April 19, 2023
Chris Mills is the Head of Product at Nexleaf Analytics, a non-profit working at the intersection of global health and technology to protect vaccines. Chris is excited about how remote work is creating opportunities for product teams to build with and for people like never before. When he's not working at Nexleaf, you can usually find him somewhere in the great outdoors of Oregon.
Julian: Hey everyone. Thankyou so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast. Today we have ChrisMills head of product at Nexleaf, a nonprofit working at the intersection ofglobal health and technology to protect vaccines. Chris, I'm so excited to chatwith you. We love having product people on the show, not only for from, fromyour perspective and your opinions on how you view building, but also.
It, it offers a different perspective tokind of the needs of the company and really excited to not only dive into yourbackground, but also next leap and kind of what you're working on, how you'reattacking your customers problems and how you kind of view building productoverall. That, that might give our audience a really cool insight into,products that they might be building or if they're ahead of product and, andthey're kind of, trying structure and, and, and build things to, to kind of begame changing or disruptive in a lot of different ways.
So before we get into all that, Chris,with, with Nexleaf and what you're doing, the initiatives. What were you doingbefore you joined the company?
Chris: Yeah, thanks. Thanksfor having me. Really glad to be here. Before joining Nexleaf, I was working intech, so I've spent most of my time working in small to medium sizedbusinesses.
Some startups pre-seed, some, series Aor beyond, but usually that kind of small smallish range. And yeah, I, I wasreally excited to find Nexleaf. It's my first time working in a nonprofit, soI'm just really excited to be.
Julian: Yeah. And, andthinking about just like how different building product is at a small, small tomedium sized company versus like a large company.
Describe like the difference in velocityand, and how quickly you have to be adaptable to the different changes ordifferent customer feedback you're seeing. And how do you kind of categorizewhat is is the most important piece to, to, consider in terms of the next buildand that process?
Chris: Yeah, that's a greatquestion. I think it's I, I think it's actually the same problems for largecompanies. As for small companies, it's important to, to move quickly. I thinkthe larger you are the longer you can go without realizing how important itwas. Whereas like small companies, you get it wrong, you'll probably be, deadin a year.
Whereas like a big company maybe you gofive, 10 years without realizing like, oh, nuts, I've ignored my customers. Butit, it's really kind of a, a difference in how you do that rather than what youdo. So, I think at smaller companies I just see a lot more. Kinda like fullstack ownership of product, if you will.
There's a lot less handoffs. It's a lotmore like, I'm gonna go talk to this customer. I'm doing the user research, I'mdoing discovery, I'm doing prototyping. So at the larger companies, you cankind of build more specialty into those functions and you have more teamsworking together to operate at that scale. But yeah, it's. Same, sameideas.
Julian: Yeah. And I'm always,curious, I think a lot of founders are curious as they're looking to grow andscale their team. If they're not a kind of a pro coming from a productbackground, they're maybe coming from a different background. When is itnecessary to bring on ahead of product?
Is it a certain amount of users? Is it acertain funding ground? Is it a team size? What kind of, I guess signals ifI'm, founder looking to bring on a head of product, would I look for to be, tobe, notice that I'm ready to bring someone on board to specialize in thatfocus?
Chris: Yeah, that's a reallygood question. And I think a lot of people probably want to have like a reallyclear, like threshold signal, like, ah, this is the point where it makes senseto, to bring somebody on. I think it's a little more nuanced than that. It'slike, yeah, the way I think about it is, again, it's kind of that full stackperspective, like when you're first starting out I think it could be too soonto bring in, like a Capital P product person.
Because yeah, you don't wanna miss outon all. Rich understanding of your users and what they do and what they value.You don't wanna Yeah. Outsource that to somebody else, even if it's within thecompany. I think it's really crucial for founders to, to know that forthemselves. But then, somewhere beyond the, the very genesis of an idea, youget some traction.
It's like, oh, there's stuff here. Youbegin to kind of understand all the different ways that value can be. And Ithink at that point, that's when like more product discipline really starts tomake sense because it's like, hey, we've proven the, the V1 of this, butthere's a lot more to explore and, and we're not kinda like optimizing, we'relike really maximizing.
Yeah. All the different value. We'velike hit the top three bullet points, but we're trying to really flush it out.That's where I think, yeah, a lot of product discipline, that's kind of thesweet spot in my
Julian: Yeah. And what, likewhen you come into, a company, what problem sets are you seeing that they have?
