Hardly Headliners Ep.1: Founders talk about Professional Life
In this episode “Hardly Headliners”, meet the founders: CEO, Allison Braund-Harris and CTO, Roger Harris. Hardly Content Creator Leigh Hall learns more about them, both personally and professionally! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyLKR6lpF3w Transcript Allison: Hi, I’m Allison, CEO of Hardly. Roger: And I’m Roger, the CTO, and we’re excited to answer some questions. Leigh: Hey guys it’s Leigh here, content creator for Hardly […]
Allison: Hi, I’m Allison, CEO of Hardly.
Roger: And I’m Roger, the CTO, and we’re excited to answer some questions.
Leigh: Hey guys it’s Leigh here, content creator for Hardly and today I’m going to be talking with Allison and Roger. So thank you guys for being our first Hardly Headliners— a series where we ask special guests 17 questions to get to know them better personally and professionally. So let’s get started!
1. As a kid I used to think that life would be perfect if I could just eat dessert before dinner. So I’m curious, what are your favorite sweets?
Roger: So I love a good New York style cheesecake. I’m weird where i just like it plain no toppings. Just give me that cheesecake and a good crust.
Allison: Yeah, he’s a vanilla guy and I’m kind of the “load everything up as much as possible” — even if it doesn’t really go well together. I’ve learned the hard way. Just the other day I paired blackberries with chocolate mint cookies and just don’t… just don’t do it.
2. If you could describe Hardly in one word, what would it be?
Allison: Simplicity. We want to make people’s life more simple.
Roger: That’s a good word. I honestly can’t think of a better one.
3. Hardly Headliners, what’s the most frustrating and most pleasant thing about working remotely?
Roger: One of the things I love is the sort of ease of being able to communicate with people.
even though that is spread across multiple apps one of the things I really miss is just that in-person uh communication and contact and hanging out with people at the lunch table
Allison: The spontaneity of interactions and shared experiences. Like being able to listen to the same music. All of that. I miss it. And I just love the fact that I can really decompress throughout the day. As an introvert, I feel like that’s really important and if you work in the office you never really have that decompression time.
4. Hardly’s tagline is workdays just got a whole lot better. What’s one thing that makes your workday better?
Roger: I don’t know… for me, it’s that first cup of cold brew in the morning that always starts my workday off well.
Allison: And for me, it’s the fifth cup of coffee in the morning. I used to listen to brown noise all the time when I was working and then I found a few different companies… um… what’s the one that it’s like flow tunes or something it focused the name of it but it saves my life and I no longer have to listen to just brown noise all throughout the day but I can still concentrate
5. When and where did you come up with the idea for Hardly? And be specific!
Allison: People have this vision of entrepreneurship that there’s like this eureka moment and you go and make it happen. When in reality you have a general idea of a problem and then you have to validate that and then you need to validate that there is a problem with the audience and then you have to validate that you’re creating a solution to fit that problem so really there wasn’t one moment but I think that it evolved over time
6. Headliners, there are a lot of products that have come out since the pandemic began. What gap do you see in the market or what need isn’t being met?
Roger: I think for me it goes back to that sort of physicality of interacting with people we have zoom we have a bunch of different video conferencing apps but all of them very much feel like you’re on display, uh you’re kind of putting on a show. — So something that would allow people to be a bit more social, and is a bit more laid back.
Allison: When everything is communicated over the computer, all of a sudden things that are super not important, like “50% off sales” get the exact same level of importance as, “help I need a file in 20 minutes!” It’s really difficult to prioritize that information when you only are working with a two-dimensional space.
7. Hardly Headliners, who are your technology mentors and why?
Allison: Steve Jobs. Just kidding!
Roger: That’s a tough one— the one the first one that springs to mind is actually my old boss Eddie because he was super smart super-capable. But also very down to earth. Would play chess games with you and he taught me a lot. He’s kind of somebody I want to become more like in my CTO position. Just being that mentor but also being very technically capable.
Allison: Kayla Matheus is a former CEO. And just a rock star in terms of hardware and behavior. Really just a great mentor to us. She’s been fabulous, as well as Carlos Lemas who we’ve been talking with since September and you’ve known for a decade. Oh my god, he’s been so patient with all of my dumb questions over the past seven or eight months.
I think we’re just focused on surrounding ourselves with smarter people than us and if we listen to them we’ll be okay.
Roger: but also Steve Jobs.
8. Starting a company isn’t for everyone. What’s the best part about being an entrepreneur?
Allison: When I came out of college I expected adulthood to give me more control, but it actually took a lot of my control away. All of a sudden, I had no ability to say, “well, I need to really take a breather I’m going to come in at 10.” That was out of my power, and I don’t want that to just be within my own power— I want to make sure that everyone in our company has the ability to set their own schedule work as hard as they need to and as little as they need to some days. Basically, I am creating the company that I really wish that I had when I was 22, and I’ve been struggling with to gain that autonomy for the past decade or so.
Roger: For me, it would probably be working on something you really are truly passionate about. It’s possible to do that without being in a startup or being an entrepreneur, however, sometimes it can be difficult to find the right company or even get accepted into that company. And so for me, being able to create something that I really love that I think is gonna help people— that I’m very passionate about is very rewarding for me.
