Adi Bittan is the CEO and co-founder of OwnerListens, a tool that allows customers to contact businesses through texting and Facebook messenger. Follow Adi at @adiownerlistens and OwnerListens @ownerlistens and on Facebook.
1. What first inspired you to learn how to code?
I just wanted to learn enough so that I could understand the work my engineers were doing. Don't let me write the code that keeps bridges up or lights on - I'm not really a good coder - but I can read their code and figure out what's going on.
2. What lead you to start a company like OwnerListens?
Don't you hate calling businesses? It's a horrible customer experience. Guess what? It's horrible for businesses too. It's expensive and creates a ton of stress on employees. Emails aren't great either - they're slow and ppl's inboxes are so full that they miss them. Live chat isn't good either - you're stuck in some browser window waiting for an agent to type. For the busy professional, for the millennial, for pretty much anyone with a cellphone, texting is a better solution. It's also cheaper, more scalable, and safer for businesses. With chatbots we can even automate parts of the interaction to get customers answers faster- Win-Win!
3. How do you balance all the demands on your life between your business, family and community service?
Balance is a stretch. I don't pretend for a minute to have it figured out. With a small baby I've had to be a lot more scheduled and rigid about my time. I carve out family time (2 hours a day + weekends) and community service time (mentoring at StartX for example) goes into the calendar as a recurring event. Pre-baby I could be more spontaneous about it but now I basically give ppl a choice based on those set windows of time. Usually it's either early in the morning or late at night - I have 6 half hour slots for mentoring/startup help and most of them are at 10pm or later.
4. What is the most important thing you hope your son learns as he watches you in the years to come?
Mainly, I hope he learns to be an independent, empathetic, kind person but as it relates to careers, I hope he learns that it's a worthwhile privilege to work hard in pursuit of a vision, whether it's your own or pushing the vision of a company you feel good about. And, I hope it's implicit that you can do that regardless of gender.
5. What advice do you have for moms looking to start their own tech companies?
It is really hard to start your own business. Really hard. Starting it while taking care of young children is even harder. Don't jump into it unless you account for:
Time/money - everything will take longer than you think. You need a buffer to money.
Scheduling flexibility - You will need to be able to hop on a plane for a sales meeting, or go to a conference, or interview a potential employee on the weekend. This is especially challenging in the beginning when you don't have/can't have team members take over for you. Make sure you have the support to be able to do that (husband, family, friends, babysitters).
Partners - Who you work with will determine a big part of your success. Make sure it's someone you get along with like a brother/sister. Set the right expectations ahead of time about hours/contributions.
Partners II - Your significant other (if you have one) is instrumental in your success. They have to be fully on board and you have to set expectations with them as well. There will be times you'll be stretched between family and your startup baby. You need an SO who will encourage and understand, not one who will make resent you. Remember it can be hard and stressful for both of you but it might be harder for him/her. You are following your dream while they pick up the slack.