First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jay Hsueh: Thanks for asking! We are all doing quite well, considering everything. I am very fortunate that none of my immediate family has been afflicted with COVID-19.
My fiancé and I even got married this fall!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Roby.
Jay Hsueh: I started my career as an NXP semiconductor engineer in advanced circuit design after graduating from the University of Southern California with an MSEE degree. From there, I founded a consulting platform focused primarily on serving companies looking to incorporate AI into their business, which created the first kernel of Roby.
In 2018 we began working with our first major client, Alerton Honeywell and joined the Techstar Seattle program. We were inspired by the idea that we could use data to strike a balance between employee comfort and operational efficiency. Thus, Roby was born!
How does Roby innovate?
Jay Hsueh: At Roby, we hold our core values above all else, be transparent, focus on lessons learned, and communicate with data.
These values are high-level guidelines for the way we innovate at Roby, and keeping them constant has made us extremely flexible and quick to adapt to change. It takes time and effort to implement a solid culture but, for us, starting with a simple foundation of data before introducing new complexities has allowed innovations to be embedded at scale into our daily business operations.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jay Hsueh: The pandemic has been a driver and catalyst for our business. We knew we’d be in trouble if we didn’t take immediate action by pivoting our product direction to focus on remote and hybrid teams.
Since we decided to pivot in April, we’ve been able to raise funding, grow our team, and develop exciting new features better suited to the market’s changing needs, like integrating with Slack and Microsoft Team to simplify internal support for distributed teams and connecting Roby with building automation systems to create touchless office solutions.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jay Hsueh: In the beginning, I was not good at having hard conversations. In fact, I tended to avoid these conversations as much as possible. Unfortunately, my fear of conflict was the biggest barrier to implementing all the changes mentioned above.
For example, I was fearful to inform people that they are no longer a part of the decision-making process or that we had to move on from a project they were passionate about. A similar scenario happened with investors, too, as we had to say no to some inapplicable advice.
To overcome this problem, I now find it useful to communicate with data. When communicating with numbers, it takes a lot of emotional burden off my shoulders and helps me focus on what is best for the company, rather than on individual feelings. After implementing this, making difficult decisions became much more efficient as both parties understood it was about the company’s direction. We are now better able to speak to a solution instead of simply debating the problem.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Roby in the future?
Jay Hsueh: I handle the pressure by continuously reviewing data to get an objective view of the situation. Roby will be the leader of workplace innovation by helping people in the world work safely and more efficiently.
Jay Hsueh: Although 2020 has thrown some unforeseen obstacles in our path, it’s also created an opportunity for us to make a lasting impact on the workplace. With every new challenge comes the chance to look critically at the old way of doing things and build lasting, innovative solutions to transform the way we work.
I’m excited for what’s ahead and look forward to learning more from this startup journey.