My Week: Mark Rock of Audioboo

The technology entrepreneur on early starts, Stephen Fry, and bribing employees.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010
I normally get up at around 6 o’clock in the morning with my three-year-old twins. We’re actually in quite a small house in Crystal Palace at the moment which means I don’t have a desk so I will stand up in the kitchen to check my emails while the twins eat their breakfast – or harass the dog. I’ve also got a five year old as well but she gets up a bit later, by which point it’s fairly manic.

I head to the office in town every day but I don’t get in until about 10 as I take the kids on the school run first. This gives my wife a bit of a much-needed break and I usually don’t get home until around 8pm so it gives me a chance to spend a bit of time with the kids.

On Monday at 10am we have a team meeting to kick-start the week. This will usually include the whole team. There are seven of us now: four developers and three commercial. It will be a loose catch-up about what kind of engineering issues have arisen, and also what potential commercial opportunities have come in. We run a very agile management process, which is focused on results and communication rather than more formal stuff – an approach which seems to work. We’ll be sat there for half an hour or 45 minutes - we’re not big on meetings.

I’ll usually get home at about 8pm at which point if the kids are still up I’ll read them a bed time story and then I will probably do some more work until Newsnight comes on at 10.30. It’s the only TV programme I watch. I don’t even watch QI where Stephen Fry shows off Audioboo at the start of each of his shows. I’ve got to know Stephen quite well since I contacted him via Twitter in the early days and he agreed to be a Beta tester for us. He ‘boos’ [to make a sound recording which is then uploaded to the Audioboo website and posted on Twitter] all the time now. He even did us a birthday Boo in March. He is pretty much the best celebrity endorser we could hope for.
Wednesday’s management meeting is generally a bit more structured. I’ll write a management report and then myself, the commercial officer and our new business director will discuss any issues. We try to keep them to half an hour – I’m not one for chewing the cud, I’m one for doing things. So it’s really just to be able to keep a tab on what people have promised to do, what opportunities have come up, what issues we’re facing. I think a catch up like that is really important for a small business.

Throughout the course of the week I’ll probably speak to a couple of our investors. We took some strategic investors on board last September including UBC Media, Imagination Technologies as well as a couple of angel investors including ex-LSE boss Don Cruickshank, who is now our chairman and is full of useful advice.

I’ve always said I’m crap at everything, but I’m good at bits of it. So my skills are about being able to bring disparate skillsets together. The commercial people always bitch about the developers and vice versa, and my role is to create a virtuous circle. I understand enough technology to be able to talk to developers, but I also understand enough creatively to make sure it looks nice, and I also understand the commercial imperatives. I’m the glue, I suppose. But I’m not very good at anything really. I just steal their thunder.

Every Friday we have a team lunch, but that’s mainly a bribe so that I can pay for their lunch and a drink in order to harass them about things that are on my mind. This is a strategy which seems to work very well. One of the things about developers is that they’re always so busy it’s very difficult to talk to them during the normal working day. And if I do try to talk to them they’re quite likely to tell me to F-off. So Friday lunches are a good little reward for all their hard work, but it’s also a little bribe to get them to work on my pet projects. But it works. Get a glass of wine in them and they’ll agree to anything.

Mark Rock is the founder of Audioboo, a recording tool which allows uses to use their mobile device to record, upload and share geotagged audio.

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