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For decades the surf industry has had only one popular type of method for getting grip and traction onto a board. Whilst performance is not optimal, application also steals time from a surf session and the material is nastily greasy, leaving boards, cars, and personal possessions dirty; but worse, it's not great for the environment.
Enter SURFSTYK™ !
They are revolutionising the industry with the introduction of their product 🐙GNT - "Surf more! Surf better!!" and the launch of their business has been aided by none other than Trello: from initial concept/idea all the way through to managing a highly successful Instagram account.
In this AMA hosted by Community's Fun Man, SURFSTYK™ founder, Hendrik Bondzio takes us through his business, the passion behind it, and this epic journey of moving work forward with Trello.
Welcome Hendrik! Tell us a little about you, your company and it’s product.
Woah that’s a big question! My name is Hendrik, originally from Germany, I’m an IT project manager working more than two decades in the business. My experience comes from different international companies and consultancies in IT. That’s half of my life. The other? Digital creation and technology in general. I’ve been in the field since web.0 days, when the internet learned to walk.
Later in life I started a Side-hack: a company SURFSTYK™ which is basically a tech platform dedicated to surfing and watersports, a family firm and based in Ericeira - a World Surf Reserve. We have a digital service stream where we’re very active in SoMe marketing and content creation BUT we also have a physical product 🐙GNT, which is an alternative way to apply grip and traction onto a surfboard. I love surfing, it’s a big part of my life, and this product creation was such a natural process for me.
Surfer for life… how has your passion for surfing driven the realisation of this product?
This has been a seriously long journey actually: I spent all my spare time as a child with my family at the sea, sailing and surfing. Subconsciously I seem to have made all of my decisions to lead me closer and closer to Ericeira, one of the best surf regions in the world.
The next step was somewhat more logical: having moved here and surfing the hot spots non-stop, I eventually came across a problem: grip and traction. Old paraffin based materials with plenty of disadvantages and the more I thought about this problem and potential solutions, the more the product 🐙GNT came to life. Overall passion for surfing was a massive driver: first the passion, then build the idea, then create the product!
You’re an international guy from Germany who’s seen the world; how did you come to settle in Ericeira?
When I first came to Lisbon I found it an exceptionally interesting place from both technical and and cultural points of views. It;s now been 5 years and I’ve witnessed an amazing evolution and transition of this region. With amazing events and conferences such as WebSummit, these bring in loads of technological interest and many large corporations have set up shop here… either with a service centre or some form of other substantial offices.!
If one is a surfer who works in tech, there will not be too many places with such an active business environment and the best surf in the world and so my final assessment was: the only place is Lisbon. It was not long before my wife and I discovered the charm and character of Ericeira as a town, not just where I went to rip up epic waves on the weekend - it’s an hour’s drive from Lisbon - and eventually, we fell LOVE with it.
“Don’t @#$% the planet” is Atlassian’s motto for climate change. Seems like your company agrees. How does your product not @#$% the planet?
We fully agree with this motto! We at SURFSTYK™ want to actually do far more than this… we want to LOVE THE PLANET! Our love is driven by two factors:
1) Performance - we don’t want to sacrifice performance by using environmentally friendly products and materials only. If one wants to be innovative and conscientious, it’s possible not to F the planet. All the while we looked at natural products to synthetic. This meant that we had a great challenge to maintain performance but not F the planet. The best approach in the end was:
2) Sustainability - ensure a very lean design, with a material footprint that is very minimal, but tough, endurable and long lasting. Our product is put once onto a board and stays on! For hardcore surfers they can go many seasons of regular surf before having to replace it. When looking at the alternatives they are not efficient, not sustainable, need constant renewing and are based on crude oil. Some are applied every single surf session. They’re good for candles but neither good for your board or the ocean!
It’s so cool that a surf company is using Atlassian products: how did you come to know Atlassian and their products?
First of all, I love Atlassian! I've been a big fan of the products for many years. My first experience was with Jira way back in the early days. I was always in software development and it was logical to use them. At the time though I was not using it to its potential.
Took some years to unleash that potential and of course naturally more products came along that aided the work my colleagues and I were doing. As both my career and Atlassian evolved more and more, the relationship with their products grew and grew.
As our company and its products began to take shape the one product we came to know the most though was Trello! It was a classic use case = I first opened an account back in October 2016 and found it extremely useful and handy for managing many aspects of life.
Surf and software - how are the two integral to each other?
Right now, there is probably no aspect of life that technology has not changed and/or impacted and this is definitely the case for surfing. The average surfer has at least two forecast apps, accesses online webcams plus uses the GPS tracking of surf sessions with their smartwatch. It’s all on their phone or smartwatch and that’s just the average surfer.
Specifically for us, we have a few really neat ideas for apps and products and there are loads of opportunities for linking surfing back to technology. It’s a huge field to be explored… watch this space!
What were the reasons for choosing Trello?
Any interest in developing your own PowerUps for Trello?
If the needs arise, yes absolutely! Most likely it will be if we come across a Trello challenge that we need to overcome to keep our business going. At this time we don’t have any and we’re not actively looking to develop PowerUps.
Do you connect/integrate Trello to other Atlassian products?
At the moment no.
It’s not on our radar as we are building success with the tools we have right now and therefore integrating is not a necessity.
The size and needs of a company probably dictates this. We’re a small firm growing into an SME and right now Trello does the job.
At some point we will likely need to know what are the possibilities and with the insane effort Atlassian puts into their marketing at some point we’ll start taking note, especially anything geared towards SMEs
(Andy: Is Trello providing everything you need then to move work forward?)
