Composing the ‘n!’ sound

 

There is always a moment in my daily life at itnig when a startup asks for a video. Sometimes it’s an ad, sometimes an event, sometimes it’s just a tutorial, but no matter what it is, it comes with the need of creating a sound that represents the company and can be played at the start of the video along with the appearance of their corporate logo.

This short sound must represent their essence, it has to have their DNA reflected somehow: a representation of their values, their culture or maybe even something related to their name or logo. It is mainly an artistic process that requires inspiration but in some cases the startup name and culture is geeky enough to allow some rational thinking into the music composition process. Last week I crafted the sound for our startup Factorial, inspired by the mathematical operation their name represents.

Assigning values to notes and choosing the first note

Putting a mathematical operation into sound requires a bit of imagination as well as a set of rules to get started. The first step was assigning values to notes. I decided to assign C4 the value 1. It is the middle key in a piano and also the middle C according to the International Pitch Notation so it seamed and appropriate value for that key.
Piano keys, notes and assigned values
Now we had to decide which factorial operation to represent. That is, choosing an x to which we would perform x! and represent it. Being the startup name Factorial and given that it starts with an F, it made sense to perform the operation on F4, the first F we would find after C4.

Performing the n! operation

Now that we had chosen to start at F4 we just had to assign notes to the operands in the operation and put them in the score.

4! = 4*3*2*1 = F4 E4 D4 C4

Now we had a simple downwards scale without much musical interest but how could we enrich the melody and still make it part of the factorial operation?

Making the middle operations sound too

As we manually start to calculate the factorial operation of a number and before we get the result, we obtain partial operands that are part of the process. How would the melody sound if we added those partcial numbers to the score?

The size of the partial operands makes the need to place them on a staff above obvius. Also because of the sequentiality of the operation we put the partial operands once we have been able to obtain the result, that is after the first note and while the second note is playing.

The first partial operand is obtained after multiplying F4 and E4 wich is the same as 4*3 which equals 12 that represents a G5 if we check the keyboard note to number assignation.

F4 * E4 * D4 = G5 * D4 = 12 * 2 = 24 = E7

If we keep calculating we obtain the note E7, which is the result of multiplying F4 * E4 * D4.

Finally, we obtain the same E7 after multiplying the previous result by C4, which has the value 1.

Final result

If you are curious to listen to how this mathematical representation of the factorial operation sounds like, play the video below.

Poblenou — How an urban renewal project fosters innovation

The triangle between ocean front, the Ciutadela park and Diagonal street — the district of Poble Nou — is now synonymous of innovation, famous for its startups and incubators and specked with universities. How did the once industrial project transform into a technological model and what impact does this have on the social relationships? We move in this area every day, shape it through using its services, setting up our own companies and bringing international talent yet few are the times that we wonder about its history. Let’s take a look at Poblenou’s [email protected] and the transformation it has gone through.


If you are currently in Barcelona you can learn more about this topic in a visual way by visiting the photographic archives of the city until mid May (Archivo Fotográfico de Barcelona) to discover Darius Koehli’s view on the neighborhood and its transformation.

History of Poblenou

In the time of the Industrial Revolution in the early 19th century Poblenou was a place of industry with many factories dedicated to textile production and later with the settling of food and metallurgical industries. Between 1861 and the early 20th century the textile production continuously expanded and branched out to further specialize. Until 1939 the industries in Poblenou consolidated including the first car factories, which further grew in the coming two decades.

In the 1960s the industrial growth came to a halt and factories were relocated or dismantled. The abandonment of the Poblenou area and the general need to transform the city of Barcelona to stay relevant, led the government to introduce the first of many following restructuring plans.

With a move from an industrial to a more tertiary sector, Poblenou became more and more abandoned until the year 1992, which brought the Olympic Games. The 1992 Olympic Games initiated a process of metamorphosis in the city that turned it into a clear paradigm of urban change and international exposure where political will plays a determining role (Pareja-Eastaway, 2009). The Games also gained Barcelona a place on the map. With international recognition the city now called for further improvement of infrastructure and new developments: The Ronda de Dalt and the Ronda Litoral were built, the train lines were lead underground and the street grid started / envisioned by Cerdà (already in 1859!) was consolidated. Poble Nou was as such now placed in a new center, connected to the rest of Barcelona and embedded in the infrastructure.

