We've been lucky to have people believe in us along the way. Here are some of the folks who gave us a break in our earliest days as a company.
I was reading something recently that talked about the myth of self-made success. It was an academic paper which ultimately said that the idea of self-made success is “destructive to the social and economic infrastructure that fosters wealth creation.”
That’s probably true.
The other problem with the idea of self-made success is that it’s bullshit.
Since it’s Thanksgiving here in the United States, we spent some time reflecting on the people and organizations who believed in us enough or who were just feeling charitable and cut us a break early on. Here they are in no particular order. I’m sure we’ve forgotten some folks so apologies for that. We’ll add to the list over time as we remember or as we get reminded.
These were our first 3 institutional customers. They bought a product which, to put it mildly, was less “robust” than what we have today. But they believed we’d continue to make the product better and that we could help them solve problems they had.
Beyond the money they paid us (which was awesome btw), they gave us faith that we were on the right track. As they are all fairly different types of organizations, they also highlighted for us use cases we’d not envisioned and how our data could be repurposed for everything from venture capital to economic development.
Being a fledgling data provider trying to encroach on the territory of behemoths like Dow Jones and Thomson is not easy. Being named ChubbyBrain as we were when we initially came to be made it even tougher.
But when our first quarterly VC report came out under our first name (ChubbyBrain), Bob, Rebecca and Bernard all were willing to look at it and either covered it themselves or passed to folks on their team. We were now part of the same conversation with the MoneyTree Report and Dow Jones VentureSource. This was a huge credibility builder.
It also taught us how to work with folks in the media and is at least partially responsible for the success we’ve had with media mentions of CB Insights since.
Sponsored by our friends at Lowenstein Sandler, we were in the first class of this program. It was a great program and great way for us to network with and get to know our future clients. It also was eye-opening for us in it showed us how unpolished we were relative to other startups in the program.
In many ways (and I know this wasn’t the express intention of the program), FGVN helped to solidify for us the path we wanted to take building CB Insights. And that chosen path was to revenue-fund for as long as possible and to raise money down the road at a later time. That is a big decision and our participation and the advice and mentorship we got from the program were huge in helping us see this. Props to Ed Zimmerman, Ray Thek and the entire team for putting FGVN together and loosening their standards just enough to let us in.
Satya told me about First Growth Venture Networks and I suspect he had a hand in getting a company called ChubbyBrain into the program. He’s also been a person to shoot ideas off of over time which has been very helpful.
Partner at Big Strategy Consulting Co
One of our earliest big company signings was a big global consulting firm and this was when our pricing was $2400/year (it’s nearly $30,000/year now). During a conversation prior to their subscription, he said to us:
I need to know that when we call with a question that we will get higher priority than a regular $2400 customer. We expect a higher level of service. You should raise you rate to accommodate that.
This was tremendous on multiple levels. First, someone wanted to pay us more. As a revenue-funded company, there is no sweeter set of words in the English language. More importantly, this comment showed us the importance of price segmenting on not just features and capabilities but on customer support levels. We took a lot of pride in keeping prices simple and transparent and very SaaS’y but this conversation taught us a lot about how institutions think about pricing. I don’t know if there has been one single conversation about pricing that has had as much impact.
Pete Fusco (LinkedIn) @ Lowenstein Sandler
Pete got our legal house in order. It needed some TLC in the early days, and he provided it.
Devang Gunderia (LinkedIn)
Devang is our accountant. Initially, our accounting matters were disheveled as our priority was building a product and trying to sell. Devang came in and provided some much much needed structure and guidance. It’s been awesome. If you need an accountant for your startup who is crazy conscientious, careful and responsive, Devang, his wife and their team are who you should talk to.
Tracey Edelstein of TF Graphic Design
Tracey designed our first ChubbyBrain logo at a steep discount and this became the basis for the CB Insights logo. Our little brand icon (with the + sign) has become sort of known among our customers and prospects. It’s also much better than what we’d come up with on our own. See the worst logo ever.
Maria and Prabh let us into the inaugural class of the FinTech Innovation Lab which is an awesome program for FinTech companies. We weren’t looking for outside capital and so we were probably a bit atypical, but they believed in what we were doing and took a risk on us. Prabh has moved on and continues to be a good friend to us at CB Insights and Maria continues to be an awesome advocate and champion of what we’re doing.
For a while, there were 6 of us in a 125 sq foot office which we subletted from an attorney. In that office, the blinds didn’t work so we taped Economic Times up on the window to keep out the sun.
But then we found the NYU Poly Incubator at 160 Varick Street. This was heaven. Lots more space, other cool startups and a place that you could come to work and be happy to be at the office. Plus we were in Soho which was a lot nicer as well.
Micah, Bruce and Steve were our fearless leaders at the NYU Poly Incubator. They looked out for us, helped introduce us to press folks who needed data and generally were advocates for the startups in the space.
Juhi Heda – our genius first intern now at Palantir
In our first office (the aforementioned 125 sq ft one), Juhi joined us from Penn’s M&T program as our first ever intern. She helped us gather data and do whatever else always with a great attitude. Honestly, the fact that she didn’t run out of the office after day 1 was more than we expected.
Errol Arklic and Steven Konsek of the National Science Foundation
We’re proudly revenue-funded but have received some money from the National Science Foundation SBIR program. Errol and Steven after him were and have been amazingly helpful. While we don’t have the typical composition of an SBIR team, they saw something in our proposal and gave us a shot with the initial grant and then encouraged us as we grew and showed an ability to execute.
Again, I’ve probably missed a bunch of people, organizations and tools who deserve thanks. Apologies if I did. We are continuing to grow and expect we’ll be 40-50 people by the end of next year. We started off as 3 and were fortunate to have a lot of the above folks show some faith in us to help us get here.