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06 Lessons For Early Stage Founders From Danielle Morrill Of Mattermark

Founded in 2012, Mattermark is a data platform for entrepreneurs, investors, and VCs. The CEO and co-founder of Mattermark, Danielle Morrill, has recently joined in an open discussion on Product Hunt to answer questions from founders and PH community. Besides talking about Mattermark and how it is growing with the mission to organize business information of the world, she has also described her passion for poker and what similarity she finds between poker games and business.

These are six interesting takeaways from the Morrill's interview.

1. Investing in the future

While others look into generic business portfolios, it is something else that attracts Morrill to invest in a new company. She points out three criteria by which she judges whether a company is worthy of investment. They are: existing/obvious potential for friendship with the founder, whether she needs the product herself, and the X-factor.

She is interested in angel investing not because she intends to make money but because she wants to be a part of the future as it should unfold. In her words:

"I am not really investing to make money when I angel invest, I am investing in the chance to live in the future as it ought to be."

2. There is no work/life balance

Morrill doesn't believe in dividing life into different parts. She believes that she "just have a life, and it encompasses all the things I choose to spend time on."

She treats Mattermark as an integral part of her life, not something that she does unpassionately. She says, "I get up every day and Mattermark is something I say "yes" to working on it."

3. Technical co-founder—a must-have

"I think if you are truly building a product company, then being able to recruit a great technical leader to run R&D is job #1 for the CEO/founder."

When asked about whether a non-tech entrepreneur should get a tech co-founder or just outsource, Morrill replied, "I think you need to recruit a dedicated technical co-founder if you are looking to build any kind of meaningful technology.

Some businesses don't have much technical aspects at the initial stage. But a Chief Technical Officer (CTO) becomes a dire need when the business wants to attain scalability which would be much easier if it had a tech co-founder from the beginning.

According to Morrill, " If you are building a business like ecommerce where the tech is less the differentiator you might be able to get away with outsourcing it at first, but if you hit any kind of scale you will need to bring in a real CTO and at that point there are a lot of re-platforming things that a technical cofounder could have helped you avoid."

4. Reading-the habit you must grow

The global business scene is rapidly changing. Every day newer technologies disrupt the old ways we used to do business. As a result, it is crucially important for entrepreneurs to remain updated and adapt to the world as it transforms.

Morrill has a bit radical perspective to add to this. Describing how and where she gets consultancy about business trends, she remarked, "It's definitely no single source, it's really about reading across a broad set of periodicals, books, Twitter feeds, blog posts, private emails, old strategy docs/decks... I read a ton, I read pretty much anything I can get my hands on."

She also emphasizes the importance of referring back to people who were the thought leaders not very long ago. Because they still remain valid for their universality: "...you want to make sure to learn from the masters, and they're still alive–there aren't 100s of years between us and our heroes right now. Seizing that opportunity is crucial.”

5. What dictates success: product? Or "timing" of the product?

The key factor that differentiates a company is the product it offers to the market, we all know this. Wrong! Morrill says this is not always the case. Often what matters more is "timing" of the product rather than the product itself.

Product markets behave very differently over time due to a host of exogenous elements. Virtual Reality, for example, has been around since the '90s, but it wasn't until 2012 when Oculus Rift emerged and made VR technology so popular. According to Morrill, this happened because "cloning an app is easy, but building the right app and getting customers and building a brand is the harder part."

6. Leadership–Do what is best for the team

Team performance is a critical factor in a startup's success. A leader should always try to cultivate positive mindset among her/his team. But it doesn't mean to be always happy about everything. In Morrill's opinions, it is very important for team members to understand the vibe of the company and act accordingly; and, for leaders, to be " honest when things are hard, and celebrating when things are good."

You can follow Danielle Morrill on twitter @danielle_morrill . Image by Open View Partners

Rahatil Ashekan is an undergraduate student at the University of Dhaka studying Accounting and Information Systems. He works as a reporting intern at FS and writes about startup, travel, and e-commerce. You may reach him at rahatilrahat@gmail.com.

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