In the following years a new model of cities within a city (poly-centric city) emerged. Today the Vila Olimpica, the area around Diagonal Mar and the Forum building tell the story of the construction for this sport event. Recently artists, young professionals and students — an especially young population rejuvenating the neighborhood — started moving into the old industrial plants and slowly converting the wide open spaces into lofts, shops and galleries. Nowadays you will also find architecture, art and design schools or studios in these spaces.

Urban planning for transformation

The transformation of the area began as a government initiative aimed to transform the historic but rundown industrial Poble Nou neighborhood into a technology and knowledge-driven economic powerhouse. In 2000 the new urban plan, soon known as [email protected] altered from the industrial zoning denominator 22a, came into effect. A mixed model of urban planning, both focussed on social cohesion and economic development divided the area up into five different centers: Information and Computer Technology (ICT), Bio-Medical, Design, Energy, and Media. These five clusters were defined with the aim of concentrating economic activity with growth potential. Through this the aim is to “facilitate collaboration, capture talent and develop a sustainable business ecosystem”.

The plan included:

  • 4000 units of subsidized housing
  • Creation of green areas
  • Facilities for the productive fabric like the Media Tic building or the business incubator Almogàvers Business Factory
  • Facilities for public life like schools or community centers
  • Redevelopment of streets

The City Council put it all in motion by moving public companies and university to the district so as to support the clustering. Nowadays you can find the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Universitat de Barcelona, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and BAU of the Universitat de Vic all in close proximity. Through their joint work with the district office they offer collaborations with local companies like internship boards and a database of companies accessible for graduate students. Furthermore in the research cluster, the company Telefonica has set up their Research & Development facilities in the area and the big biomedical research park cannot be overlooked. The city of Barcelona also gave support to the social structure by promoting diverse collectives as it is the case for Hangar, La Escosesa and La Central del Circ — who are all privately managed organizations dedicated to the arts residing in municipally-owned buildings. Similarly Poblenou Urban District is a nonprofit association that aims to establish the neighborhood as entrepreneurial epicenter in Barcelona organizing activities and events like the Walk the Barrio open night.

in 2008 an additional support to businesses wanting to install themselves in the district was launched by the city: [email protected] PLUS. Similarly Barcelona Activa, the city’s local development agency — with its Do it in Barcelona program — also played a strong role in supporting and promoting entrepreneurship and business incubators. Even though the planning of redevelopment and transformation has been severely delayed by the 2008 financial crisis the changes are visible to the eye and notable for all businesses in the district. Since the introduction of the renovation plans, on average 545 new businesses have been set up in the area.

Technological hub today

We at itnig aren’t the only ones to love the area of Poblenou and to have set up shop here. Like us about 400 other startups have decided to move their offices here. Barcelona attracts young people for its climate, for comparably lower costs of living and for its location in close proximity to the sea, the mountain as well as other European cities. Actually, the foreign population from the EU-28 is over-represented in this area, as compared to the whole of Barcelona.

In the Poblenou area you will find big companies like Edreams, Skyscanner, VICE Media but also those that have grown up to be big like Typeform, with their now close to 200 employees in their beautifully designed Bac de Roda offices. Close to the long-standing Encants markets, the new Design hub with a dedicated museum, the art promotion agency FAD and library and other public facilities has been erected.

For our startups as well, our strategic position in [email protected] has been an important part of attracting international talent. Barcelona itself attracts a lot of foreigners and is a good argument to move and of top of that [email protected] makes an even stronger case. Even outside of the city, the three letters of the district are easily recognized and associated with entrepreneurship, research and technology.

Where to go and what to do here today?

BAU School of Design

Part of the University of Vic the BAU Center for Design the design school offers pioneering courses in all kinds of design disciplines as for you as a passer-by interesting student exhibitions.

