Danielle Morrill

CEO & Cofounder of Mattermark

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON July 21, 2016 Thank Danielle Morrill on Twitter


Hi, I’m Danielle Morrill, the CEO and cofounder of Mattermark, a startup company dedicated to organizing the world's business information. Besides my role as CEO and cofounder of Mattermark, I’m an angel investor, poker player, and software developer. I’m also an avid blogger, lover of spreadsheets, and enjoy making graphs about unicorns.
Andrew Ettinger — Product Hunt
Hey Danielle! What similarities do you see in playing poker and being the CEO of a startup?
@andrewett Tons, this is one of my favorite startup metaphors. The waiting, the reading people, the betting or folding, the repetition, the managing of your heart rate and being on tilt. Poker requires both situational awareness but also self awareness. I think it is a lot like golf, a game that continues to reveal more layers as you mature as a person.
Andrew Ettinger — Product Hunt
@danielle_morrill I played competitive junior/high school golf. As I've matured, I've realized so many things about the game and its real life similarities that maybe I didn't appreciate at the time. Nonetheless, I think learned behaviors like being methodical, staying composed, and only focusing on what you can control have remained with me.
Snah Desai — Prod Ops Testing Team Lead, Google
@andrewett @danielle_morrill I had the same experience after playing golf during my junior and high school years and as I continued into college and playing for fun as well.
Hello Danielle, and thank you for taking our questions today. What kind of tools/websites do you use or consult to identify emerging trends or experts to help you with Mattermark or your investments?
@candriopoulos It's definitely no single source, it's really about reading across a broad set of periodicals, books, Twitter feeds, blog posts, private emails, old strategy docs/decks... I read a ton, I read pretty much anything I can get my hands on. A lot of business writing is regurgitating other people's thoughts, so I always try to track ideas back to their source. I think a lot of the people who were thought leaders 20 years ago in tech are still the most important thinkers of our time, and even though they aren't in the spotlight anymore I think it is incredibly important to track them down and try to learn from them. It's like being alive in Florence during the Renaissance as a young painter -- you want to make sure to learn from the masters, and they're still alive -- there aren't 100s of years between us and our heroes right now. Seizing that opportunity is crucial.
Ali Hanif — Founder @ HANALI
@danielle_morrill I would love some examples of important thinkers from 20 years ago that you find even more relevant today
@danielle_morrill Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my question. I appreciate it.
Hello Danielle,

If Joe the Plumber from small village gets seed money to start his company, how soon will he get under Mattermark's radar? Are Mattermark's entries fully automated with no human editing?

Thank you.
@victorpolyushko As soon as that seed funding gets announced, or the company ends up in the news, we are definitely going to find it. Aside from news, there are a lot of other ways that we monitor the Internet to discover new companies... a lot of this is our "secret sauce" of the massively distributed web crawling we do. There is some human editing around exception cases that get flagged, but the vast majority of data in Mattermark is there without human intervention. This is part of what makes it possible for us to scale our business with software margins of 80% unlike other companies who have tackled similar problems in the space with massive outsourced teams doing manual data collection and cleaning.
Shiva Singh Sangwan — VC analyst @socialleverage
Hello Denielle,
Can you name 5 startups that haven't raised series A yet and you are bullish on them.
@shivagg Zapier, AppLovin, Everlane, Andy OS, Wag... and many more

