Meet Vasanth Subramanian. From budding physicist to a career in product development, Vas’s love of technology and gadgets led him to creating his own digital solutions to address problems in the home, ultimately joining HomeHero in 2020 as Lead Technical Product Manager.
What brought you to HomeHero?
The vision that our founder Kenny Alegbe has developed around the meaning of the category “Home as a Service” is essentially one I’ve also shared for the past five years. The idea of bringing together a group of payments and services, and making the experience of living in a property as great as possible, is a space I feel contains a huge opportunity. It’s what started me on my own entrepreneurial journey in the first place. When I was given the opportunity to join a company that aligned with the vision I also had as a founder, it was a fairly straightforward decision!
What was your first step towards solving the problem you saw in the home?
In 2014 I was already in the startup scene in London. It was around that time that I and my eventual co-founder, Nick Katz, started discussing the problem we wanted to solve. Our thesis was that there was a lot of technology addressing the transition period between two homes, helping people find properties and move in. However, we were interested in what happens once you are actually in a property. We wanted to look at the lifecycle of being in a property and what goes into the management of your home. From user research, managing finances felt like a widespread issue, especially at the younger end of the rental market where people have to go through the pain over and over again of bill splitting. Every third person we spoke to had a story about falling out with a flatmate over money. The question to answer was: How could we make shared finances as easy an experience as possible once people have moved in?
How did you meet your co-founder?
I met Nick at the Open Data Institute in Shoreditch. It’s an organisation that was founded in 2012 by the inventor of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee and artificial intelligence expert Sir Nigel Shadbolt. The whole mission is to bring together public sector departments, private sector, and academia to try and find great reasons and use cases to do with data sets being opened up and shared to drive innovation in society. I had been working on a few projects to do with open data sets and had a desk at ODI for a few months. Nick also had a desk there, working as the sole Europe rep of a US tech company in commercial real estate. We overlapped in the space for six or seven months so got to know each other organically and luckily realised we shared an interest in the property space and exploring the opportunities with home services.
The co-founder relationship is such an interesting, fairly intense one. We always described each other as our second wives. You share a lot of hardship and celebrations, and it takes work. One of the best things we did was work with a business mentor who helped us look at how we could make our founder relationship as strong as it could be, and focus on how our strengths and weaknesses could complement each other. I recommend Lloyd to anyone facing those challenges.
How did you find making the move from founder to employee?
When I was making the transition to HomeHero, one of the things people asked a lot was “What’s it going to be like going from being your own boss to working for somebody else?” My response was that I don’t think it’s all that different. Even when you’re the founder, you’re not a dictator or solitary island with completely free rein over what you’re doing. You’re answerable to your investors, your customer base and your team. You have pressures that keep you accountable and that keep you working in service of all those things; not just yourself. Even though you’re steering the ship, it’s still a ship that has other people and things on it. The fact that what we’re building with HomeHero so closely aligns with what I think we need in the world has made that transition even easier.
Where would you like to take the HomeHero product?
Some people have a misconception that when it comes to building products, you have a pre-formed idea that you just bring to life. Not so. With product development, it’s much more of a journey, as opposed to having an idea in the founder’s head and then spending time making it happen. A good way to think about the process of creating products is the idea of “adjacent rooms”. When you’re building a product you start off in a space where you understand the problems and what sort of thing should exist. The longer you spend in the room with that problem, the more you get a sense of potential doors that lead to adjacent rooms. You can’t see what exists ten rooms away, but you can get a clearer sense of the next door rooms, and focus on making sure you open the right door to progress to the next stage.
With HomeHero, my hope for the arc that we go on over the next few years is one that makes the experience of living in a home as easy and stress-free for a resident as we’re able to do. That means taking care of things to do with bills, payments, and services, and managing things people don’t have the time or inclination to do. In practice, do I think someday we could be letting people in to help with your grocery shop? Maybe. Do I think we could be helping hang up a picture in your home? Sure. There are a lot of things it could involve but creating a truly meaningful service very much depends on who our customers are and what would make their lives better.
Can you recommend a couple of books that have been game-changers?
Inspired, by Marty Cagan. This discusses the elements that go into building great products, and how to think about the process behind them.
The Mom Test, by Rob Fitzpatrick. It’s such an easily understandable philosophy that uncovered a lot of insight on my product journey.
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