Aaron Batalion

Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON January 15, 2016

Discussion

Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
Hi! I'm Aaron Batalion, now a Partner at LightSpeed, focused on early stage consumer companies. Previously, I was Cofounder and 1st CTO at LivingSocial, where I built the team from 4 to 4000 people across 25 countries and to billions in sales. I'm also a huge fan of ProductHunt. Ask me anything!
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Welcome, Aaron! LivingSocial exploded from 4 to 4k as you mention. That must have been wild. What's your biggest learning and what might you have done differently during that hyper growth?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@rrhoover My biggest learning from growing LivingSocial from 4 friends to 4 thousand people across 30 countries is the people and the culture matter more than the product you build. If you look at the history of LivingSocial, there were a dozen or so "companies" we built with the same team, each one succeeding or failing in their own ways. The original name of the company is HungryMachine, which I coined to represent what we actually built: the team/culture/experience to execute on new ideas. I've always believed that a successful startup is first a gathering of incredible humans... who happen to work well together to build to a product. When we forgot that, we stumbled.
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Konnichiwa. I understand you spent time in Japan. How do you think your time in Japan has shaped your perspective? And what is your favorite hidden gem in Japan (a place, a park, a restaurant)?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@corleyh In high school, I played sports but my after school job was building a trading platform for a local commodities broker (www.eggs.org). I received a full scholarship to college and knew I'd study Computer Science, but thought creatively how else to spend the university's money. To do that, I lived in Japan for over a year to complete my second degree in Asian Studies with a focus on Eastern Religion and Japanese. I spent time in a monastery while living there and it shaped my view of humanity, happiness and personal responsibility. One of my favorite gems if you love the outdoors is Yakushima, a small barely-inhabited island off the southern coast of Japan. The island is mostly a national forest, home to the Yaku-sugi cedar trees, which grow to 500m tall and are incredible. I loved hiking through those forests. It's one of the most beautiful places in the world. If you dont believe me, do a google image search. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ya... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ya...
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@abatalion what is your favourite moment from working at LivingSocial in the early days? Do you miss anything about the craziness of being in such a high growth state-up during that early period?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@ems_hodge My favorite early memories are what I fondly remember at "battles". For example, before the local commerce business, we built viral Facebook applications, back when that was cool to do. One of those apps was called PickYour5. It grew from 0 to 40M users in 3 weeks. We had a team of 5 or 6 people on the tech team, and we worked in shifts around the clock. This was before AWS magically scaled everything for you btw. :) One day, our traffic flatlined and we pulled our hair out trying to figure out why. We checked every layer of the stack, dozens of times. Turns out we maxed out connections on a firewall in our datacenter. We quickly replaced it with one 4 times as big, and the next day we maxed that one out too. Those crazy/stressful/exciting/wtf moments are what I remember most fondly. Its the bonds built amongst my team that I will always remember.
Cuan-Chai Megghross@iamcuan · Angel Investor, Brainyloft
What's your favorite book?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@iamcuan I have many favorite books, but as a child, my favorite was: The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren. I must have read it a dozen times as a child and the same copy is still on a bookshelf behind me as I write this.
Cuan-Chai Megghross@iamcuan · Angel Investor, Brainyloft
@abatalion How will recreational marijuana in places like Colorado, Washington and Oregon impact the way Living Social does business there?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@iamcuan I cant comment on LivingSocial today as I haven't been involved in many years. That said, the legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana across the US will generate many opportunities for startups as well as tax revenue which states are spending on improving education. I'm a fan of both outcomes.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's something you used to believe that you now see as fundamentally misguided? 3 questions - From perspective of operator, investor, and human :)
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi Aaron! What have been the biggest lessons you've learned about consumer behavior and how to make people commit/buy?
Wahyu Kristianto@kristories · @kristories
