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Posts Tagged ‘Doug Kaufman’

Tech Jobs Under the Big Top: Hot Dogs, Beer, Jugglers, Jobs

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

By Joe Procopio

Joe Procopio

Joe Procopio

Last night, a guy apologized to me for being between jobs.

It wasn’t the first time, far from it, but having spent the last too many years of my career either working at, working with, or starting a startup, I’ve been “between jobs.” I’ve had all the wrong factors conspire to bring about the worst news at the worst time and been left to ponder what the frivolity I was supposed to do next. Yeah, I’ve been there.

But dude, don’t ever apologize for being unemployed, especially in this economy and especially when you’re taking a chance on doing something potentially extraordinary.

Between a Job and a Hard Place

The reason I bring up the apology is to highlight the way Chris Heivly turned the notion of a job fair on its head on Tuesday night at the aptly-named Tech Jobs Under the Big Top event in Bay 7.

The atmosphere was exactly what you’d imagine at an event with such a preposterous name, down to the straw and peanut shells on the floor. There were hot dogs to eat, beer and soda to drink, popcorn and cotton candy, jugglers, stilt-walkers, and red-and-white fabric draped in such a way as to recall a giant tent.

Big Top IT crowd

Big Top IT crowd

It was well done and charmingly cool — an atmosphere dutifully and subtly created to derail any sort of awkwardness on the part of the job-seeker.

But then you have to remember the context.

Life In and Out of the Cube

I’ve also worked on the corporate side. And I didn’t hate it. I’ve never been one of those punks with a chip on my shoulder trying to stick it to the man by starting my own company. Clarification: I am that kind of punk, but not about work or money. I have three kids and common sense. I’ll stick it to the man by listening to loud hard rock like every other suburb kid my age.

But again, I understand how that environment can elicit an apologetic response when one is forcibly removed from it.

Turns out, the guy had spent 20+ years at what had been a solid corporation, made it through more than a few waves of cutbacks and reductions-in-force, until finally his turn came and with little more than a thanks-for-everything, he was set out to begin his new, unsolicited journey.

In the startup world. This happens all the time. Basically you get up and bust your butt every day to make sure it doesn’t happen by the time you go back to bed.

You get used to that.

So Where Do You See Us In Five Years?

Heivly also turned the tables on the process. The companies involved were all startups at various stages, and they had to pay to be a part of it and they had to bring real, full-time jobs to the table. In all, 15 startups with 85+ open positions participated.

The startups also had to pitch to the job-seekers, rather than the other way around.

Full disclosure: I was there for StatSheet, a Durham-based sports media startup. And we kicked off a series of three-minute on-stage pitches to the job-seekers, telling them who we were, what we did, what the day-to-day was like, and what we were looking for. Ours included a video, as about half of the rest did. Others brought slides. All were compelling.

James Avery from pre-funded ad-delivery product company Adzerk used the Startup Guys viral video and a swear to get a huge and poignant laugh. On the other end of the spectrum, handset-maker HTC (I know, right?) had a top-quality video presentation that underlined their… bigness.

Doug Kaufman from deeper-than-analytics company SpringMetrics used subliminal messages to get the point across. Tobi Walter from financial-organizer Shoeboxed went for the brass ring with a live video feed. And energy device-maker PlotWatt took advantage of the three minutes to make a serious and very provocative pitch.

All Your Networking In One Place

If anything could have been different, we wished for more time for general networking with the job seekers to introduce ourselves in such a relaxed atmosphere, which is probably the best way to make some of those initial fit determinations. As a rule though, we were told (and they were told) to hold off on the serious networking until the end of the pitches, as a matter of respect and to make it fair.

But there was another, maybe unexpected reason to hold off. As everyone filed in at the beginning of the evening, I noticed a general stiffness among the crowd – lots of arms crossed, lots of blank stares. And again, I get it. There were 250 people registered for the event, and another 250 on a wait list. There was a line outside the door.

This was serious business, even if it was presented as exactly the opposite.

Vertical Circus Tents

Big Top presentationWhen the presentations were finished and everyone had eaten and (hopefully) had a beer to get the rest of that edge off, the startup folks were sent off to three tents – one for general business roles, one for sales and marketing roles, and one for technology roles.

We then talked one-on-one with whomever walked up and we answered any and every question they had about the company, the position, the day-to-day, anything we didn’t make crystal in a goofy 90-second video.

This was also very helpful, in terms of linking up with the people with the right skills who now had an inkling of whether there was a fit on their side. I stopped counting at 20 people, most of whom I wanted to talk to again.

But Did It Work?

I think I just answered that.

My colleagues also got a stack of resumes, business cards, and follow-up emails. Having since spoken to a few of the other startups involved, that success seems to have happened across the board.

So in the end it was an interesting experiment but one definitely built on more than a wild hypothesis. It speaks to the very nature of the startup world itself. Do things differently, disrupt, stand out, and at the end of the day you should have something very valuable.

Chris wrapped up by asking people to complete a survey, and that the results might determine whether or not there should be another one. I don’t think he needed the survey. It’s anecdotal, of course, but as things were winding down, I spotted the apology guy leaving Bay 7, smiling, and telling his buddy, “This was the most fun job fair I’ve ever been to.”

When have you ever heard that?

Joe Procopio heads up product engineering for sports media startup StatSheet. He also owns consulting firm Intrepid Company and creative network Intrepid Media and runs the startup social ExitEvent.  Joe can be reached via Twitter @jproco or via joeprocopio.com.

Two former Google employees prefer the startup scene at Spring Metrics

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

By Allan Maurer

Shannon Bauman

Shannon Bauman

DURHAM, NC – How do you get Google employees to move to Durham, NC and join a startup? Persistence worked for Spring Metrics, an analytics company that helps e-businesses understand what drives their revenue online. The company has signed two former employees of the search engine giant, a former product manager and an engineer.

