Podcast Introduction: Hey there, product lovers. Welcome to the Product Love Podcast, hosted by Eric Boduch, co- founder and chief evangelist of Pendo, and super fan of all things product. Product Love is the place for real insights into the world of crafting products, as Eric interviews founders, product leaders, venture capitalists, authors, and more. So let's dive in now with today's Product Love podcast.
Eric Boduch: Welcome over to Product Today, I'm here with David Flinner, one of the co- founders and the Head of Product at Levels, which is a really cool company. So why don't you start this off by giving us a little overview of your background?
David Flinner: Yeah, thanks, Eric, I'm super excited to be here and for the opportunity, so thanks for having me on. Yeah, as you mentioned, co- founder, Head of Product at Levels. I've been working at Levels now for a couple years, getting this metabolic health startup off the ground. Prior to that, I was at Google as a product manager. I was there for about 10 years, although I was only there for eight of the 10 years. Towards the end, I took two years off and traveled the world, went to 70 countries, and returned back to Google. I have been fascinated with consumer technology, enterprise technology. I've had a variety of different experiences at Google, doing my own startups outside of Google, and then now Levels.
Eric Boduch: So talk to me about being a product manager at Google, what was it like?
David Flinner: Yeah, so, being a product manager at Google was a really incredible experience for me. It was a super good growing experience, getting exposure to a lot of things. The scale of Google, at the time that that I was working there, it was no longer really a startup. So it was really about how having a lot of, a high amount of impact, and working on things at high quality, and then having kind of exposure to a broad variety of things. So Google, as we all know, is touching billions of people, and one of the areas that I was most focused on was international payment systems. So Google was live in pretty much every country around the world, touching transactions for people in totally different ways. As a product manager at Google, one of the things that really struck me was the ability to have impacts on just hundreds of millions, billions of people at once, and the challenges that come along with that, designing for pretty much everyone at once. The importance of quality, because when anything you push out is going to have changes that go live right away to incredible amounts of people. Those are really unique experiences, to have that on the product side. Then also, at such a large company, product there, a lot, was working with a broad team to get things done. So you have, you're not the only person that's kind of thinking through all the different functional aspects, but you're working with a team of experts and resources, whether it's designers, you have dedicated user researchers, things like that. It was a good growing ground for cross- functional leadership and working, working at scale with impact with the team.
Eric Boduch: So, now, real quick, engineering background?
David Flinner: I do not have an engineering degree. I taught myself to program in C when I was in middle school, starting out with tweaking Linux kernels and things like that. So, I was always a dabbler. I'd say I'm, I know enough to be dangerous, but not enough to be useful. Although, in order to transition into product at Google, I had to pass a software engineering interview, so mostly self- taught.
Eric Boduch: Interesting. Interesting. So going back to your time at Google, what aspects of product, did you, now that you're running product at Levels, or would you, replicate from your Google experience and what would you leave behind?
David Flinner: It's a really fascinating question. I think my broader takeaway with product principles is, now I'm a no seasoned expert at this across everything in the world, but from my experience, I think that you really have to design an approach to product that is relevant for the opportunity that you're going after, as well as the team you have and the size of your company. There are more things that I've not done from my time at Google that I would do at Levels, but one of the things I really liked about my time at Google was their user oriented approach. So very maniacal and structured approach towards being user focused, understanding what the real problems are out there, going through proper user research to figuring out what's worth solving, and that is an aspect that I really did want to keep. I would say a lot of the aspects around syncing the team, because it is a larger company. One of the core jobs that products, at product, that I found is just making sure that all the team is well synchronized, that things are going, you're just kind of an information router. That is really, it's an acute need at a large company. At a small company, I think that's still the case, although you'd kind of modify how that's done. One of the things that, I think the biggest thing that I would leave behind is the approach to velocity and quality. I think there's this thing where, at the scale of Google, when you have a billion plus users, like I said before, the things that you push out there, the quality really matters and there're a lot more implications you have to think through. So the ship kind of moves more slowly. It's sort of the classic, in order to turn a cruise ship, it takes a lot more thought and time. With leaving that behind and moving into the startup world where you're starting from nothing, you don't have customers, really shipping is the lifeblood of a startup, and so we've had to think through how do we make sure we build a product org that has shipping at its heart and shipping with an intent to learn? So we don't really know exactly what was going to resonate in the early days for our users. So we've had to modify the approach from what I saw in my time at Google, from we don't need meaty, detailed, giant product requirements, documents, or specs. What we need to do is get out there, talk to customers, ship the smallest possible thing that's in line with our hypothesis for what might work, and then quickly evaluate and change on a dime if we need to.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, what else? You mentioned there's quite a few things you would leave behind, paraphrasing. What else would you leave behind?
