By Margo Apostoleris
June 17, 2015: Max Nova (YC ’12, YEI ’10), cofounder of SilviaTerra, recently spent some time talking to Fellows at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. He shared his thoughts about what he’s learned in building a company, goals and working remotely.
YEI: If you could time travel and give advice to yourself when just starting out, what would you say?
Max: I would have worried less about IP and more about selling to customers! We did a pretty good job of getting our first dollars as quickly as possible, but in retrospect I would have dedicated even more time to selling and learning more about the needs of our customers.
YEI: What were the trickiest things about making the transition from student to full-time entrepreneur?
Max: I stayed in school while I was working on SilviaTerra. Both my schoolwork and SilviaTerra work suffered a bit as a result, but it kept my overall life/career risk very low. By the time I graduated, I was already working 60 hours a week on SilviaTerra, so the only difference after graduation was that I didn't have to worry about writing essays about comparative ancient law!
YEI: How many employees do you currently have? What’s your revenue?
Max: We're a team of seven now, including five Yalies from Yale College, School of Management and Forestry and Environmental Studies. My lawyers have threatened to beat me if I disclose revenue!
YEI: Tell us how you are able to manage a remote workforce.
Max: I did trans-Atlantic long-distance with my girlfriend (now wife) for six years. At this point, I'd say that remote is one of my core competencies! Having a remote company is great because it allows us to hire the absolute best people, avoid a bunch of overhead, and gives us lots of flexibility. It does certainly come with challenges, but we've found that the key things to making remote work are:
* Quarterly in-person "All-Hands" meetings at great locations
* Using Asana to plan/track/execute EVERYTHING
* All-Hands weekly review on Google Hangouts
* Weekly one-on-ones between founders and the team
YEI: What are your long-term goals for SilviaTerra?
Max: Right now we're focused on getting forest managers great data. The next step is to build tools to help foresters turn that better data into better decisions. In five years, we'd love to be able say that "American forestry runs on SilviaTerra."
YEI: How has YEI impacted you and your business goals for Silviaterra?
Max: YEI connected us with some great mentors. I can't say enough good things about the help we've gotten from them.
MARGO APOSTOLERIS is a student at Hope College and an intern at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.