. A lotof the full-time employees that we have actually are eight teamers that convertfull-time. So it took me, took us a year or so to meet in person because we'rein the thick of.

And then when I did, I looked around andwas like, wow, I've never seen so many people that come from different placesthat have different age that have different background, different perspective,different English accent, but they view the world in very different ways. Sowhen we collaborate on things, you realize that we have the same values.

So it's actually really easy tocommunicate and bond even over Zoom and whatever. But it's really powerful toget the diversity because that challenge. Our view on everything, including onculture, including on, like you get the type of perspectives, you get exposureto perspectives that you otherwise would never have.

And that enabled us to create somethingthat is truly valuable, not just for, the type of people that I went with to,that I went to college with, even though didn't go to college, as I mentioned,but like I went to the army with in my case. But rather this is something thatis really appealing and really exciting to the steps of people.

That have those values in a way thatresonates globally, essentially. Yeah. Right. So diversity, I would say isoverlooked.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Anddiversity, in my opinion, I think it. Rather than a lot of people think about,who do I have in my team and what, what buckets do I kind of check off and, andam, am including versus I think personally, it, it just, how closely can Irepresent the, the world population or even, on my current population, my localpopulation, to be able to gimme the perspective I need to, to, kind of considerall the different possibilities of our business outcomes of how our product andcommunity and customers, how our.

All those things. I think that adiversity one that represents people in, in the population, right? And, and andreally getting that found foundation around and understanding. I always like toask this question cuz I love how founders, kind of extract knowledge out ofanything that they inject.

Whether was early in career or now, whatbook people have influenced you the most?

Raphael: The person thatinfluences the most is my wife because she's the founder and CEO of anincredible company called Hire Score. So certainly has a lot of impact on me. Iused to help her out when Chico was getting started and 10 years later she'shelping me out because she's way further along. I think in terms of but I've,I'm learning, I have a chance to work with, with with incredible people, bothour investors and our, and then our team, like people who experience a lot ofthings, like I was talking about the exposure and diversity piece.

And in, in May we're actually goingtoci, we're gonna gather with the whole team with a hundred plus people andcan't wait to meet them because I, I'm learn, I'm learning so much from people.Yeah. I've also never met in person for, for, for some of. In terms of books I,what, what had a lot of impact on me?

I think the five dysfunctions of A.Team,I think is one that has been super helpful, so much so that I'm making surethat every one of us reads it and internalize it and and we're kind of craftingthose, those little workshops around, around them. I think it's pretty good.Ultimately that's how us human beings do things, right?

Yeah. We figure out ways to worktogether to have to figure out how to how to deal with shared adversity with ashared set of values from like day one, actual day one. Of humanity. Like thatwas the challenge. Yeah. And that's what we are learning to do better forever.  

Julian: I always I'd like tomake sure we didn't leave.

Last couple questions here. I alwayslike to make sure we didn't leave anything on the table. So there any questionsI didn't ask you that I should have or that you would've liked to answer?Anything come to mind?

Raphael: I think you coveredsome of the big things. I think it's mostly on us to say like, we're, this is achallenging time for startups, which I believe a lot of people are hearing are,are, are from that audience. Yeah. It's a challenging time for sure, and, and Iwelcome people to, to, to reach out and see if we can help in any way in termsof, we can't help in all the ways, but in some of the ways which are quiteimportant, which is figuring out the teams that you work with, the talent thatyou work.

That accelerates you and, and enable youand, and will crack the, the challenges that will get you where you want to go.And ultimately it's, it's about that. So, just recognizing that this is a timewhere helping each other out matters. It's about creating unity as much as wecan and togetherness because because these are crazy new times.

And learning together is much.  

Julian: Yeah. I love that.Raphael, we've had such a great time. Not only learning about your background, yourexperience with startup, but also kind of the, the, the transition and, and thedifference that, that the companies are, are, or the different strategy comeusing to not only, focus on business outcomes, but get the right people onthose teams and do so efficiently and effectively on the other.

For teams of people to really cometogether to do what they do better, solve problem, build products, really kindof enable their skillset. We also grow, it's be interest. See where theecosystem of kind of auxiliary teams and company building kind of goes, as youmentioned, cool. Kind of interrupting, group of, of core team members andcontractor and kind this whole ecosystem that allows businesses to run andoperate superficially and effect.

So last little bit before we completethe calls, I want to know, and the audience's wants to know where to supportyou. Where can we find you? Where can we buy an A.Team? Give us your websites,your LinkedIns, where can we be a support of you and a company your building?Give to your Twitters, whatever you wanna feed to the audience.

We'd love to hear where we can.  

Raphael: For sure. Yeah. I'llsend y'all those links. As far as the, A.Team goes, like we're, we like to vetevery company that we give access to the. And, and, and help out. So I canshare with you the, like a special link that I'll get you ahead on the, on thewait list. So, so that so we'll know it comes from here and, and, and to giveit all the attention and deserves.

So yeah, happy to share my LinkedIn,Twitter, and all of this. I like, yeah, we like to kind of engage inconversation with, as things are changing and we talked about learning fastertogether. Whoever wants to participate in the conversation on the topics ofgreat betrayal and future of company building and how, what new models, peopleexperimenting, love to engage with that.

I do it on LinkedIn a bunch, so I feelfree to to ask questions, comment share your agreement or disagreement. Andyeah, we'll, we'll, we'll build better things together.  

Julian: It's pleasure chattingwith you. I hope you enjoyed your talk on the show, and thank you so much forjoining us.  

Raphael: Yes, wonderfulquestion.

Thank you so much.

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