David Flinner: Well, I think most of it has to do with just the stage... Building a product org that is appropriate for the size and stage of your company. So, one of the things that is not really appropriate for us yet at Levels is having a fully fleshed out, built out product org that has lots of product managers going out there working as its own function. So at Google, we would have, I think we had, something like 40 or 50 product managers on, just within the payments group that I worked with at the end of my tenure there. At Levels to date, I've been the only product manager, the person whose kind of head is on the line for the product success, but we've been explicitly, intentionally hiring people who are exceptionally product oriented. So when we're looking for the operations hires or engineers, one of the things that we value at this stage in our company is having people who are flexible generalists, who can be taught product management, and take on projects to leverage my time and sort of act as product managers, as and when there's a need. So that would be another, I think, another big thing that I would change, that we have changed from my time at Google, is a more, less explicit focus on the function of product management and kind of needing to fit into certain defined rails that work in the industry and more analyzing," Hey, where are we at? What resources do we have? What's the reality on the ground, and how can we have out- sized impact on product thinking, while preserving our limited runway resources and coming up with, iterating our way towards that product experience that's going to achieve product market fit?"
Eric Boduch: So let's dig a little deeper there, let's talk about building product organizations. What are your thoughts on building product organizations? I mean, you guys are 30 something people now and you know, how many engineers?
David Flinner: Yeah, I want to say it's around 12 engineers at the time. So we're, we're [eng-heavy 00:07:28]. It's, we're intentionally trying to hire as many exceptional engineers as we can. The fundamental bottleneck of a startup, or I think any software company is, is ultimately engineering. There's always good ideas, but not enough engineers to build them. So we've been hiring that way, and then mostly, mostly on that. Sorry. I think...
Eric Boduch: Yeah, yeah. No, no, that's good. So, one product manager, really right now, although, you have people that have product management mindset. Talk to me now about, as you guys move forward, what are your thoughts on building out the product organization at Levels, or just in general, what would your advice be to early stage startups as they're building out product? Would love to hear it.
David Flinner: Totally. Well, I think one of the key principles I keep in mind is that it's going to be unique on your situation and look at the advice that's out there, take my advice, read the frameworks that are out there, but then kind of apply it to your own situation and realize that things are going to change over time. We've already been through a couple of phase shifts at Levels where we've seen that we've had to operate in different ways. So whatever situation, if you're in a startup, whatever situation you have on the ground, try to figure out what your acute needs are, and then build a process, build an org, that is suitable to meet the moment where it's at and have short toes because things are going to change. So if you think you're going to, the product process you had at Google is going to be the one that's going to work and we can just kind of replicate that out, it may be the case for you, it may not be. I think the short toes analogy is something, I think it's GitLab who has this principle, but things change. We try to stay nimble on who's doing what right now at our stage of the company, this early stage, and be flexible for that. Yeah, I think, I come back to this need for achieving out- sized impact with discovering what you should be building, and so, in order to do that, we've had to increase the rate of velocity and kind of get leverage product thinking across the company. So one of the ways that we've been experimenting with this, which is actually kind of maybe new for technology companies, but something that we borrowed from SpaceX, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on this or other people's, but what we're doing at this point is we have this new system where we're outlining each new project that comes on, and instead of me taking on all of these things, we're having what we call a responsible individual from the team who will come on board and be the product manager for that project. They may be sourced from engineering, they may be sourced from ops, but because we've decided to not hire into product right now, we're training people to have the product skills that they need to do this, and then getting leveraged, kind of leveraged coaching for myself to get that out there.
Eric Boduch: So you've obviously made a conscious decision not to hire into product right now?
David Flinner: Yeah.
Eric Boduch: Why? I mean, because you're training people with some of that mentality, and you're hiring people with some of that mentality. What's the thought about hiring another product manager or two right now? What's the, I guess, what's the thought about not hiring another product manager right now?