Is it, they have say a, a roadmap thatthey have planned out, but all of a sudden they're getting requests fordifferent features. You need to hone in on what exactly is gonna be valuable towork on, or is it. Having all these kind of disparate maybe pieces of a productand then just honing in on exactly the focus or the customer that you'relooking to attract.
What do you come in if, if, in mostcases what does the organization add and, and what is kind of like your firstobjective joining the company?
Chris: Yeah, that's, I lovethat question. I think usually what I would describe. Like, just this sense ofconfusion. It seems like what happens as you grow is, like, yeah, yeah.
You're, you're, you've maybe deliveredon your mvp, but before long just stuff is happening, but it doesn't feel verycohesive. It doesn't feel like the pieces fit together anymore. Yeah. Andthat's usually a sign to me that you're neglecting some of that like productthinking within the org. Mm-hmm.
You're neglecting. The ability to kind oflike orient what you're building in the user's perspective. Like how is thisgonna matter to the people that I'm selling this to? Yeah. Or that I'm givingit to. And that's, I think that's the anchoring that like good product peoplebring to companies is like, you're always kind of saying like, okay, well why,why would our users care about that?
Like, what, why does it matter to them?Right. And once you have that, I think it, it, you, you start to realize thatmany problems are like compound problems. It's like you have to. Solve, 10different sub problems to actually get the result you're looking for. And whatyou'll find is like you've been solving maybe five or six of them and seeingnothing, and that's because you still need to solve like these last four.
But those last four are not as obviousor intuitive. That's the kind of stuff that's like, oh, I gotta, I need toframe it in this way. I need to add this feature of that. And then it willreally get the traction we're looking.
Julian: Yeah, no, it makes alot of sense. I feel like a lot of founders, like one founder, maybe two, yourco-founders, they have a full stack developer.
They built that mvp. They might haveeven outsourced it to a dev shop. But I think we all, as founders kind of getcaught up in, in what's working or if we build this piece out, how are peoplegonna interact with it? But I love that why question. Taking a step back. Kindof going through the user experience and and consumer experience to see whattheir journey is, to really see what, where the value is and are theredifferent tools that help kind of, you kind of track, and identify what peopleare using.
If it's like a webpage and you havesomething overlaid on it, kind of seeing where people go throughout their journey,what kind of tools do do product owners or heads of product use and utilize to?Evaluate what the user's experience in rather than just think about itintuitively and going through the product experience there.
What are some actual quantitativemeasurements that you can take to, to get that kind of focus or, or, obtainthat insight that to, to move forward?
Chris: Yeah. Yeah, reallygood question. Like there's, there's a ton of product metric companies. I've workedwith a handful of them.
I think they're all good and they allhave their place. We use full. At Nexleaf, which is a certain kind of likeproduct intelligence platform, if you will. Yeah. And the one thing I reallyappreciate about Full Story is the ability to, get that, like at a remotecompany, it's very hard to get sort of the over the shoulder experience.
Like the, the, I'm sitting behind youwatching you use my prototype or my demo. Something about like, zoom. GoogleMeet and stuff that just doesn't quite translate, and it's really nice to beable to get something like that with full story to see like actual userinteractions on their site.
Like I can see the mouse, kind of hoverback and forth, but two, two things that aren't certain. So it ki it does areally good job, I think, of replicating that sort of over the shoulder look.Yeah. And then anything that brings your, your kind of. Metrics into light isgonna help. I think anything that shows you, Hey, what, what features arepeople using?
What pathways are they navigatingthrough the site? What, yeah, it, it's a good resource for getting insightsinto the kinds of things you wanna follow up with end user research, right?It's like, oh, I saw. I saw somebody like, do this thing and I'm confused. Why,why would they do that? Let me go ask like, Hey, what were you doing?
Yeah. What were we trying to do whenyou, when you did this?
Julian: Yeah. Yeah. And, andwhat would you say, once you come into a team, what's like the ideal team setupfor a head of product? Is it, you have, obviously it probably depends on theproduct and the complexity of it. Maybe you have some, a DevOps person, youhave a full stack engineer, you have some junior engineers.
