Spotlight Userlane: Felix Eichler, CTO & Co-founder
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Coding from the age of 10 and the co-founding mind behind Userlane…
…we chatted to Felix to hear his advice for new entrepreneurs looking to make a difference.
Watch the interview here…
Or read on to hear what Felix had to say…
How I got to where I am today
I’m the Co-founder and CTO here at Userlane, but my story began from a very young age.
I suppose I kind of fell into the magic pot as a little kid. I was always really good with programming and wrote my first code at around the age of 10. With the support of my high school math teacher, I went to university at the age of 15, before I had even finished my high school degree. I was able to study computer science at one of the best technical universities in Europe.
I later joined a very successful entrepreneurship program, and from there, I was hooked! At the age of 20, whilst studying at TUM (technical university of Munich), I started my first company.
Fast forward to now, 5 years on, and I am very humbled to be featured in the Forbes 30 under 30 list.
Identifying a need in the market
Before starting Userlane, Hartmut (Userlane Co-founder) and I were working as freelancers on various software projects, where we designed software routes that would be rolled out to hundreds of people at a time. The questions we always faced were ‘how do we onboard people’, ‘how do we get them acquainted with the new system’ and ‘how do we inform them of new updates easily’?
The classic go-to-method which was expected from our customers, was onsite presentations to users with slides filled with screenshots and arrows on how to use the software.
We wanted to find a solution that made this an easier process, and made our jobs easier. So what we tried to do is look for a way to automate this process and show users how to navigate through the app.
This is where interactive guides were first conceived, and they became the first version of our digital adoption platform. Since then, Userlane has grown to be so much more. Including analytics that provide understanding of where users struggle, and it utilizes existing knowledge within the organization to inform the guides.
The initial eagerness to build simplicity and wanting to find a workaround for the problem we faced with our customers, gave us the motivation to start Userlane.
Preparedness for inevitable challenges
Each phase of a company has its unique set of things you need to overcome and things you need to prove.
I think initially it’s about finding the right people, getting them motivated, and getting them to rally behind your vision.
And then of course, nurturing a culture and facilitating collaboration and innovation. These aspects only grow even more important as you grow as a company. Once you are 50 and above, you are likely working in multiple squads, multiple streams and addressing multiple markets. You need to somehow make space for everyone and their voices. You need to align on common standards, values and culture in the company. I think balancing flexibility and efficiency is an ongoing challenge for many businesses.
At Userlane, we don’t want to provide detailed processes, but rather guidelines and recommendations. This is for employees and customers alike. Similar to a pre-flight checklist that a pilot runs through before take off. This approach allows humans to apply their common sense, because otherwise you would just be a cog in a machine. We really want our people to use their common sense, to do the right thing for the customer, and to do the right thing for their team in order to keep innovating.
Navigating through growth
We are currently going through some exciting times at Userlane as we’re growing our team. We’re expanding throughout Europe and entering new markets. We’re also extending our product capabilities by building more meaningful analytics insights into the product that can connect with the existing knowledge already in the organization.
The goal is to make the digital adoption platform more relevant for its users, and in turn more valuable to our customers.
I’m also really excited about bringing the next 100 Userlaners onboard and to shape the culture of the company, together with them.
Because one thing is sure in life, and that is that change is the only constant on earth. We have to keep innovating, building our culture, our product and our value proposition.
Avoiding burn-out as an entrepreneur
One piece of advice I have for entrepreneurs is to make sure you watch out for yourself. Make sure you don’t burn-out.
It might be fun to work crazy hours for two or three years, but you then start to feel the signals of burning out. I would say you need to make sure that you enjoy it while you’re doing it.
It keeps me motivated everyday, because I have found the right balance that works for me. I have made sure that this is rooted in the Userlane culture, which is an achievement I am very proud of. I see that my colleagues come to work super energized and they look forward to work. They don’t see it as working for a company, they see it more like working for themselves where they can hone their skills and develop them further.
Creating a space for great minds to come together
People really love working at Userlane and they come to the day full of energy. The Userlane meetings are seen as an opportunity for exchange and a place to engage with one another.
Bringing a group of around 100 people together from all over Europe to work together at a company like Userlane is a very proud achievement for me. Looking forward, the most important thing for me will be to shape the culture. If we can take care of the people, then they take care of our business.
“Stay hungry, stay foolish” – Steve Jobs
In the words of a more famous person, “stay hungry, stay foolish”. Being foolish is really important. It encourages you to keep trying things that may seem impossible at first.
You gain more support from employees and investors when you try to do something that seems impossible. People like to rally behind a more difficult mission, like going to Mars!
If you are in the very early stage, be sure that you’re actually working on something that the world really needs and don’t forget to talk to your customers! Get out of the building and meet people in the real world to validate your ideas.
Just because you have a hammer, don’t think that the world is full of nails. Sometimes you have to adapt your tool to be relevant in the market.