“We didn’t actually look specifically for people who worked at Google. We were just looking for people we think are the best out there,” says Doug Kaufman, co-founder and CEO of Spring Metrics. But, he adds, “It does make the interview process easier knowing that Google puts them through the wringer.”

Google is known for its rigorous and daunting employee interview process.

Shannon Bauman, the former Google project manager, for instance, was asked: How many tennis balls fit in a 747? Why are manhole covers round? What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Bauman was at Google’s Mt. View headquarters for most of his four years with the company, but spent a few months at its Chapel Hill office prior to co-founding Spring Metrics. “There were a lot of smart people at Google,” he says.

“It was a shock to be in an environment with so many people smarter than me. It was daunting at first, but you learn to value it. There is a very open and collaborative environment there that helps foster the ability to get information from other people’s brains and make better products.”

Bauman says that when he started at Google, “It had 2,000 people. Four and a half years later, it’s 20,000 people. I was really more interested in working with smaller companies. I figured I’d learned  a lot at Google, but the the things I’d keep learning by staying there were not as important as those I would learn by going to a startup. I thought of doing one myself, then met Doug and joined Spring Metrics.”

Networking paid off

He notes that he did a lot of networking when he first came to the area and “The Google name got me through a lot of doors.” At a Southern Capitol Ventures brunch, Jason Caplain introduced him to Kaufman.

“I love the Triangle,” he says. “The people the greenery, the space. It has so much going for it.” He admits, however, it is a bit harder to do a startup because there is less venture capital and angel money and fewer engineers than in Silicon Valley. “The more people you have in an ecosystem, the more things happen. California has ten times more people.”

Spring Metrics got its start with Launchbox Digital, the only Southeast accelerator to make a list of the top ten in the U.S., recently, then nabbed a $635,000 seed round from LaunchBox Digital, CBC New Media Group, Zelkova Ventures and Steve Vanderwoude and Lee Buck. The company’s product simplifies Web analytics to show only the data affecting the bottom line. It lets users see what is driving revenue and how they can actively generate more conversions.

Kaufman says that “If it were not for LaunchBox Digital, we probably would not have started this. Because of it, we knew we would have a much better chance of getting funding.”

A startup can do what a big company can’t

Patrick Scott

Patrick Scott

The company also set its sights on a Google engineer, Patrick Scott. The firm started talking with him at a very early stage, but as he saw where the company was going, “He realized it wasn’t going to fall off the map in five days,” says Kaufman. “So he got more comfortable and excited about a startup.”

But there was one other piece that worked in Spring Metrics’ favor. “There is something a startup can do that a big company can’t,” says Kaufman. “That is to really show someone how valuable they are. For us, pursuing this engineer, he knew we could only hire one guy. We showed him and told him how valuable he would be to us. We didn’t want just any engineer. We wanted him.”

That, he notes, “Goes a long way with people.”

Kaufman says the five-employee company is working on taking its product to another level. “We’re going to make this more useful, bring on another marketing person and bring on customers,” he says. While the firm is not looking for additional backing right now, “We will be,” says Kaufman.

 

 

Durham-based Spring Metrics nabs $635K seed round to spot DNA of conversions

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Spring MetricsDURHAM, NC – Spring Metrics, a company that helps e-businesses understand what drives their revenue online, has secured a $635,000 seed round from LaunchBox Digital, CBC New Media GRoup, Zelkova Ventures and Steve Vanderwoude and Lee Buck.

Founded in August 2010, the company is focused on helping e-commerce businesses understand the DNA of their conversions.  By breaking conversions down into their fundamental components, then showing exactly how they fit together, e-commerce companies can clearly see what drives revenue and how they can actively generate more conversions over time.

Co-founder and CEO Doug Kaufman tells us the five person firm “Came from scratching my own itch. I was running a different company, sold part of it and was doing online work with a education site I had started. It sold study guides and other products and I was having a hard time understanding why some people were buying and some weren’t.”

He searched for a software product to help provide the information he wanted. “I couldn’t find it, so I said, ‘Let’s build one.’ ”

Among the types of things Spring Metrics helps e-retailers spot are “the wrong types of traffic.” For instance, he said, “If someone found my old site, Alleydog, designed for college psychology students, they would not buy from me if they found it by searching for dogs.”

That could mean a marketing campaign is not on target.

Spring Metrics shows users how people get to a site, what key words they searched for, and which page they landed on, but more importantly, it puts all the data points together “To tell a story about the user buying from you,” says Kaufman. “We call think of that as the DNA of your conversions,” he adds.

The company says that traditionally, analytics tools are too complicated, produce overwhelming amounts of data, and leave users to figure out what it all means. As a result, it‘s been said that 90 percent of a company’s website analytics budget should be spent on people to make sense of the data that the tools spit out.

By breaking conversions down into their fundamental components, then showing exactly how they fit together, e-commerce companies can clearly see what drives revenue and how they can actively generate more conversions over time.

“Our early customers have raved about the Spring Box, and described the real-time dashboard as highly addictive,” said Kaufman. “They love the fact that the exact information they used to hunt for in other analytics packages is presented to them in a concise, and actionable format.”

“Small Businesses today face numerous challenges when trying to understand exactly what drives their online revenue growth,” said Lee Buck, Partner at LaunchBox Digital.

“Spring Metrics’ unique model brings sophisticated, automated online marketing intelligence to small and medium businesses that lack the resources to interpret the onslaught of analytics data. The company’s progress to date has been impressive, and we are excited to work closely with such a talented team.”

Buck will join Spring Metrics’ Board of Directors, which includes Steve Vanderwoude and Jimmy Goodmon. — Allan Maurer

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