Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneurs are Pieter Parker and Nick Barth, who are making big waves at audio do-good start-up Beep. Here’s how they use technology to help people on a scale much bigger than themselves…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
Pieter: I work on the entire product suite here at Beep, including the iPhone app, Android, and website. My entire goal is to make sure that we build quality products that matter to the people that use them.
Nick: I mostly work on server and backend things here at Beep, but we’re a pretty small team so a lot of the responsibilities are shared. I help out with front-end stuff when I can just because everyone knows designers have more fun.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
Pieter: I started working at Beep because I believe in the vision of using people’s voices to achieve a positive impact on the world around them. My inspiration to be a designer has been a lifelong goal for me, as I have always wanted to use my skills with technology to help people on a scale much bigger than myself.
Nick: About a year ago. I had worked mostly corporate jobs before and had never tried a startup. I really enjoy working with small teams, and reading up on the latest tech news in “the valley,” but I had never officially drank the Kool-Aid until Beep.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Pieter: The best part of my day is being able to build up a fledgling product into something bigger that people actually love. The most challenging part is making sure that you hit the standards you’re trying to strive for, and being sure that you can always look outside of the company and yourself so that you can be sure you’re doing the right thing for the user. Even if it makes your own life harder. I think it’s important to be introspective with those matters, and it can be easy to forget that in the hectic day to day of a startup.
Nick: The best part of my day is coming to work and basically getting paid to hang out with my buddy Pieter for 8+ hours a day every day. The most challenging part of part of my job is hanging out with my buddy Pieter for 8+ hours a day every day.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
Pieter: My eating habits are usually the first to go, followed by sleep. In the early days of Beep, we definitely had a lot of that, and it was one of the more crazy things I’ve ever done, as we were no strangers to going three days straight without sleep multiple times over. That allowed us to get our product launched in just two months, but there was a definite cost with it. Thankfully, we’re in a much better spot now and we’re able to maintain that work life balance.
Nick: I think the first sign is my coffee intake increases drastically. That usually means I’m sacrificing sleep to try and squeeze as many hours out of a day as possible. Sometimes it’s just the nature of working at a startup, but when it starts to affect your mood or performance it takes quite a bit of control to know when to take a step back.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Pieter: Continuing to make things that matter to people, and building a family.
Nick: Aha, well, I don’t see a lot of changes ahead. As much as I love to complain about Canadian winters, I’ll probably still be here. All of my family and friends are here and I enjoy hanging out and spending the holidays with them. Also, I like my being a developer and with any luck a second dot-com bust will be after my time.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Pieter: The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome was learning to make the right decisions for myself, and how to keep growing independently as a person instead of getting locked into one position for the rest of my life. I overcame that by diving headfirst into whatever new journey I set my sights on, no matter what the consequences were. That way I learned how to grow and adapt quickly.
Nick: I started my career pretty young, so it was tough starting out and getting jobs that I enjoyed. I think what really accelerated things for me was learning skills on my own and putting together a decent portfolio of work to show I had the experience and skills people wanted.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Pieter: Success is making things that matter to people, being a person that matters to the people close to you, and being the best man I can be. You don’t have to be rich to be wealthy.
Nick: I feel like success to me is just being able to do something you love and being around people you love often enough to keep you happy. Money is more just a part of whatever lifestyle you’ve chosen then a factor in that equation.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Pieter: Deciding to leave my original company for Beep was a big decision in my life, and it ultimately ended up creating a lot of positive change in my life, and I am thankful for the opportunities that these choices have brought me.
Nick: Putting on the Beep tee shirt for the first time after we got them printed was pretty memorable. It was one of the moments when I just reflect back on what we’ve gone through and I was just proud of how far we’ve come.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Pieter: Being fun to work with will get you much farther in life than being the best at what you do. Being a great member of a team will always come before an individual’s skill.
Nick: Hone your skills and portfolio of work even if you have to do it on your own time and your own dime. It’s really the most important investment I’ve made.
Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
Pieter: I don’t do wine too often, as it doesn’t always lead to the best code the next morning. However, I do drink hot chocolate rather often, and can be found at almost any coffee shop in the city poking away on my laptop. My current haunt that I frequent is Starbucks, but I also stroll around to Second Cup, Block 1912, The Tea Place, T.H.I.S Place, Remedy, and Credo if the mood strikes me.
Nick: Does Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, or McDonald’s count? I’m not really a foodie, so any coffee shop or restaurant where I can enjoy some coffee and company with my friends works for me. Usually whatever one I’m currently at will be my favourite. So Starbucks right now.
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
Pieter: I like to play the occasional video game, or work on a fun side project that gets the creative juices flowing. I do a lot of film work with my friends, and there’s always the cozy Netflix nights that can be a lot of fun to.
Nick: Snowboarding if it’s winter! Usually I’ll be cooped up inside programming or playing video games during the few months it is warm out.
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
Pieter: I love Europe, because it’s so rich with design, culture, and history. It just makes me feel as if I am truly building on top of the shoulders of giants when I am there, and I always come back inspired and with new ideas to realize.
Nick: The mountains! To snowboard.
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Pieter: I’ve never once thought about theme songs. I guess I’d say “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen, because it suits my personality rather well.
Nick: The Pokemon theme song has been stuck in my head for the past decade and a half now, so why not that?
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Pieter: I have never once thought about an alternative as to what I would be doing outside of this. I go for what I want in life, don’t really spend much time thinking about Plan Bs.
Nick: We’ll I live in Alberta so I’d probably be in the trades like my brothers and doing something related to the oil fields.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Pieter: I have a child that I sponsor, and I regularly support charities for cancer, but nothing truly specific. My family has been effected by cancer before so I’ll always partake in their events to raise support for cancer research, but I don’t have a favourite charity or anything. I’d rather support the cause then just one single entity.
Nick: I support military and cancer charities and usually local fundraisers since they’re things that have effected my family and friends directly and hit closer to home.
What to you is notable?
Pieter: People who can keep getting knocked down, but get back up without losing focus or enthusiasm. People who keep striving for their values no matter the difficulty, because it’s their purpose. It’s their very reason for being, so staying down is just simply not an option for them. They can’t even think that way. They won’t accept giving up. I personally find that trait of persistence very inspiring, and rather notable.
Nick: People from a modest background with the ambition to make a difference however they can. That’s always notable and inspirational to me.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
Pieter: iPhone. Hands down.