Danielle Morrill’s fascinating growth of Mattermark

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

This is a great story from and about Danielle Morrill, and the way she moved from one idea to the next until finally she was building Mattermark and the growth of the company was explosive.

The Research Lab
Byproducts of work are a gold mine. In the process of writing articles I created hundreds of spreadsheets to research markets, compare companies, and come up with unique angles. I published raw spreadsheets in many of my posts, and received a lot of requests to download them. As programmers, we were inspired by things we had heard about BuzzFeed’s assignment desk technology. We don’t know exactly how it worked, but the idea that they had built tools and processes to detect the most buzzworthy topics at any given time across the web was fascinating. We imagined we might do the same thing, but with a focus narrowed in on tech companies.
To do this, we knew we need to detect buzz about companies and spreadsheets weren’t going be enough. We compiled all our spreadsheets into a database, wired it up to a super-simple javascript table plugin and showed it to our investors. Not everyone got why this was so powerful, but for the handful of people who did the excitement was palpable, “can we use this right now?” they asked. We didn’t even have a login system, it was just an HTACCESS username and password on the project we called Cursive.
They told us about the money they spent commissioning custom research from GLG consultations, 451 Research Group and other expensive resources. They showed us their own spreadsheets and internal apps. They asked us if we’d consider coming on board full time to build an internal research team and make investments based on our data and methodology.
We could have stopped there.

Once we began to demonstrate that we could build quickly and be responsive to feedback and feature requests, our customers started introducing us to their friends from adjacent social circles and professional ecosystems. It turned out these folks had similar problems Mattermark could solve, and this is how we discovered that Mattermark was useful for much more than venture capital deal sourcing.
VCs hang out with angel investors, investment banks, limited partners, growth and private equity professionals, wealth managers, venture bankers and of course meet with hundreds of startup founders each week. As we began talking to all these constituents we learned more about their problems and it became clear Mattermark could be useful to each of these people in different ways, often with only very small improvements that also benefited all our existing customers.
It’s funny looking back, because at first most of these requests were actually kind of annoying, and felt like one-off opportunities that were getting in the way of our existing product roadmap. It was tempting to brush them away as distractions and stay the course with our core product and core customer base, but on our mission to be “revenue first” this time (and also running on very little cash before our bridge round) we were easily persuaded by money. For example, even before we started charging for our SaaS product a customer offered to sign a $50,000 contract to build new functionality that was way down our list, but would ultimately be hugely beneficial to our customers as well as strategic to opening up future markets, so we built it.

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