David Flinner: Yeah, I think there's a few ways to think about this. One is from the limited resources and the true bottlenecks at the company. I think that when you hire really good people, good ideas can come from anywhere, so you might have an exceptional product idea coming from any part of the team. Then we want to be cautious with hiring too quickly on roles that we might not necessarily, if we hit a downturn or something like that, we'll always have a need for engineering. We want to hire slowly in the areas that are very valuable, but are not the true bottleneck. So on the product side, we're trying to keep that very limited for now. One of the ways we think about this too is that a lot of the things we're trying at the company, there's different expertise because even outside of my core competency... So for example, we're spinning up a new marketplace within the Levels app that is going to be connecting people with nutritionists, functional medical doctors, and things like that. I can go out there, sure, and interview a lot of nutritionists and figure out what makes them tick, and work with how our marketplace is going to work, but we have our head of partnerships who's been steeped in people and relationships and that sort of core competency for a long time. So it may be counterintuitive, but we conscripted him as the product manager for this project because of his expertise in getting closer... His expertise in relationship management actually helps us move much faster and shift sooner on these pilots that we're experimenting with, because of his domain expertise. That's the sort of thing that we're trying to do across the different products that we have.
Eric Boduch: So I'm curious, is there a milestone or inflection plane you hit where that changes, where you start to build more of what you'd see in a traditional technology product management organization, or is the thought process to scale in this way for the indefinite future?
David Flinner: It's interesting. This is sort of a new experiment that we're running organizationally to see how far this scales, so I don't know if I have a hard answer for you here, because we obviously haven't scaled up to a thousand people yet or beyond. So I anticipate that the needs will change. This is really appropriate for us right now, but I think that we will need to, over time, as we have more and more people, there is a lot of value by having the... There's a lot of value in two different directions. I think on one hand, there's a lot of value in having a dedicated product org that can maintain the maniacal focus on the customer, the simplicity and diligence towards the elegant product that we need to win in the consumer space, and having that centralized in a single org can be very useful. On the other hand, what we want to also do is instill our principles throughout the entire company, so that no matter who's providing ideas, it's really ingrained in the ethos and DNA of our company, good, basic product skills on how this works. So, if we can succeed, then we'll have an operations org who cares deeply about the customer experience, and can suggest, maybe even if they're not acting as product managers at that point, in their feedback to the team, they know how to translate the problems that they're seeing into effective suggestions that someone can run with on the product team and get the ball rolling faster. We've implemented some processes to kind of facilitate that at the company as well. We borrowed heavily from Amazon's PR FAQ spec writing model, I'm not sure if you're familiar with that one.
Eric Boduch: Yeah.
David Flinner: Essentially write out the spec in a press release, but it's a more approachable style. I think that even if you're not a trained product person, you can write out an idea, and that, framing it as a pitch, as a press release to get your idea across. We've seen some great success in that, soliciting specs from across the organization. So yeah, I think there's this idea that I'm wrestling with now, you're kind of catching me in the middle of this transition. We're ultra, ultra small, like five people, we're sort of medium small right now with 30 people, and then we're kind of looking out fuzzily into the future with where we need to be. Right now, we want to be a little bit cautious on where we're going. We have exceptional talent, and we've implemented the system that is working really well to kind of add more product skills without hiring against it, but when we have a hundred people, yeah, I'm not sure, I think we will need to do that. Part of the way, I think, we buttressed against the unforeseen plays of structure here is laying down some of the bedrock principles that we want to operate with, no matter how that structure takes. So I think the structure might change to better facilitate the reality of the org that we have, but the principles that we want to set into the DNA of the company should remain the same. I think that's where I spend a lot of my time thinking too, around what are the short messages we can get across internally so that no matter what part of the product you're working on, or what function you're working in, we're kind of marching towards the same vision and we have the same values for what we're building, so that the end state is all in alignment.
Eric Boduch: Got it. I'm going to want to jump into that Amazon memo driven culture, but we'll get to that as maybe part of your larger culture. I did want to jump back to something you mentioned earlier too, which is product principles. What are your product principles? Let's start there, and then, then we can talk about how product leaders should think about product principles.
