My 4 year cabify journey

Roberto Perez · 4 min read

I joined Cabify in June 2014 after traveling around the world for six months. This is relevant for two reasons:

  1. To travel is important in itself. So, if you’re thinking of going on a big trip, don’t hesitate, just do it! It will completely change your outlook and your entire life. Then continue reading this when you get back, it may help you ;)

  2. My decision to take such a long break was the main factor for me being rejected by Juan de Antonio (CEO) and Sam Lown (CTO at the time). They perceived me as lacking enthusiasm for the product.

TL;DR: Juan says my career sounds good but he feels I don’t have much enthusiasm in the project.

Email between Roberto Perez and Juan de Antonio

The thing is, I was enthusiastic about Cabify but, believe me, your mood, face and words are not at their most positive when looking for a job after such a long time traveling.

So, when you are rejected from a job, you have 3 options:

  1. Do nothing.
  2. To answer politely: “That’s fine, please let me know if there’s ever an opportunity in the future”.
  3. To not fully accept the rejection and to have one last go at showing the company how you could help improve their product.

Now, knowing how the story ends up, you can imagine which one I chose:

TL;DR: I apologize for not effectively showing my interest in the product. I list some potential features for the product such us journey preferences, WiFi, corp features such us projects, Spotify integration, multiple stops,…

Email reply from Roberto to Juan de Antonio

Thankfully, they reconsidered my application and I’m now able to contribute to revolutionising the urban mobility industry. There are very few companies in the world where you have the possibility of making such a huge impact in our societies and cities (by the way, you’re not late, we have just started so if you really like what we do, come and help us!)

To be honest, I had never been interested in the startup ecosystem. I used to work in comfortable old-fashioned places where I earned enough to live well, have plenty of free time and travel. After coming back to Spain I decided to try to join a small company. I didn’t know we were going to build the first Spanish unicorn at the time. Today, I can say this job is one of the top 5 experiences of my life, together with Erasmus, Mongol Rally, bike trip around Holland and the World Trip I mentioned before. So, if you’re bored in your current job, start looking for a job that becomes an experience for you. It will make you happy. As we say (sort of ) in Spain, life is only two days and one is raining!

As I said before, I work in one of the most talented and effective teams in the world, but it’s been a long journey that’s still going on. It’s been the hardest and most time-consuming thing I’ve ever contributed to.

Let me explain what Cabify was like when I joined and how we built one of the best teams in the world…

When I joined Cabify, we were somewhat hipsters when it came technology, and this remains part of our DNA (we started with ruby and node.js and now we use ruby, go, elixir, react,…). However, salaries were fairly low and we worked long hours. If hiring people was difficult, retaining them was almost impossible. To make things even harder, nobody knew us, even in Madrid!

As we didn’t have much money at the time we decided to add some perks, little by little: half day Fridays, one day teleworking, weekly team lunches out, a week working from the beach, afterwork beers… All these benefits, together with increasing salaries as we grew, started to make Cabify an attractive place to work, not only because of our technology stack but also because of our team culture and working environment.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve hired people from top companies we couldn’t have dreamed of a few years ago or people who could have gone to US and preferred to stay. Spain lost many smart and talented Product and Engineering people during the huge economic crisis we faced. Today, they look at Cabify as real option to come back home because they can change the world while living in one of the best cities. Finally, for me, the most important part is that we have been able to retain awesome people who have grown together with the company and today their level of work is outstanding.

I said before this was the hardest and most time-consuming journey of my life. You may think I should be tired but I’m not. Now, almost four years later, I arrive at work with more energy than the very first day. Why? There two main reasons:

  1. I’m learning every single day at Cabify. There are many smart people willing to change the world by positively impacting the lives of drivers, riders and corporate clients. When your competitors have unlimited resources, you only have your values, your vision and the technology with which to compete. Talking about smart people, I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been sharing most of my time with David Smyth (Director of Product) and Sam Lown (cofounder and ex-CTO). Talking with these two guys during almost four years is like being in the best Product and Engineering master while getting paid. No, I’m not looking for a job, I’ll keep fighting to change our congested cities and to help you to decide when it’s time to sell your car.

  2. We are in a revolutionary war, as @steve.yegge said when he joined Grab. The most exciting part here is to compete with the two biggest private startups in the world with the best people. We are fewer than 100 people in the Product and Engineering team (meaning fewer than 70 engineers) but our output is huge. Open our rider and driver apps and our corporate web platform and compare it with any other ride-hailing service. Not only the apps, all the stuff we have built such as payments using local gateways, legal invoices, matching algorithms, predictions, antifraud system,… is simply amazing. To give you some numbers, any other ride-hailing app at our level has at least 4x engineers. Regarding the two biggest, I can’t say an exact number but at least they 30x more than us!

The race has just started, this is an Ironman and we’re still in the warm up. Although we operate in Latin America, Brazil and Iberia, the Ironman for the product and engineering team is taking place in Madrid: good weather, stunning places to visit, amazing tapas, joyful people and the most important thing…a place to work that will probably become one of the top five experiences of your life. If you can’t work from Madrid, we welcome remote engineers too!”

Roberto Perez avatar

Roberto Perez

VP of Product

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