Retrospectives for Remotes | Jordan Husney from Parabol

In some ways, the Covid-19 pandemic wasn’t so much an economic disruption as it was a propellant. Already, companies across the globe were beginning to transition to agile teams. The pandemic may have merely forced this inevitable change to happen a little faster. But regardless of when or how companies transition, building a cohesive, productive team can be a challenge.

This was something Jordan Husney foresaw, all the way back in 2016. “I could see the change coming,” he says. So he founded Parabol, a company that offers a free, online retrospective tool that helps agile teams understand what they need to do better.

In this edition of UpTech Report, Jordan discusses the development of this tool and how companies are using it to assess and improve.

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As a teen during the 1990’s tech boom, CEO and Founder of Parabol, Jordan Husney was fascinated with connecting people through technology. Captivated by modems, bulletin board systems and amateur radio, his interests led him to pursue an internship at Minnesota-based IoT company, Digi International. He spent nearly 20 years at the company as an engineer and product manager to help technology serve people. 

Later, Jordan joined New York City-based management consultancy Undercurrent as a Director, where he assisted in shaping the futures of Fortune 500 leadership teams at companies such as GE, American Express and Pepsico. He was instrumental in helping businesses identify new markets, acquisitions and divestitures, while establishing improved processes for enhancing work culture, organization and collaboration for both remote and in-house workers. While working with multinational organizations stretched across time zones, Jordan began prototyping a new platform that would allow team members, and more specifically, agile teams to work together, better. 

This platform would later be known as Parabol. Today, Jordan leads multiple facets of Parabol’s growth and success by overseeing new talent acquisition, funding and product development. He holds several patents in distributed systems and wireless technology, and lives with his family in Los Angeles, California.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Jordan Husney 0:00
One thing if you’re going to try something yourself, you know if you’re going to like, download Strava and go for a bicycle ride, that’s all within your control. But people’s egos are really on the line when you’re when you’re sharing theme Software.

Alexander Ferguson 0:19
Today, I am very excited. And I’m to be joined by Jordan Husney from California. He’s CEO of Parabol. Welcome, Jordan.

Jordan Husney 0:27
Well, thank you so much for having me, Alexander.

Alexander Ferguson 0:31
Absolutely. So your product is a retrospective Meeting app. So anyone out there if you are involved in product management, running agile teams, or another leader, wanting to conduct lessons, learn meetings or team building exercises, this tool might be a fit for you. Now, Jordan, I was looking at your site, and I found a quote from the GM of platform of the news organization courts, they said, coaching and software, it was the key to unlocking the performance on our leadership team. Our meetings went from business as usual, to focus fun and productive. So I’m kind of curious when you started parabol, what was the problem that you saw? And you’re like, we need to solve this, and how has that evolved and changed over the time.

Jordan Husney 1:11
So when parabol first got off the ground, that was back in 2015, was our incorporation. So a little bit more than five years ago, we had noticed that there was a class of worker in the knowledge economy that was already operating remotely. And what I mean by that is, prior to starting parabol, I was a partner at a management consultancy firm that largely served the executives of like fortune 50 companies, the really big ones like GE and American Express and PepsiCo, and of the executive set, they would hang out for a couple hours in traffic each way they choke the office, and then their calendar would just be nonstop WebEx meetings. And the meetings were often I mean, they would be like two and three hour long status calls across every single timezone. These people would be killing themselves both flying on airplanes and trying to stretch themselves and their teams to cover global geography. And I remember counseling a bunch of them, like why don’t you just stay home, and they were like, we can’t like we need to be in the office. They couldn’t give you a reason why. But I felt like that was really flimsy and it was going to change and I could see the change coming. And parable actually started as a general purpose meeting facilitation app, what we wanted to do, when we set out was make it really easy for people to always get a return on the investment of their time that they would spend in a meeting, of course, in the journey of a young company, you end up down scoping your market to something that just a few people can address. And we found that the Agile market was ready to go and just as soon as we started providing guided meetings for for agile product teams and business agility teams, then the company really took off.

Alexander Ferguson 3:13
Starting about five years ago, what’s what’s one thing you wish you had known five years ago? Oh,

Jordan Husney 3:20
boy, that’s a good one. I wish that I would have known what really got? Well, the two things were is I wish we would have focused on agile teams from the onset. And the second thing is, I wish that we would have known what would have gotten investors excited. Our earliest investors were our friends and family. But then that next tranche, the institutional investors had been burned so many times on on the collaboration space, that when they first saw, they’re kind of like, oh, there’s no new here, or remote is too small. And I wish that we would have pitched our story slightly differently from from the onset, I think we probably could have saved a year or two and then been better prepared for the massive COVID wave that we’d seen in 2020.

Alexander Ferguson 4:15
Right from the the quote, I can see and looking at your site coaching as well as software. So is it is it platform and service. How what does that work?

Jordan Husney 4:23
Yeah, great question. We have parabol as a company, all of our employees don’t do coaching any longer. We used to. Now we do that all through partnership. When we first got off the ground and you’re in you’re trying to build something, this is 2016 2017. We would include ourselves in the box with the software in order to make sure that as we were collecting these logos to make proof points for building our company that things went well. We also maximize what we’re learning in developing the product. As time went on, we started acting more and more consultancies and agile transformers onto the platform. And we realize that they were audit, they were already doing this work for their customers who are going through the same sort of Agile transformation journey. And so now we do it through partnership. If someone comes to us, and we get this all the time, they’re like, hey, you know, we want to make our agile transformation go faster, we actually have a means of addressing all the consultancies that are platform and bringing opportunities to that.