David Flinner: Sure. So the way I've been, and again, I think I'm only one person, I'd be curious to hear what other people have said in your podcast. I've been thinking about the product principles in a couple of categories. One of them is, and I think foundationally is, what is our place as a wellness product? So Levels basically helps people see how the food they eat affects their health. So we're positioned in this space that is, it's general health and wellness, it's not strictly medical, but it is very personal, very intimate and it has to do with your wellness. So in thinking through the principles that we want to make sure we're operating against, some of those that come to mind are, foundationally, we have this responsibility and this level of trust, so the things that we're doing, we're a steward of people's health data. So whatever we're building, it needs to be, have that as a foundation, with that in mind. We can't be producing things that are low quality, in terms of the data we represent and the messages that we convey against that. Another of the principles that we have is agency and empowerment. So we want people to see for themselves, we don't want to, we want to create a system that empowers people with their own data. We're very radically, we call them members, but member focused, people first. People own their own data, and we are only stewards of that. We want to adopt an approach with the product that we develop that biases towards thinking positively of our members, and giving them the full agency to do what they want with their information. Very much taking an approach to finding a solution that would bolster agency and allowing anyone to take the data for themselves and do as they wish, versus more of like a spoon feeding, top down," Here's what you must do", approach. Then, beyond that, what I've been calling flexibility. One of the unique challenges that we have is that when you're talking about your metabolism, you're really talking about this complex multivariate system that is the integration of everything that's going on in your life, from your sleep, your stress, things that you're thinking about, and all of the things that you're doing with activities, the athletics, the walks, the food that you're eating. What happens is that there's all these different scenarios that you find yourself in, and we have to not have a one size fits all answer to what's happening. It has to be highly flexible to maintain the accuracy and the data that we report for all these situations. Also, there is no one size fits all across people, so I try to encapsulate that in just being flexible. Then on the consumer side, we're not in the enterprise space, we're not a medical device, we are very much a consumer application, a consumer software application. On that side, two principles, simplicity, and being frictionless or speed. So I think one of the things that we try to prioritize in all the things that we do, make it as friction free as possible, almost magical. The approach that we try to take is," what if Levels were just like a magician here? What could we come up with that would be just a delightful, fast way that takes all user effort out of the equation?" Then simplicity. When you think about data, it's a very data- driven experience, and right now we focus on glucose, but over time, that's going to be expanding towards basically understanding everything about your body, and all of the different data points that we could be observing. So we have to have a really maniacal focus on simplicity. So, in everything we do, how can we cull this back? How can we make it a simpler experience? Whether that's through getting rid of superfluous data points, simplifying the presentation and understanding, or augmenting it with an actual," so what, what does this mean?" That's sort of the way that I've taken the, I've tried to create these bedrock principles for Levels. They're more kind of principles on, no matter what we're doing in this health space, these are the things that we want to focus on within the path that we've gone through. They're less organizational principles, I would say, and more kind of" What are the product that we're building?" principles, but yeah, that's what I've got.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. So, I mean, let's talk a little bit more about how product leaders should talk about product principles. So what advice would you give them? I think you've spent a lot of time at Levels thinking about what makes sense for Levels. What advice would you give to a product leader that is at that early stage in defining what the product principles should be for their company?
David Flinner: Yeah, that's a good question. Well, I mean, I think you'd have to look at a few things. You'd want to tie that back to your, to what your company's foundational goals and values are. So think through what's important to you in terms of fostering, setting the foundation for a team that you're going to be building out eventually, that would be one angle to this. The other thing, I think, is the principles are, should be something that you are able to repeat very quickly and smoothly, and facilitate in the absence of any sort of broader directive. People should just be able to align around them and know what they should be doing. I forget the exact example, but there's something with Southwest's CEO, they have a principal, I forget, it's something where every employee knows that there's no directive, but it's like a one liner that makes it seem that the customer comes first. I don't know if you can recall this example yourself, but if you can come up with those, then people can just operate on their own and it sets the foundation really well. So think through, what do you want to accomplish with your company at the stage you're at and try to come up with principles that encapsulate that. So for example, on our side, we constantly are repeating that we want to move at high velocity. There there's always headwinds against us, and from like an operating principle standpoint, we want to be biasing toward high velocity with a trade off on quality for a one or two week iteration cycle. So, that might not be appropriate for a company at a little bit larger stage, or even for a company that's small stage but in a different industry. So think through what's most important for you to be doing at that time and think through a way that you can encapsulate that better, would be a couple ideas I would have,
Eric Boduch: So we've danced around it, or I would say, we've carted a little bit, but tell me more about Levels.
