Aboard Story Part 2

The continuation of how Aboard came to be. We set out to build a solution to the pain of setting up & delivering onboarding.

3
 min. read
July 26, 2021
A birds-eye view of our designs of the Aboard platform

It's early 2020, Lee and I have been building the idea of Aboard for about 4 to 5 months by now. We'd spoken to about a dozen HR and People leaders, as well as some entrepreneurs and other team leads so far. Our interviewing had been a bit sporadic, but we did have a structured call script we were trying to follow. Overall, we were highly encouraged that new employee onboarding was an acknowledged pain point, and there was room for improvement. Even Harvard had written about it!

Foundations

As mentioned in part 1 [link] our first 'fix' for onboarding ended up being a 60-page PDF. What this 60-page PDF consisted of was an end-to-end onboarding process. It is made up of slide decks, surveys, buddy systems, documents, and a number of suggested activity. We labeled this our 'Foundations' new employee onboarding program, as it could act as a foundation to customize and build on as needed. Easy to follow so far right? Well the issue became the "static", 1-dimensional experience anyone reading or going through the PDF material would experience. This is the same unfortunate feeling that accompanies how onboarding is generally delivered today, single documents or pages that is generally just a well organized information dump.

With some early feedback on our Foundations document, Lee and I made the reluctant decision to pivot into building our own tech. A web application that could take the Foundations material we'd developed over a few caffeine-filled weekends and deliver it in a manageable, curatable digital experience. Thus the idea of the Aboard platform started to grow!

Let's get digital

Lee and I set out in February of 2020 to find... a technical co-founder. Lee fortunately had a grasp of HTML, CSS, and basic JavaScript, but not enough to truly build out a product. One or two "business" tech founders (i.e. what Lee and I would fall under) going out to find a technical partner to "build" their vision is a common occurrence in the startup world. Y Combinator's very own CEO, Michael Seibel, has filmed a nice 5 minute video (set in an interrogation room?) on this very subject.

We were fortunate though, as Lee had previous experience as a technical recruiter where he was able to hone the craft of respectfully connecting with developers who might be the right fit. After an admittedly non-lengthy process, we were able to meet a very experienced, thoughtful, and communicative developer who agreed to join us on the Aboard team and start building our technology.

Summer Time

So, now a team of 3, we set out to do the 2 things Y Combinator will tell you to do when starting up your business:

We always remind founders not to lose sight that the most important tasks for an early stage company are to write code and talk to users

- Geoff Ralston, Michael Seibel, Essential Startup Advice

Over the summer of 2020, we interviewed over 100 People Operations, HR, and business leaders. We validated with them firsthand the pains they experienced when setting up their onboarding process. Meanwhile, our CTO, was slowly starting to build out an minimum viable product (MVP) based on early designs and user input. As the summer months came to a close, we were able to launch our MVP in what we'd consider a 'soft launch' to a select number of early adopters & beta users. We learned a lot through these interviews and it set us up for what would come next: product improvements & the first ever attempt at fundraising!