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"CEE engineers remind me of the fighting spirit of Apple engineers in the early 2000s" - Andy Baynes



You said that you want to bring the best practice from the best people and achieve success. Could you share with us some of these tips?


If you look at the most successful products today they have two underlying qualities in common; they solve ‘real problems’ and they are built with a properly designed product roadmap where customer journey and engagement are given priority.


At GT, we attract clients who want to deliver really exciting and challenging products. Many of these clients are former Apple and Google friends of mine who are now founders of their own startups. All of them are building ground-breaking architecture that needs to be delivered on Silicon Valley timelines. Getting this done right, and done right the first time requires really strong engineers.


Looking at this from the opposite direction, talented developers are at their best performance when you give them ‘real problems’ to solve and challenging products to build. GT is at the intersection of these two worlds.


 

We provide clients with expertise on Silicon Valley product design and roadmap discipline. We also provide our clients with a world-class, offshore product dev. team that thrives on building the difficult stuff.


 


At GT we have a motto which is; “if it isn’t hard then it probably isn’t worth doing.” Those who don’t enjoy working on challenging products don’t tend to work at GT. Those who are ambitious and want to challenge themselves often find themselves interfacing directly with really exciting GT clients.


Could you say something about your career?


I started out at Sony’s Advanced Technology Center in Germany in the late 90s. At that time Sony was king, launching blockbuster after blockbuster including PlayStation, Digital Cameras, Minidisk, Vaio laptops, Trinitron TVs. They really knew how to build beautiful hardware….but they didn’t understand software. You could buy a Sony Vaio laptop and Sony Camcorder, plug one into the other and the two products wouldn’t know how to speak to each other.


In contrast, Apple was nearly bankrupt and had less than 1% of the computer market. Despite this, customers could take that same Sony Camcorder and plug it into an Apple iMac and all your videos and photos would just magically port over. This was down to one of Steve’s simple yet utterly critical early visions about customer experience which was; people who are serious about hardware should build their own software.


 

So... being the illogical person that I was (and probably still am), I decided to leave the king and join the pauper. It turned out to be the best decision of my life.


 

I was drawn to the design ethos at Apple, I loved what they were telling the world with their approach to iMac, MacBook and MacPro designs. I loved the fact that hardware engineers, designers and software engineers were all under one roof building magic on a daily basis. Apple’s struggling finances and diminutive market position didn’t seem to bother me at all. Then, a few months after I joined Apple we launched the first generation iPod….the starter signal to Apple’s meteoric rise.


Twelve years later, I made a similar illogical decision, I left Apple. In that twelve-year period, Apple went from near obscurity to the world’s largest company by market cap. I followed Tony Fadell (the godfather of iPod and iPhone) to help him build Nest, a small Silicon Valley startup that was to revolutionize the humble thermostat.


I went from being an executive in Apple’s Product Design division, working on iPhones, iPads, iMacs and MacBooks to being little more than a traveling thermostat salesman for Tony Fadell…..and I loved every minute of it!! Three years into that journey with Tony, Nest was sold to Google for $3.2 billion.


 


I’m now co-founder and CEO of GT, an offshore product design and development company that works with US and EU clients to solve difficult software and data problems.


 

Our clients are startups and large corporations. They each bring their own unique set of challenges and opportunities. I love my team at GT, everyday I look forward to my meetings with them. We’re always challenging the norm and looking at how we can be the best at what we do. So far, I can safely say that this is the most fun I’ve ever had.


All this to say, when it comes to looking back at my career, there was never really much logic guiding my career decisions. It was more a feeling of wanting to be a part of a movement, a team that wasn’t afraid to colour outside of the lines. Steve and Tony were/are rare individuals who know how to challenge the status quo in product design and customer experience….in fact I’d even go as far as to say that this is the only approach they know….they don’t do normal, and I love them for it.



How do you recall working with Steve Jobs?