Maybe you have some specialization on, onthe front end, the backend. Maybe you have a QA person, but what is like theideal set of going into a company as they're scaling once they're past the MVPmodel? Maybe they're at a version two or version one, but getting them kind ofto that. I guess operating point where, where they're operating at a highefficiency, where you can kind of actually, implement certain features or kindof roadmap items.
What does that ideal team look like,constructed when, when you're at that level looking at scale?
Chris: Yeah, that's a greatquestion. I think I usually look for, Some kind of product team to exist, sothat can be very small, very nimble, can be just a product manager, somebodywho's able to work on designs, full stack developer, front end backend, somethinglike that at least.
And then from there, I think the, thehead of product kind of role is really trying to figure out where in thatoverall process that worked when you were just, two or three people, what'sbreaking down now? Yeah. Right. Like now that you've scaled up. Yeah. The, themodel has like stopped working as well as it used to.
Why? Right. Because it could be anynumber of things. Like if you. You could show up and, and start, redoing theway you do one pagers or, or, doing sprint planning or something like that. Butif your problem is discovery, right? Those things are unlikely to really help.So I think yeah, the anyone can really be ahead of product.
It's really just about applying thatkind of like levels thinking and saying like, well, okay, how do I zoom out andwhat's. Time scale or altitude to look at this problem. What's the right level?Like where's this breaking down? And if you can identify that, then you can,very quickly do things that will help that area.
And then just kind of, sure. Like normalproduct iterate on it. You just kind of la the rinse, repeat.
Julian: Yeah. Yeah. I alsolike to think about, the testing and kind of that whole phenomenon. Everybodytalks about, oh, you got a AB test, different, features of the product, wherethings, where things are, how someone's experience is gonna be.
But once you get to actually doing thator, or have a hypothesis, how do you kind of implement a test so that you'renot. Having two very separate experiences, but you're able to collect the rightinformation and then compare those kind of different tests to, to then makethat decision.
How do you kind of set up that structureand really test the right components of that hypothesis that your company mighthave or that the product might have?
Chris: Yeah. Yeah, it's agood question. So I, I think that AB testing has a place and it's a very wellunderstood tool in the toolbox, but it's only one of many.
And so, yeah, my, my advice is always goback to like, really think about what you're trying to test. Because if you'retrying to test an assumption, the better you can articulate what it is youassume the. Ways of testing that assumption you'll see. And, and maybe testingmay be one of them, but there may be, it may be as simple as like, sending atext message to someone, telling them, or putting a fake button on the websiteto say like, Hey, click here to, do this thing.
And then if they click on it, that's asign that they're like, curious and interested, sure. Yeah. So, sometimespeople, especially, in your product journey, you learn a tool or a technique ora mechanism, and then suddenly everything kind of looks like it can be solvedin that problem, and it certainly can, but oftentimes there are, yeah, many adjacentways or adjacent tools or methods or techniques that can get another way oftesting that assumption.
Right. Even just asking a question.Yeah. Calling somebody and asking them, Hey, when's the last time you did this?Can tell you just as much as like an AB test would in a week. So,
Julian: Yeah. Yeah. It's, it'samazing to, to kind of structure it and, and I, and really kind of get to the,the weeds of identifying what to, what to work on, what to test and, and how tocollect those results.
Because oftentimes some of that stuffjust go, I mean, I've had a few campaigns, even just like on a smaller leveland go nowhere because, because I wasn't testing the right. Thing. And sogetting to that point and understanding that is definitely, I think it takes alittle bit of intuition, but it takes a lot of that structure in thosecomponents.
I know we talked a lot about you and,and kind of the product standpoint, but shifting gears to Nexleaf, obviouslythe nonprofit space and, and with technology advancing, it's getting a lot ofupgrades and, and, and it's really creating an ecosystem where accessibilityreally has. Barrier as long as you have say, some component of technology,whether applications on a phone or a laptop or desktop that's becoming so muchof a normal people can access technology information.
But describe Nexleaf what you'rebuilding and what in particular is exciting about the, the, I don't know ifit's upgrades, but evolution of technology that has allowed you to do what youguys are doing today. Describe the technology, describe the the company andwhat your mission and
Chris: Definitely. Yeah. So,at Nexleaf our goal is to, protect the vaccine supply in countries. The waythat we do that is we help ministries sort of like upgrade their cold chainsystem. Yeah, yeah. So vaccines they have to be stored. Not, not, not everybodyknows this. Vaccines have to be stored at, like between two to eight Celsius inorder to remain potent.