David Flinner: Yeah. So Levels is, like I said before, it's a system, it's really the first way that anyone really has access to figure out how their food choices affect their health in real time. What we do is we're an insights layer, we're a software app, that uses a companion hardware sensor, a bio- wearable called a continuous glucose monitor that you wear, and that sensor is continuously monitoring, 24 hours a day, your blood sugar levels. As you eat food, depending what you eat, that may affect your blood sugar levels and cause them to fluctuate. We take that raw noise and have a simplification layer on top of it that helps take the data and transform it into what it means for your health. So basically, with blood sugar, that is a proxy for insulin and metabolic health, and a lot of the things we care about are connected to this. So whether it's feeling our best, looking our best, losing weight, if you're experiencing energy crashes and don't know why, a lot of it has to do with what's going on inside the black box of your body's metabolic processing system. Metabolism, at its foundation, is just the complex series of systems on how your body takes food and turns it into energy. So when that system gets disordered in some ways, or it's not working, functioning ideally, it can lead to things like weight gain, chronic conditions, acne, low energy, all these things that we might care to fix. So we help tie, close the loop back on how your actions are related to these effects in your body. Yeah, it's a little known fact, but only 12% of the US population is metabolically healthy and everyone else is on a spectrum of areas for improvement. It's really eye opening when you can see for the first time this trace of... It's almost like a software stack trace, you can tie back the problem that you're seeing to something that you actually did and it creates this magic moment. When you see from the sensor data that your, maybe, afternoon crash wasn't because you needed another cup of coffee, it was actually tied back to this food that you ate that caused a giant rush in your blood sugar and the corresponding sugar crash, and you can see that. It's a very powerful thing. Maybe one quick anecdote, my co- founder and our CEO, Sam Corcos, he's always been healthy. He tried to eat the healthiest breakfast that he thought was out there, which was steel cut oats. If you do a Google search for healthiest breakfast, oatmeal's near the top. So he would be eating oatmeal at the beginning of the day, 8: 00 AM, and by 10: 00 AM, he would feel very tired and thought," time for my next cup of coffee". He got on a continuous glucose monitor with Levels earlier on and saw that, in fact, it wasn't a coffee, but that crash was perfectly timed with this giant sugar rush that he was having from the oatmeal. It was something that he didn't even really care to keep doing, so it was a very easy for him to, once he shined the light in that dark room and saw where the mess was, he could swap that out with something else that he still liked to eat for breakfast, but caused him less near- term fluctuations in his health, or in his perceived energy, and then is also setting the stage for better long- term health outcomes.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, it's interesting. So, moving from Google, doing Levels, what was the passion that drove you to start the company?
David Flinner: I was feeling this personally myself, so I was back at Google for a year after I got back with my world trip and it was long hours. I was enjoying it, but it's putting in a lot of hard work. I was feeling tired. I didn't really, I thought I was eating well and it didn't know what was happening, but I thought it might be the proverbial metabolism slowing down, and just getting older, getting a little bit slower in operating things. At the time, I didn't really know what metabolism was or anything like that. So I thought, let me just Google this, figure out what could be the case here. Why am I feeling so tired all the time? That led me to discover how glucose is one of the fundamental elements of the body and is really one of the main drivers for your metabolism. Going down this rabbit hole of," Hey, it looks like if you think there might be something wrong with your metabolism, you can get this thing called a continuous glucose monitor, and it will tell you what your blood sugar levels are." So I tried to buy one and discovered that they, unfortunately in the United States, and pretty much only in the United States, they're only available by prescription, and typically only for the treatment of diabetes. These devices have been out for, I think, over 20 years now, and they've been FDA approved for a long time, they're very safe, but they're restricted in the United States. So I was frustrated by that. It just so happened that 12 hours after I first was researching continuous glucose monitors, my friend Sam was flying in, I think from New York to San Francisco where I lived at the time, and he was staying in my guest room. I didn't know what he was up to at the time, but when he landed and came through my door, we caught up and it turned out that he actually was, had just started this idea for getting access to continuous glucose monitors, like totally serendipitous. We were sort of, kind of, aligning on something, I think, in the zeitgeist that we didn't know quite there, but I was feeling it, he was feeling it, and that was sort of what triggered it. Tying it back to Google, I think at that time too, I was looking internally to transition into our life sciences division. I had just been fascinated by health, thinking that was kind of the next thing. So I was internally interviewing to switch organizations there, but when this came on, the opportunity to work with Sam, who is one of the most exceptional people I've ever met, was just too good to pass up. The idea was like, it just seemed like it was its time and it was a big risk, but there's still a long way to go, but it's been a wild ride so far.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. It's awesome. I mean, I'm super stoked to see where Levels ends up, right? I think there's a huge opportunity, and tools to manage our health, I think, continue to be lacking, so I think it's filling a big need. Talk to me about product challenges you have, like what are the big product challenges at Levels?
