I’m happy to welcome Anton German. He is the Chief Technology Officer and Chief Product Officer at Double Good. A company with over a hundred employees focused on virtual fundraising for teams and nonprofits. They actually sell ultra premium popcorn and allow fundraisers to keep 50% of the profits. Just an incredible company with an altruistic product.
Welcome Anton. How are you doing today? Thank you. I’m doing well. Good, good. Now, hey I know you’re based in Chicago too. It’s pretty cold today, right? It’s freezing. I think we’ve got like highs of like 8 or 10 degrees today. So, we’re bearing through it. Thanks for bearing the cold weather and joining me on Tech Leaders Hiring Well, today.
Yeah. Thank you for having me. All right. So, hey let’s start by just going over introductions. Tell me more about your background. How did you end up in the CTO/CPO seat? So my background has always been in technology. I started computer science in college and started my first company in my early twenties, it was a cross border eCommerce. Sold that.
I’ve been in startups after that and came across, the company was known actually as Pop Up Palace at the time. And Tim Heitmann, whom I’ve known previously through an entrepreneurial organization, shared with me his vision for his popcorn company.
And it was much more than just popcorn and it was truly mission driven. And the idea was that the fundraising market was really interesting. And frankly, the idea is very simple. People don’t enjoy fundraising. People do it because they have to. And frankly, there has not been a lot of innovation in the space.
So how do we introduce technology into this market and make it easy and engaging for people to fundraise? So the vision and the fact that the company was profitable, I really kind of bought into that idea. And so it was pretty easy for me to join, kind of given my background in technology, commerce, and product.
Ultimately, I became the first CTO at the company to start building the engineering team and the product team, and then ultimately get to that product market fit. Okay. Fantastic. Sounds like a lot of work. So, you know, Bravo. It’s been pretty cool just seeing your guys’ growth over the last few years.
Can you tell me more about Double Good’s business model and how tech is integrated into that mission? Sure. Yeah. So to understand Double Good’s business model, again, you have to know a little bit about the history because it’s a little bit unique. So the company did start out just as a popcorn manufacturer, has found itself in the fundraising space.
And again, given our CEO’s passion for having a mission driven company. And the majority of the business prior to myself joining has been fundraising. But it was brochure based fundraising. It was kind of the girl scout cookies model where you go door to door. And again, his store, like when the company started out, it was selling through wholesale channels. Like, pretty much any popcorn manufacturer. But the idea is how do you produce like the freshest, the best tasting popcorn and get it to consumers as quickly as possible? So the fundraising model actually worked a lot better than having popcorn sitting on shelves.
And that’s where kind of the progression, the evolution came to really becoming a virtual fundraising company. It was that we can get it even faster into the consumer’s hands. But more importantly, is for us to be truly innovative in the space and to provide that incredible value to customers, we had to own the user experience and to add.
And the only way to really do it is to be vertically integrated. So we have our own manufacturing, we have our own mobile app and our own web experience for the end user. It allowed us to optimize every single part of the customer journey. Okay. Fantastic. Fantastic.
And I mean, I would imagine what’s happened in the world over the last few years played a big part in this as well, right? Like how has Covid affected your guys’ business? Yeah, no, it really has.
In early 2020 our business has taken a huge hit. Because you can imagine, schools and youth sports, they were out of the question. Everything was closed.
And our revenue did drop. It was a tough time for everyone for many reasons. The unique part about kind of our journey was that we started working on the virtual fundraising platform way back. It was a challenge to get to product market fit because for some people who are used to a certain way to fundraise or to do their work, it’s hard to change it. It’s hard to introduce something new into the market.
However, we had the perfect solution really for a time when you couldn’t go outside, right? You couldn’t organize a team. We couldn’t go to a school to launch a fundraiser. So everything had to be digital. And we saw an incredible demand for people to fundraise with us.
And at the time, there were only so many options. You can obviously go on GoFundMe and run a donation-based fundraiser, but there’s fatigue. There’s only so many times you can do this. But when you’re fundraising with really iconic popcorn that tastes incredible, you’re giving value to your supporters.
So we saw a lot of the customer segments that we haven’t seen before, fundraise with us. So in fact, our challenge became more so not even on the technology side, but more how do we make enough popcorn and deliver it fast enough? So it’s one thing to scale technology and it’s another thing to scale manufacturing.