And if you, wow, if you wander too faroutside of that temperature for too long, then they don't work as well. Theystart to lose potency. Mm-hmm. So a lot of resources around the world go intojust trying to keep vaccines at the right temperature before you administerthem. And so that's what we do. We, we make a remote temperature monitoring RTMdevice.
It's a, a sensor that goes into fridge.And monitors the temperature and then that we collect that temperature, we sendit to our, our application, and that lets us do things like send an SMS alertas soon as the temperature is drifting out of range. So we can text a nurse ora facility in charge or a biomedical engineer to say, Hey, the temperature inthis fridge is.
Too hot or too cold, make sure you, youact on that. And then also I think having that high resolution temperaturedata. So, normally a lot of facilities will monitor the temperature twice aday. They'll, they'll take a morning reading and a evening reading and they'lllog in this chart, but we can take hundreds or thousands of samples over thecourse of the day and, and that like order of magnitude higher resolution.
Really unlocks a lot of capabilitybecause you can see things like, for example, a compressor starting to failbecause it's cycling on and off a lot. Or you can see like the ways that thepatterns of, of temperatures changing, which tells you a bunch. Yeah. So that'swhat we do is we, we monitor the temperatures in these facilities.
We help ministries act on that data,take all this temperature data and make sense of it. Use it to highlight thechallenges that maybe they're facing and what they can do about it. Yeah, andit's been great so far. We've, we're currently protecting the vaccine supplyfor something like one in 10 babies in the world.
With over 20,000 devices in 33countries.
Julian: Wow. It's incredibleto think about having that, kind of, really sophisticated measurements in realtime. What that allows you to understand, understand obviously, faultyequipment, things like that. But my, my, my question is like, how slow was theincumbent process beforehand?
If you're taking a. Morning reading andan afternoon reading. Technically something could be gunned in the morning ornight, and then by the next reading it could be spoiled and supply could begone. And what does that actually mean, with that, with that latency, what doesthat latency mean in terms of how much supply is lost in cases where thingsdon't go well?
Chris: Yeah, exactly. I thinkyou get it. What, what we're replacing or what we're helping to displace is alot of paper chart logging, a lot of phone calls to try to, just get theinformation that you can. So, these are often in, in facilities, you'll seethese like paper charts that have like 30 days at a time and nurses and stafflike log the temperature twice a day.
They sign it to, verify that they didit. And then at the end of the month that those charts are like carried. Thedistrict or the regional office where, maybe they're collated with otherreports or their, data's typed in by hand into a spreadsheet or something likethat.
But that's just, and that's just to getto the starting point of analyzing it and trying to make sense of it. So whenyou think about the fact that it's like, Hey, in real time, I can tell you whathappened over the last five days in your facility with this. That's like,that's a capability that just is impossible to get otherwise, right?
Like that same level of like low latencyresponse, real time nature. So, I think it's super exciting and we hear storiesall the time about the ways that people are using this. Like, I hear storiesall the time that sound like hey, I was, I went home on Friday. The, the clinicis closed over the.
And I got an alert on Saturday that likethe power had gone out and the temperature was rising in this fridge. And so, Icalled the security guard there and they went and they plugged in the propanegenerator and they turned it on. And so, but then on the next day I got anotheralert.
And so we went there and we realized thehose had become clogged. So, if you hadn't done that, you would've shown upMonday and thousands of vaccines would've been spoiled. But you know, by beingable to act on it when it happened, they could take corrective action and saveall those vaccine.
Julian: Yeah. And how oftendoes that occur? Obviously Nexleaf is, is, is, looking to, to resolve thatproblem, but how often does that occur? I don't know if you have any numbersthat you can share with us on how often vaccines go, say, spoiled or go aren'tin the right environment, for the longevity of them being in the fridge or in afacility.
And what does that mean to people whoare then seeking out those vaccines but then don't have a supply of them? Howdifficult. Is it for those facilities to then get more vaccines?
Chris: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It'sa, it's a, it's a challenge. I don't have any like hard numbers on exactly howmany, excursions happen and how many alerts we send out.
But it's, it's a regular occurrence,especially when you consider that an entire country is operating, every daythere's. Some fridge somewhere that's not behaving, well, the vaccines are,they're, yeah, they have a it's like a cumulative impact on the potency. Soit's not like, Hey, the moment it gets hotter than eight, this vaccine's toast.
