CTOs you should know: Christian Carollo, Dropoff

by Tessa McLean
August 31, 2015

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Austin-based Dropoff has been sprinting ever since they launched in November 2014. The company has raised over $8 million to date from notable investors like Austin Ventures, Silverton Partners and Mucker Capital and shows no signs of stopping their accelerated growth. Christian Carollo is one of the founder's of Dropoff, and also acts as the CTO. Prior to joining Dropoff he has served in various engineering positions at Gamefly and Movies.com. Built In Austin caught up with Carollo to learn more about what's powering Dropoff technology today.
 
What technologies power your business?
 
At Dropoff we've built a proprietary full-featured same-day delivery order management system capable of handling on-demand, scheduled and recurring orders, as well as a real-time logistics platform for managing our delivery driver workflows. It’s a cloud-based micro services architecture allowing us to scale different parts of the architecture as needed.  This could mean anything from our third-party APIs to our email service.
 
We also have a number of applications built for web, iOS and Android. Some of these applications are for the enterprise and some of these applications are for our customers to use. On the web front, we use a number of different javascript based technologies, on iOS we have two applications one written in Objective-C and the other written in Swift, finally our Android application is written in Java.
 
What technologies are playing the biggest roles at ​Dropoff this year? 
 
Javascript far and away is playing the largest role at Dropoff this year and likely for many years to come. Most important to us is Node.js, React.js and Sencha. Each has its own sweet spot for us.
 
What are the biggest tech projects your team is working on this year?
 
There are several big projects on the list for 2015.  We are currently focused on delivering a universal iOS consumer application and an Android Agent (we call our delivery drivers “Agents”) application.  
 
What are the biggest technology challenges you've faced in the past? How did you overcome them?
 
My background is in backend systems and in the past the biggest challenge there has always been in scaling parts of your infrastructure where resources were limited. I have spent most of my professional career working at startups. Some have grown to become sizable organizations and as those companies grew, the technology always had to keep up. In some cases, the technology wasn't given the time it needed to evolve and mature.  Those were always the most challenging times —when the business was booming and the systems were strained. The solution in almost every situation where resources were limited and systems were being pushed to the max was either to monitor, find weaknesses, optimize and repeat — or, if possible, push the work off to an application tier that had more resources and could scale more easily.
 
What trends do you see happening in logistics over the next three years? How are you driving those trends?
 
Non-traditional computing platforms are the future, whether that’s smart phones, wearable devices, in-car infotainment, etc. We want to leverage the latest technologies in these areas to help Dropoff to grow and deliver on its promises of providing a world-class real-time logistics platform, the best user experience and the best economics in the industry.
 
What are lessons you've learned about working in Austin that other local entrepreneurs can learn from?
 
Three lessons I have learned are:
 
Always be recruiting and alway, always be networking. This is especially important in a market as competitive as Austin. You want to be able to accelerate the hiring process by going into an interview with as much data on the candidate as possible — ideally with a reference from someone you know and trust.  
 
Constantly be thinking about what the business is going to need, try to anticipate what Finance, Sales, Marketing, Operations is going to ask of you. 
 
Always look for ways to simplify what you are building. Simplifying your technology almost always leaves you with room to evolve later when the unforeseen has happened.
 
Austin is known for having a large talent pool of thirsty, young workers. What are the top characteristics you look for in a potential hire?
 
Traditionally I look at a candidate's skills, where they have worked, what experience they have, what projects they have worked on and — super important and mentioned before — what their references say about them when it comes to all of the above, as well as their soft-skills.
 
For me, first and foremost, the question is, What is your passion? What drives you, keeps you up at night and gets you up in the morning? Second, are you a team player? Developing software (building a business) is really a team sport. Do you have the willingness to help a team member out, pick them up and get them to the goal line? Third, and quite possibly most importantly for a startup, Are you a self-starter? Are you determined and resourceful? If we have something that needs to be done and no one has ever done anything like it before, are you willing to step forward and take on that challenge?
 
How would your team describe working with you?
 
I’m not sure if this makes it more or less embarrassing, but I thought the best way to answer this is with some direct quotes from current​​​​ team members:  
 
“Christian gives me 100% discretion to investigate and design solutions for Dropoff features. He provides a valuable practical perspective that helps keep projects on schedule and creep-free. He allows us the flexibility to research new technologies and implement new features and functionality for Dropoff that others may not have thought of yet.”
 
“I love working with Christian. He cares that his team members continue to grow as engineers. He also makes us feel like a tight-knit team. As a result, we all communicate well and actually like seeing each other outside of work. He gives the engineering product clear direction, so that we always know where we stand on the roadmap and what our next move is.”
 
What else do you want the Austin startup community to know about Dropoff's technologies?
 
We are fast-paced and dynamic team. We build exciting applications and deploy them into the field on a frequent basis. For us, it's not so much about the technologies we use but what we build with them to make a successful and growing business.
 
Have a tip for us or want to recommend a CTO for this series? Email us via [email protected]

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