This interview took place at the Moonfruit office, Central London. June 2012 and appeared on the Blue Glue blog.
As one of the earliest members of Moonfruit, there is a lot we want to know from Eirik right now. The London based team of designers and developers who are passionate about providing great design and products that support small businesses and individuals, has been acquired by the directories giant Yell for £18m in cash. But firstly…
….a huge congratulations to you and the team on the exit. What has the last few weeks been like for you?
It’s been a real rollercoaster, with many emotional highs and lows. You never really know if it’s going to happen or not right until the very end. As you pass through the various stages of the deal, it gets more real and you get excited but often the day after you can be quite sad. It’s probably akin to giving away your daughter’s hand in marriage – you are happy, but at the same time you are sad to be handing over something you’ve cared deeply about for many years.
But to put that all in perspective, we are really excited about working with Yell in the future – there are many opportunities and it will be a fun and challenging ride.
How has your exit strategy changed over the years, if at all?
I’ve been told the best exit strategy is to not have an exit strategy! The most important thing is to create a valuable and sustainable business, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do for the last 12 years. As we continued to explore various partnership opportunities, often the conversations turned into corporate development discussions and what Yell were doing was the most appealing.
How did you “groom” Moonfruit for sale, if at all?
As I said, the best way to make yourself attractive to a potential acquirer is have a healthy business, with good past performance and a credible and exciting business plan. It means making the right choices for the business, showing leadership and being able to exploit opportunities.
What kind of people have got you to where you are today?
Smart ones that can get things done. You can get people who are smart and can’t get things done – they create work. And you can get people who can get things done but aren’t smart – they create work as you have to clean up their mess afterwards.
Great programmers. Laziness, Impatience and Hubris, are the three great programmer attributes according to Larry Wall, the inventor of Perl.
We want developers writing programs that Moonfruit users find really useful (laziness means they work hard to make computers do most of the work), that take huge pride in their work (hubris) and that write programs that are fast and anticipate user’s needs (impatience means they don’t tolerate inefficiencies).
You have a good record of staff retention at Moonfruit, any tips?
Things are coming in threes today! Purpose, Autonomy and Craftsmanship are the three things that we try to give to everyone at Moonfruit.
Take a look at Dan Pinks article on motivation – he says that people need to be able to solve problems their own way and have the freedom to solve the problems creatively at a level of craftsmanship that gives them satisfaction. I want people to come to work because they feel they are solving some kind of problem, and I want them to know that they fit into the system in a way that really matters.
When we set up Moonfruit 12 years ago there was a strapline we always brought up in interviews, which is where the company actually came from, “Allowing people to share their passions online.” We do look for people who have passion in what they do. It isn’t just about doing a job, it’s about fulfilling a passion, if you will. People work the hours they work because they love being here and solving the challenges.
How have you found the right people over the years?
In the early days, ‘99 and 2000, we used lots of agents. I also did much of the work in the beginning and used my own networks, especially in the lean years up until about ‘06/’07. In about ‘08 when we started to grow a lot faster, we couldn’t find people through JobServe and other online job ads so easily, and there was little in the way of Linkedin and Facebook. It was pretty much just MySpace in those days and all you could really do there was find another band member.
So 3 years ago we changed how we hire, and had a policy not to use agents. For me, I didn’t see where the value was. We partnered with BlueGlue as their approach seemed closer to what we did ourselves, using seeder companies and trying to find people in similar companies with a similar ethos, rather than a bank of candidates in an agency. It was also good that the BlueGlue system could go across all the areas we needed to hire in – not just tech. We are really happy with the hires we have made together so far.
Thanks Eirik - always a pleasure to chat with you.