My interactions with Steve were the most memorable parts of time at Apple. His favourite thing to do (to this day I don’t know why) was to call me at exactly 10am on Saturday morning. Being unprepared for a conversation with Steve would be a career shortening mistake. He and Tony are the only executives I’ve worked with who intensely care about the details of their products. It’s because of this they quickly become experts in fields that any other executive wouldn’t dare tread.


People who worked at Apple in the 2000s were the best in the world at what they did…..Steve knew how to test you on that accolade, and I often got the impression he enjoyed testing you. It didn’t matter whether you were an electrical, mechanical or software engineer….he would not only keep you on your toes, but would often give you insight into your own field of expertise that would surprise you in the most unexpected way.


There are many myths on the internet about Steve Jobs. What do you think is untrue?


I don’t know, I don’t tend to read web speculation. But Walter Isaacson’s biography seemed a really honest portrayal of Steve’s life.


You are the founder of Nest - a unicorn bought by Google. How did this start-up begin? Tell us about the beginning of Nest.


I wasn’t a founder of Nest, that title goes to Tony and Matt. I helped Nest in the early days build a series of sales channels. In the early days I also got involved with product development and design, such was the life at a fast pace, early stage Silicon Valley startup. You could be negotiating a contract in the morning, advising a product team at lunch, interviewing new candidates in the afternoon and accompanying Tony to a dinner with investors in the evening.


Was it difficult to change your mindset from an iPod development director to a man from the world of home automation?


I’ve never been afraid to venture into fields that I have no prior knowledge of. I’m a quick learner and I’m a firm believer in the value of looking at traditional practices with fresh perspectives. In fact, I’ve tended to build teams that way too.


You have started a new company in Kyiv. Because of the war, you moved the HQ to Cracov. Why did you choose a CEE?


I first became aware of CEE’s engineering talent when we were building a product at Nest-Google called Nest Hello. It was a smart video doorbell product and its closest competitor and market leader was a Ukrainian product called Ring. Ring was later acquired by Amazon, but in the early days they were running ‘rings’ - pun intended ; - ) , around Google. I was amazed at how this cash-strapped Ukrainian startup was out-performing the wealthiest company on the planet.


 

This is the power of CEE engineering talent. Success is not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the dog. CEE engineers remind me of the fighting spirit of Apple engineers in the early 2000s.

 

They’d show up to work, ready and hungry to perform miracles on a daily basis. For the real rock stars it was never about the massage chairs, sleep pods and free food, they just wanted to be a part of challenging products that no one else knows how to build.


Which companies can innovate the fastest?


Those who know how to build and manage a disciplined roadmap, who care about customer experience at all levels of the company and who knows how to fail quickly.


How does GT work?


Quite simple; clients tell us what they’re trying to build, we advise them on how to build it successfully and we assemble the team to help them do it quickly. Clients come to GT because they want to move fast, they may not have prior experience in managing rapid innovation cycles, and they don’t want the distraction, delay and expense of trying to find and retain top engineers.



Do you notice a problem with finding software developers? Is this situation similar to the USA?


We haven’t experienced a problem finding talent. This is for two reasons; first, GT isn’t about volume. We don’t need to go out and find hundreds of developers. We’re mostly interested in smaller numbers of the very top specialists. Second, we’re only really working with interesting clients. Since our clients are US and EU product companies doing really important products, for example with EVs, AR/VR, Life Science Tech etc, we don’t have much difficulty convincing top talent to move their careers to GT.


How can we deal with this shortage?


There isn’t a shortage, there’s just a misallocation. Having any percentage of the world’s finite engineering pool working on gambling-tech or some of the brain-dead products in the gaming domain, means that they’re not working to help build critical products that solve environmental, food, energy, medical problems.



Is Poland a long-term stop for you? What are your future plans?


I’d like to keep Poland as a future GT hub. We’re expanding quickly, and I see Krakow as a great addition to our geographical footprint.


Link to the source ( in Polish): https://mamstartup.pl/andy-baynes-byly-wspolpracownik-stevea-jobesa-rozwija-kolejny-startup-tym-razem-w-krakowie/


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