It's like, ah, it starts to lose somepotency. And, and depending on how long it's been there, it starts to have abigger impact. So nurses can always check on the vial to see like, Hey, is thisis this vaccine still potent? There's. A sticker clam that tells you likemm-hmm. How, how potent this is or, or if this vaccine's no longer, expected towork the way that it ought to.
So there, there's always that. But yeah,there's a ton of work that goes into just trying to manage all of these poweroutages, fridge failures. Getting spare parts and, and a huge challenge is justeven when things go well, distributing vaccines through a country is hard work.They have to, oftentimes they'll land at something like a central vaccinestore, and then they'll be distributed through regional and district vaccinestores until they get to the facility.
But some of these facilities can be veryremote, and so a failure. It's not just about the money of vaccines being lost,although that is also, super big and important. It's all the logistics that gointo getting it to this place as well, that now you have to repeat. Now youhave to find another truck to, drive a hundred kilometers to come distributethese vaccines.
So yeah, it's, it's definitely a bigchallenge.
Julian: Yeah. And I'm alsowondering, in terms of the pro, from a product standpoint, what has been reallythat the, evol, I feel like the iot kind of devices space is, was popular, butreally it's kind of under the radar now in, in cases like yours where you don'thave to say integrate into say a refrigerators, or a.
Whole system. Right? It, it kind is astandalone. What does that allow you in terms of the, the, the, the ability tomove quickly, get into facilities, start testing, how fast is that speed? And,and what advances in iot devices have you seen in the last, say, five years?That really allows the expansion of this whole industry.
Chris: Yeah, it's a greatquestion. And I think that is, that evolution in IOT and intech is reallywhat's part of what's enabling, this whole opportunity. Yeah. And a big one isas I, I've, I have an iot background. I've worked at a couple iot companies. Abig one is like the advances in low power wireless technologies.
So, Bluetooth has only gotten more andmore efficient lower and lower power longer and longer ranges. And so our, ournext generation temperature monitoring device as wireless sensors, they'reactually like little Bluetooth powered temperature sensors. And then at thesame time, battery life and batteries have become cheaper and cheap.
We're able to find really long lifebatteries and so the combination of like using less power on the Bluetooth sideplus sure bigger and higher capacity batteries means like right now with, withour, our next device we can go for like seven years just on a single batterycharge, without having to replace it.
So, I think those are the big advanadvances. Broadly speaking, anything that, that moves forward, the networkconnectivity makes it easier to get to the cloud. I'm super excited to see theway that things like mesh networks are playing out and low power wireless,Laura, Laura Wan, those technologies Yeah.
Are helping to just make it moreaccessible, make it easier to get data from wherever you are in the world up tothe cloud. So, yeah. Yeah. Super cool stuff.
Julian: Yeah. And it's alsofascinating thinking about, kind of the, the evolution of this products in, in,in different ways.
But one thing in particular in terms ofhow your business is structured is having all this data and all this insight onthe machines that, that, facilities are using and you're starting to collectthis huge database in terms of that, that maybe can be useful. Have you allthought about, collecting data for, say, a certain refrigerator type, make andmodel for a certain company, and selling that back to them, letting them know,Hey, you're on average, your, your refrigerator, doesn't keep, temperatureconsistent for more than X amount of time.
How have you been able to kind of. Alsooptimized for collecting that information and using it to build partnershipswith, the, these companies who are, who are, distributing these, these bigmachines to facilities and also helping facilities buy the right products.Honestly. It's like, it's almost like you got a, a consumer report on the, thebest refrigerators or the best kind of facilities and equipment that's on themarket.
Have you, have you all kind of thoughtabout collecting that information and what that means to even furthering the,the benefits that, that your company has for, for your partners?
Chris: Yeah. Yeah,absolutely. I mean, I think that's what's really exciting is I, I think of, Ithink of data at a company like ours as kind of like a flywheel, and it's like,yeah, you gotta get it going.
But then once it starts going, it'slike, oh, you can do all these other things now that you're generating all ofthis data and you're, you can use it in many different ways. I brought, Ilargely call that the analytic side of our business, right? It's like, we have.Two kind of strategies or motions.
