Pizza with a CTO — NUMA x Wingly.io

Every week, Alban Dumouilla, NUMA’s CTO, will have a Pizza with a CTO from different stages companies to talk with them about their roles, constraints, management issues… Let’s get started for this article with Lars Klein, CTO at Wingly.io !

Wingly is an innovative flight sharing platform that connects travelers and hobby pilots. People can simply get a ride on a small plane or helicopter.

  • Founded: 2015 by Bertrand Joab-Cornu, Emeric de Waziers, Lars Klein
  • City: Paris, France
  • Funding: Currently raising >1M$
  • Company size at time of writing: 8
  • Tech team: 2 (CTO, Full stack developer)

What’s on your pizza ?

Diabolina: Salami, bell peppers, mozzarella at Pizza di Gio

So, you are a CTO

“I didn’t go to University not to waste my time learning about things unrelated to what I wanted to do”

What’s your background?

It all started quite early in my life, when I was playing a lot of video-games as a kid. I wanted to develop my own games, but realized quickly that you need a team of dozens of people to do so, and it was hard.

So I turned to web development and started building sites for my family and friends, for free. After a while and a lot of happy people, I realized that I could make money from my work, and became a freelancer: IT consulting, website building, SEO, the whole thing.

I decided not to go to University because I would waste my time learning about things unrelated to what I wanted to do, instead of being paid to work on those things. That made me move to Berlin, where I stayed 2 years and worked as a freelancer for some pretty big customers like Audi.

I then became the head of tech at The Dustcloud, an open world laser tag business. I went to China a few times and saw what it was to build hardware. The company ended up failing because it couldn’t manage to get enough funds.

So I came back to Berlin, and wanted to fly around the city, just to take a look. That’s where I understood there was no service offering that type of experience yet.

And that’s when you met your cofounders

Yes, I just put the project as a hobby on AngelList. By coincidence, my two now-cofounders were at the same time thinking about the same idea, looking for competition and finding me. That’s how we met.

So after some online discussion, we ended up meeting in Paris. The fit seemed right, so I moved to Paris and got started.

What’s your job now? Has it changed since you started?

My job is very diverse. I’m still hands on in the tech side, but I’m also a manager, as we’re developing in Germany. We started in France, made some noise and got media attention. But then a syndicate of pilots showed up, attacking us on the fact that we were doing commercial flights — which is not the case, since pilots pay their own cost-share — a tiny bit like when the taxi lobby attacked Uber.

So two months later, the activity plummeted in France. We had to shift, and the best market for the team was Germany, so I became country manager for Germany 50% of my time.

I still have time to code (20%), but I’m also managing customer interactions, and I’m kind of a translator between customers and the tech side.

Nice transition, let’s talk about tech

Your stack?

Symfony2, Mysql, Smarty for templating. Nothing too fancy, I have a C# and Unity background, remember?

Are you planning on changing it someday?

We don’t and won’t have scaling issues because of our target audience, so technology doesn’t matter too much yet: it was a matter of convenience and speed.

We’ve built our mobile app on Ionic Framework, and might move it to something more native someday, as we want to separate the apps between pilots and passengers.

Have you ever faced a crisis?

If that question is about the tech side, not really. But the regulations battles shocked the company a lot. If we wouldn’t have moved to another country, I’m not sure we’d still be alive today.

Your CTO life

What’s the hardest part of your job?

The amount of work. We just don’t have enough hands to do everything. We used to be naive, thinking an MVP (note: Minimum Viable Product) would be good enough for our customers. But now that we actually have customers, we realize that the MVP is only the beginning.

We need to improve UX, growth, features, etc. We usually take on the fastest and easiest tasks first.

What is your biggest responsibility?

Being efficient at managing people, tasks and ideas. Be able to say no, as ideas come from everywhere and we don’t have unlimited resources to follow them.

We basically check if an idea makes sense, wireframe it, then design it, then develop a technical concept, and if it’s fine, then we code it. The whole loop before the coding part can take less than a day.

We used to just dive into it and change a bunch of stuff, but if got very confusing over time. This process is quick and clean.

The team

Describe your tech team

It’s 2 of us. The full stack dev mainly works on the mobile app these days. He’s a really great guy, senior and very efficient. He’s from Greece, we’re a pretty international team!

Oddly enough, we also found him on AngelList. He’s better than me, which is the most important part!

Vision

Where do you see Wingly in two years ?

All over Europe! We want to make it easy for everyone to see their hometown from above. And maybe some trips from A to B, but staying in a leisure experience.

People need to understand that ‘coavionnage’ (plane-sharing) is not really like ‘covoiturage’ (car sharing). There’s weather involved, more regulation, etc. It’s not just about sharing costs, so we need to improve the product so that people understand that.

What are the hardest problems you’ll face to conquer Europe?

Scaling the marketplace on both sides simultaneously. We used to have a lot of demand, so we concentrated our efforts on finding the offer. Then it shifted, and we had to do the contrary. Now, it’s stabilized in our current market.

The regulation battles are solved, as Europe is supporting us on the laws they have enforced in 2014.

Discover Wingly’s website or their twitter !

Article written by Alban Dumouilla and originally published on CTO.Pizza