After we filmed the twelfth episode of 33founders, Chase politely told me that I shouldn’t smile so much and excessively praise our guests during our interviews.
In my defense, the episode was with Paul Berry (my startup hero) who I’ve admired since he responded to my email at 3 a.m. saying that he’d love to speak with us. To this day, I cherish the excitement that filled me as I sat in my dark bedroom figuring out how to respond.
A few episodes later, Chase advised me to push back in our conversations; To speak up if I didn’t agree or understand something. Essentially, he encouraged me to be a participant rather than an observer.
It wasn’t until just recently that I set aside my nerves, found my voice, and followed his advice. As always, my CCCF (carbon copy co-founder, yes Chase reluctantly lets me call him that) was right and although I’m just getting started the pay off’s been incredibly enriching thus far.
Pushing back is the highlight of my interview with Marco Zappacosta, the Co-Founder and CEO of Thumbtack.
Before you start imagining the 60 Minutes music ticking as Marco and I debate controversial topics, I’m simply referring to Marco’s unique perspective on his team and how to run stupid side projects. Sorry to disappoint folks, I said I’m just getting started.
Numerous companies have attempted and failed, to achieve Thumbtack’s goal of connecting consumers with reliable local service professionals (ranging from painters, tutors, and plumbers). Thus my research led to me to believe that the team’s success stems directly from their business model.
Instead of highlighting their path to product market fit, it took them about three and a half years, Marco immediately credited his team.
Our core success has been our team. One of the great successes they have enabled is figuring out this business model.
Marco’s active decision to reframe my question not only allowed me to reimagine the problem, but also inspired me to credit my team for finding solutions.
His approach to leadership aligns with the rookie mentality that serves as the foundation of today’s most progressive companies.
Valued at more than $800 million, according to The Wall Street Journal, the Thumbtack team is cognizant that they can’t plan every move.
To keep the team on track, Marco continually asks what the world looks like once they’ve figured out each piece of the puzzle.
In 5 years we should be top of mind for customers all around the country, wherever, however, and whenever they need to accomplish something they think of us. Success is when people look back and say ‘How the hell did I hire a plumber without Thumbtack?’
The second way Marco corrected me was about posing data and creativity as mutually exclusive.
The data never tells you where to go. It tells you if where you got is where you intended to go.
Marco believes in ongoing narratives rather than past and future predictions. He cites it as the reason the team is constantly turning projects into accomplishments. They have an idea. They execute it. They measure it. They refine it.
It’s classic Lean Startup methodology, and he applies it to the team’s fundraising as well. After raising $30 million Series C in May 2014, the team closed a $100 million round led by Google Capital only three months later.
While Marco highlights how they did it in our conversation, what stood out to me is the ratio of vision to metric that he shares evolves over time.
In Marco’s opinion, past accomplishments earn you a seat a table. They don’t encourage investors to sign checks.
The narrative is where Thumbtack’s approach comes in. By intertwining the past with achieved goals, present plans, and future milestones you’re not only inspiring investors to believe in your company, you’re inspiring them to believe in you.
Caryn Marooney, Head of Technology Communications at Facebook, puts it best when she asserts that, “Being believable isn’t about convincing people that you can win, it’s convincing them that they want you to win.”