Boss It Like

How To Boss It Like… Christian Owens, CEO and Founder of Paddle

By Kitty Knowles 23 January 2018

These leaders are changing our world for the better. We find out how they get the job done.

There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures who are changing the world.

From Provenance founder Jessi Baker to Fanbytes boss Timothy Armoo, these smart people get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

This morning, we’re talking to Christian Owens, founder and CEO at software business Paddle.

Meet Christian Owens

Owens started his first software business at 16, after teaching himself to code three years earlier.

Now 23, he is the CEO of Paddle, a London-based software company that boasts a team of over 50, has raised over $17m in funding.

Paddle is on a mission to transform the way software is sold. Currently, software companies commonly use multiple suppliers to sell their products, whereas Paddle’s platform provides developers with an ‘all in one’ solution.

Owens, who skipped higher education, was also chosen by Peter Thiel to become a fellow of the Thiel Foundation, that “defends and promotes freedom in all its dimensions”.

A busy man, with big ideas, The Memo asked Christian Owens how he gets it all done…

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

My morning is pretty similar each day. I wake up around 7am and make coffee (I’m a Nespresso kinda guy) and then I catch up with emails for 30-45 minutes. Then shower and head straight to the office, jumping into either more email/Slack, or a meeting.

What apps or methods do you use to be more productive?

For the last five years I’ve been trying to find an app for creating ‘to-do lists’ that I stick to, and I can’t find one. My current solution is to create a text file on my Mac, and take notes/to-dos throughout the month in Markdown.

At the start of each new month, I transfer anything I haven’t done (that I still intend to do) to a new text file, and archive the old version in Dropbox. When I’m on the go, I email myself notes and reminders, and heavily rely on my calendar, which is shared with the whole company.

It works for me, even if it is embarrassingly old fashioned – everyone in the office makes fun of me! I am genuinely keen to find a solution, I even tried to build my own to-list app. It took me a month to complete! Some of the Paddle team still use it, but I gave up on it after a fortnight…

What smartphone do you have?

I have a Black iPhone 7 128GB. This year with the release of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X it’s the first year I didn’t buy the new iPhone on launch day. That said, I’ll be swapping it out for the iPhone X in the next couple of weeks.

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day?

We have around 50 people who work at Paddle, and I typically average around 4-5 meetings a day, and perhaps an interview or two. I’d say it’s around 20-25 people that I interact with on a typical day, mostly current or prospective Paddle employees.

Our customer base is very international, so we don’t tend to meet them too often. But every few weeks we’ll have customers in town, and these visits will be packed with customer meetings, coffees, lunches and dinners. On these days, the usual number of 20-25 can get much higher.

What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you?

I really loved The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. As a startup founder, it’s one of those books that you nod and audibly “yep” in agreement to as you read it.

Jeff Bezos’ The Everything Store also falls into this category. It encompasses the ‘grit’ you need to become an entrepreneur and succeed. And some of the unglamorous anecdotes Jeff shares about packing boxes in the early days are a healthy reminder than ‘even’ Jeff Bezos had hard days.

Entrepreneurship isn’t easy! I enjoyed this particular book so much, I bought everyone in the company copy (from Amazon, naturally).

What advice would you give for people who are eager to get into your industry?

Focus on building something good, and solving a real problem. It’s comparatively cheap to start a software business these days, and all the information you could ever need is available for free online.

I taught myself to code in evenings and weekends when I was 13 or 14 years old, and naturally just found my way into building a software company.

Don’t underestimate the value of spending time with people who have done the thing you want to do. I can’t highlight enough how much I enjoy spending time with other people building software companies, and how much I learn from them.

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night? Or do you have a wind-down routine?

I usually leave the office around 7 or 8pm, and take the short 10 minute walk home. I’m typically catching up on email, or writing notes late into the night.

Where possible – I try to switch off around 11pm, but typically fail at this, and find myself reading into the early hours of the morning, typically emailing or Slacking articles and notes to my team.

Last night, I sent my Head of Product an article about the difference between “wartime product managers and peacetime product managers” at 1am… I’m sure he appreciated some light reading before bed.

(Disclaimer: I don’t expect anyone to read the stuff at the moment I send it, it’s more that I like sharing articles that I think they’d enjoy!)

What was your favourite childhood toy?

I caused a massive fuss in the office this morning because I can’t remember my favourite toy, but I can remember my first ever phone and computer!

The first phone was a Bosch (yes, Bosch) 509e. It didn’t send text messages, and I couldn’t play snake when everyone else had a 3310. The computer was a Compaq, which had 64mb of RAM. Museum pieces…

If you could ask your idol one question, who would it be, and what would you ask?

Elon Musk: “When can I go to Mars?”

Come back next Tuesday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a business leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.