By Allan Maurer
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
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.