Manuel Mattke is an innovator, entrepreneur, tech product guy (and from time to time developer), with a background in finance, technology and innovation consulting.

This week is an extra special episode.   Manuel was Kevin’s CTO mentor at the last startup he founded, and Kevin is super excited to share some of the insights that Manuel shared with him, with all of you.

When he’s not mentoring up & coming CTO’s, Manuel is building his own startups. He has founded and built several startups, including an enterprise software company, a mobile app company and an innovation consulting firm, and likes to focus on combining business strategy, innovation and design thinking, and technology products.

Manuel is currently designing and implementing relevant & engaging learning experiences for teens in the US and in the developing world. Education models around the world have seen limited innovation over the last 50+ years, and are ripe for significant new efforts.  Learn about Manuel’s work as Chief Innovation Officer disrupting education at Opportunity Education in this week’s episode. 

Favorite quotes:

– Our work here at Opportunity Education in demonstrating a radical rethinking of learning for teens globally – personalized, relevant and engaging, supported by mobile and/or web technology.

– I spend a lot of time thinking about and working on team culture, on the assumption that an aligned, mature team will produce better product and will respond better to customer and market feedback.

– Our tech, though it’s not particularly special: rails backend, standalone react/redux front-end deployed via S3 and Android tablet app. Since we deploy in the developing world as well, we have special considerations for low-bandwidth and offline environments.

– Running a tech startup from inside a foundation, with really good talent. We’re an unusual animal in that regard 🙂

We use technology to personalize the learning pathway.

It’s been incredibly valuable to have a leader and founder focused on the long term vision.

Be patient and get it right before you go world wide.

Failure is really important when you know how to recover for it.

Change moves really quickly.

We bring our remote team together once a month for 2 days to talk about concerns or questions they have.

Remote teams have to make up for the fact that we don’t have lunch together every day.

Hire people who are willing to take responsibility for themselves to a high degree if you’re going to have a remote team.

We take a monthly active approach to re-examine our tools and how we use them to collaborate as a remote team. (ex: Slack vs calling)

Whenever we hire someone remote, we ask them what things have worked and not worked for them.

Our team’s mindset is always of being a learner. We’re all figuring it out together, whether it’s our product, how we communicate, how we learn from customers, etc.

A culture of growth helps make it fun and keep us growing.

We want to be practical and ship code now, but we also have our eye to the future over the next 2 years.

Engineering value: holding architecture very thoughtfully.

Make architecture decisions in the context of the overall product strategy.

I never override an engineering estimate. I question it and clarify it to help them clarify things, but I never override them. I show them that I respect their expertise.

We’ll all fallible and as much as we get attached to our code and product, feedback can be hard to take, but we all have to commit that we’re going to have the courage to follow our product no matter where it takes us.