Led by DoubleClick founder Kevin O’Connor, FindTheBest (“FTB”) is a data-driven comparison engine organized into nine broad categories that allows users to compare data side-by-side, “apples-to-apples.” Whether you want to buy a new cell phone or are considering what school to send your children to, FTB can help you break down the data without influence from the marketing machine.
The company is backed by Kleiner Perkins—the same venture capital firm that has invested in Twitter, Zynga and Square.
“The web is growing and consumers are getting smarter, but they tend to lack the tools to make the best decisions,” FTB’s Director of Engineering, Ivan Bercovich, said in an email interview with Philly Tech Meetup. “With FindTheBest, consumers are able to make informed, confident decisions, based on their preferences, in a fraction of the time. Consumers are smart. The Internet has the info they need: it’s just scattered all over the place. FindTheBest simply builds the technology and compiles the data to make these quick, informed decisions possible.”
On February 20, members from FTB presented at Philly Tech Meetup, providing an insider’s view of the company’s practices.
Bercovich said that FindTheBest decided to visit the city because the company likes to recruit from great schools. Penn and Drexel have some of the finest engineering programs in the nation, and Wharton is expanding its entrepreneurship programs.
“Furthermore, our CEO Kevin O’Connor has a knack for starting and expanding tech companies in non-traditional areas,” Bercovich added. “He grew DoubleClick in NYC before the advent of New York’s ‘Silicon Alley.’ He built ISS (Internet Security Systems) in Georgia. He’s leading FindTheBest in Santa Barbara, California. Philly—with its emerging tech programs and tech culture—could very well be a future FindTheBest destination! We’re very interested in Philly, and we’ll be keeping an eye on its tech developments as it grows.”
During the tech talk, FTB’s Director of Product, Bob Goldman, walked attendees through an abbreviated version of the company’s actual Series B investor pitch. Goldman said that before the company went out to pitch investors, he asked FTB Board Member and Kleiner Perkins’ Investment Partner Randy Komisar for advice. FTB’s investor pitch used Komisar’s key components for a successful pitch to develop their Series B presentation. These components include:
• Showing that the company is solving a big problem (Mission)
• The problem affects a lot of people (Market)
• The company’s solution is novel and defensible (Product)
• The business model captures the value (Business Model)
• The organization executes the model well (The Team)
• The company will deliver extraordinary financial results (Growth and Financial Projections)
• The company plans to use funders’ money to accomplish these things (Growth Post Series B)
Without a solid business model, Goldman said “there’s no way to create value for [investors]. They’re selfish. You might be changing the world, but they don’t really care about that. They want to make a 10x return or greater.”
Goldman stressed that the team is the most important piece of the puzzle, as investors want to be sure that your team can successfully execute your business model. He added that, for FTB, while having Kevin O’Connor’s name attached to the company helps them court and secure funding, investors still want to meet the rest of the team.
In an interview with PTM, Goldman shared that FTB builds “a solid team dynamic through transparency and responsibility.” Employees are kept informed about financials, opportunities for advancement and growth, and suggestions for company improvement. Employees are also given ownership of their projects, which Goldman says challenges them to reach goals and fosters an environment of friendly competition.
For startups looking to hire the same type of enterprising employees that exist at FTB, Goldman recommends companies follow these three best practices:
• “First, candidates should be excited about the problem the company is solving. Just because someone has solid credentials doesn’t mean they won’t burn out a few months in. Believing in a company’s product or service gives team members motivation to work hard and stay positive, even when a company encounters unforeseen bumps in the road.”
• “Second, candidates should be willing to learn… a lot. New ideas are always welcome, but prospective employees should demonstrate a healthy willingness to absorb the team, the product, and the challenges ahead. It’s also less important that candidates possess every skill required for the role, and more important that they can simply learn these skills on the fly.”
• “Third, candidates should seem better than the employees you already have. Kevin [O’Connor] likes to say that B-players hire C-players, while A players hire A+ players. If you consistently strive to better the team you already have, the more successful you’ll be.”
In the second part of FTB’s presentation at PTM, which was aimed at the engineering and technical folks in attendance, Bercovich discussed how the entire FTB team works together to build a piece of software that is intended to be a platform. He explained that there are certain rules in the process, from the brainstorming stage up to the actual creation and testing of new features that will encourage the growth of the platform. FTB defines a platform as “a system that facilitates the construction and support of applications.” Platforms are “organized by a consistent set of rules and principles.”
“A platform is an abstraction of some essential need,” Bercovich said. If a platform hits a resonant string or frequency, it goes from being just a concept to something that explodes. He used the Internet as an example, saying that a significant portion of today’s economy runs on the Internet and would presumably not exist without it. Platforms are valuable because they create lock-ins for users. There is a relationship between platform providers and those building businesses on top of them.
Bercovich said that, in his opinion, search engines are realizing that understanding data and the semantic meaning of websites is paramount but that they are weak at it.
He adds, “a site like FindTheBest… where we are providing the infrastructure as well as collecting the data and putting all this stuff together, we have a chance to really create the Internet of data.”
By Stephanie Ogozaly
This is an excerpt from the Philly Tech Meetup e-newsletter.