Startup Team: Halla

Kristin Karaoglu · July 29, 2019 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/4e61

Don't avoid conflicts; work on making resolutions repeatable and positive

 

This week's Startup Teams profile is Halla. Halla is an artificial intelligence (AI) company that provides retailers personalized recommendations for food ordering. Halla is helping grocers further explore consumer shopping habits. Halla recently closed $1.4 million seed round led by E&A Venture Capital, along with multi-stage VC investor SOSV. The new funding of Halla will allow them to scale its offerings, gaining more in-depth personalization and forecasting data. 

Halla was founded by Spencer PriceHenry Michaelson, and Gabriel Nipote

Spencer Price is the CEO of Halla. A Los Angeles native, he co-founded Halla while studying business at USC. Originally expecting the project to be a “side-hustle” to his studies and internship with will.i.am’s recording studio, he chose to leave both when Halla took off. Price is the organization’s principal dealmaker, responsible for relationships with grocery partners, data providers, and investors.

Henry Michaelson is the CTO of Halla, He co-founded Halla while studying computer science at UC Berkeley. His day-to-day responsibilities involve internal leadership, especially with respect to technology. Michaelson's interests are not limited to food predictions, however. Previous projects include machine learning-based classification of supernovae in the UC Berkeley Astrophysics department, a speaking role in the Warner Brothers blockbuster comedy Project X, a three-year stint as lead guitarist for Joe Banks and a patented algorithm that has distributed over $7M in awards to mobile gamers. 

Gabriel Nipote is the COO of Halla. Also a Los Angeles native, he co-founded Halla while studying economics at UCLA. He brings to the table a deep belief in the agile value of experimenting to create solutions that users authentically need and the entrepreneurial value of constant self-education. In Halla's early days, that included rolling up his virtual sleeves and learning to code from scratch. These days, Nipote focuses on operations and business development.

Vatornews: How did your company together?

Gabriel: Henry, Spencer, and I wanted to work on something together.

Henry: We were high school friends who wanted to work on a shared project during our free time in college.

Spencer: I was invited to work on a “project” with Henry and Gabriel outside the classroom… a few months later, we incorporated!

Vatornews: What are the complementary skills you each bring to the table?

Gabriel: Our general approaches to decision-making and problem solving are very complementary. If a few people fail to solve a puzzle individually but can solve the puzzle together by building on each others’ ideas, those people are complimentary.

Henry: Our instinctual approaches, some naturally focus on the big picture and some are drawn to the day to day.

Spencer: Gabriel is a wonderful wizard, always casting spells to make us smile while also making the impossible possible. Henry is a bold and brilliant builder with a penchant for taking on only the greatest challenges. I’m a lot like the company pet, just happy to be here and enjoying the ride. 

Vatornews: What are the characteristics/qualities you look for in a founding partner? 

Gabriel: Demonstrated desire to do and/or make stuff. Demonstrated desire to improve both themselves and the stuff they do/make. Demonstrated honesty and integrity are necessary. Experience is a bonus. Personal connection is a massive bonus.

Henry: The magical combination of experience, open-mindedness, and passion, all while having strong morals and empathy.

Spencer: An agreeably disagreeable, really good friend.

Vatornews: How do you make sure you don’t get on each other’s nerves?

Gabriel: We don’t. Conflict is necessary and you shouldn’t work on avoiding it, you should work on making resolution repeatable and positive. That will also naturally lead to fewer future conflicts.

Henry: You can’t. Conflict is necessary and you shouldn’t work on avoiding it, one should work on creating effective means of resolving it.

Spencer: Patience. Total trust takes time. All we can ask from each other is patience. 

Vatornews: What are some lessons learned about working together?

Gabriel: Failure exists with respect to any action no matter how big or small — from starting a company to debating a decision to cracking a joke. Being afraid of failure is the easiest way to do nothing. If you try your best and learn from failure, there is no harm in it — only value.

 Henry: It’s very hard to measure progress and know if you are moving in the right direction.
- Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. A good team should amplify strengths and diminish weaknesses.
- Conflict should be resolved as soon as possible.
- You will go through periods of high and low efficiency, that is fine, it is all part of the game

Spencer: Positivity is a choice. Almost always a great one.

Vatornews: What’s your advice about teams and founding partners to entrepreneurs looking to start a company?

Gabriel: Being fully immersed and working your hardest on something is a very special feeling. When working on anything, extreme focus and commitment are incredibly rewarding.

 Henry: It’s a long, hard process with many ups and downs. Enjoy the ups!
- Any outcome is a good one. Life is about the journey and entrepreneurship is an amazing place to start.
- Act in good faith. Try to help people. Be good to your investors. Don’t be competitive.
- Keep learning about your industry. It is constantly changing, keep up.
- Keep learning period. Often times, that random fact that you just learned will be a source of inspiration.
- You will have a warped view of yourself / your own success. Know that and focus on reasoning under uncertainty.

 Spencer: Don’t forget your seatbelt.

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Kristin Karaoglu

Woman of many skills: Database System Engineer; SplashX event producer; Author of Startup Teams

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