David Flinner: Yeah. So I would say every day is a challenge at Levels, I'm sure at all startups, but one thing that really emerged is that, in our case, we're not only building a company and doing discovery as to what our prospective members find valuable and discovering the problems that matter to them, we're also really building an ecosystem and awareness of metabolic health. So it's something that's critically important, it's in some ways, the way people have talked about the opioid epidemic over the last five years, we think that they'll be talking about the metabolic health crisis over the next five years, but it's this giant tsunami of a problem that is coming on online. There's not a lot of research or knowledge about what metabolic health means for a non- diabetic population. It's been studied for decades in a context of type one and type two diabetes, but everyone has metabolism. There's that stage, what is that normal metabolic health spectrum? What does it mean? What is ideal? How can we make improvements? This is all new as well. So we have this double winged problem where, from a product perspective, a lot of where our value add comes from, we're learning, is on the learning and onboarding layer. So in order to successfully get up and running, and figure out why you should be caring about this, we're having to build an experience that progressively educates and unveils why, what metabolic health is and why it matters, in a context that is relevant to you. So one of the biggest challenges is making that simple, because it's a complicated area, but we need to find a solution that does it in a way that doesn't feel like education, and just feels like it's meeting you where you're at, and it's very intuitive. So I'd say that's one big one. Briefly, to go on some of the ways we're thinking through that, we're finding that the moments that matter are really personal moments. So, when we give you education around metabolic health on its own, versus giving it the moment something that happens and teaching you about that, like the first time you have a blood sugar spike or a low glucose overnight, or you ate a certain food that we know something about, if we tailor our education delivery to that moment, when you're most curious about it, then those happen to be moments that stick and lead to a stickier experience with the product and better behavior change. So that's one thing, but it's an ongoing challenge, I think, for onboarding, especially since we started with our early adopters who are more bio- hackers, and now we're emerging, kind of crossing into a more mainstream market that people who have even less technical knowledge, might have less personal motivation to dive into the details, so an ongoing area for us. I think the other big ones are around how do we simplify the data in a way that's relevant to you and suggest what to do next? The simplification of the data is something that we, with some of our earliest feedback, getting the raw data streams out of your body is very noisy, and coming up with mental models that work for people to contextualize, instead of just showing raw data, can we come up with a score that presents your response more like a letter grade you might get from school, for example, resonated well, but then what to do next is the next frontier. So thinking through some things like, how do we help you understand and then tactically make a decision that will lead to a positive change in line with your goals, is one big thing. One of the big things with, with behavior change is also about identity formation. So how do we construct a product experience that over time helps you adopt a new identity that better matches your goals? Like someone who does look and feel their best, and someone who does care about metabolic health. I think those problem spaces are the biggest ones for us right now.
Eric Boduch: Awesome. One of the threads I want to go back to, as we're kind of getting closer to the end, we talked a little bit about the whole press release process for requirements with Amazon, and a little bit, maybe even touch on the memo culture. Now you guys have an asynchronous culture too at Levels, a lot less meetings, maybe no meetings, I don't know if you guys have gotten that far, but talk to me about the written word, the asynchronous culture, your lack of meetings, and how that works at the company.
David Flinner: Yeah, and actually, just to briefly touch on the meetings, we have a rule where you're not allowed to have a meeting with more than three people at any point in time. If you want that, you'll have to get explicit sign- off from Sam, our CEO. So we're very serious about coming up with systems. We've been asynchronous and fully remote as a team since prior to COVID, so even before lockdowns. What we found is that, a lot of times, meetings are more performance theater and you'll feel good about them and feel very good about connecting with people, and there's a lot to be said about positive relationships, and I think they are good for that, but in terms of a work productivity context, what's lacking there, that we've seen, is a lot of the pre- thinking and the thought that goes into thinking through a problem on your own, coming up with your own ideas, and then seeing everyone else's ideas, and then having a, possibly, a faster iteration cycle because of that. Then also, even after that decision point is made, this corpus of information. Basically everything we do at Levels is recorded. Whether it's your personal, like a one- on- one meeting with my engineering lead, we record everything because oftentimes, A, it's free to do so, and there's often something that is of lasting value in it that is now captured and we don't lose that value, and we slot it into our documentation so that everyone in the team can benefit from it. Yeah, we just find that there's so much time saved by having everything out there and documented, and only requiring the smallest number of people to participate. Yeah. I'm happy to go into more detail on that.
