Seven months ago Travis Fischer called in to “Ask Jason” (TWiST #33) to ask “I’m graduating from college soon, should I learn from a great entrepreneur or learn on my own?”. At the time I highly doubt he expected to be working where he is now, since the call Travis was hired at Mahalo as a web developer. I thought this a great opportunity to showcase what it is like to work for a startup, Mahalo in particular, here’s our Q&A:
So why did you decide to learn from another entrepreneur verses learning on your own?
To be honest, I was planning on learning on my own as I already had a good thing going with my company E.C Stage Art which makes custom drum heads, grill cloths, scrims, backdrops and road cases for touring bands and solo artists. Honestly, I love my company and I didn’t want to walk away from that. However, when I saw that Jason was looking for developers I realized that it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I think working for someone like Jason is a chance to learn in an extremely intense and accelerated fashion. I figure spending a few years working for a seasoned pro like Jason is the ultimate jump start to a career in the start-up world.
How involved with ECStageArt are you these days?
I’m still an owner of the company and I talk weekly with my co-founder. However, I’m pretty much completely hands off in running the company. Working at Mahalo is much more than a full time job and so I don’t have much time for side projects. However, I have an amazing co-founder in Jeron Moe and he is crushing it with E.C. Stage Art. Hopefully, me being located in LA will pay off for EC Stage Art as well. For instance, Jeron now has a place to stay when he needs to travel to LA for company business.
Has the move complicated things?
The move complicated working with EC quite a bit because of the time constraints of working for a start up like Mahalo. Also, the location change obviously restricts me from being able to be involved in any of the manufacturing processes we do at EC. On the other hand, I can still do some marketing and strategy stuff in my limited free time. Being located in LA is definitely a huge plus when it comes to networking. It seems like you can’t turn around out here without bumping into someone involved in the entertainment industry.
Did you target Mahalo or did you apply to other startups?
I only targeted Mahalo. As I already mentioned I was planning on pursing EC full time prior to getting a job at Mahalo. I had learned a ton about Jason and Mahalo and I knew that it was where I wanted to be. The high intensity, expectations and performance were extremely attractive to me. While there are a lot of great CEO’s and start ups out there, I knew that Mahalo was the right fit for me and so I didn’t even bother looking else where.
What do you do at Mahalo?
I’m a Web Developer. I work primarily on the back-end of the website but like everyone at Mahalo, I do a little bit of everything. That is one thing that I love about working at a start up.
What is a typical day like from start to finish?
Everyday is a little different but the typical day would go something like this:
1. Come into work (8:30 – 9:30).
2. Grab some breakfast. A healthy breakfast is prepared for us every morning.
3. Catch up on email and get started on any current development projects I have going.
4. We have a short mid-morning stand up meeting with our project development team to check in on development progress from the previous day.
5. At noon we have an amazing lunch prepared by Chef Jen. We sit and eat as a company. It’s a good chance to connect with people from other teams within the company.
6. Head back to working on any current assignments.
7. Work through the afternoon. We get an afternoon fruit bowl and snack plate delivered to our desk every day.
8. Three days a week we have Mahalo fit club at 6pm where we work out for ~30 mins. It’s a great work to blow off stream and stay fit.
9. Go back to working until I’m finished with whatever I’m working on.
10. Head home to my wife (7:30 – 9:00).
As you can see, we have a lot of time to just get stuff done. We have very few meetings and they are always short. Because we all sit in the same room, when Jason needs to communicate something with us he will usually just stand up and talk to us as we sit at our desks.
We’ve heard a lot about the culture can you describe it in your words?
I would describe it as intense, vibrant, relentless and exciting. Expectations are through the roof and when you screw up you are going to hear about it. If you do not have a ridiculous work ethic you will not survive here. However, we are a very diverse and tight-knit group of people and we have a ton of fun at Mahalo. There is a always a lot of joking going on and it’s a very positive culture. There is NEVER a boring day. It’s absolutely not for everyone though. You need to have mad drive and passion or you will burn out at a company like Mahalo. I believe that you will find that characteristic at any good start up. It isn’t easy to build a great company out of nothing.
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned so far that you didn’t know before joining the team?
I have gained a TON of valuable technical skills working on the development team. Jason really practices what he preaches on This Week in Startups. Principles like “iterate”, “double-down” and “pivot” are really key to the day to day operations at Mahalo. I’ve taken a lot away from watching Jason execute all three of these principles first hand. It’s one thing to watch TWiST and listen to Jason talk but when you see these principles in practice and the results are tangible the principles become real tools that you can put in your start-up tool belt.
I tend to be an over-analyzer and often spend more time making a decision then I probably should. I think working at Mahalo has brought to life the value of trying things and failing fast. Iterate, iterate, iterate! It is a lot more efficient to just try things and find out if they work rather than to over analyze and polish every idea before putting it out in the market.
If someone wanted to work at Mahalo what should they expect?
Expect to be challenged and stretched more than you ever have been. You will need to work REALLY hard. You will probably feel like things are always a little bit out of control. Expect to find extreme intensity and passion all around you. You will get to work with an amazing group of super talented and passionate people. You will find a CEO who will go out of his way take care of you if you are loyal and hard working. I have loved every minute of it so far and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who knows that they have what it takes. I personally feel that working at Mahalo is a once in a lifetime chance to be a part of something really big and exciting. When you look at the list of people have worked for Jason over the years and where they are now it is impressive. I believe the opportunity here is unlimited.
If you work at a startup has your experience been the same?