One of them is operations, where it'slike, hey, we're, we're working with ministries of health to really solve theproblems that matter to them. And the way we're gonna do that is by likelistening to them understanding what it is they're trying to do. What'spreventing them from being able to do that today and then like, try to findways to solve that because I bet that if we do that well, if we're able tobuild a good operational product, something you can use every single day tosolve the kinds of problems you see, then we'll have, all of this data that wecan begin to analyze.
And like you said, look at fridgeperformance by make and model. Maybe help you sure. Find out how old are thefridges in your country. Maybe run an analysis to say, Hey, is it. Continuingto replace parts on that 40 year old fridge, maybe it would be better to justreplace it, maybe that would, play out.
So there's all kinds of really excitingpossibilities. We have a couple data scientists on our team who, just do that.They just crunch the numbers and they find all kinds of exciting new things youcan tell. And I'm consistently, no kidding, blown. By what you can tell, justfrom like time series temperature data, like all it is at the end of the day isjust like this little wiggle of a line and they're like, oh, I can tell thatthe holdover time on that fridge isn't what it's supposed to be.
Or I can tell the compressors going out,or, it's amazing. Yeah. But yeah, we're just barely scratching the surface ofthe analytics capabilities.
Julian: Yeah. Shifting gearshere, thinking about the company a little bit more, so whether it's external orinternal, what are some of the biggest risks that you think Nexleaf facestoday?
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. I thinkthe biggest one is that global health in particular is very much like a, asystems problem. So what I mean by that is like, here, there, there a lot ofmarkets in like the tech space are, are kind of like little. Independententities. It's like, oh, hey, you need to buy, you need some kind of cloudprovider.
I can, I can just operate in that spaceand I don't have to look outside. I don't have to care like what your, whatyour deployment or your branching strategy is, or how you run your productteams or anything like that. I can just be this like little slice. Yes. Andcoming from iot, this, this is kind of what I saw in the commercial IOT spaceis that everybody had their kind of, their little, their gates, their littleboundaries, their little, markets that they play in.
You'd have people who were like, right,hey, I make chips. And you have people saying, Hey, I make modules out of thosechips. And you have people saying, Hey, I make, ides or, or debuggers for thosechips and, and just like these little slices that you stack up into a solution,global health isn't like, Global health is much more interconnected.
So that's, I think the biggest challengeis that, it's like, Hey, this facility doesn't have electricity and we need tosomehow power our iot device. We can't really say, oh, that's not our problem.It's much better for us to say, oh, well, can we like find solar? Can we find away to make it happen?
Yeah. And that's like, it's nice that wehave that just kind of broad mandate to just figure it out. But it does make ithard to figure out where to get started sometimes. Cuz you're like, oh boy,this is just, there's so many different ways we could go on this. How do you,how do you pick a direction right?
Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Andthinking about kind of, long-term wise, what's the long-term vision for thecompany if everything goes well, of course.
Chris: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I,so you know, the, the long-term vision for Nexleaf first we wanna get toprotecting one in five babies, right? One in 10. Right now we think we can getto one in five.
The way that we do that is primarily,Getting to end to end temperature monitoring. So, you know what I would callfrom, from factory to arm. It's like, hey, the moment this vaccine arrives incountry, I every segment that it goes through, I want to be able to monitor thetemperature in that segment so that we can make sure everything's working theway it ought to.
At that level. Yeah. That also, once wehave that, again, building this flywheel of data that, that enables us to dothings like build this like a connected clinic, almost like taking facilitiesand facility workers and using data to solve all kinds of problems that arehard for them, right? Like, Hey, maybe I can use this data to make the case forgetting new generators or more fuel for my generators this month, or thingslike that.
Broadly speaking, I think using data to.People who are definitely worthy of the help get the resources that they'relooking for to solve their problems. That's what I hear all the time. It'slike, I know this is a problem. Yeah. I just, I need some help convincing otherpeople like what we should do about it.
And I think if we have all of this data,we have this platform, we can actually do that.
Julian: Yeah. Yeah. You, youhave to have the, the evidence to back up, right? Any claim, especially when,when you're thinking about investing, I'm sure these machines aren't cheap. TheVA vaccine supplies aren't cheap. It's like a lot of masses, a lot of dollars.
But with, with the right evidence, ofcourse, everything kind of moves forward in, in, the direction you want it to,which is awesome to see. I always love this section, I call it my FAQ section.So I'm gonna hit you with some rapid fire questions and we'll see where we get.Let's go.
