Interviews / Operations

Balancing the Grind with Michael Krayenhoff, COO at Inner Circle

Michael Krayenhoff is the COO at Inner Circle, a global dating app for like-minded ambitious singles who are serious about dating.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

My whole life I’ve been creating entrepreneurial projects. Where some are naturally attracted to sports or music, I was always attracted to creating things.

In 2011 we co-founded dating app Inner Circle. We believed online dating was the future but not in the scammy format it was back then. We found that for online dating to work, there needed to be a safe space that was focussed on quality, not quantity. A platform that actually helps singles meet instead of wasting too much time online (swiping etc).

Inner Circle is bootstrapped, so we had to hack everything together ourselves from development and product, to customer support, events and PR. Over the years we of course grew faster which triggered my fascination of scaling up while maintaining impact, productivity and fun. Still lots to learn and I’m learning every day from our amazing team.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

My alarm clock goes at 06:46 – which is a sign for Margaux, our dog, to come into the room and give me a big slobber in the face. Every morning my wife and I have a coffee and then go for a short dogwalk. Afterwards I ran into the office to get the workday started. 

As COO my role is extremely varied. Next to all my responsibilities, I’m also responsible for all the things that we do not have anyone for yet. My mentor described it beautifully as being the ashtray of the company, in terms of responsibilities.

Luckily nowadays we have a bigger team, which means that I can really focus on the goal of my role: Creating a life-changing experience for both our members and the team.

Dating is a very loaded topic that brings strong emotions and opinions. Everyone can relate to it. And our users trust us to play a role in that incredibly beautiful but delicate part of their lives. We receive sometimes brutal feedback and also hear life changing stories from users who met the one.

The success stories make me feel like walking on clouds, it’s incredibly special to me. On the other hand, the brutal feedback can haunt me for a long time, but I know that is important and good because we cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Just like in dating, the magic happens in real life. And just like with dating, the sparks only fly when it’s not forced. So our teams choose how and when they meet. We aim to see each other a couple times a week, but in the end it’s about the outcome and not the input.

I also work closely with our support team, who have always worked fully remote. The team consists of mums and a dad who live all around the world. The Work From Home setup gives them the freedom to plan their work around their family lives instead of the other way around.

The support team is incredibly passionate about keeping our platform safe, listening and helping members and forming a bridge between user feedback and other teams. Helping us focus on what matters most.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

For me life is life. Work is an awesome part of my life yet it’s not the only important thing in my life. To balance life across all things important, I keep checklists and plan. I absolutely love check-lists. They help me keep track of all the things I need / want to do. Also the more thoughtful things in life.

And without planning it doesn’t happen. So I make sure to prioritize the most important things on the various lists every week. When I was 16 my physics teacher told me ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. This quote has always stuck with me and played an important role in the way I live my life. Yet still good planning is sooo hard.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

My wife and I noticed that we started to eat less dinners together. This was because we did not plan. Which resulted in us often eating at different times and/or cooking things that did not suit both of us.

Inspired by a friend, we decided to “start our own meal box service”. On Sunday morning we discuss which days we are at home for dinner. Then we open the cook books to pick some interesting meals to cook over a cappuccino. We head to the market, buy the ingredients. In this way, we learn to cook many exciting new dishes and spend more quality time together. 

A recent favourite was an Anova recipe for an Indonesian Rendang. The recipe entails slow cooking the beef in a rendang sauce for 24 hours at 74 degrees Celsius with a Sous Vide machine. The result was a perfectly cooked fall apart beef that had soaked up all the spices.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Books – my favourite book of this year so far is What Happened to You? by Oprah Winfrey. The book has given me a new perspective on asking the right questions and listening to people.

Podcasts – my favourite podcast is Machine Learning Street Talk by Dr Tim Scarfe – these guys are basically discussing the future and where we are now in terms of data science and machine learning.

Newsletter – StartUp Core Strengths by Matt Lerner is always full of interesting tips and tricks on scaling up.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

There is not much I need in life except family, friends, a glass half full and my running shoes. 

Spending quality time with my family and friends is the most important thing to me and also for keeping my energy levels up. 

Secondly, I’m a ‘glass is half full’ kind of guy. I always see the positive side, also in difficult situations. I think life would be much harder without that mindset. 

Finally my Asics running shoes. I love running and wear my running shoes almost every day, all day. I do not only run on a run, I sometimes simply do not have the patience to walk. So I run and get quicker to where I need to be. Luckily running comes quite effortlessly to me so I don’t necessarily break a sweat (I think).

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?  

Heston Blumenthal – to be a top level chef, entrepreneur, tv personality and writer all-in-one Heston must have found the right ingredients to balance out all flavours of life. It would be fascinating to hear his philosophy on life and balancing time.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

My grandfather taught me: The truth can be found in its simplicity. This quote has for me so many truths applicable to all parts of life. I’ll let you choose what it means to you when.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.