9. If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Roger: Such a hard this is such a difficult question, uh, I don’t think I could. I honestly don’t think I could.
Allison: You’d rather live in silence?
Roger: Yeah I would rather live in silence than be stuck listening to one song for the rest of my life because that one song would get very tiring very quickly whatever it is.
Allison: hmm..brown noise.
Roger: I was thinking about that.
Allison: (laughter) just brown noise for the rest of my life. Yeah, I think it was Spotify’s year-in-review one year. We looked back and it was like your most-listened-to song: “brown noise.”
This might be cheesy but I think it would be “Here Comes the Sun” because it’s positive, it doesn’t have any grating points to where I think it would annoy the crap out of me over time.
10. Who is the Hardly Dash for?
Roger: It is for people who want simplicity in their day of remote work — people who want to be more focused and more optimal in their working life.
Allison: if you’re the type that really needs prioritization of information— the stuff that you can’t ignore. Hardly Dash won’t let you ignore something that’s super important but will filter out all the stuff that’s not.
11. What’s your favorite productivity app?
Roger: I would say my favorite productivity app is probably Slack because it’s kind of a bit of everything in one— which is a good thing and a bad thing. But it does allow me to do my work, share files, have social chat with friends, make calls, video calls, and play games. A little bit of everything,
Allison: I wish that Zapier was my favorite app but it’s not. Like, I want it to save my life, but it breaks all the time.
12. So Hardly recently was a semi-finalist in the SXSW pitch competition. What was your experience creating a pitch video?
Allison: We were we were actually a semi-finalist in the AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup competition and an alternate in the SXSW pitch competition. We had a debate around whether or not we should try to pitch together and or if I should just run with it. It’s really hard to pitch together. Within you know just a minute— which is what we had for SXSW and a 3-min pitch for AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup—you have to synchronize so tightly in order to to get 2 people into a pitch. So we just decided that it’d be best if I took it on.
It’s difficult because you feel the pressure to really say all that you can about the company, but it’s only 3 minutes so you have to prioritize. And of course, there are going to be things that you leave out because of that. My goal is that if we can just get people interested enough they’ll want to learn about all the other stuff that we had to leave out along the way.
13. Who was the most inspiring speaker at SXSW?
Allison: I really love Debbie Millman’s talk on the future of work and what she felt like she lost and gained and the pandemic. She’s always a really amazing speaker if you do not listen to her Design Matters podcast you should!
14. What was your experience talking with investors virtually?
Allison: I think that we do have all of the tools at our fingertips to share our deck and collaborate and show off our product online and I don’t know if we would be able to do that a year ago because I would be worried that the investor may not be comfortable with the Zoom and all of these things. But now that we’re all comfortable it’s kind of amazing being able to move from one investor meeting to another back to back to back to back when before I would have to go to their offices and basically worry myself to death about the commute getting there.
15. Did you have any ah-ha moments during the conference?
Allison: It was when we organized the SXSW pitch happy hour and we got to interact socially with a lot of the other SXSW pitchers— of course, over Zoom. And oh my god, it was just this moment of “wow, these people are so intelligent. so smart holy crap how did we get into this at all.” Major imposter syndrome.
Roger: Definitely agree, I’m more just amazed at the work that people are doing in this sphere of like technology and culture and improving society and really everything I mean if we are of course looking to improve remote work which affects a lot of people but these people were solving climate crises um social injustice crises and everything in between it was really amazing to be part of that.
16. Hardly Headliners— What is your favorite feature of the Hardly Dash?
Roger: Just having a button that allows you to mute yourself in meetings. It seems way too complicated the hotkeys across the different apps are all different. You think it should be “M” for mute, it’s not, so just having that physical key that also shows with the led lights whether you are muted or not I think is going to be a big help.
Allison: The LED lights around the Dash really signal you in a variety of different ways from across the room. We can actually catch your attention close up and make sure that you are aware of something that that really needs your focus. So we’re creating that prioritization of information, and that visual signaling to even other people in your home. So they know that when you’re muted or unmuted so they can actually come up and talk to you.
17. Lastly, I gotta know… who’s nerdier?
Allison: This is an endless battle.
Roger: It is, and I think we have come to the conclusion that we are both incredibly nerdy in different ways. I’m a big nerd when it comes to video games, music, I love D&D, and you…
Allison: I’ve been talking. You tell them what I’m better at.
Roger: I’ll tell you she’s a much bigger sci-fi and fantasy nerd. Big book nerd. We both love coming together in that sphere of sci-fi and fantasy and movies and TV shows. We both cosplay when we went to Comic-Con and Dragon-Con.
Allison: We will continue to go to. and we also went to BookCon multiple years in a row and that was my fault.
Roger: I supported you then.
Allison: Yes, it was actually a much calmer conference than Comic-Con— same genuine nerdiness, but much calmer.
Leigh: Yeah, thanks so much for talking with us. Hope you guys enjoy getting to know the CEO and CTO of Hardly. To learn more, check out our blog at hardly-work.com and don’t forget to press the like button or drop a comment if you want more video content from the Hardly team. Until next time!
Roger: I think that’s a wrap.
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