Tell us about you, your career, and how you’ve founded or joined Rocket.chat.
Gabriel Engel: I’ve been passionate about creating things my whole life. I’ve always thought I was going to grow up to become an “inventor” and, in a sense, I think that I’ve fulfilled that dream: Rocket.Chat is my greatest invention. I’ve learned from an early age that creating a company was the best way to get your inventions out into the world, so my whole life I’ve been inventing things and starting businesses to turn them into products.
I even tried a corporate career when I was living in London, but the inventor’s side of me was frustrated: there were too many bureaucracies and gatekeepers. That’s why I’ve decided to go back to the startup world and build my own company. I wanted to create products. I moved back to Brazil to create a company called Konecty, a CRM focused on facilitating the management of any business process. And it was on this process that Rocket.chat was born: as a result of observing a market opportunity to create a collaboration and customer engagement platform. Rocket.Chat is my fifth business. What started as a side-project ended up becoming a 33M startup, with 12M+ users around the world.
How does Rocket.chat innovate?
Gabriel Engel: In a word? Open-source. Our main drive for innovation is the large community that has gathered around our platform, our product. Currently, 1500+ developers worldwide bring their own ideas and help us to implement new features. We’ve never dreamed of building such a collaborative ecosystem! That’s what drives our innovation: the collaboration with a community that’s not just composed by enthusiasts. Our community includes governments, highly-regulated industries, high-tech companies, banks, and developers collaborating to add extra features and improve Rocket.chat.
How did the Coronavirus pandemic affect your business and how are you coping?
Gabriel Engel: Fortunately, the impact on our business has been very positive, since our platform is designed to boost teams’ productivity regardless of their location. In fact, the demand for our type of platform has increased, while numerous taboos about remote working and digital collaboration are being broken. For instance, people are being required to try out tools like Rocket.chat. They end up positively surprised by how quickly they communicate and improve their productivity (clients already reported a 70% increase in efficiency).
We’re noticing an increase in demand for our products and services and a bigger engagement in the community to apply Rocket.chat into new uses. We’re also in an extremely likely position to help organizations and governments around the world to talk to citizens, to automate the process of doing patient triage and detecting early symptoms of COVID-19, for instance. Our Telemedicine solution is helping millions of people in Brazil. In a nutshell, I think our products and services are able to help people in real-world situations.
On the operation side of the organization, because we have a distributed team, things didn’t change much. We’ve been fortunate that the effects on our company have actually been positive, not considering all the stress and anxiety that everyone, including us, even people who were already working from home, is going through because we see the suffering and the uncertainty of the times ahead.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what were the lessons learned so far?
Gabriel Engel: We didn’t have to make as many difficult choices as other companies did, such as massive cuts and layoffs to cope with the reduction of their income. However, we did ask ourselves whether bringing more people in (leveraging the increase in demand for remote work tools, like ours) would be a wise move, even without knowing exactly what’s going to happen in the next couple of months or a year. I’m happy that we’ve actually stepped on the accelerator, hiring more people. We’ve been seeing our numbers growing rapidly over the last quarter.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Gabriel Engel: I deal with stress and anxiety in two different but complementary ways. The first is having quality time with my family. Playing with my kids is one of the ways to de-stress for me. The second one is being open with the team about when I am overwhelmed, also leading them to feel welcomed to share their feelings with me. We know that people work a lot better when they feel connected to others, without having to hide their frustrations.
Since working from home makes people feel less connected, being able to be more transparent and create different kinds of connections helps people to create rapport, which leads to more empathy, productivity and ultimately increases professional performance. When people are able to share, at least to express themselves and talk about it, it’s a big step forward towards dealing with the problem and knowing that they’re not alone.
How do you project yourself and Rocket.chat in the future?
Gabriel Engel: We really see a huge transformation regarding how companies, people, and organizations work regarding communication. They are moving away from email and siloed communication tools to invest in workstream collaboration tools. Imagine the huge gains in productivity and performance obtained by replacing numerous tools (Skype, email, Whatsapp) and centralizing your messages, files, video calls at a single platform.
That is Rocket.Chat’s role in the enterprise world: to allow companies, organizations, and governments to migrate from inefficient, vendor-specific, and closed-source communication tools, to have decentralized and quick communication. All of it through an open platform that brings the qualities of email back into workstream collaboration. Being an open-source software means being more democratic while keeping all the functionality and the amazing user experience
Gabriel Engel: I’d say that 2020 is being a harsh year, but I deeply believe that when we look back at it in a few years, we’ll notice how positive it was. The reason being we are reevaluating our priorities and what’s important in our lives, how we spend time, the importance of aligning work with values and purpose, and how we trust each other and our colleagues to work from wherever they are. Everything that was being done automatically is being put into perspective in order to strike a new balance. That is priceless.
Moreover, companies are going to need to adapt and be aligned with those new values, in a very positive way. That’s where we come into the picture: a tool like ours, not just the features, but the values of being open distributed and co-created with the community and with customers, is a very important alignment of interests. The world really needs this going forward.