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In the latest instalment of our interviews speaking to leaders throughout the world of IT and tech, we’ve welcomed the CTO and co-founder of Tattle, Jeremy Zaborowski to share his insights on cofounding Tattle, how has his role as CTO of a startup quickly evolved and what the future holds for him.

For the last 6 years, Jeremy and his team have created a unique customer experience feedback platform designed around Open API and micro-service concepts, focusing on powerful integrations and customer-led innovation.

Tell us about the business you represent, how did the idea come about to found your enterprise? What is the vision?

Tattle is a customer experience improvement platform for multi-location brands aimed at driving incremental improvements with powerful tools and targeted insights. We believe that each location within a larger brand has unique challenges and opportunities and their tools should be tailored accordingly.

In 2015, the goal was to replace the paper comment card and mystery shopper programs. Our tagline was simple, “Tattle. The digital comment card”. We knew that a lot of customers wanted to give constructive feedback during their dining experience but didn’t want to make a scene or risk getting someone in trouble. Giving them the chance to leave feedback digitally, unlocked a trove of helpful, honest feedback for our customers.

Our big shift occurred a couple of years later when our customers were all saying the same thing; “We get so much more data now, but what do we do with it?” This was our call to action, and we responded by rebuilding our platform, with a focus on actionability and improvement.

Our vision is to empower every employee from the cashier to the CEO. We approach this by offering a different experience based on different user roles.

What notable IT challenges have you overcome?

I think our biggest challenge has been adapting to the volume of data we collect, parse and aggregate in real-time. Increasing our actionable data volume by over 500x in 3 years has required us to rethink our system architecture.

With hundreds of millions of rows of data, our traditional OLTP database, MariaDB, was failing to keep up. Our largest brands were experiencing painfully slow queries that powered some of our most important insights.

About 6 months ago we added Clickhouse, an extremely fast open-source OLAP columnar database, into our stack. We use Clickhouse as a secondary data store while maintaining MariaDB as our record of truth.

With Clickhouse in place, we were able to bring queries down from over 2 minutes to just 2 seconds. Being able to run real-time aggregations of 20,000,000 rows in a couple of seconds has been an absolute game-changer.

How has your business adapted during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Since 2018, Tattle has been focused on collecting customer feedback through digital channels like online ordering and loyalty apps. Before the pandemic, we had established some great integrations with key providers in the online ordering space. This put us in a position to help a lot of brands manage their major shift from 20% online ordering to nearly 100% during the peak of Covid-19.

For a lot of brands, their product was never designed for take-out and delivery, and they had nothing in place to monitor how their product was holding up.

With our integrations, we were able to collect crucial feedback from their customers, which was used to make real-time adjustments to online ordering setups, meal packaging, and even menu configurations. It turns out, some items that are top performers in-store are awful delivery items. If you weren’t connected to your customers, you’d never know.

What are your plans to expand your service?

We are lucky because customer feedback is crucial for every successful customer-facing business, regardless of the vertical. So while we’ve primarily focused our efforts on the Restaurant and Dining vertical, we've identified several subsequent verticals that we can expand into without changing our product.

Being the CTO, what do your day-to-day responsibilities look like?

As the CTO of a growing startup, my daily responsibilities have changed a lot over the years. Not long ago, my day was 80% coding, 10% strategy, and 10% meetings. Now that I’m surrounded by a talented team of engineers and product people, it’s a much larger focus on culture, mentorship, strategy, and planning.

The first part of my day is spent connecting with the engineering team, ensuring they are armed with the information needed to be successful. We’ve built a great culture of mentorship at Tattle and it’s critical that I lead by example.

With a growing focus on integrations and technical partnerships, I’m on a lot of calls evaluating opportunities and conceptualizing solutions.

How do you think the role of CTO has evolved in the last five, ten, fifteen years?

I think an entirely new class of CTO has emerged in the past 10-15 years. There is the traditional CTO you find at large, established corporations which you can imagine as large battleships. But now there is a tremendous amount of first-time CTOs at the helm of fledgling startups. These are small but agile speedboats.

They have the potential to outmanoeuvre the larger ships, but they can just as easily be sunk by the ships or the waves of the market.

Small teams, short deadlines, and market pressure require you to be hyper-focused on two things if you want to stay above water; building a passionate team of contributors and owning the product vision.

As you grow your team from 2 to 20 you have to spend more time than you’d imagine on creating a culture and hiring the right people. A team of engaged, empowered engineers that have a sense of ownership and accountability will propel your company at break-neck speeds so it’s important to know where you’re going.

You can’t navigate the startup waters successfully if you let every customer, stakeholder, or potential customer control your product vision. Being able to say “no” for the sake of the product is crucial because you don’t have the wiggle room to build the wrong feature at the wrong time.

Artificial Intelligence combined with thoughtful, simple user interfaces is resulting in some amazing advancements in the industry right now. Boiling billions of data points down into traditional charts and graphs drastically reduce the impact of that data.

The most powerful, meaningful insights may never be discovered. However, if you feed that data to well-crafted neural networks you can unlock entirely new experiences that turn average users into superheroes.

What can we hope to see from your business in the future?

Tattle has big plans for the future. We’ve made it a lot easier for brands to learn from their mistakes, but now we want to prevent those mistakes from happening in the first place. While I can’t go into specifics, we have plans to incorporate a lot more AI and ML including deep neural nets, computer vision, and NLG (natural language generation).

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