The bigger list is at the link below. I used a Mattermark search to quickly find the Pre Series A companies in the Bay Area that haven't raised in the past 12 months -- and ranked them by Growth Score:
Dave Ewart — Head of Digital Marketing for NA, Oracle
The rising tide lifts all ships... are the recent tech IPO successes a leading or trailing indicator of a thawing startup nuclear winter. Are you seeing lift in growth scores?
Mohsin — Founder, Dormillo
@clickbyclick Flux In The Fundraising Market by http://tomtunguz.com/q22016-vent...
@clickbyclick I don't think we've been anywhere near nuclear winter, but we have been covering a lot of these trends over on our blog www.mattermark.com/blog
Nancy Miller — Reformed clutter queen, @nancefinance
Hi Danielle, You get a lot done in a day. How do you organize yourself and how much do you delegate? Thanks!
@nancefinance I delegate everything I can, and make sure I am doing things that are directly connected to achieving my OKRs at all times. This is hard, but I color code the things on my calendar with these themes to make it easy for me to see how much time is getting divided up. I start my day at 5:30am and end it at 9:30pm, and probably spend 1-2 hours actually at my desk. I triage emails using Sanebox, but responding to people is still a challenge. Slack is also a big driver of on-the-go workflow for me.
Sarim Haq — Growth Hacker @ Caspy
Hey Danielle, I saw a mention of Machine Learning on Mattermark's landing page. Can you please tell us where you are using Machine Learning? Thanks.
@sarim_haq We don't talk a ton about this publicly, but machine learning is a very important part of how we are building Mattermark.

Some public posts we have done on it:

Introduction to Neural Networks, Vector Reduction and Natural Language Processing by Mattermark

The Human Algorithm: Automating Startup Data Collection at Mattermark
Sunny Clark — CEO ComplexNerve
Can you make any comment in using Mattermark as a timing tool on which industries to invest or get into. Its my opinion that any well funded start up can clone any app in 3 months, so it seems to me the best way to compete is the timing of the product and not necessarily the product itself (Think about VR being around since the 1990s but Oculus Rift coming in 2012 and then getting acquired for 2 billion 2 years later). Can you make a comment on that if you agree or disagree and why? Thanks for your time
@sunny_clark Cloning an app is easy, but building the RIGHT app and getting customers and building a brand is the harder part.

I think timing of *market* is more important than the product itself, and maybe that is what you are saying. Why did Webvan fail where Instacart is succeeding? The market is different 20 years later, because of a bunch of exogenous factors that Webvan couldn't control. But Webvan couldn't survive long enough to take advantage of them.

We always want to think we have entered the market at the perfect moment, this is one of the downsides of taking outside investment... sometimes the time horizon for the return they want doesn't line up with the way a market is unfolding. This is an important consideration for any investor getting into a company, and frankly is something founders should consider, too.

Mattermark is the kind of company you run for a lifetime, because we are still at the earliest days of knowledge work and the B2B portion of the Internet. It requires patient capital, as the market unfolds.
Jackie Stone — CMO, MiMedia
When you are investing in a company, what are the top 3 things that draw you to invest?

1. existing or obvious potential for friendship with the founder
2. clear need for the product myself
3. X-factor

I am not really investing to make money when I angel invest, I am investing in the chance to live in the future as it ought to be.
Jackie Stone — CMO, MiMedia
@danielle_morrill thanks for your response. I love that you invest to live in the future. I also love Mattermark and we are proud to be on your site!
Bridget McGraw — Enchanted Book Inventor
Thanks for being with us! Last week I had the pleasure of seeing @kevin2kelly @longnow. One of his nuggets of wisdom was that the formula for the next 10,000 startups is ____ + AI = startup. I'd like to "cognify" (to use his word) my product and wonder what metrics you'd suggest for an interactive guest book at a wedding, funeral, birthday party etc.
@mcgrawbridget @kevin2kelly @longnow I wonder what he meant by AI? :P

Honestly, I have no idea for this interactive guest book thing... metrics for measuring the degree to which the product is leveraging AI?
Adam Marx — CEO, Glipple, Inc.
Hey Danielle, thanks for taking some time today! Since it's well known that Mattermark is very much a raw data company with deep analyses on trends and analytics, I'm curious how it also became a publishing company. Between Mattermark Daily and the general Mattermark newsletter, MM publishes some of the most interesting pieces I've seen in the tech sphere lately. How do you balance these two different sorts of focuses?
@adammarx13 Mattermark actually began as a publishing company, first as a blog, then a weekly newsletter and then a daily one. The data part of the business came a few months later as people started to ask us for access to the data we were using to write our stories. We quickly discovered we would never be able to write all the stories that interested everyone, and people had much more niche research or specific questions they wanted to explore. We still don't love being in the data business, since data ultimately wants to be free and becomes a commodity over time, but after starting out with sources like Crunchbase and doing a ton of cleaning ourselves, we discovered the existing options just aren't good enough.