Codeworks

Codeworks is a coding bootcamp. Over three months selected students are immersed in an intensive, fully English-taught JavaScript course aimed at immediate application in the workplace after graduation. If you are just visiting the area, their events and conferences might be interesting for you.

La Escosesa

La Escosesa is a resident for artists offering different work spaces, halls and promotional help on a self-managed basis. If you are working, living or just visiting the area La Escosesa is well worth a stop!

itnig

Last but not least you have our very own space, itnig. More than an office or co-working space we see ourselves as an open ecosystem with events dedicated to learning, an open podcast to share ideas and a space ready to accommodate fellow entrepreneurs.

Buildings that withstood the test of time

The technology may be new in Poblenou but the area itself has been inhabited and used for a long time. To get a feeling for the past and observe the changes this area has undergone stroll through the streets holding your head up high. In the perpendicular passages on the west of Rambla del Poblenou you will come across factories turned into beautiful lofts and you will get a glimpse of the towers and smokestacks of the old Can Gili Vell factory. Similarly the once chemical factory ‘Valls, Teixidor i Jordana’ and Can Ricart merit a stop on your way through the district.

Can Ricart, a former factory measuring about 4 blocks of Eixample and waiting for its revitalization and incorporation into the Universitat de Barcelona campus dedicated to lifelong learning. Close by in the Poblenou park you will also come across the history museum (Museu de historia de Barcelona — MUI IBA) http://ajuntament.barcelona.cat/museuhistoria/ca), which features many more such examples of the development of the area.

Coffee shops to soak in the new urban atmosphere

Nomad Roaster’s

One of Barcelona’s biggests roasteries offers their doors to curious. With the intense scent of freshly ground coffee beans spilling out on the street you cannot resist .

Espai Joliu

Do you like plants and coffee equally? This is the place for you. After a small narrow entrance you will be surprised by the room opening up and the delicious cakes amidst this small urban jungle.

Skye Coffee

A coffee truck inside a big industrial hall and scattered chairs all around. Come here for a good coffee and an interesting place to contemplate or work.

Republic Cafe

A bit farther away from the main startup ongoings, on the southern end of Rambla del Poblenou you will find Republic Cafe with a cozy interior and a traditional terrace right on the Rambla itself.

Shopping & Strolling

For a more urban flair a stroll down Rambla del Poblenou is your first address. This avenue framed by trees winds down from Diagonal to the beach of Marbella and is a great point to soak in the more residential air of the neighborhood. Come here on a Saturday morning to buy fresh produce and artisanal products, have a coffee on one of the terraces observing people walking by or listening to one of the many street musicians, join the crowds of after work beer drinkers or venture out early in the morning like many of the local residents getting some exercise before heading to the office.

The hardships of recruiting developers

Every week we take half an hour to talk just about any topic that crossed our minds during the last days and create a podcast for you (Listen to it in Spanish here and subscribe to our feed). We call it an Open Mic Podcast as we want to invite different people to participate, new ideas to take form and to shed light on various experiences and perspectives on business development.

Recording Podcast #17 at itnig

Today’s topic is about growing our team: How to recruit and convince new team members to join us in our endeavours to create and offer new products. For this Podcast #17 we have invited Gerard Clos, developer at Factorial. Together with Jordi Romero, Masumi Mutsuda, César Migueláñez and Bettina Gross we speak about how each found their way to itnig and how we are identifying, selecting and convincing new people from all disciplines to join us.

Gerard first heard about the project exactly to the day one year ago when Pau reached out to him by email with the subject line ‘Employee #1 in a new startup in Barcelona’. At that time, Gerard was working at another startup and after a few beers with Pau and Jordi, a mutual positive feeling and interesting technological challenges explained he decided to join Factorial as the first employee.

“In the beginning when hiring the first employees, the whole team was involved in the process.”

After asking for support of our direct network, old colleagues and friends at a certain point in time you can no longer rely on this group for finding new talent. So we had to take another approach. Now at itnig we work with a small Talent Acquisition team that collaborates directly with the team looking for a new hire to be able to combine well organized processes, a throughout selection and the technical knowledge.

How to be sure of technical knowledge?