Yes, as a tool itself, it is doing a fantastic job. If I think about integrations I would probably look more to non-Atlassian platforms actually. Example would be where I prep my card and integrate that into Social Media directly (FB, Insta, etc.). In terms of wishlist, this would be absolutely amazing! I could see this being beneficial for LOTS of people at this time IMHO.
There is the risk of Trello losing it’s strongest point though: simplicity. So much information in today's info driven world that it;s difficult to cut down to the core. There are lots of ways to take it to the next level though.
Did you create your own Trello Board from scratch or did you use a Trello Template?
OH! There are Trello templates…? I didn't even know that. I might have actually looked at using one to help me get set-up. That said, right now all the boards are all set-up by us and it is so simple that it takes max 5-10min. (Andy: It sounds like your own board should be submitted to become a template.) LOVE that idea. Really happy to share it with the world!.
Do you still remember the first few days of using the board and what did it look like compared to today?
That’s an interesting question and never looked at it like that. Every card has it’s history… to have an overview snapshot in the moment in time is an amazing thought. They all started empty, the lists just sitting there and then it fills up with cards progressing as we are processing. Actually, we have a basic set-up still to this day:
Back-log, In Progress, Done.
Here and there, there are some extra lanes with a specific theme, but overall we take a classic kanban approach to really move work forward. Nothing fancy, the bare essential to get things done.
Do you have a Gold or Business Teams account?
No we do not, but we understand the advantages for both… I’m actively looking into Gold membership to make full potential for myself and as the business grows we’ll be reviewing Business Teams.
What features and functionality are you using to manage the day2day business?
The basic features, like boards, cards and most of the card features as well: Checklist, dues dates as reminders/follow-up/deadlines and then obviously back to the simplicity: Assign members, add comments, use of timestamps, see progress, documentation and more. We make sure we update all of this on a very regular basis.
(Andy: Using PowerUps?)
Oh yes and PowerUps…! We’ve tried out a few over the years but the one we always use (and we see as a massive bonus to our methodology) is Card Aging! This really really helps. It’s like watching leaves on a tree browning and so we literally see what is falling apart. Great visual way of working.
(Andy: What about Labels or Custom Fields?)
Actually no… but now it makes me think: “What can do more? How can we go deeper?” Maybe there should be Tip Of The Day to highlight all the features of Trello? Obviously we receive the marketing stuff from Trello but we’re in TL:DR mode: “Oh, that sounds interesting, maybe come back to it!” but we never do. We’re busy and we understand where our priorities for the business and our time management lie.
So, why is Trello so good for SURFSTYK™ , in particular running the business for your product 🐙GNT?
Then as our business started to take shape and we were in need of a great tool we turned to Trello. It’s become one of our essential tools for getting our business off the ground. It is the only Atlassian product that has had any impact for building our products: and it was a big impact!
I could repeat in plenty of detail a lot of what’s been said previously, especially ease of use and accessibility, but it’s all the same!
Keep track, monitor progress, get sh^^ done and manage capacity: Dump it on Trello, document, work on it, and move on.
In addition, to have that information in one location at the touch of a button on mobile/web is crucial and to my knowledge Trello is the only tool that can achieve all of this.
In what ways has Trello really helped ensure that you move work forward?
We’ve built our own tool for SoMe marketing - everything goes through this. From Trello side, the team is working on the board and everyone can work off their tasks on a card and get it straight into their SoMe channel. This idea of containment is important for us, especially as each card has its own attachments. (Andy: What about Confluence for a lot of your documentation?)
We‘re not using confluence. I know it well and for me it’s really important for larger corporations. I see it as a whole different playing field of documentation. Maybe if we’re on the next level and truly need it, maybe then we link in Confluence, especially for our solution architects and analysts. This is really a part of their field!
What is the number one feature of Trello that you could just not live without?
Checklists! I’m a big fan of ticking off tasks! Leaves a great sense of moving work forward.
What’s next for SURFSTYK™ and 🐙GNT?
We are super excited for this year! It is the Year Of The Octo; it is our spirit animal. The online business is ramping up and we will be active on beaches in Portugal and Europe with upcoming surf events like SurfOut in the famous Ribeira D’Ilhas.
We’ll have a big push on SomE and visibility, especially for 🐙GNT: surfers use it and use it! They love to use it and won’t go back. We want to increase that. We want the world to get to know GNT; that’s the plan behind the vision.
What role does Trello have to play in that?
We love Trello for its simplicity and configuration possibilities but at the end of the day Trello is the backbone for business. It’s all there, all on one Board!
For 🐙GNT 2.0 there is a hug back-log. They’re (the cards) all sitting there waiting for us to launch phase too, so the Trello board is a must-have. You cannot take our Trello board away from us! We cannot live without it.
So yes, absolutely Trello has a role to play. The backbone!
What are your Trello recommendations for others looking to start up their own business?
First of all: Get it and Use it! Both for yourself and for your team. Make it a really interactive and collaborative platform.
And use it to its full potential: use PowerUps and add ons… get acquainted with API development. In any start-up phase the possibilities are endless and from my perspective, Trello is essential for prioritising ideas whilst keeping the relevant ones ready for later phases.
I can recommend it to anyone, to just get creative in using Trello as a braindump as well as a task management tool. It is so helpful to relieve your brain and follow-up on it later!
Plus it is free, which is so good whilst core functionality is brilliant; big thanks to Trello for both those factors.
Hendrik, thanks for your time, this has been epic!
For interest in your product and your Ericeirian lifestyle, where can people find you?
The pleasure is all mine. Thanks to you for this interview!
The main hub is INSTAGRAM:
You can find the product under gripandtraction.com.
These are the two main platforms. Just go to Instagram, find us and follow-us, and keep an eye out for updates on the surf events we’ll be attending this year!