Aboard Entrepreneurship Onboarding

Aboard Story (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of how Aboard came to be, check out Part 1 here!

It’s early 2020, Lee and I have been building the idea of Aboard for about 4 to 5 months by now. We’d spoken to about a dozen HR and People leaders, as well as some entrepreneurs and other team leads. Our interviewing had been sporadic, but we had a structured call script we were trying to follow. Overall, we were encouraged that new employee onboarding was an acknowledged pain point, and there was room for improvement. Even Harvard (Business Review) had written about it!


As mentioned in part 1, our first ‘fix’ for onboarding ended up being a 60-page PDF. What this 60-page PDF consisted of was an end-to-end onboarding process. It was made up of slide decks, surveys, buddy systems, documents, and a number of suggested activity. We labelled this our ‘Foundations’ new employee onboarding program. It could act as a foundation to customize and build on as needed. Easy to follow so far right? Well the issue became the “static”, 1-dimensional experience. Anyone reading or going through a single PDF might quickly become…bored (regardless of how much you like people). This is the same unfortunate feeling that accompanies how onboarding is generally delivered today, single documents or pages that are generally presented to the employee as a well organized data dump.

With some early feedback on our Foundations document, Lee and I made the reluctant decision to pivot into building our own tech. A web application that could take the Foundations material we’d developed over a few caffeine-filled weekends and deliver it in a manageable, curatable digital experience. Thus the idea of the Aboard platform started to grow!

Let’s get digital

Lee and I set out in February of 2020 to find… a technical co-founder. Lee fortunately had a grasp of HTML, CSS, and basic JavaScript, but not enough to truly build out a product. One or two “business” tech founders (i.e. what Lee and I would fall under) going out to find a technical partner to “build” their vision is a common occurrence in the startup world. Y Combinator’s very own CEO, Michael Seibel, filmed a 5 minute video (set in an interrogation room?) on this very subject.

Lee fortunately had previous experience as a technical recruiter. He has honed the craft of respectfully connecting with developers who might be the right fit. After an admittedly non-lengthy process, we were able to meet an experienced, thoughtful, and communicative developer who agreed to join us. Thus, Aboard could start building technology.

Summertime Gladness

Now a team of three, we set out to do the two things Y Combinator will tell you to do when starting up your business:

We always remind founders not to lose sight that the most important tasks for an early stage company are to write code and talk to users

– Geoff Ralston & Michael Seibel, Y Combinator, “YC’s Essential Startup Advice

Over the summer of 2020, we interviewed over 100 People Operations, HR, and business leaders. We validated with them firsthand the pains they experienced when setting up their onboarding process. Meanwhile, our CTO, slowly started to build out a minimum viable product (MVP) based on early designs and user input. As the summer months came to a close, we were able to launch our MVP in what we consider a ‘soft launch’. We were able to work with a select number of early adopters & beta users. We learned a lot through these interviews and it set us up for what would come next: product improvements & our first ever attempt at fundraising!

If you want to see what we’ve built so far, feel free to book some time! Otherwise stay tuned for Part 3!

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