Of course we spend a lot of our time in the interview and screening process talking about the actual work, about the topics that will be part of everyday work reality but through words alone oftentimes it is hard to judge a person’s skills. That’s why we like to use technical tests and see them as a big part in our recruitment processes — no matter the profile.

“The technical test should test what the candidate will be doing on an every day basis instead of looking for errors or possible gaps.”

The technical test is important and it is tricky to get it right. It needs a balance of difficulty — not too easy but also not to difficult making the test seem unrelated to real life problems. It’s a complex topic as a technical test can also be badly received. A candidate might even get the feeling you’re asking for free work so we try to make it very clear that this test will not be used for our work.

“Make the test so obviously unusable that this thought might not even occur. Create a parallel universe to your startup to test for skills without giving room to suspicion.”

However in the end, no matter the times you have met in person, talked over the phone or slack — as some companies might suggest — it is hard to understand another human being. We can always be wrong or change with time.

If you are curious to hear more about the topic and to hear Gerard’s full story, listen to our Podcast #17 in Spanish here:

Listen to it in Spanish here or

Subscribe to our feed.

The mechanics of growth with ex-Gmail product manager Itamar Gilad

Exponential growth is what most startups are searching for, and something most entrepreneurs never experience.

Itamar Gilad has spent seven years at Google managing products at Youtube and Gmail and have in both cases experienced what most entrepreneurs are dreaming about: seeing growth in the hundreds of millions of users that genuinely love your product (you’re probably one of them).

This is not an in-depth post on growth, so if you feel you got the basics covered, I suggest you book a private lesson with Itamar. But if that’s not you, please continue reading.

The one metric that matters

The first things Itamar suggests is that you pick one metric to grow.

One of the biggest mistakes companies does, is not choosing exactly what to grow. You have to find the one metric that matter.

Facebook uses MAU’s, Gmail has WAU’s, Whatsapp measures “sent messages”, Airbnb “nights booked”, etc. Find your own metric, and choose it wisely. But make sure that the metric you’re measuring is connected to how much value you’re providing to the users.

1st, 2nd and 3rd tier metrics

When you’ve found the one metric that matter to you and learned how to properly measure it, you should try to discover your KPI’s and your proxy metrics.

The KPI’s (2nd tier metric) include measuring CLV, MRR, CTR, etc. The 3rd tier metric is tougher because it’s very company specific.

As you probably can imagine, it’s a bit tough to ask a team of developers: improve monthly active users, you need to figure out what smaller things are driving growth for your product?

All successful companies have these pivotal moments when they discover a proxy metric that ends up driving much more growth than they anticipated.

The only way to find these magic elements is by deep diving into your product, into what you call a discovery phase, and when you find your product market fit, you hopefully know the most effective triggers to your growth.

Find and start your growth engine

So how does this loop of positive feedback from your users look like? And how do you start your growth engine?

First, you got (1.) retention: People that goes through your acquisition funnel, becoming active users and coming back for more. This means that people are finding value in your product.

Then you got (2.) referrals: People that like your product so much that they’ll recommend it to other people in their network. This, word of mouth, is very powerful.

The third one is (3.) revenue: Everything from subscriptions to in-product purchases, etc. That you can sell to your users. The important factor here is that each user generates more revenue than what it costs to get that person through the acquisition funnel.

The only good way to start this engine and get it to run fast is by producing a product that instantly gives value to your users.

Itamar Gilad has worked with products at Gmail, Youtube, Microsoft and several other tech companies.

A fourth part of the virtues loop is something very few companies manage to really utilize, which is (4.) learning: While the engine is running, you use data from your users and your qualitative insights to learn how people go through the funnel, and how to optimize it to make more people slide through your funnel in a better way.

Template for growth

  • Choose one metric that matters to you and your team — let it be your north star.
  • Identify proxy metrics and build a growth model
  • Picture right growth engines (like above: retention+referrals+revenue)
  • Optimize for your OMTM with research and experiments
  • Focus on (demonstrable) value to user

REMEMBER: This was a brief rundown of Itamar’s talk, full talk here.


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