First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Joaquin Roca: Thankfully, my family, friends, and work colleagues have been healthy and safe so far. We feel incredibly fortunate and grateful.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Minerva.
Joaquin Roca: My career has been a long and winding road. Though you can draw a straight line through and tell a cohesive story with hindsight, living it has felt anything but linear.
I’m from Brooklyn and went to NYU for undergrad. While I originally intended to pursue a math major, I ended up falling in love with psychology. In 1998 I interned at American Express running statistics for their human resources department, which led to a consulting gig and two decades of independent consulting since.
Along the way, I studied for a Ph.D. in Social-Organizational Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University (although I never finished); I’ve worked with organizations of all sizes from the United Nations to five-person startups; I also learned software development and launched a few SaaS businesses.
In 2018 I became frustrated while spending countless hours creating documentation for a project using red arrows, screenshots, and text blocks. I knew there had to be a better way, but when I found no satisfying solutions, and I decided to build one.
By late 2019, I found two phenomenal co-founders, and we raised a seed round. Today, Minerva is the internet’s universal process sharing platform. Our browser extension, which is in beta, captures your actions, automatically creates documentation for you and collapses the process into a shareable link with embedded on-screen instructions. Minerva has been the most exciting and rewarding ride I’ve been on yet.
How does Minerva innovate?
Joaquin Roca: There are two ways I can answer this question.
The first is, “In what way is your company innovative?” That’s easy. We’re the world’s process knowledge hub. If you’re trying to figure out how to do something online, Minerva should be the first place you turn, and if you’re trying to give someone guidance, Minerva is the most important tool in your toolkit. We make expert process knowledge instantly accessible when and where you need it.
The second is, “What processes do you use to innovate?” As a process company, I find that question as intriguing as the first. Necessity is the mother of invention, and constraint is a necessary ingredient for creativity. We’re small and scrappy and are constantly lacking resources and feeling constrained, so innovation comes naturally!
We also listen intently to our customers, brainstorm as a team, and look ahead at market trends to create solutions to our customers’ pain points. We combine data and insight with a tight “build, measure, learn” cycle to produce an incredible product.
How is the pandemic impacting your business, and how are you coping?
Joaquin Roca: First, my heart breaks for all the lives lost, and the families impacted. When the Coronavirus hit and remote living and working instantly became the new normal, we realized Minerva was a critically important support tool. Short of sitting next to someone at their computer (which is often impossible these days), Minerva is the easiest and most effective way to provide step-by-step support.
The Coronavirus has also had an impact on the way we work. We think about our organization’s culture a lot, and while we had always intended for that culture to be remote-friendly, we also felt it would be important to have a strong home base where our team could interact and build relationships. While we had the privilege of working in-person for three months before we left the office in March, the reality is we have now been a remote-first company for far longer than we were physically together. As a company focused on process, we were well-positioned to make that transition and do so effectively from the start.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Joaquin Roca: Building a venture-backed startup means constantly making difficult choices. Don’t get me wrong, I’m privileged to be able to dedicate my time to building a product I am so passionate about. But I often go back to the quote by Mario Andretti: “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” There is no handbook, and you’re pretty much always on the edge of disaster when building a company meant for hypergrowth.
We’ve made our share of mistakes along the way, but each time we follow up with a post-mortem to figure out what we could have done better and/or differently. Sometimes those post-mortems include investors. Sometimes clients. Sometimes it’s just two co-founders giving each other hard feedback with all the best intentions and love we can muster. In the end, I think the lesson is always the same: Rely on your team. Respect and trust each other. Challenge each other. Take calculated risks and have confidence in your decisions.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Minerva in the future?
Joaquin Roca: I have the most supportive and wonderful partner in life and the best team I can imagine at work. When I’m stressed and/or anxious, I talk with them. Our investors and advisors are also amazing, and they are always there to support us, help us, push us, and impart their wisdom. It’s hard for me to imagine this team failing, and I take comfort in that. Then I just put one foot in front of the other.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Joaquin Roca: There are companies with similar products (e.g., Pendo, WalkMe, Whatfix), but we don’t think our offering is exactly competitive with theirs. They have created power tools meant to be owned by a single organization. We created the most elegant process capture and sharing tool in the world and have made it available to everyone for free. If you need all the bells and whistles of one of those other tools, Minerva isn’t going to be the product for you. I’m very comfortable saying that because we’d rather lose your business than have you as an unsatisfied customer. If, however, you’re looking for a dead-simple no-code tool to empower your community to learn and share how to do anything online, Minerva is easily your best choice.
Your final thoughts?
Joaquin Roca: Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” We embrace that wholeheartedly, so we invest in our culture as much as we invest in product and strategy. We’re expanding our team, so if you’re interested in joining an innovative company that puts values first, reach out and get to know us.