To kick off our series on Women in Tech, Melissa Thompson chats with Christine Ziebell, CEO of Intraboom whose struggles and lessons are an inspiration to any aspiring entrepreneur.
Beginning in 1995, Christine Ziebell worked in a very traditional industry (law), where the rule of thumb was that you were informed about things on a “need to know basis.”
In the early 2000s the firm she worked for started applying the principle of transparency to how the business was run. The management of the firm started to inform the entire staff about things like the strategy and business of the firm, including financial performance. The firm started to communicate more about its mission and values, and the employees started to work together in a different way. They were all moving in one direction and had a foundation that was common to all of them.
She saw that people became more motivated and engaged when communication was transparent and people felt like they were a part of something bigger. And people became more productive, too, collaborating and helping each other to accomplish common goals. There was no denying that transparency had an impact on the bottom line.
Which is why Christine is such a huge fan of transparency and went on to create a digital platform that enabled it for companies of all sizes.
I spent some time talking to Christine about her entrepreneurial journey and struggles, getting her advice for other women entrepreneurs in tech.
Melissa: How long did it take to get a working minimum viable product?
Christine: The collaboration market was exploding and a lot of players were emerging, so we went well beyond MVP before we launched and we worked on it for over two years. We felt that MVP was not a good strategy because we were competing against products that had been on the market for longer and didn’t want to come out with something that didn’t seem finished or polished.
Melissa: Did you follow the Lean Startup process, or some other method?
Christine: Not exactly. Our product is based on optimal user experience, so we gather feedback from test groups, beta users and early adopters on a continuous basis especially with a focus on how simple and intuitive they find the product to be.
We continue to be very sensitive to any and all feedback we receive from our users, and we have implemented a number of updates to the system based on the feedback. We also took customer feedback early on when designing our iOS app (that is to be launched in the beginning of March) to ensure that we stay true to our philosophy of simplicity and ease of use.
Melissa: What were your biggest challenges, and how did you overcome them?
Christine: One of the biggest challenges we faced was knowing when the product was ready to go to market. We were constantly coming up with improvements and enhancements (both independently and because of beta users’ feedback) and it seemed like we were spending a lot of time polishing the product before making it available. In retrospect, perhaps too much time.
There’s also a huge challenge in figuring out what I like to call the “balance of terror”: if you lean forward too much you will fall on your face. If you lean back too much, you won’t get anywhere.
Melissa: If you were to give advice to other women in tech, what would it be?
Christine: Don’t try to do everything yourself. I waited way too long before bringing a team onboard. Also, balancing a family and a start-up career can be challenging (I have two small children myself), so make sure your significant other is “all in” and supports what you’re doing.
A little about Christine’s startup: Intraboom is a simple collaboration software that promotes productivity and engagement. The platform claims to be so simple and intuitive to use that anyone, with any level of technical skill set, can easily adopt it. Intraboom uses Microsoft’s Azure Enterprise Cloud to host the service creating what it says is a secure platform that can be accessed by anyone.
At the same time the company aims to protect connections between users and with the cloud with SSL encryption. There is a free version available, which can be tried out without the need to provide credit card details.