Eric Boduch: I'm thinking that this whole thing is going to be another podcast because I have so many questions to dig into, like, are you recording one on ones? What are you doing for all hands meetings? How are these conversations going? So maybe we do around two purely around your decision making an organizational style at Levels. I think it's kind of interesting. We could spend some time doing that. So part two coming? Yes?
David Flinner: Let's do it. Yeah.
Eric Boduch: Okay. So let's wrap up for today then, and talk a little bit about you, what's your favorite product?
David Flinner: Yeah, I was thinking about this quite a bit. I feel like this might be a popular one, but it is my Apple AirPods Pros. I'm not sure how unique that is, but I love pretty much every aspect of the experience that Apple has put into the AirPods Pros, for me. Basically, from all the different approaches that you take to it, it's delightful to use and it's solving a problem and it's not making me think about it. So I love just the snaps when you open the case, these subtle reminders that you get when you pull the headphones out of their case or put them back in, you don't have to even look at what you're doing, because there're magnetic connections. Pretty much, I think the best part is the seamless connection to your devices and the swap between them. I think it's just magical that you don't have to think about what's happening. So yeah, very, very good product for me, in terms of the comprehensiveness of how Apple's thought about all the different ways that you approach it. The one thing I will say is they do need to, when they're dying batteries, they make a very loud noise and a very loud popping sound, so that has to be tweaked, but that's my favorite product.
Eric Boduch: Interesting. Yeah, I'm a huge fan. I don't know if it necessarily is just the Apple products, but the fact that we have good Bluetooth AirPods or earbuds or whatever you want to call them, because I was the destroyer of corded heads sets. Like, I could...
David Flinner: Right.
Eric Boduch: No matter what, no matter what they'd cost, whether they're cheap or expensive, it would last like a week before I'd accidentally do something like close them in a car door, or just rip them as I'm exercising, all kinds of things. So, I can't leave my house without my phone and my AirPods, it's those two things together.
David Flinner: Yeah. So I was thinking, to add to your example of the wired headphones, just two days ago, I was at the gym and I saw someone wearing wired headphones. I was like," you know what? I haven't seen anyone wear wired headphones for a long time. This is the first time I've seen this in probably a year". It just got me thinking of how magical it is, like the Bluetooth specification, I think is like 500 pages. It's certainly in the hundreds of pages, it's very, very complicated. When something that is so complicated, and it used to be so bad and it's gotten so seamless and fast and simple, and it's still complicated, but it all comes together in this elegant, easy to use experience where the technology transforms into magic and you don't even realize what's happening. It's sort of the experience, in the same way we don't think about when you turn your light switch, where is that electricity coming from? That's technology too, or when you turn your faucet, water comes out of it, that's technology as well. I feel like computer technology, in some ways, is reaching those days where it's almost, you don't know how it works or why it works, but you don't even think about that because it's so magical. That's what I see as the emergence in these AirPod Pros. There's still a way to go, but it's exciting.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, they're like, I will go back, if you leave your house without your phone, you go back and get it. I'm the same way with my AirPods. It's like," I don't want to have to hold my phone up to crosstalk"
David Flinner: Toothbrush test, right? Yeah, one use every day. Got to use it.
Eric Boduch: So one final question for you today. Three words to describe yourself.
David Flinner: Let see. Three words. I would say, one, collaborative. I'm very much a collaborative approach to innovation. I like to get a lot of feedback, rally the team, that's just my working style. Intuitive would be another one. I don't know everything, but the things that I do like to dabble in, I do rely a lot on my intuition alongside of data, but I find that, I don't know, I can't remember the exact books, but I've read a lot about trusting your gut. I was not exactly like that in the past, but I've been, I've tried it more over the years, but the things that I dabble in, I tend to rely a lot on intuition. Final one, I would say, is just nice. A lot of people, a lot of people describe me as nice, so I will own that one.
Eric Boduch: Those are good words, my friend, well, thanks, David. This has been a blast.
David Flinner: Yeah, Eric, you've been a lot of fun.