And when you are vertically integrated, the benefit you have is you own the full end-to-end user experience. The challenge is you have to scale both at the same. Yeah, no. I could imagine that being a challenge. And amazing that you guys kind of already built out like the product that was going to solve your problems of the future here.
So building a product uniquely built to accommodate users has really catapulted Double Good’s business right. Can you tell me more about your product team and how it’s set up and how they operate to continue to drive business? Yeah, so we subscribe. I mean, pretty much from the beginning we’ve subscribed to the idea of continuous discovering, continuous delivery. We like to call internally dual-track agile, so we use scrum, we have sprints. But at the same time we have user research programs that we essentially create on a regular basis to understand our customers, the pain points, the needs, and how can we improve the experience for them.
And the team is really kind of structured that way. We have obviously the product management, the user research, the design. So I would say from just an organizational kind of design thinking, we heavily invest in the discovery and we’d like to avoid jumping to the solutioning, until we swam enough in the problem space.
Okay. Gotcha. Gotcha. Now, I know when we think product, we typically think B2B or B2C. How would you classify Double Good’s product organization? Yeah, it’s probably best classified as B2B2C. In some ways you can even think of our virtual fundraising platform as a marketplace. We have organizers, those are typically coaches or team moms or fundraising coordinators, those that bring a team together to fundraise.
We have sellers. Those are the people who actually would go download the app and create a pop-up store that’s populated by our popcorn flavors. And then they would share the link with their friends and family. And then you have supporters. Those are the people who buy popcorn.
So really we need to be thinking about the experience for every single audience for us to create that 10x value. Okay. Fantastic. Now fast forward to today. Piggybacking on the story you just said before, like coming through Covid, how has your manufacturing business kind of caught up with the product side of what you guys were doing?
Yeah. So we recently opened a new distribution facility. We had to invest a lot in automation and I think in fact, we had to even rethink our merchandising. It’s been a challenge, but also it’s been exciting to solve problems that frankly, not many get to solve. And because on the technology side, we don’t outsource manufacturing, we get to see the entire process and we can optimize it in a way that’s very sustainable.
We’re always thinking about new flavors. We’re thinking about how do we make purchasing easier? So the investment I think between people, like just hiring and expanding the people, opening up new distribution facilities and investing automation has helped us kind of really scale manufacturing.
I mean, we’re still in the process. But it’s been definitely an interesting journey to be thinking about the on demand manufacturing. It’s made to order popcorn. Popcorn, we don’t really have a lot of inventory sitting there. When an order comes in, that’s when we make popcorn because the idea is how do we get it to the consumer to be as fresh as possible?
Which is very different. If you go to a store and you purchase popcorn that’s been potentially sitting there for months. Yep. Yep. No. And I’ve tried the popcorn. It’s fantastic. So it speaks for itself. Cool. Now diving into your team a little bit more, what would you say like your team’s differentiator is?
What is your company good at? The way we will look at product just from a design perspective. I mean if you download our app, if you look at our app, it’s 4.9 stars. It’s over 13,000 ratings. And we truly do obsess about that experience. So how do we make it very self-service? Like for example, we don’t have salespeople. We don’t have reps that go around to try to sell fundraising. It’s not a traditional model. That means that people need to be able to run a fundraiser completely autonomously.
And I think that requires design thinking. That requires a very tight integration between product and engineering, to break down the silos. So I think culturally that’s what we’ve been promoting. In fact, I like to say oftentimes that we believe in autonomy with alignment.
And what this means to us is that we’ve kind of front load that investment in making sure that every single individual and product team and engineering and product company understands our mission, the purpose of the company, the strategy. We have OKRs that try to bridge that and break it down to having every single individual understand how is their work and effort contributing to those higher level goals.
Okay. Wow. That’s interesting. Yeah. And I imagine like the tech savviness of the users are not always the same, right? So you’re constantly dealing with people with different levels of technology expertise, right? Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s where this UX and design really play a huge role because we can’t build it for ourselves. We do, we call it dogfooding- it’s widely known in tech community as
you want to try your own product. But we got to be careful that we’re not building for ourselves, we’re building for our users. And we have some customers that are very tech savvy and some that aren’t.
And we have to be very inclusive. To give you an example, we actually recently, not long ago built accessibility into our development lifecycle. And we invited people who are visually impaired to do a user research session to make sure that we actually are continuously making our application more and more accessible.
And the only way to do it is to have that product mindset, is to have that mindset about like how do we really, really add value to the end user and become a more inclusive company? Okay, cool. Wow. There’s a lot more to it than you might expect then, right? A little bit. So tell me, what do you think like the primary drivers are of like why people like to work at Double Good?