All right, fir, first question, I alwayslike to open it up, is, what's particularly hard about your job?
Chris: Particularly hard?Okay, so particularly hard about my job is that we're a global remote company,and I live on the West coast, so most of our team is, eight, 12 hoursdifferent. So I have a lot of very early morning.
Julian: Yeah. What, what aresome ways that you can, you kind of keep culture and, and honestly, really,honestly, just if you keep the communication at a high speed so that you aren'tdealing with that latency cuz you know, you're not the only founder. Many,companies are dealing with that global team and time difference.
Yeah. What are some structural kind ofoperational structures that you have within your team that allows, thatcommunication to still be at high speed as if you were in
Chris: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Ithink the, the biggest strategy for us is like just trying to push as muchdecision making to the edge, as I like to say.
Yeah, ma making sure, like instead ofcoming, waiting for me to wake up to ask me, Hey, can we do this? How can I.Give you everything I know so that when you see this problem, you can know theanswer and you can just do it right. And that way you don't have to wait foreverybody. It's like what happens is you wait for one person to wake up andthen they respond, and then now you're asleep.
And so you just, everything explodesoutward. But if you can invest into creating systems that share that context.Then you can empower anybody at the edge of your organization. When they see aproblem, you can go and figure out what the right thing to do is. You don'thave to wait for permission or you know someone to wake up and tell you whatthey know.
Julian: And is that using, saya platform like a, almost like a, a a a con bond board? Or is that like having,really strong infor like notation about, the process and, and proceduresinternally? Obviously sharing knowledge and, and sharing it to a point thatthey can make a decision is ideal.
But how, how do you do that? What aresome things that you do as a writing notes and posting them, what are somethings that you do to, to really communicate that information?
Chris: Yeah, I, I mean like alot of companies, we use Slack for a lot of our internal communications. Ithink that helps.
We're, we're big Loom users these days,so we do a lot of video messages, which I think also helps. I think part of itis just having. Many different pathways, like many different ways available.Like I, what I've found is that some people are prefer emails. Some peopleprefer, digital whiteboards.
Some people prefer quick slack chats,looms. So just kind of having all of those pathways open. Yeah. Enableseverybody kind of communicate in the way that works best for them. I also thinkinvesting. Just in good questions, right? Like helping level up people'sthinking and saying like, Hey, we're a company that thinks out loud.
So you know, you aren't gonna see a lotof, final highly polished presentations or documents. What you will see is alot of rough drafts, right? And that's a cultural thing. Just building,building that expectation that's like, Hey you, we can't afford to wait for thefinal answer. I'm gonna give you the work in progress and you can see that moveand evolve.
And that will also tell you like what'sgoing on Very quickly.
Julian: Yeah. One thing youmentioned earlier, which I'm particularly interested about in terms of thefuture of of Nexleaf is, really being really being there for the whole supplychain of that vaccine, from the creation of it to the, in transit and, and alsoit, staying in the facility just at a spec.
What will get you there and how long doyou think it'll get you there? Is it, the smallest iot device known to mankind?Or is it advancements in that technology? Is, is it creating something else, awhole different product that you know is able to kind of harbor vaccines for thelongevity of, of the supply chain?
I'm curious, just for speculation sense,what can get you there to be kind of there present during the whole supplychain process?
Chris: Yeah, that's a greatquestion. What comes to mind immediately is just more advances in that likewireless network technology. So, I mentioned earlier like things like Laura Wanare super exciting to me, but there's also, there's movement in things like theHelium Network, these like kind of blockchain incentivized.
Networks that are, that are popping upall over the place. And I think that's really the key to that last mile. It'slike we're always gonna be able to work in major metropolitan areas and theirsurrounding neighborhoods and maybe even like getting. Out into, some of themore remote facilities, but there's gonna be some that are like very far awayfrom any cellular network.
And it's a hard pitch to, to get a cellcompany to invest in putting up a tower, just for temperature data at this onefacility. So I think it's super exciting things like, starlink as well, the,the ways that you're finding all these different paths to the internet withoutrequiring a bunch.
And infrastructure investment. Thosethings I think are really gonna enable us to, to go truly end to end incountry.
