Our advisor Chris Herot started exploring a new “Startup Predictor” tool, at the site You Noodle, on our behalf. He punted when the Predictor questionnaire went too deep; so I finished the exercise.
You Noodle gave us a nice valuation, which we know, at this stage, is worth only the pixels it is printed on. It seems way too early to make predictions…but the You Noodle model interested me. (As an aside, I see that this Predictor tool is a clever way to amass a whole load of startup and people data, for You Noodle. They took a page out of the HubSpot playbook, in that HubSpot has done very well in acquiring data and customers through their free “Website Grader” tool, which I highly recommend.)
But back to the verdict on Daily Grommet. You Noodle evaluates companies, in part, on the basis of the founding team, advisors, and in particular their education and relationships. I can’t entirely embrace the education factor…even with a fancy degree of my own, I tend to be skeptical of using degrees as a predictor of success in a startup. Sometimes, choosing to go to an Ivy League school indicates a highly conventional and risk-adverse mind. Or family wealth, which can be worse, when you consider that a startup founder needs to have hunger and fire in their belly.
But I do buy the emphasis on working relationships. I see that every day with Jim and Joanne. Jim and I survived one of those Ivy League (HBS) experiences together, and have been friends ever since. We share important trials, professional respect (I don’t know half of what he has in his head, and I am glad I don’t have to), and mutual meaningful relationships that give us a good basis for building a business.
Joanne and I worked in the trenches together at Keds. Joanne was head of product development, and delivered $350M of products year in and out, in a very fast-paced, demanding, and hits and trend-driven business. My work in licensing, strategic marketing and brand intersected heavily with Joanne, so we each know how the other thinks. Beyond that, we both worked for Meg Whitman on what was to become one of the best teams I’ve ever been on in my career. We know how to get stuff done, with a minimum of fuss. Lots of it.
But the benefits of a real, pre-existing working relationship go well beyond process. We can finish each other’s sentences. We know each other’s hot buttons. We understand each other’s language and biases.
Joanne and I share balancing our professional lives while each of us is full-on raising three sons–that common bond is powerful. We know what we know, and we know what we don’t know. We share an appreciation and genuine enthusiasm for nurturing young talent. We can barely sketch an idea and quickly get it in play. For example, on Joanne’s second day at the company, I described a Grommet sculpture I intended to build as an expression of the brand. Not only did Joanne really “see” this mythical creation immediately, she understood its importance. Both for me and for the company. (I’ll blog about why later–I know having a CEO make a “company” sculpture is odd.) And when I asked her to help me find the right grommets for it, she found the perfect ones within 24 hours. Further down the road–when this sculpture was still just a figment of our mutual imaginations–she started usefully referencing it in product or strategy discussions. We could both SEE it, before it existed.
Is there any more skill crucial to a startup than visualizing something, where there is nothing? That, and trust based on shared experience.
That’s why I give You Noodle the benefit of the doubt, more than for the nice valuation they gave us. Those relationships matter.