Inside the Nest with Walter, our Head of Tech

We sat down to talk tech with Walter, who is heading our team that is behind the technology we apply to our ventures. Read on to find out more about the role the team plays in the venture building process and what tools they use to bring the ventures quickly as possible for testing to the market.

Walter, Head of Tech @ Sparrow Ventures

1. Tell us a bit about yourself: Who are you, what’s your background and what drives you?

I am originally from Austria but have been living in Switzerland for more than 10 years. Before I started my working career, I studied computer science in Austria where I also completed a term in New York. Next to that I also hold an Executive MBA from IMD in Switzerland. I personally like complicated or new things, which challenge the status quo or paradigms. This is in sync with why I am in technology, but my interest covers especially leadership topics as well as the business side. I love to contribute to value creation in the context of a bigger picture, not only technology.

2. What is a Head of Tech? What are you in charge of?

As Head of Tech at Sparrow Ventures I am responsible to provide the right technology and the right people to any venture building project for their technology needs. It can be for example building a new Fintech solution, an e-commerce shop, an app or even hardware. The name of the game is speed and an indisputable focus lies on customer centric development. This also means that I need to ensure that the product, design and development teams are working together smoothly in a workflow without hand-overs.

3. What do you like most about your role? What excites and motivates you every day?

In other companies you always deal with legacy systems or politics. I have the great chance with every venture building project to test new technologies on a green field. The tech team can try new stuff and see very quickly how it works out in a venture project and apply the learning in the next one. I can not think of a better place to learn — even in a startup you may start on a green field but then you stick with it. But at Sparrow Ventures we are working on several venture building projects in parallel at an incredible speed. Only very few people have the chance to work at the “genesis” of a new venture — it never gets boring.

4. What is a lesson you learned the hard way?

There are surely a few but there is one in particular that is coming to my mind and I find worthwhile sharing. It is one, which I took with me from my previous startup: High interest in a topic does not automatically lead to revenues. Especially when you do something which has not been done before, there is no way of knowing if you are going to succeed or not. A mistake I made in my previous startup was not to follow the “normal” path of financing with early stage financing tools, which potentially would have provided confidence for later financing rounds.

5. What kind of roles are there in the tech team and why are they important?

Amongst our developers and programmers who build the tech for venture projects from scratch, I would like to point out a new role we created at Sparrow Ventures — the Web and NoCode Engineer. The reason for this is that we see great potential in the use of NoCode tools in venture building and have already proved through previous projects to speed up development by a factor of 10. The challenge is that NoCode has no place in a programmer’s career, and the rest of the venture team who is using NoCode tools quickly face limitations of using those tools because of the lack of technical skills. Our Web and NoCode Engineer is part of the tech team and supports venture teams (like Product Owner or Venture Architects) using NoCode tools, but also works with programmers to implement user stories in NoCode. Thus he acts as an accelerator for the NoCode technology which provides us with the speed we need to launch the venture projects in the market for the testing phase and iterate the Business Model while learning from customers.

6. What role does the tech team play in the venture building process?

Let’s put it this way. A first-class restaurant needs to have an excellent kitchen. Without it is unlikely to succeed. In the venture building process for Sparrow Ventures, the tech team is part of this “excellent kitchen” that ensures the right tech is in place for every venture we build. It is vital that every single new digital product has a perfect user experience on multiple channels to have a chance on the market. The big challenge is to combine perfection on the UX-side, with speed of delivery but also supporting a big variety of products and venture projects at the same time. Which means the tech team needs to be ultra flexible on the front-end and manage a variety of integrations of external systems at the same time. Together with the rest of the colleagues in the venture building teams they strive for bringing a great product or service to the market that solves a problem and addresses a real customer need.

7. What are the typical tools, resources, methodologies and practices the tech team works with and why?

As you may guess from one of my answers further up: The secret sauce in terms of tools is NoCode and the way we use it in the engineering process when building a venture. We are using systems such as Integromat, Zapier, n8n but also platforms like Shopify and WebFlow. On the frontend we typically combine it with React and in the backend usually with Firebase and headless CMS like datoCMS. Depending on the venture we build, every setup is a bit different, and we take and integrate the best tools available for the job to be done.

8. What’s your advice to someone who wants to join the tech team at Sparrow Ventures?

An important criteria to be hired at Sparrow Ventures in general is your experience with startups or startup-like environments but also having the right mindset — it proves your entrepreneurial spirit and potentially your resilience if something is not turning out as expected. Try to focus on what you have learned in your previous roles — if you do not have such experience in your resume — try to find analogies. In general we are very interested in people with an open mindset, with a high motivation to experiment with new things and learn from failures. Curiosity, a drive for exploration and a strong bias for action unites us at Sparrow Ventures. Everyone brings their own perspective, experience and creativity to the table, making it an exciting place to work and learn. Show your interest beyond your expertise — Sparrow Ventures is a great way to learn about growth marketing, UX-design, getting-things-done, technology, and last but not least: testing and building new ventures.

Building kick-ass ventures and investing in promising start-ups as part of Migros. Based in Zurich — CH.