From Startup to Scaleup: What I learned from reorganising our tech team into squads - Marie-Laure Cruyt, Apptweak - Rocket Day Talk Summary

We had the pleasure to welcome Marie-Laure Cruyt on stage at our Rocket Day for a very interesting talk about how to scale teams properly in a business. Marie-Laure has a lot of experience in business development. She started her career in Chile. Over the years, she discovered how difficult it was to set up teams effectively in fast-growing startups. After gathering more than seven years of experience in the tech world, she’s now Chief Product Officer for Apptweak, an App Store Optimization (ASO) tool (basically SEO for apps, if you didn’t know yet). AppTweak supports over 1500 app developers worldwide.

Marie-Laure first outlined her early stages at Apptweak. The company went from 7 employees when she joined in 2017, to 80+ as of now. She shared a lot about how to manage teams the best way in her talk. “From Startup to Scaleup: What I learned from reorganising our tech team into squads”, which I’ll sum up here for you!

Throughout her talk, Marie-Laure will constantly answer the following problematic: How do you prepare a tech team for high growth? This is a process most scaleups fail to do, and her experience taught her what to do and what to avoid in that regard. 

As mentioned earlier, AppTweak went from 7 employees to more than 80 in just five years. Since people started onboarding the company, AppTweak decided to change its structure in order to prepare for their transition to a scaleup. Since the product was growing, teams weren’t able to identify their exact job. The communication became more complex, which resulted in teams handing over their work to others. This led to a waterfall process, which wasn’t working effectively, and slowed down the process.

This is why Apptweak chose to reorganise their teams to be smaller, since they foster better communication for better results. As Marie-Laure says, the team’s cognitive load sets the size limit of the software they handle. AppTweak chose to organise their teams into squads, inside functional teams. These squads are given full autonomy when it comes to their priorities and roadmaps, and the benefit is that a squad inside the functional team is free to ask for advice from another squad that has the skills needed. It assures consistent alignment and learning for all squads, therefore the company in general.

For the team change to happen, AppTweak even had to rebuild parts of the app architecture, so the new squads could get their work done properly. Functional teams help squads get help and progress with all the company rather than working in silos. 

However such a change is a huge deal for the company’s employees, and Marie-Laure wasn’t scared to tell us that everyone at AppTweak literally freaked out when they chose to change their habits. The solution here is simple: over-communication! Explaining why changing the company’s hierarchy, listening to everyone and showing benefits is the most important thing. Ensure cohesion and get to know every important concern.

Taking everything into consideration, constantly asking for feedback (1on1 calls, team surveying) are the key components for general involvement in the transition, as it induces advocacy for all members. And in 9 months of this project being set up, all goals were reached: cognitive load was effectively spread across all teams, projects were carried out in a way that matches the company’s growth rate, and the squads had the autonomy to deliver and innovate. The acceleration is clear and measurable, and Apptweak couldn’t be more than a scaleup now!

Marie-Laure concluded by asking herself (and the audience) few questions. What about the Head-of’s? Since they’re handing over more than half of their tasks to the rest of the teams, what do they do next? Another challenge was born: How to offer a compelling job in such a (re)structured scaleup if the executives give their powers away for growth? The future will maybe answer those questions for AppTweak.

We hope you liked this summary of Marie-Laure Cruyt’s talk, and if you want to see the full talk, here you go! make sure to check out our YouTube Channel where all Rocket Day content is available!

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