We have an Editorial team lead by Alex Wilhelm (@alex) that focuses on writing our news, and the Newsletter is owned by Nick Frost (@thinker). These investments in content are about building our brand and creating a dedicated channel for lead generation, but we don't put much pressure on these channels to have immediate yield. It's a long game, and we think our business model will allow us to support a broader and broader business journalism focus as time goes on.

Our focus is on organizing the world's business information and making that information useful to people who have business questions. Day-to-day we are focused on how we can do that more efficiently and at a higher level of quality, both in terms of the data that is available and the workflows we enable. Most people know us for our content and original focus on startups, but we are actually a fairly technical business infrastructure tool for sales and marketing teams.
Adam Marx — CEO, Glipple, Inc.
@danielle_morrill Hey Danielle, thanks for the in-depth response! I didn't know that Mattermark started as blog, though it makes sense in retrospect. MM pieces (both in-house and contributed) have a unique standard which I think benefits the whole brand. It's interesting that by your admission you all "don't love" the data business, but then again, you don't need to "love" something to be good at it. MM is certainly a great tool I've used for articles as well as for my own personal knowledge.

I agree that the game is a long play; both the general MM publication and Mattermark Daily are well-run, and contribute relevant conversation-pieces to the dialogues in a number of areas. @alex and @thinker do great jobs here. I would love to see MM explore and expand further into the business journalism field; certainly your deep leads in the data side of the prospective stories can lend a unique lens and focus to what might otherwise be convoluted subject matter.

I would be interested to learn more about how MM works to make data more efficient. You touched on it a little here, in what I thought was a great talk:

Keep up the great work!
Tala — Co-Founder, Sudden
Hi Danielle. Where did you find the data that made up your initial report?
@talashivute Sorry I am not sure, which report are you referring to?
Tala — Co-Founder, Sudden
@danielle_morrill the first one you wrote that got you a lot of attention and started mattermark.
TWG8 informatics — Director of business development
Hi Danielle.

When evaluating potential investment or funding opportunities, or when researching a company's fundamentals, how important are Intellectual Property analytics within a company's profile, or to what extent are they being used? Is IP being short changed in the process? Thanks
@twg8informatics I don't think this is very important until a company is public or about to be public. Late stage investors sometimes care about this, but it really depends on the field the company is in. Generally, most of that information is much more likely to be disclosed in a due diligence request since a lot of it is not public record. A lot of companies do not file patents because they want to protect their methodologies as trade secrets.
TWG8 informatics — Director of business development
@danielle_morrill I agree for early stage companies, but given that many tech companies require funding to scale, with multiple seed rounds over many years, it does become important to secure proper IP rights as time goes by and as potential competitors may emerge.
Thomas Stöcklein — FoundersFundersFuture.com
What did you and your team learn during YC that helps you successfully run Mattermark today? What were the biggest takeaways?
What, if anything, would you change about the program for future YC batches?
@tomstocklein The most important lesson is the core lesson: you are here to write code and talk to customers. That's it. A lot of other distractions exist around startups, especially in the Bay Area where having one is a status symbol. Don't buy into that.

I think YC does a good job of creating healthy social pressure to make progress every week.

