Mastercard Spotlight: Rob Villeneuve “Building Agile Teams in the Nation’s Capital”
Rob Villeneuve is the CEO of Rebel.com, a one-stop shop to register or transfer your domain name, host your email address, access website creation tools, and more.
Rob has built a strong culture of innovation, collaboration and wellbeing at Rebel.com even while pivoting, rebranding and scaling the company. As one of Ottawa’s 2016 Top 40 Under 40, Rob invests deeply into his team, customer relationships and has built a strong community passionate about the Rebel.com brand.
Rob’s expertise is the cumulation of two decades of work in domains, software development and web solutions – but his real passion is in building agile teams and authentic corporate cultures.
A self-proclaimed ‘bearded tech geek’, Rob galvanized the Rebel.com team to experiment with innovation and new technology at every opportunity.
Q: Rob – Tell us about yourself, your entrepreneurial journey and how you found yourself at the helm of the booming Rebel.com?
RV: My journey to be the CEO of Rebel.com really started with being a tech geek. I was studying computer science at Carleton University when the web was really just taking off in the late 90s. Like all of my peers, we made a living in the summertime building websites for people and getting people online, which evolved into my first startup. I joined the [Rebel] team, I did what I thought we needed to do, I tried what I think we needed to fix, and I tried to hang on during some of the tougher times. But ultimately, we started to see some success. That emboldened us.
Q: Tell us about Rebel.com, how it supports entrepreneurs and why every entrepreneur should look to Rebel.com as a partner to start and grow their business?
RV: Our [Rebel.com] purpose is that we recognize the passion we have for the Internet, and getting online and sharing your story and vision and how fulfilling and rewarding it is for us to do. So that’s what we made our purpose. Our purpose is to help others do that.
On Building Agile Teams
Q: You often say that your passion is in building agile teams. What is an agile team and how do you go about building it?
RV: Agile comes in many forms and many layers. The foundation is, are you regularly checking in? Are you asking for feedback and acting on it? Do you have an experimental attitude towards changing things to achieve better outcomes based on that feedback?
Q: From Uber Puppies to planking – Rebel.com looks like a great place to work. Tell us about some of your approaches to building agile teams and what has been the impact on the bottom line, if any?
RV: I intended for the development team to be agile because I’m a developer, and that’s where agile is used. But what happened was, it worked. It took a team that was down in the dumps and not thinking they were valued and didn’t know their direction and didn’t think their opinions were being followed and didn’t think we were listening to users…. When we started to put the agile methodology in, they became inspired, engaged, more productive, and were doing less work overall but hitting better targets.
On Building an Authentic Corporate Culture
Q: How do you work to cultivate authentic culture in your role as CEO?
RV: There’s no magical moment when it happened, it’s just a bunch of little steps along the way that got us here.
Q: What one thing can a founding CEO do right now to build a better culture within their startup company?
RV: For those who are successful in business, it’s because they have a really great attitude. Culture and brand are really the reflection of each other. Culture is internal. That’s what you talk about to your employees about how they feel and how they act and how they respond to problems. Brand is external. It’s how you project your culture out to the world. It could be a little filtered, a little altered, but it isn’t going to be that different from your culture.
On Building an Engaged Community
Q: What have you learned over the years about building an engaged community of customers and why has it been so important to Rebel.com’s success?
RV: User research just means talking to your user. It’s really about conversations, not necessarily about a bunch of market analytics. That’s how we approach it.
Q: Do you have any final tips for entrepreneurs?
RV: When you’re getting started out, there might be this part of you that wants to keep everything a secret. But the reality is it’s the execution that’s important, not the idea. Part of the execution is telling your network about it so they get excited about it. There’s no secret, it’s just hard work.
Rob contributes to national and international Internet policy development through his involvement with CIRA and ICANN and is a contributor to podcasts and publications that support creators and innovators to succeed.