Hi @abatalion, 4k people from different countries and cultures is a difficult thing. LivingSocial hire smart people. How do you manage people who have more experience or more knowledge? How do you coach them if you don’t have the same level of expertise?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@kristories When the company starts, the founders do everything. As you scale, you repeatedly replace some aspect of your responsibility with someone more capable than you. If you're doing it right, everyone is the room is better than you at something. As a CTO, I often weighed in on technical direction... but most conversations were about focus, priorities, culture, and the vision driving us forward, all unrelated to a person's level of expertise.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Which product(s) in LSVP's portfolio do you wish every PH user knew about?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@andrewmettinger There are many incredible companies in our portfolio: http://lsvp.com/portfolio/ That said, many of my favorites are recent deals in stealth. I'd rather our companies stay quiet & focus on execution.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Most underrated skill? Overrated skill?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@eriktorenberg Of people I meet, an underrated skill is authenticity, to yourself and to others. It's what I highly value in all personal/professional relationships.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@abatalion what do you look for in an early stage founder / company when making a decision about investing?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@ems_hodge What I look for in founders is: authenticity. creativity. and incredibly high IQ, EQ, and GSDQ, aka get-shit-done-Q.
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hello @abatalion Great to meet you here for this AMA. What were the challenges you faced growing Living Social to local markets?
Milad@milad_zabihi · Entrepreneur
@abatalion You succeeded in a really crowded space of similar businesses. What worked most for you in terms of getting ahead of your competition ? Tnx
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@milad_zabihi LivingSocial was able to get to scale because of our culture, which is actually what I'm most proud of. The times we stumbled as a team are when we forgot how we achieved what we did. LivingSocial Culture ------------------ Live Hungry - Be aggressive. Have an appetite to learn, test, and do more. Be an entrepreneur. Move fast. Make Strong Moves - Be nervous about some decisions. Take smart risks. Look for original ways to make a big difference. Champion Good Ideas - Stand behind an idea, even if small, that can accelerate the company. Rely on results and be open to change. Recognize Others - Show respect. Be honest. Work together. Praise those who go the extra mile or push the limits. Surprise and Delight - Deliver great experiences. Take an opportunity to do the unexpected. Ask how good can be great.
Justin Kwong@justinckwong · Founder @ ISM (ism-sf.com)
@abatalion When do you think the second wave of LBSN and discounts for brick and mortar businesses will be? How will this look different from daily deals?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@justinckwong The space is constantly evolving, and I don't have a pulse on what either company is doing today as I haven't been involved (and have tried not to think about) local commerce in 3+ years.. The CPF (cost per foot) model of small businesses paying only for a customer who walked through the door was innovative at the time. The prior pitch these folks heard was from phone book and radio sales people: Pay me $1k and cross your fingers. For something else to scale to that level again, an entirely new model has to be created. Also, you may not remember, but my industry got to scale quickly b/c the Facebook Ads platform had just launched. Local geo-targeted ads based on interests with the blended discount of social virality did not really exist on the internet prior to that. Being a FB platform company prior to attacking local commerce, we knew that platform better than most.
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
What is your favorite Hunt of all time on Product Hunt?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@katesegrin One of my favorites was Be My Eyes. https://www.producthunt.com/tech...
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
Who are some of the people who have made the biggest impact on your life? (Stories, please!)
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@katesegrin As a teenager I attended the local YMCA. I'd play in the gym with my friends, but had a fascination with computers and didn't have access to one at home. They had a few and I'd learn every DOS command inside and out. I got in trouble a few times for opening up the box when no one was looking, just to see what was inside. When other folks had problems with the machines, I'd be the help. Not because I actually knew how to fix the problem, but I was confident I couldn't figure it out before they could. The CEO of the YMCA noticed, took me under his wing, and at like 12yo I became the IT department for the whole building. We got to know each other well, he became a mentor and later on had a real impact on my life.
akbar786@seo@akbar7861 · SEO
@abatalion Hey i am searching best jv product to launch what do u suggest ?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@akbar7861 I don't understand the question.
akbar786@seo@akbar7861 · SEO
@abatalion @akbar7861 I want launch Udemy course any hint about this ?
Scott Balster@scottbalster · Follow along with me as I take on The #H
@abatalion Have you ever considered a daily deals on temporary work? Like where a company could hire a programmer and try them out for 8 hours at a deep discount...
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@scottbalster I don't believe this is a good use of discounting. Most of our interviews including real work product creation (coding/design/etc). At the very beginning we would pay the individual for the day at a normal wage, but that didn't last long.
Cuan-Chai Megghross@iamcuan · Angel Investor, Brainyloft
@abatalion How do you schedule and organize your day to ensure maximum productivity?
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
@iamcuan now as a VC, I spend most of my time with founders and early stage companies. It's very easy to let your calendar fill with meetings, which I believe is playing defense. I instead try to block off personal time on a daily basis to be proactive/offensive. A larger version I learned from a friend is to take a "personal offsite" - away from your regular routine/space, go somewhere new and think/plan/create. This is mostly derived from Paul Grahams Maker/Manager schedule. http://paulgraham.com/makerssche...