After hearing that Jukka Hassinen, the ex-CEO of Brain Alliance was hired as the CTO of DealDash, I became curious what factors led him to join the young company when he clearly had many options open as one of the leading PHP developers in Finland. Hassinen was brought on board as a guru and CTO to help DealDash scale. Since DealDash’s platform is written in PHP, bringing a seasoned PHP expert like Jukka was an important strategic move for the startup.
Hassinen actually founded one of the first PHP developers groups in Finland. He’s been working with software development most of his life, first in his own startup, Brain Alliance and later at Soprano Plc, the company that acquired his startup. Helping services scale is nothing new to Jukka: during his career he has consulted on that subject startups like Design Story, as well as larger Finnish e-commerce sites and portals. In fact, Hassinen and William Wolfram, DealDash’s founder and CEO, have known each other through similar consulting work.
DealDash’s biggest struggle at the moment is scale. The service has been steadily acquiring new users while simultaneously focusing on user retention metrics. Together these factors have put some strain on their original hacked-together code.
DealDash's research has shown the main complaint its users have with competing penny auction sites are lags and delays in time while bidding. “If a customer submits a bid on their computer but the bid is not registered in time for technical reasons, you can easily lose that customer because they’re unhappy”, comments Hassinen. “While other sites have lags that can last up to seconds, DealDash needs to get our lags down to the millisecond range while simultaneously allowing the site to scale.”
Penny auctions are fighting an uphill battle to prove their legitimacy, so when these bids don't register it can really breed mistrust with users -- a major issue DealDash is trying to avoid. "We want to get it so that if you're on the phone and bidding with a friend, everyone sees the bids at exactly the same time," adds Wolfram.
I figured being the CEO of your own software consultancy and coming in as a CTO to an established company would be very similar -- you come in and you make the code better. But Jukka immediately corrected me to say it's actually a very different mindset.
“During my consulting work our team solved interesting problems for customers, but there was no sense of meaningful ownership in the code. We worked hard for our customers but there was a long-term planning element missing from the work”, says Hassinen. “In contrast, this has been the most rewarding part of joining DealDash so far -- that sense that you own the product and are responsible to take care of it and help it grow.”