Looking back on 2021, with eola CTO Dan Steele

by Ed Scott

2021 was a year of considerable growth for eola. 

In January, after a difficult year for the travel and activities sector, our future looked uncertain. But a major funding round secured in February meant it was ‘all systems go’ once more, and we began to invest heavily in expanding our team and developing our platform. 

In this article, eola co-founder and CTO Dan Steele discusses the challenges faced by the newly expanded eola tech team in building out the eola platform from its foundations up.

callum hemsley dan steele
eola co-founders Callum Hemsley, CEO, and Dan Steele, CTO

Scaling up

“From a tech perspective, everything is wildly different,” Dan said. “The team is three or four times the size it was at the start of 2021, so we’ve gone from a position where everything was being done just as best as we could manage, to one in which the quality of everything that we do has been massively upgraded.”

One major change up has been the addition of product manager Jamie and product designer Martin. Over the course of 2021, they spoke with dozens of existing partner businesses to get a sense of the kinds of problems they face. Developing this deeper understanding of eola’s customers has allowed Dan to build a long-term product roadmap.

“eola is a very deeply technical business,” Dan said. “Where most software companies choose a specific area of your business to optimise, we take your entire business online. So we need to have a huge array of products, and we need to make sure that they all work together.”

“Identifying our roadmap isn’t just about what feature we deliver, then. It's about how we deliver a whole chain of features, and how that ties into our long term roadmap of, say, five years down the line, when we want to be on the forefront of the future of work.” 

eola tech team
Some of eola's growing tech team on our company trip to Newquay

Managing growth

A key strategy in handling eola’s rapid growth, in Dan’s estimation, has been avoiding the adoption of any unnecessary processes. 

“A lot of teams subscribe to ‘agile’ and ‘scrum’, and loads of other buzzwords, to manage their pipeline,” Dan explained. “From our perspective, we’ve been organically evolving what we do, constantly getting feedback from the team, and improving processes where that needs to happen. We’re now in a really good position, the team is working like clockwork, and we're incredibly productive.”

By allowing processes to evolve organically, Dan has been able to step back from the ‘front line’ of eola’s tech, and even take a well-earned break. 

“I went on holiday in summer, which is peak time for us. I put my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ I think for the first time in four and a half years, and I was not stressed about it because if anything happened, the team is more than capable of dealing with it.”

dan steele

Growing together

Over the years they’ve been working together, Dan and co-founder Callum’s working relationship has deepened, and this trend only accelerated in 2021.

“We've gotten to the point where we can both very adequately argue the other person's perspective before they’ve said anything,” he said. “It's funny, but it's also genuinely really helpful when we have any kind of decision to make. Because I’ll think, ‘Well, Callum is going to think this, then I would reply with this, and then this is the outcome that we’ll probably get to.’”

Ultimately, their conviction as co-founders that doing the right thing matters has remained steadfast.

“Something that we’ve subscribed to from the beginning is that we’d rather fail for the right reasons than succeed for the wrong ones,” Dan explained. “The reason many startups don't make it it's because the team isn't right, but I think that our team really subscribes to that idea. It feels genuinely really special.” 

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