Adam Evans is the CTO and Co-Founder of Palo Alto-based RelateIQ, a relationship intelligence platform.
Always go back to your data. We often get hunches about product direction, but often the best nuggets of information to direct your team are hiding in your data. When I’m faced with a problem or I’m not feeling creative, I’ll sort through our data and look for the signals that just might inspire our users’ next favorite feature.
We thought about culture from day one. It was just my fellow Co-Founder, Steve Loughlin, and I at a whiteboard the first week of the company, but we still held Friday demos—a tradition that has continued to this day. We take photos every Friday to document the journey, capturing all the little moments along the way. Building a strong and motivating culture is foundational to building a great company, so we invested in it long before other start-ups typically do.
I was previously working at another startup that was much bigger. We were highly successful, but while we sold amazing software to our customers, our internal tools were seriously lacking. That’s where the inspiration for RelateIQ initially came from. We knew there was an opportunity to alleviate some huge pain points in the modern workflow, from time-consuming manual data entry to misinformed teams and the havoc that wreaks. We received great support after we broke off to start RelateIQ, and I cherish the friends and mentors I met during that time.
We were lucky enough to have access to some of Silicon Valley’s most influential advisers, so we really counted on our network during the fundraising process. The best key learning I can pass on is that, after the seed round, someone has to keep running with the baton. While one of your founders focuses on fundraising (in our case, Steve), the other has to keep the product moving and make sure nothing stagnates while you wait for the final word that you officially have the runway to build the company you’ve envisioned.
We launched in June with stories in major press (The Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch) about our new public beta. Up until that point, we were running a private beta made up entirely of companies within our network. There were a lot of start-ups and a few key larger organizations that we really counted on to provide excellent feedback and help us plot a course. They didn’t disappoint. I’m so grateful to our early users for helping provide the feedback we needed to steer the ship in the early days.
We’ve had a lot of success via word-of-mouth marketing. The product itself works best for teams of users who collaborate with one another, so our users are constantly sharing our product with their colleagues. We also see other viral moments, such as entrepreneurs showing their metrics to investors via RelateIQ reporting, which then leads to a conversation about our platform and how it helps them stay on top of all of their key relationships with partners and customers. It’s one of the best things about our product—it’s inherently shareable.
Early on, we established four key values: People, Ideas, Moments, and Results. Our team is comprised of some pretty amazing people, from All-American athletes to scientists from CERN, singer/songwriters to certified chefs. We focus on bringing out the best in this diverse group of people, providing an atmosphere where their ideas can thrive and drive results for the entire company. But we also make sure to celebrate the little moments along the way. We know we have an incredible opportunity to do something unique here, and we never take the little moments in the journey for granted.
Recently, I’ve spend a lot of time on recruiting, and RelateIQ itself helps me keep my sanity. It tracks all of our communication with recruits and enables us to store everything related to each recruit in one place. People can log their feedback in context after meeting with a recruit, so everyone is informed automatically without requiring long debrief sessions or untrackable hallway conversations. It’s a lifesaver.
We maintain close ties with StartX and Formation 8, along with other organizations dedicated to helping early entrepreneurs grow their ideas into fully fledged businesses. We just love talking to smart people. We give them access to our product because we know some of them are going to make it big. We’re confident they’ll take us with them.
Just the other day I had to act out a chicken fight with one of our front-end developers in the middle of downtown Palo Alto to help my team win a contest. There’s even a video of it, which I’m sure will come back to haunt me. Anything for the team! (We lost the contest, btw. But I have no regrets.)