People over Tech with Matthias Laug
2020-11-05 - Matthias Laug is the CTO and co-founder of Tier Mobility, the fastest-growing micro-mobility company in the world. In this podcast, Tobi engages Matthias on what he sees on the horizon for the scooters’ space and his people-over-tech approach as a CTO, among other things. And of course, Tobi asks the judo brown belt owning CTO about his gone days of backflips. During the summer of 2009, Matthias joined hands with Lieferando co-founders to develop code for Lieferando, a popular mobile app in Germany that people can use to order food from their favorite restaurants. Matthias says he figured that he could get done with the code within three months, so there was no need for him to quit college to get involved in the startup. What started as a summer engagement became Matthias’ unofficial introduction into the startup world. He would then become the CTO at Lieferando, a position he held for seven years.
In 2016, Matthias left Lieferando and chose to join ThoughtWorks as a consultant.
“I went to ThoughtWorks for the culture,” he says, “I knew the benefits: that I could jump between different topics without actually changing employers. But ThoughtWorks always intrigued me as a company.”
There was a lot to admire about ThoughtWorks, and many of the tech influencers that Matthias adores are ThoughtWorks alumni. Working at ThoughtWorks would give him first-hand experience working around some of the best minds in DevOps, a decision he has never regretted.
At ThoughtWorks, he learned what has become his career’s philosophy: people over tech — tech solutions to transform lives, to change the world.
Today, Matthias has dreams of a car-free Berlin. He sees Tier Mobility’s scooters as the first step towards that future.
Tier’s tech-stack revolves around two programming languages: Python, NodeJS, but TypeScript does make occasional appearances. The company uses Kubernetes based on AWS. For most of its back-end, Tier uses PostgreSQL. That said, some developers at Tier are experimenting with MongoDB and DynamoDB. Why such liberty with the stack?
“So it's not necessarily the stack that is special. I think it's the ability to act to changes and being continuously fluid on this. And this ultimately boils down to people and making them understand what you're thriving for and less of what the choices you're going to (make) in tech.”
“I think the interconnectivity between hardware and software is the part that we put the most brains in. And that’s ultimately going to be the differentiator.”
Tier hasn’t started making its own hardware. Instead, it has agreements with its suppliers where they customize the hardware based on its designs. Matthias intimates that the company is slowly carving out parts that it wants to own, starting with IoT and battery, and ultimately the software that runs on its devices.
Tobi asks Matthias about the data that Tier scooters generate and the data points the company is collecting. The two also converse about the features that might soon be included in the scooter, including an external battery and a small camera.
Tier scooters are quite heavy: at 28kgs, they’re not easy to steal. That said, the company monitors them both at macro and micro levels using, among others, Prometheus and Jaeger. Matthias goes into great detail about how Tier is clustering cities, its scooter’s changing design, and how his 16 teams are organized.
“So, this is something that I took from ThoughtWorks. I believe that the team needs to be as close as possible to the problem,” he explains.
“The teams per de facto need to be cross-functional. So I don't believe in frontend teams and backend teams, et cetera. The teams need to be fully equipped with all the skills required to run the show. I'm always favoring effectiveness over efficiency. So, I couldn't be bothered with everyone being busy. It's about: do they constantly deliver?”