September 28, 2017 – Twill is a start-up aiming to make shipping simple for the customer. An important quest as the current customer experience from buying freight is all but impressive. However, how is it running a company that is trying to shake up a Legacy (yes, capital ‘L’) industry? And how is it to do as a start-up owned by a large organisation? For this blog I would like to share some of my personal experiences from starting Twill and the journey we have been on so far.
In July 2016, I was sitting with a colleague (Sarah) in a small room in The Hague starting the first infant thoughts on Twill. We were about to go to Berlin for 6 months to build the foundation for Twill. Now, a bit more than a year later, I can (despite many Twill years in front of us) reflect a bit on the journey. It has been crazy! And Fun! And Exhausting! And Exhilarating! And rather often, all in one day. You have to remember, that not only were we completely in uncharted territory on the business idea, Twill was also the first spin-off company from Damco and hence double uncharted territory. We were challenged with what tech stack to choose (and how does that fit Maersk), what the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) should/should not contain, if we really can adopt fully Agile, how Twill fits in Damco and who we can work with in Damco (to mention a few). Key learning to share on such questions: You learn to make decisions based on very little data and you should be prepared to pivot and re-do. You should be prepared to embrace fast failure and ensure that the learnings are the focus. This thinking made us start a tradition called “Failure of The Week” – a tradition we now hold very dear. Every Thursday 4pm – we clock out for an hour, huddle up our bean-bags in a circle, bring out a cold beer and nominate other people (or yourself) for all the failures we have done this week – and key – what we have learned from it. In the beginning this can be quite scary (to be frank) – you know – to be nominated publicly because you screwed up. However, we got the hang of it and now it is defining for our company culture and Twillers are not afraid to lean out, experiment, innovate – and fail fast in the process.
Starting Twill from just a few people and watch it grow to its current size of 50 people (and we are still just a toddler) has been a fantastic journey. We have had some very long nights making last minute code updates, fixing urgent bugs, preparing Board material or preparing for the customer meeting the next day, however, normally we would also find time for a game of ping-pong during the night (admittedly, sometimes causing an even longer night). These nights might have been long and tough, however it was all worth it, that day we got our first booking on the Twill platform and everybody could celebrate what we had been able to pull off in a very very short time. It was one of those moments I will never forget. I was with the customer, seeing her place the booking on the platform, whilst having the whole Twill team on Skype on a separate laptop. After she pressed “Submit Booking”, we looked to the team on Skype in anxiety – and only a second later – the whole team erupted in pure celebration when they saw the booking appear in the platform – we had our first booking.
Since then many customers have chosen to join Twill and it remains my favorite part of my job to see an intrigued customer making her first booking on the platform and look at you and say: “Was that it?”. Yes, that was it – we aim for simplicity and we will work extremely hard to ensure we keep improving that simplicity (or “Simproving” as we say).
Twill is not done (note: It will never be), however I know we have a strong product that is relevant in the market. I know because our customers tell us. We also get plenty of feedback on things we could also build and bugs we should fix, don’t get me wrong – but mostly, we get really good feedback on what we have built. And this is what keeps me going everyday – it makes me proud and keeps me motivated to build an even stronger product and reach even more customers. In that way we get one step closer to our vision every day: Making Shipping simple.
By Troels Stovring, CEO, Twill.