When it comes to creating a team culture, Bungalo’s new CTO Jason Griffin knows it starts with developing a shared history. That history is developed not only through transparent leadership, or collaborating on new product features, but also through sharing personal stories and jokes during team happy hours.
It’s this approach that Griffin will bring to the engineering team at Bungalo, the new real estate venture from Amherst Residential. We spoke to Griffin to learn more about his leadership style and the future he envisions for Bungalo.
FOUNDED: 2012 (Amherst)
EMPLOYEES: 650 (Amherst); 25 at Bungalo
WHAT THEY DO: Amherst Residential — a division of Amherst — combines proprietary technology with a network of 25-plus branch offices to help real estate owners renovate, lease, manage and finance their homes.
WELCOME HOME: Bungalo is a new venture from Amherst Residential that provides consumers with an all-in-one home buying experience, guiding them through every step of the process.
TEAM OUTINGS: Employees are treated to frequent company-sponsored social events, from SXSW to the Dell Match Play golf tournament.
DRIVING INNOVATION: Bungalo's chief operating officer plans to remodel the real estate industry by leveraging cutting-edge technology. Learn more.
Jason Griffin, Chief Technology Officer
Jason Griffin’s role is to build technology that re-invents the home buying experience. This involves creating a full-service digital platform, developing tools and technology to help the sales and marketing teams, and creating unique technology experiences within the company’s homes.
BEYOND WORK: Jason has been learning to play golf for the past nine months, an experience that frequently reminds him that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
What attracted you to join the Bungalo team at Amherst Residential?
I was attracted to Bungalo because of the quality of the team and the vision for the platform and products. The debate over successful startups is about execution versus ideas. In Bungalo’s case, they have both. During the interview process, I could see that this team was executing at a high level.
A tremendous amount of thought had gone into the technology product, the homes we are selling, the marketing and the operations. They had a vision and plan to change the way homes are bought and sold. It was a massive opportunity and an area primed for disruption.
They had a vision and plan to change the way homes are bought and sold.”
Describe your leadership style.
My goal as a leader is to set people up for success, whether that’s through resources, training, my support or just getting out of their way. I prefer to be the anti-bottleneck. I delegate what I can and then help where it is most needed. And finally, it’s important to be honest and open with people. Nothing garners more respect than admitting when you are wrong.
Tell us about an influential boss. How did that person shape who you are as a leader?
Early in my career, I worked for a vice president of engineering at Allegis, a company in San Francisco. We were making SaaS software at the height of the dot-com bubble. I was working long hours on a major release and not seeing much of my wife. After the release, the vice president thanked me for my hard work and gave me a small bonus — he paid for me and my wife to go to high tea at the Four Seasons. He made sure the bonus meant I was spending time with her.
What it taught me about leadership was to care about the goose, not just the golden egg. In other words, he cared about me — not just my work output.
The best teams I’ve worked on have had a true family atmosphere.”
How will you create a team feeling?
The best teams I’ve worked on have had a true family atmosphere. We had a Band of Brothers/Sisters experience fighting in the trenches together. It’s not about prescribing something specific, it’s about building a shared history.
At Tastemade, we ate lunch together around a table in the office twice a week. We watched Silicon Valley together, made funny memes in Slack and bought Pop! figures of characters that best represented each person (I was Marty McFly). And, of course, we had lots of happy hours.
I haven’t been at Bungalo long, but it’s obvious the team is already building a similar, strong core identity. It’s important to spend time together, let your guard down and let everyone be themselves.
If an employee came to you and said they were burned out, what would you do? What would you say?
I don’t really like using the phrase “burned out.” It implies that someone is working too hard. I’m a big believer in what Marissa Mayer, former president and CEO of Yahoo, said about burn out — it’s about resentment. It’s not about doing too much, it’s doing too little of what you love to do. If you are doing what you love, it’s hard to burn out. So my question would be, “What are you doing that you don’t love and what are you not doing that you love to do?” Then I’d figure out a way to tip that balance.
We look for people who have a high degree of personal character and can contribute beyond their core roles.”
Who are you seeking to hire in the near future? What’s an absolute must for those hires?
For a new venture — even for one built within an established organization — the best way to shape the company’s culture is through the early employees you hire. Those employees will have an outsized impact, and it’s critical they fit your profile. We look for people who have a high degree of personal character and can contribute beyond their core roles — people who show up with solutions, not problems. They should put team success first.
We are focused on growing Bungalo’s in-house engineering team to work on our websites and apps. We’re hiring for full-stack web developers, mobile developers and QA roles.
What questions are you likely to ask job candidates? What kind of answer would impress you?
I don’t have a specific go-to question but I like using the technique of asking for multiple examples. I might say, “Give me an example of when you pushed back at your boss” or: “Give me an example of when you put in extra effort to ensure the quality of your software.”
After they answer, I’ll ask for another example, and then another and so on. Most people will have one answer ready to go but having multiple shows real depth. I’m definitely impressed if a candidate can go four or five examples deep.
Where do you envision Bungalo at the end of its first year?
Bungalo will launch this summer and completely transform the home buying experience. On our website, you will be able to search, tour, make an offer on, and finance your new home all under one roof. Our goal is for the process to be as seamless as possible.
By the summer of 2019, we plan to launch a new technology product, like a mobile app, to further elevate the home buying and ownership experience. We aim to join brands like Amazon, Casper and Dollar Shave Club in delivering the same level of convenience, ease and joy.