Didier Elzinga is the founder of Australia-based Culture Amp, the maker of Murmur, a People Intelligence Platform made for analytics driven organizations.
Watch this video then remember it is how many people that believe in you that matter, not how many don’t. It took me a long time to realize that being both naïve and arrogant was actually a prerequisite for startup success not a hindrance.
I am sure other people have done this but I don’t know of any… When we first went to Silicon Valley and managed to get in the room with some VC’s we decided that rather than pitch for their money we would pitch to have them show our tools to their portfolio companies. Some of them loved what we were doing and were more than happy to reach out – we got over half of our first batch of customers that way. Didn’t hurt in what the VCs thought of us when their portfolio companies all came on board.
I was previously the CEO at a visual effects company. Working for Hollywood got me used to working all night. It also taught me that behind everything glamorous is a lot of painstaking work. At some point I realised I wanted to build something bigger and that a service business wasn’t going to get there. I had the opportunity to stay doing what I was doing or take the harder path and try and start it all again. In general when confronted with an easy or a hard choice – take the hard one (although if you had asked me about this through the first 2-3 years I might not have said the same thing!).
As 4 people in their early thirties who had been relatively successful to date we had enough cash to kick off our own runway and we supplemented with consulting and advisory work as required. Being based in Australia also makes things interesting from an investor stand-point. We have a pretty amazing US client base so, as one VC told us, we look like a US company anyway but the vast majority don’t want to deal with the complexity of a company domiciled overseas.
We actually built two products that didn’t work before we started on Murmur. We learnt the hard way what we were reading in ‘4 Steps To The Epiphany’ by Steve Blank. This time we built a 5 pg PDF of what we wanted to build, showed it to 10 ceo’s, got 4 to say they would buy and 1 month in we had our first customer. From there it was pretty much word of mouth and not being afraid to jump on the plane to San Francisco to take a meeting
It sounds obvious but the greatest marketing tactic we have used is to actually hire a Head of Marketing. Based in San Francisco she has taken us from nothing to a humming inbound system based around the content we were already developing with our customers.
What makes our team unique (at least in the space we work in) is that we seek to bring together serious domain knowledge (organizational psychology), enterprise architecture (to support companies using a tool across thousands of employees) and a dedication to user experience. As our Chief Scientist says “User experience is an overlooked element in statistical validity”. We also have adopted a somewhat forgotten UK R&B artist named Craig David as our unofficial mascot so all our internal communications come from him – which has the benefit of confusing every new team member as well as keeping us all laughing when we are still working past midnight.
Go and get people coffees … amazing how much of a startup CEOs role looks like that of a runner on a film set! I also do a lot of sales calls and work directly with clients to design surveys and understand their results. As a speaker on creativity and culture I generate content that fits around our areas of interest (particularly how you scale culture in a startup). And I also do a lot of data hacking (google spreadsheets is becoming ridiculously awesome for doing fast manipulation of data) and very occasionally commit code.
I’ve been lucky to connect to a bunch of networks as a speaker and CEO in previous lives and I still work within a lot of them. I am also on the board of several foundations and advise a few companies as well. By the community I probably resonate with the strongest is the San Francisco tech scene. We are lucky to call many of them clients and I am constantly blown away with how incredible the companies that reside there are.
There are so many dumb things I am not sure where to start … on the coolest side it sounds trite but every time I see feedback from a CEO of rockstar startup who loves our tool I get a little star struck moment and reflect on just how far we have come in a little over a year. Nothing compares to knowing that you have gone and built something that these amazing people rely on. And that you did from the other side of the world!!!