I don't think I would change anything about it, I think it is working quite well.
How do you manage your work/life balance and/or avoid burnout? It seems like you spend your freetime cooking, painting, and playing piano. Very grateful to have you in my twitter and snapchat feed :D
@d_r_farrell I hate the term "work/life balance" I just have a life, and it encompasses all the things I choose to spend time on. I get up every day and Mattermark is something I say "yes" to working on it. I definitely love my other activities, and they help me find some peace to background process all my thoughts, ideas, challenges etc. around Mattermark. But I am very against this notion that you divide up your work-self and life-self. I'm just one Danielle.
Andrew Bass — Startup junkie and improving hacker
What lessons from business have helped your poker game?
@andrewdbass Patience! Waiting for a good hand, finding other things to enjoy and focus on between good hands.
Andrew Bass — Startup junkie and improving hacker
@danielle_morrill thanks! sorry for an almost duplicate question.
Hi Danielle!!!

What's the biggest misconception about you? :)
@jrdngonen That I'm "the marketing CEO" but oh well... it's good for the company and brand to have a voice.
What's the most effective way you've been able to maintain morale on your team through thick and thin?
@d_r_farrell Being honest when things are hard, and celebrating when things are good. Morale isn't about being happy all the time, it's about understanding the vibe of the company is giving you important data about the health of the company.
What marketing tactics would you use to launch a FinTech Incubator program?
@brettnoyes I have no idea, I generally do not think 99% of incubators are worthwhile for founders.
@danielle_morrill thank you for your honest opinion. Working on building a better model. I would love your thoughts on why 99% are not worthwhile.
Matija Abicic — Head of Product Strategy at Sysrepublic
Which verticals will you be investing in over the next 3 years and why?
@matijaabicic for Mattermark I am not investing in any new verticals in that time period, we have a focus that will last us 3+ years in sales/marketing solutions. As for angel investing, I don't really think about verticals... I am much more focused on great people who are building specific things I think should exist in the world.
Trace Cohen — Managing Director NYVP
What’s your most memorable “gotcha/huh” moment? Like a startup idea you thought was bad that worked out or an idea you thought was good that failed. Or maybe something worked out when the numbers didn’t add up or someone made you think about a situation in a different way. Always curious about learning moments and how they change the way people think. Your blog has definitely given me a few.
@trace_cohen Realizing we should shut down Referly was one of those moments. We were a middle-man in a chain of middlemen, and I was modeling out the business to start thinking about fundraising. We were producing a lot of content ourselves to bootstrap the community and make some money, and we realized that our team was creating the best content and still really not making that much. The cost for a user to create great content that would perform as well or better than ours was super high, so we couldn't see why they would do that on some 3rd party site rather than their own blog or website. Our business was attracting the people who had given up on making money that way and were looking for a hack or quick fix.

The realization was 3-fold:
1) Our product is filling the Internet with spam
2) Our most successful users are people we don't admire
3) Our margin suck, this business is going to be a terrible long grind

Life is just too short. Within weeks of this analysis (and a lot of conversations had been culminating to this point) I decided to shut it down.

Some smart people had warned me this was what I would eventually realize, but I was stubborn and had to learn it for myself.
Joseph Hsieh — Growth.
Hi Danielle, great to see you doing AMA's here. I follow you on Twitter and appreciate your insights and some of your more personal musings.

As you scaled Mattermark, are there any more jobs that you don't do anymore?
(Refering your blog: http://www.daniellemorrill.com/2...)
@webjoe All of them! Actually I am doing business development and strategy a lot these days, and eventually will hire someone to lead those things... but it's not time yet.
Thomas Stöcklein — FoundersFundersFuture.com
Hi Danielle,
Which verticals do you think will see the biggest growth in the next two years in terms of
a) number of new startups
b) number of active users?
Ali Hanif — Founder @ HANALI
Hi Danielle, congrats on the success of MatterMark! Two questions 1) based on the data your team collects and analyzes are you seeing a slow down in certain areas of startup funding? 2) how would you describe the company culture at MatterMark?
Theoharis Dimarhos — Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi Danielle! What 4 things would you differently than others if you were organizing your own conference?