Interview with David Pena, CEO of Peoople
Born in Vigo (Pontevedra) 47 years ago, David Pena is the co-founder and CEO of Peoople, a recommendations app for all types of products and services: from a restaurant in a particular city to a moisturizer or a gas station.
Simple and easy to use, its utility is noticeable at first glance. But what is the creator of this idea like?
Q. What did you want to offer with Peoople?
A. Look, Ed Williams, the founder of Twitter, advised those who wanted to found an Internet startup not to try anything new, just to bring there what has always worked. Well, we wanted to bring a common habit to a mobile application: asking trusted people for advice to make consumer decisions.
Q. Who are these people?
A. Firstly, your friends, family, colleagues, people close to you. And, for young people, also influencers, those new opinion makers.
Q. What is the goal with your app?
A. That one day people, just as they go to Google today to look for something, will go to Peoople thinking: what restaurant, movie, book would my friends recommend me?
Q. And wouldn’t a Galician rather answer with their typical “it depends”?
A. (laughter) Nooo… no. Because, when a Galician answers “it depends”, in reality they are giving you an answer; it is just that they are not telling you what you want to hear.
Q. What were you doing before you founded this startup?
A. I studied law and an MBA in finance. After graduating, I worked for SEPI applying financial engineering to the financing of boats, a fantastic job. Later I became involved in venture capital operations. But a time came, while working in banking, when I realized that I wanted to change my profession. The idea of Peoople came to me, I discussed it with my partner Gon and in 2016 we decided to work on it full time.
Q. How do you know Gon?
A. I was a mentor in the Founders Institute, an incubator for startup projects. Gon arrived with a project and I loved it. One day he came to class with an electric skateboard and told me that he was bringing them from China, being just 21 or 22 years old at the time. I bought one of them and we went skating together. We talked a lot, he told me that he had started in business at 17 years old and I saw he was perfect for me. I talked to him about Peoople and suggested that we found it together. And that’s how things started. In the Retiro Park, having a Coke and skating.
Q. And you’re still going?
A. Yes. It’s fascinating because there’s a 20-year age gap between us. We are very, very different which I believe is one of the reasons why we have reached where we are today.
Q. What has Gon recommended to you in all this time that could be in Peoople?
A. Lots of things… These headphones, this computer, a movie that I highly recommend: Annihilation, with Nathalie Portman, and not long ago a series: Mindhunter. We have a very similar taste in movies but cannot seem to agree on music. It’s impossible. And as for Sergio, our Head of Cloud, I curse at him when we discuss music. He talks to me about Bad Bunny…
Q. So, you are a diverse team.
A. Very much so, which makes me very happy. We are seven women and five men of different nationalities: a Honduran, a Venezuelan, a Brazilian, an American, one person from Vigo … In the large organizations I have worked in, only one way of thinking, the official line, was ever promoted. And this greatly impoverishes the wealth of ideas of an organization… That is why our company is flat, with the minimum structure possible. The last intern who started three months ago gives their opinion just like anyone else. And nobody would ever think about reproaching them. Quite the opposite: they would thank them.
Q. What music would you recommend us?
A. Any of Bach’s cello suites. And also, the song The Infanta from the group The Decemberists.
Q. What about a series?
A. My first pick would be The West Wing, by far. The second time I saw it, I watched the episodes twice. The latest ones from the third season are a masterpiece. And then, The Wire. Although I don’t think they are suitable for millennials. They answer questions that you haven’t yet asked yourself at that age. For them, better something like Band of Brothers, a series produced by Spielberg with the costumes and props from Saving Private Ryan. It brings to mind some very important values about what teamwork is.
Q. A restaurant, from anywhere.
A. One from my city that I discovered last summer: Niño Corvo. I loved it. What’s more, it’s run by a young guy who left his job at another famous place and set it up himself.
Q. A Sunday plan.
A. Without a doubt, putting on a pair of mountain boots and going for a walk in the countryside, wherever you want.
Q. A vacation spot that you love.
A. El Puerto de Santa María.
Q. A cellphone game.
A. Well, we’re going back to one at the moment with my children called Plants vs Zombies.
Q. A gas station (because in your Peoople profile there is a collection of “top gas stations”).
A. This is very important. It is one of the most complete recommendations that I like to have. I have three children, I have traveled a lot with babies, and I realized that there are three categories: dumps, okay places and those that are a pleasure, the top ones. For example, the one at PK 232 from Madrid to Vigo because it’s spick-and-span.
Q. Another category is “gifts to give to myself”. In reality, you would like someone to give them to you, right?
A. Look, it serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it gives my mother ideas, because she’s always saying: ‘if you’ve got everything, what am I going to get you?’ And to also save there things that I find in Peoople and that I like.
Q. Are you capricious?
A. (He thinks about it) … No, but I am hyper-selective. And when I have hyper-selected something, I give my all to get it.
Bringing Peoople to everyone could be an example of this.