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Working at Skipp - Democratize Architecture and Design with Clojure

Mihaela Popa 8 April, 2021 | 5 min read

Skipp is an Austin-based early-stage, VC-backed startup, using AI and the latest in spatial technology to simplify the renovation process and democratize access to elevated designs for the everyday homeowner.

Skipp collaborates with world-class architects, designers and technologists to not only make the process of transforming a home easier and affordable but also fun and inspiring.

In just hours Skipp's technology can generate real-time pricing, architect grade documentation, visualizations, and material schedules. With this approach, homeowners can not only access world-class designs for their actual space immediately, but can also efficiently manage their budget and have all the documentation needed for a streamlined RFP and construction process.

We interviewed Marc Limotte, the CTO at Skipp, to find out more about the company, their mission, team and their use of Clojure to solve their technical challenges.

What is Skipp's mission?

With 80% of housing stock now older than 20 years old and a growing affordability crisis, younger homeowners are renovating at an unprecedented pace. However, the process hasn’t changed in 40 years and has remained a fully analogue, messy and chaotic endeavour. Skipp is changing that.

Soon homeowners will be able to develop designs for their exact space in a way one might build and customize a car online. They will be able to access world-class designs, source materials, get precise construction plans and get multiple labour bids without ever having to leave the sofa.

Interested in the mission to democratize architecture and design for the everyday homeowner? Want to work on digital applications that impact the built world?

You should take a look at Skipp’s open roles.

How would you describe the company's culture and team?

The co-founders of Skipp discussed this when we first launched Skipp. Well before our first hire. The values we came up with included: transparency, trust, collaborative, intentional and supportive.

  • Transparency: We share the good news and the bad news. Challenges and opportunities.
  • Trust: Believe that everyone is making choices for the right reasons. We all want to be successful. And also trust that other team members are doing their job and know how to execute their teams’ goals.
  • Collaborative: Seek feedback from the team. Offer feedback. This applies within a small team, but also across functional areas. We often have company-wide (or large subset) discussions seeking input and ideas on marketing, messaging, partnerships and more.
  • Intentional: We don’t just let things happen. We make decisions, set goals, proactively discuss our approach. And then make progress on those established directions.
  • Supportive: Both professionally and personally, we’re all here to help each other.

We’re early stage and have a lot of work to do, but we also believe that work-life balance leads to higher productivity and more innovation. It’s always about how to work smarter and better, not just faster. We need repeatable processes, but light ones that make us more efficient; trim the fat from any process or practice that is not adding value.

There are about 12 people at Skipp now, across sales, marketing, operations, product, design and engineering. The engineering team is quite small. Two people now (including myself), going to 4. Humility aside, we’ve produced an incredible amount of functionality for a small team. I attribute this to our functional, data-driven architectures; with thanks to Clojure which makes it possible.

Like most startups, especially during the pandemic, we want to provide opportunities to connect with your co-workers. Hence… game nights, virtual happy hours, book clubs and various celebrations are all part of our schedule.

skipp team.png

Can you tell us more about Skipp’s tech stack?

The primary languages in our tech stack are Clojure on the backend and Clojurescript front-end. There’s also some python for some integrations and for our DevOps code.

Our primary database is Datomic. We also integrate with several services and datastores via APIs: Hubspot for CRM and top-of-funnel management, Intercom for chat/conversation features, Auth0 for OAuth login, Zapier, Calendly, etc. External integrations like this are tradeoffs: off-the-shelf solutions that let us get features to market quicker but at the cost of some flexibility and robustness. The choice to use these products is intentional, as is the periodic re-evaluation of whether or not they are still a good fit for us.

Everything is deployed in AWS using an infrastructure-as-code paradigm. In this case, we’re using the AWS CDK (switched from Terraform).

Everything is data-driven with internal and external DSLs and a wide range of data structures that govern the business rules of how our core technologies behave. We’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of using Google Spreadsheets as both a mini database and an interface for business teams to set up configurations and also as an interface for pushing out results via a proprietary (although, I’m thinking about Open Sourcing this component) Spreadsheet templating language. This is like an HTML templating system, but instead of producing HTML documents, it produces Google sheets. It is aware of the sheet structure and so can take advantage of google formulas, formatting, grouping and other structural features.

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What are some tech challenges Skipp’s dev team is trying to solve?

How to describe very complex business domains (design and architecture) with data and code to facilitate automation and leveraging of AI solutions.

One example coming up is an automated rendering engine. Given a unique space based on a 3D scan of a customer’s home, and our rich data description that specifies all the products and fixtures in that space and their precise 3D coordinates, orientation and so on, we want to automate the generation of a rendering for the customer.

Another of our projects is a UI/UX to streamline the many customer discussions and interactions to present the options, but not overwhelm them. To make them feel heard and address their concerns and preferences, but also keep them moving through a custom home renovation process.

What would make someone successful at Skipp?

Not satisfied with “the way it’s always been done”. You should personify and value some of the adjectives we use to describe Skipp (transparency, trust, collaboration, intentionality, supportive).

Also important, for the engineering team, is alignment with the ideas of functional programming and the benefits that we leverage for our architecture. This includes the concepts of decoupling, composability and reuse, testability and reliability.

What’s the interview process like at Skipp?

Pretty informal. This starts with an interview with me (the CTO). You speak with another engineer and then our Head of product and the CEO. All remote, over the course of 2 to 3 weeks. We don’t do “tests”, but we would love to see some samples of your code. We want to share as much with you as you share with us– we’re looking for rapport and good questions.

Finally, why should someone work at Skipp?

An innovative approach to a really challenging problem implemented with a professional team. Coupled with a high margin vertical and many avenues for monetization.

What do Skipp’s employees like about working for the company:

“Broad latitude to shape the technical direction of our products – you’re a lead scientist in this laboratory” - Michael S.

"Opportunity to shape the future of a rapidly growing company in a thriving industry, and autonomy to have a sizable footprint with the experience and leadership you bring to the table." - Becca A. S.

If you’re passionate about Clojure and want to contribute to Skipp’s exciting mission, you should take a look at their open roles!

Author's avatar
Mihaela Popa
Community Manager at WorksHub

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