As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cassy Aite.
Cassy is a Co-Founder and the CEO of Hoppier. He started his first company at the age of 12 with his brother, Emil. Cassy is a lifelong learner and investor; investing in startups, art, and more. Since founding Hoppier in 2016, the company has grown to become the #1 Stipend Management Software and one of the fastest growing start-ups with customers across North America like Uber, Ryerson University, Notarize, and more.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I grew up very entrepreneurial starting several companies with my brother, Emil. Technology, science, and business were always interesting to me. The first company we started was when I was 12 and Emil was 10. We built custom bicycles and did tune ups for kids in the neighborhood. I ended up studying Finance at the University of Ottawa where I was the President of the University Investment Club and played for the Men’s soccer team. After graduating I went on to work at Ernst & Young in their IT Risk Advisory Practice consulting for both the private on public sector. After a few years working for EY I moved to Germany and did sales for a multinational research consulting company. While consulting was interesting, I missed the feeling of building something to benefit others and being a part of the implementation and beyond. At the time, Emil was working at Shopify and saw a huge need for Hoppier as he saw the challenges of scaling culture building programs.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The funniest mistake is probably when we first tried running ads in late 2016. We spent $3,000 in a week and we had tons of website impressions but we just weren’t getting any leads. It wasn’t until we looked deeper that we discovered our lead form was broken — so people that were trying to get a demo of our software couldn’t enter their email address. At the time $3,000 seemed like an incredible amount of money but it was a lesson we won’t forget.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Personally, Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People was probably the best thing I read to improve as a person and live a happier life. It helped me to be more patient and communicate better in both business and my personal relationships.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
It is always better to have a purpose because as an entrepreneur the journey is such a rollercoaster. You and your early team need to have internal motivation to persevere during the toughest moments. When we started Hoppier we started with a simple broad question; How can we help employees and employers be happier? This is our mission and it has allowed us to recognize our impact more clearly.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Prioritization. It is the single most important thing and many key concepts revolve around the idea of prioritization; focus, patience, making data informed decisions, etc. If you can prioritize relentlessly then you will eventually be successful in whatever you do.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
No problem! The biggest challenge for COVID in my personal life was initially communicating how life was changing to my family. I knew relatively early on as a result of our international business relationships. In late February it was clear that the disease was going to have a major impact on the way we live and that was very hard to communicate to friends and family; It can be very difficult for people to find acceptance in this ‘strange new world’. It can be even more difficult to explain to them that life will change when many politicians and the mainstream media were calling COVID no worse than the flu.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Having to scale down our team. We laid off 40% of our workforce and many of these people were folks that worked with us since the early days. Letting them go was tough because they became friends and were incredibly talented. My heart goes to everyone out there that has lost work as a result of COVID-19.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Meditation and taking a break from the media. It is so important not to get too caught up in the constant barrage of news every day. It’s exhausting and can be damaging mentally. One thing I’ve done and recommended to family and friends is to truly disconnect and spend one day a week without a phone or computer. This allows you to connect more with the moment and enjoy the the present. Just because we are spending time with our families confined at home, doesn’t mean we are completely present with them. It is important to remind ourselves to connect with the present moment.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
There are so many changes that are happening that lead to opportunity. The biggest ones will be related to social gatherings of 10+ people or confined spaces; meetings, concerts, schools, offices, etc. I think it is reasonable to say at this point that we don’t know exactly what it means to be ‘post-covid’ but I know the longer it takes then the more time we have to change our behavior and adapt to doing things differently. For example — home/small community style schools for kids, working remotely, or doing all shopping online (I never thought I would buy shoes online but now that I have — I probably won’t go into a mall to buy shoes in person).
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
COVID will have a permanent impact on the way we behave, act, and live. It has accelerated certain behaviors by 10+ years; one example is remote work. There was already a growing trend of remote companies. Hoppier was always ~60% remote and now we plan on moving to being remote first. As more companies do this it will have many different affects; companies hiring in countries they don’t have offices, increased competition for high quality talent, an increase in companies using international freelancers, etc.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
At Hoppier we plan on helping more companies support their employees; whether that is setting employees up with an onboarding package, a work from home budget, a wellness stipend, and more. We are helping 100’s of companies to focus on the things that matter while allowing us to help with the tax compliance and management of giving employees stipends.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I would encourage others to listen to thought leaders in business, public health, and science. These people helping us understand what the ‘new normal’ is and how we can help others. Now is an incredible time to start or work for a small, growing company. There are a new set of multi-billion dollar problems to be solved and more importantly you can make a life changing impact for someone that improves their quality of life or even to protect their health.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Alegria, alegria” — my Abuelita (little grandma). This means joy or happiness in Spanish. My Bolivian grandmother used to say this to us as kids when we would spill milk or make a mistake instead of getting upset with us. It taught me the importance of focusing on the important things in life and realizing that it’s okay to make mistakes.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Hit me up on Twitter @im_aite or if you are interested in building a great company culture go to our website at Hoppier.com — we’ve got a podcast with incredible thought leaders, and blog posts on topics from employee engagement, to remote work, and more.