Varun Chirravuri is the CEO of Canary Calendar, a calendar app for the iPhone that helps Google Calendar users efficiently schedule meetings.
Leading is about knowing when to be hands on, and knowing when to be hands off. A good leader can set a vision and step back, trusting his people to interpret and execute on it. In building Canary, I have focused on simplifying and doubling down on our internal messaging around our vision and making sure that drives every one of our decisions, whether I’m involved or not.
We live on our calendars. In an “eat your own dogfood” kind of way, we make sure that we schedule meetings to discuss issues, whenever possible, and then try to keep meetings as short as possible. This prevents “hanging-chad” type conversations, the kind of decisions that happen in off the cuff chats that don’t get recorded, remembered, shared, or acted upon. Building a results oriented culture has allowed us to ship so much in such little time.
Most of our growth has come entirely organically. Word of mouth, and associated buzz generated with that, has been a powerful driver of traffic. As a note, mobile productivity apps tend to have a harder time overcoming challenges in distribution. We believe that building a great product and continuing to ship features that wow users will be the key to our success.
The talent we have attracted to our team is through our existing networks, and our success is entirely attributable to our loyalty to one another. We’ve faced many hardships together trying to build a company, and it’s really only through believing in each other, and using that trust to refocus the team as a whole that allows us to persevere. Through hardship you develop a certain bond that makes you more resilient and dedicated.
We have a simple way to brainstorm or solve problems called, “sync -> split -> solve.” The idea is that we meet up as a team, a problem or idea is introduced, and then we split up for at least 15 minutes to think of the problem on our own. Only after that do we return and try to solve anything. It lets people develop their thoughts and form their own ideas on their own (ideas can also be introduced via email beforehand).
We were lucky in that we received unsolicited favorable press. That and Word of Mouth is currently our driver of traffic, but we should have more robust and organic traffic generation in an upcoming release.
There’s almost nothing new that hasn’t been written, but you have to experience the various stages of despair and triumph yourself for it to make sense. Most founders believe that they are the positive deviant from the mean — and they have to in order to survive some of the trials of founding a company — and so they only begin to realize a lot of things they’ve read about are true in hindsight.