Adam Martel & Christopher Mirabile “Super Founder & Super Angel”

AIB_074_Mirabile_Martel_Web_01.jpg

Repeat founder Adam Martel went to work for Babson College as a major gifts fundraiser in order to get his MBA for free. While at Babson he identified the problem Gravyty is addressing and met his co-founder Rich Palmer. Gravyty attracted early support from Christopher Mirabile’s LaunchPad Venture Group. The company just completed a $2 million plus raise to ramp up its growth. A really sparkling interview with two outstanding leaders.

Episode highlights:

  • Adam Martel, former coach, and full-time fundraiser at a college, tried to start a couple of businesses but realized he needed a co-founder to improve his odds of success.

  • Adam decided to quit his job and go to work at Babson College where he could get his MBA for free.

  • Adam’s motivation was to find a co-founder at Babson.

  • Rich Palmer, a fellow MBA student, had worked on Wall Street building quantitative models. They hit it off and have made a great founding team.

  • From Adam’s work at Babson it was obvious that each fundraiser needed help in identifying which of their more than a hundred assigned potential donors to prioritize. Rich Palmer was confident he could build software that would provide that intelligence.

  • Rich used to build systems to predict which stocks were likely to pop. He and Adam found that predicting donations had a lot in common with that.

  • It was easy to sell management on the platform; the problem was that fundraisers were no logging in; which is the real measure of success for this type of platform.

  • Adam and Rich discovered the “three screens” principle, i.e. people have three screens they’ll look at: their calendar, their email and their database. It’s hard to get them to look at a fourth screen.

  • The solution to the login problem was to incorporate all the insights from the platform in emails addressed to the fundraisers. This approach was a big game changer.

  • The product is called “First Draft” and provides, in addition to predictions of who is most likely to give, content which is intelligently adapted to the individual fundraiser’s writing style.

  • Christopher Mirabile and Ham Lord were initially not convinced that there was a big market for the company but they were so impressed by Adam and Rich that they scheduled a series of meetings.

  • After each meeting Ham and Christopher got more and more impressed with the team from Gravyty and decided to invest.

  • LaunchPad early on impressed on Gravyty the need to have a board. Adam and Rich signed on eagerly, much to their credit.

  • Too many founders perceive boards as “grumpy dogs” that have to be “managed.

  • Christopher and Ham were provided great help.

  • Christopher thinks Gravyty has the perfect set up for the board, two members representing the common shareholders (founders), two members representing preferred shareholders (investors) and one independent member with industry experience; perfect for the early years.

  • Gravyty is 100% SaaS. Gravyty Live provides support for fundraisers, a profession plagued by high turnover, who frequently need to be brought up to speed on their new accounts.

  • Gravyty has achieved great SEO and leads their category for search terms.

  • Adam’s experience as a sports coach has served him well in his work of team building in his companies. Of particular value is the ability of getting people to do the things that need to get done.

  • Working as a college fundraiser taught Adam to listen and to build relationships. These skills translated to raising money for Gravyty.

  • Adam and Christopher fifteen-minute call every two weeks and this has been highly fruitful.

  • Christopher sees three functions for early=stage companies: (1) support in execution, (2) different perspectives, and (3) mentorship.

  • A really meaty podcast!