Without open-source, we wouldn't be here.

This is the ninth in a series of interviews with members of the Machine Commons supplier Collective. Subscribe to the site to be alerted about future posts, or become a partner today!

Oleguer Sagarra runs DRIBIA, an AI solution provider that pride themselves on an academic mantra and a focus on bespoke algorithm design.

How’s life been during the pandemic?

“I live in Barcelona. We’ve been in a hard confinement for four months.”

“It’s been hard for so many people – we’re not ‘OK’. Personally speaking, however, it’s been the perfect time to have a kid!”

And business?

“We’re growing now, after the shock clients seem ok.”

“Essentially, we provide services, so it’s not how we reacted, it’s how the client reacted. As a company, we’re flexible. It’s not new to us to work remotely. The profiles who work DS are typically looking for freedom and flexibility. Data Science projects are agile by nature and we’re very used to flexible projects.”

“The problem was with the clients: the typical reaction was at first denial, then once the restrictions were all over the place – the CEOs said, ‘stop everything’! And what’s the first to go? Innovation and research projects.”

Always the most important longer-term objectives dropped first. C’est la vie.

“The first months were rough. Then eventually people realized that the way forward was with more analytics. More prediction not less.”

“At least it gave us a chance to do internal work. To find better tools, to improve our code base.”

How has remote life treated Dribia?

“As a mostly remote business already, we’ve already had to work on our employees’ mental health.”

“There’s a lot you miss by not being in an office, the coffee machine, the small things. There are so many things you miss without that environment, ideas that slip through.”

What do you do to mitigate that?

“We started getting online beers and having online knowledge share base (internal wikipedia) so people can share knowledge in other ways.”

“Overall, the free time that last year gave us, we’ve invested it in a good way, internally. We’re much stronger than we were going in.”

Have you had to worry about monitoring staff, employing time tracker technologies and so on?

“When the main asset in a company is brains, you shouldn’t worry too much about monitoring. We use trackers but not to monitor people, only to monitor projects. Our business is about providing ‘services’ per ‘time’.”

“I mean the main thing we did was that we bought cool chairs and screens and sent them to everyone at home!”

So, what has changed in how you do things?

“Another change, and this is really good."

"There are many, many meetings we no longer do – the main change has been in the culture of our clients, as we were already meetings-averse. The countless unnecessary meetings you have to attend do because you’re a ‘consultant’.”