“Algolia is a community-first company, so we know that the only way to really commit to nurturing a community is to put boots on the ground,” was how Alex Kudelka, the company’s director of business development, opened a Medium post announcing a new office in Atlanta. That community-first perspective is what attracted Kudelka, who is an ATL native, to the France-based real-time API search startup. Now, after campaigning for his hometown over a company Slack channel for years, he’s leading the team to officially expand in Atlanta.
Since 2012, the Y-Combinator startup graduate has grown into multiple international offices, landed big clients like CrunchBase, Medium, and Periscope, and tackled in-app search with an intuitive search-as-you-type experience. The cloud-based platform focuses on speed, relevance, and design, with instant auto-complete results and easy integration. Algolia has raised $21M in three investment rounds and completes 99 percent of searches in under 35 milliseconds — putting them close to the world’s go-to search engine, Google.
Here, Kudelka talks to Hypepotamus about why it was important for Algolia to expand to Atlanta, prioritizing culture in the workspace, and what’s next for this international company.
Culture is very important at Algolia. What’s the philosophy behind your work culture?
From the very early days when I joined in the original team (employee #12), it was beyond crucial for us to figure out what culture is, beyond beer and nerf guns.
We want to convey our five key values at all times — Grit, Trust, Care, Candor, and Humility. We wanted to form a team that can assume ownership of any topic, at any time, and also have the ability to champion that through to actuality. We are a group of builders/owners and that is what makes us truly successful, people who want to build the greatest product and company the world has seen.
What does your team look like here and who are you hoping to add to the Atlanta office?
Today our team here is comprised of only the business development team. This includes myself and three account-based outbound representatives. We use a “no spam” model — meaning they are not using mass email tools or fancy cadences. They are using good ol’ account research, strategic messaging and content, and sending highly targeted emails, leading to responses from some of the worlds largest companies’ CTOs. In the future, I think the opportunities are endless — we want to add more sales reps and a solutions Engineer role.
We loved the webcam feature of your offices (where remote teams are connected by webcam). How does this help the company’s different offices across the globe work together and feel less fragmented?
This is brilliant right? From day one of opening the Atlanta office, we wanted to ensure the smoothest transition possible from leaving our respective locations and opening the office. What the webcam does is it ensures our team that we are always here, we are thinking of one another and that we want them to feel welcomed when they start at a new office. It’s super hard to describe and some people may think it’s Big Brother-ish, but this has been so unique and special for us — to be able to share happy hours together, greet new colleagues, or simply just have a quick chat. If you ever want to communicate with another office, you walk up and wave, and we switch on the mic. This has contributed to how close we are as a team, as a family.
Why is it important for all teams spread out across the world to feel like they are in the room?
Those of us who have worked in international offices in the past have all felt left out. This makes for on-boarding new employees a very bad experience. Try being the first couple of people in a new office — it’s lonely and intimidating. You may even feel like the company is growing and making decisions without you. Our webcam has been a way for everyone globally to feel like a single unit, especially during such an imperative time in our company’s life cycle, where a single bit of miscommunication can cost you big time. Not to mention, it is simply amazing and hilarious to watch your team across the world enjoy a happy hour till 1 am and come to the camera to make you laugh.
You failed multiple times in the startup world before Algolia. What are some lessons you learned during this time that helped you in your career?
I have failed many times, yes. One of my biggest failures was my own startup when I was in college. In the end, I truly believed in my product and its market fit. But sadly, I was not prioritizing my time correctly. I failed because I did not spend enough time hiring the right people and more specifically, having the right culture fit. Hiring people that will support me if I’m falling, believe in my core values as a human being, not just as a professional. Because I did not focus on this, I failed.
As an Atlanta native, you pushed for Algolia to move here. Why do you think the city is a great place for Algolia to grow?
For two years I spoke about Atlanta over and over. At first it was just a way for me to expose the team to where I am from, but as the months went on, I started to realize what a great strategic move it would be to be in the Southeast, in a city poised to take a leading role in global tech dominance. The biggest reason that came to mind was grit (one of Algolia’s core values). For the past 5-10 years, Atlanta has had to fight tooth and nail to prove to the world to see it is a leader in business. Atlanta has a trifecta that I find impossible for other cities to compete against — cost of living, quality of education/workforce, and location with some of the biggest Fortune 500s in the world. These three factors enable for companies to enable powerhouse sales teams for example like Marketo, or young companies like Akeneo recently picking up a star CMO in Atlanta.
How do you hope to leverage this with your team?
It will ensure better communication between our office. In the past, we had two teams nine hours apart and as we expand, we want to ensure teams grow closer in time and communication. Atlanta is also booming — and I’m not just saying that because I’m from here. It’s booming and it isn’t going to stop anytime soon. Amazon recently announced a $2M investment to expand their business team here plus solidified world brands like Mercedes moving their HQ from New Jersey, where they have been since day one in the U.S., to Atlanta. Atlanta has been putting in blood, sweat, and tears for a solid decade to prove its worth, now it’s time to harness that heat and power our own development.
What’s next for Algolia?
Honestly, grow, grow, and grow a bit more. Algolia has solidified itself as leaders in the search space and as a trusted provider of search for online brands like Twitch.tv or software products like ShipStation. Now we want to continue to build a world-class team, and continue to push the envelope of innovation. For example, provide the ability for companies to enable their apps to have offline search — enabling their users to never lose access to content.