Julian: Yeah, it's sofascinating thinking about those possibilities and, and where you can reach.And also, like you said, the different ways, the interconnectivity ofinformation and internet can, can really kind of propel that forward outside ofjust creating really sophisticated, advanced hardware.
Which, there's challenges to both, butit, it seems like everything is moving in the right direction, which isawesome. I always like to ask this question cause I love how. Can extract knowledgeout of anything that they ingest, whether it was early in your career or now,what books or people have influenced you the most?
Chris: Oh man. How much timedo we have? I think, A couple that that really come to mind are continuousdiscovery habits. Teresa Torres's, great book. I think she's done a reallygreat job kind of illustrating how fast you can make discovery to the pointwhere it's continuous, right? Yeah.
Like you're just constantly talking tocustomers and, and learning the insights you need to so fantastic book there.Aaron Ingham's book brave. Is hugely influential for me from a, just a, acompany culture perspective that, yeah. Decentralization, really promoting a,a, a company culture that is positive about the people that work in it, andcurious about the complexity of human interaction and really starting fromthose principles and how you structure your company.
Big, big influence. And of course,anything Marty Kagan's written, empowered, inspired, all of his productthinking books have been, a, a big, the fingerprints of my thinking are, arethere for sure.
Julian: I love that. I lovethat. I love asking this question cuz we always get new and, and answers and,and really kinda create this, this really homogenous way to think differentlyand to access information.
I love asking that question cuz whenyou're scaling a company, every individual on there has such a, a broad senseof where they get their information from. So it's awesome to hear, your, yourinput there. I know we're at the end of the show, so last little bit is I wannamake sure we didn't leave anything on the table.
Is there any question I didn't ask youthat I should have or that you would have liked to answer? Anything left?
Chris: Oh man. No, I thinkyou did a great job. We really covered, everything I could have hoped to. Sothank you very much.
Julian: Of course, Chris. Andlast little bit is where can we find you, support you, and also supportNexleaf.
Give us your, your websites, yourLinkedIns, your Twitters, wherever we can go and be supportive. Not only theproduct, but you as the head of product for Nexleaf.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. So we're,you know, Nexleaf analytics nexleaf.org. We are a nonprofit, so you're alwayswelcome to make a donation that helps us. I'm, LinkedIn, CC Mills.
I'm happy to have a conversation withanyone who's interested. So, I, I love building product. I love building itwithin four people. I love helping others do the same. So, really, really happyto give advice or talk to.
Julian: Amazing. One question,actually, that was supposed to be the end, but I wanted to ask one thing cuz itcame to mind.
Where as a, as a product person, wheredo you go to find out your information and really, understand, what is on thecutting edge to what people are attracted to how things work? Where do you kindof foster that community or get that information? From a product standpoint, ifI'm looking to really build something that's gonna be valuable to my users and,and, or, and build in innovative ways that other companies are trying so that,my, my technology can kind of be at that cutting edge. Where do you go?
Chris: Yeah, yeah. That's agreat question. I, I think a lot of my reading these days is in sub, so, JohnCutler from Amplitude has a. Blog there. Yeah, that a beautiful mess that I, Iget a lot of insights from. Marty Kagan at SVP G Silicon Valley product group.Their website has a ton of really insightful articles and a newsletter that'shelpful.
The every newsletter as well. More kindof just general tech trends, but I can't help but get some insights as to howthings are moving there. And then finally, kind of a curve ball. There's agentleman named Simon Wardley who writes a lot about kind of the, thecommoditization of networks and how.
Implies capability and yeah, a ton ofhis stuff I find really insightful, although it's a little more academic, butit's super interesting to me.
Julian: I love that. Chris,thank you so much for sharing not only your background, your experience, adviceas well, but also Nexleaf and, and how, devices like this can really give usinsights and, and really, kind of tackle problems of whether it's latency or,or inefficiencies or really just give us all the knowledge we need to make sureprocesses are running efficient and effective, especially when in criticalsituations like vaccines where things could go wrong in, in almost an instance.
And, and, creating ways that thatdoesn't happen. So, Still, address applies vaccines and many other things. I'msure that it could, it could have in effect with, in, in the future. So Ireally appreciate the conversation. Chris, it was a pleasure having you on theshow and I hope you enjoyed yourself.
And thank you again for being on BehindCompany Lines today.
Chris: Yeah. Thank you forhaving me. Thank you.