We’re not a company that’s trying to sell tomorrow, right? We’re not a company that’s growing at all cost. One benefit of that thinking is that you can do what’s best, not for short-term, not too much short-term objectives, but really kind of what’s the long-term value that we can create for our end users, for customers and employees as well?
And I think that, that creates a lot of loyalty, creates a lot of passion for people to understand, “Hey, I’m working for a mission driven company.” Our purpose is to create joy. We’re going to be close with our customers. We go to schools, to youth sports events, to absorb and understand how they use our product.
So it’s really an end to end. I mean, it’s amazing to work at a company where you can actually directly see the impact. I mean, keep in mind our business model is based on 50/50. So meaning when someone buys popcorn when someone places an order, 50% goes to a cause. So that means we cannot make money, we cannot grow without helping people raise money and creating that impact.
And it is very motivating for not just product engineering, for everyone at Double Good. Okay. Wow. That’s fantastic. And it sounds like you guys are profitable too, right? We are. And on top of that, a single owner, right? Right now we’re seeing a lot of companies that are seeing the detriment of being PC backed. There’s something positive to be seen there. Yeah. Yeah, I think so. I think so. And that was from the beginning. I mean, we have experienced a fairly mediary growth over the last few years. But the company has been around for 25 years. And the growth at all cost was never a priority.
A lot of it is in investing in people, investing in technology for the long term. Awesome. Awesome. Very cool. Now what would you say the culture is like at Double Good? Yeah, so one of our values is ‘Enjoy the Ride’. So it is important that we don’t just work, work. In any company that’s growing rapidly, you know, it’s not easy.
There’s a lot of change, but at the same time, it’s very important for us to enjoy the ride. And we think about our culture all the time. In fact, internally we have, we’ll call Double Good operating system. It’s a way for everyone to be aligned around what’s our purpose? What are our values? What are our principles?
What’s the mission of the company? And what’s cool about it is as long as everyone knows and everyone kind of shares those values, it’s incredible how much a group of people can accomplish. And I think culturally, that’s what you’re going to find. I mean we’re making iconic popcorn every single day.
And we’re building this technology that creates so much impact for people and we get letters from customers all the time saying how much it has helped them. It has helped someone travel to a cheerleading competition. It helped a school or football team at a school, purchase new helmets for team members to feel safe.
In general the culture, I would describe it as people who really know why they’re here, why they work for Double Good. Okay. Good, good. I wanted to dive into your technology team a little bit. What is the team makeup and what kind of application frameworks does your team kind of work with? Sure. So, on the front-end it’s React, type script language. We have the mobile app is React native, so it allows us to deploy to both iOS and Android devices.
On the backend, it’s Node.js. We have some closure as well, some functional team. The entire infrastructure is hosted on AWS. Okay. Fantastic. Fantastic. How big is your development team? It’s about 25 people.
As far as looking at the future of your organization what are the positions you’re going to be hiring for over the next year or two years? What are you excited about hiring for? Yeah. Yeah, this is an exciting time when we’re building out our private organization and engineering organization, because keep in mind, we’re a much smaller company, even a few years ago.
And now we’re kind of in this scaling up phase. So, definitely a lot of product management roles, a lot of product design, user research. There’s also going to be a lot of the frontend engineering and backend engineering roles. At the same time, we’re going to be expanding our leadership team as well.
So we’re going to be hiring director of product management, and a lot of other kind of director and VP level roles as well. Wow, that’s awesome. I mean, it sounds like some significant growth and you know, love to hear that, right. Sounds like business is doing really well. Just to wrap up, what are you excited about for the future of Double Good?
Yeah. I am incredibly excited to hear from friends and relatives that they’ve tasted Double Good popcorn. And I’m really excited about Double Good becoming a household name. It’s one thing to have a startup and to have thousands of people know about you.
And it’s another thing when we ship millions and millions of bags of popcorn. And so at some point they end up in the doorstep of my neighbors. Super cool to hear those stories. I mean I was in an Uber, and the Uber driver, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard about Double Good. Yeah, my kids were doing a fundraiser.”
So, it is a pretty incredible feeling when you work on something for so long and then start kind of seeing the impact it’s making. Yeah, it’s pretty cool.
Thank you Anton, for joining me. It’s been a pleasure. If you haven’t yet, go check out Double Good. And thanks again Anton. Thank you so much.