Alexander Ferguson 5:33
Taking a use case here, whether it’s a product manager, or scrum master, leading a team, walk me through, how would they use the platform in a daily day, a week, a month or their year?

Jordan Husney 5:47
For sure. So the most common adoption cycle for a company take Acme, for example, is somebody notices that their last meeting wasn’t very good. Sometimes it’s just they didn’t feel like people were being forthright or really getting out the data and anecdotes around the obstacles that they were experiencing and doing hard work and developing or building whatever it is that their their team is doing. So they search for like online, retrospective app, or online agile apps, something along those lines, and they’ll bump into us because we try very, very hard to rank above the fold. When they do the click on one of the big buttons that are on our website that will bring them into a demo without ever having to sign up. And we’ll the first hill that we have to get people over is the terror that people will feel introducing a new product to a team. Because it’s one thing if you’re going to try something yourself, you know, if you’re going to like download Strava, and go for a bicycle ride, that’s all within your control. But people’s egos are really on the line, when you’re when you’re sharing theme software, particularly things that are all going to happen synchronously, all at once you got to worry about getting them in the same place the same time. So with that demo does is it just put you into this place with some robots, so you can have the experience and do it as many times as you want with, you know, some people who don’t care how you’re how you’re doing in the meeting. And then once you get comfortable, then we give you the option of starting your own team and inviting your colleagues and then they’re going to hold a retro. And one of the things that’s that’s positive about our company and product, generally, is that we’re not asking for a big commitment upfront, it’s, Hey, try this one thing that kind of feels like a workshop once. We don’t ask for repeats. But when people land, then they find that they can fan out inside of the product. And there are other meeting types that our product supports. And we can support more of their agile workflow.

Alexander Ferguson 7:59
Looking at your site integration is a big one I saw a comment about you don’t want to just add another place that someone another tool or app someone asked to use to talk to you about how did the integration work? And your mindset around that? Yeah,

Jordan Husney 8:11
so we we have two principles that guide our product development. The first is nobody needs another task manager. In the collaboration space, there are just two things that are better mousetrap ad nauseum, which isn’t to say that there won’t be a winner in these spaces or a continuous, continually, like continuously new group and in the category. That’s just not us, right. Like, we don’t want to be the better mousetrap company, we want to do something new, because we want to maximize our chances of being around. So we’re not a notetaking app. And we’re not a task management system, because those are the two that are just evergreen, new, everyone trying new things all the time. Second thing is we want to be like tasks. Switzerland, we we believe that it’s actually quite hard to get most teams all in the same place. And the principle behind that is most teams that are doing interesting stuff, like if you’re building a rocket at SpaceX are cross functional and multidisciplinary, you’re going to have the software devs in with the mechanical engineers with the supply chain, folks, etc. You’re not just going to be all one kind of thing. And as such, it’s really hard to get people on something like, say in a sauna, where it’s trying to be the best task management system for everyone where it’s easy to see that the software people are going to want to be in GitHub, or they’re going to want to be in Microsoft DevOps or something like that. So what we do is we, we provide tasking via integration and we make it really easy for those tasks to be visible in our system, even if they’re their primary source of truth is somewhere else. So we’re just the meeting place will show you the things that have changed in between meetings. And then if you update or create new tasks that will push those things back out to those systems

Alexander Ferguson 9:59
you’re using List of Current integrations is always evolving. What does that look like?

Jordan Husney 10:03
Yeah. So, up until the beginning of this year, we were three people. And when we closed our seed round, and we were now 12. And we added the to integrations that were most commonly asked for. So we added a GitHub integration, and we added a Slack integration. We are working on a Microsoft DevOps integration. At present, we’re also working on a self hosted JIRA integration with lots and lots and lots of agile teams, particularly large companies, or if they work for the 4k government somewhere. They they sell posts for security reasons. So we’re adding those we’re also adding other more generic testing systems as well. And we have a whole group of people who are now working on integrations

Alexander Ferguson 10:58
going forward from from here, what can you share? What are you excited about on the roadmap that’s coming up, that you’d want someone to know about?

Jordan Husney 11:06
So we are, we just announced this to our users, we haven’t talked about it publicly yet. We are releasing a sprint poker meeting, which we are super excited about. So in the Agile development process, you’ve got a never ending list of things called your backlog. And one step is backlog grooming. So just making sure that those things are in rough priority order, and that the items that are on that list are well defined, the next thing to do is to size them, so that when you start a sprint, you don’t over commit yourself to what you’re going to go and execute on. So we are delivering is a thing that allows people to take an infinitely long list of things that they could do, size them really rapidly and then plan their sprint. So it goes really well. And then of course, we also support retrospective meetings and check in meetings today. And both of those are also going to get better as the weeks go on.

Alexander Ferguson 12:15
For those that want to know more, where do they go? What’s the step that they should first take.

Jordan Husney 12:20
So what I advise everyone to go and do is give the demo meeting and try. So just go to that’s PARABOL.CO. And then click on the big obvious button to try a demo if you’re interested in just seeing how the the company evolves, and what’s coming up next, right at the top of the there’s a link to the blog, and we update that every week.

Alexander Ferguson 12:45
That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you subscribe to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.



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